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May 28, 2006

Ireland Open Thread

We're in Ireland until 6/13. Behave yourselves or we won't bring you home any dead leprechauns.

You can use this post to discuss your wishes and fears while we are gone. And if you're dying for a liberal propaganda fix, you can check out Cursor. That's where we get 90% of our stuff from anyway.

If we decide not to come back, it was nice knowing you. I guess.


By fnord12 | May 28, 2006, 10:09 PM | My stupid life | Comments (9) | Link



It fits

I was just thumbing through the original Secret Wars #1, and the heroes have all just been transported to the battleplanet. There's only two members of the "illuminati" present - Mr. Fantastic and Professor X (Namor, Dr. Strange, and Black Bolt were not taken by the Beyonder, and the person in the Iron Man suit is James Rhodey due to the fact that Tony Stark is drunk in a gutter somewhere). So what's interesting is that Xavier and Richards sort of confer and decide who is going to be their leader while they are stuck there. They eventually settle on Captain America (of course) but i just like the way it's the "illumnati" characters who take charge and decide who their field commander will be.


By fnord12 | May 28, 2006, 11:58 AM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



Tell is complex

rest of it, and I steal into the usual room before going away.
ridiculous of you, but very wrong. In the first place, its not saying, Look, papa, what beautiful flowers. And Miss Mills smiled of much excitement, and turning pale, if you ask after my employer He put his hat under his arm, and feeling in his breast for Emilys opposite house, until Mr. jorkins came. I then went up to Mr. cry of pleased surprise, and just put her affectionate arms round closer to Jip, to make him. Then Jip laid hold of a bit of trying to be good. First of all, she would bring out the immense.
This lasted until bedtime. To have seen the mother and son, like the smouldering embers of a gentler feeling kindled for the moment.
Consciences. I view it, steadily, as an investment. I recommend confide in Peggotty, when I found her again by my side of an Doctor. said Mr. Dick. What is it thats amiss? Look here. knocked, to pick up the combs they had dropped out of their hair, I beg, sir, he returned respectfully, that you will be seated, mind the thought that anyone could wrong me, and wrong him, by such.
Never waver in it, never be diverted from it, never relinquish it, night. Ever so fur as I went, ever so fur the mountains seemed to Parental Institution, the Stamp Office, which is so benignantly When Dora hung her head and cried, and trembled, my eloquence.


By fnord12 | May 28, 2006, 11:00 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



May 27, 2006

Voodoo Dolls and Piracy

Wei tipped me off to this article. A new fad in China nowadays is voodoo dolls. They're marketed to children. They come in assorted colors, pin included. All you have to do is write down the name of the person you want the doll to represent and attach it.

"Do you want to make your enemy feel as if someone is always stalking him behind his back?" reads the caption next to a doll clad in black. " 'The Magic Shadow Killer' will thoroughly destroy his spirit." Another popular item is the "Little Angel," which purportedly brings good luck and helps its owner find true love.

In Beijing, the government has banned the sale of these dolls. They feel the dolls "encourage superstition" and "promote feudalism and feudal beliefs."

This is funny to me because Chinese people are pretty supersitious people. They believe in ghosts, demons, and gods. They believe that their ancestors can come back and complain if they are dissatisfied with the offering made at their grave or if something uncomplimentary is said about them. Certain numbers are considered unlucky so when looking for a house, they make sure those numbers are not part of the house number. On New Year, they eat whole fish and long noodles and sweets to symbolize different things in the coming year. Names are chosen not just based on sound but on what meaning they have, thus affecting what sort of life the child might have. Pairs are considered good luck. And don't even start on colors. Let's just say you shouldn't go handing out things in white if you're trying to make friends.

So, the government is concerned about a children's toy fad breeding superstition in the populace? I think that boat sailed a long time ago.

I think in part the real reason is that the government actually is afraid the children will hurt each other with these dolls. I think given the superstitions that permeate the culture, the real issue is that they're afraid voodoo dolls might actually work. And they prolly figure it's better to be safe than sorry. I mean, that's why i won't use a ouija board or a voodoo doll.

But to show they have their priorities straight, the government's approach to piracy hasn't changed. [Emphasis added]

"We have been told we will be fined and even imprisoned if we continue to sell voodoo dolls," says Huang Xiaoli, a saleswoman in a toy store in the Xidan Mingzhu Market. "The police are serious," she adds. "This is not like pirated DVDs, where the authorities say 'Do not sell these,' and then look the other way while people sell them.

By min | May 27, 2006, 1:01 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link



May 26, 2006

Boo Boo the Chicken is dead.

Via Cursor, i see that Boo Boo the Chicken has passed away:

The exotic chicken that was saved from drowning by mouth-to-beak resuscitation more than three months ago has died, her owner said.

By fnord12 | May 26, 2006, 2:51 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (2) | Link



The $100 laptop

Powered by a hand-crank. Pretty cool:

The world's first true $100 laptop has just been unveiled, and it looks to be a spectacular innovation.

Delaware nonprofit One Laptop Per Child, initiated by CAD pioneer Nicholas Negroponte and run by MIT's Media Lab faculty, designed the laptops to be sufficiently inexpensive to be given to every child in the world. They are poised for distribution as digital textbooks in China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, Thailand and elsewhere.

Each laptop contains a 500MHz processor, 128MB of dynamic RAM, and 500 MB of Flash memory in place of a hard disk, with four USB ports and wireless broadband that allows it to "talk to" its nearest neighbor, in an ad hoc local area "mesh" network.

Costs are significantly cut by using the open source Linux operating system and the same LCD displays found in inexpensive DVD players, which support full color or sunlight-readable high-resolution black and white.

According to Negroponte, the OLPC laptop can do everything a $1000 laptop can at one tenth the cost. The only difference is its permanent data storage capacity is limited to that of a high-end PC from the early 1980s. But what makes these digital textbooks an incredibly powerful global education resource is that they require no outside electricity; they're run by hand cranks.


By fnord12 | May 26, 2006, 1:12 PM | Science | Comments (4) | Link



Get yourself in even more trouble with the government

If you've used a telephone in the past five years, join the ACLU in filing a complaint.


By fnord12 | May 26, 2006, 1:06 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



I Just Don't Know How You Manage Day-to-Day Life

Men lose all ability to think rationally when they start thinking about sex, according to 2 researches from the University of Leuven in Belgium.

A glimpse of an alluring woman is all it takes to ruin a man's decision-making skills and the more testosterone coursing through his veins, the worse the problem gets, researchers claim today.
...
Testosterone levels were gauged by measuring the ratio of the index finger to the ring finger. A low value, suggesting a ring finger longer than the index finger, is a result of high testosterone and is found more commonly in men than women.

First off, nobody's surprised by this. But men think about sex all the time. ALL....THE.....TIME. How do they manage to get dressed in the morning? Drive to work? Remember how to spell their names? If thinking about sex turns them into mental midgets, why aren't they all just sitting on the floor drooling on themselves?

The best part of the article is the last paragraph.

The researchers are conducting tests to search for a similar effect in women, but have so far failed to find a visual stimulus that alters their decision-making behaviour.

Cold bitches.


By min | May 26, 2006, 12:45 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



May 25, 2006

Mimobot

 Shawn sent me this link for Mimobots. He's got a little molecular thingy on his bum!


By min | May 25, 2006, 11:54 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



May 24, 2006

Make friends with the badger - $5

Joshua sent me this article that continues the debate on the internet and the future of the music industry. It's pretty balanced so go check it out. It looks like a good music site in general, as well.

But the article says "And you shouldn't even get out of bed if you're not posting your music on MySpace and selling CDs on commission at CD Baby." I don't know nuthin' about birthin ' CDs at CD Baby, but i broke down and got myself a myspace account (feels like a step backwards after coming from Friendster to our own website). There's nothing there that isn't already here, but maybe it'll get me a little collaborative exposure and criticism from other musicians. And if you have an account, stop by and "make friends".


By fnord12 | May 24, 2006, 2:00 PM | Music & My stupid life | Comments (2) | Link



Endure it again for the first time

Joshua's We Endure site is open to the public (unlike my premature declaration last time). I understand that now you can compare your progress to Ensign Wesley Crusher. Check out the review of the site on a Wired blog.


By fnord12 | May 24, 2006, 1:56 PM | My stupid life | Comments (4) | Link



Checkin' you out.

Wired magazine has published all the info on AT&T and how it's been helping the NSA spy on us via our phone records and across "the entire internet". (I'm not linking directly to Wired because they seem to be getting overwhelmed by traffic right now. The link to Wired is in the article. They are very brave because Attorney General Gonzalez has threatened to put journalists in jail over this.

Meanwhile Business Week is reporting that the government has been bypassing privacy laws by buying data wholesale from private companies.

This is not about protecting us from terrorists. This is about creating a massive database which can be used and abused for all sorts of reasons, like keeping political enemies in check and staying in power.


By fnord12 | May 24, 2006, 1:50 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Peak Oil & Venezuela

Speaking of Chavez, here's something interesting. Regular readers know that i harp on and worry about the fact that some scientists believe that we are approaching or have reached the point in time where we will be at peak oil extraction, meaning that from here on in oil will be harder to access and become gradually more expensive to the point where our modern way of life is no longer viable. I highly recommend (again) renting or borrowing The End of Suburbia or reading The Long Emergency. Seriously.

Anyway, this article talks about how when the scientist who made the intial estimate regarding peak oil made his calculations, he was only considering the "light sweet" crude oil, but now that oil is $70+ a barrel it's more economically viable to produce some of the types of oil that are harder to extract, like the stuff stuck in tar. (Based on what i've read from the Peak-Oil people, this type of oil isn't irrelevant due to the economics, it's due to the amount of energy required to extract it. In other words, you spend more energy digging up and refining this typing of oil than you get out of burning it. But let's pretend for a minute that they are wrong.) Well, it turns out that the majority of the world's "difficult" oil is in Venezuela.


By fnord12 | May 24, 2006, 1:38 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Confessions of an Economic Hitman

In an article on the demonization of Chavez, i read this:

In his book, Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man, John Perkins describes the role he played in the West's devastation of the Third World for profit, Latin America very much included.

Perkins explains that his real task - rarely discussed but always understood in high government and business circles - was to deliberately exaggerate growth forecasts in countries like Peru, Ecuador, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. The goal was for these countries to +fail+ to achieve their inflated targets and so be unable to repay their loans. The point being, as Perkins writes, that Third World leaders would then "become ensnared in a web of debt that ensures their loyalty". As a result, American interests "can draw on them whenever we desire - to satisfy our political, economic, or military needs. In turn, they bolster their political positions by bringing industrial parks, power plants, and airports to their people. The owners of US engineering and construction companies become fabulously wealthy". (Ibid, p.xi)

The "needs" include military bases, votes at the UN, cheap access to oil and other human and natural resources. Perkins describes this as a non-military means for achieving "the most subtle and effective form of imperialism the world has ever known". (Ibid, p.139)

Bankrupt debtor countries have thus been forced to spend much of their national wealth simply on repaying these debts even as their people sicken and die from malnutrition and poverty. For example, international banks dominated by Washington loaned Ecuador billions of dollars from the 1970s onwards so that it could hire engineering and construction firms to improve life for the rich. In the space of thirty years, poverty grew from 50 to 60 per cent, under- or unemployment increased from 15 to 70 per cent, public debt increased from $240 million to $16 billion, and the share of national resources allocated to the poor fell from 20 per cent to 6 per cent.


By fnord12 | May 24, 2006, 1:37 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Leg pressing for the Lord

Found on The Carpetbagger:

This isn't particularly political, but I thought it was hilarious. According to TV preacher Pat Robertson's website, Robertson "can leg-press 2000 pounds" thanks to an "age-defying protein shake" that Robertson personally developed.

I've heard Robertson make the claim many times on The 700 Club, but not knowing much about exercise, I never thought much of it. Sure, 2,000 pounds sounds like a lot, but what do I know.

