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August 31, 2006

It Just Gives Me That Warm and Fuzzy Feeling Inside

RadioShack shows their human side.

Radio- Shack Corp. notified about 400 workers by e-mail that they were being dismissed immediately as part of planned job cuts.

Employees at the Fort Worth headquarters got messages Tuesday morning saying: "The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated."


"It was important to notify people as quickly as possible," she said. "They had 30 minutes to collect their thoughts, make phone calls and say goodbye to employees before they went to meet with senior leaders."

Employees met with supervisors and human resources personnel before leaving. At coffee bar areas on each floor, the company provided boxes and plastic bags for employees to pack their personal belongings.

No fuss, no muss. Just a nice, cold, impersonal email to each employee letting them know they've been made redundant and they have 30 minutes to gather their belongings. I think it was especially nice of RadioShack to provide boxes and plastic bags to the sacked employees to facilitate their getting the hell out of the building before security comes to escort them out.

Well, at least the economy is improving.

By min | August 31, 2006, 3:00 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (5) | Link

Random Lyrics Thursday

Pluto by 2 Skinnee J's

With depravity, I break laws of gravity
Blast past the atmosphere to the last frontier
I go boldly through space and time
The sky's the limit but they're limiting the sky
I break orbit by habit
I ignite satellites and leave rings round the planets
A flying ace like that beagle
Nevertheless this alien remains illegal
'Cause their discovery don't cover me
The immigrant's been left in the cold to grow old and disintegrate
Discriminate against the distant and disclaim this
'Cause small minds can't see past Uranus
But I shun their rays
'Cause stun's just a phase
And my odyssey runs in two thousand and one ways
And I can see clearly now like Hubble
Shoved off the shuttle, here's my rebuttal

It's a planet!
(Do it for the children)

By fnord12 | August 31, 2006, 7:55 AM | Music| Link

August 30, 2006

The Professional

My cousin got married earlier this month. Here's a picture from the big event.

For those of you who look at that picture and think "That's a butt," you couldn't be more mistaken. That's actually the picture of the Tea Ceremony that took place during the reception. Currently, the bride and groom are serving tea to my parents. But i could see how you might mistake it for the professional photographer's butt which happened to be obnoxiously blocking my view of a very important event.

By min | August 30, 2006, 9:43 PM | My stupid life| Link

August 29, 2006

Busy Day Reviews

Eternals #3
Iron Man knows Sersi so it's not a reboot. Good scene. min says Iron Man's a dick. The Deviants worshipping the Dreaming Celestial was cool, too. Gaiman knows his stuff. It's all good. Good good good.

Astonishing X-Men #16
Yeah, Kitty Pryde's a bad ass and uses her powers just right against a telepath. Paul O'Brien complains that this is too slow, but i think it's fine. Wolverine in his James-Origin persona is funny. Me and Wayne agree with Kitty on the ending: "yeahbuhwhat?"

New Avengers #23
I would've made her Madame Hydra. Wayne too. No, i didn't mean i would make Wayne Madam Hydra. Well... maybe. But Bendis is like "too easy" and does something else instead. Who's the lady in red and black on the last page next to Dagger?

Heroes For Hire #1
Cheesecake! Cheesecake! Good anyway. Could be better. I thought the dialogue was a little stilted in the conversation with Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic. But i was tired so it could've been that. Those were some really obscure bad guys at the end. The triple fake-out ending was a little annoying. Orca shouldn't be there, but i missed the Daughters of the Dragon mini. min says half-japanese people can't have red hair. Fun and light. We'll give it through Civil War.

By fnord12 | August 29, 2006, 11:00 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

Enter: the dragon geeks

Live our D&D sessions vicariously. Or, try to remember what actually happened. Or, look at the pictures, skim the text, say "This is waaaay too long", and move on to something else.

Thanks to Wayne for the Malouf stream-of-consciousness contrib.

By fnord12 | August 29, 2006, 6:43 PM | D&D| Link

Housing Bubble go boom?

I'm stealing this right from Cursor, links and all:

"All I have to say is: pop!" writes Paul Krugman, finding that "the speculative demand for houses has gone into reverse" with the real possibility of "both a deep and a prolonged bust."

By fnord12 | August 29, 2006, 5:20 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Marvel Sales

Paul O'Brien's monthly analysis of Marvel Comic's sales for July. You know you're a geek when you look forward to reading this.

By fnord12 | August 29, 2006, 5:18 PM | Comics| Link


Second flat tire in 2 months. If God doesn't want me to go to work anymore, i wish he would just send me a letter.

By fnord12 | August 29, 2006, 5:12 PM | My stupid life | Comments (6) | Link

Super Plan

Wonder if i can defer my mortgage payments for a few months.

The bureaucratic brainstorm was straightforward - simple-minded is, perhaps, a more appropriate description - don't pay doctors, hospitals and their army of auxiliaries tending to indisposed old folks and the afflicted disabled for their labors in the last nine days of the current fiscal year. Instead, send them a check for what you owe them, sometime after the first of October, the start of the government's fiscal '07. In essence, those doctors, hospitals et al. are making an involuntary loan of nine days' pay without interest.

That way, point out the gleeful budgeteers and Medicare pooh-bahs, all of whom presumably are glowing with health, Uncle Sam's Medicare tab this fading fiscal year will be $5.2 billion less than it otherwise would have been. Or at least would seem to be $5.2 billion less - in Washington, as we all know, appearance and reality are not invariably the same phenomena.


Heckuva job, Georgie.

By min | August 29, 2006, 3:30 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

August 28, 2006

Cancer Cells Commit Suicide

They think they found a way to trick cancer cells into committing suicide. It's based on the mechanism regular cells used to destroy themselves if they're defective.

Scientists have found a way to trick cancer cells into committing suicide. The new synthetic compound, which removes a molecular safety catch that activates a natural executioner in the body's cells, could lead to better treatments of cancers including those affecting the lung, skin, breast, kidney and colon.

The body has several defences against cells growing out of control and into tumours - one is to cause defective or dangerous cells to commit suicide. This natural process of cell death, called apoptosis, involves a protein called procaspase-3. When activated, procaspase-3 changes into an enzyme called caspase-3, which begins the cell death. In cancers, this mechanism is often faulty and cells can grow unchecked. Many types of cancer are resistant not only to the body's own signals for cell death but also to the chemotherapy drugs that try to mimic it.

But Paul Hergenrother, a chemist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has found a way around the natural biological process that kickstarts apoptosis - a synthetic molecule that directly activates procaspase-3. "This is the first in what could be a host of organic compounds with the ability to directly activate executioner enzymes."

The question is, what happens if the synthetic molecule starts to encourage healthy cells to also activate the procaspace-3 enzyme? Instead of unchecked cancer growth, your cells will start spontaneously dying.

By min | August 28, 2006, 3:10 PM | Science| Link

August 25, 2006

Pluto Sues IAU

There are actually public interest groups for Pluto. And they're suing the International Astronomical Union for downgrading Pluto to a dwarf planet.

"The IAU isn't the end-all, be-all for the solar system," said a public relations spokesperson for Pluto, appearing on CNN's Larry King Show. "You can't just un-designate a planet without giving folks on the planet an opportunity for due process, and the right to be heard, and to challenge the facts upon which the decision is based." The complaint alleges that the IAU violated key provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, federal constitutional law, and certain Plutonian legal principles that are too complicated to set forth here.

"We reject the downgrade from classical planet to 'dwarf planet'," the Plutonian flak told King. "We have a right to self-identity, to call ourselves whatever we want to call ourselves and not allow some pointy-headed scientists on Earth to label us. We feel confident that a jury on Earth or on Pluto or on any other planet will see through the IAU's discrimination and in the end give us celestial justice." Apparently, Pluto has contacted Mark Geragos to see if he will take the case.

It sounds like a joke. I hope very much it is. Otherwise, there are people out there who are discussing "Plutonian legal principles" and feel that this is about "self-identity". Also, that last sentence says Pluto called a lawyer. The rock. In the sky. Called a lawyer.

By min | August 25, 2006, 3:34 PM | Science | Comments (1) | Link

Unusual Rods

"Unusual Rods Get Thicker When Stretched, Thinner When Compressed"

I mean, you could read the article, but i think the title says all that there needs to be said.

By min | August 25, 2006, 3:32 PM | Science| Link

August 24, 2006

And I Thought My Parents Couldn't Let Go

Several of Beijing's top universities have asked new students to leave their parents at home to prevent them from sleeping rough on campus, a Chinese newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Thousands of protective Chinese parents flood Chinese universities at the start of every school year, booking out on-campus dormitories and nearby hotels, to ensure their children settle comfortably.

Many too poor or simply unable to find a bed resort to sleeping rough on campus -- prompting universities to take "emergency measures" the Beijing News said.


My mom wouldn't "sleep rough" so she just told me to come home every weekend.

By min | August 24, 2006, 2:31 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

Funeral Misdeeds

Striptease send-offs at funerals may become a thing of the past in east China after five people were arrested for organizing the intimate farewells, state media reported on Wednesday.

Police swooped last week after two groups of strippers gave "obscene performances" at a farmer's funeral in Donghai County, Jiangsu province, Xinhua news agency said.
The disrobing served a higher purpose, the report noted.

"Striptease used to be a common practice at funerals in Donghai's rural areas to allure viewers," it said. "Local villagers believe that the more people who attend the funeral, the more the dead person is honored."

Wealthy families often employed two troupes of performers to attract a crowd. Two hundred showed up at last week's funeral.

Five strippers were detained and local officials "issued notices concerning funeral management," Xinhua said.

Now village officials must submit plans for funerals within 12 hours after a villager dies. And residents can report "funeral misdeeds" on a hotline, the report said.


Another example of Chinese practicality. Lots of people showing up to mourn you is supposed to be a sign of how well you'll be missed. And what's the best way to insure a high attendance? Nekkid people. Clearly. You don't even have to know who died.

