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October 28, 2013

I Know I Said the Killing Needed to Stop

And i only just got rid of my mutant jade-plant-turned-vine and mostly dead bamboo, but can i have this?

I mean, it's a closed system, so it can totally survive on its own. It doesn't really need me to do stuff like water it daily and crap. And it would be a GREAT experiment in Darwinism. And survival in hostile environments...

By min | October 28, 2013, 1:47 PM | Science| Link

October 27, 2013

Can we be mad about it now?

As a good party loyalist i know my official response to the latest NSA revelations that we've been spying on friendly foreign leaders' phones is that "everybody does it" and all the outrage is just phoney political posturing. But now that we know it's been happening since the Bush days i believe that my marching orders are changed and now i'm allowed to be outraged about it and can blame the media for falsely reporting that it was Obama's fault, right?

By fnord12 | October 27, 2013, 10:56 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

October 24, 2013

Only 100%?

Didn't you do the extra credit?

Apparently, i'm using the Chinese Parent Calorie/Nutrition tracker.

It's what i deserve.

By min | October 24, 2013, 10:47 PM | My stupid life| Link

I Really Hope They Mean the Instrument

My daily Freecycle email update:

TAKEN: 2 organs

Course, wnkr tells me "Anything goes on freecycle".

By min | October 24, 2013, 12:17 PM | My stupid life| Link

October 23, 2013

Neoliberal vs. New Deal health care

I wanted to go a little further with the post below and talk about how real lefty liberals like me are having our own "i told you so" moment since the ACA is (or seems to be) collapsing under its own Rube Goldburg-esque weight, while we prefer a simpler "Medicare For All" solution. But i didn't want to distract from my anger at Paul Ryan, so i left that part out. But luckily that case is made here so i can just link blog it (found via Atrios).

To be clear, i'd still rather see the ACA work than have it fail so that sometime maybe in the future we could have Single Payer.

By fnord12 | October 23, 2013, 2:48 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

We are mad you didn't implement the thing we didn't want

Regarding the problems the ACA web portal is experiencing, it's totally understandable if not exactly fair to say "We told you so. Government programs never work." or whatever. But calls for the resignation of Kathleen Sebelius from people that have been doing everything they could to cause the program to fail is beyond your normal cynical opportunism. I don't know if Democrats called for, for example, the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld when the Iraq war was going badly. But the key thing to remember there is that most Democrats voted for the war, so the idea would be "Ok, we went along with this and now you're botching it so heads need to roll". So i could imagine these cries of outrage coming from moderate Republicans who voted for the ACA (hint: there weren't any) that are now upset that the thing they voted for isn't going well. But coming from Paul Ryan it should just be laughed at.

By fnord12 | October 23, 2013, 10:56 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

October 22, 2013

Science Catches Up To Comics

You know how Apocalypse gets in his little box to regenerate his body so he can live pretty much forever?

Science is figuring how to do that for reals.

Horvath next looked at pluripotent stem cells, adult cells that have been reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell-like state, enabling them to form any type of cell in the body and continue dividing indefinitely.

"My research shows that all stem cells are newborns," he said. "More importantly, the process of transforming a person's cells into pluripotent stem cells resets the cells' clock to zero."

In principle, the discovery proves that scientists can rewind the body's biological clock and restore it to zero.

Your cells can be reset to the beginning. That's immortality. That's...prolly actually going to end up more like Resident Evil than it is Marvel Universe immortality. Shit.

And by the by, i don't appreciate breast tissue being the bit that ages in dog years. Cause women needed more ammo on the negative self-image front. Thanks, Nature.

By min | October 22, 2013, 11:56 AM | Comics & Movies & Science| Link

October 21, 2013

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Marvel creators and editors everywhere have been unable to focus on their work. Fans unable to decide which books to drop or pick up. All await my now overdue judgement on the books below. Wait no longer! Except for the books that i didn't get to yet. You'll have to wait longer for those.

Daredevil #31 - In addition to writing really great Daredevil stories, it seems like Mark Waid is mining Daredevil's back issues in a way i really like. Last issue referenced the alien story from Daredevil #28. This issue used Jester in a very specific way, recalling his broadcast manipulations from Daredevil #135-137. And it's probably been going on longer than that; Daredevil is a series where i still have some gaps in my collection. But i recently realized that Waid's separation of duties between Foggy and Matt at the law office, which i wondered about in my review of Waid's issue #12, comes from Daredevil #226. The point is, we're getting great stories, nicely written, entertaining, well paced (not drawn out and decompressed over 6 issue arcs) and modern feeling, and in addition to that there's great utilization of and respect for past stories. I want to ask why all comics can't be like this (it's not just because Waid and Samnee are a great creative team) but instead i'll just focus on enjoying this book.

Secret Avengers #9 - I've been iffy about this series but i liked this issue, and i've realized it's because with these issues we're challenging the premise. I really hated the set-up, the idea that Black Widow and the others would submit to this mind-wiping scheme, and with this issue the series is shifting into Daisy Johnson fighting against that scheme herself. I'll have to re-read the series to date but i still think i've got a problem with how blase that concept was accepted by the other characters; if we had a sense all along that there was something wrong with it, i might have been more on board from the start. Still, here's hoping things are turning around. No real action this issue so Butch Guice's style wasn't a hindrance, either.

