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March 30, 2012

And Now He's a Birther, Too

My god, Dave Mustaine's totally gone around the bend.

First Megadeth's Dave Mustaine endorsed conservative Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Now, the heavy metaller has denied that Barack Obama was born in the United States, suggesting that the president was the beneficiary of a vast and "invisible" conspiracy.
"How come [Obama] was invisible until he became, uh, whatever he was in Illinois?" he asked. (Obama was previously a senator.) "They don't have any record of him."

Cause just endorsing Santorum wasn't crazy enough.

Kids, this is what happens when you mix drugs with AA. Let that be a lesson to you.

By min | March 30, 2012, 12:20 PM | Liberal Outrage & Music | Comments (1) | Link

March 28, 2012

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

X-Factor #233 - So... ok. This was good. Mostly talky, which seems to be David's strong point, but the anti-mutant militia scenes were good too. I didn't love the art; the splash with Polaris in the middle of the book looked especially weird somehow. But overall, i'm liking this a lot better now that we're out of the alternate dimensions (for now).

New Mutants #39 - Being much less reserved here: this was great. I love the art, especially Warlock. I love an issue written from Warlock's perspective; it may have taken the idea just as far as it could possibly go (it felt a little thin at times) but it was a nice one-issue thing. The weird swampy Ani-mator and the gross-out body merging makes for a
different sort of plot as well, but it's really the character interactions (and the continuity mining!) that make this book great.

Thunderbolts #171 - It's odd how both here with Songbird and in X-Factor with Siren I learned that both "sonic scream" characters also apparently have the ability to cast Charm Person. I actually think it'd be better if they both had unique powers that didn't cross over into Venus of Agents of Atlas territory, with Siren's powers being a direct audio assault, Songbird being trippy hallucinogenic sound-to-light stuff, and Venus being the seductress. But i guess in Siren's case, at least, well, her name is Siren and it was also a way to differentiate her from her father. I dunno. Feels like a bit of power creep to me. Anyway, i guess that's not directly relevant to either issue; i'm only commenting because just learned about it. On to the issue itself. Dr. Dorcas doing mad scientist stuff is cool, and i guess it's more power creep for Songbird. I always liked the idea that she was using Klaw's technology, but it's nice to make her self-sufficient. I imagine there will be complaints that her capture situation was somewhat exploitative, but i think it was handled well and she came out of it looking strong (the mollusk-man licking her feet might have been a bit much, but it was also worthwhile from a creepy gross-out perspective). Surprised to have a Songbird solo story but it's a break from the evil Thunderbolts' Cross-Time Caper.

By fnord12 | March 28, 2012, 9:43 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

For me, it's a reason to stay in the NY metropolitan area.

An obituary of sorts for the creator of frozen bagels.

By fnord12 | March 28, 2012, 2:59 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

March 27, 2012

Cookies Are Truth

Ooh, again.

By min | March 27, 2012, 12:54 PM | Video Games | Comments (1) | Link

Laboratories of Democracy

Paul Krugman's Sunday column is an essential read:

Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida's law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence...
What is ALEC? Despite claims that it's nonpartisan, it's very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn't just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization -- that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC's claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians.

By fnord12 | March 27, 2012, 12:09 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

I'll take twelve issues of Kirby over eight issues of any artist today

Interview with Marvel talent scout C.B. Cebulski. Interesting problems regarding the state of the industry:

CEBULSKI The way that we look at it now is that the production cycle of comics has changed. It used to be Romita, Kirby, Ditko, all those original guys. Comics came out monthly. They were fast enough. It was a job for them. It wasn't really art. They were getting a paycheck.

And they had wives helping them.

Yes. And they would put out monthly books. It was on the newsstand. Now what's changed is, what sells a comic is not just the character, but it's the writer and the artist. The retailers are getting the Previews, which is three months in advance. They're able to place their orders on who wrote it, who drew it, what the storyline is. And because of that, because of the Image guys, basically, in the 90s, there's such a focus on the art and the artist, that they start taking more time with their art. So there's only a dozen guys, six guys from Marvel that I know of, that can do a monthly book. Everyone else, it takes them six to eight weeks to draw one comic book.

By fnord12 | March 27, 2012, 10:13 AM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

March 26, 2012

Supportive Relationships - Cocaine for your Brain

I thought this article was interesting. The writer is a bit flowery, so it's not strictly science, but it's science-y. It basically says that your brain is constantly rewiring based on its daily experiences and romantic relationships have a strong impact on that process.

Your initial imprinting occurs as an infant. No surprise there. We've heard this for years now. The author states that the initial imprinting from an infant's primary caregiver (read "Mother") affects later choices in romantic love.

Thanks to advances in neuroimaging, we now have evidence that a baby's first attachments imprint its brain. The patterns of a lifetime's behaviors, thoughts, self-regard and choice of sweethearts all begin in this crucible.
It's not that caregiving changes genes; it influences how the genes express themselves as the child grows.

That last part sounds similar to epigenetics (which is awesome, btw), where gene expression is caused by a trigger rather than a change in your DNA.

So, hopefully, whoever took care of you when you were an infant did things right, otherwise you might be screwed when it comes to your relationships, which in turn screws up just about everything else.

"Scientific studies of longevity, medical and mental health, happiness and even wisdom," Dr. Siegel says, "point to supportive relationships as the most robust predictor of these positive attributes in our lives across the life span."

The supportive part is crucial. Loving relationships alter the brain the most significantly.


James Coan, a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia, conducted experiments in 2006 in which he gave an electric shock to the ankles of women in happy, committed relationships. Tests registered their anxiety before, and pain level during, the shocks.

Then they were shocked again, this time holding their loving partner's hand. The same level of electricity produced a significantly lower neural response throughout the brain. In troubled relationships, this protective effect didn't occur. If you're in a healthy relationship, holding your partner's hand is enough to subdue your blood pressure, ease your response to stress, improve your health and soften physical pain. We alter one another's physiology and neural functions.

That's right. Having the right partner gives you a +1 on your saves against electricity damage. Having the wrong partner is like putting on a cursed ring. (That's right. I just used a D&D analogy cause i'm a big geek. But you totally understood it, so you're an even bigger geek. So there.)

This is prolly the best line in the whole article:

Staring at a picture of a spouse lit up their reward centers as expected; the same happened with those newly in love (and also with cocaine users) (emphasis mine).

Woo! I love a good cocaine reference!

