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February 27, 2015

Biodegradable Burial Pods

You know the story of Baucis and Philemon? Zeus granted their wish that when they died, they would be transformed into a pair of intertwining trees? Now you, too, can have that.

The Capsula Mundi project by designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel has developed an organic, biodegradable burial capsule that will turn the deceased's body into nutrients for a tree that will grow out of their remains.

After being encapsulated in the fetal position, the deceased is buried and either a tree or tree seed is planted above their capsule. The project's site already has a number of trees to choose from.

It's no flaming Viking burial ship, but i guess it's not a bad idea. I mean, we really are just letting all those good nutrients go to waste with our cemeteries and mausoleums.

By min | February 27, 2015, 8:07 AM | Ummm... Other?| Link

How To Avoid Being Cannibalized By Your Mate

There are two ways that adult male Darwin's bark spiders can avoid being eaten after sex. First, they can mate only with young and inexperienced female spiders who are like really bad at the whole mating thing, or they can subdue the adult female spiders with a bit or [sic] oral pleasuring in order to continue living their lives relatively unharmed.
[emphasis mine]


I really have nothing more to add here.

By min | February 27, 2015, 8:02 AM | Science | Comments (2) | Link

February 25, 2015

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Ms. Marvel #12 - Fun. I thought the mini fight sequence was a little weak, but i loved the Brooklyn Viking Hipster stuff and the truth serum.

She-Hulk #12 - So the dramatic conclusion of this series is a retcon wiping out the entire history of a character i never heard of? Yay? This really has been a disappointing book, in part because it had a lot of promise. But a lot of the series was wasted - the really bad fill-in art, the weird Captain America trial, and, it turns out, the overarching Blue File plot. Charles Soule says in the end note that with these 12 issues we got "exactly the tale I wanted to tell", so that means it seems he never intended to resolve the mystery of Angie and her monkey. I'm also really unclear on when the flashback sequence was supposed to take place, with Dr. Druid hanging out with Shocker and Vibro. Very odd combination and at best another unexplained mystery. Captain Marvel looks to have her original hairstlye but i guess i can't go by that (and lord knows i shouldn't expect a footnote). Also, i've generally liked Javier Pulido's art but as with last issue's Titania/Volcana fight, the action here is another total fail. So a bust of an issue all around.

By fnord12 | February 25, 2015, 2:26 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

Rogue Owls

This could be the sequel to The Birds.

A Dutch town has advised residents to arm themselves with an umbrella when going out at night after a mysterious spate of bloody rogue owl attacks.

Over the last three weeks, the European eagle owl has silently swooped on dozens of people in Purmerend, in the north of the Netherlands, with many victims requiring hospital treatment.

The latest aerial assault on Tuesday evening saw two members of a local athletics club attacked, with one runner requiring stitches for six head wounds caused by the nocturnal bird of prey's talons.

The club has cancelled all training until further notice.

I wonder if any of the residents were wearing one of these hats,

Cause i could see why that might confuse an owl.

By min | February 25, 2015, 1:22 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

Crazy Shit People on Facebook Told Me Today

1. Two words. Eyelash perming. This is a thing that people (women) do. They make kits for it. It's crazy.

It's a perm. For your eyelashes! So that you don't have to spend all that time every morning curling them manually. The alternative would be to stop curling your lashes, but i guess that's just too absurd to even consider.

2. Tomato-dispensing robot for joggers.

First off, 18lbs is completely not what i would categorize as "wearable".

And if you've somehow tricked me into doing something as stupid as running, you'd better not be feeding me tomatoes. I want french fries or butterscotch krimpets coming out of that dispenser! Why the hell would i want my robot to dispense tomatoes?!

By min | February 25, 2015, 11:19 AM | Ummm... Other?| Link

February 24, 2015


Inside my head, i'm also running around the room, waving my arms.

Hello Kitty Guile

Hello Kitty E. Honda

I dunno what Utage Tsuchineko is. I just know cute.

Look at them! One of them is holding a wrapped candy!!!


By min | February 24, 2015, 10:20 AM | Cute Things | Comments (1) | Link

February 22, 2015

Spidey is no anti-vaxxer

This letter ran in pretty much every Dec 80 Marvel comic's lettercol.

