Thursday, February 28, 2008

Noam Chomsky vs. William F. Buckley, 1969

Disinterested intervention?

Part 1

Part 2

(via Cynical-C)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You Can't Even Touch Your Own Genitals For Good Luck?

This is a much needed first step in preventing Italian men from trying to touch my crotch. From the Guardian:

In a landmark judgement with far-reaching social implications, Italy's highest appeals court has ruled it is a criminal offence for Italian men to touch their genitals in public. 
The judges of the court of cassation stressed that the ban did not just apply to brazen crotch-scratching, but also to what might be termed superstitious pre-emption. Anyone who has seen a hearse go past in Italy, or been part of a discussion in which some terrible illness or disaster is mentioned, will know it is traditional for men to ward off bad luck with a quick grab at what are delicately called their "attributi".
The practice has become increasingly frowned on, but "io mi tocco i … ", which translates as "I touch my … " is still a common phrase, roughly equivalent to "fingers crossed". The judges helpfully suggested that those seeking reassurance should wait till they had returned to the privacy of their own homes before letting their hands stray trouser-wards.

(creative commons photo attributed to Giant Ginko)

Military Intelligence

This documentary at first seems unfair. It takes a few examples of people with nutty ideas who are close to the military and suggests that there are lunatics in high places doing very strange things. As it continues, however, we find out that these nutty ideas are not summarily dismissed and that there very well may be lunatics in high places trying to implement said nutty ideas. I can only find part one on the internets. Has anyone seen the rest of this? I can easily imagine Cheney staring at goats and getting their hearts to stop, but does George Bush practice walking through walls? 

Crazy Rulers of the World - The Men Who Stare at Goats (part 1 of 3)

Good Music

Stevie Wonder - Superstition live on Sesame Street

Some of the band and at least one of the kids seem to be on some really groovy drugs. Wonder if Snufalufagus had something to do with that. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Killer Robots

From the NY Times

LONDON (Reuters) - Killer robots could become the weapon of choice for militants, a British expert said on Wednesday.

Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield said he believed falling costs would soon make robots a realistic option for extremist groups...

 "How long is it going to be before the terrorists get in on the act? With the current prices of robot construction falling dramatically and the availability of ready-made components for the amateur market, it wouldn't require a lot of skill to make autonomous robot weapons."

Really? An extremist group could build a robot for a few hundred dollars to terrorize people? What kind of loser terrorist uses robots? Why wouldn't they just find a fanatic to walk around with a bomb? Seems like extremists everywhere have only to say "death to..." and volunteers are lining up with explosives before even hearing who the infidel is. Maybe there's an extremist group out there made up of people with speech impediments or grotesque deformities on their faces that is having trouble being popular with the other lunatics. I could imagine them saying "Fine, then! We'll show them! We don't need people because we've got robot friends who are willing to die for us!" For now, though, I'm only going to be worried about people with too much faith who want to kill and be killed for their stupid beliefs. 

(creative commons photo attributed to genewolf)

The Debate On Global Warming

The Denial Machine CBC TV (Canada)


Funny Because It's True

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

Monday, February 25, 2008

Child Labor Can Be Fun!

No, stupid! Use the children! They like going in circles!

A company called PlayPump® has figured out a clever way to get water to people who do not have access to clean water. And as much as I want to point out that children playing on a water pump is still in essence child labor, this does seem like a good idea. Children play on a merry-go-round thing that seems like fun but is actually pumping water for the community to use. It has huge implications and I really do agree that it is a good idea that could better the lives of billions of people. 

(GNU free documentation licensed photo from Jerzy Strelecki) (via grow-a-brain)

Oh My God Did You See The Oscars?!!!

Something happened last night and it was really important. If you somehow missed it you must feel like a total idiot because it was awesome. The Academy gave out golden statues to really important people and beautiful women wore stuff. Expensive stuff. AND I WAS THERE IN FRONT OF THE TV WATCHING SOME OF IT! The really important people were actors and other people who make entertaining things that forever change the world. Travolta was there! And some woman wore a shiny dress! And the shoes! Don't get me started on the shoes. They were so expensive and beautiful I cried a bit when I saw them. There were also necklaces and earrings and really fancy hair and some of the people appear to have had cosmetic surgery! Can you believe it? I SAW SOME OF THESE AMAZING THINGS ON THE TELEVISION! It was like awesome. It would have been so cool to have been the person outside who asked them what they were wearing. I wish it was me because I like to ask questions like that. And then we could laugh at something and it would just be so wonderful.

