The Halls are Decked

Though Tom would have you believe otherwise, he really can be quite the festive fellow, as when he hung up our Christmas cards yestereve.



Nine hundred and fifty-two times, now, have we gone through this process together, Dear Reader.

Lately I have not had too much to say on the blog. Partially this is because things have been pretty busy, what with work and the approach of the holidays (and our long-awaited honeymoon in Cancun). Partially this is because I'm not sure what I want to write. I feel like I'd like to write more substantive things, but long disuse has blunted my written faculties--at least so far as non-technical communications are considered.

Perhaps I could write a bit more about my work, or about science that comes up in the news, or in my daily travels through the Internet-tubes. On the one hand, I realize some of you are curious about what I do, or what I'm doing. To this, I say: I assure you, some real work is required to make describing it anything other than a mind-numbing assault. Still, if the people want bread and circuses... On the other hand, I'm not sure if anyone cares about science.

What say you?


Stripper Names

It is commonly held that strippers tend to have strange names like Candy, or Peaches, or Cinnamon. To me, it seems like the theme there is "things you can eat," reinforcing the perception of exotic dancers as "meat," or some kind of consumable or comestible...

I wonder if the same theme were applied to male strippers, what names might result? Maybe... Basil, or Spud, or Frank?


Suggestions needed

To title my monthly, obligitory editorial. Any thoughts? And please, no alliteration, cliche phrases, or references to Star Trek. Actually, the latter might be OK. But nothing with my name in it like "Megan's Musings." (Dad.....)

Finally Finish My Robot... My Lego Robot.

At long last, I have it... the Lego Mindstorms kit. Growing up, you may recall, I had a great fondness for Legos. My dad's feet will likely provide eloquent testimony to that effect.

Now, I've got the ability to add life to my creations... and feet that will likely attest to the dangers of tiny, molded, ABS blocks.

I should add that it was a super-cool present from Susan, for my birthday. Also neat, my parents gave me this crazy book about the dust bowl (brought to you by Swiffer?), my parents-in-law gave me a gift card for Amazon (mmm... booooks (my impersonation of a book zombie))... there were other gifts, and thanks to all-- I'm too lucky!


Do Not Look Into Laser With Remaining Good Eye

So went a sign posted on someone's door at the U of O. I can't recall who, but he was obviously a laser jock of some kind. I was going to write "laser jockey," but that phrase seemed too silly. I imagined a small man, colorfully dressed, applying a crop to the side of a big ol' Spectra-Physics Argon ion laser.

I've gotten a laser beam or two in the eye, but never anything serious. I recently built a little experimental setup wherein I used a Helium-Neon laser (that's just a little tube of He and Ne gas with some cool excitation and mirrors around the tube) to line everything up. I noticed that my wedding ring is extremely, extremely, reflective. So much so that if I use any high power lasers, you bet I'll be covering that thing up for the duration of the work!



Help a brutha out

As you know, I sold my soul to get a paycheck from Blockbuster. I understand that Tom and Susan are Netflix subscribers. This makes us enemies. This can be prevented, however, by activiating a two-week free trail with Blockbuster Total Access, and entering my store code, 41114B, so our store can get a credit for it. You can cancel it after a week (you have to have it a least a day for the activation to process). Pleeease, our store sucks and we need more activations.


Edit That Paper!

Now, can it be obtained online?

CLARIFYING UPDATE: Meg is now the editor for the Rogue Community College paper (Redwood Campus)... it wasn't a command to undisclosed persons, or anything.


Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Go Back to the Outhouse

According to the Wikipedia, during the first four decades of the twentieth century, 90% of Black Widow (Latrodectus Whicheverus) bites reported in the United States were to male genitalia. Gah!

That's what happens when we lose our biblical roots and try man-on-spider sex. Were Rick Santorum still a senator, I'm certain he'd be glad to bloviate about how those Widow-bites were purely the consequencves of gay marriage.


I Prefer Pi

In the Bible, (1 Kings 7:23), we find that the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is 3. A traditional estimate (possibly, though probably not) due to Archimedes, gives Pi as 22/7. An old Chinese estimate gives Pi as 355⁄113. Just letting you know.


Breathe Deep and Slow. Don't Stop, or Your Lungs Will Either Collapse or Pop.

Sound a bit freaky? Well, we did it allll weekend, descending at one point to 100 feet beneath the ocean's surface. We dove at night, carrying souped-up flashlights into the deep with us... We dove with cameras to a shipwreck... and other groovy things. The upshot is that we're both now Advanced Open Water Divers. Tired, sore, and a wee bit rashy, A.O.W.D's.

We had a grand time, but were both so glad to sleep in our comfy bed- not to mention having a shower and fresh, clean, clothes.



I am plum tired. Blockbuster rocks, but sucks because people hate you. It's okay, I don't blame them. I'd hate me too if I was smothered with the same speel every time a CSR came to greet me. On the bright side, I got a scholarship through student government and got almost my whole year paid off!! Too bad Blockbuster has eaten all my brain cells.


What... the... hell?

Now, it is well known that Brookstone is the center of all evil. What is slightly less well known is that they also make a mean horsey-riding-exercise-chair, of which they are notably proud. We saw this monstrosity at the mall today while in search of a swimming cap for Susan. She tried it (and deemed its "gaits" highly unrealistic), I tried it, and a fine time was had by all.


Who doesn't love a singing bunny

Flash update!

So here is a quick update: -I am now employed by Blockbuster -I am really cool(in case you forgot) -I am on the staff of The Byline, RCC's newspaper -I the Publicity Director for ASRCC -I am currently driving a Volkswagon Fox, which is a real piecer That's all for now


Awww.... Creepy

This clothing line is at once highly disturbing and saccharine-sweet. Like kittens with blank zombie eyes. Speaking of zombies, have you heard of the Uncanny Valley?


I wonder...

Do you think Richard Branson will adopt me? Because I'm sure he would let his most favorite adopted daughter and son-in-law ride in his spaceship, and that would be awesome.



Hello you all guys folks... how do you like the new look?


The Other Other Cured White Meat

At Geekpress we find a link to a story about the coming robot wars:
When a reporter's hand was placed against the robot's taste sensor, it was identified as prosciutto. A cameraman was mistaken for bacon.
Yep. To the robots, we're a tender, salty treat. For our protection, I propose that we append to the Three Laws of Robotics an additional measure, making them, in all:
  1. A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
  4. All New!!--
  5. And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat.
Or we could just make sure they stick with prescription medications...



This has been occupying me today... I've not got all that much to say. Have been trying to force myself to blog, but can't seem to work up the momentum.



Slate's "Bushism of the Day" from Yesterday

"You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror."
—Interview with CBS News, Washington D.C., Sept. 6, 2006
Ya think?!