By fnord12 | February 22, 2015, 2:25 PM | Comics| Link

Hembeck's Line Dancing Shogun Warriors

Lookit Baron Karza enlarging himself so he doesn't have to sit with the other Micronauts.

By fnord12 | February 22, 2015, 2:23 PM | Comics| Link

Is his name on a bubble gum card?

Pretty much the only question i ask myself when thinking about the Historical Significance Rating for the introduction of a new character.

Ok, i actually think about the number of appearances, the number of appearances outside of a single series, the number of appearances by creative teams besides the one that introduced him, and several other factors. But i did think of this comic, which i remember from a Peanuts book i read as a kid (although i think the version i remember only had the 3 critical middle panels), while doing some recent reviews.

By fnord12 | February 22, 2015, 2:18 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

February 21, 2015

Vegan Baklava

vegan baklava


  • 1 1/2 cups raw walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
  • 1 1-lb box phyllo sheets (you'll need 30 sheets)
  • 2/3 cup vegan honey (we like Suzanne's Specialties Just-Like-Honey)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lemon

A couple of things to note about this recipe:

  1. There's no rosewater, a common ingredient for baklava. I might like to wear rosewater, but i don't much like eating it. So, if you like the flavor, you'll have to ask the internets to help you with proportions on that.
  2. My baklava isn't very syrupy. I've had some where the syrup was practically dripping from the pastry. While the bottom layers will definitely be soaked through with syrup, there isn't so much that it will be swimming in it. I prefer this because with the more syrupy baklava, all i can taste is sugar. With this recipe, while it's still sweet, i can also distinctly taste the nuts and spices and buttery phyllo. If you like your baklava to be more syrupy, just make more syrup.

Make sure you've thawed out your phyllo sheets. You will either need to leave it in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for 2 hours. Keep the phyllo in the package while thawing else it will dry out.

The size of the baking dish you use depends on the size of your phyllo sheets. Ideally, you want the sheets to be able to lay flat, but you don't want a lot of extra space for the pastry to slide around in. The sheets i had claimed to be 14"x9". I had a 13"x9" pan and a 15"x10" pan (both Pyrex so i wouldn't have to worry about scratching the pan when i cut the baklava). For this first attempt, i used the larger baking dish because i didn't want the phyllo to fold up at the sides. I might try using the smaller dish next time because i had some trouble with nuts escaping from the sides with the larger one.

Once you've made the momentous decision of which baking dish to use, get out your food processor and start chopping up the nuts. In small batches, pulse the walnuts and pistachios separately in the food processor until they are finely chopped (think the size of the nut topping on ice cream). Be careful not to over process the nuts otherwise you will end up with nut flour. The small batches will help prevent this and will also hopefully result in more uniformly chopped nuts. Place the nuts into a medium-sized bowl.

Using the food processor again, process the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until well-combined. I find keeping brown sugar to be troublesome, so i just use regular sugar and add a small amount of molasses until it's the right color. Add the sugar mixture to the nuts and mix well. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350degF. Melt the butter.

Boxes of phyllo sheets usually come with two sleeves inside. Only open one and leave the other until needed because of the previously mentioned issue of drying out. Carefully unroll the sleeve. Phyllo sheets are fairly delicate and tend to tear at the slightest provocation. This isn't really the end of the world because honestly, once you start cutting into and eating a phyllo wrapped thing, bits of it start flaking off all over the place. Plus, there's usually several layers of phyllo, so who's going to notice if there's a tear here and there as long as all the inside bits are contained one way or another?

Using a pastry brush, coat the bottom of the dish. Carefully lay your first sheet of phyllo onto the bottom of the dish, trying your best to get it flat. Pretty much, once the phyllo touches the butter on the pan, it'll stick like a son of a bitch and trying to peel it off could result in a tear. Although, as i said before, this isn't the end of the world. It just feels frustrating.

Keep layering phyllo sheets, buttering every other sheet, until you've used 10 sheets. Every recipe using phyllo that i've ever seen tells you to butter every sheet. I only butter every other sheet because they're so thin and absorbent that i find doing every other sheet is more than plenty. You do what you want, but just know i'm finishing my layering in half the time which means i'm eating baklava that much sooner.