Captain Marvel #16 - On the one hand i feel kind of left out by not reading Infinity, although i'm pretty confident i don't like Hickman and i'm better off not reading it. This issue gives me enough of a glimpse of what's going on, and to DeConnick and Van Meter's credit, the story feels "important"; it doesn't feel like one of eight million tie-ins even though that's really what it is. There are a lot of characters to process, many of whom are new to me or new versions, but again i don't feel too lost. Shang-Chi's costume is pretty bad, but i guess that's neither here nor there.

Uncanny X-Force #11 - I don't know, i was pretty intrigued when the Demon Bear first reared its head in this series, but i don't know if this Revenant idea really contributes anything. I'm not yet seeing how it adds anything to the New Mutants story. Some of the insights of the dopplegangers were kind of cool, but i don't think Sam Humphries gets Puck at all, so his doppleganger was equally disappointing even if he was a funny Bro Dude in his own right. There does seem to be some cohesion of the plotline occurring finally, so i guess we'll stick with it for a while longer.

Iron Man #16 - The ending still leaves me with hope that the retcon about Stark's parents and birth is not real. Beyond that, it's a nice Gillen-written story with Pagulayan still on art, so i'll take it.

Wolverine #9 - A decent use of Batroc that made him competent and dangerous while still reveling in his silliness. I liked this issue and am looking forward to an Alan Davis-drawn Wolverine/Sabertooth confrontation.

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #3 - This slipped past my gatekeeper; it's an Infinity tie-in not by the regular creative team, so we should have skipped it. And it's really bad. One thing i say a lot, and various people get mad at me about it, partially because i have trouble articulating it, is that modern comics are a lot better written and are more... sophisticated... than comics from past eras. The plots are more sensical, there's more time devoted to characterization and people reacting to things and having good conversations with each other, and the scripts are more natural (i'm not focusing on the art for now; i did like Del Mundo's impressionistic stylized art for what it's worth). The tradeoff is that the pacing can get glacial and the writers often choose to discard whatever they don't like or haven't researched from past issues (except, as noted above, for Mark Waid and some others). This comic, however, the dialogue was just atrociously wooden and bad. I had been away from my current comics for a while, and when i read this i had forgotten about the whole "Doc Ock in Spidey's body" thing. So when i read the first page, with Spider-Man telling Luke Cage "It's about time you had a career", i was like, der! "Hero for hire?" He's pretty much the only super-hero who's always had a career. But then i remembered he was really Doc Ock; maybe Octavius doesn't know that about Cage? But if it's Ock, why is he being written as his old quippy self? Even Monica Rambeau (whose name is "Spectrum" now, i guess?) complains about his snark. I haven't been following the main book - maybe he's becoming more Peter Parker-ish - but so far in this book and its predecessor, Spider-Man was much more Doc Ockish, and i really loved the tone that Christopher Yost set on this title, and it's all missing here. Top that off with a really generic new character and a story that only gives lip service to being part of the Infinity crossover and this just wasn't a fun issue. I should note that the only thing i've previously read by Robert Rodi was Identity Disc, and that was a fun little story, so i am extra disappointed about this.

Young Avengers #10 - This, on the other hand, was amazingly awesomely written. Some really nice twists, great dialogue, lots of cool weirdness. And McKelvie continues to innovate artwise in each issue. Really loving this book.

FF #12 - Someone finally acknowledged the Green/Purple connection. With this issue, Matt Fraction is transitioning out and Lee Allred is scripting, but i didn't detect much of a change. Still a weird, quirky book, which i am reveling in.

Indestructible Hulk #13 - This continues to be great but not as great as Waid's Daredevil, for whatever reason. Still great. I think maybe the problem here is the time-travel plot and the fact that after the continuity-destroying threat we were told about a couple of issues back, we're down to a standard time-travel romp. Enjoyed the little Maestro cameo, and the twist ending (with there now being two Banner minds on this journey).

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #1-4 - I originally passed on this for two reasons: 1) I hate that every thing that happens now (Superior Spider-Man, in this case) has to have eighteen spin-off books so i wanted to vote with my dollars and skip this and 2) It's written by Nick Spencer, who i haven't been loving on Secret Avengers. But i kept hearing good things about this series, that it was a quirky character driven book on the edges of the Marvel universe of interest to people that like the less core books like Avengers and are instead reading stuff like Young Avengers and FF. And that sounds like me! Luckily we were able to get all of the issues out so far; otherwise i would have skipped it. But this is a good book. Ocean's Eleven-ish, or, come to think of it, like Identity Disc. But definitely a fun heist-ish villain book. And pretty good at sticking to past continuity, so here's another example of comics as i like them. Wanyas was asking me if Shocker really is a schlubby loser as portrayed here, and i just so happened to read Web of Spider-Man #10 (timeline review coming soon!) right before i read this series, which worked out perfectly because in that issue he really is set up as a schlubby loser with pretensions of grandeur that are shattered by the end of the issue. And the main character here is Boomerang, and the story is building fairly well off of what was done with him in Thunderbolts recently. Which, again, i appreciate. Compare to, for example, Punisher in the (other) Thunderbolts series which just completely ignored his recent battle with the Avengers in his own series. As is always the case, it probably helps that i got to read four issues straight through instead of one a month, but i do think this is going to continue to be a good read.