Ultimate Showdown

This is weird and stupid and hilarious. Watch it (flash animation, worth downloading flash, if you don't have it).

Soda 'splosion

So after seeing it on mythbusters, I had to try it. I dropped 3 mentos into a two liter of diet Pepsi. However, instead of the ten foot geiser that I was expecting, it was merely a syrupy overflow. I should have dropped like a million in, but I didn't have that many mentos.


MSHS - Home of the Fighting...Windows?

I'll be interested to see how this turns out. Apparently, Microsoft helped design a high school in Philadelphia. Seems like there are quite a few good ideas incorporated into the design, but I wonder how it will all work in practice. It'll be very cool if it succeeds.


A Nice Piece About Quantum Mechanics

This lays things out rather nicely.

Uh oh...

See link from last week.
Then see this.

At least it was just the primary. But still...I am ill at ease.


Kids' TV ain't what it used to be

Yet another ringing endorsement of Blue's Clues and its ilk. I'm pretty sure watching these shows must organically manufacture crack in the viewer's brain.



Poor Steve Irwin. He's gone to hunt the big crocodile in the sky.



I miss autumn...

My favorite season, back home--where there is one--falls (ahem) like a curtain. Cool, even chill evenings mark a welcome contrast to the sometimes hot days. There're foggy mornings, the occasional rain. Trees prepare to winter, shedding their leafy vulnerabilities. In many a place, the fallen leaves form a thick carpet that will last until spring, or until the alternating freezes and rains of winter dissolve them; oftentimes there are too many to manage with a rake.

I also miss the rituals that are associated with the fall. Going "back" to school. Football games on Friday nights, where your instrument is so cold that it burns your lips or fingers. Soccer practice in the pouring rain, winning or losing games--and waking up on the ride home with the foul taste of stale McDonald's and an hour of mouthbreathing pasted to your tongue... the condensation from 15 tired teens' breaths on the bus windows.

Strangely, given my prolonged stay in the halls of academe, I miss the rhythms of the school year. That I grew up responding to them, resonating to them, possibly explains how I can miss their absence from even so short a distance. There was always a certain promise for me in those places, even when I ached to be gone from them.

Today's the first of September, and the beginning of the long weekend that tradition marks as the last of the summer. I've very often let these things go unmarked since I grew up, to the extent that you might think I've forgotten, or was somehow unaware. You'd be wrong. I've known.



Fred Kaplan's latest is very good and, as always, pokes giant holes in the fever-swamp rhetoric that has taken hold in the White House.
In his speech this morning before the American Legion's national convention, President George W. Bush may have gone a bridge too far. It was the first of several speeches he plans to deliver in the coming days to rally support for the war in Iraq (and, not incidentally, for Republicans in November). But one passage in particular reveals that the campaign is getting desperate:

The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq.
Here's the question: Does anybody believe this? If you do, then you must ask the president why he hasn't reactivated the draft, printed war bonds, doubled the military budget, and strenuously rallied allies to the cause. Click Here!

If, as he said in this speech, the war in Iraq really is the front line in "the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century"; if our foes there are the "successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists"; if victory is "as important" as it was in Omaha Beach and Guadalcanal—then those are just some of the steps that a committed president would feel justified in demanding.

If, as he also said, terrorism takes hold in hotbeds of stagnation and despair, then you must also ask the president why he hasn't requested tens or hundreds of billions of dollars for aid and investment in the Middle East to promote hope and livelihoods.


When Bluejays Attack!

Today at lunch I was sitting in the courtyard of the Watson building with Kartik, Matt, Raviv, and Patrick (Patrick you may not recognize, as he is a SURF student with whom I've done some work this summer). We had all finished eating and were shooting the bull when a praying mantis leapt off the nearby windows and flew at Matt's and then Kartik's head!

After a few seconds of winged terror, it settled down on our table, leering mantis-ly at Raviv. The enormous eyes of the mantis were so easy to follow that their direction revealed that it's gaze followed Raviv intently... and it really is unclear why.

After a few dozen seconds of Raviv-tracking, the mantis grew tired of his Israeli-Amerian ways, and launched again into flight, laboriously crossing the courtyard.

Approximately one-half way across the courtyard, the mantis was mercilessly intercepted by a half-tamed bluejay that a janitor-lady feeds peanuts daily. Generally, this fat and sloppy bluejay is just plain screwed by nature, and relies exclusively on weird janitor-lady for its comparitive advantage.

Today, however, this jay was in harmony with its nature; the badly flying-mantis reached the halfway point through the courtyard and the jay intercepted it!

Like it was an interception in a football game, all the guys cheered! I kind of felt badly for the mantis, but it was very exciting...


Nuttier than the stock room at the Mr. Goodbar factory

And now a few words from Katherine "Kuh-razypants" Harris:
Separation of church and state is "a lie we have been told," Harris said in the interview, published Thursday, saying separating religion and politics is "wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers."

"If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," Harris said.


Lysol Is Impressive

Lysol seems to be able to kill just about anything; gram positive, gram negative, and even MRSA!


Moo, Moah, Maou, Moo-eh?

This just in: apparently, cows have accents too.


There Are X On This Melontrucking Y!

A Very Special Episode Where X = Bicyclists, and Y = Sidewalk

I got smacked into by a car today on my way into school from Max's (I was feeding his cat while he is away for most of the week). I'm fine; the lady was stopping... just not quite soon enough for my tastes.

This is the danger of doing anything on the sidewalks down here: it would never occur to drivers here that conveyances other than cars (or SUVs, really) might exist. As such, even when you're right in front of them, they don't see you. It's like the strong version of the Sapir-Worf hypothesis for traffic.

Anyway,that isn't even the really galling part. The thing that really irked me was that some jerkface stopped in the line of traffic along that street turned and yelled at me. Indeed, how dare I use a sidewalk when that car desperately needed it!?!

I'm fortunate, in that the street where this took place has very high curbs and sidewalks- if you drive out into the street (completely, not just with pedestrian-crushing-style-non-stoppage) too fast, you'll lose your muffler and maybe your oilpan... So at least this scurvy wench (it was a woman on her way to the California School of Culinary Arts) was going to halt at some point within plus or minus 3' or so of my location.

The vociferous meathead was fortunate in that I was too busy bawling out my assailant to dig into my backpack and break his freaking window with a can of Diet Coke (aka 0 calories of fury!).


There Are X On This Monkeyfarming Y!

In the spirit of Snakes On A Plane, what are some alternate scenarios that they might incorporate in future sequels?

Here are a few (X,Y) pairs:
  • Locusts,Rascal
  • Centipedes,Monorail
  • Ducks,Razor Scooter
Etc. People?