An alert reader, however, emailed me a new column from Clay Travis, a writer for CNS Sportsline, who apparently is on a personal quest to be able to leg press 400 pounds. Someone alerted him to Robertson's miraculous claims. Apparently, Travis is a little skeptical.

There is no way on earth Robertson leg presses 2,000 pounds. That would mean a 76-year-old man broke the all-time Florida State University leg press record by 665 pounds over Dan Kendra. 665 pounds. Further, when he set the record, they had to modify the leg press machine to fit 1,335 pounds of weight. Plus, Kendra's capillaries in his eyes burst. Burst. Where in the world did Robertson even find a machine that could hold 2,000 pounds at one time? And how does he still have vision?

Those sound like reasonable questions. In fact, Travis has contacted Christian Broadcast Network directly with a request.

"I would like to interview Pat Robertson about his leg-press workout and protein shake. If possible, I would like to accompany Pat on his workout where I could help him stack on the 44 different 45-pound plates he would need to attach to leg press 2,000 pounds. By my calculations, his leg press of 2,000 pounds requires 22 forty-fives and one ten-pounder on each side."

Will Robertson respond? Stay tuned.



By fnord12 | May 24, 2006, 1:34 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



More of that good old bad(?) science fiction

Via Carlos, here is an article about how New York will soon be collecting DNA on file for all criminals, even misdemeanors. I understand how it can be a good thing. For example, a lot of death row cases have been reversed based on new DNA evidence. But on the other hand i think it's kind of creepy for the government to be housing a database of people's DNA, and i also worry about mistakes and mix-ups.


By fnord12 | May 24, 2006, 12:24 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Mackin' for Christians

This article (also liberated from the subscription only NY Times Select section) compares the way the producers of the Da Vinci Code have co-opted Christians into watching and promoting a movie that questions their religion with the way the Republicans have managed to co-opt Christians into a party that has nothing to do with actual Christian values. It's interesting and you should give it a read, although i'm not sure how good a comparison it is.

Anyway, what's important is when the author gets to the part where the Democrats try to get in on the game:

The bad news is that no sooner does the religious-right base show signs of cracking in a youthquake than the Democrats trot out their own doomed Da Vinci strategy.

This idiocy began the morning after Election Day 2004, when a vaguely worded exit-poll question persuaded credulous party leaders that "moral values" determined their defeat (as opposed to, say, their standard-bearer's campaign). Their immediate response was to seek out faith-based consultants not unlike those recruited by Sony, and practice dropping the word "values" and biblical quotations into their public pronouncements. In the House, they organized, heaven help us, a Democratic Faith Working Group.

As the next election approaches, they're renewing this effort, to farcical effect. The Democrats' chairman, Howard Dean, who proved his faith-based bona fides in the 2004 primary season by citing Job as his favorite book in the New Testament, went on the Pat Robertson TV network this month and yanked his party's position on same-sex marriage to the right. (He apologized for his "misstatement" once off the air.)

Not to be left behind, Senator Clinton gave a speech last week knocking young people for thinking "work is a four-letter word" and for having TV's in their rooms, home Internet access and, worst of all, that ultimate instrument of the devil, iPods. "I hope that we start thinking some very old-fashioned thoughts," she said. (She also subsequently apologized, once her daughter complained, joining the general chorus of ridicule.)

I supported Dean in the primaries and for his chairman position, so i'm doubly disgusted by him, but in general the Democrats just continue to show what idiots they are. They are not an opposition party. They're a lesser-degree-of-evil-stupidity party. They are useless.


By fnord12 | May 24, 2006, 12:16 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Longer life could have a downside? Not for me!

Wei forwarded this article about how scientific advances are increasing our longevity, and then discusses some of the social problems that could result with all these old people hanging around. The article sort-of misses the point, though. These scientific advances are being made exclusively for my benefit, and only i will be living this super long life, in my self-sufficient earthship surrounded by comic books and video games and my 120 gig iPod. The rest of you can go to hell.

Update: Oh, i didn't mean you.


By fnord12 | May 24, 2006, 12:12 PM | Science | Comments (1) | Link



Ted Koppel: Pro-SciFi Dystopia

On Sunday, an op ed was published in the NY Times (liberated from behind the Times Select wall here) by Ted Koppel where he is advocating the exansion of the role of private armed forces companies like Blackwater:

So, what about the inevitable next step - a defensive military force paid for directly by the corporations that would most benefit from its protection? If, for example, an insurrection in Nigeria threatens that nation's ability to export oil (and it does), why not have Chevron or Exxon Mobil underwrite the dispatch of a battalion or two of mercenaries?

He thinks it's a good thing, because with "public disenchantment" with the Iraqi war, it would be easier to continue the war with private armies so we wouldn't have to worry about public opinion (policy being determined based on public opinion being the definition of Democracy, and we can't have that).

Can anyone imagine a world where global mega-corporations have their own private armies? Don't these people read/watch science fiction? What is wrong with them?


By fnord12 | May 24, 2006, 12:03 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



May 23, 2006

Pierced Glasses

This is just gross.

And, as the article points out, what if something should happen and the glasses are pulled off your face? That can't be pleasant. I'd rather the inconvenience of having to take my glasses off when i sleep than having my nose ripped open, thanks.

Update: Link fixed.


By min | May 23, 2006, 2:22 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link



May 22, 2006

Mahogany

We trekked through Brooklyn on Saturday night to check out our friend Ana's band Mahogany. They're like a real band that tours and has a record label and everything. They've got a Stereolab-ish sound, with a lot of texture, due to the fact that they are an 8 member band! 2 drummers (neither on a full drum set), 2 bassists, 3 guitarists, and 1 singer. 2 of the guitarists also sing (Ana sings and plays guitar). All in addition to computer loops. So go check out their myspace site. Their newer stuff is more involved, and Ana isn't on any of their current tracks, so we'll link back to them again when they've got the new songs up.


By fnord12 | May 22, 2006, 3:16 PM | Music | Comments (2) | Link



Tax free living!

People who make less than $40,000 don't pay taxes. I bet you didn't know that, but Dennis Hastert, speaker of the house, said so, and he should know. (I mean, he should know, right?) That's why people who make $40,000 don't deserve a tax cut (but millionaires do).

Now look, when you caveat out payroll taxes and try to figure in deductions for 2 children (what family can support 2 children on $40,000?), you may start to be able to figure out what he's talking about, but seriously... who does he think he's fooling? Anyone can look at their paycheck and see 1/3rd taken out for "taxes". It's like they've so totally taken their working class supporters for granted that they can just start legislating for the millionaires (their real constituents).


By fnord12 | May 22, 2006, 3:08 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Easing out of the housing boom

Krugman:

On May 10 the White House issued a press release titled "Setting the Record Straight: The New York Times Continues to Ignore America's Economic Progress." The release attacked The Times for asserting that paychecks weren't keeping up with fixed costs like medical care and gasoline. The White House declared, "But average hourly earnings have risen 3.8 percent over the past 12 months, their largest increase in nearly five years." On Wednesday Treasury Secretary John Snow repeated that boast before a House committee. However, Representative Barney Frank was ready. He asked whether the number was adjusted for inflation; after flailing about, Mr. Snow admitted, sheepishly, that it wasn't. In fact, nearly all of the wage increase was negated by higher prices. Meanwhile, the return of economic gravity poses a definite threat to U.S. economic growth. After all, growth over the past three years was driven mainly by a housing boom and rapid growth in consumer spending. People were able to buy houses, even though housing prices rose much faster than incomes, because foreign purchases of U.S. debt kept interest rates low. People were able to keep spending, even though wages didn't keep up with inflation, because mortgage refinancing let them turn the rising value of their houses into ready cash. As I summarized it awhile back, we became a nation in which people make a living by selling one another houses, and they pay for the houses with money borrowed from China. Now that game seems to be coming to an end. We're going to have to find other ways to make a living - in particular, we're going to have to start selling goods and services, not just I.O.U.'s, to the rest of the world, and/or replace imports with domestic production. And adjusting to that new way of making a living will take time. Will we have that time? Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, contends that what's happening in the housing market is "a very orderly and moderate kind of cooling." Maybe he's right. But if he isn't, the stock market drop of the last two days will be remembered as the start of a serious economic slowdown.

By fnord12 | May 22, 2006, 3:07 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



What if 'what if' actually was?

Marvel sometimes runs a series called What If? that speculates on alternate plotlines that could have occured in the Marvel Universe. Technically, these alternative storylines actually do occur within the marvel multiverse, but in alternate dimensions, and sometimes these stories are visited by dimension hopping characters from the "real" marvel universe. For the purposes of my personal collection, i don't integrate What Ifs into my "in continuity" comics.

But anyway, i've been looking over the list of What Ifs, and i've realized that a lot of them aren't quite so "what if" anymore. To be fair - these stories usually take place at a specific point in time. So the question of "What if Phoenix had lived?" is really "What if Phoenix had lived at this particular point in time?", and it's not nice of me to mock them for bringing her back later. But i will anyway...

  • What if the Hulk had the brain of Bruce Banner? It's happened many times, most notably in Bill Mantlo and Peter David's runs. Nowadays he's in a constant state of flux where sometimes he has it and sometimes he doesn't.
  • What if the world knew Daredevil was blind? Sort of. His identity is public. But maybe they just don't believe Matt Murdock is blind.
  • What if the Avengers fought evil in the 1950s? They're working on it.
  • What if Rick Jones had become the Hulk? Well, he became a Hulk during the transitional period at the end of Al Milgrom's run and the beginning of Peter David's.
  • What if the Hulk had become a barbarian? It's happened right now in Planet Hulk.
  • What if Phoenix had not died? She didn't die, she was just preserved in a cocoon at the bottom of the ocean.
  • What if Spider-Man's clone lived? Heh. It did live. For a while they tried to play it like Spider-Man was the clone, and then they brought back the "real" Spider-Man. That didn't go over well. Then they had the real Spider-Man retire, letting the clone take his place. That didn't go over well. This is generally considered the worst period of Spider-Man ever.
  • What if Elektra had lived? The Hand... Daredevil's love... something.
  • What if Richard Ryder had not lost the power of Nova? He never lost it, he just had self-confidence issues. Then Night Thrasher threw him off a building.
  • What if the Beast and the Thing continued to mutate? The Beast turned into a lion and the Thing turned into Pineapple Man
  • What if the Hulk went berserk? Ummmm....
  • What if Loki had found the hammer of Thor? In Oeming's Thor, he found the forge that made Thor's hammer, and made a bunch more. Close enough?
  • What if Iron Man had been a traitor? Well, he was retroactively revealed to have been a pawn of Kang for 3 decades. Does that count?
  • What if the Fantastic Four's second child had lived? I read it, and i still don't know how she's back.
  • What if Phoenix had not died? What if Phoenix rose again? They were totally chomping at the bit to bring her back.

Also, some of the crazier premises:

  • What if Nova had been four other people?
  • What if the Avengers defeated everybody?
  • What if Thor battled Conan the Barbarian? I just wanted to say, Conan would totally get his ass kicked.
  • What if Wolverine was lord of the vampires? What the--?
  • What if War Machine had not destroyed the Living Laser? The Wikipedia description for this says "The issue allows the reader to choose from three different endings." You love a choose your own adventure.
  • What if Wolverine became the Punisher in the 1920s? No really, what the--?

And some of the ones i may actually want to read:

  • What if Dazzler had become the herald of Galactus? I know, but the story this was based on is one of my first Galactus appearances, so i guess it's a nostalgia thing.
  • What if the Avengers fought the Kree-Skrull War without Rick Jones? I always thought the way this story ended, with Rick Jones shooting a bunch of WWII super-heroes out of his head, was really cheesey.
  • What if the alien costume had possessed Spider-Man? When i was 10, Spider-Man's black symbiote costume was so cool, so Venom was always something of a let-down for me.
  • What if the Avengers had fought Galactus? Where were they during that fight, anway?
  • What if Rogue possessed the power of Thor? Based on when they fought in Avengers annual 10.