Regardless of which layers you choose to butter, the top of the 10th sheet should be buttered. Cover the phyllo with 1/3 of your nut and sugar mixture. Lay a sheet of phyllo over this and begin your buttering and layering until you've used 5 sheets. Make sure the top of this last sheet is buttered and cover with another 1/3 of the nut and sugar mixture. Make another 5 sheet layer of phyllo and butter. Cover with the remaining 1/3 of the nuts and sugar. Butter and layer 10 phyllo sheets.

Now comes the tricky part of scoring the baklava. You've got a bunch of slippery layers sitting on top of one another, and you need to cut through it with a sharp knife without cutting yourself plus make it look pretty.

I haven't quite figured out how to cut them into lovely rombuses yet, but triangles i can do. Cut the pastry into 24 rectangles (6 columns and 4 rows) and then cut each of these in half diagonally.

Why can't you just cut the pastry after you bake it like most other baked goods? Because you're going to pour this lovely syrup over it right after you take it out of the oven and you want it to seep into the layers of every piece and not just get the edges and bottom wet.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the phyllo is a golden brown.

While that's happening, pour the honey and water into a small saucepan. Stir to combine. Using a sharp paring knife, cut strips of lemon zest from the lemon. Do your best to get as little of the pith (the white, spongy layer) as possible as the pith will make your syrup bitter. Place the strips of zest right into the honey mixture. Save your naked lemon for tea or water or whatever it is you like to use lemons for.

Cook on medium high heat, stirring often, until it boils. Lower the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Throw away the zest and let the syrup cool a bit.

When the baklava is done baking, ladle the syrup over the entire thing making sure to get plenty of syrup into the crevices. Let it cool then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Run a knife through the baklava to make sure the pieces are cut all the way through before serving. They might be a bit stuck to the dish because of the cooled sugar, but it shouldn't be too hard to coax them out.

By min | February 21, 2015, 4:37 PM | Vegan Vittles| Link

February 20, 2015

Breastmilk for Bodybuilding


According to multiple sources (including ABC and Medical Daily), chugging breast milk--which is both delightfully sweet and full of TBD microbes!--is becoming popular among fitness buffs who want to get their fats and complex carbohydrates from a natural source.
Oddity Central reports that the men who do buy the milk use it in conjunction with their protein shakes or make it into yogurt (and you thought vagina yogurt was weird). Some allegedly believe that the milk will not only help them grow bigger, faster, stronger but will also cure conditions such as psoriasis.


I don't understand the woman who has all this extra breastmilk to sell. I usually hear about women who are worried they aren't producing enough milk and have to resort to eating disgusting things like oatmeal in the hopes that it will encourage greater milk production. I, so far, haven't encountered anyone who has complained about producing too much, and yet, this woman selling her breastmilk managed to fill a deep freezer with all the extra. Holy cow (ha ha. puns are not funny.)!

By min | February 20, 2015, 3:29 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

The Flavor of Fat is "Delicious"

You know how sometimes you get that piece of fat on a steak or a porkchop? I loved that. Marrow's prolly pretty fatty. That's also delicious. And duck skin...Yeah, fat's a flavor and that flavor is "mmmmm..."

A paper published early this month by Australian researchers in a special edition of the journal Flavour highlights recent breakthroughs in our understanding of fat as a taste. Citing dozens of studies, it describes what is understood about the chemical and electrical pathway between fat in the food we eat and our brains.

Although taste has been studied and contemplated since the time of Aristotle, there's no textbook definition of what makes a taste. In science, "taste" is the perception of certain chemicals on the tongue, while "flavor" is the combined experience of taste and smell. Fat definitely induces responses based on its smell and texture, but over the past decade, evidence has been mounting that it may also have a taste component.


Mattes pointed me to one practical reason for understanding whether fat is a taste. "Fat replacers," products used to mimic fat in food to reduce calorie count, are designed based on texture. If there is a taste component, it likely isn't being captured, which could explain why products with fake fat don't taste as good. (No, fat-free half and half is not as good as the real thing.)

Join us next time for a discussion on how enjoyable it is to eat gristle. Gotta love that crunch.

By min | February 20, 2015, 1:16 PM | Science| Link

We got the polar worms

Min says they've come this far south because some mad wizard has summoned a Polar Vortex. All i know is it's cold out.