By min | March 26, 2012, 9:17 PM | Science| Link

Candy That Tastes Like Burgers

That's what's been missing from my life. Found this while going thru BoingBoing.

Your favorite fast food meal now comes in miniature candy form with the hamburger edition of the Happy Kitchen series! Mix the dough, cut the french fries, 'bake' the buns, shape the hamburgers, mold the cheese and even prepare your own ketchup. To wash it all down, you've got a cola to go along with your meal. From start to finish, you'll have a smile on your face as your prepare you miniature treat!

So grossed out right now...

By min | March 26, 2012, 2:22 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

So That's What Smells Like Licorice

Everytime we drive over the Casciano Memorial Bridge, we have to turn the recirc on in the car because, frankly, it stinks. Fnord12 claims it smells like licorice to him. To me, it just smells like stink. However, we've never been treated to a light show on our drive home.

Parts of the Union County sky lit up early this morning, prompting a few strained necks and concerned phone calls from residents wondering what exactly was causing that glow.

A house fire? No. An explosion? No. Extra-terrestrials looking for runway clearance at Newark Airport? Sadly, no.

The truth, it seems, is far more pedestrian. A ConocoPhillips refinery in Linden was releasing excess gas, which burned bright against the foggy night sky, said Elizabeth Police Officer Thomas Glackin.

I feel cheated.

This site lists common components of refinery gas as "butanes, butylenes, methane, ethane, and ethylene". Mmm....

By min | March 26, 2012, 1:41 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Wonder Woman Converse


By min | March 26, 2012, 12:05 PM | Comics| Link

I Still Refuse to Run

New mobile app called Zombies, Run! was developed to get you trained in time for the zombie apocalypse.

Over 13 missions (with 17 more to come free in this first season), you take the part of Runner 5 and have this tale of the undead piped into your ears. As you run, the iPhone's GPS tracks your pace - the moans growing louder as brain-eaters approach, forcing an increase in tempo to escape them. You also collect items as you run, which are used to bolster the survivors' base, adding an extra layer of interest beyond the number of calories burnt. The missions last about 25 minutes, consisting of five sections interspersed with your own tunes: perfect for all levels of jogger.

I still ain't running. When the apocalypse comes, just go on without me.

By min | March 26, 2012, 9:40 AM | Ummm... Other?| Link

March 24, 2012

Many Bothans died to get a picture of this monkey

...at least i guess it's a monkey.

By fnord12 | March 24, 2012, 6:45 PM | My stupid life| Link

March 23, 2012

Not How I Envisioned Teletubbies Being Used

It's secret code for Wen Jiabao.

Teletubbies, instant noodles and tomatoes might not sound like the stuff of high political intrigue, but this motley grouping has allowed microbloggers in China to evade censorship and speculate on trouble at the top of government.
"Teletubby" is code for Wen Jiabao, who chided Bo publicly before his ousting - the Chinese for the children's show, tianxianbaobao, shares a character with the premier's name. The popular instant noodle brand Master Kong is known as Kang Shifu in Chinese and stands in for Zhou Yongkang, who is reportedly supportive of Bo.
In keeping with the food theme, the former Chongqing party boss has been dubbed "tomato" or "xihongshi".
Those wanting to read more of the gossip may also have to wade through irrelevant postings.

"Kang Shifu is actually discussed quite a lot anyway on microblogs. It's one of the most discussed brands because typical netizens eat a lot of instant noodles," Goldkorn pointed out.

The government caught on, though, cause if you tried searching for both "Teletubbies" and "Master Kong" together, it would tell you that the results couldn't be displayed because of regulations. The regulations must say something like the only food Teletubbies are allowed to associate with is Tubby Toast.

In case you were unaware, i love the Teletubbies! That show is psychedelic genius. I'm also fond of instant noodles. And tomatoes. But not together.

By min | March 23, 2012, 2:34 PM | TeeVee & Ummm... Other?| Link

Link blogging

...is practically all i ever do anyway, but let's take it to the extreme.

By fnord12 | March 23, 2012, 10:31 AM | Ummm... Other?| Link

March 21, 2012


...means pineapples on the ceiling.

The fact that i found this worthy of a picture tells you how exciting my trip has been.

By fnord12 | March 21, 2012, 6:37 PM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link

March 20, 2012

IAEA Invited Back to North Korea

As part of an agreement struck with the U.S., in exchange for food aid, North Korea agreed to suspend nuclear work. To that end, they've invited inspectors to come in and check things out. They were kicked out three years earlier.

It's not all sunshine and roses, though, because on the same day they sent out those invitations, they also announced they were going to launch a satellite and that sent up a big red flag for the U.S.

Without disclosing North Korea's terms, the IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said it had received the invitation on Friday. That was the same day Pyongyang announced plans to launch a satellite on a rocket, a move that Washington has suggested could jeopardise a nuclear moratorium deal reached with the United States last month.
"Obviously there's benefit for any access that the IAEA can get," [US state department spokeswoman Victoria] Nuland told reporters. "But it doesn't change the fact that we would consider a satellite launch a violation not only of their UN obligations but of the commitments they made to us."
"The launching of the satellite is part of our right to develop space programmes," [senior North Korean nuclear negotiator] Ri said, warning that North Korea would respond to any threats on its sovereignty.

"Regarding the peaceful purpose of the satellite launching, if others are practising double standards or inappropriately interfere with our sovereign rights, we will be forced to react to it. But we will try our best for these things not to happen," he said.

It's interesting that North Korea is seemingly more open to negotiations. I don't know if it's the new leadership or if it's that their people are starving and they really want that food aid. The response from the N. Korean negotiator is certainly more tempered than what we're used to hearing from North Korea under Kim Jong-Il.

He's also got a point. Yes, satellites are a gateway technology to long-range missiles, but you can't seriously think it's a convincing argument to say "You can't have a satellite in space" because you might shoot missiles at us one day. You can trust we have your best interests at heart. Afterall, we're the good guys."

Can you imagine saying this to Russia? Putin would fall off his chair laughing. And then he'd shoot you. Ofc, I don't know what the agreement actually says. Mebbe there's a line in there that specifically says "And you can't have satellites - for any reason", in which case, yeah, that would be a violation of the agreement.

I think getting North Korea to suspend nuclear testing and to let inspectors back in seems pretty amazing. I hope it doesn't get undone by a political pissing contest.

Also, using food aid as a bargaining tool against a starving populace is a pretty shitty thing to do. Just saying.

By min | March 20, 2012, 2:17 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Avoid Mopping-Related Injuries

Get a Scooba!