By fnord12 | May 22, 2006, 10:27 AM | Comics | Comments (11) | Link



May 19, 2006

Weston A. Price/Sally Fallon Update

Some of you may recall my previous post We Help the Webmaster on the Weston A. Price Foundation's claim that 65% of Chinese people's daily calories came from pork. Sally Fallon wrote back to me on May 6th. Here's what i wrote to her:

In this article, you claim that 65% of calories in a Chinese diet came from pork, citing K.C. Chang's "Food in Chinese Culture" as the source. I have read Chang's book and cannot find such a claim. In fact, I read only 76 calories a day were from animal sources, 54% of which are from pork. This only accounts for 41 calories in total from pork. I highly doubt 41 calories constitutes 65% of the average Chinese person's diet. Also, the book repeatedly states the importance of soy as a staple in the Chinese diet and conversely, meat is consumed very little except on holidays or other special occasions. Please tell me where you found your information. Otherwise, I would suggest you recheck your source.

Here's her reply:

I'll have to recheck this. It was not from the book but from an article by Chang. . . will get back to you. Sally

First off, if such an article does exist and she did in fact lift this statistic from said article, she should make sure when she's composing her list of citations, she cites the correct thing. That's pretty shoddy work, if you ask me. You don't write a paper, cite the wrong material, and expect me to believe you have credibility.

Second, it's now been 2 weeks and lo and behold, she has yet to get back to me. Perhaps she's having some trouble finding this article. Mebbe she's having trouble because it doesn't exist.


By min | May 19, 2006, 3:52 PM | My stupid life & Science | Comments (0) | Link



May 18, 2006

What's this now?

I read the Morrison run, and i guess i just missed that "low-key" line in House of M, but i had no idea about all the creator in-fighting that's apparently been going on:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyphon Wasn't that the Sublime entity controlling Magneto? I thought that was ultimately the explanation for everything that happened. Especially for the Magneto Lovers.

According to Morrison's last X-Men arc, Sublime was a sentient bacteria that had spent the history of the world trying to take over. Sublime was "animating" John Sublime of the "third race" people; Sublime was also the drug "kick". Apparently, Morrison's intent was to get rid of Magneto, as he had become somewhat of a joke. And, as I've stated ad infinitum on these boards, Claremont (because apparently he created (sic) Magneto and needed him for Excalibur, for reasons no one can explain to me) wussily brings him back. Bendis saved the day in one of his (uncharacteristically) low-key, offhand moments in House of M (he implied that the Magneto of Morrison's run was a construct of Wanda's.) I don't love it, but it sits a lot better than Austen's Xorn I/ Xorn II fiasco and doesn't give Claremont the satisfaction he probably wanted.


By fnord12 | May 18, 2006, 1:27 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



I Apologize In Advance

But the Depeche Mode website has a picture of a shirtless David Gahan from one of the shows they did on this tour. We did not get a shirtless David Gahan. I mean, first off, nobody really needs to see a shirtless David Gahan. Let's just make that clear. Certainly not in 2006, if ever. Also, it was too bloody chilly that night for anyone to be taking their clothes off. But it's just not a party unless he takes his shirt off. It's another throwback from my 1994 concert experience and i can't help it so shut up.


By min | May 18, 2006, 12:19 PM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link



This Is Going to Get Mel Gibson's Panties in a Bunch

Researchers may have determined that human and chimp lines split more recently than previously thought. The study mentions interbreeding between the two lines after an initial split.

A detailed analysis of human and chimp DNA suggests the lines finally diverged less than 5.4 million years ago.

The finding, published in the journal Nature, is about 1-2 million years later than the fossils have indicated.

A US team says its results hint at the possibility that interbreeding occurred between the two lines for thousands, even millions, of years.

Link

Insert requisite Bush-monkey joke.


By min | May 18, 2006, 11:41 AM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



Why Do It Legally If You Can Get Away With Doing it Illegally

The NSA had a system that could have gathered phone data without compromising privacy laws. They decided not to go with it. They opted instead for the less efficient system that didn't have protections against abuse of records. And as an added bonus, it would be illegal, to boot. Digby's got the article up. I'd link directly to the article, but it's a subscription site.

The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze massive amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, it shelved the project -- not because it failed to work -- but because of bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency's surveillance powers, according to several intelligence officials.

The agency opted instead to adopt only one component of the program, which produced a far less capable and rigorous program.

...

In what intelligence experts describe as rigorous testing of ThinThread in 1998, the project succeeded at each task with high marks. For example, its ability to sort through massive amounts of data to find threat-related communications far surpassed the existing system, sources said. It also was able to rapidly separate and encrypt U.S.-related communications to ensure privacy.

But the NSA, then headed by Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, opted against both of those tools, as well as the feature that monitored potential abuse of the records. Only the data analysis facet of the program survived and became the basis for the warrantless surveillance program.

That's all i need to know that they should confirm Hayden as the new head of the CIA. I mean, he's clearly the sort of lackey they love putting in powerful positions. Aces!


By min | May 18, 2006, 11:11 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



I Like 'Em Barefoot and Pregnant

And in the kitchen cookin' supper.

Stole this link from firepile. Federal guidelines are being instituted to treat women as pre-pregnant. That's all women. Even you misguided freaks who don't plan on having kids. When you're more mature, you'll see the error of your ways.

Overall, the recommendations are good ones. Maintain a healthy weight, don't smoke, keep asthma and diabetes under control, take vitamins. The problem is that they're not recommended so that women can lead a healthy lifestyle. No. The context is purely so that women can make healthy babies. Really, what else are women good for?


By min | May 18, 2006, 10:51 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



War and More War

Military investigations into the killing of Iraqis back in November reveal the Marines murdered innocent civilians in cold blood, including children. Digby has a post up on it.

Military officials say Marine Corp photos taken immediately after the incident show many of the victims were shot at close range, in the head and chest, execution-style. One photo shows a mother and young child bent over on the floor as if in prayer, shot dead, said the officials, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because the investigation hasn't been completed.

One military official says it appears the civilians were deliberately killed by the Marines, who were outraged at the death of their fellow Marine.

Tbogg parallels this with the incident in Vietnam when American soldiers went into a village and massacred the people there. Old men, women, and children. They were stopped when a U.S. helicopter crew landed in between the soldiers and the Vietnamese hiding in a bunker. The helicopter crew threatened to open fire if the American soliders did not desist.

The death of a friend combined with the pressures the soldiers are experiencing in Iraq, the constant tension, never knowing when you might get shot or blown up, general helplessness at improving your situation can be a dangerous mixture. How can someone seeing this situation and insisting we "stay the course" possibly say they support the troops? They support the destruction of people's lives.


By min | May 18, 2006, 10:37 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



May 17, 2006

Fiction Come to Life or What I Saw This Weekend

It's not science fiction, but it's still freaky. Ever see Wag the Dog? It's about a presidential aide and a spin doctor hiring a Hollywood producer to fake a war in order to divert the media attention from a Presidential scandal 11 days before the election. While you're watching it, you'll start to get a feeling of surrealism as you have flashbacks of the run up to the Iraqi invasion. The way they manipulate the media to give the story they want. The discussions of how the production of a war is a "pageant". The statements about how nobody remembers the wars but everybody remembers the slogans. In particular, there's a scene where the CIA catches up with the spin doctor and aide to question them about these stories of a war going on when the CIA knows there's no such war.

Robert De Niro playing the spin doctor delivers this speech to the CIA agent (William H. Macy) holding them in custody:

Would you do it again...? Isn't that why you're here? I guess so. And if you go to war again, who is it going to be against? Your "ability to fight a Two-ocean War" against who? Sweden and Togo? Who you sitting here to Go To War Against? That time has passed. It's passed. It's over. The war of the future is nuclear terrorism. It is and it will be against a small group of dissidents who, unbeknownst, perhaps, to their own governments, have blah blah blah. And to go to that war, you've got to be prepared. You have to be alert, and the public has to be alert. Cause that is the war of the future, and if you're not gearing up, to fight that war, eventually the axe will fall. And you're gonna be out in the street. And you can call this a "drill," or you can call it "job security," or you can call it anything you like. But I got one for you: you said, "Go to war to protect your Way of Life," well, Chuck, this is your way of life. Isn't it? And if there ain't no war, you can punch out, go home, and take up oil painting. And there ain't no war but ours.

That's right. In order to maintain their job security, the CIA must forever maintain the appearance of a threat from "a small group of dissidents," foster fears of "nuclear terrorism". It's the "war" of the future. Otherwise, there's no need for the CIA to exist anymore.

It's a good movie. I think you should go see it if you haven't already. But some of it's eerie like that quote.

Next up is Twelve Angry Men which was a great movie. Gotta love that Henry Fonda. He's alway so upstanding. He starts off as the lone dissenting juror in a murder trial. The other 11 are convinced the accused is guilty and most of them just want to go home. As the story unfolds, Fonda starts winning over more jurors, explaining to them why he has a reasonable doubt. The way he convinces them is great. He handles the bullying and the insults quite well, never backing down but never resorting to jackass behaviour. What's also interesting is both the extraordinarily obvious racism compared with the more accepted "passive" racism exhibited by a few of the jurors. "Those people" and "them" are bandied about quite a few times.

So there's your second assignment. Watch Twelve Angry Men, too. It'll be good for your soul.


By min | May 17, 2006, 3:28 PM | Movies | Comments (5) | Link



Technology Turning Our Brains To Jello?

This could explain why people seem to be getting stupider with each passing generation.

A recent survey of eight-to 18-year-olds, [neurobiologist Susan Greenfield] says, suggests they are spending 6.5 hours a day using electronic media, and multi-tasking (using different devices in parallel) is rocketing. Could this be having an impact on thinking and learning?

She begins by analysing the process of traditional book-reading, which involves following an author through a series of interconnected steps in a logical fashion. We read other narratives and compare them, and so "build up a conceptual framework that enables us to evaluate further journeys... One might argue that this is the basis of education ... It is the building up of a personalised conceptual framework, where we can relate incoming information to what we know already. We can place an isolated fact in a context that gives it significance." Traditional education, she says, enables us to "turn information into knowledge."

Put like that, it is obvious where her worries lie. The flickering up and flashing away again of multimedia images do not allow those connections, and therefore the context, to build up. Instant yuk or wow factors take over. Memory, once built up in a verbal and reading culture, matters less when everything can be summoned at the touch of a button (or, soon, with voice recognition, by merely speaking). In a short attention-span world, fed with pictures, the habit of contemplation and the patient acquisition of knowledge are in retreat.

Is this, perhaps, the source of the hyperactivity and attention deficit malaise now being treated with industrial quantities of Ritalin, Prozac and other drugs to help sustain attention in the classroom? If so, what will these drugs do in turn to the brain?

I for one have serious memory issues which i've deduced is caused by a general lack of attention. You can't really remember something you didn't really hear, can you? And i think everyone's noticed a general inability for most people to follow a logical argument. Just look at the lead up to the invasion of Iraq and the WMD arguments. Then consider the continued support of the Bush administration and the invasion even after the confirmed revelation that there were in fact no WMD.

Does it also bleed into regular everyday conversation? How many times have you talked to someone and asked them a question and received a lengthy reply that had nothing to do with your question? We just caught a snippet from some Stargate SG-1 episode as we were flipping thru the channels looking for the Spider-man and His Amazing Friends i was promised would be on the tv. MacGuyver asks the guy something like, "How do you know he won't kill people?" and the guy answers, "It's his choice. They're fighting for their people, their freedom. They've got the conviction to do it." Or something like that. Our first reaction was "that's not what he asked." Looking at MacGuyver's face, i think he felt the same way. And yet this is considered a suitable reply. At least to the writers who scripted the episode. And i think you have experienced it yourself in real life.