By fnord12 | February 20, 2015, 9:48 AM | D&D & My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link

Only bad guys hack into innocent third party's computer networks


AMERICAN AND BRITISH spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

By fnord12 | February 20, 2015, 8:23 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

February 19, 2015

NYPD: Protesters are Terrorists

And it's ok to mow them down.

Speaking at a breakfast hosted by New York City's Police Foundation Thursday, the commissioner unveiled a new unit-the Strategic Response Group or SRG-that will be made up of hundreds of officers tasked specifically with counterterrorism and "disorder" policing.

"They'll be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not," the commissioner said. "They'll be equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns that are unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances." Bratton said the SRG "is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris."

The NYPD spokesman then clarified, they won't actually be carrying machine guns into protests. They'll just "have access to the weapons 'either on them or in their vehicles'". So, they won't be "carrying" them, but they might be "on them"...as hats?

It is pretty insulting that citizens would demand police accountability. And tying up traffic is an unforgivable offense, so i can see why Commissioner Bratton would want to arm his men with machine guns. If we've learned anything from the Civil Rights movement, it's that peaceful protest and civil disobedience are stepping stones to extremism.

Disappointingly, De Blasio seems to be on board with this mischaracterization of protesters as terrorists, supporting the SRG initiative, though refraining from outright endorsing the idea that officers should carry machine guns.

I'm trying to figure out how a reasonable person could see and hear the public outcry against the use of excessive police force and lack of accountability and walk away from that thinking the solution is to arm the police with even bigger guns. That's what you do when you want to shut people up, not if you want to fix a problem. The police are supposed to be working for the citizenry. They shouldn't be a regime that seeks to terrorize the people into obedience. There's a slippery slope here, but it's not the protesters who are in danger of sliding.

By min | February 19, 2015, 2:06 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Animals and cameras

Bamboo-drunk gorillas may not like cameras, but crows do.

By fnord12 | February 19, 2015, 10:35 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

February 18, 2015

Lego video game hierarchy

I had no idea.

By fnord12 | February 18, 2015, 2:07 PM | Video Games | Comments (1) | Link

February 15, 2015

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Thanos vs. Hulk #3 - My local reading circle is not too enthused with this mini, but i'm enjoying it. It's very straightforward superhero stuff, but that's exactly what i've been missing. The Hulk vs. Blastaar, with Blastaar acting intelligent enough to not be overconfident while fighting the Hulk. And beyond that, an important development for Annihilus, even if it will probably really just be about restoring him to his classic status quo after the Annihilation Wave storyline. It's true that that Starlin's art isn't up to the cosmic awesomeness of his 70s work, and the Hulk's dialogue is a little weird (but who knows what's normal for the Hulk anymore), but i still think this is a fun fight story. I guess it's worth noting that the titular Thanos doesn't actually appear in this issue.

Ms. Marvel #11 - Don't get me wrong. I definitely enjoy this book. But i feel like it could be better. Artwise, i think Alphona's style is right for the book but he could sometimes do better with depicting Kamala's powers, like when she was stretching/squeezing inside the Inventor's big robot thing. Storywise i still think it gets a little to precious with the empowerment message; all the kids banging ineffectively against the robot while the Inventor got alarmed about the fact that they were working together didn't really work at all. And what really struck me was when i read the note in the lettercol saying that now that the big 11 issue (!) arc against the Inventor was over, they're going to start getting into things like showing Kamala dealing with her Inhuman roots and getting a love interest. Those things should have been happening all along; they shouldn't be put on hold during the first entire year of her book. This complaint is really part of the larger "decompression" problem that i have with modern comics, but if you think back over the course of the past 11 issues it really has been pretty content lite, with really no developing subplots alongside the main story. It's been good, and there's lots of fun moments; i loved in the beginning of this issue when Kamala hurled a bunch of insults at the Inventor and ended with "I think you're a bird", and that's the one that upset him. But it seems like there should be more depth to the book. What this book represents, with its non-white non-male lead character, is important in its own right, and it's been good regardless of that, but i feel like it could/should be great regardless of that.

By fnord12 | February 15, 2015, 12:30 PM | Comics| Link

February 13, 2015

Were they ever *in* step?

I don't know how this will end. It's a weird but potentially promising situation:

Republicans have hoped to seize on recent Democratic policy moves that riled tech companies, including a push for strict anti-piracy rules and the Obama administration's continued backing of National Security Agency surveillance of Internet users.