Enough of Geometry, Let us See if Donuts are Like Frogs.

A couple of weeks ago, while Susan and I drove to San Diego, we heard a story on the radio concerning an interesting event in mathematics. You see, a prominent Russian mathematician has claimed that he has proved Poincaré's Conjecture.

Poincaré's Conjecture is a topological claim; the famous mathematician was concerned with the nature of shapes and spaces and the shapes of spaces-- topology.

While the idea of topology is a bit hard to get across, we can picture it like so: what makes a sphere a sphere and not a torus? Or, how is a donut like a frog? Well, a donut is like a frog in that each has one continuous hole through it (disregarding nostrils, I suppose (not that donuts have nostrils)).

That's the essence of Poincaré's Conjecture. Stated more mathily, if all closed lines on a surface can be contracted to a point without cutting the surface or the line, the surface is a sphere.

From this article in the Times, we learn that this fellow seems to have proved a more general result, and in the process, completes the proof of P's C. It seems to be fiendishly complicated, and 1000 pages long, so they may be a while yet in verifying it... but apparently the prognosis is excellent.

On another note, I'd like to say that this sentence is strange:
Asked about Dr. Perelman’s pleasures, Dr. Anderson said that he talked a lot about hiking in the woods near St. Petersburg looking for mushrooms.
"Asked about [his] pleasures?" Really? That phrasing sounds like someone's been reading too much high-falutin' English literature.


High School Geometry, Writ Large

Via Geekpress, some neat photos of crop circles here, and a library with photos dating back to 1990 here. It's truly impressive what people can do.


And now for something completely adorable

Check out the chiuahua/rat terrier drug-sniffing dog. Her little police vest is ridiculously cute (scroll through and look at the last photo).


Bride-finding Tours of the Ukraine: Creepy as Hell

This article in Harpers weirds me out... Below is an excerpt about a guy who probably has people-parts in his refrigerator.

Later that night, after a few hours of note-taking in my room, I made one last pass through the bar and found another of our group, a Midwestener whose construction company built guard booths for the Army. Even though it was well past midnight on what had been a grueling day of travel, the tie under his sweater retained its crisp knot and his gray hair was immaculately parted.

“Looks like there are a few professional women out in the lobby,” he said at almost the moment I sat down to join him. “Do you know how much they are? Do you think $100 would do it?” When I suggested he simply go outside and ask, he walked off into the lobby to do just that—leaving me alone in mid-sentence—only to return moments later. “The pretty one got in the elevator,” he muttered. “The others were a little chunky. So you don’t know how much for one of them, huh?”

He told me with a clinical chill in his voice about the time he had gone to Mexico on business and seen “The Donkey Show,” in which a female performer fellates and then copulates with a donkey. “I didn’t know a woman could take a donkey,” he said. “But she did. She took it.” He informed me that in Mexico the hookers had cost $40. When I asked him if he was really here in Ukraine looking for a wife, he just shrugged.

The next day, on a guided walking tour of downtown Kiev, I approached him and asked whether he had gotten an answer to his question. In that same toneless voice he informed me that he had eventually hired one of the hotel prostitutes for $130 an hour and before I could stop him told me in graphic detail about what they’d done and, worse, what she would not do. Then a stray dog trotted past. “Oh!” he exclaimed, turning away from me suddenly and bending to hold out his hand with a radiant, ear-to-ear smile. “Look at the little puppy! Yee-ess! Who’s a cute little puppy?”
Awww... look at the budding serial killer! Who's a nice little psycho-pants? You are! You! Awww


Houdini Eats Electric Blanket

That's a python named Houdini, by the way. Guess he didn't think he had enough fiber in his diet.


Just when you thought you'd seen it all...

Cats That Look Like Hitler

Click on the "Best Kitlers" link on the left. The very first cat bears a somewhat disturbing resemblance.


It Was a Dark and Stormy Knight?

Sir Gawain and the grim knight? Heathcliff of Thrushcross? Here's a story about something that always gives me a smile: the annual bad writing contest. Named after Ed Bulwer-Lytton, the contest invites any and all to submit their most heinous prose for consideration.

Here's the winner in the children's lit division:
Winner: Children's Literature

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe who had so much equity (because our story, dear children, is set in Miami's hot real estate market) that she upgraded the exterior to blue suede siding as a tribute to her idol, Elvis, moved her kids to a bootee out back, and then reopened the place as the "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" motel (but you'll have to wait until you're 18 to read any further).

Barbara Bridges Sierra Madre, CA


World Cup Directors Dragged Through The Streets

Is what the headlines would read if there was any justice. Madmen, filling the frame with a single player in the middle and attacking thirds. What the hell are you thinking? Did you not know that in order to see the play, we need to see more than one guy?

Wouldn't you think that they'd release the camera feeds more or less raw so that I don't get the same craptacular coverage on ABC, Univision, and the Taiwanese channel? For the love of god! Please! It can't possibly be the case that one insane producer gets to wreck my entire final-viewing experience, can it? Wait. It can be.

Oh, well. At least they showed Zidane head-butting that dude.

What the hell did Zidane do that for? He apparently went off his rocker, or something.


Tomorrow's Forecast...

Sunny with a chance of cactuses. Oh joy.


Well whadya freaking know?

Best cure ever.

Crazy Linda Hirshman may have a point

Okay. Yesterday I read this Slate review of Hirshman's new book, Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World, and while I think she definitely goes too far by saying it's socially irresponsible for women to leave the workplace to stay home with their kids, I also think she raises some perfectly valid points. Or the reviewer does, at any rate.

1) A recent study found that a full 93 percent of "highly qualified" women who have opted out [of their jobs] want to find a way back in and can't. And, according to several studies, women in the United States suffer a 10 to 15 percent dock in future earnings when they have children—a drop that doesn't affect men.
I worry about this one for myself, particularly working in the sciences, where recent experience and study is key. Granted, I've seen plenty of women go back to work after taking time (as in several years) off to raise kids, but do they all go back doing what they wanted to do before? Some do, I'm sure, but not all.

2) Affluent and well-educated men rarely leave the workforce (and when they do, it's usually to return to school or start a business); a portion of affluent and well-educated women do opt out (and when they do, it's almost exclusively to raise children). When these women choose to devote their skills to childcare rather than to the workplace, they are "perpetuating a mostly male ruling class" — precisely the type unlikely to help make the case for more flexible work arrangements that would allow more women back into the workforce.
I firmly believe that if by some genetic mutation, men suddenly became the bearers and birthers of children, we would see daycare centers open up overnight in every law firm, every bank office, every pharmaceutical company, etc., etc. I don't really like to buy into the shrill feminist cry about those darned male opressors, but sometimes the proof is, as they say, in the pudding. Or the profit sharing. There are a lot more men in high-paying jobs than there are women, and if all those men suddenly wanted to be able to bring their babies in to the office and take 10-minute nursing breaks every couple of hours, while still being able to do their jobs and contribute to the company, I think it would happen. Yeah, I know it's not exactly practical to have child care services at every place of business (mines, lumberyards, restaurants, hog farms), but for the ones where it's not utterly insane to do so, why not? Besides, every daycare center needs employees, so you're creating jobs in the process. It's a win-win.