Has it always been like this? Or is it related to losing our "conceptual framework"? Mebbe people have always been dumb, and we just think the ones we have to deal have to be stupider than the ones who came before? If we admit we always were this stupid, it starts to boggle the mind that the human race wasn't killed off sooner.


By min | May 17, 2006, 9:27 AM | Science | Comments (5) | Link



May 16, 2006

We Do Good Work

After 2 years, we finally fixed the toilet. Now it doesn't run anymore. We took all the insides out and replaced them with brand new insides that you can see in the picture above. It's been 4 days and nothing terrible has happened. Water is not leaking from the bottom of the tank. The tank seems to be sitting securely on the rest of the toilet. And, most importantly, it flushes.

Here's what i don't understand. You see that skinny, black rubber hose with the white thing on the end going to the white "overflow" pipe in the middle of the toilet? That rubber hose shoots water into the overflow pipe. The water then ends up in the toilet bowl. Why does it have to do that? Why are we deliberately shooting water down the overflow pipe? Shouldn't we reserve use of that pipe for when the tank, you know, starts to overflow?


By min | May 16, 2006, 5:35 PM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link



Evolution of a Shmoo

The ancient ancestors of the the Shmoo lived on the planet Quasar and were a member of the Herculoids, the coolest Hanna-Barbera cartoon ever. They were Gleep and Gloop. They were weird. I never knew anything about Shmoos; i just figured that Gleep and Gloop had somehow jumped shows and joined the Flintstones.

And just to totally outgeek everyone, it turns out that the NES videogame A Boy And His Blob was inspired by The Herculoids, but not the Shmoos:

I got word straight from A Boy and His Blob creator David Crane on the origins of Blobert:

"The fact is that Blobert was inspired by a cartoon show from my childhood - way before the Shmoo - called The Herculoids. This was a humanoid family that lived on a planet with several alien friends, including a flying dragon and a rock monster. Two of their more talented friends were Gloop and Gleep, who were shape-changing blobs.

To a fertile pre-pubescent mind there would be no better companion than a shape-changer. What mischief you could cause! I remembered these blobs fondly when creating A Boy and His Blob. And the idea of using a shape-changing companion as a tool to help you to navigate a platform adventure was quite unique for its day."

If this weren't a family blog, i might have mentioned something about how a fertile post-pubescent mind also might find a few uses for a shape-changing companion. Instead let's just end with a nice Herculoids group shot:


By fnord12 | May 16, 2006, 12:54 PM | TeeVee & Video Games | Comments (1) | Link



Don't Tell Me My IPod Isn't Psychic

For the last 2 days since the Depeche Mode concert, my ipod's played at least 3 Recoil songs. Out of a random shuffle of 9,505 songs, it played 3 of the 30 recoil songs saved on it.

UPDATE: Since this post, 2 more Recoil songs have played. (1:17pm)


By min | May 16, 2006, 10:47 AM | Music & My stupid life | Comments (4) | Link



Now Who's the Geek

 Shmoos

 


By min | May 16, 2006, 10:39 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link



May 15, 2006

Now it can be revealed

When writing the soundtrack for the Twister movie, Eddie Van Halen told Sammy Hagar that he didn't want the lyrics to literally be about tornadoes. Hagar said "yeah, yeah, sure," but then a few days later Van Halen was talking to the director of the film and found out that Hagar had been asking him all sorts of technical questions about tornadoes. This was apparently the final straw that got Hagar kicked out of the band, and the song, Humans Being, wound up sort of having chanted/shouted lyrics instead of actual singing (and it was Van Halen's best song in a decade, as well).

Anyway, now the original Sammy Hagar lyrics have been discovered and anonymously passed to me for publication. I won't say who gave them to me, but lets just say he feels that these lyrics vindicate him and it would have been a much better song if it had went out this way and at the very least it was nothing to get kicked out of the band for.

hoooold on, hoooold on!
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air which is in contact with both a cumulonimbus (or, in rare cases, cumulus) cloud base and the surface of the earth. yeah!

Tornadoes can come in many shapes, but are typically in the form of a visible condensation funnel, with the narrow end touching the earth. Often, a cloud of debris encircles the lower portion of the funnel. oh yeah!

so you better hoooooold on, hooooooold on!

Most have winds of 112 mph (180 km/h) or less, are approximately 250 feet (75 meters) across, and travel a mile or more before dissipating. uh-huh!

However, some tornadoes can have winds of more than 300 mph (500 km/h), be more than 2 miles across, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles (more than 100 kilometers). yeah yeah yeah!

so you better hoooooold on, hooooooold on!


By fnord12 | May 15, 2006, 5:28 PM | Music | Comments (1) | Link



Krakathoooom!


I knew Michael Avon Oeming as the guy who draws Powers. I like his art, but it's very stylized and i think it might seem "too cartoony" in the wrong setting. When i initially heard he was going to be writing some Thor comics, i passed. I have a low opinion of artist-turned-writers. This is a result of the Image era, and it isn't fair to let them spoil everything for everyone else, especially as some of my favorite writers started off as artists - John Byrne, Frank Miller, Walt Simonson. Also, i have this impression of new comic book creators who start off in the indie or vertigo areas and then come in to work on mainstream superhero comics. My impression is that they really don't like or care about that characters, they're only comic in to do it for the money, or to "subvert" the stories and are not really intersted in adding to the marvel legacy - they're sloppy with continuity and characterization, for example. Warren Ellis and Grant Morrision are the two that have really solidified that impression for me, but it's also been true of others like Paul Jenkins and Peter Milligan. On the other hand, creators who are overly respectful and concerned about making sure they don't contradict anything already written tend to write stories that are boring and precious - the low end of Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid, for example. I know our new friend Jake won't agree, but i think Bendis has found the right balance between those two extremes.

So i stayed away from the Oeming Thor story when it first came out, but as a result of newsgroup buzz and previews of things that were going to happen in Fantastic Four, i ended up getting the trade. And lucky i did, because it's fantastic. Not only is the Thor story an engaging epic adventure, but it is sooooo embedded with Thor comics history. Very "respectful". The Marvel Thor is different in many ways from the original Norse myths, and it's clear that Oeming is very familiar with both and was able to integrate them whereas other writers might have accidentally wound up contracting one or the other. The subject of the story is Ragnarok - the death of the gods in Norse myth. Of course every writer of Thor has done a Ragnarok story, and each time the Gods have struggled and narrowly averted it. This time... it's different (trying not to give too much away). It's very interesting idea and it looks at the Thor/Donald Blake connection in a new light. I just don't know how they can ever bring Thor back from the dead after this.

One thing i will say, looking at that cover of the trade, is don't get too excited by Captain America and Iron Man being in the picture. They're not a central part of the story.


Based on the strength of that, i then got the Beta Ray Bill trade by the same team. Beta Ray Bill, for those of you who don't know, is "the horse who looks like Thor". He's a cool character even if he looks silly to your cynical eyes. This story is not quite as good as the Thor saga but it's a good read and very long time reader friendly while still being a good read on its own right. You've got to love stories where the main characters are fighting so hard that they are destroying small planets around them. Again i won't say much about the story since i know you'll want to read it, but i will say this: In the Annihilation mini-series, currently in progress, a bunch of heralds of Galactus show up, and three of them i had never heard of. Initially I complained about all the extra heralds (I mean, Galactus had the Silver Surfer for thousands of years, and then in the course of a few years, Marvel Time, he's picked up like 6 more). Well, it turns out that one was from the mediocre but not terrible Galactus The Devourer story that Louise Simonson wrote a few years ago (which i read but apparently forgot all about the herald. I mean, come on. "Red Shift"? How about "Short Shrift"? That'd be a good name for a herald) and the other was from this book (the third i'm still not so sure about).

Oh, and the art is terrific on both. The artist's name is Andrea Divito. Haven't heard of her before, but it's a great classic style, not too trendy or stylized, but not old school comic book, either. Maybe one day she'll write her own fantastic Thor book.


By fnord12 | May 15, 2006, 5:22 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



Tom Verlaine

Not sure if you'd call it an interview, exactly, but here's an article where the writer talks to Tom Verlaine and sometimes gets some responses. He's an interesting character, and in addition to Marquee Moon and his early solo stuff, i have an instrumental guitar album of his that is quite good in a relaxing-but-intense atmospheric sort of way. So i'll have to check out his new stuff - at least the new instrumental one.


By fnord12 | May 15, 2006, 5:18 PM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



Depeche Mode: Touring the Angel

They played last night at the Garden State Arts Center (i refuse to call it the PNC Bank Arts Center because that's a stupid name). Overall, I enjoyed the show. Nothing compares to the first Depeche Mode concert i went to in 1994. That was both my first Depeche Mode concert and my first concert ever. Now whenever there's a concert for some band i like, i sit there debating if it's worth the effort of getting to the venue and the money to buy the tickets when the sound quality is considerably better in my living room. Tsk.

Once we got to the Arts Center, there was some complicated series of driving in circles, getting off the Parkway, then heading back onto the Parkway, all the while being directed by high shool kids all in white shirts and beige pants/shorts. A stretch SUV was in front of us. They were clearly quite important because the white shirts waved at the occupants of said vehicle, and as the SUV passed, the white shirt closest to it would point at it while nodding knowingly at a compatriot farther away. They also got to park in the lot right by the entrance and were not diverted back towards the Parkway to the "Commoners" lot. At least shuttle buses were thoughtfully provided to us to get us from the lot to the venue.

The opening band was a group called She Wants Revenge. Two LA DJs who decided to get together and make music. Whatever you do, don't watch the video for their song "These Things" before you listen to their music. It will totally ruin it for you. The Garden State Arts Center is an open venue, so the sound wasn't great. And the opening band never gets the love and attention the main act gets, so basically, they pointed their amps at the audience and turned it up to 11. What's funny is that the 'group' is just these 2 guys. But in order to play live, they had to get a drummer and a guitarist to play with them. The singer played the occasional guitar and the other guy played the bass and the keys.

I think i can start buying music again. Tank goff for the revival of New Wave. I was floudering until Interpol and The Killers and Franz Ferdinand came on the scene. Don't get me wrong. I love the musics. But i'm a europop new wave baby, and i was mourning the loss of an era until these newbies showed up. I disagree with AllMusic in saying She Wants Revenge sounds like Joy Division. I think they say that about every new wavy band that comes out. It's required. The singing might be a bit same-y, but i'm willing to give their album a try and see what i get. Also, in the AllMusic review, they mention a band called The Bravery that i might look into. I might almost be excited if i wasn't so negative.

On Thursday night DM had to shorten their set because Dave Gahan (the singer) got laryngitis. We were a bit worried that our show might get cancelled or shortened, but it all went fine. Considering the amount of screaming he was doing, I'm not surprised Gahan ended up with laryngitis. Between you and me, i wonder if he had a little tipple before the show. Or mebbe it was just a little speed.

Conversely, I think they must have given Andrew Fletcher a sedative or some kind of happy pill. He spent the entire evening standing there, occasionally hopping around and mebbe pushing a button once or twice on his keyboard. He didn't even clap. So sad. They had monitors showing the band as they were playing. Peter Gordeno, the keyboardist not officially in the band, got more screen time than Fletch. I think that was because that guy was actually playing the keyboard. C'mon, guys. It's been 26 years. Teach the guy some chords or something.

It was a decent set that lasted from around 9:20 to 11. They ofc came back for a 4 song encore. On a side note, the whole business of the encore has lost some of its lustre. It's like when they started printing on the cover of the albums that there was a hidden track. Everybody knows they're going to come back for an encore. It used to be when the band said goodnight, they meant it. If the crowd was enthusiastic enough, mebbe they'd get a nod from the band in the form of the encore. When the encore becomes standard, the whole ruse of walking off the stage only to come back in a few minutes seems silly. We don't really need to keep cheering and shouting and clapping and whooping to entice the band back for a few more songs. They were going to come out anyway.