But the hot issue in Silicon Valley now is net neutrality. And on that issue, the GOP and the tech industry are mostly out of step.

Kevin Drum says that Republicans opposition to Net Neutrality is really just a knee-jerk anti-Obama reaction, since (as Drum sees it; i don't necessarily agree) it's really just a war between two rival industry groups. But i actually think their stance on Net Neutrality is more consistent with their usual anti-regulation philosophy than the other things listed. As much as i don't like the Democrats on copyright and on the surveillance state, Republicans are worse.

I'd be more than happy to be surprised, though.

By fnord12 | February 13, 2015, 12:02 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

February 11, 2015

Why So Threatened, Bro?

I wish they hadn't chosen a pic of Britney Spears and her ex(?)-husband for this article. Makes me feel like i'm reading celebrity gossip.

[emphasis mine]

In 2013, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business published a paper that looked at 4,000 U.S. married couples who responded to the National Survey of Families and Households. It found that when the wife was the higher earner, the chances that the couple would report being in a "happy" marriage fell by 6 percentage points. Couples in which the wife earned more were also 6 percentage points more likely to have discussed separating in the past year.

Trying to understand the causal link between female breadwinners and divorce, the authors looked at housework and child care. On average, women do more than men (that's well known), but the researchers found that the housework gap got even larger when the woman was the primary earner. They think this finding, which is based on eight years' worth data from the American Time Use Survey, "suggests that a 'threatening' wife takes on a greater share of housework so as to assuage the husband's unease with the situation." Ultimately though, that "second shift" becomes too tiring for the woman and places additional strain on the marriage.

There are other ways in which an income gap can lead to marital stress. Christin Munsch, then a doctoral candidate at Cornell University, analyzed data on 18- to 28-year-old couples (some were married and some were cohabiting) from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. She found that the more that a man is financially dependent on his female partner, the more likely he is to cheat on her. Men who are entirely dependent on their girlfriends or wives are five times more likely to cheat than men who earn the same amount as their partners. In contrast though, the more financially dependent a woman is on her male partner, the less likely she is to cheat. The trend was clear, despite that the overall numbers were low -- 3.8 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women admitted to cheating on their partners in a given year between 2002 and 2007.

Women reading this may wonder whether the only men suitable for marriage are those who earn a lot more. But the research from Cornell found that men who made significantly more than their female partners were also more likely to cheat.

I would have liked to see it broken down by couples who had kids and those who didn't and compare those happiness numbers. Are couples without children as likely to be unhappy when the wife is the higher earner than those with?

One hopes that at some point, some study will come up with a better causal analysis so that we can't comfortably fall back on "men suck". I'm more inclined to think "people suck at communicating expectations" is the cause of most relationship ills.

Sadly, according to these numbers, only 29% of women earn more than their husbands. I guess i should be happy that at least it's trending up. I don't think it can ever reach 50% because babies. Even with paternity leave and fathers being more than willing to put in their fair share of the work, unless parents choose to formula-feed, moms are kinda chained to that infant for the first couple of months, at a minimum, and that has to impact a woman's career, especially if there's more than one child. Unless society moves to a Walden Two Skinner-esque model, that is (why aren't you putting your baby in a Skinner crib??? why???).

By min | February 11, 2015, 1:09 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science| Link

So There Should Be an Equal Percentage of Vegan Options

The internets tell me that approximately 2.5% of the population in the U.S. are vegans (i googled it).

Five Thirty Eight tells me that approximately 2% of the population in the U.S. have a wheat allergy, celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

So, how come i'm more likely to find a "gluten-free" section on a menu than a vegan one? How come i can get gluten-free pizza at the place down the street, but no place within delivery range offers Daiya cheese?

Because there's 28% of you eating gluten-free for no reason and ruining everybody's good time, that's why. Jerks.

By min | February 11, 2015, 8:54 AM | Science| Link

February 10, 2015

Synthetic Antibodies

Advances continue to be made on treatments for cancer, HIV, and others (which is heartening because i'm always wondering what the hell they're doing with all that money people donate at fundraisers for things like cancer research). Link

In work recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society Spiegel and his team have successfully developed the first synthetic molecules that behave like antibodies. Like the real thing, these so-called "synthetic antibody mimics"--or "SyAMs"--bind to both diseased cells and disease-fighting immune cells. Specifically the compounds were found to zero in on and bind to a specific antigen on prostate cancer cells. The SyAMs also bind to and activate certain immune cells that then devour the malignancy.