Take it from me. Mopping can be dangerous.

By min | March 20, 2012, 2:12 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

March 19, 2012

Where can you live on minimum wage?


By fnord12 | March 19, 2012, 3:37 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

One, two, three... that's ridiculous

I would personally be in favor of eliminating the world's time zones, since at my job i constantly deal with people in time zones all around the world and it gets very confusing. But i don't know how you provincials would feel about setting your alarms for 2am.

And i'm very against the idea of people all waking up and going to bed at the same time, regardless of the amount of daylight. That's going to screw with your circadian rhythms and cause all sorts of health issues.

Regardless, it seems like the answer to "Do you know how many time zones there are in the [former] Soviet Union?" will soon be "One".

By fnord12 | March 19, 2012, 3:30 PM | My stupid life & Science & Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

March 18, 2012

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Avengers #24 - Well, i think everyone should be happy with this issue. First, everyone's hated ninjas are treated like a joke by everyone involved. Second, AIM and Osborn's ability to mimic the Avengers' powers is tied into AIM's super-adaptoid project, which gives it some old school cred. Third, for those of us whose bad memories had us wondering if evil Ms. Marvel and Madame Hydra were the same person, at least we see in this issue that they are two separate people (standing behind Osborn in the flashback with Dr. Washington) (although i still don't remember who the other woman is supposed to be). And if all of that doesn't do it for you, at least this issue wraps up the Osborn storyline.

Captain America #9 - I love Davis' scrawny Steve Rogers. He looks hilarious. Beyond that, i don't feel like this was a particularly great use of Machinesmith but it was nice seeing Sharon Carter on a solo mission.

Avengers Assemble #1 - This felt kind of like a preview issue with not even a fully established plot, but i like Bagley drawing the Avengers, and i like that the Hulk will be a part of this series. It doesn't bother me that the only logic behind this particular line-up is that these are the characters in the upcoming movie. It bothers me a little bit that Iron Man and Thor are acting like they've never seen a Taurus of the Zodiac before, but i'm not a big fan of the Zodiac, so maybe they aren't either and they've blocked their past encounters from their memories. Also, isn't it odd that there's a "Hawkeye costume designed by Bryan Hitch" credit on the title page? I mean, if you're going to start acknowledging individual creator's contributions to the Marvel properties, this rather generic costume seems like an odd place to start. I hope this trend continues and it eventually gets to Millie the Model proportions, where the Hulk walks on panel and there's a little narration box saying "Hulk's pants designed by Jack Kirby, NY" (e.g.).

By fnord12 | March 18, 2012, 10:57 PM | Comics| Link

March 15, 2012

Whatever happened to the 40 hour work-week?

This long-ish article explains how we got it...

By 1914, emboldened by a dozen years of in-house research, Henry Ford famously took the radical step of doubling his workers' pay, and cut shifts in Ford plants from nine hours to eight. The National Association of Manufacturers criticized him bitterly for this -- though many of his competitors climbed on board in the next few years when they saw how Ford's business boomed as a result. In 1937, the 40-hour week was enshrined nationwide as part of the New Deal. By that point, there were a solid five decades of industrial research that proved, beyond a doubt, that if you wanted to keep your workers bright, healthy, productive, safe, and efficient over a sustained stretch of time, you kept them to no more than 40 hours a week and eight hours a day.

...how we lost it (once again, nerds ruin everything)...

The first is the emergence of Silicon Valley as an economic powerhouse in the late 1970s. Since WWII, the valley had attracted a unique breed of worker -- scientists and technologists who carried with them a singular passion for research and innovation. Asperger's Syndrome wasn't named and identified until 1994, but by the 1950s, the defense industries in California's Santa Clara Valley were already drawing in brilliant young men and women who fit the profile: single-minded, socially awkward, emotionally detached, and blessed (or cursed) with a singular, unique, laser-like focus on some particular area of obsessive interest. For these people, work wasn't just work; it was their life's passion, and they devoted every waking hour to it, usually to the exclusion of non-work relationships, exercise, sleep, food, and sometimes even personal care.
And then, in the early '80s, Tom Peters came along, and promoted the Silicon Valley work ethic to the rest of the country in the name of "excellence." He extolled tech giants like HP and Apple for the "passion" of their workers, and told old-industry employers that they could move into the new age by seeking out and rewarding that kind of passion in their employees, too. Though Peters didn't advocate this explicitly, it was implicitly understood that to "passionate" people, 40-hour weeks were old-fashioned and boring.

....and why it'd be good for everyone, employers included, to bring it back.

What these studies showed, over and over, was that industrial workers have eight good, reliable hours a day in them. On average, you get no more widgets out of a 10-hour day than you do out of an eight-hour day. Likewise, the overall output for the work week will be exactly the same at the end of six days as it would be after five days. So paying hourly workers to stick around once they've put in their weekly 40 is basically nothing more than a stupid and abusive way to burn up profits. Let 'em go home, rest up and come back on Monday. It's better for everybody.
In fact, research shows that knowledge workers actually have fewer good hours in a day than manual laborers do -- on average, about six hours, as opposed to eight. It sounds strange, but if you're a knowledge worker, the truth of this may become clear if you think about your own typical work day. Odds are good that you probably turn out five or six good, productive hours of hard mental work; and then spend the other two or three hours on the job in meetings, answering e-mail, making phone calls, and so on. You can stay longer if your boss asks; but after six hours, all he's really got left is a butt in a chair. Your brain has already clocked out and gone home.

The other thing about knowledge workers is that they're exquisitely sensitive to even minor sleep loss. Research by the US military has shown that losing just one hour of sleep per night for a week will cause a level of cognitive degradation equivalent to a .10 blood alcohol level. Worse: most people who've fallen into this state typically have no idea of just how impaired they are. It's only when you look at the dramatically lower quality of their output that it shows up. Robinson writes: "If they came to work that drunk, we'd fire them -- we'd rightly see them as a manifest risk to our enterprise, our data, our capital equipment, us, and themselves. But we don't think twice about making an equivalent level of sleep deprivation a condition of continued employment."

By fnord12 | March 15, 2012, 3:12 PM | Liberal Outrage & My stupid life & Science| Link

Recap 44

The Loss of a Comrade

By min | March 15, 2012, 2:45 PM | D&D| Link

March 14, 2012

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

OMAC #7 - I haven't been reviewing this on the grounds that Wanyas has been deluging me with DC comics, but i just wanted to say i'm glad Giffen's back on art. P.S. i pretended the animal men were Kirby's New Men.