(creative commons photo of The Red Carpet attributed to Sholeh)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nader Brings It On

Ralph Nader has decided that he can just jump into the middle of the Marathon Race To The White House. With 260 days of running to go and most of the public taking a break from watching, Nader thought he could just sneak in at the half-way point and take advantage of the fact that his competition is getting tired. He is also putting The Boxing Gloves on. From the NY Times:  
Nader also criticized Republican candidate John McCain and Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton for failing to support full Medicare for all or cracking down on Pentagon waste and a ''bloated military budget. He blamed that on corporate lobbyists and special interests, which he said dominate Washington, D.C., and pledged in his third-party campaign to accept donations only from individuals.

''The issue is do they have the moral courage, do they have the fortitude to stand up to corporate powers and get things done for the American people,'' Nader said. ''We have to shift the power from the few to the many.''

Easy there, tiger: those are fighting words. And, by the way, Edwards had some courage to stand up to corporate powers and it really worked out for him. The corporate-owned media really liked his message and went out of its way to bring it to the people. Before him, Dean was pretty good at talkin' that talk and the media really promoted his ideas. It even showed his war-scream for several weeks straight on every network. My suggestion is to scream until you are on TV and then say something nice about the corporations so that you can stay on TV. Also, don't mention your previous racing experience. 

(creative commons photo attributed to wickenden)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Good Music

It seems They Might Be Giants have written a song about my friend Rick (though he claims he doesn't practice his trumpet anymore and does go to work, sometimes). 

They Might Be Giants - Never Go To Work

When The Going Gets Tough, The... Um, TERROR ALERT!

Global Warming For Men

The Pentagon has discovered how to make global warming an issue Republicans can embrace. While the pansy hippies are concerned about the polar bears having to swim when their ice melts, the manly men are looking at the totally awesome possibility that there will be nuclear armageddon when the shit starts melting, baby. You want fear? We got fear that makes the terrorists look like pussies. Keg stand! From the Guardian

Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters..

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

(creative commons photo attributed to Flickr user Squiggle

Friday, February 22, 2008

Good Book

Neatorama did a post about Kent Rogowki's book "Bears" and the comments people have left on his website. My brother received this book for xmas and we dared him to open it on his flight home and pet the pictures and say things like "there, there" and "god still loves you." He refused. 

I'm Happy I'm Relaxed

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Good Music

Shostakovich 11, 1st part of 4th movement. 

There are better and more complete recordings out there, but the conductor in this video caught my attention. Gergiev conducts with toothpick?

(via my friend at The Philharmonist)


While working in a library when I was in high school, I came across an oversized book that had been stored above a bookcase for years gathering dust. Upon opening it and realizing what it was all about, I had one of those feelings I sometimes get when talking to a crazy person who is nevertheless on to something. Paolo Soleri is on to something. 
That something is the blending of architecture (and city planning) and ecology: Arcology. While many cities are now attempting to clean themselves up and make themselves "green," the traditional layout of a city limits these efforts. Soleri's solution: the Hyper Building. Gone are the sprawling suburbs. Gone are the cars that get people through segregated communities of strangers. Gone is the isolated man, alone with his insatiable consumer appetite and mistrustfulness of his neighbors. Gone is much of the waste involved in getting energy to each of these separate people. The land once paved and housed over is freed up for agriculture and nature conservation. People walk past one another and chat with their neighbors. They live and work in an enormous building that nevertheless has a small environmental footprint. Sounds like a responsible society to me, which is why it does not exist. 
For now, there is the starting point: Arcosanti, where optimistic people are building an "Urban Laboratory" in the Arizona dessert, mostly from the proceeds of ceramic bells and donations. The NY Times wrote about it last year: 

In 1976, Newsweek declared: “As urban architecture, Arcosanti is probably the most important experiment undertaken in our lifetime.” “Undertaken” being the key word — then and now. Completion has legendarily eluded Arcosanti. Built in stages and chronically underfinanced, the place exists in a permanent state of half-doneness.

What was once the future of intelligently designed communities has morphed into something less optimistic: a stalled revolution in urban planning or a moldering relic of impractical idealism, depending on whom you ask. Often enough it's referred to as Mr. Soleri's “desert utopia,” and as with all utopias, reality doesn't always match the blueprints...

...But aging visions of the future have a singular appeal, and at Arcosanti, it's possible to enjoy the hopefulness without betraying it. It is not cynicism to find a special beauty in what hasn't yet come to pass.

