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February 29, 2012

Wednesday Death Report

Davy Jones of the Monkees died from a heart attack.


By min | February 29, 2012, 2:20 PM | Music & TeeVee | Comments (0) | Link



February 28, 2012

Marvel Sales

January.


By fnord12 | February 28, 2012, 10:32 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



February 26, 2012

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Point One #1 - This is several weeks old at this point, but they were giving them away for free at Wanyas' comic shop, so he picked it up for me. And... Marvel really had some balls charging $5.99 for this. It's clearly a promo/advertisement book. It should be free. Anyway, i don't think anything here really changed my mind about the books i've planned on getting. The X-Terminated or whatever seem pretty lame. I still don't want to read about Kaine the Scarlet Spider. Nothing in the Dr. Strange piece convinced me to ignore the bad reviews i've seen of Fraction's Defenders. Absolutely nothing happened in the Ultron story but i'll still be completing Bendis' Avengers run. And the Phoenix preview was written by Jeph Loeb, who thankfully won't be working on the X-Men/Avengers crossover so it didn't help with deciding on whether or not i'll be getting that (although i hope they didn't really kill Terrax in that throwaway scene; i really hate when they feel they have to kill off some long established and often cool character just to show how powerful some new threat is. and we already know the Phoenix is powerful, so what's the point?). I did think Van Lente did a good job introducing the new fire & ice characters, but where will they be appearing? Most of all, i really enjoyed the framing sequence with the Watcher.

Avengers vs. X-Men Program Guide - Since we're reviewing promo material, i might as well say that, having read this, i guess i will get the crossover. It doesn't seem like it'll be great, but the premise makes sense and the writing wasn't too bad. I had withdrawal symptoms when i didn't get Fear Itself even though by all accounts i seem to have made the right move, so if this crossover seems like it'll be even a notch better i guess i may as well go with it. So bring it on.

X-Factor #232 - I think i just picked the wrong time to start reading this book. Another alternate universe fight, and now all these alternate universe characters are in the real world so i guess we're not moving on yet. It's been a weird book, honestly.

Winter Soldier #2 - Not nearly enough super-ape action. It's partially a problem with the art: in theory, this book contained a machine gun toting gorilla who punched out Bucky and then escaped in a jet pack. In practice there were a lot of angular muddled panels further obscured by snow. I had a similar problem with what should have been a cool action sequence with Nick Fury. But beyond the art, this is still mainly a spy story that just happened to feature a gorilla. I was hoping for a more super-hero-ish story. And more Dr. Doom. This is still a good book and i expect things will continue to build, but i want my super-apes vs. Dr. Doom, and i want it now.

Avengers #22 & New Avengers #21 - I go through the same thing every time these books come out: prior to actually reading the issues, i agree with the criticism that this is a rehash of the previous Dark Avengers storyline, but then when i read them i actually enjoy it. I thought the battle with Clor was well done, and the scenes with the captured Avengers in the other book was handled nicely as well. I like the way Osborn is manipulating the public and the government, which is the sort of thing the Avengers aren't well equipped to handle (and i know people don't like that Luke Cage is so easily goaded by Osborn, but go back and read any issue of Power Man & Iron Fist: Cage is a hothead). So, i'm liking this. I'm still confused about the Vision though and all the comments that he's "back". Is there a Young Vision and a Vision now? That wasn't the way i understood things when the Vision was revived in Young Avengers. I also didn't like the way his face was drawn, but the art was generally ok (although i prefer Deodato's art in New).

Thunderbolts #170 - Favorite book. Great characterization. Nice art. Troll have dragon! The team can time-travel for as long as they like.

Avenging Spider-Man #4 - This one issue did a better job with character development for Hawkeye than both issues of Jen Van Meter's Avengers Solo that i read, and it also managed to be funny and a good adventure story at the same time. Good stuff. Glad to see this book can still be good without Joe Madureira's art, but i hope the sales numbers agree.

Avengers Academy #26 - Well i guess that thinned out the herd a bit. I enjoyed this while i read it but thinking about what to say now i realize it's an entire issue of people standing around arguing with each other, and i know some people don't like that.

New Mutants #38 - Very few writers would dare revisit Bird-Brain and the Animator, but not only do Abnett & Lanning do it, they do it well. I also really enjoy this interpretation of Doug Ramsey, which Zeb Wells should get the credit for but Abnett & Lanning have continued it nicely. "Isn't she spoken for?" "But I would speak for her much more articulately!" Glad to see someone new on art. I like it. Bird-Brain was nicely creepy and i liked Fernandez's Warlock, especially that menacing final panel. The regular humans looked fine, too!


By fnord12 | February 26, 2012, 12:43 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



February 25, 2012

I'd rather have a Transformers knock-off than a Gobot

Sheesh, these were bad.

It's a car that transforms into... a car with a face and broken side panels.

To be fair, these were actually model kits that still kinda sorta transformed, which is actually pretty cool, but, i mean, hee hee:

I have a big head and little arms. I'm just not sure how well this plan was thought through.

And from what i've seen, the actual toys weren't any better.