Winter Soldier #3 - I wish the art wasn't a big pile of mess, but i liked the reprogrammed Doombot and i appreciated the real Doom making short work of Bucky. Next issue promises "Gorilla madness!" so we'll see how that goes.

Villains For Hire #4 - Abnett & Lanning tried to trick me into liking Paladin by disguising him as Scourge, but i wasn't falling for it. This was nicely wrapped up, but the overall concept was a bit disappointing. When i read a book called Villains For Hire, i don't want it to really be Heroes Pretending To Be Villains Hiring Other Villains. But, again, it was well written and i hope Abnett & Lanning wind up on another book.

Avengers: The Children's Crusade #9 - All right, so all my whining about the Vision seems to have been premature. I think. "So we'll ask Tony Stark to build us a new Vision - with the old Vision's memories. The young old Vision. Our old Vision." That twisted my head around a little bit, but in the end it seems they decided not to do that, so Young Vision was destroyed before the Vision was rebuilt in Bendis' Avengers, and they have nothing to do with each other. Thank you. Beyond that, it seems confirmed that the Scarlet Witch was possessed by an outside force and controlled by Dr. Doom (i'm not clear what his motive was) when she wiped out all mutants, even if Cyclops (who seems out of character even for how he's being written nowadays) doesn't accept it. And for when all this takes place, it's after Steve Rogers is back in the Cap costume but before Spider Island, the return of the Human Torch, and some Sentinel attack in X-men. Seems workable. As a "return Scarlet Witch to status quo" vehicle, this was ok, but it really wasn't a great story, honestly.

Avengers Academy #27 - This, on the other hand, was great. Gage has a good handle on the Runaways, and he throws in Devil Dinosaur as well. What more can you ask for? Well, i guess i didn't love the new artist but that's the new Marvel budget for you, apparently.

Hulk #49 - This was an intriguing issue and a good set-up for future stories with the Eternals either here or elsewhere. And if the Eternals want to reduce the number of Hulks running around, i'm in complete support of that, as long as when they're done with the purge they leave Parker on a book.

By fnord12 | March 14, 2012, 7:01 PM | Comics | Comments (5) | Link

We've Reached the End of the Internets

After this, what more could there possibly be?

h/t wnkr

By min | March 14, 2012, 3:24 PM | Star Wars| Link

March 13, 2012

Never got past the turtle

In this strange New York Times article that complains that today's kids don't move around enough (i guess they're supposed to be chasing jobs all around the country), the author bizarrely admonishes people to be more like the Joad family from Grapes of Wrath.

AMERICANS are supposed to be mobile and even pushy. Saul Bellow's Augie March declares, "I am an American ... first to knock, first admitted." In "The Grapes of Wrath," young Tom Joad loads up his jalopy with pork snacks and relatives, and the family flees the Oklahoma dust bowl for sun-kissed California. Along the way, Granma dies, but the Joads keep going.

And then at the end:

In the mid-'70s, back when every high school kid longed for his driver's license and a chance to hit the road and find freedom, Bruce Springsteen wrote his brilliant, exciting album "Born to Run." A generation later, as kids began to hunker down, Mr. Springsteen wrote his depressing, dead-end dirge, "The Ghost of Tom Joad." We need to reward and encourage forward movement, not slouching. That may sound harsh, but do we really want to turn into a country where young Americans can't even recognize the courage of Tom Joad?

Did the authors actually read Grapes of Wrath? Because as i remember it, the whole point of the book was that the Joad family pinned their hopes on the idea that there would be jobs in California, and when they got there, they found out that there weren't any and they wound up being treated like second class citizens, abused by the system and scraping to survive.

Not exactly the right message for the kids of today. I think they should just stay at home and mess around on facebook.

Dean Baker does a good job destroying the rest of the article.

By fnord12 | March 13, 2012, 1:08 PM | Boooooks & Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link

I Saw U Somerset

It was 7:20am. Raining, dark and gloomy. You were speeding down the road in your silver car WITHOUT YOUR LIGHTS ON. I almost turned onto the road in front of your INVISIBLE ASS. I doubt you would have been able to break on the wet road in time to not plow into me. Luckily, i saw your stealth car in time. I hope your insurance premiums go up, YOU IDIOT.

By min | March 13, 2012, 7:54 AM | My stupid life | Comments (2) | Link

March 12, 2012

ROM: A confession

I've been perpetuating an error over on my Timeline project. It was an innocent mistake at first, but i still do it even though i now know it's wrong, and i'm not sure i'm going to fix it.

The error: writing the name of Rom, Spaceknight, in all caps. ROM.

I've known that his name was based on an acronym. Fun fact: "The toy was originally called COBOL (after the programming language), which was later changed to "Rom" (after ROM, read-only memory) by Parker Brothers executives". And I always capitalize my acronyms on that site. SHIELD. MODOK. FAUST (Fully Automated Unit of Structural Technology, clearly).

So, ROM.

I guess i should have realized it was kind of odd that his name, in-story, stood for "read-only memory". All the other Spaceknights had names that were descriptive of their powers, like Starshine and Firefall and Terminator (if Marvel ever wants to bring back ROM Rom despite the copyright issues, they should alter his armor slightly and call him Neutralizer).

But since comic books are always lettered in all caps, i never saw anything to challenge my assumption. Until somewhere along the way, i started to get a sneaking suspicion that it was wrong. Then i started getting confirmation. First on other websites. Then some comments on the letters page, which is not in all caps. Willfully ignored it for a while, but now i have to face facts. And i'm not sure i trust MovableType's Search & Replace function enough for a delicate operation like this. So i'm probably going to leave it as-is for a while, and continue to do it for consistency. Until it bugs me enough to change it.

Speaking of ROM Rom, can you believe that in all the years my friends have known me, they've never gotten me the original action figure? What the hell? It's only a $240 starting bid.

By fnord12 | March 12, 2012, 5:36 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

March 11, 2012

No option for whoopie cushions and X-ray glasses?

It's rare that you see Spider-Man at his day job: Marketing Analyst for Marvel Comics. But here he is swinging around town with his briefcase and, instead of doing the hard work of actually doing some demographics analysis, soliciting direct feedback from readers.

I would totally play Faboom The New Computer Game, eat Crunchy Cookies, and watch Exciting Movie of the Year.

I don't think he lasted long at the job considering his rather expensive method of arriving at the office.