(creative commons photo attributed to Flickr user CodyR)

I Love Google. It Gave Me This Blog

I don't want to question the almighty wisdom of the Google. Google has been good to me and, as far as I can tell, done a good job of protecting privacy and generally being a stand-up guy. It's one of the super-companies that doesn't bother me, so this is just a concerned friend asking a friendly question:

Is storing medical records really what you want to be getting in to? 

I don't want to suggest that you'd be bad at doing this kind of thing. On the contrary, most people and even some lesser companies are not very good at storing these things and you'd probably do a much better job. You still have that email I sent years ago with the picture of a kitty on it! I don't even know why you kept that! But you did! And it shows that you're good at storing things. And I would never accuse you of wanting to advertise drugs or supplements directly to people with medical records that relate to said drugs. Or supplements.  Although that would be pretty cool. I mean, if my doctor (pretend I have one) had my medical records it would be privileged information. But if you held on to it... No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to insult you. Sorry. I'm just wondering if storing even more of ourselves with you is that good of an idea. 

story here

The Straw That Broke The Camel's Back

From the NY Times:

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The iconic Camel cigarette pack has undergone its first makeover since it hit store shelves almost a century ago, as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. tests new ways to market its biggest brands in a lagging market for smokes.

Though the enduring image of the Camel has not changed in the updated packaging, the animal is surrounded by a fresh look -- rounded graphics to highlight the oasis scene, larger and clearer pyramids in the distance, darker lettering emphasizing the Camel name, and color-coded ribbons to identify the style.


The company is dropping its buy-one-get-one-free and similar promotions, as the company tests whether it can build its market share without overspending on promotions. 

I've struggled with quitting here and there, always telling myself that if they raise the price to $3 or $4 or $5 or $6 or $7 I'll definitely be done with them. Or if the scientific community just tells me honestly that they're really not good for me. Or if they stop the 2-1 or even 3-1 promotions. But color-coded ribbons? No, that will not do. If I can't have my "lights" and feel like I'm dieting I simply will not smoke

(creative commons photo attributed to Flickr user BrittneyBush)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Good Music

Taraf & Kocani

Orange You A Criminal?

From the Telegraph (UK): 

Hardened criminals in the Netherlands become less aggressive and have fewer fights when exposed to the scent of oranges, a study has found.

Rotterdam police said the four week study suggested that criminals, many of them violent drug pushers, are calmer and more malleable when the perfumes are circulated through cell air vents.

The head of police social services, Herma Heester, said: "It's amazing, fighting in the cells has been dramatically reduced and we are using 10 per cent fewer sedation drugs".

While I'm not sold on the science of this study (4 weeks is not much time for a study and other factors may have been involved (perhaps there was also a great deal of pot smuggled in at the same time and everyone was calmed by that (or the inmates who were violent because their cellmates smelled bad were pleased that the scent of oranges covered up the scent of armpits))), it may explain why there is surprisingly little crime in the city I live in. There are thousands of Naranja Agria trees here and the fruit that falls from them is very sour and often left to rot on the ground. This, in turn, causes would-be-criminals to take a deep breath and smile rather than commit their crime of choice. 

Lunar Eclipse Still Very Likely; Shooting Down Of Satellite Not

From the Guardian:

High seas may force the US navy to postpone an attempt to shoot down a failed spy satellite, the defence department said this afternoon.

The USS Lake Erie, a cruiser that has the job of firing missiles at the satellite, is caught in bad weather in the north Pacific.

"We don't anticipate the weather being good enough today," an officer told the Associated Press.

If the US government is truly worried that the satellite "could pose a risk to populated areas," it wouldn't let bad weather get in the way of at least trying to shoot it down. If, on the other hand, this is what critics claim it to be, and the government has found a convenient excuse to test its super duper space weapons, the possibility of missing would look bad (what with the 12 billion dollars spent every year on the program). Why are they shooting from a boat, anyway? If rough seas could cause a miss they should shoot a missile from Hawaii. But then, when they missed, they'd have to claim it was because they were distracted by the hula-girls or got sand in their eyes. 

(creative commons photo attributed to flickr user Joe Hastings)

Update: Lunar eclipse was a total success. Earth did a good job of blocking the sun's harmful rays from the moon's pallid skin. Also: reported success from the government with its shooting at the satellite mission. They say they hit it, but it's still to early to say if they destroyed the toxic-material-filled-fuel-tanks that were the cause of alarm and reason for the whole show. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


How like fish we are: ready, nay eager, to seize upon any new thing some wind of circumstance shakes down upon the river of time

-Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Heads Up!

Look up tomorrow and you may see the lunar eclipse. It will be visible between 10-11 PM eastern time. Now look to the west. You may see an explosion (I'm guessing they miss), as the US tries to shoot down that menacing satellite. More at Cynical-C.