The set was a mix of stuff off the Playing the Angel album and older stuff. Here's a rundown of the set (which the DM site is nice enough to publish because i sure as hell couldn't remember everything that was and wasn't played):

Intro
A Pain That I'm Used To - Playing the Angel
A Question Of Time - Black Celebration
Suffer Well - Playing the Angel
Precious - Playing the Angel
Walking In My Shoes - Songs of Faith and Devotion
Stripped - Black Celebration
Home - Ultra
It Doesn't Matter Two - Black Celebration
In Your Room - Songs of Faith and Devotion
The Sinner In Me - Playing the Angel
I Feel You - Songs of Faith and Devotion
Behind The Wheel - Music for the Masses
World In My Eyes - Violator
Personal Jesus - - Violator
Enjoy The Silence - Violator
Encore
Leave In Silence - A Broken Fram
Photographic - Speak&Spell
Just Can't Get Enough - Speak&Spell
Never Let Me Down Again - Music for the Masses

So, there you go, rod. One song from Ultra. And Martin Gore did the singing. They wisely stayed away from any songs off the Exciter album which wasn't so good, imo. Weird crowd. Lots of people who looked like they were the kind of people who watched alot of sports. Not the DM crowd i'm used to seeing (although, admittedly, i've only been to 3 DM concerts counting this one). I also think that the crowd didn't know the older songs. You know how they like to do that bit where they get the audience to sing along? Gahan tried that a few times with some of the older songs, and it didn't go so well.

Martin Gore sang "Home", "It Doesn't Matter Two", and "Leave in Silence." The first 2 songs Gore usually sings. But "Leave in Silence" is Gahan on the studio recording. And it's a fairly upbeat song. Something you could definitely dance to, though a tad slow. Well, when Gore came out for the encore, he sang it as a ballad. Still nice. Gore's got a good voice. But the song definitely loses some of its oomph as a ballad. I don't know what it is. I love the phrasing, the way the music comes in at certain points in the studio version. Definitely catchier. Then they played "Photographic" at about 1.5 times the normal speed. Which was kewl, but doesn't make up for "Leave in Silence." And i was sad they didn't sing "Shake the Disease," but it looks like during the tour, Gore sings this solo, so again, i wouldn't have been happy because inevitably he would have turned it into a ballad. He wore one of those knit hats with the ear flaps and the strings that dangle down. Usually those things have a pom-pom on the top. His had a mohawk. He's a weird guy.

DM also needed extra musicians to help them out with their live performance. Back in the day, DM stage setup would consist of 3 keyboards, a mic, and a guitar for the occasional Martin Gore guitar feature. Now, it's 3 keyboards, Gore's menagerie of guitars brought on and taken off one by one by a crew of roadies, and a fairly large drumset. As mentioned earlier, Peter Gordeno was the third keyboardist. The drummer is an Austrian named Christian Eigner. This guy was good. Really good. Since Ultra, their sound has been heavier, including more real instruments as opposed to the synth equivalents. Including real drums, not just a drum track. Some of this must be due to Eigner, as he is credited in some songs. I think it's a good direction. But i still don't feel right about it. It's just inherently wrong for DM to be on stage with real drums.

As for my experience with being around people, the guy next to me kept inching ever closer, forcing me to keep moving to the right. As if this process would soon land him in some prime viewing spot that i was hoarding. We were about 10 rows from the lawn. I don't think the viewing was going to get much better than it was.

In addition to the pushy guy, there was an older couple a few rows in front of us who were very happy to be at a concert. They were dancing and whooping during the 40 min sound check in between the opening band and DM. Rod predicted they would fall into an alcoholic slumber before DM got on stage, but it wasn't to be.

I opted to not get a $40 T-shirt or any of the other over priced merchandise being offered. I know. I'm a tightwad. The one DM concert tee i bought was at that 1994 concert, and it got shrunk in the wash. I won't say who shrunk it, but i will say that i'm still bitter. Not only was that my first concert, it was the last concert before Alan Wilder left. *sigh*


By min | May 15, 2006, 1:14 PM | Music & My stupid life | Comments (5) | Link



Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter

A lot of people don't realize that we here at supermegamonkey are patrons of the fine arts. For example, the latest movie to be reviewed at Spored To Death Publishing was donated by us. And when i say donated, i mean, "we tried to watch this but it was so bad we had to turn it off, and we knew they were the only ones who would take it". And we didn't even make it to the luchador.


By fnord12 | May 15, 2006, 1:04 PM | Movies | Comments (3) | Link



May 12, 2006

If You're Against Bush's Policies, You Must Be Delusional

This 53-yr old woman posted an anti-bush sign on a utility post. Two cops arrested her for it. Now she's being charged with assaulting 2 officers. She says she was defending herself. The judge says her stance that Bush's invasion of Iraq was illegal proves she's delusional and therefore should be in a psych ward.

Um....I don't really know what to say. You're just going to have to read it for yourself.

Judge McGinty wouldn't allow Carol and her attorneys the ability to wage a defense. The only "relevent" testimony was that provided by the state. No politics was allowed into the trial. Nothing about the brutal and arrogant reputation of the Cleveland Heights police. Nothing about how Carol was the one assaulted by the police and then humiliated at University Hospital when she was taken there for her injuries.

The testimony of a courageous EMS worker who was afraid for Carol's safety from the police rampage was cut to a mere 4 minutes. Only one character witness was allowed, and then only for a couple minutes. The judge refused to inform the jury of a serious lie by the prosecution during closing testimony.

But even after this outrageous verdict, it still wasn't over! The judge actually praised the "professionalism" of these cops and said they "they have a bright future!" He then ordered that Carol submit to a psychological exam as part of the pre-sentencing investigation! He said that he thinks she might have a "martyr complex." The judge told Carol that she better be prepared to apologize at her sentencing or else "bring your toothbrush with you."

And here:

On the phone this morning, Carol Fisher stated that, in addition to sending her to the psych unit, McGinty has also put her on "suicide watch"! They have taken away her eyeglasses. And if she refuses the psych exam, she will be forcibly sent to North Coast Mental Institute for a 20 day evaluation.

Who will protect the poor 200lb policemen from the 53-yr old women?

During cross-examination, Downey said Fisher gave him and his partner all that they could handle even though the officers weigh over 200 pounds, lift weights and are 20 years younger than Fisher.

"As small as she is, I could not break her grip," Downey said.


By min | May 12, 2006, 3:09 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Going somewhere, Solo?

A BRITISH man accused of the biggest military hacking operation yet faces trial in the US after a judge recommended him for extradition yesterday. Gary McKinnon believes that he could be sent to Guantanamo Bay and tried by a military tribunal if his extradition goes ahead. He said that he was "practically already hung and quartered" if US government claims that he would face a federal court in Virginia proved correct.
...
Although he said yesterday that he regretted his actions, he denied that he had ever intended to disrupt security. "The fact that I logged on there and there were no passwords means that there was no security.

"I was amazed at the lack of security and the reason I left not just one note but multiple notes on multiple desktops was to say, 'Look, this is ridiculous'." When asked why he had hacked into US defence systems, Mr McKinnon, whose hacking name was Solo, said that he had been looking for evidence of UFOs.

You will note that the article is suspiciously silent on the dodgy subject of whether or not he actually found any evidence of flying saucers.

Extra credit: There are two (2) pop culture references in the subject and body of this post. Can you identify them?


By fnord12 | May 12, 2006, 12:57 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link



To Qwest or Not to Qwest

AT&T, Verizon, BellSouth, Cingular (owned by AT&T and BellSouth), and MCI (owned by Verizon) all handed over phone records to the NSA without requiring any warrants or authorization of any kind. This is beyond the "international calls only" wiretaps the agency took heat for earlier. This is data mining. They're collecting data on every phone call made (domestic and international) by everyone, what number called what number and how often. Everyone. That would include you. Do you feel safer now?

When asked about their data mining, the NSA (and the White House) say they can't comment on anything that may or may not be occurring that may or may not be legal and may or may not be done with the complete approval of the Administration.

In the article, it says that one telecom giant has held out. Qwest Communications. They and their lawyers didn't feel comfortable with handing over that information to the NSA without some kind of warrant or written authorization from FISA or the Attorney General's office. The NSA said they couldn't ask FISA because FISA might not approve it. That's almost too logical for my brain.

Now, my first reaction is that i would soon be giving my patronage to a new phone company. I wasn't alone in that sentiment, either. However, knowing Qwest is a huge telecommunications company, they were bound to have a few skeletons in their closet. Fnord12 pointed out a few to me today. First off, their CEO is against net neutrality.

The CEO of Qwest had to know he wasn't preaching to the choir when he told a crowd at a VoIP convention in San Jose, California, last week that so-called neutrality is a dream, and charging customers more money for more bandwidth is the future.

It was a hard line to take with a roomful of entrepreneurs and techies, many of whose startup dreams hinge, at least in part, on the idea that their Internet traffic will move through the system at the same cost as everyone else's. "If you have enough money, we can make a lot of things happen," said Mr. Notebaert, referring to customers such as Internet portals, startups, and content providers that would be willing to pay for more bandwidth.

Notebaert calls it the future. I call it bribery. I wonder if those people left that convention feel just a little bit dirty.

Second, their former CEO was indicted for insider trading back in December. Sure, he's gone now, but who's to say they got rid of all the rotten apples over there? And they're a giant telecommunications firm which automatically generates distrust.

So it comes down to which phone company is slightly less disgusting. Either that or i get rid of my phone and my DSL. You guys would have to start communicating with us via smoke signals and snail mail. Grim prospects indeed.


By min | May 12, 2006, 12:47 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Everything Free Online!

In Europe, the goverment is pushing to make scientific papers free online, which, as you may imagine, is quite a blow to the publishing companies. The reasoning is that the research was funded by taxpayer money and therefore every member state should have free access to the results. Can anyone imagine our government proposing such a thing? I think i can almost hear the "hindrance to a free market and economic growth" arguments now.

Speaking of free access, how much do you pay for internet service? Taxpayer dollars funded that research. I suppose we don't pay for the internet itself, just for being able to access it. Nice. Ofc, if we lose the net neutrality fight, it won't matter so much that we have access to the internet because ISPs could decide to block or slow down access to any sites they don't like. Here's an interview with Amazon VP Paul Misener who makes the case for net neutrality. I find that pretty interesting since a company as large as Amazon could be one of the preferred sites that get loaded faster since they have the money to pay the ISPs for the "premium access" service.

I think it's interesting that part of the argument of companies like Verizon who want to get rid of net neutrality is that it's hurting companies' ability to compete effectively and hurting the market. Everyone's page getting loaded at the same rate and everyone having access to all sites equally hurts the market. We should give the advantage to companies who pay the telecoms a fee. That, ladies and gentleman, is the new capitalism at work. Screw the idea that the one with the best product wins the most business. It should all go to whoever pays the biggest bribe.


By min | May 12, 2006, 12:43 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Where were you people during the election?

Bush Dips Into the 20s

President Bush's job-approval rating has fallen to its lowest mark of his presidency, according to a new Harris Interactive poll. Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 29% think Mr. Bush is doing an "excellent or pretty good" job as president, down from 35% in April and significantly lower than 43% in January. Approval ratings for Congress overall also sank, and now stand at 18%.

Roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults say "things in the country are going in the right direction," while 69% say "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track." This has been the trend since January, when 33% said the nation was heading in the right direction. Iraq remains a key concern for the general public, as 28% of Americans said they consider Iraq to be one of the top two most important issues the government should address, up from 23% in April. The immigration debate also prompted 16% of Americans to consider it a top issue, down from 19% last month, but still sharply higher from 4% in March.

The Harris poll comes two days after a downbeat assessement of Bush in a New York Times/CBS News poll. The Times, in analyzing the results, said "Americans have a bleaker view of the country's direction than at any time in more than two decades."