By fnord12 | October 21, 2013, 9:53 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link


A mumpsimus is an action by a person, or the person themselves, who adheres to a routine, idea, custom, set of beliefs, or a certain use of language that has been shown to be unreasonable or incorrect.... The term originates from a story about a priest who misread sumpsimus as mumpsimus. Informed of his mistake, he replied he had said mumpsimus for a number of years and was not about to change

By fnord12 | October 21, 2013, 7:50 PM | Good Words| Link

Sockpuppets are real

Fox surely isn't the only one.

By fnord12 | October 21, 2013, 12:33 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Tell Me Again How Misogyny Is Dead


Campaign creator Christopher Hunt, head of art for Ogilvy & Mather Dubai, offers this summary: "This campaign uses the world's most popular search engine (Google) to show how gender inequality is a worldwide problem. The adverts show the results of genuine searches, highlighting popular opinions across the world wide web." Each ad's fine print says "actual Google search on 09/03/13." While Google users in different countries are likely to get different results, a quick test shows that several of these suggested terms definitely come up in U.S. searches.

I did my own auto-complete on Google with these same beginning phrases and got similar results, so it definitely isn't specific to Dubai. Sad. Infuriating.

By min | October 21, 2013, 12:26 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

The CIA's Fake Vaccination Campaign

Another article i'm late on thanks to it being on queue in the loo. I'd heard about this but hadn't really read about it. It's pretty outrageous.

By fnord12 | October 21, 2013, 11:26 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Nanotech donuts

Speaking of being paranoid, i recently read this article in an older issue of Scientific American (bathroom reading, hence out of date). This original post doesn't seem to say much and there doesn't seem to be much more out there about it, so i don't know what to make of it, if anything. I don't even eat donuts. But probably it won't turn you into a Phalanx drone or allow terrorist ninjas to disable your pacemaker.

By fnord12 | October 21, 2013, 11:20 AM | Science| Link


This just sounds like someone completely out of touch with reality to me:

Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said the implanted defibrillator that helped keep him alive in 2007 had its wireless feature disabled because he feared terrorists could use it to kill him.

"It seemed to me to be a bad idea for the vice president to have a device that maybe somebody on a rope line or in the next hotel room or downstairs might be able to get into, hack into," Cheney said on CBS's "60 Minutes" program airing today. "I worried that someone could kill you."

I mean, there's no doubt that the World Trade Center attacks happened, but the idea that there was some kind of terrorist ninja on a rope line waiting to hack into Cheney's heart, it seems to go beyond what anyone thought Al Qaeda was actually capable of. And this was in 2007, not in the immediate scary aftermath of September 2001.

By fnord12 | October 21, 2013, 11:15 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

October 18, 2013

Also Obamacare's fault: zombies and rat-eating frogs

Not that it's a surprise, but it's really outrageous to see the extent at which Sean Hannity and even the "ordinary citizen" guests on his show will go to in order to misinform about the ACA. I don't know how generous to be about the guests, whether they were lying or just clueless and riled up by hucksters like Hannity.

By fnord12 | October 18, 2013, 3:08 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

The horror of nature

First, i was doing some "research" on frog/rat relations for a comic review i'm working on, and i came across this.

Second, here's a Boing Boing article describing how in real life our wildlife would make short work of zombies, complete with multiple videos of animals being disgusting and/or ferocious.

Just thought i would share!

By fnord12 | October 18, 2013, 12:06 PM | Science & Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link


Yes, scientists have been breeding jellyfish in space.

By fnord12 | October 18, 2013, 10:49 AM | Godzilla & Science | Comments (1) | Link

October 17, 2013

It's My Name. It's Always Been My Name. So Back Off!

This made me all "RAWRRRR!" even though i don't personally have this issue.

While more than 25% of women surveyed in a UK poll said they'd like to keep (or at least hyphenate) their maiden names, 63.3% of male Men's Health readers said they'd be pissed off if their wives decided not to take their names. And a staggering 96.3% of respondents said they wouldn't take their wife's name if she asked them to. The individual responses are astonishing:
"I'd like her to want to be a part of my family and be proud of our name." --Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll

"One family, one name. If she didn't take my name, I'd seriously question her faith in us lasting as a couple. And I don't want hyphenated kids." --Brandon Robert Joseph Peyton, via Facebook

"I believe the purpose of marriage is raising children, and children take their father's name (as a way of identifying paternity). Mothers always have a special bond, carrying their young. Fathers don't, so [passing on our name] is our compensation." --Matthew Bratcher, via Facebook

See? It's just about family. It's just about togetherness. It can't be sexist, it's tradition! And lighten up--traditions are just rituals through which we fetishize and deify the past, confining our modern social mores to shapes that our great great grandparents would be comfortable with if they happened to time travel here for a drop-in status quo inspection. NBD. THAT'S ALL. How could anyone complain about a tradition?