(creative commons photo attributed to flickr user Fort Photo)

Rafa Limo! Limou?

Two things to point out here. That is one awesome Rafa Limousine. And, apparently, the word limousine has a "u" in it. I'm serious when I say I want that car. 

(via Presurfer)

Castro Resigns

Fiidel Castro has announced his resignation today. I am glad he is leaving office in this manner rather than being assassinated by the CIA. While his rule may have been characterized by the infringements of civil liberties it also saw a vast improvement in literacy and health care. With the United States attempting to overthrow his government at every turn, Castro did all he could to provide his nation with the autonomy that it deserved. Gone were the American businesses that stole all the wealth and land, but gone too was much of the wealth. I hope Cuba remains its own nation and does not turn into a Disneyland or Cancun, and I wish Castro a well-deserved rest.
(public domain photo from Leffler/Library of Congress [VIA PINGNEWS])


Monday, February 18, 2008

Greenhouse Gasoline

It seems two scientists at Los Alamos have been busy trying to figure out a way to lessen global warming while keeping the oil companies and automobile manufacturers happy at the same time. Instead of asking humanity to change its destructive ways, for governments to mandate cleaner technology, or for corporations to begin seriously investing in expensive alternative energy sources, we may be able to just keep doing what we're doing while new nuclear-powered factories pull greenhouse gasses out of the environment and convert them into gasoline and jet-fuel. From the NY Times:

The scientists, F. Jeffrey Martin and William L. Kubic Jr., are proposing a concept, which they have patriotically named Green Freedom, for removing carbon dioxide from the air and turning it back into gasoline.

The idea is simple. Air would be blown over a liquid solution of potassium carbonate, which would absorb the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide would then be extracted and subjected to chemical reactions that would turn it into fuel: methanol, gasoline or jet fuel.

(photo from creative commons-attributed flickr user destro 100)

I Wish People Would Stop Stealing My Ideas

(via Neatorama)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Now I Need A New Playstation

A few years ago I bought my first video game system: a then-shiny 2005 Playstation 2. It took awhile for me to get used to it, but I eventually got good enough to play Grand Theft Auto 2 through San Andreas. And San Andreas is where the addiction really set in. It's really unhealthy to immerse oneself in that world, and I somehow could for like a day straight and without pause. It really corrupted my sense of reality, especially with the sleep deprivation, and getting behind the wheel of a real car afterwards was just asking for a speeding ticket, if not vehicular manslaughter. Anyway, I survived that stage of my life and eventually graduated to the less-realistic-graphics-yet-still-too-much-fun world of Wii. I felt equally guilty upon returning from the store with another hole in my pocket and nothing but mindless entertainment to look forward to, but I've learned to live with my compulsive purchases. For one thing, I'm convinced that I can probably golf in real life now, and I'm not constantly panicked when I see a police car. Nor do I try to get health from hookers anymore (only works in the video game). Sadly, it now looks like I'm going to have to spend another stupid amount of money on yet another gaming system. Nintendo seems to not want us to club people to death with our Wiimotes. 

GTA 4.

Friday, February 15, 2008

More Great BBC

While wandering around Smashing Telly, where plenty of great documentaries and full-length videos can be found, I came across some more BBC stuff to share. I urge you to watch these first, but if you've still got some time on your hands afterwards have a look at Nietzsche, or learn about the discovery of the atom, or visit pyramids in Peru that date back 5,000 years. 

Human, All Too Human, Friedrich Nietzsche (part 1)

Atom - The Clash of the Titans (part 1)

The Lost Pyramids of Caral (part 1)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Olbermann 4 Prez

Do conservative-leaning people watch Keith Olbermann and dismiss everything he says as the ravings of an Un-American proof-of-liberal-media lunatic? Or do they say, well, yeah, he's got a point, but it's not patriotic to question authoritarianism? 

(from MSNBC's Countdown via onegoodmove)

Good Music

Tinariwen - Chet Boghassa

Obama Will Be The Next President

Statisticians here have announced that Obama will be the next President of the United States of America. Poll results show 77 percent of the world would like Obama to run the country, while not even one person on Earth likes Clinton, McCain, or Romney. 11 percent of humanity wishes Edwards well while another 11 percent are hoping Huckabee gets some divine intervention to unite his church to the state. 1 percent of those polled disappeared. 