By fnord12 | February 25, 2012, 9:39 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



No website is complete without a picture of Puzzle Man

It's not all fun 'n' games being a super-hero, but sometimes it is.

By fnord12 | February 25, 2012, 1:41 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



I deliberately tried to geek out as much as possible on this for your amusement

An article in the October 2011 issue of Scientific American that recently made it to the top of the bathroom reading pile had a short article that suggests that describes a defeat of 20,000+ heavily armored French soldiers by a much smaller band of English troops led by Henry V and suggests that "suits of armor might not be all that great for fighting".

Researchers at the University of Leed placed armor-clad volunteers on a treadmill and monitored their oxygen consumption. The armor commonly used in the 15th century weighed anywhere from 30 to 50 kilograms, spread from head to hand to toe. Because of the distributed mass, volunteers had to summon great effort to swing steel-plated legs through each stride. In addition, breastplates forced quick, shallow breaths. The researchers found that the suits of armor doubled volunteers' metabolic requirements, compared with an increase of only about 70 percent for the same amount of weight carried in a backpack.

Kind of a "duh!", maybe, and the article doesn't compare the negatives of tiring easily to the fact that you've got heavy steel between yourself and your opponent's sword. I thought about the implications for D&D (first edition AD&D, natch), if any, and i realized that the game already has built in rules covering the "distributed mass" issue. In addition to the penalty for the armor's weight, armor types also have a maximum movement associated with them, which reflects the restricted movement even beyond the basic heaviness. So wearing a 450cn platemail suit will slow you down more than, say, carrying a bag with 450 gold coins.

However, the tightness of the breastplate suggests there ought to be some sort of Constitution check that increases in difficulty with each round of battle and, if failed, adds a penalty to the characters To Hit and Damage.

Ever notice i never read any articles that would make my players' lives easier? DMing is a lonely job.


By fnord12 | February 25, 2012, 1:19 PM | D&D | Comments (4) | Link



Where does Joe find the time?

For reasons unknown to all, friend Wanyas receives a weird apocalyptic christian (and anti-Catholic) magazine called The Philadelphia Trumpet in the mail. He passes them on to me, because i enjoy the insanity of it. Most articles talk scoldingingly about how some politician (usually German, plotting to restore the Holy Roman Empire) is doing something that the editors don't approve of and then, after expressing their disapproval, they reveal that they knew all along that this is what would happen because it says so in the Bible, so write to them for a free booklet. There's no logical disconnect for them between "It's wrong for them to do X" and "the Bible prophesied that they would do X, so they didn't really have a choice in the matter".

Sometimes, though, the articles get more into people's personal lives, and the most recent one had a diatribe against smart phones. It was enjoyable mainly for the imagery that depicted the article's author sitting in the middle of a crowded restaurant where everyone except him and his family sat silently and stared at their smartphones instead of talking to each other, but beyond that, i really enjoyed this passage:

Phones today go way beyond dial and talk. They are a very real, very visual doorway from Joe's website to your child or teenager's impressionable mind.

You know Joe? Conspiracy theorist, homegrown terrorist, bomb-making, Columbine-celebrating, pornography distributing, cop-killing, gangsta wannabe, self-mutilating, Satan-worshiping, general all-around-fun-guy Joe? Yes, that Joe! The one you unwittingly introduced your 9-year-old daughter to when you bought her the latest smartphone...

Honestly, i can barely keep up a regular pace on my Marvel Timeline Project and do my SuperMegaSpeed Reviews on this site at the same time. I don't know how Joe manages to get all that done. I'm really letting you guys down, and i apologize for it. If you stop coming here and start heading over to Joe's, i'll understand.


By fnord12 | February 25, 2012, 1:05 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Webcomics

I added three new items to the "Webcomics we read" drop-down:

Not necessarily endorsing them yet. We'll see how it goes.


By fnord12 | February 25, 2012, 12:58 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



February 24, 2012

Another reason to never leave the house

Billboards that adjust themselves based on your gender.


By fnord12 | February 24, 2012, 1:10 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link



Location of the Kraken not specified

Cool infographic at BBC on the ocean's depths.


By fnord12 | February 24, 2012, 12:48 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



Was the Death Star an affordable weapon system?

Kevin Drum says yes.


By fnord12 | February 24, 2012, 9:57 AM | Star Wars | Comments (0) | Link



The Donuts are In Jeopardy!

Scientific American tells me that the southwestern U.S. looks like it might experience a drought similar to Australia's nine year drought.