3) If women really do stay in the work force, even part-time, a few decades from now it may be easier for parents to opt out according to their personal preferences, rather than their gender. If one parent didn't want to assume the bulk of the child-care duties, as may well be the case, two could split it. The demand for elastic or part-time work by men and women alike would lead to more flexible jobs.
Sometimes the only way to get what you want is to force change. I'm not sure this will do it, but it's worth a try. The one thing I'm not sure about here is whether or not both partners working part-time can bring in enough income to do things like save for retirement and buy a house and pay for their kids' college tuition. Then again, I guess if you're working part-time at $35/hour, it's not so bad. (Good luck finding a gig like that now, though.)

I do resent Hirshman's implication that child-rearing isn't really 'valid work,' but I also know that it's not going to be all that long before I'll be at that work-or-kids crossroads myself, and while I can't imagine that either Tom or I will want to miss out entirely on all the 'firsts' of our offspring, I also can see myself losing my mind if I have to stay home full-time. I'd sure like the option of being able to work a few days a week in a job I felt was worthwhile and mentally stimulating. (I'm not saying that raising kids isn't worthwhile and mentally stimulating, but rather that I would not want to leave the house a few days a week to work at WalMart.) The whole issue certainly bears thinking about.

Of course, it's entirely possible the woman's completely guano after all:
She advises women to marry only men who will commit to a 50 percent housework/childrearing division of labor — or else to engage in a reproductive strike, limiting the number of children to one. And she counsels — so much for l'amour! — that young women marry only much older men or men who earn less than they do, in order to have more economic bargaining power.

When political correctness attacks

The quote in the last paragraph of this article about new Alzheimer's research made me chuckle:
If you don't keep yourself mentally challenged, your brain cells may die off.


Cellular Automata

So there's this guy. Called Stephen Wolfram. He's English (don't blame him). A child prodigy. He gets a degree in theoretical physics at 17, his Ph.D. from Caltech at 20, and a MacArthur "Genius Grant" at 21. He invents what is possibly one of the finest computer algebra systems the world ever sees, and never has to work again... if he doesn't want to.

But he does. He slaves away in his (probably very, very, fine) den or home office, working on his magnum opus. Eventually he'll call it "A New Kind Of Science," and alienate his peers with his sweeping pronouncements and his bizarrely confrontational writing style (he didn't cite in the text, as is conventional in the fields of science and mathematics, but rather in an absurdly outsized appendix). It'll be printed by his own company, rather than a conventional science publisher, and elicit many... less than perfectly pleased reviews.

In it, he'll discuss why discrete systems (using finitely divided time and/or space dimension) are just as interesting-if not as more than-continuous systems. Particularly, he will discuss the cellular automaton. This is an interesting creature, wherein its behavior is regulated by a verrrry simple rule: that of iterated matrix-multiplication. This is fun stuff, but not exactly world-beating.

Now, however, he-or his disciples-have set it all to music. You, too, can be the beneficiary of Wolfram's unlimited largesse. Go here to get funky on the cellular automata like an old batch of eigenvalues.

In case you didn't know, I read his book on the plane back from London one time... I'm pretty sure the dude has gone 'round the bend. I think he's absolutely brilliant, and completely, bat-shit, crazy.


Congress = poopyheads, Me = angerball

Congresspeoples, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You gave yourselves a hefty raise, just as you have done almost every year for the past decade, and then you turned around and refused to raise minimum wage a week later. You suck. The minimum wage has not kept up with inflation, you morons. Raising it by a couple of dollars an hour is not going to destroy our economy. Gah!

Well Done, Colbert Report Writers: Big Government vs. Small Government

"Mentioning Jesus in a speech is "small government". Actually doing what Jesus asked? Big government." [clap clap clap]


Oh. My. God.

Via Slate:

President Bush: Peter. Are you going to ask that question with shades on?
Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times: I can take them off.
Bush: I'm interested in the shade look, seriously.
Wallsten: All right, I'll keep it, then.
Bush: For the viewers, there's no sun.
Wallsten: I guess it depends on your perspective.
Bush: Touché.

—Exchange with legally blind reporter Peter Wallsten, to whom Bush later apologized, Washington, D.C., June 14, 2006

How's about I cut that fat off with my toothbrush shiv instead?

How's this for a disturbing trend?
In the last two to three years, liposuction, once used predominantly to reduce the flabby abdomens, hips and thighs of average Americans, has become a tool to enhance the near-perfect body parts of the already fit.

For this designer-body approach, an increasing number of doctors are using a technique known variously as precision, selective or micro liposuction. The goal is to remove an ounce or three of fat from ankles, knees, chins, necks, backs and upper arms, according to some prominent plastic surgeons and dermatologists.
And this lady clearly ought to be shot.
"By normal standards, I'm pretty skinny," said Ms. Goss, 38. She is 5-foot-10 and weighs 126 pounds, she said. "But my arms were getting a little flappy. I could feel it wiggle every time I shook hands."
It's a sad day indeed when unrealistically "perfect" bodies are so (surgically) attainable that they actually threaten to become the norm. We just watched a Doogie Howser episode from 1989 that dealt with this very thing, so it's not exactly a new idea. However, the woman in that episode was portrayed as something of a maniac with clear mental issues, and the women undergoing micro-lipo today are merely seen as members of a somewhat silly trend.

Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler?

Ah, my foot is in the door. Finally, I have made the first step towards adulthood. I have a 'real' job. Today, I filed bright pink invoices for 4 hours. Yesterday, I filed them for 8. And what is the real adult world without the traditional terrible, irreversible mistake? I accidentally deleted hundreds of pages of check reports. Ooops! Well, shit happens. And where there is shit, there is more shit. I also broke the paper shredder on my first day, and then today I jammed the electric hole puncher. Speaking of electric, pretty much all office supply's now a-day's are electric. They even have electric staplers, and machines that seal envelopes for them. I guess people are too lazy to slam a stapler anymore, and they don't like the taste of envelope glue. Meh. I personally like the monotony of filing without the electricity. Pick up the paper, slam the hole punch, cram into file, repeat. Plus, when you are doing something so eyebleedingly boring its nice to have something to hit that is built for pissed off office ladies-like staplers. This afternoon I was able to go on the field, as I like to call it (which really means drove around our 12 blocks of town) and evaluated alley ways. It was actually more fun than it seems, mainly because navigating the map in itself was a feat. But, I was also able to listen to music in my car and stop for coffee, and I get reimbursed for the gas and wear-and-tear on my 16 year old subaru. Plus, I discovered a few new alley ways that are quite charming that I never knew existed. Some of them are pretty charming, actually, in a creepy, almost sweet Jeunet sort of way. Anywho, my job is pretty nice, and I hear the filing should end by Monday when I actually get to start my department; Utilities. If I don't, then I guess I will cut off my own toes. Another plus is that I get an hour long lunch. I am there for nine hours, but its nice to be able to sit and relax, which I haven't been able to do with past jobs. I've been going down to the coffee house because they have been playing the World Cup on their pretty flat screen t.v's. It's pretty rad. And what's with the lack of posting? The last three have been from me. What's the deal hosers?