If you think I'm overreacting and exaggerating about the symbolic power of naming, then perhaps you'll listen to a more trustworthy source: the men of Men's Health. They're quite candidly fixated on it. Their clarity is indisputable.

My name is part of who I am." --Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll

"Call it pride or ego, whatever. It's not happening." --Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll

"It sounds like she's trying to hang onto her "single person" identity and not identify with the fact that she's married now." --Anonymous respondent, via a SurveyMonkey poll

Translation: My name is part of who I am. To change it would be unthinkable. It would be like giving up my identity. My identity is too important to give up. It would be a sort of death. So here, women, YOU DO IT. His identity supersedes yours. And any desire to maintain your "'single person' identity"--your you-ness--is an insulting affront to the institution of marriage itself.

I hate when someone decides to change their name "cause that's what you do" rather than "i really wanted to take my husband's name" or "i like his name better" or really, any reason other than "shrug". But i've tried to behave myself and keep my unwanted opinions to myself on this issue. Except now i'm all riled up so people should stay away for a couple of weeks. Let me settle down.

Addendum: I quickly threw this post up and then thought of more things i wanted to say. I also added to the excerpt above.

THE WORST reason i've ever heard is "my husband would have been upset if i didn't change my name." THE. WORST. That there has to be some kind of red flag. That is a "Whoa! We need to discuss this." moment. You need to know why he'd be upset if you didn't give up the identity you've had all your life and see if it is miraculously not rooted in sexism. And if it is a subconscious, deep-seated, i-always-just-accepted-it-cause-that's-how-things-work kind of reason, is it something he'll acknowledge and try to expunge from his psyche? If the answer is "no", well...i guess that's a personal choice every woman has to make for herself. Down the road, as the years progress, will it just be your name that you're asked to give up or are there other expected "norms" you'll have to conform to?

By min | October 17, 2013, 3:57 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

R2, Do You Remember???

I wonder if it works better than the voice-activated R2 robot they pawned on the unsuspecting fandom.

This first version of Talos was designed to carry out several simple functions. The original concept was to use the robot for telepresence operations, like guarding the lab at night. The robot can retrieve an object and bring it to a person; it can respond to several simple voice commands, like "follow me" or "shake hands"; it can be controlled by a remote application on a tablet computer; and it can dance, as an entertainment function.

I also hope you can program it to say "OK" in the Abe's Oddysee voice when you tell it to follow you.

By min | October 17, 2013, 2:52 PM | Science| Link

Robot Door Lock

I'm not entirely sure how i feel about this. What if there's a malfunction and now you're locked out of your house? Or it just keeps unlocking the door for anyone who comes by?

The Goji works three different ways: unlocking via Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) and a Goji smartphone app, unlocking via a programmable digital key fob, or unlocking via a physical key. The Smart Lock comes with four digital keys and two physical keys in the base $278 package.

The interesting part comes when you send someone a digital key that works via the app, but only at certain dates and times. You can program access for someone to only get into your home on, say, Tuesday afternoon.

Once the door unlocks, the built-in front LED screen greets you by name. Or, alternatively, it tells you that you can't enter. The front piece flips down to reveal the standard keyhole, in case you prefer more traditional entry -- or need a backup way to enter.

On the other hand, the digging for my keys thing has become a slight (slight) annoyance since we've gotten the Prius. Before, i always had the key out cause it was on the same keyring as my car keys which were in the ignition. Now, my car keys (and subsequently, all of my keys) are usually in some pocket in my bag, and ofc i never remember to start looking for the key until i'm standing in front of my door, in the dark, with about 5 things in my hands. This usually results in me dropping the most delicate and expensive item i'm holding. It's never my coat. It's always my Ipod or my phone. Always.

By min | October 17, 2013, 2:40 PM | Science| Link

And You Thought It Was Difficult Reading an Analog Timepiece

Why the hell would anyone think this was a product that needed making? Was it getting too easy to tell the time??

The Kisai Quasar display camouflages the time behind a pulsating geometric pattern. The time is actually always visible to the trained eye, but is likely to remain hidden to the uninitiated. The display can be set to three different modes: Number Mode, which shows the time clearly; Pattern Mode, which hides the time behind a static pattern; Animation Mode, which makes the pattern pulsate in a zooming effect.

Oh, yeah. A constantly shifting pattern that pulses is a feature i've always wanted in a watch. That won't totally drive me nuts.

By min | October 17, 2013, 2:19 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

Foreign exchange program

Do you think Britain will take Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, Ron Fournier, and Marueen Dowd in exchange for Peter Oborne? No? How about if we threaten to send those losers if they don't give us Oborne?

By fnord12 | October 17, 2013, 9:56 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

Rump Rules

Final vote on the clean CR and debt limit raise was 81-18 in the Senate and 285-144 in the House. So how did we come to nearly catastrophic failure with those levels of support? The answer is that our government is broken thanks to arcane rules that Congress has imposed on itself.