Australia experienced the worst and most consistent dry period in its recorded history over much of the past decade. The Murray River failed to reach the sea for the first time ever in 2002. Fires swept much of the country, and dust storms blanketed major cities for days. Australia's sheep population dropped by 50 percent, and rice and cotton production collapsed in some years. Tens of thousands of farm families gave up their livelihoods. The drought ended in 2010 with torrential rains and flooding.
...
The southwestern U.S. bears some resemblance to parts of Australia before the drought. Both include arid regions where thirsty cities and irrigated agriculture are straining water supplies and damaging ecosystems. The Colorado River no longer flows to the sea in most years. Water levels in major reservoirs have steadily declined over the past decade; some analysts project that the largest may never refill. The U.S. and Australia also share a changing global climate that is increasing the risk of drought.
...
The Millennium Drought did have one benefit: it got people's attention. Australians responded to these extremes with a wide range of technical, economic, regulatory and educational policies. Urban water managers in Australia have been forced to put in place aggressive strategies to curb water use and to expand sources of new and unconventional supplies. They have subsidized efficient appliances and fixtures such as dual-flush toilets, launched public educational campaigns to save water, and more. Between 2002 and 2008 per capita urban water use--already low compared with the western U.S.--declined by 37 percent.

Other efforts focus on tapping unconventional supplies, such as systems that reuse gray water, cisterns to harvest rooftop runoff, and sewage treatment and reuse. The country's five largest cities are spending $13.2 billion to double the capacity of desalination, enough to meet 30 percent of current urban water needs.

Even in the midst of the drought, Australia moved forward with plans to restore water to severely degraded aquatic ecosystems. The government has continued with plans to restore rivers and wetlands by cutting withdrawals from the Murray-Darling river basin by 22 to 29 percent. It has committed $3 billion to purchase water from irrigators to restore ecosystems. Regulators introduced water markets in the hope of making farms more water-efficient and reducing waste. Despite efforts to phase out subsidies, the government announced more than $6 billion in aid to improve irrigation infrastructure and make it more productive.

The southwestern U.S. states would do well to push for these kinds of reforms before a similar disaster strikes. They need to tackle difficult policy issues, such as development of water markets and pricing, expansion of water efficiency and productivity programs, elimination of government subsidies that encourage inefficient or unproductive water use by cities and farms, and agricultural reform. As the climate continues to change, smart water planning may help ease the impacts of unexpected and severe shocks that now appear inevitable.

Is it wrong that my first reaction after reading that last paragraph is "*snort* Yeah, right."?

Ofc, once the shit hits the fan and there is a drought, the whining will start in earnest. If it's a Democrat in the White House, it will be his Commie Socialist Liberal Satan-loving policies that caused it all. There will be a few more years of finger-pointing and complaints, but no real action to fix things. People will simultaneously complain that the government isn't doing enough while accusing the government of being too involved in people's lives. And then depending on how financially important that area is, the government will either let it die or put together some half-assed solution to keep it going.

But let's get to the issue that's really important here. Without water, how the hell is Ronald's Donuts supposed to keep making delicious vegan donuts for me to eat? To hell with the rest of the southwest. I want my won ton noodle soup, dammit.


By min | February 24, 2012, 9:12 AM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (0) | Link



February 22, 2012

And like someone says in the comments, it's getting worse, not better

I don't think this article says anything new about the depiction of women in mainstream super-hero comics, but it certainly lays it all out very clearly.


By fnord12 | February 22, 2012, 11:37 AM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link



February 21, 2012

Yeah, But Can They Power Things?

Scientists think they're soooo smart just cause they created a working transistor that's only the size of a phosphorus atom.

Their transistors can't power all sorts of gadgets, though, can they? No. And that's what makes Tony Stark better than these smarty-pants scientists.


By min | February 21, 2012, 2:32 PM | Comics & Science | Comments (0) | Link



Mmm...Staph-Flavored Bacon...

Damn you, factory farm supporting meat-eaters.

Link

One strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) known as CC398 has been rapidly spreading through poultry and pig farms, infecting people who work with the animals around the world (up to 26.5 percent of farm workers sampled in the Neatherlands), and popping up in nearly half of all meat sampled in the U.S.

(Yes, that says "Neatherlands". Damn you, Scientific American editors! *shakes fist*)

The detailed new study helps to clarify how this new breed of drug-resistant staph, known as livestock-acquired MRSA, has become so prevalent among livestock so quickly--after only having been spotted spreading back to humans about a decade ago. "We can't blame nature or the germs," Paul Keim, director of TGen's Pathogen Genimics Division and co-author of the study, said in a prepared statement. "It is our inappropriate use of antibiotics that is now coming back to haunt us."
...
In the U.S. and many other countries, farmers don't just use antibiotics to treat sick animals. Many producers feed it to their livestock in low levels as a preventive measure to keep animals that are in confined feeding operations, such as feed lots, from getting sick while being in such close proximity to one another.

So, clearly, my biggest concern is can the contaminated runoff from these farms then contaminate vegetable crops? If they can, then cereally, goddamn you. But if not, then i would suggest you all consider giving veganism a try. Or at least start buying organic.

And also, stop shaking hands with people. People are dirty.


By min | February 21, 2012, 2:23 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



Good news, i guess

I was kind of annoyed by the upcoming Venom crossover since i'm only reading the Red Hulk book and i didn't want to get the other books or read part 3 of a 4 part story in Hulk. Luckily, as i was reading Paul O'Brien's reviews for the week, i saw this:

In the interests of completism, I'd better say something about the "Circle of Four" storyline running through this month's weekly Venom issues, oddly numbered as issues #13.1 to #13.4. This storyline appears to have started life as a planned crossover between Venom, X-23, Ghost Rider and Hulk, only to be thwarted when half of those books were cancelled. Now it's been reassigned as a Venom storyline with a whole load of guest stars.