Let's do the time warp, for the first time?

Hey! I was voted by my senior class as the most likely to invent a time machine, and my price was a magnetic building kit. Cool! Everyone knows colorful plastic sticks and magnetic balls are essential to time travel. Also, I'm a genius. It was probably just because people think I am weird. If there had been a "Most Weird" category, I would have won it, hands down. Or possibly a "Best Ninja" category, I had a clear shot at that one. I guess you just settle for what you get. But what I really should have been voted was, "Most Procrastinating AP Student That Surprised Everyone With Her Ability To Graduate By Not Doing Anything. Ever."


Little Old Lady Got Mutilated Late Last Night

This sentence has a really interesting sound to it, don't you think? Just listen to the sounds, not the words.



Today was my last day of high school, and I expect cards (filled with money).


Oh boy! "Real" jobs are fun!

When I started in this department...

Purchasing Director: "The previous supervisor spent too much money on material and kept way too much stock, which expired and became waste. You must adopt a more lean purchasing strategy!"
Me: "You betcha!"

About two months ago...

Purchasing Director: "You must not keep running short on material! Increase your minimum stock requirements!"
Me: "Um...ok, I can do that. Aye-aye, sir!"


Purchasing Director: "We blew the receipts budget last month. Submit an expenditures estimate and aim to cut back on purchases for next month!"
Me: "You're kidding, right?"


Don't Worry Cam, I can Teach you Fire Safety

This one time, at Cam's house, I sorta-kinda fell asleep on the couch while we were watching TV. Apparently I started talking in my sleep. I said, aloud, "Don't worry Cam, I can teach you fire safety." And I mentioned something about not wanting to bake a cake.

Fast forward a few years. Cameron ends up working for a wildland firefighting firm. Who's teaching who about fire safety?

And cake sounds freaking great right about now.


Is there any other kind?

There is a (probably unintentionally) funny ad in the L.A. Times Community Local Values insert this week.
Laser Eye Center: Custom Lasik!
Pardon me if I don't really think there's much value in "one size fits all" eye surgery...


Great Lakes Hurricane?

Inter-racial bear pairs?

Behold the great white grizzpo. Actually, the proposed Inuit name for this grizzly-polar bear hybrid is much cooler - nanulak, which comes from "nanuk" (polar) and "aklak" (grizzly).

"Oh look, honey. It's that talking duck from that insurance company. Say it again, buddy!"
"No, seriously guys, aklak!"
"Hahaha...silly duck. You slay me."
"Dude, forget the insurance. Look behind you. Aklak!"
"What's that hot breath on my neck? And that growling in my ear? And that..."



Yes, but will it make you a sandwich?

Silly Slate article claiming a $600 Playstation 3 would make a better lifemate than another, you know, actual human being.
Unlike a nagging spouse, the PS3 doesn't care about your income or your level of education — it loves you just the way you are.* It is true that you will eventually become accustomed to your sleek new PS3, but this will take an extremely long time. The PS3, after all, has been built expressly to keep mind-blowing novelty coming and coming and coming. Periodic infusions of novelty — new games — will keep the endorphins flowing.

*This is assuming, of course, that PS3s are in fact capable of love, which I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say isn't an accurate assumption to be making.


Tongue Sight?

Okay, this is one of the stranger things I've heard in a while.
By routing signals from helmet-mounted cameras, sonar and other equipment through the tongue to the brain, [military researchers] hope to give elite soldiers superhuman senses similar to owls, snakes and fish.


The device, known as "Brain Port," was pioneered more than 30 years ago by Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, a University of Wisconsin neuroscientist. Bach-y-Rita began routing images from a camera through electrodes taped to people's backs and later discovered the tongue was a superior transmitter. (italics mine)


In testing, blind people found doorways, noticed people walking in front of them and caught balls. A version of the device, expected to be commercially marketed soon, has restored balance to those whose vestibular systems in the inner ear were destroyed by antibiotics.
http://www.makeworkpay.org/ Enter in your pay on the far right and see how long it takes a Top 500 CEO to earn what you earn. It takes 10 hours for a CEO to earn what the average Wal Mart employee earns in a year, about $13,000. Not only do most CEO's earn $11 Billion a year themselves, Wal Mart also makes about that much in profit per year. Now I know you all already know all this, but I just had to say something because there are these Republican and Libertarian kids in my Government class and we always bicker about labor issues. Now no one can deny that there is something wrong with those figures, and that Wal Mart, and every other top company that makes that much in profit, can shell out a little more so their employees make more than a living wage, or maybe so they can ALL have health insurance, which Wal Mart only covers %22 of their employees, and not to mention the plan they give is ridiculous. Hell, what if some of those companies that outsourced paid them babies that are making our clothing AMERICAN wages because they are AMERICAN companies. I just can't get over this. Can anybody explain any possible economical benefits that can come from child labor? Or possibly how to stop this crap? I'm feeling really politically charged because we have been having guest speakers from every political party come in to government and talk to us, and today, we have the Socialist party. So hopefully that will go better than yesterdays speaker, from the Constitution party.


Read Nothing Into This Post

So I was thinking about the e.p.t.® pregnancy test. They advertise it as 99% accurate. Now, this actually means that 99% of the time, if there is a sufficient concentration of a particular hormone, the mechanism will indicate a pregnancy.

What I can't locate, however is the rate of false positives- or, what percentage of the time an insufficient concentration of said hormone will indicate a pregnancy. This is critical information, because the actual probability of getting a false positive is not very intuitive.

The way you actually calculate the probability that you're pregnant given a positive result on a pregnancy test is to use conditional probabilities, or Bayes' Theorem.

We say that P(A|B) is the probability of A given B. So, the probability of being pregnant (call it preg) given that you observe a positive result (call it +) on a pregnancy test can be written P(preg|+). We calculate this probability... but to do so, we need the "accuracy," as Pfizer reports it. They observe a positive result (+) given a pregnancy (preg) with 99% probability. So P(+|preg) = 0.99.