The Tea Party Republicans are already getting ready to do this all over again. Is anyone going to do anything about the Hastert Rule and the filibuster rule and everything else before we get to that point?

Some kudos to Obama and the Democrats for not caving for once. Granted they were only defending the status quo, not pushing forward a new agenda, but even with that i didn't have high hopes when this first started, and i'm glad to see they stuck to their guns.

By fnord12 | October 17, 2013, 9:15 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

October 16, 2013

Reading is Fundamental, Goddammit!

I've been reading a bunch of articles over the last few days telling me why reading is important.

It's the best method for de-stressing.

And it works better and faster than other methods to calm frazzled nerves such as listening to music, going for a walk or settling down with a cup of tea, research found.

Psychologists believe this is because the human mind has to concentrate on reading and the distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tensions in muscles and the heart.


Subjects only needed to read, silently, for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles, he found. In fact it got subjects to stress levels lower than before they started.

Listening to music reduced the levels by 61 per cent, have a cup of tea of coffee lowered them by 54 per cent and taking a walk by 42 per cent.

Playing video games brought them down by 21 per cent from their highest level but still left the volunteers with heart rates above their starting point.

Reading literary fiction (as opposed to popular fiction) builds empathy.

Popular fiction tends to portray situations that are otherworldly and follow a formula to take readers on a roller-coaster ride of emotions and exciting experiences. Although the settings and situations are grand, the characters are internally consistent and predictable, which tends to affirm the reader's expectations of others. It stands to reason that popular fiction does not expand the capacity to empathize.

Literary fiction, by contrast, focuses more on the psychology of characters and their relationships. "Often those characters' minds are depicted vaguely, without many details, and we're forced to fill in the gaps to understand their intentions and motivations," Kidd says. This genre prompts the reader to imagine the characters' introspective dialogues. This psychological awareness carries over into the real world, which is full of complicated individuals whose inner lives are usually difficult to fathom.

I think it's also important to see words being used in context in order to learn how to use them to effectively communicate ideas.

But...BUT i hate reading books that are depressing. And cereally, literary fiction is depressing. It's about the "psychology of characters and relationships". That's real life shit and real life is sad. Now, i love reading and seeing words of many syllables being used correctly. Those are prolly the only things that have gotten me through several works of literature.

So, the chances of getting people already on the fence about reading to trade in their Hunger Games for some Catch-22 prolly aren't very high. Your one chance might be to implant the idea into a young, unformed brain. If you know anyone with children, start seeding the idea that reading is a fantastic thing they should do lots of.

But lest you start pushing literature on all and sundry with no consideration for their sensibilities, i'll just add this quote from Neil Gaiman:

Also, do not do what this author did when his 11-year-old daughter was into RL Stine, which is to go and get a copy of Stephen King's Carrie, saying if you liked those you'll love this! Holly read nothing but safe stories of settlers on prairies for the rest of her teenage years, and still glares at me when Stephen King's name is mentioned.

You should see what happens whenever fnord12 brings up The World According to Garp. *grrr*

By min | October 16, 2013, 1:12 PM | Boooooks| Link


Andrew Sullivan had this as a "Mental Health Break" post, and i needed it so i watched all 3+ minutes.

I never really understood the appeal of tetherball, but i'm certainly not going to play against a bear.

By fnord12 | October 16, 2013, 10:24 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

October 15, 2013

Help us help ourselves

Lindsay Graham:

"We won't be the last political party to overplay our hand," he said. "It might happen one day on the Democratic side. And if it did, would Republicans, for the good of the country, kinda give a little? We really did go too far. We screwed up. But their response is making things worse, not better."


TPM asked Graham if he'd prefer default to a clean debt limit hike.

"I think both are terrible options and it'd be silly to pick between the two," he said. "Only a dysfunctional democracy would have those two choices -- which means it may happen."

Actually, voting for a clean debt limit hike is exactly what should be happening here. It's not a "terrible" option, it's the sane, middle of the road option. If the Democrats were asking for a Public Option, Union Check Card, and Carbon Regulation in return for not throwing the country into default, that would be the equivalent of what the Republicans are doing. A clean raising of the debt ceiling with no strings attached is exactly what we've been doing on regular basis for decades.

By fnord12 | October 15, 2013, 7:39 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

And More Monkey News

(yes, yes, i know. apes.)

In a study of young bonobos at an African sanctuary, scientists found that the socially and emotionally "competent" among the group were more likely to cuddle other apes to comfort them when they were in distress.

In turn those bonobos were more likely to recover quickly from an upsetting experience, such as a fight. This mirrors the way that children have been found to react, suggesting the primates manage their emotions in much the same way.

The researchers believe that, as in humans, the bond between mother and offspring may play a crucial role in developing the social competence in our close primate relatives.


I find it interesting that they put "competent" in quotes. Here's a little contrast in competence:

On my first day of pre-school, i cried like a little bitch cause as far as i was concerned, i had just been dumped in a room full of strangers. I refused to speak, and i refused to take my jacket off no matter how much the aides cajoled. One other pre-schooler came up and comforted me and tried to get me to see it wasn't so bad there. Prolly by the second week or so, i started to believe her.