Works for me.


By fnord12 | February 21, 2012, 1:11 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



February 20, 2012

Transbots

I saw this ad in the Feb 1985 issues of Marvel comics...

The Trans-bots may or may not be from Planet Transsexual

...and i originally thought, "Oh. Transformers knock-offs.". Then i realized that this was probably an ad for the Transformers toys before they were officially brought to the US and named by Marvel's staff. Despite the snark in that Comics Critic strip, looking at this ad you have to admit that Marvel added some value. Surely "Soundwave" is a better name than "Transforming Communicator!".


By fnord12 | February 20, 2012, 1:55 PM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link



February 17, 2012

Why i didn't buy Skyrim

Chris Sims nails it. Every Elder Scrolls game i've played winds up like this. It starts off feeling like you're in this vast world, and after playing for weeks and weeks you're like "is it over soon?" and "another side quest?".

That said, i'll probably wind up getting this game when it's on clearance.


By fnord12 | February 17, 2012, 4:24 PM | Video Games | Comments (3) | Link



February 16, 2012

Good Luck Getting This Passed

Alcohol is addictive. It impairs your senses. It affects your behavior. Why is it socially acceptable when it's no better than any other drug we're "waging war" on?

When considering the world's worst killers, alcohol likely doesn't come to mind. Yet alcohol kills more than 2.5 million people annually, more than AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis.

For middle-income people, who constitute half the world's population, alcohol is the top health risk factor, greater than obesity, inactivity and even tobacco.

...

In a commentary appearing today (Feb. 15) in the journal Nature, [Devi Sridhar, a health-policy expert at the University of Cambridge] argues that the WHO should regulate alcohol at the global level, enforcing such regulations as a minimum drinking age, zero-tolerance drunken driving, and bans on unlimited drink specials. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) Abiding by the regulations would be mandatory for the WHO's 194 member states.
...

"Countries are aware of the problem, but several haven't made a real commitment to implementing the recommendations," Sridhar told LiveScience. "The problem is not with ministries of health but with ministries of finance, trade, etc. who prioritize other interests first."

Link

And that's precisely why you'll never see such a regulation put in place. Financial interests trump everything. Imagine all the ad revenue sports events would lose. What's a few million deaths compared to that? Without alcohol, they might have died early anyway. At least this way, we're making the most of what we can from their brief time here.


By min | February 16, 2012, 1:03 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



It's ok when he's one of "ours"

NYTimes:

"The government does not pursue every leak," said Mark Corallo, who served as the Justice Department's spokesman in Mr. Bush's administration. "On balance, it is more important that the media have the ability to report. It's important to our democracy."

That does not seem to be the view of the Obama administration, which has brought more prosecutions against current or former government officials for providing classified information to the media than every previous administration combined.

...
Mr. Corallo, who served under Mr. Bush's attorney general John D. Ashcroft, said he was "sort of shocked" by the volume of leak prosecutions under President Obama. "We would have gotten hammered for it," he said.

As Glenn Greenwald has said repeatedly:

Indeed: is there even a single liberal pundit, blogger or commentator who would have defended George Bush and Dick Cheney if they (rather than Obama) had been secretly targeting American citizens for execution without due process, or slaughtering children, rescuers and funeral attendees with drones, or continuing indefinite detention even a full decade after 9/11? Please. How any of these people can even look in the mirror, behold the oozing, limitless intellectual dishonesty, and not want to smash what they see is truly mystifying to me.

By fnord12 | February 16, 2012, 11:06 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



February 15, 2012

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Captain America #8 - Alan Davis sure knows how to draw a fight sequence. That battle with the Serpent Squad seemed like the first fight i could actually follow in a comic in decades. I'm liking the direction of this book. I feel like it's been more... traditionally super-heroey since David took over. Yes? No? Serpent Squad, Madbomb, Machinesmith? I guess it really isn't but Davis' classic style and the brighter colors give everything a different emphasis. Anyway, i like it.

New Mutants #37 - Now, let me start by saying that this was a well written, amusing book. With good art (the bar is set pretty low: does everyone have eyeballs and are they a reasonable size? But the semi-cartoonish style was fitting for the story and i liked it.). However, it's pretty hard to reconcile this version of Mephisto with anything we've ever seen before. He's the living personification of all evil! And now he's a nerdy guy that wants to go on a date with a random super-heroine? I mean, the story had a nice Sandman-ish feel and, if it wasn't about Marvel's Mephisto i'd leave it at that. And i'm really not complaining, but i think this issue leaves some open questions that will need to be addressed - is this really a new phase for Mephisto or part of a grander scheme? And if the former, why Magma, of all people? Surely not just because she has fire powers... As for where to address those issues, it's odd for Mephisto to become a supporting character for the New Mutants. I'm not into strict segmentation of characters (Mephisto must appear in Dr. Strange and Silver Surfer only!), but he doesn't really fit into the "tying up the X-Men's loose ends" remit or even mutant themes more generally. These are really all just random thoughts; i liked the issue.