My scan of this ad comes from a book i bought used. The accompanying form was partially filled out, but i guess never actually clipped and sent in.

Sometimes i think i'm the only person on the internet who remembers those vacuum cleaner ads.

By fnord12 | March 11, 2012, 2:25 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

March 9, 2012

Anne Frank in Mormon Heaven

Clearly everyone reads through all the Webcomics we have in our little drop-down on the side nav so this isn't necessary, but min thought i should link to this one specifically.

If you don't know why this is funny, see here.

By fnord12 | March 9, 2012, 2:59 PM | Comics & Liberal Outrage| Link

California Being California Again

In other words, awesome. Remember when fnord12's job booked him at a cancer hotel? Well, your cola's a deadly killer and California's calling them out!

Coca-Cola and Pepsi are changing the way they make the caramel colouring used in their drinks as a result of a California law that mandates drinks containing a certain level of carcinogens bear a cancer warning label.

The companies said the changes will be expanded nationally to streamline their manufacturing processes. The changes have already been made for drinks sold in California.


A representative for Coca-Cola, Diana Garza-Ciarlante, said the company directed its caramel suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes to reduce the levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, which can be formed during the cooking process and as a result may be found in trace amounts in many foods.

"While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning," Garza-Ciarlante said in an email.

The FDA rep mentioned in the article says that a person would have to drink 1,000 cans of soda/day to be affected by the carcinogen, so he doesn't think it's really that big a deal.

Here's the thing - we ingest, inhale, absorb thousands of carcinogens in a day, all in small amounts that individually probably amount to nothing. But combined could be a huge problem. And considering how many people get cancer in a year, i think something has to be responsible. Does anyone not know at least 1 person who has/had cancer? So, yeah, i think everyone should do everything they can to minimize any known carcinogen and for the FDA not to recognize this is infuriating as well as unsurprising. And it's pretty clear that it wouldn't have been all that difficult for Coke and Pepsi to have done this all along. All it took was deciding to do it and letting their manufacturers know. Again, who's surprised they only bothered because they didn't want to have to put a cancer warning label on their products?

As a bonus, here's an article about why you should stop eating bacon. HA HA.....no, really. They want you to stop eating bacon.

By min | March 9, 2012, 10:46 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link


I know he's often portrayed as - and seems to be - a little nutty, but only one member of congress says things like this:

Outgoing Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) -- who lost a brutal primary battle on Tuesday to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) -- vehemently criticized the Obama administration's program of targeted killings of US citizens abroad without due process, declaring it a "dangerous" violation of the Constitution that ought to meet resistance from Democrats and Republicans alike.

"Any assault on the Constitution ought to be challenged," Kucinich told TPM in a Thursday interview at his Capitol Hill office. "This is absolutely an assault on the Constitution."

"The idea that the United States has the ability to summarily execute a US citizen ought to send chills racing up and down the spines of every person of conscience," he argued. "The fact that our government can set itself up as policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, all wrapped into one fatal moment, should cause every person who loves this country to be deeply concerned about the direction we're going."

Compare to:

Asked for comment Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-CA) both claimed to be unfamiliar with the administration's legal rationale.

Bold leadership!

There's talk of Kucinich running for Governor of Ohio or carpetbagging to a congressional position in Washington state. I do hope he lands somewhere.

Actually, there are a few other congress people who talk like this. One of them is Ron Paul, who is often portrayed as - and seems to be - a little nutty. And as much as i disagree with his apocalyptic anti-government vision and distrust him over his newsletters, i'm glad he's running in the Republican primary.

By fnord12 | March 9, 2012, 8:58 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

March 6, 2012

Avengers by the numbers

Since all i got this week was Avengers #23 and New Avengers #22, instead of a regular SuperMegaSpeed Review, it's a good opportunity to settle this "Are Bendis' Avengers books any good?" question. We'll do it mathematically.

Here are the raw numbers:

Avengers #23 starts off with a drag-racing tribute to Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! Or maybe Judas Priest's video for Heading Out To The Highway.+2
Hammer/Hydra has technology to re-create the Avengers' super-powers, which is a genie that you can't put back in the bottle.-3
AIM's Beekeeper costumes are drawn in a way that makes them look gigantic and ridiculous.+1
Storm was added to the Avengers only to immediately get captured and do absolutely nothing.-1
The nuanced respect that AIM scientist Dr. Washington has for Tony Stark.+1
Bendis makes his pet character Quake the one who rescues the Avengers.-1
Vision is returned to the Avengers only to do absolutely nothing.-1
I still don't understand how there are now two separate Visions running around and everyone knows that this one is the revived original instead of Young Vision.-1
The Red Hulk threatens to eat Dr. Washington.+4
Ninja cliffhanger.-1
Pretty good art by Daniel Acuna.+1
Nice art by Mike Deodato.+2
Dark Avengers redux.-2
I can't remember if Madame Hydra is playing the role of the evil Ms. Marvel or if it's someone else. Or if there's both a Madame Hydra and a Viper on the team. If it is the same woman, how did she get super-powers and how does she change her hair from black to green from scene to scene? And if it's not her, who the hell is it?-2
Luke Cage's "regression" to "angry black guy", which I think is totally justified based on the fact the Osborn is deliberately pushing his trigger buttons.0
The Skaar switcharoo.+2
Bendis writes snappy, believable dialogue that is funny and fun to read.+2
Bendis writes dialogue that is interchangeable, with every character having the same voice so it doesn't matter who says what.-2

So there you have it. Add it all up and the two books squeak by with a positive 1 rating. You'd have to go back as far as Kurt Busiek's run to find a similar high score, and an even longer slog to anything decent prior to that.

The numbers don't lie, folks. Bendis' Avengers are good.

By fnord12 | March 6, 2012, 10:05 PM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link

This Was a "Targeted Kill", Not an Assassination

Because "assassination" is a loaded term.

The US attorney general, Eric Holder, said the decision to kill a US citizen living abroad who poses a terrorist threat "is among the gravest that government leaders can face", but justified lethal action as legal and sometimes necessary in the war on terror.

Holder's comments on Monday broke the administration's silence on the legal justification for its decision to kill US-born al-Qaida operative Anwar al-Awlaki five months ago in Yemen.


"The unfortunate reality is that our nation will likely continue to face terrorist threats that at times originate with our own citizens," Holder told a packed Thorne Auditorium.