Contrast this to my reaction to seeing a person in distress (especially someone i am friends with) as both a child and an adult: Abject horror. Then an awkward pat on the shoulder or a hug if they're really upset cause movies and tv have taught me that is the appropriate action when someone is crying. Inside i'm secretly hoping they'll hurry up and get over it or someone else will come along so i can get the hell out of there. I'm prolly also hoping they don't get any shnoz on me.


By min | October 15, 2013, 8:44 AM | Science| Link

Cyborg Monkeys

Do i really need to say more? That should be enough to make you click on the link.

Oh, fine.

Exciting news on various important science and tech beats today, as we learn that boffins have achieved breakthroughs in the allied fields of brain-chipped monkeys, robotics and cybernetics. To wit, they have been working out how to equip monkeys wielding robot arms with a sense of touch.

Rather than monkey, robot, or monkey-robot cyborg combination butler-Terminators, however, this research is aimed at making robot arms for human beings work better. This research is funded by our old friends at the US military bonkers-boffinry bureau DARPA, hoping to deliver better replacement limbs for American troops injured in the Wars on Stuff.

By min | October 15, 2013, 8:37 AM | Science| Link

October 14, 2013

You're looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now is happening now.

This came up on Friday night, and others didn't know what i was talking about, so here it is:

Images taken from Mike Sterling's latest End of Civilization post, where his comment is, "Oh what the c**k is this s**t.".

By fnord12 | October 14, 2013, 10:34 AM | Comics| Link

October 11, 2013

Why is Peter Parker lying?

He doesn't seem to have any reason not to tell the truth about Captain Crunch's disappearance. This reflexively lying, slacker-ish Peter Parker may count as an appearance of the newspaper version.

By fnord12 | October 11, 2013, 3:48 PM | Comics| Link

October 10, 2013

A solution is at hand

From TPM:

Republican New Jersey Senate candidate Steve Lonegan... issued a statement encouraging Republicans in Washington "not to capitulate to the president's unreasonable demands" until after Wednesday's special U.S. Senate election in New Jersey. According to Lonegan, he will win that race against Democratic Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker. That in turn will cause Obama to give in to the Republican demands to stop the health care law.

"When I win, Obama will fold," Lonegan said in the statement.

By fnord12 | October 10, 2013, 1:45 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Another arcane rule change

Following up on my post two below, another weird House rule change.

By fnord12 | October 10, 2013, 10:50 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

October 9, 2013


Just to be clear that i'm not exaggerating when i call the tea party wing of the Republican party quacks:

Michele Bachmann:

This happened, and as of today, the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists, now what this says to me, I'm a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God's end time history.


"Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand," Bachmann said. "When we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this: that these days would be as the days of Noah."

Ted Yoho:

"I think we need to have that moment where we realize [we're] going broke," Yoho said. If the debt ceiling isn't raised, that will sure as heck be a moment. "I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets," since they would be assured that the United States had moved decisively to curb its debt.

Paul Broun:

"America is going to be destroyed by Obamacare, so whatever deal is put together must at least reschedule the implementation of Obamacare," he says. "This law is going to destroy America and everything in America, and we need to stop it."

Marlin Stutzman:

"We're not going to be disrespected," said Congressman Stutzman during an interview with the Washington Examiner on Tuesday. "We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

By fnord12 | October 9, 2013, 1:50 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

It's already formally normalized

Kevin Drum tries to figure out how to communicate that this merged shutdown/debt ceiling crisis in not just politics as usual. And he's right that what's going on is nutty. But it's worth noting that what's happening here is nutty because of 40 nuts in the House. So the real question is how 40 Congresspeople can bring down the government and the economy. Because the difficulty in explaining why this is something extraordinary stems from the fact that we act like we're following a normal process. Obama won't "negotiate" with Congress. Never mind that it's really just some random quacks in the House. There is a majority in the House that would vote for a clean continuing resolution and a debt ceiling increase. Also in the Senate. But the optics on this works in the favor of those quacks. "Obama won't negotiate." And the press buys it.

So how did these random quacks wind up getting so much power? The answer is due to a corruption in the way Congress works. The first relevant bit is the so-called Hastert Rule, which isn't a real thing, but it's a bureaucratic piece of nonsense that says that a majority of the majority party has to vote to bring a bill to vote. It's similar to the equally not real 60 vote requirement to bring a bill to a vote in the Senate. Both of these are extra-constitutional and could be easily discarded. But we've come to talk about them like they are real things that have always existed. And so it's normal that a fringe minority can prevent a vote from happening. Every "objective" article talks about a 60 vote requirement in the Senate and a "majority of the majority" vote in the House as if they were in the Constitution.