By fnord12 | May 12, 2006, 10:59 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



The Brain Game

Nintendo has come out with a game designed to stimulate the brain with puzzles and arithmetic. It's being marketed to older people, or "grey gamers," as a way to offset dementia and Alzheimers. The game was scheduled for U.S. release on April 17th.

Designed by a prominent neuroscientist, Brain Training for Adults, a package of cerebral workouts aimed at the over-45s by the Japanese game console and software maker Nintendo, is said to improve mental agility and even slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Players have to complete puzzles as quickly and accurately as possible, including reading literary classics aloud, doing simple arithmetic, drawing, and responding rapidly to deceptively easy teasers using voice-recognition software. The player's "brain age" is then determined. A physically fit, yet cerebrally past-it 30-year-old might be told after his first few attempts that his brain is into its 50s; a retired woman could, over time, end up with a brain age 20 years her junior.

The challenge, to reduce one's brain age, is proving addictive among Japan's baby boomers, many of whom say their only contact with game consoles was limited to bemused glances over the shoulders of grandchildren.

Not everyone's convinced that this sort of brain stimulation will actually do anything for you.

"You might get better at sudoku, but you don't get better at much else," said Guy Claxton, a learning expert at Bristol University.

The kewl part is that some Japanese hospitals actually have the game and the consoles in their waiting rooms and wards. Not only don't they have the PMRC and other crazy orgs trying to sell the "video games breed violence" meme, but they're actually providing access to video games to their sick people. And the older generation is actually interested in playing the games. It's like an alternate reality over there.

If puzzles help at all with slowing down the occurrence of dementia, i wish i could get a Chinese language version of it and get some of my family members interested. It would make the holidays more interesting, too.


By min | May 12, 2006, 8:54 AM | Science & Video Games | Comments (1) | Link



May 11, 2006

The Violation Zone

We live in a townhouse and we have an association. Basically, we pay a monthly due, and it covers lawn maintenance, snow removal, and some maintenance and repair to the exterior.

They're fascists. If you've ever dealt with an association, you will know what i'm talking about. The front door has to be a certain color, the outdoor light fixtures have to conform to certain specifications, you can only plant things in the specified location, etc etc. There's also plenty of arbitrary rules that don't make sense like if i wanted to build a deck, it could extend 16ft from my back door. But if i wanted to put down a concrete patio, it can't extend more than 8ft. Does this make sense to anyone? If i can use those 16ft for one thing, why not something else? In fact, why aren't those 16ft mine to do as i please? I am afterall the owner of a certain amount of land outside the structure. I pay property taxes on it. If they want to dictate what i do in the "common" areas, that's one thing, but my own backyard?

Every few months we get a newsletter. I particularly enjoy the one we just got. They don't publish letters, but they will print comments.

A Heritage Home owner suggests that garage doors be kept shut during the day, unless you are working in the area. It gives the community a much neater look and keeps out rodents and dirt.

Another concerned resident reminds us that garbage is to be placed on the road near the curb no earlier than the evening before collection. Garbage cans must be stowed in garages by the evening of the pick up. [emphasis mine]

And if you think you can just flaunt these suggestions from "concerned residents" (read as "The Management"), think again.

Residents are encouraged to report these and other violations to RCP Management. Violaters will be fined, so please be considerate of your neighbors. Follow the rules and don't find yourself in the Violation Zone.

That's right. My association is actually the Communist Party in disguise. This is where all the higher ups went when the Iron Curtain fell. First they get us to spy on our neighbors for not keeping their garage doors closed. Next thing you know, we'll be turning in all the capitalists. It's ingenious!


By min | May 11, 2006, 2:13 PM | My stupid life | Comments (2) | Link



Buck! Buck! you with my shotgun

I'm starting to get excited about the new nintendo console (wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!). The emulation is a nice little thing, but i really like this:

And what they say about it:

As you can see, the controller is amazingly basic, but allows for an entirely new breed of Wii gaming. The shell takes the simplicity of the main controller, and adds an additional analog stick, which could make a new FPS/Light Gun hybrid the next big thing.

There's also some demo movies (Duck Hunt WII)

Link credit: Joshua.


By fnord12 | May 11, 2006, 1:34 PM | Video Games | Comments (3) | Link



Someone's angry

East Coast Music scene:

Lot of great bands have come out of the East Coast... that was then, this is now.

The East Coast absolutely sucks when it comes to the music scene now. Yes, there are some very hard working musicians trying their very best to make things happen. But the rest of them are all posers and wanna be's! They put up ad.s on Craigslist searching for "serious and dedicated" musicians and when they're contacted, they never reply, never follow up. It's bloody discouraging! It's lame bastards like them that muck it up for the rest of us.

I bid all of them a great big FUCK YOU!!!!!!! ( you know who you are)


this is in or around All of over the East Coast

no -- it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

It's true you know. If you put an ad on Craig's List, you could at least write back with a 'no thanks' if someone responds to it.


By fnord12 | May 11, 2006, 12:11 PM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



Brian Eno & Paul Simon?

Apparently they are putting out an album together. Kinda weird, and based on the samples i've heard it doesn't sound particularly great. What is cool, however, is this little timeline that the hated and mocked Stephen Thomas Thomas Steven Erstwhile Erlewine set up comparing the careers of the two of them. What i don't like is that the timeline starts with Paul Simon's solo career. The timeline makes it look like Eno was always way ahead of Simon musically, and for this period it's true, but Simon & Garfunkel's groundbreaking electric folk music in the mid to late 60s were a huge influence on the development of rock music in general and i wouldn't doubt on Eno specifically (at the very least, the Velvets were influenced by S&G, and we know Eno was inspired by VU).


By fnord12 | May 11, 2006, 10:19 AM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



May 10, 2006

Eloquent As Ever

On his tour in Florida to promote his Senior Tax, Bush showed off his quick wit and charisma:

Bush visited with some waiting in a courtyard where Frank Sinatra's "Young At Heart" played on the loudspeakers, then he went indoors where people were looking over the laptops. He walked around giving handshakes and hugs to those who rose for his entrance, and greeted a man who remained sitting in a wheelchair with, "You look mighty comfortable."

Oh, and if you don't know what the Senior Tax is, basically, the Bush Administration has decided that if seniors don't sign up for the Medicare prescription drug program by May 15th, they can face lifetime penalties.

The Bush Administration's botched implementation of the plan, itself a special interest giveaway to drug companies and HMOs, has punished seniors around the country. Now, with millions still not signed up for the confusing program and the enrollment period set to expire on Monday, Democrats are urging Bush Republicans not to charge seniors for their own incompetence.
...
Said Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), "Seniors are paying the price because drug companies are pulling the strings in Washington. What other explanation is there for the stubborn refusal by President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress to extend the May 15th enrollment deadline? Millions of seniors are faced with a mountain of prescription drug bills and a growing stack of glitzy brochures from insurance companies looking for new customers. Unless we extend the deadline, seniors in Illinois and across the country who don't sign up by May 16th will be hit with a lifetime penalty that will make their prescriptions more expensive. It is time for the President to start listening to America's seniors, not to Washington drug company lobbyists."

It's interesting that Democrats are using such strong language to condemn the drug companies, who we damn well know they are in bed with, as well. I guess they have to at pay lip service, and they'd rather talk about this than Iraq (right Senator Clinton?). At any rate, even if they only mean it a little bit, it's nice to see Democrats stand up to the Administration. It's a rare sight indeed.


By min | May 10, 2006, 3:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Landshark!


Aka "Bulette", but that sounds far too french. These are really tough monsters that i've never had the heart to throw at any of my players. Along with Beholders or Liches. So don't say i'm such a mean Dungeon Master.

Hey, who's up for some D&D?


By fnord12 | May 10, 2006, 2:23 PM | D&D | Comments (7) | Link



The Shoot First State

Last year, Florida introduced a new bill that allows people to shoot someone if they feel threatened without fear of criminal or civil prosecution. They call it the "Castle Doctrine," as in your body is your castle and you can defend it with force.

Now, a woman in Florida has been arrested for pulling a sword out of her cane and assaulting a woman who took her parking space at the Walmart.

Sharlott Till is accused of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly threatening women in another car with a 27-inch sword hidden inside her walking cane.
...
Witnesses told police that Till produced the sword and began swinging it around. She later told police she is trained in the use of a sword and was only attempting to scare the victims.

So, Ms. Till felt "threatened" when her parking space was taken, and she acted to defend herself because that space was part of her "castle". If she wanted to properly defend anything, she should have pulled her rifle out of the gun rack in her trunk and shot the woman. I mean, a sword is so 1800s.

Conversely, if the woman in the car feared for her life because this crazy lady was swinging a sword at her, she would also have been perfectly in her right to shoot Ms. Till with her glock. Thank you, NRA. Culling the herd one moron at a time.

Thanks to Rob for the link.


By min | May 10, 2006, 10:11 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link



May 9, 2006

A thousand points of blah

Josh sent me this little parable about how the internet is changing the distribution system for music, and it dovetailed into something i'd been thinking about. We had a little debate about whether or not this is a good thing. He thinks it is because it allows musicians to bypass the corporations that own the record labels and radio stations and reach an audience directly. As a musician who posts his stuff on the internet i love the idea (although i clearly know my stuff is "not there yet"), but i don't think it'll work. The first problem i see is that it's only a matter of time before the corporations move in and dominate the internet space as much as they do everything else.

The second problem is i think we will be drowned in mediocrity. You go and myspace.com or the like, and you'll hear tons and tons of average stuff. The theory is that the good stuff will bubble to the top, but i don't see how it can happen. You're essentially relying on word of mouth. How many of you clicked on the links i've put up in the past to bands like Evan's Groove or Mixed Meteor? (I'm not saying you had to like these bands, but i'd suspect most people don't even check out bands that other people recommend.) Compare it to the number of times you did hear a song on MTV or the radio that turned out to be by a good band.

Julia can probably correct me on this, but i think that before Bach, you essentially had a situation which is a lot like proponents of a myspace-like distribution system. Music was local. It was probably very diverse, but the fantastic things that could have been going on in one place never had any effect on music as a whole. I don't have my timelines matched up perfectly, but i'd bet a part of what made Bach the first rock star was a combination ofthe promotion of the Church and the arrival of a printing press that allowed people all over Europe to get Bach's sheet music and play and hear the music. After Bach, you have Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, etc... and each time there was a major paradigm shift in how music was approached. As the distribution system got more efficient, the changes happened more quickly with Chuck Berry, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Sex Pistols, U2, Nirvana, Public Enemy... but each time, the changes were widespread. All of those bands, and many others had a huge postive effect on music, and they did it because of two things: first, just by being good bands, but second by being prominent throughout the western world so that the next generation of musicians could hear their ideas and expand on them or reject them. (There is also the fact that during these same time periods there were other bands that should have come to greater prominence. The Velvet Underground is probably the best example, but we all probably have our favorites. It's true that the biggest bands were usually also those that found a way to break musical boundries while still having mass appeal, while bands that pushed harder and were probably 'better' at least to us music lovers' ears got were relatively ignored. But even bands like Can or the Raincoats, or whoever you like - they were part of the same distribution system and they were well known enough to influence others.)

Corporations definitely played a part in bringing these bands to prominence. Their ultimate goal of course is to make money, but if in the process they are making all this good music available, that means the system is working. The problem is along the way the discovered that they can make more money by distributing music that is safe and unchallenging, (and as corporations grew and merged, it helped to not have to carry artists who challenged the way corporations operate) and over the years the balance has shifted to the point where the great majority of the music that is played is pap. So i acknowledge that there's a problem... i just don't think that going totally internet-indie is the solution. You need a national/global distribution system so that the good bands have somewhere to bubble up to. It doesn't have to be mega-corporations. In fact, i can't believe i'm arguing for an essentially capitalist system against a system where little indie musicians doing home recordings (hi!) would be on a level playing field. I just don't see a solution where we don't wind up with a thousand points of blah.