Al-Awlaki's killing in a joint CIA-US military drone strike on a convoy in Yemen sparked a public debate over whether the president should have the authority to kill an American citizen without a conviction and despite an executive order banning assassinations - which Holder called a "loaded term" that doesn't apply in this case.

"Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen - even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaida in a foreign land - is among the gravest that government leaders can face," Holder said. "The American people can be - and deserve to be - assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws."

Unfortunately, the Administration won't release its legal justification for this targeted kill/assassination, so it's a little hard to be assured that it's consistent with the law. That's really my main issue. Mebbe they had sensitive information they needed to keep secret prior to the operation. But now that it's done, shouldn't we at least get to hear the reasons why they felt it was ok to go ahead and kill this guy who also happened to be a U.S. citizen?

And don't give me that "we're at war with the terrorists" schtick again, using that to justify every questionable action. If you felt you needed to do what you did, but it was not necessarily a "good" thing, you still need to own up to it. You shouldn't be allowed to cloak it with the "we're at war" blanket and feel no other justification is necessary.

Back in 1993, a guy from Kuwait planned and executed the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. We found the guy, captured him, extradited him, and tried him in a NY District court, and he wasn't a citizen. When did we stop doing that? When did the solution to everything become "shoot it, bomb it"? I love Hawkgirl, i really do, but even i know in real life you can't solve every problem by smashing it with your electrified mace.

This guy was probably a bad guy. He probably deserved to get shot in the head. I still would like my government to show me proof of that. I'd still like to know that the government and i are on the same page as to what constitutes a "bad guy".

Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union:

"Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact," Shamsi said. "Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power."

With lines like these coming out of the Attorney General's mouth:

"The constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."

I'm not so sure i am willing to trust Obama either.

By min | March 6, 2012, 2:47 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Russians Protest Putin's Election

I was scolded last week for not keeping fnord12 abreast of international news, so here's some Russian news, such as it is.

Putin was elected President for a third term this past Sunday. He won easily with 64% of the vote. There were immediate cries of election fraud. Protesters gathered.

Thousands of Russians streamed through metal detectors for hours, past camouflaged trucks and under the whirring blades of a helicopter, to join a mass protest against Vladimir Putin's official return to the Kremlin.

They were furious and frustrated. Gone were the lighthearted slogans and costumes that had thus far marked the protests that exploded in Moscow in December and carried through Russia's presidential vote on Sunday.


Many protesters had hoped to force Putin into a second round, proving that Russia's longtime leader had indeed lost the support of the heartland.

Instead they were met with an official result of nearly 64% for Putin, buoyed, election monitors say, by massive fraud. Russia's elections chief, Vladimir Churov, called the vote the "most honest in the world".

The thing is, is anyone actually surprised? This is Putin we're talking about. The guy who basically extended his initial two terms by putting Dmitry Medvedev in the presidency. At no time has Medvedev been regarded as anything more than Putin's sidekick. In what crazy bizarro world were you living in if you didn't think Putin was going to make damn sure he got his seat back when he wanted it?

BBC News:

Nikolai Belyaev, from the website Svodny Protokol [consolidated list of results], said "so far we've seen a huge number of violations in St Petersburg".

"In some individual polling stations we've seen candidates getting half the number votes on the final election commission website than were recorded on the original lists of results".

International observers also said the election was seriously flawed, criticising a lack of real competition.

I think the only surprise has been the tepid response from the Kremlin against the protesters. So far, Putin's been allowing at least some protests. Those arrested are released within a few hours with all of their parts intact. The belief seems to be that the protests, if allowed, will run out of steam on their own. Obviously, the protesters claim this won't happen. If it doesn't, I would expect a much harsher crackdown. Putin is not likely to allow this to continue indefinitely.

This made me roll my eyes:

In a tweet on Tuesday the US Ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, said it was "troubling to watch arrests of peaceful demonstrators" and "freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are universal values".

If I were the Kremlin, i would tell McFaul to blow it out his ear. Remember the Occupy protests and the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators? The rubber bullets fired in Oakland? The use of pepper spray on the UC Davis students who were violently sitting on the pavement? Yeah, uh, do your own housekeeping before you go taking that moral high ground, eh? Uppity.

By min | March 6, 2012, 2:07 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Robots Playing 007 Theme

What's interesting is the robots determine their own flight path based on information fed to them constantly about their location and the relative locations of obstacles and other robots. Link

These robots and the couch guitar are the work of doctoral students Alex Kushleyev and Daniel Mellinger from the General Robots, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab at the University of Pennsylvania.
Such agile machines could help scope out dangerous buildings after disasters such as earthquakes or radiation leaks, Kumar said in his TED Talk. Each is small, but together, they can lift loads and help in construction. Perhaps they could lift collapsed material off of earthquake victims. They might present a slightly friendlier face to trapped victims than a rescue snake-bot (Though their droning buzz is still pretty unsettling).

The secrets to their smooth, graceful movement are their small size, four rotors and smart on-board processor. By moving each rotor at different speeds, the bots can tilt and turn. Their processors decide the swiftest, smoothest path from Point A to Point B, then send out commands to the rotors 600 times a second.

In a swarm, the robots can also monitor where they are compared to their neighbors. It's important that each robot does this by itself, as it would be too difficult to have one central computer controlling each robot as it flies.

I hate that snake-bot. *shudder*

By min | March 6, 2012, 12:00 PM | Science| Link

Pens. They're the Real Menace

Everybody knows that if you drop something off a tall building, it will accelerate at a rate of 9.81 m/s2. But that's in a vacuum. So, pennies aren't really that worrisome.

Pennies are flat, so they experience a lot of air resistance, and they are light, so it doesn't take much drag to counteract their weight. Thus, if hurled off a skyscraper, pennies achieve their terminal velocity after only about 50 feet (15 meters) of descent. After that point, they flutter to the ground at a measly 25 mph (40 kph), Bloomfield said.

See? Nothing to worry about. Pens, on the other hand...deadly killers.

If someone nonchalantly tossed one of those off the top of the Empire State Building, it could kill. Depending on their design, pens will either spin and flutter, or shoot down like an arrow. In the latter case, "it might well come down at 200 mph," Bloomfield said. "When it hits, it will hit a small area with a lot of momentum. It will chip the sidewalk. It could punch into a wooden board. You wouldn't want it to hit your head."

Hrm....what if the penny falls with it's edge leading instead of flat? That's alot less surface area for drag to affect, but the mass of the penny stays the same, which should mean terminal velocity could be alot greater...

How about we just don't throw shit off buildings? How about that?