By fnord12 | February 15, 2012, 10:40 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



I guess no one's buying...

Dave Mustaine became a born-again christian after attending AA. Now he's endorsing Rick Santorum.


By fnord12 | February 15, 2012, 5:10 PM | Liberal Outrage & Music | Comments (0) | Link



Garbage collecting satelitte

Link. Solves this problem.

Via Yglesias, who of course turns it into a general policy discussion.


By fnord12 | February 15, 2012, 3:14 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



February 14, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Sadly, not Time Lincoln, but still pretty awesome.

Will someone take me to see this? But not on opening weekend. Mebbe 3 weeks after it opens. Thank you.


By min | February 14, 2012, 9:58 PM | Movies | Comments (2) | Link



February 10, 2012

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

X-Factor #231 - I was pleasantly surprised by last issue. But after min read it, we had an, erm, disagreement on whether or not the issue was new reader friendly. Since i'm familiar with all the characters and i had a vague idea of what's going on in the series thanks to Paul O'Brien's reviews, i didn't have any problems, but min didn't know who anyone was and felt like she was dropped into the middle of a group of random people's boring conversation. Considering it had a Regenesis banner and was heavily promoted, i certainly agree that one should expect the issue to be new reader friendly. And i'll also agree that an all talk issue is not a great way to greet new readers. And that there was nothing in the story itself that introduced any of the characters or would make anyone care who they were or what they were talking about. Where we disagreed was the degree to which one should be expected to read the recap page in order to jump into a new series. Whatever one thinks of that, it should be very clear that this issue's recap page was absolutely useless. It had a jokey gag for the characters section and half of the actual recap was used to describe something in Peter David's personal life (this was true of the last issue as well, but i think at least the remaining content was helpful). The personal journal thing, and the fact that these issues are dropping readers into the series with no context, does a lot to reinforce my impression that this book is more like Peter David's Pension Fund than an actual book that Marvel cares about. Basically it's a book for Peter David to write that Marvel is happy to publish as long as his small but loyal fanbase continues to support him (i felt the same about Tom DeFalco's Spider-Girl). New readers aren't really expected. Compound all that with the fact that this issue read like a bad What If? (What if Scarlet Witch said "no more humans" instead of "no more mutants"? Sentinels would be Iron Mans and Captain America would be a Deathlok who murders unarmed secretaries!) and there wasn't even the slightest attempt to explain who Tryp is, and i really didn't enjoy this issue. And the puns! "Been a while"... "You don't have any more whiles"... "Maybe not, but I still have some wiles"? Who talks like that? Not good.

Avengers Academy #24-25 - There was some trouble getting issue #24, so thanks to Bob for pulling through. I really like Gage's ability to use disparate characters and concepts to build a really nice story. Since i'm currently sensitive to the new reader problem, i wish we could get some actual footnotes, but i think Gage is much better at introducing all these characters (he did a great job making me interested in the Sentinel-boy character, for example, and i may have to pick up his back issues). There was an art error in the Wraith War flashback, showing Storm in the wrong costume, but at least there was a flasback. I wasn't really excited by the "evil future self" storyline but Gage did a great job of making me care.

Hulk #48 - Good story. I wish the art was a little better at depicting the fight scenes. The panels where the Hulk used Black Fog to cut off the jaw of the giant fish monster should have looked really cool but instead it had me scratching my head. That aside, this has been a really good book. I'd like to see something "new" so it was somewhat disappointing to see all the bad guys get away to fight again another day, but no complaints.

Villains For Hire #3 - Meh.

Winter Soldier #1 - So i'm reading it and saying, "Yeah, this is good, but do i really need more stories about Bucky and the Black Widow doing spy stuff and fighting terrorists?". And then they hit me with Super Apes vs. Dr. Doom. So... yeeeeeeaaaah!


By fnord12 | February 10, 2012, 3:45 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link



Richard Nixon, 1971

Found on David Frum's site:

We should take no comfort from the fact that the level of unemployment in this transition from a wartime to a peacetime economy is lower than in any peacetime year of the sixties.

This is not good enough for the man who is unemployed in the seventies. We must do better for workers in peacetime and we will do better.

To achieve this, I will submit an expansionary budget this year--one that will help stimulate the economy and thereby open up new job opportunities for millions of Americans.

It will be a full employment budget, a budget designed to be in balance if the economy were operating at its peak potential. By spending as if we were at full employment, we will help to bring about full employment.

I ask the Congress to accept these expansionary policies--to accept the concept of a full employment budget. ...

With the stimulus and the discipline of a full employment budget, with the commitment of the independent Federal Reserve System to provide fully for the monetary needs of a growing economy, and with a much greater effort on the part of labor and management to make their wage and price decisions in the light of the national interest and their own self-interest--then for the worker, the farmer, the consumer, for Americans everywhere we shall gain the goal of a new prosperity: more jobs, more income, more profits, without inflation and without war.