By min | August 24, 2006, 2:02 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

Random Lyrics Thursday

President Gas by the Psychedelic Furs

you have to have a party
when you're in a state like this
you can really move it all
you have to vote and change
you have to get right out of it
like out of all this mess
you'll say yeah to anything
if you believe all this but
don't cry, don't do anything
no lies, back in the government
no tears, party time is here again
president gas is up for president
line up, put your kisses down
say yeah, say yes again
stand up, there's a head count
president gas on everything but roller skates
it's sick the price of medicine
stand up, we'll put you on your feet again
open up your eyes
just to check that your asleep again
president gas is president gas again
he comes in from the left sometimes
he comes in from the right
it's so heavily advertised that he wants you and i
it's a real cowboy set, electric company
every day is happy days
it's hell without the sin, but
don't cry, don't do anything
no lies, back in the government
no tears, party time is here again
president gas is up for president
line up, put your kisses down
say yeah, say yes again
stand up, there's a head count
president gas on everything but roller skates
it's sick the price of medicine
stand up, we'll put you on your feet again
open up your eyes just to check that your asleep again
president gas is president gas again
president gas
oh, president gas
whoa, president gas
oh, president gas
whoa, president gas
oh, president gas
whoa, president gas

By min | August 24, 2006, 11:51 AM | Music | Comments (1) | Link

August 23, 2006

Nothing Beats Diesel Fume

For all you exercise types out there:

With every deep draught of oxygen, I also gulp down alarming quantities of ozone, carbon monoxide, microscopic particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead, and a witch's brew of other pollutants. By conducting part of my workout at midday along a congested street, I am reducing my lung function, constricting my air passages, courting chest pain, increasing my chances of developing asthma, unleashing free radicals to catalyze carcinogens in my bloodstream, and activating cellular processes that might lead to a heart attack.
A sedentary person inhales approximately 15,000 liters of air per day, or 6 to 10 liters per minute. During heavy aerobic exercise, however, you draw in 60 to 150 liters per minute, delivering oxygen throughout 600 to 900 square feet of surface area in the lungs.

"That means the exerciser breathes in 10 to 15 times more pollution than the sedentary person, and he's sucking it deeper into his lungs," says Rob McConnell, M.D., a researcher in the department of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California medical school. "In fact, just by stepping out the door, you could be exposed to five times the ozone you'd inhale if you stayed inside. So if you're outdoors and exercising . . . well, do the math."


By min | August 23, 2006, 3:07 PM | Science | Comments (2) | Link

August 22, 2006

That's No Ordinary Raccoon!

A fierce group of raccoons has killed 10 cats, attacked a small dog and bitten at least one pet owner who had to get rabies shots, residents of Olympia say.

Some have taken to carrying pepper spray to ward off the masked marauders and the woman who was bitten now carries an iron pipe when she goes outside at night.

"It's a new breed," said Tamara Keeton, who with Kari Hall started a raccoon watch after an emotional neighborhood meeting drew 40 people. "They're urban raccoons, and they're not afraid."


By min | August 22, 2006, 2:26 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

It's Only DEATH

How sad is it that a) the companies have to be forced to warn people that a drug they're taking might cause sudden death and b) that a drug that might cause death is FDA approved at all?

Several drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, including the widely prescribed Ritalin, must include warning information about the risk of heart problems and psychotic behavior, US health officials said today.

The drugs, which include GlaxoSmithKline Plc's Dexedrine and Novartis AG's Ritalin, must include a warning about the possible risk of sudden death and serious heart problems, Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Susan Bro said.


Ms Bro could not confirm whether other ADHD drugs - Johnson & Johnson's Concerta and Eli Lilly and Co's Strattera - also were ordered to carry the warnings.

Strattera already includes a caution about suicidal thoughts, while Shire Plc's Adderall already carries a warning that misuse can cause heart problems.

[emphasis mine]


I find it very hard to believe all these people are suffering from ADD. I think they're bored and not getting enough exercise. I also think that parents want their kids to be quiet when the parents want them to be quiet and act like happy little dolls when the parents are ready to be entertained. Since we can't all afford nannies to take them away when we're tired of them, we get them drugs to keep them sedated. The one and only time the health care system tries to "help out".

THX-1138, anyone?

By min | August 22, 2006, 10:53 AM | Science| Link

August 21, 2006

Why Dwayne McDuffie's Damage Control will never be reprinted.

By fnord12 | August 21, 2006, 7:22 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

August 20, 2006

Mecha Mecha

I got a Mechagodzilla and a Mecha-Ghidorah for Adam's birthday. They've come to join my Gigan.

And for what it's worth, we survived our trail of tears through Princeton.

By fnord12 | August 20, 2006, 10:11 PM | Godzilla | Comments (5) | Link

D&D Tips 'n' Tricks, volume 5: Talking to NPCs

The characters you and the other players control are called PCs, for Player Character. All the other characters in the game will be controlled by the Dungeon Master, and are called Non-player Characters (NPCs). Your characters will be encountering many NPCs throughout the course of the game, from the undead zombies with no personalities, to the simple shopkeepers who don't know much about the outside world, to the complex individuals who are key to the plot of the story. There's little point in talking to the zombies (unless you're swapping brain recipies) but you will frequently wind up in conversations with the others. You'll want to remember to talk to them "in character" based on the personality you defined for your character in order to get the most out of your D&D experience (and so that you don't get penalized XP from the DM). Other than that, here are a few tips that will help you avoid falling into common problems when talking to NPCs:

Don't expect them to know everything. Don't waste time.
A common peasant most likely isn't going to know much about an evil goblin prince in a far off land. Even if you are investigating an occurance in a peasant's local area, they may only know rumors or small misleading pieces of information. They are mostly focused on living their own lives and are not placed in the game to help you. When talking to any NPC, try to be sensitive as to whether or not you are barking up the wrong tree, and don't waste your time. A character may be very friendly, inviting you into their home for dinner and spending half the night sharing the local gossip with you, but it's not going to get you anywhere.

They might not be telling the truth.
People lie. They may do it because they are up to no good, or maybe just because they don't like the cut of your jib. Characters with a high Wisdom can sometimes figure out if an NPC is lying, but otherwise you're going to have to use your own judgement. Feel free to go back and pay an NPC a second visit if their information led you to a snake pit instead of a treasure hoard.

Keep in mind the impression you are making on them.
In a land where most people are struggling to make their way in life, your characters, with their suits of armor and wizards robes and what-not, are going to stand out. This means people will remember you. If you go into a town and go around rudely interrogating everyone, you may find that the next time you visit that all the inns are closed, or worse.

Also remember that your characters are probably fairly intimidating to the average person - for one thing, you are heavily armed. People may say what they think you want to hear instead of what they actually know if you don't put some effort into setting their minds at ease.

You don't have to do what they tell you.
If you are on your way somewhere important, you don't have to stop and hunt down a band of local brigands just because a mayor has asked you to. You get to decide what your character does, not any NPC.

Don't piss them off.
The wrong words can get you killed. When dealing with an arrogant king or mad wizard, repeatedly asking questions that the character clearly doesn't want to answer, or otherwise insulting them, is likely going to get you thrown into a dungeon or turned into a centipede. Even when you are sure of your safety, you don't want to ruin your reputation with a few careless comments.

Overall, just use common sense. Pretend that you're talking to a real person and you should be fine. Be careless, and you could find yourself being run out of town by an angry mob with pitchforks.

By fnord12 | August 20, 2006, 1:11 PM | D&D | Comments (4) | Link

August 18, 2006

How Can This Cat Be This Shape?

By min | August 18, 2006, 3:44 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

Yo, Adrianne!

It's me. Rocky, ya know?

For those of you who missed/opted out of the Rocky Marathon last Saturday, i just want to say "You missed out". Even i, who had no desire to ever see a Rocky movie, and who prolly will never ask to watch them again, enjoyed it. The best parts were the Mickey/Rocky scenes where they discuss his robe and when Paulie (who earlier called Adrianne retarded) kept telling Rocky to take her to the zoo.

The one thing i don't get is how come Rocky's such a crappy boxer? His whole strategy in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th movies was to block with his face until his opponent got tired, then hit them. I get he's a bruiser. He's supposed to take the hits and wear out the opponent. But couldn't he take the hits someplace not his head? There are lots of vital things on your head that you don't want repeatedly hit. Plus, that's where he keeps his brain. And considering his already low intelligence, should he really be risking it?

And what's with all the praying??

By min | August 18, 2006, 8:28 AM | Movies | Comments (4) | Link

August 17, 2006

Random Lyrics Thursday

Delicate Tendrils by Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel (with Henry Rollins)

Now, because you own, you possess.
You have something that they can take.
You remember how it was when you had nothing.
You looked at the ones who had what you wanted
and you felt strong in your need.
Brave in your limited surroundings.
Righteous in your desires for something different.
Contemptuous of those who had exactly what you wanted.
You hated them because they looked weak and slightly scared.
You circled the water hole and thought about closing in.

Now you have it and feel weak in your power to keep it.
You feel desperate to make them see that you won't let them take it away.
Because it's yours.
You never had to justify yourself and your possessions before.
"I earned this."
"I worked hard for what I've got."
"I paid my dues."
"I deserve this."
You say these things to yourself as the animals circle and wait.
Shake your fists at the Hyenas.
Chase them away from your water hole.
See them all differently.
Now you see that they all want something.
You get some juice.
Human becomes prey.
Human gets scared.
Figure out that you have to become hard to keep it yours.
You have to be cruel.
You have to kill them off just for looking.
Leave the bodies by the water hole so the rest will see.
Hang spent bullet cases from fishing line outside
all the windows of your house.
Put up signs:
"Please break in.
I would love the opportunity to kill you legally."

Let the fear turn into desperate anger.
Start seeing the differences in people.
They all start looking suspicious.
They.. all.. want.
The need never stops.
Out there, someone is always needing.
Always hungry.
Always looking at you.
Checking your eyes for weakness.
Zeroing in on the vein in your neck.
As they circle the water hole.
And close in.

How come i only like Rollins when he's a guest on other people's albums?