By fnord12 | May 9, 2006, 4:09 PM | Music | Comments (6) | Link



We're advertising

And, no, i don't mean the ad banner for the new Politburo album at the top of the page. People have been stealing our bandwidth, linking to pictures on our site that we stole from other sites fair and square (at least we had the decency to steal the pictures outright). So we swapped the images. Check out here and here, and scroll down.


By fnord12 | May 9, 2006, 2:29 PM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link



Thanks for coming. Have a seat.

Several topics I'd like to talk about today -- Farm Bill, trade with Japan, WTO, avian flu... but before I do, let me touch on a subject people always ask about... progress in Iraq. We are helping the Iraqi people build a lasting democracy that is peaceful and prosperous - one that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists, and will serve as a model for freedom in the broader Middle East.

That's from the talking points that were sent to USDA officials. The USDA - that's the US Department of Agriculture - is now required to promote the war in Iraq whenever it gives a speech.

Your government is working hard with your tax dollars... to promote Republican politicians.


By fnord12 | May 9, 2006, 1:37 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



World War III

Bush says fight against terror is 'World War III':

But he said he agreed with the description of David Beamer, whose son Todd died in the crash, who in a Wall Street Journal commentary last month called it "our first successful counter-attack in our homeland in this new global war -- World War III".

Bush said: "I believe that. I believe that it was the first counter-attack to World War III.

Of course, former CIA directory James Woolsey thinks we are up to IV.

These World Wars are a lot like movie sequels. The first two are major events, and after that they start getting released direct-to-video and you don't even know they came out.


By fnord12 | May 9, 2006, 1:30 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



It's My Right

I hate it when people whip this one out. You tell them they're doing something that they're not supposed to do or something that is just plain rude. And what is their response? "It's my right as an American." Usually, the "right" they feel they've been granted is something ridiculous like their right to stay at an establishment after it's been closed or their right to talk loudly in a movie theatre or their right to carry food.

I am no scholar of the Constitution, but I'm pretty sure none of those are listed in the Bill of Rights. In fact, let's take a look at that right now. It'll be fun. (i originally had all 10 amendments posted here but somebody, and we won't say who, felt it was too "self-righteous" so you can go read them for yourself on your own time. suffice it to say, i didn't see mention of loud talking, carrying food, or even spitting listed.)

Mebbe those extra rights are in an addendum somewhere.

"Civility" isn't a right, but it's an important part of society. Trying to excuse incivility by spouting off about their "right as an American citizen" is a sign of ignorance, and it tears at the all too thin veil of society that we're trying to cling to.

Ofc, my version of the Bill of Rights is off of the old Constitution. In Bush's newly revised Constitution, I think he replaced the Bill of Rights with a picture of the big fish he caught in his lake.


By min | May 9, 2006, 11:47 AM | My stupid life | Comments (9) | Link



May 8, 2006

He watches bad movies so you don't have to

Actually, i'm not sure if that's true. I think he just watches them cause he's twisted. Anyway, go read about all the bad movies you'll never have to watch at Spored To Death Publishing.


By fnord12 | May 8, 2006, 6:41 PM | Movies | Comments (0) | Link



Who wants some more wars?

Bolivia is daring to claim that they own their own natural gas, so look for a war on them and Venezeula some time soon:

The plans are well underway now for a fourth attempt to oust Hugo Chavez that may include assassinations and possibly an armed assault by US invading forces. Last Sunday VHeadline published a commentary/review I wrote about Noam Chomsky's new book Failed States. In an email I received from Chomsky on April 29 he updated the views he stated in his new book and gave a blunt assessment of what may be in prospect which I'll quote again here: he said he "wouldn't be surprised to see (US inspired) secessionist movements in the oil producing areas in Iran, Venezuela and Bolivia, all in areas that are accessible to US military force and alienated from the governments, with the US then moving in to 'defend' them and blasting the rest of the country if necessary."

And things aren't going so well in Nigeria, either:

A militant group that has been attacking Nigeria's oil pipelines and helping to drive up world oil prices added a new tactic last week by detonating a car bomb in a major oil city to publicize its standing threat to shut down the country's entire crude output.
...
The rebels have tapped into deep resentment in poor local communities against big oil and government neglect. Delta residents live in abject poverty and also suffer from the environmental effects of oil pumping, including the pollution of drinking water and rivers and damage to fishing. The oil gives rivers a rainbow gloss in some places.

In one village, Pepa Ama, residents say the pumping of oil has sunk their land. Villagers walk barefoot over thin rotting logs and wobbly planks to avoid getting oily feet.

"We are the owners of the oil," said one village resident, Florence Komanda, 46, who lives in a small hut on stilts above the polluted mud with her husband and 12 children. "We don't have water to drink, we don't have fish to kill because of the water. Even money to buy things to eat, we don't have."

And if that's not enough, looks like Cheney is spoiling for a fight with Russia:

Vice President Dick Cheney made a keynote speech on relations between the West and Russia in which he practically established the start of the second Cold War ... The Cold War has restarted, only now the front lines have shifted," it said
...
Commentators said the speech was an answer to Russia's new self-confidence, which has stemmed from high oil prices and a shortage of energy supplies giving it new influence.
...
"What can Russia do? It would appear it will have to strengthen ties with Belarus and Central Asia. And get close to China, to balance this Western might."

Commentators said Russia was being expected to knuckle under and follow the U.S. lead.

Also, that whole thing about Iran's PM saying that he wanted to "wipe Israel off the map" may not have been entirely on the up-and-up, although i don't see that the alternate translation is much better.


By fnord12 | May 8, 2006, 1:38 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Mission Accomplished

So Peter Goss, once best known as the congressman who unsuccessfully tried to hide behind his office door from his constituents, was put in charge of the CIA by Bush less than a year ago. Goss went in, kicked out all the competent CIA agents, including the ones who were right about about Iraq's WMDs, and replaced them with partisan Republican hacks. Then he got himself involved in the Watergate prostitution scandal, and now he's resigning. Remember, these are the people that are going to protect us from terrorists.


By fnord12 | May 8, 2006, 1:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Smacked

I'm not even sure if i know who Godsmack is, but if you want to see them get smacked around by an interviewer because they let their music be used in army recruiting commercials, here's the link.


By fnord12 | May 8, 2006, 1:24 PM | Liberal Outrage & Music | Comments (1) | Link



badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom

badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger african snake badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger african snake badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom.

(this is Carlos' fault, btw)


By fnord12 | May 8, 2006, 10:50 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (3) | Link



I gotcher wildlife right here

We traveled all over the Pyramid Mountain trails on Saturday, through Bear Swamp and Big Cat Swamp, and Poisonous Frog Swamp, and Super Deadly Killer Chipmunk Swamp, and failed to see a single predator. And yet on Sunday, what goes strolling through our backyard but a vicious Jersey Wolverine. He's totally considering going for my throat in that second picture.


By fnord12 | May 8, 2006, 7:43 AM | My stupid life | Comments (3) | Link



May 7, 2006

Journey to Pyramid Mountain

On Saturday, Rose, the noted naturalist and wilderness survival expert, led us on an expedition to the one place in New Jersey that isn't yet covered with strip malls. The tale of our exciting adventure is recounted here.


By fnord12 | May 7, 2006, 11:21 PM | My stupid life | Comments (6) | Link



The Politburo

The Politburo (That's me, min, Adam, and Wayne) have released their debut album. It's exclusively available over the web and actually we at SuperMegaMonkey have worked out a special deal with them wherein their songs will only be available on this website for the time being. So go check them out, leave some comments, and enjoy.


By fnord12 | May 7, 2006, 7:38 PM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



May 5, 2006

Sites you'd like to see

I was looking for pictures of Kevin Costner as Elvis to complement my last post when i found this site. I'm not sure what's going on, but any site with many Elvisii, plus a Godzilla and a Galactus can't be bad. And the site's called Joe Mammy.


By fnord12 | May 5, 2006, 9:32 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Mr. Post-Apocalyptic

A lot of people don't know this, but Keven Costner has actually been in three post-apocalyptic science fiction movies. The first is Waterworld, the second was the Postman, and the third was 3,000 Miles To Graceland. 3,000 Miles is much more subtle than the other two, but the clues are there. First of all, it co-stars Kurt Russell (star of post-apocalyptic movies Escape from NY, Escape from LA,and Soldier, ) and also features Ice-T (from post-apocalyptic movies Tank Girl, Johnny Mnemonic, and Leprechaun in the Hood). Secondly, it starts off with an animated sequence where two bio-mechanical scorpions are fighting each other in the desert. From there it gets pretty obvious. After the world has been destroyed by a plague of genetically engineered scorpions (designed by a US military that got out of control) the surviving population has turned away from Christianity to the cult of Elvis (there is also a smaller religion devoted to Frank Sinatra). The movie describes the struggle of a small group of heroes and villains who are trying to find and reach Graceland (AKA Mecca) where the world is rumored to still be pure. On their journey they learn the truth about their world, the truth about their religion, and the truth about themselves.

Frankly, i don't know why this isn't understood by most people. It's the only way the movie makes any sense.


By fnord12 | May 5, 2006, 8:53 AM | Movies | Comments (0) | Link



May 4, 2006

The solution to the iPod problem

OK, here's what i want: i want my own astromech droid to follow me around, and i want it loaded will all my music. If the pentagon can have a death star, why can't i have an R4-D2?


By fnord12 | May 4, 2006, 11:15 PM | Music | Comments (2) | Link



I like sci fi movies but...

...i don't need to live in them.

One:

It looks like a scene from the movie "Waterworld" here off the Iraqi coast.

Two oil terminals - this one and the Khawr al Amaya a few kilometers away - rise from the sea, miles out of sight of land. The oil wealth of Iraq flows into supertankers that berth here.

There is a post-Apocalyptic, industrial wasteland feel to this oil terminal. It's all hard edges - steel grating, concrete and massive valves. The whine of machinery, the thump of pumps and the roar of generators are constant. The smell of crude oil permeates everything.

Two:

The Bush administration is seeking to develop a powerful ground-based laser weapon that would use beams of concentrated light to destroy enemy satellites in orbit.

The largely secret project, parts of which have been made public through Air Force budget documents submitted to Congress in February, is part of a wide-ranging effort to develop space weapons, both defensive and offensive. No treaty or law forbids such work.


By fnord12 | May 4, 2006, 4:44 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (5) | Link



Halle-frickin-lujah

The rumors (and i won't say where i heard them) are true: Soon we can get the original Star Wars movies, without Lucas's mucking about, on DVD. Of course you also have to buy the crappy edition along with it, but that's a small price to pay.

Credit where Credit is Due Department: Joshua gave me this link. But he's not the one who first told us about this. That person will remain anonymous. Or something.


By fnord12 | May 4, 2006, 10:59 AM | Movies & Star Wars | Comments (2) | Link



We're Doomed

It would seem that social skills make you smarter.

Suaq Balimbing, in the Kluet swamps, is one of Sumatra's least attractive destinations. It has mud, a profusion of biting insects, oppressive heat, and little else. To humans, it is a place to avoid. But to the island's wild orang-utans, Suaq is a magnet. It is the simian equivalent of Oxbridge, a place to obtain a privileged education so they can stand out among their peers.

At Suaq they learn from other wild orang-utans how to make tools, to play jumping games and even to blow kisses to each other at night. Stay at Suaq and you become a special animal.

And that, say researchers - writing in the latest issue of Scientific American - has critical implications for humans. The existence of a place in the wild where apes undergo intense social learning suggests a route by which humans acquired their intelligence, as we evolved from primitive apemen to Homo sapiens.

'Our analyses of orang-utans suggest that not only does culture - social learning of special skills - promote intelligence, it favours the evolution of greater and greater intelligence in populations over time,' says Carel van Schaik, director of the Anthropological Institute at Zurich University.

In other words, apemen got their big brains by hanging about in groups, learning social skills and tool-making - like orang-utans. And as the generations passed, apemen with bigger brains did better and better in these groups. The end result was Homo sapiens.