Spiegel's SyAMs are produced in a way that is similar to conventional drugs, by using chemical reactions to piece together various structural features often not found in nature. As he explains, the therapeutic potential of synthetic antibodylike compounds is vast: "Because antibodies are proteins they're difficult and expensive to produce on a large scale, can cause unwanted immune reactions and tend to aggregate and denature with long-term storage." Spiegel speculates that SyAMs will be easier and cheaper to produce and less likely to incite aberrant immune activity. SyAMs are also one twentieth the size of antibodies--more akin to the size of most medications--and can therefore perhaps be administered orally. This could be a major boon to patients with cancers and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis who have to regularly get themselves to infusion centers for monoclonal antibody therapy.

By min | February 10, 2015, 10:23 AM | Science| Link

If they only understood. But they don't. No, they don't.

I've seen the ads for years and i've probably even seen other people blog the songs before, but i never actually attempted to listen to anything from Reflections of a Rock Superhero until now (or is it Rock Reflections of a Superhero?). Having done so, i can't say for sure whether my earlier inclination was the right one or not.

Here's an older write-up of the album by Chris Sims. And i just have to reproduce the back cover:

P.S. i refused to give this post a "Music" tag.

By fnord12 | February 10, 2015, 9:47 AM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link

February 8, 2015


By fnord12 | February 8, 2015, 4:10 PM | Star Wars | Comments (4) | Link

February 6, 2015

What you are doing to that unicorn is wrong, bro

We play 1st edition AD&D, but sometimes i go to 2nd edition for rule clarifications and such. But i'm not as familiar with the pictures in that book, and this picture struck me as particularly funny for some reason.

Hmmm, maybe a half-completed polymorph is how owlbears were created.

By fnord12 | February 6, 2015, 3:37 PM | D&D | Comments (1) | Link

My argument for the welfare state

Matthew Yglesisas reminds us that the unemployment numbers that we look at are seasonally adjusted, meaning, for example, in the run up to the holiday season the unemployment number doesn't suddenly shrink as people are hired for temp retail jobs, and vice versa in January. It's definitely the correct number to use for quarter by quarter comparisons. But, as Yglesias says, it obscures the fact that over 2 million people lose their jobs every January.

This brings me to an old point of mine, so old that it hasn't been relevant for as long as i've been writing on this blog. For the past decade or so, we went from recession to jobless recovery to the Great Recession or Little Depression or whatever they will call it. But even when the economy is doing well, the Fed likes to keep the unemployment rate around 4 or 5%. When the unemployment rate gets too low, the Fed raises interest rates which makes it more expensive for companies to invest, so they hire less. The fear is that if the unemployment rate gets too low, workers will be too in demand and wages will rise, causing inflation. Right now as we approach 5% unemployment, the Fed is getting pressure from conservatives to raise the interest rates. Liberal economists are arguing that the risk of inflation is so low (the Fed can't even hits its target of 2% inflation, and we actually risk going into deflation), and that the Little Depression was so hard on workers that we can afford to keep interest rates low and get the employment rate down even further. Workers need to see their incomes rise to make up for what was lost during the downturn, and there are a lot of discouraged workers sitting on the sideline not reflected in the official unemployment numbers. So i agree that it is too soon to raise interest rates.

But even liberal economists generally agree that in normal times the Fed needs to manage the unemployment rate and not let it get too low. The unemployment rate only reflects people that are looking for work. So that that means (as Michael says in the comments) with a workforce of of about 160,000 people, we make it impossible for some 6 to 8 million people to ever get work.

It sounds like a paranoid conspiracy: the Federal government deliberately keeps 6 million + people unemployed so that wages don't get too high. But it's true (although it's never said quite that way), and considering the consensus among economists, i guess it might really be necessary. You can definitely find less mainstream voices that reject the policy. But accepting that it's true, it's worth considering the scope. By way of comparison, there are a little over 8 million people in the most populous city in the country, New York City (all five boroughs), and almost 9 million people in my entire state of New Jersey (we're small, but we're the densest state in the nation. In more ways than one, ha ha). So 6-8 million people is A LOT of people. That is a lot of hardship for a lot of individuals and families.