By fnord12 | August 17, 2006, 8:48 AM | Music| Link

August 16, 2006

D&D Tips 'n' Tricks, volume 4: Playing a Role

D&D is a role playing game (RPG). So while in D&D there are elements of fighting, puzzle solving, strategic decision making, etc., the underlying element that ties it all together is that you are playing the role of a character in a story. Sometimes roleplaying can be a bit embarassing, especially at first. However, you don't have to act outlandishly or use a silly voice if you don't want to. You just have to decide who your character is, and make choices accordingly. But it is important to decide who your character is ahead of time.

At this point, your character probably has a backstory. For some people, that may be enough. You can mine that for motivation and also make some decisions about how events in your character's past have shaped your personality. But that can all be fairly open ended, and it may help to simplify things a bit. One way to do that is to look at your alignment. Some veteran players think that the alignment system is outmoded, and some (non-D&D) roleplaying games don't use a system like that at all. But i think it works well for the purposes of getting down to your character's personality at a basic level. Are you evil, good, or neither? Are you reserved and strategic, wild and crazy, or somewhere in between?

The next step is to try and distill your character's personality into a few simple words. To start with, you don't necessarily need to create a complex, multi-dimensional character. In real life, humans are too bizarre and dynamic to categorize. In real life, no one fits neatly into an "alignment." But in fiction, most characters are essentially stock characters. Is your character the "strong, silent type", the "tough but loveable sergeant", the "bookworm", etc. Think of some of your favorite characters from books, movies, comics, or tv, and model your character on one of them. It doesn't have to be a fantasy based character, either: you could model yourself on Cliff Clavin from Cheers, for example: the annoying know-it-all who actually knows very little. The fact that you're also a CG half-orc thief is just dressing.

Now: since D&D is an RPG, part of your "score" (measured in Experience Points) is based on how well you role play. This is the most subjective part of the scoring. You may think you're doing a great job because you're being a meek, reserved character, and the DM may think you're not role playing at all because you're not saying anything (or,worse, you may be trying to play an annoying, pushy character, and everyone else thinks you're just being a jackass).

One way to deal with this is to make sure that everyone (especially the DM) knows what type of character you're trying to play. Once you come up with your short description, let the DM know what it is. Even better, if you plan on showing some character development over the course of a few sessions, be sure to tell your DM (but not the other players). Example: "My character is a loner, and they're going to start off acting very aloof and snippy to the other team members, but after a few sessions she'll start to warm up to everyone." Even more important is if you plan on changing alignment. Officially there are strict penalties for changing your alignment in D&D (including the loss of a level of experience). But if you want your character to change their alignment as a part of character development, whether it's a sudden dramatic shift due to a traumatic event ("After being nearly killed by that Beholder, my character has decided that life is too short to be so stuffy, and i'm switching from LG to CG") or a slow change in character development ("Hanging out with Durango the Thief has made my character forget some of the ethics i learned from my parents, and i'm slowly shifting from CG to CN"), as long as the DM knows about it, you won't get a penalty (in fact, you'll probably get a bonus).

It also helps if you pick a personality type that is at least somewhat distinctive from your own. If your character is acting just like you do in real life, the DM isn't going to know that you are role-playing, and even if he knows he won't be very impressed with your performance. However this is one of the hardest things for people to do. If you're a quiet person, it's not easy to take a role where you're a rowdy joke-teller, or vice-versa. One way to handle this is to distill some aspect of your personality and exaggerate it, creating a stock character out of yourself.

Another other way to show that you are role-playing is to stay in character as much as possible. Don't talk in terms of game rules, talk the way your character would talk. For example, instead of "Hey, Bob, i'm down to 4 hit points, can you cast 'cure light wounds'?", say "Father Klaren, my wounds are too great. Can you aid me?" And try to be descriptive in your actions. Instead of just "I attack," try "I charge up and swing my axe."

It will feel a little cheesey at first, but once everyone starts doing it, it can be a lot of fun. And those who make the effort will get the extra XP as their reward.

By fnord12 | August 16, 2006, 5:46 PM | D&D | Comments (1) | Link

You Mean "Abstinence Only" Doesn't Work?

Sin running rampant in Ohio.

An Ohio school board is expanding sex education following the revelation that 13 percent of one high school's female students were pregnant last year.

There were 490 female students at Timken High School in 2005, and 65 were pregnant, WEWS-TV in Cleveland reported.

The new Canton school board program promotes abstinence but also will teach students who decide to have sex how to do so responsibly, bringing the city school district's health curriculum in line with national standards.


Tank goff they learned from their mistake, but it's a real shame that it took 65 pregnant teens to make it perfectly clear. Is it so hard to remember what being a teenager is like? They really believed you could tell teens to just not have sex and that would be the end of it? It's never been "ok" to have sex as a teen and yet throughout time, teenagers have been doing the dirty deed nonetheless. It might not make parents happy to think about it, but realism is better than self-delusion. Too bad self-delusion is so easy.

By min | August 16, 2006, 3:34 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link

Recent Airline Scare Just A Political Ploy?

Here's a UK Ambassador's take on the recent arrests in Britain resulting in the ban on liquids and reading material on flights.

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.


We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for "Another 9/11". The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled.

Could just be conspiracy theory stuff, but it's worth considering. Definitely any "confessions" garnered from interrogation by torture is suspect, to say the least. With the November elections coming up and all polls saying the American public thinks Bush and Co. screwed up, they could use something to get us pissing in our pants again.

And while we're speaking crazy theories, who wants to place some bets on nuclear war in the middle east?

By min | August 16, 2006, 3:19 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

They "Lost" It

It was the BBC that previously held the record for losing historic tapes - the first Top of the Pops, the early Pete 'n' Dud shows, and more than 100 episodes of Doctor Who have all disappeared. But US space agency Nasa has now claimed the crown. In fact, it has set a record that may prove impossible to beat. It has managed to lose the original footage of the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong and his crew on July 21 1969. Mankind's giant leap has been followed by an equally giant pratfall.


I don't see what the big deal is. They filmed it once in a studio. They surely could refilm it a second time. And with the technology they have, i'm sure they could age it up to look like the original fake footage.

By min | August 16, 2006, 3:15 PM | Science | Comments (1) | Link


Thanks to Wayne and Bob, i am now full of chocodiles. They are every bit as good as i remember. I've always said this was the one thing i'd eat that wasn't vegan, but i never thought it'd actually matter since you can't get these things. Now i need a new label for my diet. Like lacto-ova vegetarian, i am now chocodile-vegan.

They got them from here. Whoah - They say "great frozen". Gotta try that.

But really guys, i don't need any more, ok?

By fnord12 | August 16, 2006, 8:50 AM | My stupid life | Comments (3) | Link

August 15, 2006

Was Ghost Rider Gay?

From racmu ("No one reads Usenet anymore anyway, really, so it doesn't matter.... "):

The other aspect of these early GR stories that's really striking me (and, let's be clear: these meta- and sub-textual things are just about the only things I'm finding at all worthwhile in these stories, though Tony Isabella and Marv Wolfman do okay later in the run with scripts) is just how obviously steeped they are in the homosexual/homsocial biker culture of the time. ( I know, I know: duh on me. Remember--I didn't read these back when, and wouldn't have caught the references if I had.) While the surface level source material is everything from Brando to Evil Knievel and the fad for motorcycle stunts and "cycle jocks" (with the vehicular and demonic sources meeting in the Hell's Angels, of course), there's no getting around some of the more...specifically resonant....aspects of bike culture Friedrich puts into these early stories. Johnny spends a *lot* of time fretting over his "secret" nightlife, after all, and its sinful, likely-to-be-disastrous consequences. He feels he's saved only by the abiding love of his gal-pal/love-interest/foster-sister (no, *that's* not complicated at *all*) Roxanne--whom he calls Rocky--one of the few, early on, to know his secret shame. (Prior to having given up his soul to save Rocky's father, Crash Simpson, from a disease--Johnny had made a deathbed promise to his foster-mother not to be a daredevil rider. Despite knowing this was likely the cause of his refusal to ride with them, Crash and Rocky taunt Johnny for years for being a coward. Implicitly, for being a momma's boy--less manly than Rocky herself. Have I mentioned I love the nickname?)

With loving, devoted Rocky in tow to save him from his night-time
leather self, Johnny, performing at NYC's Madison Square Garden, finds
himself, as GR, falling in with a gang of cycle toughs in...wait for
it...Greenwich Village. He's particularly besotted with one of them, in
fact (the text itself says "attracted!" Go, Gary!). Of course, this
daddy named "Curly," turns out to actually *be* Johnny's "daddy," a
dead Crash Simpson who's given his own soul to Satan in exchange for
new life, provided he can finally deliver Johnny--and his daughter
Rocky along the way. Sigh. It's always the intense, good-looking ones
you need to be careful of, eh, Johnny?

Johnny is usually depicted in his leather uniform or, when he's out of
it (whether in Hell, on the astral plane, or just in Arizona), he, like
many of the other male biker characters (and Hellstrom) is shirtless.
He frequently sleeps all day, after his GR adventures of the previous
night. He lets the public think the GR manifestation is a mask, a
gimmick, since he admits to being enough of an egoist to really get off
on the crowd adulation. At night, he goes all firey and passionate and
mounts his bike looking for trouble. It's every single hilarious
stereotype of a subset of homosexual male culture in the 1970s you can
think off---the book is even full of admiring-but-dangerous cops and
mysterious American Indians in these early stories.

It's all subtext, of course, and I've no idea what, if any,
consciousness Friedrich, Ploog, Mooney, and Thomas may have had of the
homomemes into which they were tapping--but from the perspective of a
read in 2006, this reader, anyway, keeps waiting for poor Johnny to
just settle down and be happy with one of those nice police officer
boys he keeps running from, jumping over chasm after chasm to get
away......This guy didn't need an exorcist, he needed a sympathetic

By fnord12 | August 15, 2006, 4:38 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

Seymour Hersh

CNN Interview:

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "Late Edition: Crisis in the Middle East." Did the Bush administration see the Israel- Hezbollah conflict as an opening for a U.S. strike against Iran? Joining us now from Washington is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and The New Yorker magazine staff writer, Seymour Hersh. He's got a major article on this subject that is just coming out.