We also need to know what the chance that you're pregnant is. In the U.S., there are about 14 births/1000 population (according to the CIA Factbook). Given that we have about 300M people, approximately 50% of whom are women, we can say that if you are a woman, your chance of being pregnant is approximately 2%. This is, of course, a rough estimate, but bear with me. That is, P(preg)=0.02.

Lastly, we need one piece of information I can't seem to find: what is the probability of getting a positive result given no pregnancy, or P(+|not preg)? Well, if we assume there's a 1% chance of such a reading, P(+|not preg)=0.01.

Now, the formula is: P(preg|+)=P(+|preg)P(preg)/P(+), where P(+) = P(+|preg)P(preg)+P(+|not preg)P(not preg). We can now calculate!

So, P(preg|+) = 0.99*0.02/(0.99*0.02+0.01*0.98)=0.67. Under these assumptions, there's only a 67% chance that you really are pregnant given you got a positive reading on the test! Holy crap!

So from what I can tell, then, the false positive rate had better be reeeeallly low if you want to trust your tests.

Unlikely Quantities

A Baker's dozen is 13. Presumably this is because bakers are either generous-possibly- or innumerate-unlikely, as they have to calculate proportions all the time. So I guess, then, that a Banker's dozen is 11. This is because the fee for dropping beneath the minimum donut balance (average daily balance of 20 donuts) must be rounded to the nearest donut.


Research on the Cutting-Edge

At first I was going to snark about the Brits coming up with yet another mind-blowing scientific discovery (since this article is posted on the BBC website), but it turns out that it's the Belgians this time. Seriously, how much money did they need to spend on an experiment to determine that, yes, straight men get distracted by scantily-clad women?



I haven't been writing much of late. I'm sure you noticed. I apologize, but it wasn't my fault: the sun was in my eyes. No, really, the stop sign wasn't visible! Er... it was the one-armed man!

We're fast approaching the wedding. It'll be nice to get that wrapped up. I'm looking forward to it. Still have some stuff to take care of; there's centerpieces (which Mom and Dad are working on), the cake (still on me, though I now have a good idea on how to get that done), and a few other little things. Everything will get done, I'm certain. Just could do with having it done and gone.

I've been reading quite a bit, up until this last week. Should go to the library or the bookstore or something.


A Newspaper Headline only an Editor Could Love:

Urinals Backed Up by Conservationists

(saw it in a hallway on campus)

Some Things That I Enjoyed Very Much as a Child Yet Don't Seem to Enjoy so Much These Days or Maybe Just Don't do Very Often

  • Riding BMX-style bicycle
  • Jumping things on said bicycle
  • Throwing dirt clods
  • Baseball
  • Ghost in the graveyard (silly hybrid between tag and hide-and-go-seek)
  • Reading dictionary
  • Taunting Matt

Partial list of things that make me glad I abandoned vegetarianism

  • Double-doubles, animal style, from In-N-Out Burger. We had 'em for lunch yesterday, and I'm drooling at the memory.
  • Lamb. I am so going to hell for it, but adorable baby sheep are ridiculously delicious.
  • Cornish game hens, perfectly prepared. Scrumptious beyond measure.
  • The combined thrills of trying new foods and enjoying limitless menus.


Shopping Lists

Would be funny if they were composed at a Ouija Board.

In Which Our Intrepid Hero has Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Once again, I have put my body to the test. Opened myself to prods and insistent questions. Sacrificed so that the sum of knowledge could grow. Yes, that's right, I was a paid subject for a human experiment.

This experiment was not terribly unpleasant. It was all a matter of sitting still while the experimenter discharged big capacitor banks through (insulated) wire coils he pressed up against the back of my head. No biggie. Turns out that when you discharge the capacitors, a great big current pulse flows through the coils. When that happens, there's a big pulse of magnetic field along (most particularly) the axis of coils. Further, magnetic pulse tends to interact with your brain in interesting ways.

A great deal of literature indicates that this practice is quite safe; people've been doing these experiments for at least 15 years and there's no indication that it has any malinfluence on the subjects.

Anyway, the magnetic field can stimulate the brain in nifty ways. In this case, he aligned the coils so the magnetic field would interact with the primary visual cortex. As a result, when the caps (capacitors) were discharged, the pulse of magnetic field would make me see this crazy spot just right of the center of my field of vision.

Apparently the idea is to flash some picture up on a screen and then, an instant later, stimulate the cortex and determine how the picture persists in the brain. Pretty swell stuff. I'm going to do it again next week for an hour; we'll see if there are more cool stories of bizarre field-induced hallucinations.


Job Interview Stuff

Here is a list of odd statements made/heard at job interviews or in resumes. A few of my faves:

  • "I have an excellent track record, although I am not a horse."
  • "Personal interests: donating blood. Fourteen gallons so far."
  • "Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year."
  • "I know who is responsible for most of my troubles."

Minimum Differentiation?

Has anyone else noticed that the redesigned web presence for CNN, the Washington Post, and the New York Times all look suspiciously similar?


The Minimalist to the Rescue

We tried a new recipe from The Minimalist, author of the most useful cookbook ever (How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food).

Here's the recipe:
  • Take 2lbs pork shoulder, cut into 1-2" chunks. Sear the meat and then put it aside (hell, retain the pan; you'll be making a sauce later)
  • You'll need 1lb of carrots (baby or chunked)
  • 2 cups fruity red wine (beaujolais or pinot noir, for example) (substitute 1/2 cup good vinegar and make up the volume with water)
  • 1 cup of nice stock
  • 10 or so cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tbsp butter (hmm, sinful)
  • a bit of flour (a few tablespoonfuls)
  • Egg noodles, about 1 lb
  • Combine the meat, stock, wine, carrots and garlic in a large pan (you'll need a big one, as this is a bit of a stew).
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour (with the cover on the pot).
  • Strain out the solids, depositing the liquid into the pan you saved (the one with the tasty meat-searing-bits).
  • Reduce the liquid with high heat to about 1 and a half cups, scraping the bottom of the pan to release then good pork stuff.
  • Add the butter and lower heat to, well, low.
  • Add the flour, stir in carefully until smooth.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cook noodles al dente, strain.
  • Combine everything, eat.
  • Thank me, Mark Bittman.


What I Read on Spring Break (Since I'm Too Lazy to Update the Media Sidebar Every Time I Finish Yet Another Book)

I read (or finished): The Complete Robot, by Isaac Asimov, State of Fear, by Michael Crichton, and The World's Religions, by Huston Smith. I also read Seinlanguage, by Jerry Seinfeld, and Ringworld, by Larry Niven. Currently I'm reading: Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America, by Robert Reich, and Team of Rivals: The Political Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (the plagiarist whose names I'm most likely to invert).