The second relevant bit is this odd de-coupling of funding from the laws that require money. You vote for a bill, it gets approved, and then you have this separate process to allow us to pay for the things in the bill. If that sounds crazy, it's because it is. And they found a solution to this problem back in 1979 but Newt Gingrich and the Republicans undid it in 1995 ("Gingrich abolished the Gephardt Rule, and within the year the government had shut down."). And since then it's just been another thing that we've come to accept even though it's completely insane.

My point here is we need to be against this stuff before it starts causing these major problems. We should continue to be fighting for filibuster reform in the Senate even though it's not immediately relevant since Republicans took back the House. We should be looking hard at gerrymandering and voter rights push-back (the latest is this crazy two-tiered scheme in Kansas and Arizona, where if you don't have the right papers you can vote in some elections but not others), we should have been challenging the Hastert rule years ago, etc.. And by "we" i really mean the Democratic leaders and strategists, who've meekly accepted all this stuff, passed on multiple occasions to deal with the filibuster, etc.. Because when your president has to go on television to try to explain why it's ok for him to not negotiate, it's already too late.

By fnord12 | October 9, 2013, 12:56 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Ummm... yeah! Stay away!

New York and New Jersey are among the least free states, with no successful business. So there's no point in you moving here. Go ahead and move to Utah or whatever.

By fnord12 | October 9, 2013, 12:49 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

October 4, 2013

Marvel Sales


By fnord12 | October 4, 2013, 5:23 PM | Comics| Link

October 3, 2013

Final Horde for now

Hellboy and Reaper Bones miniatures

This is the last set of miniatures i'm painting as i pivot back into my Marvel timeline.

If some of those look familiar to you, it's because you're a Hellboy fan. With the exception of the mummy and the dragon man, all of those miniatures are from a Hellboy Villains box set that i've been holding onto for a while. They will work well as generic D&D creatures/characters too. These were metal minis and a pleasure to paint after fighting with the Bones.

It seems like i've painted a lot this past month (the new ones are standing on top of my regular collection)...

Finished miniatures

...until you consider how many are still in the box.

Unfinished Reaper Bones

We may still get in a painting party which will put another dent in the remaining pile, but there's still a long way to go.

By fnord12 | October 3, 2013, 4:11 PM | D&D| Link

"and a new bill of Elizabeth Warren's choosing"

Love it.

By fnord12 | October 3, 2013, 4:06 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

In their eyes.

On Monday i linked to an article pretending to look at the US in the context of the government shutdown as if it were a foreign country. Now we have some actual reports.

By fnord12 | October 3, 2013, 11:28 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

October 1, 2013

Whoop Whoop

Remember when Robn got the whooping cough and we mocked her for getting a turn of the century disease felt really bad for her? Apparently, getting vaccinated for something doesn't actually make you immune forever. Why don't they tell us this? Why don't they say "make sure you go back to your doctor to get a booster when you're 30/40/50"?? Prolly cause doctors are assholes.


The problem is the pertussis vaccine itself. In 1992, U.S. doctors began switching to a new formulation with fewer side effects. But the CDC, which monitors infectious disease outbreaks, is learning the hard way that it just doesn't work very well. "It wanes, and it wanes more quickly than we expected," says CDC epidemiologist Stacey Martin. Scientists are trying hard to find out why.

In the meantime, more than 228 million Americans--some kids and teens, as well as most adults--think that they are protected from whooping cough, but they are not.

Pertussis is caused by bordetella pertussis, a bacterium that has been around for at least 400 years. The microbes attach to tiny, hairlike structures in the lungs and release toxins that cause a terrible and persistent cough. Every outburst projects live bacteria into the air, and anyone within three feet can breathe them in and become infected.


In November 2012, the CDC announced the results of its own analysis of the California outbreak. The agency found that the vaccine's effectiveness begins to drop after one year, and that five years after the final dose, it provides only 70 percent protection. An Australian study recently reported that kids who were given the acellular vaccine as infants were more than three times as likely to get pertussis between 2009 and 2011 than were those who received the whole-cell version.

The CDC began recommending a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) booster shot for most people over age 11, including adults up to age 64, in 2005. But as of 2010, only 8 percent of the adult population had actually received one. Moreover, an ongoing CDC investigation suggests that, like the childhood vaccine, the adult Tdap booster lasts only a few years at most.

Now i'm wondering if i need to get pertussed. I'm surrounded by college students all day. It's nearly as bad as daycare. *whoop whoop*

By min | October 1, 2013, 2:51 PM | Science| Link

Anarchy in the US

Slate looks at how the government shutdown would be reported if it were happening in another country.

By fnord12 | October 1, 2013, 2:31 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Reaper Bones review

Reaper is putting out another Kickstarter! That boggles my mind - has anyone really finished painting all the miniatures from the first batch already?!

Anyway, with that, i wanted to rush out my thoughts on the Bones that i've painted so far. You can see my work on them here, here, here, and here. Note that not all of the figures in those pictures are Bones; i've also had a backlog of other minis that i've been including with this past month's painting project.