Spectacular suggestions, allegations being made by you, Sy Hersh, allegations now being formally denied by the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department. But let me read to you from your article: "According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of both the Israeli and the U.S. governments, Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah -- and shared it with Bush administration officials well before the July 12th kidnappings" of those two Israeli soldiers.

Tell our viewers what you say you've learned because, as you know, the denials are coming in fast and furious.

SEYMOUR HERSH, "NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: Well, one thing there's no question about, that this was known what Israel was going to do, it's attack on Hezbollah, the basically using air, primarily, was known to this White House. And I will tell you also to the State Department. They both had different reasons, the State Department and White House, for wanting Israel to do it, encouraging them to do it, supporting them.

Our Air Force worked very closely with the Israeli air force for months before this, not necessarily with a deadline knowing when it would happen. It was always going to be whenever there was an incident they would take advantage of an incident. The word I used was fortunate timing. When the Hezbollah grabbed some of the Israeli soldiers in early July, that was then a pretext -- I think that's the only word -- for a major offensive that had been in the works a long time.

The State Department always viewed what Israel was going to do, Condi Rice and her colleagues, as a way to stabilize -- going after Hezbollah would stabilize the Lebanese government and give them a chance under 1559 to take control. The White House, I write in this article, talking about specifically about Cheney's office, sort of center for the neocons, their view was different. Israel's attack on Hezbollah was going to be sort of a model, prototype, that is, a lot of air against a dug-in underground facility. Everything in southern Lebanon that Hezbollah had was underground.

For them it was going to be a test run for the bombing and the attack they really want to do, probably next year if they can. I'm not saying they've decided, but they want to go after Iran, and Iran, of course, the Persians have been dug in since, what, the 11th century so we know it's a tough call.

BLITZER: Because they're saying that these Sy Hersh conspiratorial theories so far-fetched they're rejecting them out of hand, especially this notion that what the Israelis have done now in Lebanon against Hezbollah is a prelude, a test run, if you will, for what the U.S. hopes to do against Iranian targets in Iran. And I want you to explain the nature of your sources, if you can -- I know you have confidential sources -- how good these sources are that are making this spectacular accusation.

HERSH: You know, when I did Abu Ghraib, the same kind of stuff was thrown at me, that I'm fantasizing, I'm a fantasizer, and I'll just put, you know -- I'm not writing from some off the wall weekly. The New Yorker is very solid. The editors of The New Yorker, my editor Dave Remnick and others know who my sources are. In many cases, they've talked to my sources. This is one of the procedures that The New Yorker -- very close fact-checking.

It's not about they're denying what I'm saying. It's about what these people have said to me. These are people inside, very much inside who are very concerned about the policy. And something else that was in the story is this, is that this White House will find a way to view what happened with the Israelis against Hezbollah as a victory. And they'll find a way to see it as a positive for any planning that is going on towards Iran.

I'm not saying Iran's a done deal. What I'm saying is, the idee fixe about Iran is almost as it was about in the first couple years after 9/11 in the White House as about Iraq. These guys, the president, Cheney and others, want to go. It's very much on their minds.

The nuclear weapons, whether they're there or not, have existential for this White House. This president does not want to leave the White House with that problem unsolved, and so, therefore, encouraging and abetting the Israelis to go after Hezbollah, after all, you cannot attack Iran as long as Hezbollah has missiles.

You have to get rid of those missiles, a potential deterrent, before you can go after Iran. That's the way they looked at it in the White House. I think it was something that really should be examined by a Congressional committee. It's sort of time to decide whether we're a democracy or not. This president's doing an awful lot of foreign policy without sharing it with the rest of us.

BLITZER: Because what they're criticizing your sourcing, they're saying you're speaking to former government officials, former intelligence officers, consultants to the U.S. government. The sourcing doesn't seem to include any current officials who are intimately involved with this type of planning.

HERSH: Well, it does. I mean, there are current officials talking to me, and if you read the sourcing carefully you'll see there are people, Middle East experts, you know, whether it's in or out of the government. The bottom line is, it's not a question -- you know, you and I have known each other a long time. Long of tooth we both are.

I would not write something, and I understand this is going to be all over the Middle East. It is already as far as I hear. And I understand the implications of the story. All of us do. And nobody is suggesting that Israel wouldn't have done what it did without the Americans. They didn't -- Israel didn't need the White House to go after Hezbollah, but it's the idea that they got tremendous amount of support from this White House.

That's the idea that -- why do you think this president has spent four and a half weeks doing nothing to get an immediate cease-fire, putting no pressure on the Israelis? It's all part of what they view as sort of a plan for what they want to do next. And it's not conspiratorial. It's simply the way...

BLITZER: Sy Hersh. Sy Hersh writing in The New Yorker magazine. And appreciated coming in Sy. Always appreciate speaking with you. Thanks very much.

HERSH: Great to be here.

More from Hersh, and the conclusions the Bush administration is drawing from the Israel/Hezbollah war, at Billmon.


The surprising strength of Hezbollah's resistance, and its continuing ability to fire rockets into northern Israel in the face of the constant Israeli bombing, the Middle East expert told me, "is a massive setback for those in the White House who want to use force in Iran. And those who argue that the bombing will create internal dissent and revolt in Iran are also set back." Nonetheless, some officers serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff remain deeply concerned that the Administration will have a far more positive assessment of the air campaign than they should, the former senior intelligence official said. "There is no way that Rumsfeld and Cheney will draw the right conclusion about this," he said. "When the smoke clears, they'll say it was a success, and they'll draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran."

By fnord12 | August 15, 2006, 12:09 PM | Science| Link


I tried to fly but i couldn't because i was a potato.

By min | August 15, 2006, 10:35 AM | My Dreams | Comments (4) | Link

August 14, 2006

Annihilation #1, Beyond #2

Annihilation #1
Basically Starship Troopers without the ironic propaganda. Not necessarily a bad thing, but i hope it goes somewhere bigger. It's interesting to see that Nova has done some serious growing up; we will see if it sticks beyond this series. I also think it's an odd choice, after the build-up minis about Nova, Ronan, Silver Surfer, and Super-Skrull to focus so much on the really obscure Starlord character. Much of this issue is set-up, which is a disappontment. After having already read a prologue and 16 issues of lead-ins, one would think we could get right to business, but i guess it's valid to spend a little time establishing where we are, and in any event it's a fun story with good, detailed art.

Beyond #2
I read that Tom Brevoort read an old interview with Jim Shooter about the original Secret Wars and realized there were a whole lot of directions that Shooter wanted to go in but didn't for whatever reason(I'd love to see that interview). So Brevoort commissioned this story to Dwayne McDuffie, a good writer (He writes the JLU and Static Shock cartoons, and he's written good comics as well). So (you may have heard) i'm a little bit of a fan of the original Secret Wars, so i'm very happy about this. So far it's been good - definitely some oddities and potential retcons of the original story coming up, and it's being written (deliberately) like an episode of Lost, but i'm liking it. Total fanboy material. When Dragon Man showed up, i was like "Woooooooooooo!". Questions, like "Why are good and bad guys being taken to the battle planet in the same ship?", and "Why is the Beyonder back to his old schtick after SWII and the mangled cosmic cube nonsense?" nag at me a little but i need to take a 'wait and see' approach.

By fnord12 | August 14, 2006, 5:01 PM | Comics| Link

Mandatory voting?

Interesting. As a reaction to the Lieberman primary loss, this individual is arguing that we should have mandatory voting in elections (even in primaries, apparently!). I also wish more people would vote (although i think it would have the opposite effect as this editorialist), but i'm not sure mandatory voting is the way to go. I'd prefer to make it a lot easier for people to get to the polls by making election day a national holiday. I'd also spend money to promote elections better, and look into the possiblity of using school buses to travel through neighborhoods taking people to and from the polls.

By fnord12 | August 14, 2006, 1:54 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link

We are what we search for.

AOL apparently released a list of queries their users have performed on the internet. They were meant to be anonymous, but people managed to figure out who some of them were. It's weird little story. I search from some weird things on the internet. I'd prefer if people didn't get to read through the list of things i've searched for.

By fnord12 | August 14, 2006, 1:42 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Why Wait?

If you can weed out the weak ones early on, by the time the rest make it to a real military academy or boot camp at 18, they'll be able to withstand the hazing much better.


A 13-year-old cadet at a private military academy died Saturday during an orientation camping trip, a news report said.
Lynda Brown, principal of Back to Basics Military Academy in Lauderhill, told WSVN-TV the cadets were hydrated, fed and well-cared for during the excursion. The school is a juvenile boot camp.

But, this father has a differing report on conditions:

Jusino said his sons told him they were given three meals a day after starting each morning with a long hike. But the boys were dehydrated, sunburned and had insect bites when he picked them up Saturday morning, he said.

"They were very dirty, their clothing was wet. They had been sleeping in wet clothes, and their hair had been cut," Jusino said.

The very best of care must mean different things to different people. Sunburn and insect bites are one thing. You have to expect that if your kids are outdoors for days. But dehydration and sleeping in wet clothing is much less excusable.

I want to blame the parents for sending their young children to military camp. But mebbe they just thought it would be like the Boy Scouts. Some camping, some instruction on nature, hanging out with kids your own age, etc. Unfortunately, i'm sure some parents knew what they were sending their kids to. That's not right.

If what you're looking for was something to "teach" your kids discipline, you don't know what parenting is. You don't have kids and expect them to be disciplined, unquestioning machines. They're people. If you want an unthinking, unquestioning thing that never disagrees and always does exactly as its told, get a robot. Don't have kids. You don't deserve that responsibility.

By min | August 14, 2006, 11:53 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Killoligy - Make Your Very Own Psychopath

Zembla has a post excerpting from a former Army ranger and West Point professor that goes into how the Pentagon brainwashes soldiers into feeling ok about killing.

The reality is that the brains of human beings -- unless they fall within the demographic sliver we call psychopaths -- are hardwired not to kill other humans.
The only thing that has any hope of silencing the midbrain, he argues, is what influenced Pavlov's dogs: conditioning.