UPDATE: I remembered that I also read another collection of Asimov's short stories: Robot Dreams

This Movie is Stupid

Crash, the three-time Acadamey Award winning film, is stupid. An incredibly lame film. The makers of this film are clearly the stupidest people now living. The people who voted for Crash to receive the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year are the stupidest people to ever cast votes in this messed up contest. They should all be put to sleep.

For the love of god please end this ridiculous mockery of a film. I am, however, stuck watching it.


All Your Bamboo Are Belong To Us

JordanBaker offers an amusing commentary about the wacky theory that the Chinese are out to brainwash the world using panda cuteness.


Fun for days! Well, really just a few minutes. http://www.desktopblues.lichtlabor.ch/ Sorry, I'm still link illiterate. Deal.


There are Too Many Ones in the Lead

Tax cheats beware: if you make up information on tax forms, be certain that you use the right number of leading ones. What, you may ask, is a leading one? Well, the leading digit of a number (say the number of dollars you paid to FICA last year) is the first digit in the number. Duh. A leading one is therefore a one at the... lead... of a number.

Anyhow, it turns out that in the real world, for a set of related numbers--for example, the information on your tax return--the leading digits aren't uniformly distributed. That is, rather than any digit, one through nine, being equally probable to occur in the first position of a number, there is some other distribution!

We can see below what I mean.

Here is a graph showing in blue a unform probability distribution, like you'd expect to get from throwing a nine-sided die, and might think for things like leading digits. In red, we see a graph of "Benford's Law", which, it turns out, is how leading digits are distributed! The way to read the graph is to locate the leading digit on the x axis, draw a line (in your mind--don't foul the monitor) from the x axis, straight up, until it intersects the red curve. Then, draw a horizontal line from that intersection over to the y axis. Where that horizontal line meets the y axis, that is the chance of finding your particular digit in the leading position.

You can see that the most probable leading digit is one! It is nearly three times more probable than in the uniform distribution! Goes to show that probability and statistics sometimes do things you wouldn't expect.


Dr. McNoModulation or: You Need to Learn Not to Love the Monotone

Now, I'm just a simple unfrozen-speech-geek, but your consistent monotone strikes me as perhaps not the best way to convey your deeply-held and well-reasoned beliefs to a wider audience. While your various utterances may seem completely obvious to you, and indeed be part of a coherent speech --complete with punctuation!-- you must realize that your choices of media must influence the way in which information is conveyed.

I understand that your primary mode of communication is written, but your unmodulated, uninflected, stream of words slips easily from the mental grasp of even the most hardened NPR listener.

Here is a piece of advice to you, O Valued Academic: by varying pitch and speed, you can alleviate the unbearable ignorance of these huddled masses!

Thanum an Dhul!

According to this article from Slate, Ireland is now a big exporter of "crack." Eh, that is, "craic," or "communal fun" in Gaelic.

IPCo's designers claim to have "developed ways of re-creating Irish pubs which would be successful, culturally and commercially, anywhere in the world." To wit, they offer five basic styles: The "Country Cottage," with its timber beams and stone floors, is supposed to resemble a rural house that gradually became a commercial establishment. The "Gaelic" design features rough-hewn doors and murals based on Irish folklore. You might, instead, choose the "Traditional Pub Shop," which includes a fake store (like an apothecary), or the "Brewery" style, which includes empty casks and other brewery detritus, or "Victorian Dublin," an upscale stained-glass joint. IPCo will assemble your chosen pub in Ireland. Then they'll bring the whole thing to your space and set it up. All you have to do is some basic prep, and voilà! Ireland arrives in Dubai. (IPCo has built several pubs and a mock village there.)


This week in National Geographic News...

Yeti crabs and the "real" story of Nessie. I am exceedingly amused by both.

New toy

Pretty cool.


I'll take... U.S. History for... $1000, Alex

There's a quiz up at The American Prospect's blog (TAPPED). Supposedly this is stuff any well-educated person should know. Give it a look.


Best Most Well-Liked Editor

Among the problems I have with the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, Golden Globes, etc, is that I don't understand how one can adequately distinguish the qualities of performances of disparate roles. There isn't a metric that really establishes "best."

This is particularly galling (for some strange reason unknown to me) in the category of editing: How do they know? The voters don't get to see the footage that contestants began with, and we don't know what other editors would have done with same!

It would be awesome to see a well-set up editing contest. Give N would-be editors the same stock of footage, the same screenplay (or not, or whatever), and the same equipment. Now, judge the results. That would be a legitimate editing contest. In fact, if anyone's heard of such a thing, would you let me know? I'd be really intrigued to see it.



So, what's the deal with me not writing much, or calling people, or participating in the human race? I'm not sure about the first two, but the last is patently false: we've been hanging out with peoples and doing fun stuff (when not working our little keisters off).

For instance, last Friday, Susan, Max, Raviv (nice fellow in my research group) and I went to the Icehouse and saw Tom Papa and Tammy Pescatelli, among others. I nearly vomited during Papa's set, I laughed so hard. That guy rocks.

Who doesn't rock? That one dude sitting nearby who "learned how to whisper in a helicopter" (to quote Tammy Pescatelli). He got picked on by basically all the comics; rough gig, as he was on a date. I felt bad for the guy, but he didn't look like he was having much fun to begin. Perhaps he was too cool to laugh.

Also last weekend we prepared a magnificient meal at Max's: a Lilliput inspired repast. (Nearly) Everything was small: game hens, baby vegetables, etc. Everything was freaking delicious, and a good time was had by all.

Work is going okay. Our group submitted five presentations for an conference (CLEO) in May. All five were accepted, so the Painter group will be busy while Susan and I wed.

On that front, if you read this and have not RSVP, please do so. We are coming up on April, and we'd like to get the attendance list settled.

I've been reading a lot, and I'll direct you to the Media sidebar to discover some of that.

What else? I don't know. Comment, people. Tell me what you're up to. Respond to SOMETHING paragraph by paragraph or sentence by sentence. Hell, correct my grammar. Lord knows I don't write anything for human consumption anymore. It's all for damned scientists.



It may be true that the "Bin Laden factor" gave Shrub an edge in 2004, but this still makes me feel a little icky inside.


A cougar wandered into Altadena yesterday. This report doesn't mention it, but I also heard the cat was stalking some fake deer in someone's yard. I'm giggling and feeling sorry for it all at once...

Also, I get a kick out of the fact that the last name of the guy who found the cougar in his yard is Bovinette. Vicious predator gravitates to smallest cow in the herd...