And by standard Fed policy, we're stuck with that number. If those 8 million people work really hard and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, it just means that a different 8 million people will be unemployed. And that actually is what happens; there is a lot of churn with people drifting in and out of employment.

So that's always been my argument for a strong welfare state. If we're saying that some 8 million people need to be unemployed so that the rest of us don't suffer from inflation, we at least ought to take care of the people that are taking the hit. Talking about replacing welfare with job training or education credits or whatever misses the point; some 8 million people are going to be unemployed no matter what. So we need a permanent and generous program that helps those that are unemployed.

We did have something permanent (not necessarily generous) at one time, but it was replaced during the Bill Clinton administration with TANF, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (also called the Welfare to Work program). It lasts 60 months within a lifetime (and states can and do shorten that further) and has work requirements that are practically a Catch-22. It was a major change to the way welfare works in this country. Clinton signed it with the hope of "taking welfare off the table", i.e., trying to stop Republicans from demagoguing about welfare queens during elections. Obviously that hasn't worked at all. And while the program may have seemed to make sense during the boom times of the late 90s (when unemployment really did approach 4%), it was shown to be inefficient during our past decade; it was certainly successful in pushing people off of welfare, by definition, but it did nothing to reduce the poverty rate or actually help people. So (stop me if this sounds familiar) Democrats compromised their principles for political gain and have nothing to show for it. So we need to reverse direction and do what's right, not because of some bleeding heart desire to help the least fortunate (although there's nothing wrong with that) but because we are deliberately doing this to a segment of the population.

Anyway, that's my argument for the welfare state. I highly doubt we'll be hearing it from the wife of the guy that dismantled it.

By fnord12 | February 6, 2015, 9:12 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (5) | Link

February 5, 2015

Recap 64

Just How Much Underdark Is There?

By min | February 5, 2015, 6:01 PM | D&D| Link

Ok, he really was evil

It seems Marvel Dracula fought on the side of the South during the Civil War.

Good thing one of the Union soldiers was an Austrian ex-pat that knew how to deal with vampires.

This is why we should embrace the fact that we're a nation of immigrants.

Also in this issue - Aug 80's Tomb of Dracula Magazine #6 - there's this weird image that Min can't explain to me. I still think it's a skeleton dancing with a dog dressed up in armor.

By fnord12 | February 5, 2015, 11:52 AM | Comics| Link

February 4, 2015

Net Neutrality Win

Pretty big deal. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has changed positions and now supports regulating braodband the same way the FCC regulates telephone networks. That means banning "paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services". We can thank internet activism for this, but also the new and improved Barack Obama, who made a similar about-face after the 2014 elections. I have to eat crow because i thought Obama's new position was just posturing, but i'm happy to be wrong.

As Kevin Drum says at the first link, in absence of a new law this change in policy is only in effect as long as there's a friendly in the White House and the courts don't strike it down for some reason, but it's still good news.

By fnord12 | February 4, 2015, 1:41 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

LL Kool Thing

I guess i'm in a mood to look up background info on musical guest collaborations today. Sonic Youth's Kool Thing, which guest stars Chuck D (although it's not a particularly interesting use of him) came up on the iPod, so i looked that up. Found this on Wikipedia:

The song was inspired by an interview bassist/singer Kim Gordon conducted with LL Cool J for Spin in which the two artists clashed.[1] Although he is never mentioned by name, the song's lyrics contain several references to LL Cool J. Gordon's lyrics make reference to several of the rapper's works, including the single "I Can't Live Without My Radio" and the album Walking With a Panther. She also repeats the line "I don't think so", which appears in LL Cool J's "Going Back to Cali".

Google books has the Spin interview. And there's a write up here, which says, "At other points--like when the rapper asserted, "The guy has to have control over his woman"--you could tell Gordon would have loved to deck him with her notepad."

I didn't know that's what Kool Thing was about. I wonder if Chuck D was aware.

By fnord12 | February 4, 2015, 11:24 AM | Music| Link

Eddie Van Halen on Beating It

Ok, sorry for that title but my inner 12 year old got the best of me.