The need for new drills became apparent once researchers noted that a majority who had been trained in other ways to kill, surreptitiously refused to do it.


In World War II, when U.S. soldiers got a clear shot at the enemy, only about 1 in 5 actually fired, according to sensational and controversial research by Army historian Brig. Gen. S.L.A. Marshall. It wasn't that they were cowards: On the contrary, they performed other perilous feats, including running onto the battlefield to rescue fellow soldiers, and sometimes they even placed themselves in greater personal danger by refusing to fire. And yet at the moment of truth, they just couldn't kill . . . .

The Pentagon improved firing rates. Research suggests that 55 percent of U.S. soldiers fired on the enemy in the Korean War. By Vietnam that rate had climbed to more than 90 percent. Police studies document similar changes in recent decades . . . .

Er...go Pentagon? Thanks for turning people into crazy killing machines so that you could remain relevant and keep your stinking jobs.

By min | August 14, 2006, 11:25 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

August 10, 2006

More wacky musical instrument fun

Check out this site for more (Thanks, Mike).

By fnord12 | August 10, 2006, 1:55 PM | Music| Link

Republican kicked out of the Democratic party

On Tuesday, Lamont beat Lieberman and won the nomination to run as the Democratic Senator in CT. For me, this is an amazing victory. When Lamont first announced his candicy, i saw him as basically a protest candidate who had no chance of winning but i was willing to support him to send a message. Instead, he won 51% to 48%, in a primary that had a record turnout of 50%, which is as high as a national election. Very cool.

Back in the 70s, hardcore rightwing christians and other conservatives started a movement to move the country to the right. They started by supporting candidates on a local level and in primaries. They were very successful and their candidates now dominate politics on a national level. Lamont's candidacy was and will continue to be supported by liberal and Democratic blogs, and my hope is that this sort of grassroots support will work as a counter to the right wing movement, and hopefully make its effect known a lot faster. We'll see how it goes.

But of course Lieberman is like a monster in a bad horror movie that keeps turning up after he's been defeated. He's announced that he will run as an independent. Originally, he said he would do this if he lost because primary elections in the summer generally have very low turnout so if he lost, it would have really been the will of the people. With a 50% turnout rate, he doesn't have that excuse, but he's still running. Prior polls have shown Lieberman winning in a 3 way race, but i expect that to change now that he has actually lost. Early polls generally aren't very reliable. But he still has a good chance of winning. Nonetheless, kicking him out of the party, saying he doesn't represent Democrats is a great first step.

By fnord12 | August 10, 2006, 12:56 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3) | Link

Random Lyrics Thursday

Block Rockin' Beats by the Chemical Brothers

Back with another one of those block rockin' beats
Back with another one of those block rockin' beats
Back with another one of those block rockin' beats
Back with another one of those block rockin' beats
Back with another one of those block rockin' beats
Back with another one of those block rockin' beats
Back with another one of those block rockin' beats
Back with another one of those block rockin' beats
Back with another one of those block rockin' beats
Back with another one of those block rockin' beats

We're about ready to rock steady

By fnord12 | August 10, 2006, 12:53 PM | Music| Link

August 8, 2006

Adam's not going to like this

But in the tradition of our previous Hello, Superman picture, i have to print this.

I stole this picture from Dave's Long Box, who also has a picture of a weird pig, and who does funny reviews of comics where Everybody Dies, including Infinity Gauntlet and Hulk: Future Imperfect, so go read him so i don't feel bad about stealing his images.

Also, i've once again noticed that we don't have a "Star Wars" category. WTF???

By fnord12 | August 8, 2006, 5:00 PM | Star Wars & Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

D&D Tips 'n' Tricks, volume 3: Battlefield tactics

Combat is inevitable in D&D, and when you play with miniatures, the battles can be a tad elaborate. Knowing the rudiments of battlefield tactics can mean the difference between an easy fight and defeat. Under the right circumstances, if they have control of the battlefield, a group of kobolds can defeat a high level party. I've never read Sun Tzu, and i'm no Captain America, but here are a few basic tips. As with everything in this series, most of these things will seem obvious. The "a-ha" factor is in realizing that these things matter in D&D.

Choose your opponent
Say you come across a powerful opponent accompanied by a group of weaker lackeys. Does it make more sense to ignore the lackeys and head straight for the big boss, or to clear out the lackeys first so you can then fight the boss uninterrupted, or to split your party up to take care of both simultaneously? The answer is dictated by circumstances and in truth there is no "right" answer, but the key is to have a strategy. Otherwise your opponents will decide for you in the way most favorable to them.

If things aren't working out, consider switching opponents mid-battle. This could surprise your enemies and also change the odds on a fight that was too evenly matched.

Notice what your opponents try to do and play to your own abilities. If you're fighting a group that contains a wizard and some fighters, and the fighters are doing everything they can to keep you busy while the wizard lurks in the background, they may be buying time for him to cast a particularly nasty spell. If you can't get around the fighters with brute force, is there something else your character can do that might work? A thief can fade back and try to sneak around, an archer could shoot over their heads, etc. But don't let your enemies decide your opponents for you.

Choose your battlefield
Whenever possible, get your enemies out of the area they have prepared and planned to fight in, and get them into one of your choosing. If you're trying to storm a castle this might not be possible, but if you're fighting a dumb Hill Giant who is standing in a field full of boulders that he's been hurling at you, lure him into the woods where he won't have as much ammo or room to maneuver. In a dungeon, maybe you can taunt your opponents and get them to chase you back into the area where your thief is waiting behind a door to backstab. When you camp for the night in dangerous territory, pick a spot that is easy to defend. When faced with a random fork in a dungeon corridor, consider what the advantages and disadvantages of each route would be in a fight.

This is all about teamwork. When you first approach an opponent, they turn to face you, regardless of what direction they were originally facing (unless you have skills or powers that make you extra sneaky). But when you are engaged in fighting an opponent, they can't turn to face your teammate approaching them from the other side. Flanking an opponent gets you a +1 on your rolls, and if you're on the correct side it also means they can't use a shield to defend themselves from your attack. Attacking from the back gets you a +2 (+4 if you are thief). So when possible it's good to work in pairs or teams to take out your opponents, even if it means leaving other opponents temporarily unengaged.

Wherever you wind up fighting, try to move towards areas that you can use to enhance your defensive position. Walls, hedges, piles of rubbles, etc., all give you place to duck under to avoid arrow attacks, hinder enemy movement, and possibly even give you a place to hide or rest during a battle.

High ground
It's harder to fight up a hill than defend a hill from the top. It's easier to pick people off with arrows when you're up on the castle wall.

A note about alignments and intelligence.
Obviously, your character's personality is going to affect how they act on the battlefield. We've all seen this sort of scenario: Wolverine (CG) charges headfirst into battle while Cyclops (LG) ineffectually shouts Danger Room training maneuvers in the background. This sort of conflict between characters makes for good role playing, but remember that Wolverine has a healing factor and knows what he can handle. No player, unless they are incredibly stupid (int or wis under 6), should act against their own self interest for the sake of staying in character. Even Conan, a kinda dumb chaotic barbarian, was pretty crafty when it came time to fight.

The main point, as always, is to think it out and not get stuck in a routine. Every battle you wind up in will be unique in some way. The important thing is realizing what is different and using it to your advantage.

By fnord12 | August 8, 2006, 4:10 PM | D&D | Comments (4) | Link

A thought experiment

Go read Juan Cole's thought experiment/conspiracy theory on the Isreal/Hezbollah war and how it relates to Peak Oil, and then let me know what you think. I don't know anymore. Our "leaders" all act so irrationally i'm ready to believe almost any explanation.

By fnord12 | August 8, 2006, 1:40 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

For the Last Time, Sour and Bitter Are Not the Same

They have their own subset of cells to detect each taste. Link

Mammals, including humans, can detect five primary flavors: bitter, sweet, salty, sour, and umami (known to the West as the taste of monosodium glutamate or MSG). Each taste bud on the tongue contains separate, distinct subsets of cells that specifically detect each taste -- sweet cells respond to sweet substances, bitter cells to bitter substances, and so on. Taste receptors, proteins on the surface of these cells, are responsible for detecting the "taste" of a particular food or chemical and triggering signals sent to the taste centers of the brain.

So, clearly there's either something wrong with your taste cells or with your brain, and i think we all know which explanation is more likely.

By min | August 8, 2006, 11:59 AM | Science | Comments (4) | Link

Pour Toi, Joshua

Approximately 2,000 children are treated in United States hospital emergency rooms annually for escalator-related injuries. According to a study published in the August issue of Pediatrics and conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) in the Columbus Children's Research Institute at Columbus Children's Hospital, an estimated 26,000 U.S. children 19 years of age and younger were treated in a hospital emergency department for an escalator-related injury in 1990-2002.
The most common mechanism of injury for all age groups was a fall, which accounted for more than half of the injuries. Entrapment accounted for 29 percent of injuries, and the leg was the most frequent (28%) site of injury for all age groups combined.


I just want to point out that the study put 19 year olds in the "children" category. Now, i can see how little kids can get stuck in the gaps or have their hand caught or something, but if you're 19 years old and can't use an escalator without injuring yourself, i don't think it's entirely the escalator's fault. I think you might just be dumb.

By min | August 8, 2006, 11:49 AM | Science | Comments (4) | Link

Yuck Yuck and Double Yuck

This is so gross. And ofc, it's some crazy German doctor who thought it up. "Yes....let's use real human corpses, skin them, preserve them, and display them. Everybody will love it!"

There will be a skinned male body crouched over a chessboard with his cranium split open to show his brain, seemingly contemplating a move that he will never make.

There will be The Horseman, a rider with his skull chopped in two and his body flayed to show the underlying musculature. He sits with his brain in one hand and a whip in the other, astride the posed and flayed cadaver of a horse, frozen for ever in its leap. There will be another figure chopped up and vertically expanded so that his body resembles a sashimied totem pole or a Salvador Dali painting in which the sliced body looks like a chest of drawers. There will be the erect, flayed cadaver of a man holding his own skin aloft as though it was a precious trophy. Which, in a sense, it is.