Unemployment was 6% in 1971.


By fnord12 | February 10, 2012, 10:58 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



February 8, 2012

Godzilla Drinking Game

This has been sitting on a piece of paper since our big Toho Movie Marathon last year. I figured i should finally post it. This applies to all movies in the Godzilla universe(s): Showa, Heisei, and Millenium series. If you like, you can navigate the Godzilla chronology chart i tried putting together with my company's desktop org charting tool (works in IE only and it's a little wonky).

On to the game. We don't actually drink much so instead of drinking just hit yourself in the head when any of the events below occur...

  • Someone thinks it's a good idea to drag a giant monster across the ocean on a raft (giant eggs count).
  • Attacking planes fly directly at a monster, with no possibility of avoiding a crash even if the monster didn't swat them down.
  • A submarine explodes.
  • People refuse to believe in the existence of a giant monster even though they've already acknowledged that Godzilla exists.
  • Teens have a dance party on a boat. Two drinks/head smacks if they get attacked by a monster during the party.
  • The government is completely ineffective when faced with a corporation doing something illegal (this one may have application outside of the movies).
  • A humongous lumbering monster manages to sneak up on someone. Two drinks/head smacks if it's the army and they're supposedly using radar.
  • A scientist suddenly figures everything out with little-to-no information and explains it all to everyone.
  • A monster suddenly grows in size just because.
  • People expose themselves to major amounts of radiation with no concern.
  • Everyone suddenly knows a monster's name. Two drinks/head smacks if everyone else nods appreciatively and repeats it.
  • Army missiles can't seem to hit a 150+ foot monster and instead explode harmlessly around it.
  • A woman falls down for no reason.
  • Bad dinosaur science. You have to give a little leeway for the time period, but pretending a children's picture book is a scientific journal is always worth two drinks/smacks.


P.S. We recently watched the MST3K versions of all the Gamera movies and found that the above rules apply fairly well to them as well.


By fnord12 | February 8, 2012, 4:16 PM | Godzilla | Comments (1) | Link



I'm the wet blanket

I've been trying to stay away from political posts lately (which has resulted in... no posts from me, i know. Luckily min has picked up the slack) but with reports that the improving economy is bolstering Obama's chances against Romney, i thought i ought to throw out some caveats. Yes, the economy is improving. It actually has been improving, slowly, since the stimulus was first passed. Here's employment levels since 2008 (click on any of the charts below to go to the source).

Job losses and gains since 2008

The job situation was plummeting prior to Obama's presidency (do i really have to say that?) and continues during a period that is technically part of Obama's term but before a single policy of his was implemented. Once the stimulus takes effect, the losses slow and eventually reverse.

However, the stimulus was inadequate, and we are climbing out of the hole much too slowly.

Jobs gap

Looking at the above potential trendlines, it's unlikely that we'll see a return to pre-depression employment before 2024. I think even seeing a sustained increase equal to "average creation for the best year in 2000s" line is extremely optimistic if we do nothing.

I've used this chart before, but here's the latest version, showing how this recovery compares with previous post-Great Depression downturns.

Recession Comparisons

So if you subscribe to the sort of economic determinism that says that candidates win presidential elections based on the rate of change (not the level) of economic conditions, President Obama should win in 2012, unless things in Europe get so bad that it affects us here (which is a real, although seemingly lessening, possibility). But Obama seems satisfied with his economic policies and the make-up of the House and Senate isn't likely to improve much in his favor, so we're still going to be stuck in this lost "decade" that has slow but insufficient job growth. (P.S. if Romney somehow wins, we may, counter-intuitively, see a bigger stimulus, since he won't have an obstructionist Congress to deal with. Caveats: the stimulus would probably be mostly tax cuts, which are less effective, and the Tea Party wing of the Republican party might still manage to prevent any stimulus).

The point is to take all of the "improving economy" news with a grain of salt. We've got a long way to go.

Finally, let's look at where the job gains and losses are coming from.

Job Gains and Losses by Sector

As Matthew Yglesias says:

The fact that Barack Obama has been president during this time tends to somewhat confuse people's analysis, but we basically just ran a year-long experiment in the idea that curtailing the public sector would supercharge private sector growth and it's a bit hard to see the supercharging in the data.

Those public sector losses are primarily at the state level. So as Paul Krugman feared, we've got fifty Herbert Hoovers experimenting with austerity and ruining our recovery. To be fair, all states (except Vermont) are stuck with Balanced Budget amendments that prevent them from doing the sort of counter-cyclical spending that is necessary. A new Federal stimulus is needed to mitigate that.

And just to be clear, just because it's mainly the public sector that is suffering directly, a high unemployment rate hurts all workers. There are more candidates per open position, and wages are adjusted downward accordingly. It also affects consumer demand, which in turn reduces private company investment. So it's something that affects all of us, and needs to be resolved. If we cheer the lukewarm recovery and just focus on Obama's re-election numbers, i fear that we won't remember what needs to be done.