By min | March 6, 2012, 11:29 AM | Science| Link

March 5, 2012

Cat Diary

Spored posted this on the Facebook. I thought it was amusing.

By min | March 5, 2012, 12:54 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

I don't understand all the Ewok hate

Kevin Drum must have liked the hits he got from his Death Star post, because now he's taken to arguing that Return of the Jedi is the best Star Wars film. But he has to take out the Ewoks to do it.

By fnord12 | March 5, 2012, 12:48 PM | Star Wars | Comments (1) | Link

March 2, 2012

Begging the question: it does not mean what you think it means

To beg the question:

When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place.

A simple example would be "I think he is unattractive because he is ugly." The adjective "ugly" does not explain why the subject is "unattractive" -- they virtually amount to the same subjective meaning, and the proof is merely a restatement of the premise. The sentence has begged the question.

What it doesn't mean:

To beg the question does not mean "to raise the question." (e.g. "It begs the question, why is he so dumb?") This is a common error of usage made by those who mistake the word "question" in the phrase to refer to a literal question. Sadly, the error has grown more and more common with time, such that even journalists, advertisers, and major mass media entities have fallen prey to "BTQ Abuse."

While descriptivists and other such laissez-faire linguists are content to allow the misconception to fall into the vernacular, it cannot be denied that logic and philosophy stand to lose an important conceptual label should the meaning of BTQ become diluted to the point that we must constantly distinguish between the traditional usage and the erroneous "modern" usage. This is why we fight.

When i saw even generally good writer David Frum* (he was George W. Bush's speechwriter!) getting it wrong, i knew it was time to speak out.

*Turns out even though it's Frum's blog, it was a blog elf who posted this one.

By fnord12 | March 2, 2012, 4:57 PM | Master of Style| Link

Provost? What the Hell Does That Mean?

Two things.

One, I kept dreaming of the word 'provost'. I don't even really know what the word means. I looked it up. It involves being in charge of deans and shit.

Two, one very tiny portion of the other batshit crazy things i dreamt about last night was this - the doorbell rang and i answered it. There were 3 chinese people (1 girl, 2 guys). The guy was holding a pair of men's leather gloves which he offered to me as he asked me if i would take God into my heart.


Upon waking up, my first thought was "They're not vegan."

By min | March 2, 2012, 3:59 PM | My Dreams| Link

Beware the Cat Poo Parasite

Fnord12 was kind enough to send this to me. All i can say is "Thanks, Mom, for thinking pets are gross and dirty and never allowing us to have them."

Jaroslav Flegr is an evolutionary biologist at Charles University in Prague. The parasite mentioned in the following paragraph is Toxoplasma gondii and is excreted by cats in their poo.

Starting in the early 1990s, he began to suspect that a single-celled parasite in the protozoan family was subtly manipulating his personality, causing him to behave in strange, often self-destructive ways. And if it was messing with his mind, he reasoned, it was probably doing the same to others.
After an infected cat defecates, Flegr learned, the parasite is typically picked up from the soil by scavenging or grazing animals--notably rodents, pigs, and cattle--all of which then harbor it in their brain and other body tissues. Humans, on the other hand, are exposed not only by coming into contact with litter boxes, but also, he found, by drinking water contaminated with cat feces, eating unwashed vegetables, or, especially in Europe, by consuming raw or undercooked meat. Hence the French, according to Flegr, with their love of steak prepared saignant--literally, "bleeding" - can have infection rates as high as 55 percent. (Americans will be happy to hear that the parasite resides in far fewer of them, though a still substantial portion: 10 to 20 percent.) Once inside an animal or human host, the parasite then needs to get back into the cat, the only place where it can sexually reproduce--and this is when, Flegr believed, behavioral manipulation might come into play.

20% of Americans. That's 1 in 5 people. I know more than 5 people!

If you keep reading, his kooky idea doesn't sound as kooky as it does at first blush. But before we all get panicky about the parasitic cysts in our brains (and possibly our reproductive organs), i'll be kind and give you the "Don't Panic" info that's thrown in towards the end of the article.

Indoor cats pose no threat, he says, because they don't carry the parasite. As for outdoor cats, they shed the parasite for only three weeks of their life, typically when they're young and have just begun hunting. During that brief period, Flegr simply recommends taking care to keep kitchen counters and tables wiped clean...Much more important for preventing exposure, he says, is to scrub vegetables thoroughly and avoid drinking water that has not been properly purified, especially in the developing world, where infection rates can reach 95 percent in some places. Also, he advises eating meat on the well-done side--or, if that's not to your taste, freezing it before cooking, to kill the cysts.

Although, how do you know your indoor cat didn't get exposed to it prior to you getting it? And please, let's just be frank here. Poo is poo, whether or not it's infected with a parasite. So, you know, ew.

Ok, now on to the more horrific bits and pieces of parasites and how they make you do shit.

We start with the things it does in rats. The parasite can only reproduce in cats. They've found that rats infected with the parasite have had their brains rewired in such a way that they become less fearful of cats.

T. gondii, reports Sapolsky, can turn a rat's strong innate aversion to cats into an attraction, luring it into the jaws of its No. 1 predator. Even more amazing is how it does this: the organism rewires circuits in parts of the brain that deal with such primal emotions as fear, anxiety, and sexual arousal.
Webster, then a freshly minted Ph.D., was launching studies of Toxo-infected rodents, reasoning, just as Flegr did, that as hosts of the parasite, they would be likely targets for behavioral manipulation.

She quickly confirmed, as previous researchers had shown, that infected rats were more active and less cautious in areas where predators lurk. But then, in a simple, elegant experiment, she and her colleagues demonstrated that the parasite did something much more remarkable. They treated one corner of each rat's enclosure with the animal's own odor, a second with water, a third with cat urine, and the last corner with the urine of a rabbit, a creature that does not prey on rodents. "We thought the parasite might reduce the rats' aversion to cat odor," she told me. "Not only did it do that, but it actually increased their attraction. They spent more time in the cat-treated areas." She and other scientists repeated the experiment with the urine of dogs and minks, which also prey on rodents. The effect was so specific to cat urine, she says, that "we call it 'fatal feline attraction.'"

The cysts tend to be most abundant in 2 areas of the brain. The one that deals with pleasure and the one that deals with fears and anxiety. And what exactly do they do? They are able to cause your body to increase dopamnine production. Little bastards.