But most distressingly of all, at the denouement to the exhibition, there will be the bisected cadaver of an eight-months pregnant woman with her womb opened to reveal the foetus. Von Hagens always arranges the exhibition this way: it starts relatively mutedly with preserved body parts and ends with the emotional climacteric of this double tragedy, held for ever in suspended animation - thanks to the professor's revolutionary preservation technique called plastination.


I really didn't need to know about human musculature that badly. Honest.

By min | August 8, 2006, 11:41 AM | Science | Comments (5) | Link


What's this and how's it work?

By min | August 8, 2006, 11:25 AM | Science | Comments (2) | Link

So, What Do You Think of That?

Google is issuing warnings to Web surfers when they are about to click on a Web site that could be hiding malware able to infect their computer.

Google has launched this initiative as part of its partnership in StopBadware.org, a malware clearinghouse established by Harvard Law's Berkman Center for Internet & Society together with Oxford University's Oxford Internet Institute. Besides Google, it is supported by a number of major tech companies including Lenovo and Sun Microsystems.

When a Google user clicks on a particular site identified as harmful by the organization, a warning pops up that links to a general page on StopBadware's Web site. Currently, these links go to a general page, according to a statement on the organization's Web site. "But as we finish researching sites, we'll replace the general page with one of our individual Web site reports," StopBadware says.


On the one hand, i suppose i appreciate not getting secret "malware" on my computer. On the other hand, it seems like the warning would be pretty intrusive. Also, i can't see that Microsoft would really allow a company to work against them, preventing them from putting spyware on your comp.

By min | August 8, 2006, 11:23 AM | Ummm... Other?| Link


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rejected a request from Texas Republicans on Monday to allow the GOP to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on the general election ballot.

"In terms of legal options, they are exhausted," Republican lawyer James Bopp Jr. said. "The order will stand requiring Tom DeLay to stay on the ballot."


By min | August 8, 2006, 11:21 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link

August 7, 2006

Hating Hillary

Found on Kos:

Dick Bennett has been polling New Hampshire voters for 30 years. And he's never seen anything like it.

"Lying b** . . . shrew . . . Machiavellian . . . evil, power-mad witch . . . the ultimate self-serving politician."

No prizes for guessing which presidential front-runner drew these remarks in focus groups.

But these weren't Republicans talking about Hillary Clinton. They weren't even independents.

These were ordinary, grass-roots Democrats. People who identified themselves as "likely" voters in the pivotal state's Democratic primary. And, behind closed doors, this is what nearly half of them are saying.

"I was amazed," says Bennett. "I thought there might be some negatives, but I didn't know it would be as strong as this. It's stunning, the similarities between the Republicans and the Democrats, the comments they have about her."

Part of it is the success of the right-wing spin machine. Part of it is sexism. But at least some of it is the fact that she has been somewhere between negligent and detrimental when it comes to the rightward direction of this country. She hasn't fought the Republicans hard on any issues that i'm aware of. She supported the war. And she's from one of the "safest" blue states in the country. She's as unacceptable as a Democratic politician as Lieberman.

By fnord12 | August 7, 2006, 4:48 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

D&D Tips 'n' Tricks, volume 2: Equipment

When your character goes shopping, in additions to weapons, you'll see all sorts of miscellaneous equipment that may not seem necessary. This may be compounded by the fact that they also have a section for livestock, so if like Robert E. Lee you can't go into battle without some scrambled eggs every morning, the DM knows what to charge you for a live chicken. But some of the items do have practical uses both in the dungeons and in the battlefield. The basic D&D set came with descriptions and potential uses for a lot of these items, but in AD&D i guess you're supposed to figure it out for yourself.

As i mentioned in volume 1, the main thing to remember is that you are not limited in what you can attempt. Here are some ideas for some of the things you can buy:

Oil: Mainly, oil is for keeping lanterns lit, but it obviously has a lot of applications. Some players become discouraged when they first attempt to set all their opponents on fire and discover it isn't quite that easy, but it still has uses on the battlefield. Say there's some archers up above you with plenty of cover. You can't get a good shot at them but they are tearing your group apart. Tossing up some flaming oil probably won't actually hit any of the archers, but it could force them out into the open, or at least away from their vantage point. Oil also is useful when you have time to prepare. Lubing up a staircase or the edge of a pit or crevice is a good way to turn an enemy's charge to your advantage, for example.

Iron Spikes & Hammer: If you're not a thief, you can use them to (noisely) climb short walls. They're also good for securing rope, which is nice both for dropping down the side of a tower or cliff, or for setting up a little tripwire in a doorway. You can also use them to wedge doors shut if you're being pursued and need some time to set up a counter-attack. Finally, they're a good distraction for rust monsters.

Mirrors: Aside from detecting vampires and making it possible to fight medusas and basilisks, mirrors have somewhat less specialized uses as well. Extra cautious parties use them to look around corners, although this becomes tedious if done routinely. However, they can be used for a quick peek at the enemy in a siege situation. And anyone who's seen Legend knows that you can use them to bring sunlight deep into a dungeon to send Tim Curry back into the netherworld, assuming you can keep all your gnomes awake.

Rations: If you're not carrying around live chickens, there's two basic types of food in D&D: Iron Rations and Standard Rations. Iron Rations are jerky and dried fruit and lembas wafers - not very appetizing, but they never go bad, so this is what most people wind up buying. Standard rations are unpreserved foods, so they taste better but they won't sit in your backpack forever, especially if you're in the habit of creeping around in moldy old underground caverns. However, standard rations have a non-culinary purpose: they can be used as bait for animals and monsters that think with their stomachs. Being pursued by a ravenous owlbear that you're in no mood to fight? Most likely given the choice between food it has to chase and food that's just sitting there, it'll probably leave you alone. Even better: got a pack of hungry hellhounds in one room and a large group of orcs in another? Lead one to the other and then you can fight the weakened winner.

Wooden Poles: Useful for poking in places you wouldn't want to stick your hands - dirty piles of rubble, holes in the wall, etc. If you suspect an area to contain pit traps, use the pole to feel out the floor in front of you. If you're in a large dark room and want to check out the ceiling, attach a lantern to the end of the pole.

Rope: When haggling with the shopkeeper, keep in mind that there are two types of rope: there's the thick kind that you used to climb in gym class that is good for cliffhanging and that's about it, and there is the thinner rope that is not quite as strong but is a little more versatile. With the thinner rope, you can make trip wires, tie up prisoners, suspend your halfling archer up in the rafters, and lasso pegasi. Just don't try and use the thin kind to lower yourself down a 30 foot pit while wearing full platemail and carrying a large sack full of gold coins.

My feeling is that most of this is obvious once you read it, but the idea is to get you thinking about different things you can do with items other than your sword. In addition to the stuff that you'll find in stores, there's also assorted items that you'll run across in your adventures. Don't be afraid to try stuff, and eventually you'll become a regular Jackie Chan propmaster.

By fnord12 | August 7, 2006, 3:26 PM | D&D | Comments (1) | Link

The Lost Gods

Wayne found websites that have the Lovecraftian and Melnibonean pantheons that were cut out of the original 1st Edition AD&D Deities and Demigods books. Just in case these sites ever go away, i'm reprinting the stats for Cthulu and Elric:

Greater god

MOVE: 18"/36"
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-10 (x30)
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Immune to magical control, +2 or better weapon to hit, regeneration
SIZE: L (100' tall)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SYMBOL: Image of Cthulhu
PLANE: Prime Material Plane
FIGHTER: As 16+ HD monster
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST: 20th level magic-user
Str: 25 (+7, + 14)
Int: 20
Wis: 23
Dex: 20
Con: 25
Cha: -7

Cthulhu is a bloated humanoid form 100 feet high with an octopoid head and a face of tentacle-like cilia. It has scaly, rubbery skin, and prodigious hands and feet with curved talons. A pair of folded bat-like wings protrude from between its shoulders.

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wagh'nagl fhtagn." -- "In his house in R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming." R'lyeh is a great sunken city of non-Euclidian geometry hidden somewhere beneath the ocean. So bizarre is its construction that anyone entering the city (which occasionally rises above the waves) must make saving throws at +4 against fear and insanity. Cthulhu lies in a huge stone structure sealed with the Elder Sign (q.v.). If the seal is broken and the god released, everyone (and/or everything) in a radius of 100 miles must make a saving throw against death or go insane. This insanity lasts for a number of months equal to the creature's intelligence.

Cthulhu usually attacks both physically and psionically. He can regenerate 10 hit points per melee round. He teleports up to one-half mile at will and is totally immune to the effects of water, cold, and vacuum. He can call up from the sea 10-100 of the Deep Ones. He will retreat into his lair if confronted with an intact Elder Sign, another of the Old Ones (such as Hastur), or some natural catastrophe, such as the re-sinking of the city of R'lyeh into the sea.

Cthulhu is served by the Deep Ones as well as his human worshipers, who often interbreed with fish-men. Cthulhu's cult is usually hidden and secret, and is dedicated to bringing about Cthulhu's return and conquest of the world.


ARMOR CLASS: 6 or -6 (see below)
MOVE: 6" or 15" (see below)
HIT POINTS: 45 (variable)
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Standard or 85% (see below)SIZE: M (6')
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil<
CLERIC/DRUID: 10th level cleric/5th level druid
FIGHTER: 15th level fighter
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST: 19th level magic-user/10th level illusionist
THIEF/ASSASSIN: 10th level assassin
Str: 6 (15)
Int: 18
Wis: 17
Dex: 17
Con: 3 (15)
Cha: 18

The fact that Elric is an albino causes him to be very weak, and he must use artificial means to supplement his strength and constitution. He makes strength potions for his own use out of rare materials. As he travels about, there is a chance that the materials he needs to give him greater strength are not available. At any given time, there is an 85% chance that he has his needed materials, and his strength and constitution will be up to 15. These may be altered by his magic sword, Stormbringer (see below). He employs a great many spells of an unusual nature, as he has the magical studies of all his ancestors to draw upon.