Falling Satellite To Be Used For Target Practice

Fearing the falling satellite may hit populated areas and leak toxins on those it does not crush, the Pentagon has announced plans to shoot missiles at and hopefully destroy it. Also of concern is the technology that the spy satellite could still have intact when it crashes - technology that the evildoers want. Mostly, though, this is a good opportunity to test antiballistic and anti-satellite weapons that make evildoers uncomfortable. From the NY Times:

The ramifications of the operation are diplomatic as well as military and scientific, in part because the United States criticized China last year when Beijing used a defunct weather satellite as a target in a test of an antisatellite system. The United States has opposed calls for a treaty limiting antisatellite or other weapons in space.

Let's see anyone try to criticize the US when it unleashes its awesome anti-satellite missiles. That's what I thought. All said, I guess I'd rather have an arms race with China than get crushed by a piece of toxic space debris. I'm selfish like that. 

(creative commons attributed photo from Flickr user C R)

4th Amendment

Republicans, frustrated that anyone would even want to discuss warrantless wiretapping instead of just signing the damn legislation, stormed out of Congress today. They want the government to be able to spy on its citizens for another six years and want to make sure telecommunications companies will happily help them without worrying about the stupid hippy tree-huggers suing them. The Republicans know that the only way to keep freedom and democracy alive is to create a police state. Article here

(creative commons attributed photo from Flickr user storm gal)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Cartoon That Nearly Killed To Try Again

Danish newspapers have reprinted the controversial cartoon depicting Muhammad with a bomb as his turban after three suspects were arrested for plotting to assassinate the cartoonist. So there. Every time you try to kill someone because of your belief that the act of drawing pisses of your holy figure more than the act of murder, it'll be reprinted. The only way you can assure that no more hurtful drawings will be printed is to not try to kill someone. I don't care who started it. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What Would You Do?

I freaked out. Then it freaked out, and, as it couldn't make it over the lip of the toilet, it thrashed about and swam back into the pipe. I could still see its tail so I flushed. 30 minutes later I had calmed down and cautiously returned to the scene, broom in hand. Sure enough, it had returned and it and I went through the same sequence of panic, with multiple flushes this time. Just in case, I threw a piece of cardboard in as a ramp. As much as I'd rather not have it running around my bathroom, there was no way I was going to ever use the toilet again if I thought it could swim up at any moment. I haven't seen it in months and, as there were no webbed footprints on the ramp when I returned, I assume it's still frolicking about down there somewhere, scaring everyone it encounters. 

New Energy Ideas

From the Guardian:

Europe is considering plans to spend more than £5bn on a string of giant solar power stations along the Mediterranean desert shores of northern Africa and the Middle East.

More than a hundred of the generators, each fitted with thousands of huge mirrors, would generate electricity to be transmitted by undersea cable to Europe and then distributed across the continent to European Union member nations, including Britain.

Billions of watts of power could be generated this way, enough to provide Europe with a sixth of its electricity needs and to allow it to make significant cuts in its carbon emissions. At the same time, the stations would be used as desalination plants to provide desert countries with desperately needed supplies of fresh water.

The method is pretty interesting. Giant mirrors direct sunlight to towers of water, which produce tons of steam that turn turbines and produce electricity. The steam is desalinized salt water by this time and can be used as much needed drinking water for the local communities. Pretty cool. Even if it takes £200 billion and 30 years, it sounds like a great investment. 


I realized I had driven for days to get there - had actually done an extra day's drive to retrieve my hat - and that I had not slept in all that time. I could not prove it to the person sitting in the front of the car with me, but I knew that I had perhaps dreamt that I had slept and dreamt but had not actually slept. The driving had been intense, with the highway suddenly switching between a divided highway and traffic screaming towards us in the left-hand lane. We had just passed the point where we had had to turn back to get my hat and so the road ahead would be new to us. I remarked that the first time we had made it this far the sun had been setting and so it had taken less than 24 hours to retrieve my hat. As we neared the cliff and the road took a left, the sky turned yellow and the sun began to set. It was impossible to see with sunlight reflecting off the road, and there were no shoulders as we were on a ridge of a mountain. Occasionally the glare off the pavement relented and I could see an approaching car or that our road suddenly turned to the left with only a driveway diving down the cliff to places unknown in the direction we had been going. The car was apparently of European make, because I was sitting on the left while someone else was operating the vehicle from what I had thought was the passenger side, with the cliff dropping down beside him. The person may have been of European make as well, because he kept driving in the left hand lane, passing cars blindly and swerving back towards the cliff when an oncoming car suddenly appeared. 