Cloudy Skies and Cleansing Rain

Last week or so we had temperatures in the upper eighties. Santa Ana Conditions. Chatsworth on fire. Air full of dirt and gritty heat. Eyes burning, lips chapped, etc.

In the course of a few days, tbe temperature dramatically decreased. Ten degree drops on consecutive days. Getting nice out.

Since Friday we've had pounding rain, wind, and dramatic skies. Excellent. Even the thickest layer of grime came off of Susan's car!


Unknown White Male

This documentary about a guy with retrograde amnesia looks really intriguing. Via Mind Hacks.

Not that I'd want to live there, but...

This is a pretty impressive set of photos of 3D optical illusions on a grand scale. Thanks for that, geekpress.


A little outdated, but still fun

Which Supreme Court Justice are you? http://www.quizilla.com/users/bannana873/quizzes/Which%20Supreme%20Court%20Justice%20Are%20You%3F John Paul Stevens, oooh yeeeah. You're John Paul Stevens! You are the sole remaining true liberal on the court. You stand proudly for what you believe in, and you seem to refuse to slow down. You are strong when you should be weak, and by all accounts, you'll live to be 200, good job!


Funnier than SNL

We all know that the main problem with SNL is that they beat sketches to death. They beat and beat and beat and beat and beat and beat (and beat)^100 to death the poor sketches. In fact, I think it would be much better were they to just present the premise of their bits. Hell- just televise a pitch meeting; you get all the funny setups and none of the poor attempts at acting.


Shadowy G-man Seen On Gobbler's Knob

They should just start the Groundhog Day ceremony a couple of hours earlier. No way that groundhog's going to see any shadow if the sun's not up yet.


If you're dumb enough to not realize that listening to music at a high volume can lead to hearing loss, you're dumb enough to be mocked for your silly-ass lawsuit. Mock, mock, mock.


Wait- Did They Just Say That?

Listenting to NPR, they're talking about presidential scandals. The speaker was droning on saying "Johnson had Vietnam, Nixon had Watergate, Reagan had Iran-Contra, Clinton had Lewinsky..." Hehe. Had Lewinsky.


This American Life... Wrong!

During this week's This American Life, entitled, I Enjoy Being a Girl (Sort Of),
Writer Sarah Miller attends a class on how to walk and talk and act like a man.
What she hears and "learns" in this class is pretty much the worst dreck I've ever heard. To summarize, being male is all about being crass, unclean, arrogant, possessive, unengaged, etc. It was really, really bad. And it was taught by a woman. Hmmm...

Funny Things Seen Around Town

A big sign in the front window of the Bearly Stitchin' Sewing Center proclaiming there will be a Super Bowl Sunday Sale! That's right ladies, come spend your money on notions and sewing machines while your men are otherwise occupied...


Shaun of the Dead

Watch this movie- it is really good! Had a ton of clever references, was really quite well done.


Mish eard

During a piece on NPR about Grand Theft Auto, a reporter misspoke, saying "Grand Theft Otter" which suggests to me a rich genre of spoof game titles...
  • Grand Theft Otter (as above)
  • Grant Theft Auto
  • Grand Thrift Auto
  • Ground Theft, Otto
  • Grand Theft: A Toe


If I Only Had a (popular) Blog...

This is why we need to become wildly popular bloggers. Free trips are good.


Working the Brains Out

Cannot... think... much... more...


Sitting, Waiting, Surfing

Here's a silly little mouse-based game. How long can you last? I can do >30 seconds. This is insanely hard on a laptop trackpad.

Are jellyfish delish?

My guess would be no. This one looks downright terrifying. Apparently these humongous beasties (up to 6'7" in diameter!) are causing huge problems for the Japanese fishing industry. If people don't start finding ways to turn them into food (or reduce the population in some other manner), they will continue to wreck their jellyfish havoc.

Jellyfish Havoc? Band name, anyone?


Green ham and eggs?

I do not like pigs turning green.
I do not like their unhealthy sheen.
I would not turn on a black light;
I could not work past the fright.


Glad for Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell, author of such gems as The Tipping Point, and Blink (both fine books) has an archive of his New Yorker pieces here. I frankly think that he's better as a long-piece journalist than an author of books. That's not intended to be anything other than praise; he's a fantastic feature-length magazine writer.

Finally... peace

My first first author paper has been accepted for publication. After production editing, it will be appearing in Optics Express. Yay, me.


I've been listening along to the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings while I work. As with the previous ones I've heard, there's a pretty consistent refrain of both nominee and (Republican) questioner:

Can't prejudge! Can't prejudge!

Now, as far as it goes, this is a pretty reasonable restriction; you don't want an adjudicator to say what he thinks of pending litigation. However, the companions (I guess offered by way of explanation) to this refrain are:

Can't precommit to ruling a certain way!


Need specifics!

These rationales seem to me to be b.s. One need only apply the second to refute the first. It is damn near impossible that a real case a nominee (or justice) might hear would correspond in the specifics to a briefly outlined hypothetical question answered in hearings! Further damning this first explanation down the river is the willingness of the questioners to accept a nominees offer of "that was my opinion then" as "undoing" their previously held opinions. If it is possible that the nominee changed their mind on an issue (say, "Should government discrimination against women be permitted?"), then "prejudgement" does not matter, as events and changes in procedure occurring after the "prejudgement" can change the conclusion.

The second issue is a bit more reasonable- at least with regard to existing cases. It doesn't make much sense to avoid answering a fairly general question (say, "In what ways is it possible for the President's Article II powers enable him to overrule or ignore the legislation of the Congress?" (Possibly a poor example, as this may be in litigation soon)). General questions don't really call for specifics.


Mary Had a Little Dog...

Wow- an interesting poem by Billy Collins. A hauntingly effective edit by Kieran Healy, of Crooked Timber. Really evocative, both. Found at Grammar.police.


Them's some powerful courts in Italy...

According to this article, there's a court case in Italy right now that blows all this "intelligent design" blather completely out of the water.
"Cascioli says he didn't exist. And I said that he did," [Roman Catholic priest Enrico Righi] said. "The judge will decide if Christ exists or not."
Uh huh. That's gonna happen.

Stuff on my cat dot com

Somehow I get the feeling we'll be submitting photos here at some point. To quote the site's tagline, "stuff + cats = awesome"


The Return of the Coworkers

My office-mates have, at long last, returned. True, Chris was back on Friday, but now Matt is also returned: we have a full complement of dorks. Perhaps there will be snort-laughing, perhaps not, but you better bet that we'll be applying physics concepts to analyze human behavior. Which always works. Really.

Chris, the underwater hockey player (really- he's an alternate on the "national" team), mentioned that the lack of oxygen after a workout or game is such that he feels stupid for a while thereafter. I comment that it's great that he intentionally stupids himself up before coming to work.