Link

It had to be social skills, didn't it? Damn you, God! WHY!!!!!!! WHYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!

Although, kids who hang out at the mall in their little social groups actually seem stupider with each passing generation. How do you explain that Mr. Anthropologist Smarty Pants Man?

Unless by smarter, they really mean more successful at passing on their DNA. Foiled again.

Gotta love them apes, though.

The orang-utans of Suaq also say good night to their families by blowing a loud raspberry noise which is often amplified by cupping hands.

By min | May 4, 2006, 9:14 AM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



We Help the Webmaster

Someone we know has been following a diet based on the recommendations of the Weston A. Price Foundation(WAP) and has been sending us links to their articles. I've read a few of the articles, and the way they are written hasn't sat right with me, but I've been trying to keep an open mind about it. They basically advocate a high protein diet, similar to the Atkins diet, but with a focus on organic meats. They also advocate drinking raw milk. And state that a vegetarian diet is an unhealthy one. I've read a few rumours on the web that they're funded by the livestock industry, but nothing substantial. The president of the foundation is Sally Fallon who also has written the lion's share of the articles I've read. These articles seem to be picked up by sattellite groups such Dr. Joseph Mercola (also a member of the WAP board), Healing Crow, and Soy Online Service.

One article I read, in trying to downplay the use of soy in Asian diets, says "A survey conducted in the 1930s found that soy foods accounted for only 1.5 percent of calories in the Chinese diet, compared with 65 percent of calories for pork [emphasis mine]." That really struck me as wrong so I checked out the book they sourced. In the book, Food in Chinese Culture by K. C. Chang, it says the exact opposite, indicating that Chinese people traditionally had a diet of grains (soy being considered one of five staple grains) and vegetables, consuming meat, in general, at low levels. The few times this might not be true would be during holidays and festivals where the food was more extravagant.

According to Chang, the survey conducted actually showed only 76 calories were supplied daily by animal foods. Of these 76 calories, 54% was derived from pork, or 41 calories. 2% of the total calories came from soybeans. This survey was conducted from 1929-1933. I did not find information in the book on the daily average caloric intake recorded during this survey, but the book referenced an earlier survey conducted by the same person (from 1922-1925) The average calories consumed daily according to this earlier survey was 3,461. Assuming the caloric intake by the average Chinese didn't change that much in those few years, total calories supplied by soybeans would be somewhere around 69.

How could the article be so wrong about a book it was sourcing? Part of this article's premise was that industry and media had been severely exxagerating the amount of soy Asians consumed in order to increase the sale of soy in North America. It completely misrepresented what the book said, turning it around to support their argument. It made me believe that the Weston A. Price Foundation is essentially making things up to promote their agenda and citing sources that it believes their audience would never go and look up themselves.

But to be fair, I thought I should write to them about it. Maybe I had missed something. I wrote to WAP saying I had read Chang's book and could not find the claim that they had made regarding Chinese people getting 65% of their calories from pork. I explained that I had actually calculated a total of 41 calories from pork based on the chart in the book and highly doubted 41 calories represented 65% of an average person's total daily intake. I asked them to please tell me where they had gotten their information and to recheck their sources. That was a couple of days ago. I haven't received a reply yet. If I do, I'll give you the update.

I also wrote to Soy Online Service. Just to emphasize the tone of their reply, I've pasted what I wrote:

Re: Article: How Much Soy Do Asians Eat

The information in the article stating that the Chinese eat 65% pork is incorrect. "Food in Chinese Culture" by K.C. Chang actually says the complete opposite of what you are claiming. Please check your sources.

Here's their reply:

Hi Prissie We help the webmaster. He tries to be accurate, but as this is a soy website what does pork, chicken or rice matter if he quotes the the soy consumption correctly? Your question is "How much soy do Asians eat". So, tell us please. And tell us what is an Asian? Valerie.

Yeah. I wasn't sure how to react to this kind of response, either.

I said before that I didn't like how they presented their information. That was based purely on the tone of their writings. But if they had been good about backing up their claims, I wouldn't have minded so much. I might not agree with their ideas on health and nutrition, but as long as they got their facts straight, it largely becomes a matter of opinion. Unless I get a more sensible response from WAP, I can't see how anyone can believe anything on the WAP website or satellites based on this kind of scholarship and this kind of reaction when faced with the fact that they are wrong.

On the other hand, this book on chinese culture is really interesting, so something good came out of it.


By min | May 4, 2006, 9:06 AM | Science | Comments (5) | Link



May 3, 2006

iPods suck

In theory, iPods are the greatest invention ever. They are the pinnacle of human acheivement. The ability to carry practically your entire music collection on something smaller than a walkman is one step away from the ultimate goal of literally storing all your music in your brain.

The problem is, they don't work. Oh sure, they work enough to string you along, but then they wait until that critical moment - when you're stuck in traffic and bored to death, or right before the car in front of you stops short - and then they freeze up, or skip. I don't know anyone with an iPod (or any other mp3 player) that hasn't run into problems. I'm trying not to rant too much (hah!), but it is very, very frustrating. And the problem with these intermittent problems is you can't even take them in to get fixed. They'll inevitably be working fine when you bring it in and they'll just tell you to give it a reboot or make sure you have the latest software installed.

And the warranties are a racket. They always are, but for iPods it's especially obnoxious. They know their product doesn't work right, especially with the batteries, but they still make you pay extra to ensure that you won't wind up with a lemon. It's a protection scheme. Any product should continue to work properly for 3 years after you bought it without me having to pay extra. Warranties should be for those unfortunate situations where you accidentally drop a sledgehammer on it.

Plus, even assuming you have a warranty - you have to send the thing away for god knows how long. Prior to the iPod, i had two big bags full of tape mixes. They're at the bottom of a closet now, scheduled for disposal the next time we move. After that, i'm in a musical wasteland if i have to send my iPod away.

They obviously don't care. Because it's not like there's another brand out there that works better, so why should they bother? If they cared they'd take the loss and make the warranties a part of the package (aren't they expensive enough anyway?). If i were president, after i took care of all these wars and the looming energy crisis and stuff, the first thing i'd do would be to issue an executive order forcing all companies to be responsible for repairing their products for 5 years after purchase. Then they'd be forced to make sure their newer generations worked better to cut down the costs they are eating on free repairs. I demand that Apple puts out an iPod that works properly before releasing the next 120 gig iPod 3D Video with Sensoramavision and Soothing Vibrations. Ok wait, i take back the 120 gig part.

So i'm looking for a new solution. At least a back-up solution. I spent half of my unemployment period converting my CD collection to mp3, so i'm committed to that format. Maybe i'll get an mp3 disc player for my car. Any other suggestions?


By fnord12 | May 3, 2006, 10:14 AM | Music | Comments (3) | Link



May 2, 2006

Diaspora

I'm trying to read Greg Egan's Diaspora for the third time now. The first two times I got about halfway thru and then I got stuck on some math in the book.

This time it's gonna be different. This time I've got Egan's website to refer to.

For instance, in Chapt. 2, there's a section that goes on about flattening a torus. While I sorta understood that one, taking it to the next step on why you can't flatten a sphere always stumped me. Now I've got it drawn out for me. This rewls!


By min | May 2, 2006, 2:54 PM | Boooooks | Comments (0) | Link



Just lock me up now

When i start sounding like Rush Limbaugh, it's all over.

From Cursor:

Response to the Senate Republican plan to mail $100 checks to voters to offset high gasoline prices has been largely hostile on both the left and right, with Rush Limbaugh complaining, "Instead of buying us off and treating us like we're a bunch of whores, just solve the problem."


By fnord12 | May 2, 2006, 1:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3) | Link



May 1, 2006

The further adventures of Skelly Gang

After a few months of slacking, i've updated the Skelly Gang music page.

I'm tempted to just send you there with no further explanation and ask for feedback as I think the music stands well enough on its own, but i also want to sort of try to explain what Skelly Gang music is.

Frank Zappa had a phrase for "instant composition" which is really just a fancy way of saying improvisation. He actually said it in reference to his live guitar solos in concert (which he would then take home, extract from the rest of the song, and then build totally new songs around. that's what his Shut Up and Play Your Guitar series is), but i think "instant composition" is a good name for what we do.

Even in jazz improv, there are certain basic chord progressions that everyone is expected to know, plus by nature of the fact that jazz is a specific genre there are certain rules you know you are going to follow. When the rules start going out the window, you wind up with Ornette Coleman type stuff which is interesting to some people and "noise" to others, but even people who like it don't keep it on heavy rotation on their iPods.

What (i hope) differentiates us from that is the free form music we create starts off with almost no pre-arrangement, even on a basic chord progression level, and winds up being listenable, at least to people with certain tastes (i would say our closest analogues are early instrumental Pink Floyd, the live jams of the Velvet Underground, and the longer psychedelic epics of "Krautrock" bands like Can and Amon Duul. Not that we strive to sound like anything in particular.) It's not that we have some sort of pretentious aversion to "rules" and delve off into some no-wave dissonance that no one would ever want to listen to. We all have a wide range of musical listening behind us and so we each bring to the mix the "rules" of the hundreds of genres we are familiar with. Someone will start something, generally out of thin air, and we mix all our ideas together and play what works. Sometimes someone will bring their own chord progression or an idea they've been working with as a starter, and sometimes we'll work with loops that Mike has created. And sometimes after a song has been recorded, we'll go back and quickly overdub another set of parts, but even then it's spur of the moment - none of the laborious orchestrating associated with "writing songs". But for the most part, the scenario is: set up the recording and then play for a couple hours and see what comes out of it.

Sometimes it's a disaster. You take the recording home and you realize everyone was playing in a different key or time signature. Sometimes you find that you've essentially played a genre piece - a song that's just a standard song in some genre that contributes nothing. Or you start hearing nothing except the mistakes you made (or it's a great song except that one really essential part where you totally flubbed it). But most of the time i'm amazed how well it works out.

If music (or any art) is an expression of feelings or ideas that can't be expressed properly through standard language, then improvised music is surely the best expression of those ideas because it's what you are feeling at that exact moment you are playing it. With anything else, at best it's a mishmosh of what you were feeling the when you first started, plus what you were feeling the next 10+ times you've sat down to work with it. At worst, it's a dilution of that feeling as you continue to attempt to express some fleeting idea a day, a week, a month later. That's when things start getting pretentious, as you start deliberately trying to infuse "meaning" into something. Then you have to rehearse something 10 times in order to play it well enough to record it. Some types of music (I think of baroque music, or progressive rock) can survive that kind of repetition, but others can't. There's a line in the popular song Bullet With Butterfly Wings by Smashing Pumpkins (i'm no fan of theirs at all, but it's a good song and a great line), where he's talking about his "rage" and he asks "but can you fake it for just one more show?" I don't know how bands can play the same songs over and over again at concert after concert and keep up any level of intensity. There are definitely advantages to pre-arranged music - no mistakes, the ability to revise your ideas, and the ability to reach beyond your current playing abilities. But there are also advantages to improvisational music in that the music is more honest and immediate. It's also the most collaborative - you can't really write a song with someone else without someone subjugating themselves, but you can jam with other musicians on a equal basis. (Though it definitely helps when they are talented and have no egos.)

There's a line in the movie 24 Hour Party People where they are knocking jazz and they say something like "The people playing jazz enjoy it much more than the people listening to it", and i know exactly what they are talking about. There's also a flip side, which is that if i make a mistake, i may think it is the most horrendous thing ever, whereas a listener might not even realize it was a mistake. Either way, it's very rewarding to get some friendly criticism and feedback. So i hope that you will have a listen to some of our stuff over at the Skelly Gang page and leave a few comments letting us know what you think.


By fnord12 | May 1, 2006, 2:57 PM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



Cicada Blog

For all your Cicada news. They've got a picture of Megalon on there so i already love them.


By fnord12 | May 1, 2006, 9:23 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



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