The neuroscientist and his colleagues found that T. gondii disconnects fear circuits in the brain, which might help to explain why infected rats lose their aversion to cat odor. Just as startling, reports Sapolsky, the parasite simultaneously is "able to hijack some of the circuitry related to sexual arousal" in the male rat--probably, he theorizes, by boosting dopamine levels in the reward-processing part of the brain. So when the animal catches a whiff of cat scent, the fear center fails to fully light up, as it would in a normal rat, and instead the area governing sexual pleasure begins to glow. "In other words," he says, "Toxo makes cat odor smell sexy to male rats."

The neurobiologist Ajai Vyas, after working with Sapolsky on this study as a postdoctoral student, decided to inspect infected rats' testicles for signs of cysts. Sure enough, he found them there--as well as in the animals' semen. And when the rat copulates, Vyas discovered, the protozoan moves into the female's womb, typically infecting 60 percent of her pups, before traveling on up to her own brain--creating still more vehicles for ferrying the parasite back into the belly of a cat.

That's just so wrong.

Ok. Enough about rats. What does it do to people? As mammals, we do have quite alot of genetic similarities, after all. Does it make you love cats more? That would explain those crazy cat people...

Compared with uninfected men, males who had the parasite were more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people's opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules. Infected women, on the other hand, presented in exactly the opposite way: they were more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected women.
The results meshed well with the questionnaire findings. Compared with uninfected people of the same sex, infected men were more likely to wear rumpled old clothes; infected women tended to be more meticulously attired, many showing up for the study in expensive, designer-brand clothing. Infected men tended to have fewer friends, while infected women tended to have more. And when it came to downing the mystery fluid, reports Flegr, "the infected males were much more hesitant than uninfected men. They wanted to know why they had to do it. Would it harm them?" In contrast, the infected women were the most trusting of all subjects. "They just did what they were told," he says.

This is about when i told fnord12 that the Republicans should start a campaign to get a cat to every woman in America.

Because it affects the pleasure and anxiety portions of your brain, scientists believe it can trigger schizophrenia in people who are genetically susceptible. I would imagine it would exacerbate any mental/mood disorder, since many of them (bipolar disorder, depression, OCD, etc.) are all related in one way or another to pleasure, fear, anxiety, paranoia, etc.

Twelve of 44 schizophrenia patients who underwent MRI scans, the team found, had reduced gray matter in the brain--and the decrease occurred almost exclusively in those who tested positive for T. gondii.
Antipsychotic medicine designed to quell schizophrenic delusions apparently blocks the action of dopamine, which had suggested to Webster that what it might really be doing is thwarting the parasite. Scientists had already shown that adding the medicine to a petri dish where T. gondii is happily dividing will stunt the organism's growth. So Webster decided to feed the antipsychotic drug to newly infected rats to see how they reacted. Lo and behold, they didn't develop fatal feline attraction.

One psychiatrist even links the rise in the prevalence of schizophrenia with the increased popularity of keeping cats as pets.

The psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey agrees--though he came to this viewpoint from a completely different angle than either Webster or Flegr. His opinion stems from decades of research into the root causes of schizophrenia. "Textbooks today still make silly statements that schizophrenia has always been around, it's about the same incidence all over the world, and it's existed since time immemorial," he says. "The epidemiology literature contradicts that completely." In fact, he says, schizophrenia did not rise in prevalence until the latter half of the 18th century, when for the first time people in Paris and London started keeping cats as pets. The so-called cat craze began among "poets and left-wing avant-garde Greenwich Village types," says Torrey, but the trend spread rapidly--and coinciding with that development, the incidence of schizophrenia soared.

Now, let's not get into a debate about causation vs correlation. Let's just agree that that's an interesting coincidence that bears more study.

According to Teodor Postolache, a psychiatrist and the director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a flurry of other studies, several conducted by his own team, offers further support of T. gondii's link to higher rates of suicidal behavior. These include investigations of general populations as well as groups made up of patients with bipolar disorder, severe depression, and schizophrenia, and in places as diverse as Turkey, Germany, and the Baltimore/Washington area. Exactly how the parasite may push vulnerable people over the edge is yet to be determined. Postolache theorizes that what disrupts mood and the ability to control violent impulses may not be the organism per se, but rather neurochemical changes associated with the body's immune response to it.

The article mentions other horrible things that affect your brain and behavior and mentions parasites are everywhere even if we aren't aware of them. So we're basically fucked. Just roll with it.

Hey, but it's not all bad. Gentleman, if you've been having trouble attracting members of the fairer sex, have i got the answer for you!

Flegr's published some data, he tells me, that suggest infected males might have elevated testosterone levels. Possibly for that reason, women shown photos of these men rate them as more masculine than pictures of uninfected men.
The researchers also discovered that infected male rats suddenly become much more attractive to females. "It's a very strong effect," says Vyas. "Seventy-five percent of the females would rather spend time with the infected male."

Huh, huh? Yeah, that's what i thought.

By min | March 2, 2012, 3:58 PM | Science| Link

I'm on the Peak Oil beat again

Kevin Drum has a Q&A on rising gas prices, and then follows it up with a chart from a Washington Post poll asking people who they blame for rising oil prices.

First, from the Q&A:

In the long run, the answer is just supply and demand. Oil production has plateaued over the past few years because everyone in the world is pumping full out, and there's very little spare production capacity left. Meanwhile, because the global economy is recovering, demand has increased. Americans may be using less oil these days, but that doesn't make up for rising consumption in Asia, particularly China and India. So the basic reason for climbing oil prices is Econ 101: When global supply is stagnant and global demand goes up, prices increase.
New shale oil finds in North Dakota might increase global supplies a bit, but probably not enough to make up for increasing demand from China and other emerging economies. Basically, prices are going to stay high for the foreseeable future; even small supply disruptions are likely to cause big price gyrations; and big supply disruptions are likely to cause full-blown recessions. Like it or not, this is our future. I recommend you buy a motorcycle.

Then from the analysis of the poll:

On the bright side, only 1% of Americans blame environmental restrictions on domestic drilling, despite a full-bore Republican campaign to convince them otherwise, so that's nice. On the other hand, I'd sure like to see a lot more people blaming supply and demand. Maybe 10% isn't bad, all things considered, but I was ve-r-r-r-r-y generous about what I put in that bucket. The vast majority of Americans still have no clue what's driving all this.

I blog a lot about this, but other than read and watch a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, i don't really do anything about it. Who wants to go in with us on a solar-powered survivalist bunker near a fresh water source?

By fnord12 | March 2, 2012, 3:37 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

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