I also ought to mention my bona fides. My skills, such as they are, are on display in the posts i've linked to. I've been painting since i was in fifth grade, but i learned to do it on my own, and i've seen much much better painting jobs online. It took me a long time to figure out dry brushing and i'm only recently getting into using a wash. The approach i learned was just very precisely painting each part with undiluted paint, and i'm really just now weaning myself away from that. I also take a quick and dirty assembly line approach; i use these in an active D&D session that i run, so the minis are for actual use and not necessarily for display. "Good enough" is what i'm going for.

I also confess that i never prime. I always felt guilty about that, like i was doing something wrong, but my miniatures always came out well enough that i didn't see a need to change that.

However, one of the huge selling points for the Bones was that they did not require priming. Hooray! Now i wouldn't be cheating anymore.

So with the first Bones kickstarter, where i'd be getting an overwhelming number of miniatures, my goal was to crank through them. No priming needed, let's just crank them out.

Unfortunately... not so easy.

The big problem is that the plastic the Bones are made of is hydrophobic, which means it repels water. And acrylic paint is made of water. So when you apply paint to the Bones, it just beads and pools and drips. Does that mean you have to prime? Well actually, you really can't: people are reporting that most primers stay sticky and do not dry.

So without internet, i'd be ready to just throw these things away. But thanks to the Reaper's forums, there is a solution. And it's to cover the entire miniature with an undiluted coat of paint. Basically base coating the entire figure.

So that's essentially the same thing as priming except with more expensive paint that is thicker and therefore covers up more of the miniature's detail. So i never used to prime, but now i'm sort of mega-priming.

So that's a huge detriment to just cranking these out. The paint that Reaper recommends to use with this (their own, ofc) is also slow drying compared to the Citadel paints that i'm used to. So you basically have to prime base coat your minis a day before you're ready to paint them. That's fine if you're planning ahead. But it makes grabbing someone out of the box and saying "Today i'm gonna paint him!" impossible. And it makes hosting a painting party more difficult as well (Ok, thanks for base coating all those miniatures for me! Everybody go home now!).

The other problem is the level of detail. Covering your minis with a thick glob of undiluted paint is generally considered a no-no. Most people prime with a thinner material. And as i mentioned, my bad habit is just to apply the detail paint directly to the minis. Compared to either approach, with this method, you are covering up more of the nuances of the miniature with paint.

On top of that, the miniatures have detail problems to begin with. Metal miniatures are obviously superior to plastic ones in terms of the detail that they can contain. If you look through even these recent pictures i've taken, in addition to the Bones i've painted some metal miniatures (the Robin Hood figures, the barbarian with the golden axe, and the lady on the horse) and some non-Bones plastic miniatures (the blue orc, the skeleton with the scythe, the old school looking troll, the gorilla). Most of the other plastic miniatures i've painted don't have much detail by design. They are simple. They have a few basic parts, you paint them, and you are done. Bones to their credit are more ambitious. They attempt to have as much detail as a metal miniature. Unfortunately, that detail doesn't always transfer very well. Especially when your paint is either beading or when you're painting over a thicker base coat. There are also a lot of cases where, say, a quiver meets the edge of a cloak and they just kind of blend into each other and it's up to you to decide where to paint a straight line. The worst example in every miniature is where the feet meets the base. They just kind of mush together.

There are also very ambitious miniatures like those piles of spiders in my most recent picture where a) it requires more drybushing and washing skills than i have to really pull off but also b) each individual spider is actually just a kind of blob when you look at it closely, so drawing out the spiders by touching them with a fine tipped detail brush is not rewarding.

And it's worth repeating that while i've been doing this a long while i don't consider myself an expert. I am sure that people with more skill than me are able to create great looking minis out of all of these, even the ones i've had trouble with. But the appeal here was getting a HUGE box of miniatures to paint through and if i want them all available for use in my D&D sessions during my lifetime i can't be devoting the necessary time and effort to each one, even if i had the right skills.

Another thing about the plastic minis is that they tend to get bent out of shape. Long spears, swords, sometimes entire bodies tend to get permanently stuck at 45 degree angles. Another trick from the forums is to put them in a pot of boiling water (something min isn't too happy about; we eat out of those pots!) and then reshape and quickly put into a bowl of icewater. That works, but a) not 100% - you can see a lot of the minis i've painted still have bent bits even after i've applied that trick and b) it's another time delay.

All that said, i want to be clear that the figures are really nice. Really cool designs. Even some of the ones that seem kind of generic at first often have some little detail that adds to them when you look in closer. Like that gladiator looking guy in the front of my second post. His axe has a face etched into it (which i painted in a dark red). It's very cool. And many of the figures are just really cool all around.

So i'm not regretting backing the first Kickstarter. Definitely got a lot of good minis out of it. But it's taking longer than i hoped to get through them and they aren't holding the detail as much as i'd like. So anyone considering buying these figures individually might first want to look and see if a metal sculpt is available or just look for a different metal figure. And there's no way i'd consider a second Kickstarter. I'm winding the painting down because i'm starting my Marvel timeline project back up. And i've still got a ton of unpainted Bones already.

By fnord12 | October 1, 2013, 1:44 PM | D&D| Link

More horde

Reaper Bones miniatures

By fnord12 | October 1, 2013, 11:57 AM | D&D| Link

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