That had been before, and it was again daytime.  I was climbing a mountain with my double bass, playing a few notes every few minutes. It was a piece by Bottessini, i think, and this is how it was supposed to be performed. Then one of the strings broke, and as I started to go back the way i had come I realized that this was a different version than the one I had played before. It looked very difficult to get back down, especially with the bass. It seemed like I would need both of my hands to steady my descent and I had no idea what to do with the instrument.  I started up again and remembered something. There was a cave somewhere that served as a shortcut and that was why this didn't seem familiar. I looked around the coniferous trees for a path that branched off. 

I was handing over a red 100 dollar bill for a new string and was very much indoors again. I was standing at the side of a booth where the luthier was saying something to me while a line of people were paying someone else at a cash register for ice skates, I think. The luthier was very insistent and had decided that he had to make a new hole in the bass. But it was trepanning he was talking about. Two assistants wielding hammers walked away briskly saying let's get it done. Someone else waiting to pay shook his head no at me telling me that the man was crazy and not to let them do it. I kept explaining that perhaps it didn't sound loud enough because i had two basses and didn't play this one very much - that this was the instrument I climbed mountains with but the other one sounded much better and that perhaps it didn't need a trepanation. I was talking to no one and had to walk through the warehouse to find the office where the luthier was. As I approached I noticed three names on wooden plates next to the two offices. The bottom name was the once-famous composer and luthier. A Russian cellist I knew was being consulted in the office in front of me. He was sitting with his back towards me and nodding at the person at the desk but looked back at me as I walked by and raised his eyebrows. The luthier, who was also the composer of something and apparently someone respected in another era but just permitted to hang around these days, was in the next office, to the left of the first, shaking his head.  

Monday, February 11, 2008


Riding On The Dashboard Of My Car

Women-Only Buses

From the NY Times:
But many women complain that not all the contact is incidental. Among the 22 million passengers who use the bus and subway system daily, women say, are lecherous men taking advantage of the cheek-to-jowl conditions to leer and grope and then quietly disappear.

In response Mexico City has implemented women-only buses, though for only four routes so far. I've heard first-hand stories from women who had very unpleasant experiences while riding public transportation in that city, and this is certainly one way to deal with the problem. I wonder if it'll add up to twice as many busses on the roads, some half empty. There is also a big problem there with pickpockets. They should have separate busses for people with wallets that are sticking out of their back pockets and those who wish to steal them. 

More Good News For The Oceans!

In his infinite wisdom, Man has decided that the oceans are too complicated. In primordial times, the seas were home to simple organisms like sludge and slime and sludgy slime. We have made it possible to return to such a simple time, as our runoff and overfishing have enabled nothing but these to strive in their great swampiness. Oh, and jellyfish! Lots and lots of jellyfish! Because who doesn't want to get horrible rashes from prehistoric algae and then find himself in the midst of thousands of jellyfish? From the Los Angeles Times:

MORETON BAY, AUSTRALIA -- The fireweed began each spring as tufts of hairy growth and spread across the seafloor fast enough to cover a football field in an hour.

When fishermen touched it, their skin broke out in searing welts. Their lips blistered and peeled. Their eyes burned and swelled shut. Water that splashed from their nets spread the inflammation to their legs and torsos.

"It comes up like little boils," said Randolph Van Dyk, a fisherman whose powerful legs are pocked with scars. "At nighttime, you can feel them burning. I tried everything to get rid of them. Nothing worked."

As the weed blanketed miles of the bay over the last decade, it stained fishing nets a dark purple and left them coated with a powdery residue. When fishermen tried to shake it off the webbing, their throats constricted and they gasped for air.

After one man bit a fishing line in two, his mouth and tongue swelled so badly that he couldn't eat solid food for a week. Others made an even more painful mistake, neglecting to wash the residue from their hands before relieving themselves over the sides of their boats.

(thanks J for the tip)


(found at AMERICAblog(where they point out that it's a parody of this(which reminds me of this in a not very good way)))

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Unicorn Chaser

With all the fear I've been spreading by explaining that we're all going to die when a satellite hits the ocean but bounces off all the plastic and crashes into a particle accelerator and goes back in time to stop the Big Bang, I thought I'd throw a unicorn chaser in here somewhere to cheer everyone up. 

(unicorn chaser was coined by Boing Boing)

Time Travel Or Something Completely Unexpected

I'm totally cool with scientists experimenting, so long as said experiment doesn't endanger the entire universe. Scientists at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) in Switzerland have decided to recreate the Big Bang but on a smaller scale. Call it the Lil' Bang. The giant accelerator there is usually used for throwing two particles at one another at very high speeds, but it seems they're getting bored and upping the ante. Why not just throw a bunch of particles in there and see what happens! Some scientists in Russia believe it could create a rip in time. I believe it could kill us all. 