Elric has a conscience of a sort, and sometimes tries to do the "honorable thing", but he is responsible for much evil also. He often rationalizes that the end justifies the means. He is very arrogant towards most humans and extremely vengeful, and though he views the power of stealing souls through Stormbringer with great distaste, he does it anyway to survive.

Elric and his race are familiar with the other planes of existence and have traveled them in the distant past to visit gods in their home planes. Such knowledge has made this race the most powerful magic-users of the Prime Material Plane. It also gives Elric a large advantage in that he can call on forces of great power to aid him in dangerous situations.

He possesses two magical artifacts of great power that enable him to survive in a world very hard for his sort to live in:

The Ring of Kings
This large ring, made out of a single rare Melnibonean Actorios gem, has three main functions: it acts as a ring of many spells storings into which Elric can place any spell or spells he wishes; the ring aids him, as the royal heir, in summoning creatures from other planes to help him, and the ring also resembles a rod of rulership in that, after calling on these, he can demand their assistance and expect to get it. Long ago Elric's royal ancestors forged pacts with the Elemental Lords and many of the Master Types. With the Ring of Kings, Elric has a 70% chance of summoning any one of them (and their lesser minions), and an 80% chance of controlling them when they arrive. Without the ring, he has only a 20% chance to summon, and a 30% chance to make the summoned ones obey him.

This huge black rune-carved blade is actually a chaotic evil sentient being from another plane which takes the form of a sword on the Prime Material Plane. Stormbringer is possibly the most powerful magic weapon possessed by a mortal anywhere. It has an intelligence of 18 and an ego of 20. It is +5 to hit and damage, and every time it hits, it drains energy levels from its opponents. On a successful hit it will either drain all or one-half of its opponent's remaining levels (50% chance of either). Any creature killed by Stormbringer has its soul or spirit as well as its energy levels sucked out and devoured. No creature so killed can be raised, resurrected, reincarnated, or brought back in any manner whatsoever.

Stormbringer transfers its stolen levels to Elric in the form of strength and hit points. For every two levels stolen, Elric gains 5 hit points and 1 strength point. Elric's strength can be increased to a maximum of 23, but the only limit to the amount of hit points he can acquire is that the sword will only drain 200 levels before it becomes sated (this satiety lasts 8 hours). The strength and hit points added last 10 turns, and then Elric reverts to normal. When wielding Stormbringer, Elric's movement is 15" and his effective armor class is -6. It also confers to Elric an 85% magic resistance.

In battle, Stormbringer makes an evil, eager moaning, and gives off a weird black radiance. Creatures with less than 5 hit dice confronted with the black blade must save vs. death or flee in panic. It has been known to act as a dancing sword at Elric's command, but there is only a 15% chance of this.

If Elric is separated from Stormbringer, there is a 60% chance that he will be able to summon it to him, even from another plane.

Stormbringer is in all ways evil. Its purpose is to eat souls, thereby damning them to a horrible eternal death. Sometimes, in battle, Elric and the sword go into a killing frenzy, and slay everything within range, including Elric's friends, whose souls the sword particularly enjoys stealing.

By fnord12 | August 7, 2006, 10:12 AM | D&D| Link

Fantastic Four #539

Wayne would only bring me one comic book this week. Luckily, it's a good one.

Tom Brevoort says:

And this week, [JMS] takes this sort of coordination one step further, as this week's issue of FANTASTIC FOUR meshes together gear-like with the events of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #534, depicting events taking place in the same general area at the same time from two different points of view. Either book can be read separately, but if you read 'em together you'll get an even better picture as to what's going down. This is the sort of tight crossover coordination that older fans remember from previous events like the Cask of Ancient Winters story in THOR, or the INFERNO crossover in the X-books.

Actually, it was closer to the Avengers Annual 14/Fantastic Four Annual 18 crossover, where the same story was told from two different perspectives, but I appreciate the coordination (granted, the same guy is writing both books). I need to read them again together to see exactly how everything ties together (for example, does the Spidey/Cap fight take place before or after both sides stand there talking to the Thing?), but this was a good issue regardless. It's nice to see some supervillains taking advantage of the chaos of Civil War, and JMS has a good handle on the psychotic (Mad) Thinker and the Puppet-Master, throwing in some cute psychology talk to disarm the "villains always betray each other" cliche. Interesting, and very in-character, development for Ben Grimm, as well.

The cover art shows the Thing looking like his movie counterpart, which i think looks terrible, but the inside art uses his classic design, so for once i'm glad that the cover artist isn't drawing the interior.

P.S. Do people really look back fondly on Inferno?

By fnord12 | August 7, 2006, 9:17 AM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

August 4, 2006

The No-Prize

Huh. Me and Wayne were just talking about this:

The No-Prize. A Marvel tradition.

The No-Prize originated as a joke, back in the early 60s, in Stan Lee's letters pages. He ran a poll or an essay contest, and indicated that there'd be "No Prize", since there'd be no winners. But the term stuck in his lexicon, and eventually, at about the same time that the Merry Marvel Marching Society was formed, Stan had a bunch of envelopes printed up like the one in the image beside this page, indicating that the recipient's No-Prize was inclosed. The envelopes, of course, were empty.

Stan would send these out to whomever he felt was worthy, for "meritorious service to the cause of Marveldom." Or, sometimes, he'd say he would be sending them out, and then would forget to do so. (He'd also get letters asking for an exchange from kids who didn't get the joke, and who thought their No-Prize must've fallen out of the envelope.) But there was never any rhyme or reason to how he distributed these things--it was just a fun little item.

Years later, Mark Gruenwald decided to regiment the conditions which qualified a person to recieve a No-Prize. Mark said that a No-Prize would be given for any letter writer who pointed out a mistake in a Marvel comic, and then explained why it wasn't actually a mistake. And he printed up a whole new batch of No-Prizes for the occasion.

No-Prize sending was never all that regular--it waxed and waned all through the years--but it pretty much stopped completely when Mark passed (though Stan apparently sent No-Prizes out to those letter writers who asked him a question that got printed in his Soapbox column in the late 90s.)

But now, with the ease of e-mail, sending out a No-Prize, digital style, is as easy as the click of a mouse key. And, like Stan, I think I'll be sending them out for whatever strikes my fancy, not through any regimented system.

So let the call go forth: No-Prizes are a'waitin' for the deserving!

More later.

Tom B

By fnord12 | August 4, 2006, 5:06 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

D&D Tips 'n' Tricks, volume 1: Non-standard attacks

Way off on the dim periphery of my perception, i've heard some rumblings about what a hard dungeon master i am, and that i'm actually trying to kill the players. If that were true, of course, you'd be seeing a lot more dragons, beholders, land sharks, liches, and mind flayers in my campaign, but somehow the accusations are still out there. Possibly the reason why i am considered hard is that i think straight fights can be boring after a while, so i like to throw in additional challenges within a battle. So i thought i might start a series of tips and tricks to help players get an idea of how to deal with these sorts of challenges.

The appeal of pencil & paper role playing is that you are essentially unrestricted in terms of your choices. The only limitations are your character's abilities and the basic laws of physics. People used to playing video game RPGs may have to get out of the habit of thinking of every fight in terms of Fight/Spell/Item/Run. People who haven't played any kind of RPG may not realize how open-ended it can be. If you approach every fight with the mentality that all you can do is walk up to your opponents and hit them, you are going to find the fights difficult (but not impossible) and start thinking that i'm a jackass or i can't balance my encounters.

So let's look at an example. Let's say your party enters a cavern and finds itself face to face with a big angry ogre wearing a big platemail chestplate. After going a few rounds with him, you find that you've rolled as high as 15 and you haven't hit the guy yet. Meanwhile he is mopping up the floor with you. The "solution" that i've planned to this is that one of your party members needs to get around the ogre and notice that his armor is held on by big leather straps. A well placed sword slash and it falls off, and suddenly he's hittable. The ogre is aware of this and is going to do his best to make sure this isn't going to happen, but a thief can still sneak his way around, a monk could leap over his head, a dwarf or hobbit could dash right between his legs, a wizard could teleport, etc. Or if all that fails, a little coordination between fighters could force the ogre to turn one way or the other, exposing his rear.

So like i said, if that were a scenario i devised to add a little flavor to a fight, that's how i'd figure you'd get out of it. But that doesn't mean it's the only way out. Another possiblity is to have your fighters keep the ogre occupied while an archer patiently makes headshots from the other end of the room. You could also drop your weapons and pile on, having three or more of your group grapple the ogre to the ground, while a character is kept in reserve to slit his throat once he's pinned (or threaten to, forcing a surrender, if you're a goody-goody). If solutions aren't coming quickly to you in the heat of battle, maybe it's time for a strategic withdrawal.

My example had a built-in solution, but that general mentality is the way to approach almost any fight, even if there isn't a "trick". Unless you're a group of 36 level characters, you never want to just attack a dragon head-on, for example. You'll want to start by finding ways to weaken it, tearing holes in its wings, leaving some spears jammed into its body, whatever you can manage. Of course, there will always be times when you're just faced with a room full of orcs, and you can just plow through them. But whenever the brute force method isn't working, it's a good idea to start thinking outside the box.

By fnord12 | August 4, 2006, 4:41 PM | D&D | Comments (8) | Link

Trouble With Doors

Sure, the Man-Thing is a just non-sentient shambling mound of vegetable mass, but the truth is i run into people all the time who have trouble with doors. You don't really want to be down there in the "Feeble" category with carrot-nose. You want to read the sign (is it push or pull???), take a quick look at the type of handle you're dealing with, apply the right amount of force, etc... It gets a little trickier when there's someone on the other side of the door who wants to go in the opposite direction. Automatic doors with sensors can also cause problems. But with the right amounts of practice and planning, you can handle it.

The next step is to get yourself up in Dazzler's class. She's mastered the Speak 'n' Spell.
O I C.
O I C U R A T V.
O. O. O.

P.S. Don't ask why all those characters' names are underlined. Let's just say i was just as much a geek when i was 11 as i am today.

By fnord12 | August 4, 2006, 1:44 PM | Comics & My stupid life | Comments (3) | Link

The Shaper Of Worlds

As promised, here's my contribution to the internet: a scan of the Shaper of Worlds. Amazingly, no one has put a scan of this fantastic character on the internet yet (or rather, i couldn't find one after a 15 second google search).