I had Michael Jackson's Beat It come up on my iPod this morning (not my usual thing, but i do have that and Billie Jean on there) and wondered if there was any story behind Eddie Van Halen's guitar solo. So i did a little googling and found this CNN interview from 2012 that i thought was interesting. It's the sort of thing that i fear will link rot away so i'm going to quote liberally.

Van Halen was a surprise guest on "Beat It," the album's third single. His blazing guitar solo lasted all of 20 seconds and took half an hour to record. He did it for free, as a favor to producer Quincy Jones, while the rest of his Van Halen bandmates were out of town.

"I said to myself, 'Who is going to know that I played on this kid's record, right? Nobody's going to find out.' Wrong!" he laughs. "Big-time wrong. It ended up being Record of the Year."


[Quincy Jones] said, "How would you like to come down and play on Michael Jackson's new record?" And I'm thinking to myself, "OK, 'ABC, 1, 2, 3' and me. How's that going to work?"


I listened to the song, and I immediately go, "Can I change some parts?" I turned to the engineer and I go, "OK, from the breakdown, chop in this part, go to this piece, pre-chorus, to the chorus, out." Took him maybe 10 minutes to put it together. And I proceeded to improvise two solos over it.

I was just finishing the second solo when Michael walked in. And you know artists are kind of crazy people. We're all a little bit strange. I didn't know how he would react to what I was doing. So I warned him before he listened. I said, "Look, I changed the middle section of your song."

Now in my mind, he's either going to have his bodyguards kick me out for butchering his song, or he's going to like it. And so he gave it a listen, and he turned to me and went, "Wow, thank you so much for having the passion to not just come in and blaze a solo, but to actually care about the song, and make it better."

He was this musical genius with this childlike innocence. He was such a professional, and such a sweetheart.


I'll never forget when Tower Records was still open over here in Sherman Oaks. I was buying something, and "Beat It" was playing over the store sound system. The solo comes on, and I hear these kids in front of me going, "Listen to this guy trying to sound like Eddie Van Halen." I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "That IS me!" That was hilarious.

By fnord12 | February 4, 2015, 7:46 AM | Music| Link

February 3, 2015


Here's Marvel's reaction to the DC Implosion wherein DC suddenly canceled more than two dozen comic series in 1978.

Way to rub it in, guys.

There wasn't actually a Marvel "explosion" at this time (as opposed to the official "DC Explosion" that subsequently resulted to the implosion). All of the titles listed were already ongoings, and in fact this ad runs in Tomb of Dracula #59 one month before that book is put on a bi-monthly status. Daredevil had also gone bi-monthly a little earlier than this. Ironically, Marvel's relatively new (or revived) series, X-Men, isn't even shown here.

By fnord12 | February 3, 2015, 12:03 PM | Comics| Link

ROM vs. Godzilla!

Saw this on Tom Brevoort's page today:

Pretty awesome. It was apparently originally in a Marvel 75th anniversary book. ROM is actually fighting NFL Superpro while Godzilla fights a Shogun Warrior (Raydeen?) and the Micronauts look on. I know there's only so much room on the cover, but i assume the Human Fly is lurking in the background somewhere too.

By fnord12 | February 3, 2015, 10:10 AM | Comics & Godzilla| Link

February 1, 2015

Negotiating options

Every health and economic policy wonk says that Obamacare is working well, and if it's provided subsidies or Medicaid to millions of Americans that didn't previously have healthcare, it's obviously a good thing. But at the same time it still feels like an unwieldy mechanism and the sudden panic regarding the compliance reporting during tax filing says to me that they still haven't really thought everything through. That's probably perfectly normal for a new major government program, but in a world where you're facing outright opposition from Congress, state governments, and the Supreme Court, it seems pretty dangerous. It's also worth noting that "everybody gets Medicare" might have caused different kinds of complications, but it would have avoided the surprise tax fees and would have rendered the state government obstruction and Supreme Court challenges moot.

At a minimum, i hope that if Democrats ever gain non-filibuster proof control of Congress again, they learn a lesson from this. It seems to me you ought to have two options in the form of two different bills. The bi-partisan consensus building Rube Goldberg version (which is what the current law was, regardless of how Republicans voted) that you will pass if the opposition will drop its filibuster and support the law, and the "extreme" but simple version that you'll pass via reconciliation if the opposition won't.

By fnord12 | February 1, 2015, 10:41 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

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