(via Neatorama)

Sea Of Plastic

The last time I heard this story the great swath of plastic was estimated to be the size of Texas. The latest news is that there is what is describes as a "soup" of mostly plastic garbage twice the size of the United States in the Pacific Ocean. From the Independent (UK):

"Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic..."

I'm just so proud I could cry. It's too late to be elected as a wonder of the world, but this is more impressive than all of them combined.   

(creative commons attributed photo from Flickr user ntr23)

Don't Try To Catch This

I still await the paper airplanes thrown from the international space station, but before I get the chance to catch one of them I'm going to be keeping my head up for a 5,000 pound U.S spy satellite that is predicted to fall to Earth in a month. If you see something falling towards you in early March you'll have about half an hour to panic. Story here
(creative commons attributed photo from Flickr user Joe Hastings)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Good Music

Miles Davis - Spanish Key (1969)

Ethanol Is Stupid

corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn corn

Gitmo Getting Gooder

From the NY Times:
Seeking to ease conditions for angry and frustrated Guantanamo detainees, the commander of the prison camps has instituted language classes, a literacy program and wants to open communal areas for men held in isolation 22 hours a day... 
He wants to keep guards separate from the detainees but still enable them to check on each prisoner every three minutes to prevent suicides...
Right now the men in Camp 6 sit in steel boxes without windows for at least 22 hours a day...
Sounds nice. Men who have been in solitary confinement for 6 years without being charged with a crime can now learn a new language or discover the joys of reading. I have no doubt that at least a few of the 275 said to be imprisoned there are guilty of something, but they haven't been charged with anything. They haven't seen a judge. They haven't been allowed to contact their families or a lawyer. They may have been victims of "enhanced interrogation techniques"(forced to stand and remain awake for 40 hours or more, kept naked in a cold cell and had water thrown on them periodically to make sure they remain cold, made to feel as though they were drowning through water-boarding), and yet several hundred of them have been released after years without charge. So it seems that at least some of the people kept there have not been "evil doers." Maybe some of them will have an interesting story to tell when someone asks them where they learned English.

Rafa Cars!

I put a new slideshow up over there ---> 
The pictured vehicles are what I call Rafa Cars. Rafa is a friend of mine who does not drive a car nor have a driver's license, which is unusual for someone from California. I don't know why beat-up cars from before the 80's remind me of Rafa. Perhaps it's because Rafa seems to be from a bygone era even though most of these cars are older than him. I just picture him driving one of these very slowly and sitting very close to the steering wheel. Rafa Cars can be spotted all over my town, and my passengers and I play a game of noting them as we cruise about. 

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Trick Question

Which of these does not smell of rancid milk?

Paper Airplane Is Now A Spaceship

This is the year that a Japanese astronaut will throw paper airplanes at us from the international space station.
I hope I catch one. 

From the Guardian:

"The planes, designed by the Japan origami airplane association, survived temperatures of 250C (482F) and winds speeds of Mach 7 - seven times the speed of sound - during their 30-second flight inside the university's hypersonic wind tunnel."

And to think this used to be enough to impress me:

(mental note: see if university will let me play with hypersonic wind tunnel)

Sleepy Sleep

I have to go to work every morning for a few hours, which means I have to get up around 7:30. It always feels early to me and I'm usually grumpy and difficult until I've had my coffee. Sometimes I can get through the rest of the day without collapsing, but I often give in to a siesta in the afternoon. On those days I find myself having difficulty getting to sleep at night and the next 7:30 feels even more unjust. I just woke up from one of said naps and read an article in the Guardian that convinced me that I've got to stop complaining about my lack of sleep and need of naps:

"...Skeates stopped breathing every 40 seconds or so during the night. He would briefly wake up, without properly regaining consciousness, and then fall back to sleep. And the process would begin over again... Doctors estimated Skeates was only actually sleeping for a few seconds at a time, and for less than 15 minutes in total every night."

Huckabee Girl

I've got to admit: this is pretty funny. Way back when, there was the girl who had a crush on Obama. Now Huckabee's got one, and she's riding on a Jesus horse! 

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


From what I've been able to understand Clinton and Obama are very close in their race for the Democratic nomination, and McCain is way ahead of Romney (and Huckabee had a very good Super Tuesday return) in the Repulican race. I'm  hesitant about any of this, though, as the system is insanely confusing. Some states use a fairly simple formula of delegates: there's a popular vote and however many delegates the state has go to the winner. If I'm right about this, sometimes the candidate gets all of the delegates, sometimes a percentage. Then there are states that have caucuses in which voters get together in groups to pick their pony. These seem to be states that can't afford voting machines. Finally we come to superdelegates, who don't have to pay attention to election results and can chose whomever they like, because they're super like that. 
Anyhow and so far, from Salon:
Obama is said to have 696/2,025 needed, while Clinton has 689/2,025 needed

McCain is said to have 681/1,191 needed, while Romney and Huckabee have 261 and 173, respectively. 