He's an anthropomorphic cosmic cube from the Skrull galaxy (so maybe he's skrullmorphic?). I'm not sure if that's what he was always intended to be, or if later writers or editors decided that since he looked sort of like a Skrull and had wish-fulfillment powers, that's what he was (I bet that's the case. It smells like a Mark Gruenwald decision to me).

I don't have a lot of his appearances, which were mainly in Hulk, but i've always liked the design (although i'm not sure why a cosmic being needs to wheel around on little tank tracks). His gig is re-creating planets based on people's dreams. It's sort of a weird thing to do, but you have to find something you enjoy in life. He has a golden skinned hippie that rides around on rainbows as a herald.

The Official Marvel Handbook lists "The cosmic cube created by AIM" under his 'Known Relatives'.

Also, he seems to have been involved in the retcon that made the Beyonder from Secret Wars into one-half of a cosmic cube with the Molecule Man. I think in that case he was fulfilling Tom Defalco's dream of undoing Jim Shooter's legacy as Editor In Chief.

By fnord12 | August 4, 2006, 1:24 PM | Comics| Link

August 3, 2006

Power Shortage

I know what we have on during our waking hours and what we have on at night so that we can sleep. I have to say that we're definitely not helping the situation in our household even if i've got the temp set at what some might consider a conservative level.

Tens of thousands of people lost power in pockets from Montclair, N.J., to Astoria, Queens to Stamford in Connecticut, but all told, the region’s power grid held up relatively well.
Officials appealed for more conservation by individuals, warning that soaring residential demand poses a new kind of threat to the grid. Demand used to drop sharply after business hours, but now can stay high around the clock, especially on hot, sticky nights as more people rely on air conditioning and keep their power-hungry computers and entertainment systems operating. In some residential areas the peak period for demand was between 8 and 9 p.m.


It's a vicious cycle, though. It's too hot to not put the A/C on, but using it generates heat that just adds to the overall problem. Which makes us more likely to use the A/C, draining more from the grid. Sure, in relative terms, it might not be a huge amount of heat input, but it's certainly not helping. Especially when you total the input of every household in the area. Ugh.

By min | August 3, 2006, 11:27 AM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link

Random Lyrics Thursday

Cancer by Joe Jackson

Everything gives you cancer
Everything gives you cancer
There's no cure, there's no answer
Everything gives you cancer
Don't touch that dial
Don't try to smile
Just take this pill
It's in your file
Don't work hard
Don't play hard
Don't plan for the graveyard
Remember -
Everything gives you cancer
Everything gives you cancer
There's no cure, there's no answer
Everything gives you cancer
Don't work by night
Don't play by day
You'll feel all right
But you will pay
No caffeine
No protein
No booze or
Remember -

By min | August 3, 2006, 8:00 AM | Music| Link

August 2, 2006

Monkey Monkey

Typer195 sent this along to me. And as loyal readers of Super Mega Monkey, i thought you would appreciate it.

In an effort to keep monkeys out of the New Delhi subways, authorities have called in one of the few animals known to scare the creatures - a fierce-looking primate called the langur, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported Wednesday.

The decision to hire a langurwallah - a man who trains and controls the langurs - came after a monkey got into a metro car June 9, the newspaper reported.

In that incident, a monkey boarded a train at the underground Chawri Bazaar station and reportedly scared passengers by scowling at them for three stops. It then disembarked at Civil Lines station.

A langur

A monkey

I think the monkey can take him.

By min | August 2, 2006, 3:45 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

Terminator Much?

They purposely developed a bunch of robots that are able to work together, independent of humans. What the hell are they thinking?

This August in Monterey Bay, Calif., an entire fleet of undersea robots will for the first time work together without the aid of humans to make detailed and efficient observations of the ocean.
Moreover, the mathematical system that allows the undersea robots to self-choreograph their movements in response to their environment might one day power other robotic teams that -- without human supervision -- could explore not just oceans, but deserts, rain forests and even other planets.

First they're able to self-choreograph their movements. Then they start developing independence and free-thinking. And then we're screwed. Scientists are such jerks.

By min | August 2, 2006, 3:11 PM | Science| Link

Doctors Maiming Beggars

Three Indian doctors caught on camera apparently agreeing to amputate the healthy limbs of beggars are to be questioned by the Indian Medical Council, an official said Tuesday.
CNN-IBN said it was trying to expose the activities of a country-wide network of "beggar mafia dons" who exploit the destitute, forcing beggars working in their patch to hand over their alms, and maiming them to maximize revenue.

A beggar in New Delhi told the channel he had been tricked into going for a medical check-up on the promise of a job. He came round after an injection to find one of his legs missing.


By min | August 2, 2006, 3:00 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

August 1, 2006

Now we have a real reason to attack.

Iranian leader bans usage of foreign words:

TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered government and cultural bodies to use modified Persian words to replace foreign words that have crept into the language, such as "pizzas"" which will now be known as "elastic loaves," state media reported Saturday.

By fnord12 | August 1, 2006, 1:30 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

Israel wants to quit but the US won't let them?

This is just speculation from bloggers and quotes from a Hezbollah leader, so it's hardly legitimate, but i can't help but think about it:

Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said a curious thing Saturday: Israel has recognized reality and is ready for a cease-fire in Lebanon, Nasrallah claimed, but it is the U.S. that insists that it fight on.
Listening the millenarian rubbish pouring out of the mouths of Bush and Blair last Friday about this being a fight led by the U.S. and its allies for a "new Middle East" of freedom from tyranny blah blah there was also a sense that this skirmish had been appropriated by the U.S. for its wider global war, and Iran, of course, is its prime target right now - with Hizballah being identified as an Iranian asset that could be destroyed.
I've always maintained that the "pro-Israel" position of the Bush administration, formulated and influenced by hardline American Likudniks (whom, it must be said, are hardly representative of mainstream Israeli thinking) is actually fundamentally bad for Israel. Its infantile, aggressive maximalism precludes Israel from doing what it will take to live at peace with its surroundings, instead demanding a confrontational approach in keeping with Jabotinsky's "Iron Wal" in which Israel's survival depends on crush and humiliating the Arabs.

Also similar thoughts from Talking Points Memo:

And there are other ominous indications of the US pressing for expansion the Israelis don't seem to want.

There's more here than the US not wanting a ceasefire before meaningful changes on the ground have happened in south Lebanon. Or at least I fear there is. This started because Israel doesn't want and won't tolerate a menacing militia building up on their northern border and lashing out with occasional raids or missile attacks, especially in the context of withdrawals from other areas.

The world has sat by for six years and let Hizbullah's anamolous position in south Lebanon be Israel's problem. Whether their response was wise or just, I'll set aside for the moment. It's not about totalitarianism or Afghanistan or Iraq, at least not in an operational sense, or dingbat fantasies about Freedom and Terror. But there do appear to be forces in Washington -- seemingly the stronger ones, with Rice just a facade -- who see this whole thing as an opportunity for a grand call of double or nothing to get out of the disaster they've created in the region. Go into Syria, maybe Iran. Try to roll the table once and for all. No failed war that a new war can't solve. Condi's mindless 'birth pangs' remark wasn't just a gaffe -- or perhaps it was a gaffe in the Kinsleyan sense of inopportunely saying what you really think. That seems to be the thinking -- transformation through destabilization.

By fnord12 | August 1, 2006, 1:21 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

The Media Was Awake for at Least 10 Minutes

So, Republicans in the House have been refusing to approve a minimum wage hike for a while now. But the elections are coming up, so they needed to do something to cover their asses, especially since just a few months ago, they voted to give themselves a raise. Well, what they've done is lump the minimum wage increase into the same bill as the cut to estate tax. They figure the Democrats will have to go along with it in order to get the minimum wage increase thru, knowing the Dems also have their eye on November. This is not the noteworthy part. Despicable, yes. But hardly surprising. What's completely amazing is that the media nudged themselves awake long enough to actually report on it, in a non-Republican talking points way.

What does a $2.10 per hour increase in the minimum wage have to do with a $268 billion tax cut for the 8,200 wealthiest families in the U.S.? Not one thing.

The Republican House leadership yoked the two together last week as a political stunt. They've been pushing hard to make cuts in the estate tax permanent; they've just as vigorously been fighting any attempt to raise the minimum wage, which has been sitting at $5.15 an hour since 1997.

But last week, House leaders demonstrated that they want an estate tax cut more than they want to derail any minimum wage increase. By lumping the measures into one bill, they hope to convince a few Democratic senators who would otherwise oppose the estate tax cut to cross over and support their bill.


Some of the GOP leaders who brokered this deal insist that it is not blackmail but an honest compromise: Democrats get their minimum wage, and Republicans get their tax cut. But Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp, R-Chattanooga, was characteristically more candid. He was quoted by The Washington Post as saying of Democrats last week, "I know why you're mad. You've seen us really outfox you."

Unfortunately, the 6.6 million people who rely on minimum wage don't have the luxury of seeing this issue as some kind of political game. Neither can the U.S. taxpayers, who will watch as the tax cut for the super-wealthy digs the U.S. deficit even further into the red.

I think one of them must have had their head propped up on their hand and their elbow slipped just at this critical moment. That's the only explanation for this article.

By min | August 1, 2006, 11:44 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (6) | Link

The End of Castro's Cuba?

What will happen to Cuba when Castro dies? Will the U.S. finally get to move in? Will it be the end of literacy and social programs? No question, the guy's been a dictator all these years and he's done terrible things, but he's also improved the lot of many of the Cubans living there. I know that's not how many Cuban Americans may feel about Castro. And who can blame the ones who have had family wrongly imprisoned or executed by Castro. Although, those who fled because they were rich and didn't want their wealth taken away when Castro came to power have much less of a leg to stand on.

Considering the repeated attempts by the U.S. to undermine his rule, who can say for sure if Castro would have turned dictator left to his own devices of if he did so in reaction to the constant threat posed by our government.

By min | August 1, 2006, 11:33 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link

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