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).