By fnord12 | February 8, 2012, 10:51 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



There's always Peng

Deadspace: There's always Peng

Not to be confused with Buster Brother's alternate title.


By fnord12 | February 8, 2012, 10:46 AM | Video Games | Comments (0) | Link



Bobbling the record straight

This was Bubble Bobble. Only one person in the world disputes this.

Bubble Bobble

This next game, featuring the same characters as Bubble Bobble, was called Puzzle Bobble in Japan, but when it came to the US and Europe it was renamed, inexplicably, Bust-A-Move. It also had an early working title of Bubble Buster.

Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move

The following game was called Bust-A-Move in Japan, but outside of Japan it had to be renamed Bust-A-Groove since Puzzle Bobble was already being called Bust-A-Move.

Bust-A-Groove/Bust-A-Move

Finally, and not really relevant, the game below was called Buster Brothers. It has an alternate title of "Pang".

Buster Brothers

Every one of the above games has spawned sequels which retain the naming convention based on the country.

This has been an overview of your various similarly named bubble- and move-busting games. You may now carry on with your life.


By fnord12 | February 8, 2012, 10:32 AM | Video Games | Comments (1) | Link



What If Your Job Was to Show Monkeys Clint Eastwood Movies

And you got to call it science?

A new method may help to overcome some of the difficulties in comparing the human and monkey brains. To test the method, researchers scanned the brains of humans and macaque monkeys while they watched Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

And we do so lovee comparing human brains to monkey brains. If only it weren't so difficult.

They recruited 24 human participants, and used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan their brains as they watched the same film clip. This confirmed that the film clip evoked the same pattern of brain activity in all the participants, as in the 2004 study. They then did the same with four macaque monkeys, each of which was shown the same clip six times, and found that all four animals also exhibited the same activity patterns as each other across multiple viewings. Next, the researchers compared the activity patterns they observed in the human participants with those of the monkeys, focusing on 34 distinct regions the visual cortex.
...
As expected, the first set of data obtained using the new method revealed a remarkable degree of similarity between the human and monkey brain. In general, there were very good correspondences between the activity patterns observed in both species, particularly in those brain areas involved in the earliest stages of visual processing. But the researchers also observed some surprising differences in higher order visual cortical areas. Some of those activated at the same time in both species were found to be in different locations, while others in corresponding locations were activated at different times, suggesting that they evolved entirely new functions in humans.

I think this was my favorite line from the article:

"I'm pretty sure the monkeys aren't worrying about plot twists"

How can he know??? He can't know!!!


By min | February 8, 2012, 9:27 AM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



Hooking Up Soldiers' Brains to Weapons

I tried to think of a movie equivalent, but i haven't managed it. What movie has a person hooked up to a computer/weapons system/etc, but is still fully conscious and able to use their brain to control things? Anyway, i think we can picture how the movie would go and agree that it's prolly not in our best interests for this to become a reality.

One of the report's most striking scenarios involves the use of devices called brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) to connect people's brains directly to military technology, including drones and other weapons systems.

The work builds on research that has enabled people to control cursors and artificial limbs through BMIs that read their brain signals.

"Since the human brain can process images, such as targets, much faster than the subject is consciously aware of, a neurally interfaced weapons system could provide significant advantages over other system control methods in terms of speed and accuracy," the report states.

The authors go on to stress the ethical and legal concerns that surround the use of BMIs by the military. Flower, a professor of pharmacology at the William Harvey Research Institute at Barts and the London hospital, said: "If you are controlling a drone and you shoot the wrong target or bomb a wedding party, who is responsible for that action? Is it you or the BMI?

Considering they don't really take responsibility for shooting up wedding parties and civilians now, i don't see why ethics and legal concerns would suddenly start mattering to them. The "Oopsy" defense will prolly continue to work just as well whether or not a human is hooked up to a drone.

Poor neuroscientists. They thought they were finding ways to help people with brain diseases and mental disorders. They don't understand why people keep taking their fantastic discoveries to try to find ways to hurt people instead.

There are also drugs that are supposed to "boost performance" that are anticipated to make captives more talkative or to fall asleep. Do you suppose they'll give you the pill that makes you talkative before they waterboard you or after? I'm thinking after, cause, you know, then your spirit will be really broken down so you're much more likely to make up whatever shit you think they want to hear.


By min | February 8, 2012, 8:36 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



February 5, 2012

Mousse-Filled Shortbread Cups

vegan chocolate mousse mini shortbread tarts
Mini Shortbread Cups filled with Chocolate Mousse

Shortbread Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, room temp (we like Earth Balance sticks)

  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

  • 1 1/2 cups flour

  • 3 T rice flour or cornstarch

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • Yield: 36 cups

Grease the mini cupcake pans. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer until smooth and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, rice flour/cornstarch, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat until it forms into a ball of dough. Divide the dough into the 36 cups (a little less than 1T of dough per cup). Use your fingers or a dough tamper to shape the dough into cups.

Bake for 20 min at 325degF. Cool before removing the shortbread from the pans.