(photo from Just-Us-3)

Scarier Yet

I think I must have come across this at Neatorama, but it has haunted me ever since. I usually start screaming 38 seconds in:

Armed Dolphins

Whenever I'm near an ocean, sharks are mentioned. I literally cannot enter a large salty body of water without someone mentioning sharks. Its an irrational fear until you actually see one, at which point, yeah, I'd be scared. I always point out that over the years people have claimed that many more people die each year from falling coconuts than from shark attacks. Someone claimed that each year 150 people are killed by coconuts and this statistic, true or not, has been widely used to assuage fear. Instead, it made me nervous around palm trees. I watch them sway in the breeze and flinch when people walk under them. While snorkeling this past weekend, though, I suddenly panicked as I remembered a story from several years ago that makes fear of coconuts seem rational. From the Guardian (UK):
"It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico."


Carnival is over, and I survived by avoiding it altogether. Some friends and I discovered that the next state over with its beautiful Caribbean coast had had their celebrations a week early. They held their elections Sunday, and prohibit the selling of alcohol on election day as well as the day before. Forewarned, we stocked up on drink before crossing the border, though we ended up overestimating our need for alcoholic stimuli. Scooters were rented, snorkeling was had, beaches were laid upon, good food was eaten, and good times had by all. Even caught the second half of the Super Bowl. 

Friday, February 1, 2008

Plane on a Conveyor Belt

This has been covered in many places, most recently live-blogged by Kottke as it was proven on Mythbusters. Google "plane+conveyor" and you get 485,000 results. For anyone who somehow missed this, there has been an impossibly huge argument about whether a plane on a conveyor belt could take off. Most people who argued that it couldn't mistakenly thought that a conveyor belt running the opposite direction of the airplane would somehow make the plane remain stationary with its wheels spinning, when in fact the wheels have nothing to do with how a plane propels itself. Taking off, the plane would act exactly the same as under normal circumstances but with its wheels spinning twice as fast. Enough. 
I think a better question might be: can an airplane take off in a wind-tunnel (though obviously a big tunnel with a very high roof) without moving forward?


We're celebrating Carnival down here in Mexico. No, I should say that Carnival is being celebrated down here in Mexico. Last year I was foolish enough to live half a block from the parade route and there was nothing pleasant about it. There were two giant stages set up within a block of my house with some very large speakers blasting dance music and the occasional exclamations of the parade commentators. The outcome was a noise that is probably pumped into cells in Gitmo as a form of torture. I mean enhanced interrogation technique. I would have admitted to anything to make it stop, and it went on for a week. 
I don't get parades. And from the few times I wandered over to see what the big fuss and noise was about I believe no one else understands them, either. Sure, there were beautiful women on floats dancing provocatively. I get that, but most of the people were getting excited only when the beautiful girls threw free samples of whatever product their float was advertising. And while many of these floats were from beer companies, it wasn't free beer being given away. People were getting into a frenzy for candy and coca-colas. This kind of excitement has mass-hysteria written all over it. 
Later, when at least some of the children have been carted off to bed, the serious drinking sets in. I'd seen plenty of people more than drunk enough at 11 in the morning, but 12 hours later everyone has caught up with them. It has become obvious that most of the people are not seasoned drinkers, and some of them have inevitably gotten sick or become creative with the idea of what a toilet is. Others are doing the angry drunk thing, only menacingly and in large groups. There's more noise as bands only a block away from each other try to drown out the sound of the next stage, and some of the intoxicated are somehow dancing to both sounds at once. It's just not my cup of tea. 
As bad as I make it sound, people genuinely love Carnival and they're out there right now screaming at the girls on the floats going by. And as much as floats that are little more than billboards seem to cheapen whatever this is all supposed to be about (getting excess out of one's system before Lent), a group in Rio has tried to really outdo itself. They tried to enter a float depicting bodies of naked Holocaust victims. Granted, the theme this year is "shock," but who in their right mind says, "Hmm, I really need to make something for the parade and if its going to be a really good celebration its got to have something to do with the Holocaust and being naked!"? From the Guardian (UK):

"If we had people dancing on top of dead bodies that would indeed be disrespectful,"