Chocolate Mousse Ingredients

  • 1/2 pkg firm tofu (refrigerated kind that's packed in water)

  • 2 T maple syrup

  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

  • Yield: Enough to fill 36 cups with some leftover for eating

Beat the tofu in a food processor until completely smooth. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler. Add the melted chocolate to the tofu and process until completely combined. Pipe the mousse into the cooled cups using a 1M star tip. Garnish with fresh raspberries. Eat the rest of the mousse with a spoon, your fingers, or just piping it directly into your mouth. Be fat and happy.


By min | February 5, 2012, 7:15 PM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (0) | Link



Spinach Swirls and Pigs-in-a-Blanket

Being vegan, we can't pick up those convenient packages of frozen hors d'oeuvres at the store whenever we're having a get together. There are plenty of time-consuming vegan appetizers you could make (i.e., mushroom turnovers), but not everyone has an entire day to devote to cutting little circles of dough and carefully putting just enough, but not too much, filling in each circle. This is where packaged puff pastry becomes one of the most fantastic inventions ever.

vegan spinach swirls
Spinach Swirls

Ingredients

  • 1 box puff pastry sheets, thawed (2 sheets/box)

  • 1 10oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed

  • 1 8oz tub vegan cream cheese, softened (we like Tofutti)

  • 7 slices vegan bacon, chopped (we like LightLife)

  • 2 stalks of scallions finely chopped

  • 1/3 cup shredded vegan cheddar (we like Daiya)

  • Yield: 24 slices

Mash the cream cheese in a bowl. Add the spinach, bacon, scallions, and cheese. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 425degF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lay out 1 sheet of puff pastry on a cutting board or pastry board. Spread half of the spinach mixture onto the sheet, making sure to keep 1/2" of one long side spinach mix-free. Get the mixture evenly spread all the way to the other 3 edges. Moisten the clean edge with some non-dairy milk or water. Roll into a log towards the clean edge and seal. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry and remaining mixture.

This is where it gets a little messy. Make sure your knife is sharp. Cut each log into 12 rounds (approximately 1/2" thick). Carefully transfer the slices to the baking sheet, leaving some room for the pastry to expand.

Bake for 15 min or until golden brown. Mine aren't so golden as they could be. I got impatient.


vegan pigs-in-a-blanket
Vegan Pigs-in-a-Blanket

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 puff pastry sheets, thawed (2 sheets/box)

  • 9 vegan hot dogs (we like Yves Good Dog)

  • Yield: 45

Preheat the oven to 425degF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lay your first sheet of pastry on a cutting board or pastry board. Cut it in half. Cut each half into thirds widthwise. Now you have 6 pieces that are each the same length as your hot dogs. Cut 1/2 of your second pastry sheet the same way to make 3 more pastry pieces. Roll each hot dog up and seal the edge. Cut each hot dog into fifths. Lay seam-side down on the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 min or until golden brown.

Sadly, this leaves you with half a sheet of unused puff pastry. It's not my fault that hot dog packages come in stupid numbers. You can do the math and figure out the perfect number of puff pastry sheets to packages of hot dogs, or you can take that remaining sheet of puff pastry and wrap it around some cinnamon and sugar coated apple slices. You know, whatever.


By min | February 5, 2012, 12:19 PM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (0) | Link



Strawberry Mille-feuille with Hazelnut Cream

Which is just an uppity way of saying "Napoleon".

Not a very seasonal dessert choice, using strawberries in January, but i had puff pastry sheets in the freezer. And hey, it was Chinese New Year, so red's appropriate.

vegan strawberry mille-feuille with hazelnut cream Napoleon

Ingredients

  • 1/2 box puff pastry sheets, thawed (2 sheets/box)

  • 1/4 cup firm tofu (optional)

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated, not shaken

  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

  • 4 T hazelnut liqueur

  • 1 qt strawberries

  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

  • Yield: 2 3-layer mille-feuilles

Cut the sheet into thirds lengthwise. The sheets i get are folded in thirds, so i conveniently cut along the fold lines. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake according to package directions. Be careful not to over bake. When cooled, split each layer in half, resulting in 6 layers. Choose the 2 nicest pieces for the top pieces of your millefeuille.

Put the mixer bowl and beaters/whisk attachment in the freezer for 20 minutes. If you're using the tofu, put it in the food processor until completely smooth. Add this to your chilled mixer bowl. Add only the coconut cream (not the liquid at the bottom). Mix a little to blend. Add the confectioner's sugar and hazelnut liqueur. Start mixer slow but quickly bring it up to a high speed. Mix until the cream starts to stiffen and form soft peaks. Place bowl in the refrigerator where it will stiffen a little more. Lick the beaters.

De-stem and slice the strawberries. Place two sheets of puff pastry on a dish. Spoon 1/4 of the hazelnut cream onto each sheet. Top with strawberries. Repeat with another layer of puff pastry and the remaining cream and berries. Lay the top pieces on each tower.

Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler (or very carefully in the microwave). Use a spoon to drizzle melted chocolate over the tops. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.


By min | February 5, 2012, 11:48 AM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (0) | Link



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