Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Special One

I was hesitant to post this... political correctness and all. But the kid is so exuberantly joyful in his ability to outrun the agents, that I have to give this its moment. For he IS the Special One. Via Blackadder.


OMD: Electricity was the first song of their's I heard, about summer of '82.

Art of Noise (with Duane Eddy): Peter Gunn

I don't remember when I first saw this film (Urgh: A Music War), but while I didn't care for this performance at first, I was blown out of the water by Klaus Nomi's voice. I stumbled on a "best of" album a few years ago at the local library, and found I liked the majority of his music, as well as being (still) awed by his range. Sadly, I also learned that he died of AIDS only a few years after this was filmed. Total Eclipse

Separated at Birth

Michelle Bachmann...and Bat Boy
Now happily reunited.
Inspired by a post over at Distributorcap's place. I had never seen this Bachmann photo before, and he did something very, very disturbing (but very, very funny) with it. I decided to follow suit.

Gawd! I Love Being A White Male!

It comes with an enormous benefit: every time a white male kills someone, or commits another heinous crime, I don't have to worry about guilt by association. I don't have to trot out to the media and explain that atrocities such as opening fire on a bunch of fellow soldiers are completely contrary to the basic philosophical precepts of being a white male. So, for example, when Timothy McVeigh was convicted and executed for the Oklahoma City bombing, I didn't have to worry that white males were going to come under scrutiny, or that a SWAT team would knock down my door in the middle of the night to search my apartment for fertilizer. When Jaycee Lee Duggard escaped from Philip Garrido a few months ago, I didn't have to be concerned that my neighbors (who are female and/or Asian) would assume that I was a serial rapist and a kidnapper.

Yes, it's a fine thing, being a white male.

I'm sure glad I was smart enough to not be born in a middle eastern Muslim family. And, heaven forbid, wise enough not to covert to Islam.
But Americans sometimes struggle with tolerance toward them and immediately hone in on Hasan’s religion and prompt comments on like, “Get rid of the Muslims! It’s an awful, dangerous so-called religion.”

Some called it a “cult” that teaches “hate and intolerance”.

“I understand their anger, but they’re angry at something they don’t understand,” said Wicks. “Not all Muslims believe the same and my interpretation of Islam is under no circumstances, under no pretenses, is violence against innocence allowed. Period.”
No bigotry to see here, folks. Move along. Move along.

How is it I Don't Remember This?

On the morning of Nov. 3, 1979, at the corner of Carver and Everitt streets in Greensboro, N.C., 40 Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazis took out shotguns and automatic weapons from the trunks of their cars and opened fire on black, white and Latino anti-Klan demonstrators and union organizers who had gathered at Morningside Homes, a black housing project.

The KKK and Nazi members shot at anyone who wasn't hiding while four television news teams and one police officer recorded the action. The murderers then got back into their cars and sped away, leaving five people dead and 11 wounded.
Sixteen people were arrested but only six were brought to trial. And though the murders were caught on camera, all-white juries acquitted the six defendants.

To this day, not a single gunman has spent a day in prison, although in 1985 a civil jury found the city, the KKK and the Nazis liable for violating the civil rights of one demonstrator. The city paid $351,000.

Today, there is no historical marker at the site of the massacre, and the streets have since been rerouted and their names changed so the bloody intersection no longer even exists.
I don't recall ever hearing about this before. I don't know what to say.

Followup: JRepka clarifies a lot with his comment:
I was in the same boat as you -- I read the linked Op-Ed and couldn't figure out why an event that sounds like it happened in the 50s or 60s could have occurred in the 80s (for all intents and purposes), yet not be a major cultural touchstone.

Until my brother (he of the auto-recall) pointed out that next day, November 4 1979, was the day the American embassy in Tehran was seized by "students."

This was in the era of the actual 24-hour news cycle, where you couldn't even get a few hours of major coverage before being swamped by the tidal wave of the major breaking news...
Honestly, I was ascribing this glaring gap in my knowledge to youthful overuse of chemical entertainment. I generally tried to catch some news each day, but by the time this would have hit the media of the day, it would have been totally swamped by the news out of Tehran.

Friday, November 6, 2009


No, not a reference to the weather. Though as long as I'm on the subject, the storm I mentioned a couple of days ago was a little disappointing- the scudding clouds were beautiful and dramatic, but the rain didn't start until early evening, and wasn't very energetic. Elsewhere though, it was a different story. They were predicting 30 foot waves at the coast yesterday, and apparently they got 'em- OregonLive described it (my paraphrase, the article is gone) as a series of near tragedies. A number of people were swept into the surf, one person got pinned by a driftwood log, a porch collapsed and dumped two people into the water... but miraculously, no one was killed or seriously injured. Freakin' 50 foot waves were predicted for today!
Surf’s up — way up — and that means danger on the coast.

The National Weather Service issued a high surf advisory for the Oregon Coast today, saying waves could tower 50 to 55 feet in spots.

“These large waves as they hit the coast are very energetic,” said Shawn Weagle, forecaster at the weather service office in Portland. “They can throw things like logs and any debris in the ocean and make it dangerous for anyone near the shore.”
Yeah, the equivalent of a tsunami rolling in several times a minute might just be a tad bit risky. In the mountains, 3 feet of snow are expected:
GOVERNMENT CAMP – Justin Larson of Parkdale and her friend, Scott Brown of Knoxville, Tenn. couldn't wait to hit the slopes today, awash in a fall snowstorm that ski area operators say has season opening potential.

The two clambered up a side slope just outside Timberline Lodge, just as another wave of heavy snow fell. By noon, the snow was shin-deep, with the promise of another two feet to fall by the end of Saturday. The two slowly moved down the mountain, gradually disappearing into fog and heavy snow.

The storm arrived overnight with wind gusts in the 60-, 70-, 80– and 90 mph range, with a peak gust of 91 mph recorded at Garibaldi.
However, the Willamette Valley gets a great deal of protection from strong winds by the Coast Range, and the trip up the coastal side of those mountains wrings much of the moisture out of the air. Annual precipitation at the coast and up to the crest of the range can be 100 to 150 inches; here in Corvallis we have an average of about 42 inches.

So I wasn't really surprised by the placidity of the storm. As one meteorologist commented, it's typical November weather.

No, "Drenched" refers to an addictive flash game I found a little while ago.The object of "Drench" is to covert the 14 X 14 grid to a single color, starting from the upper-left square. Click on the color of the paint pot to change the color of your home square, and subsume other squares of the new color. (The above are screen captures; click the link above to play the game.) My first choice was red...
which allowed me to get three (rather than just one) yellow squares on the next change.
The next three changes were blue, white, yellow.
I don't generally fool around with this sort of thing, but I do like strategy games that require you to think ahead a little rather than just react to (read: "shoot") the next boogieman that pops up.

There's a discussion going on amongst my old high school classmates that I'm trying to figure out how to chime in on regarding K-12 curricular choices. As a person who has taught age ranges from 1st grade to retirees (sometimes even getting paid for it!), the first and best thing to learn is that thinking is fun. What you think with (i.e. your starting facts), and about (i.e. to what ends) is the domain of curriculum decisions. Teachers have a big role in helping kids learn that thinking is fun, but parents have a much, much bigger one. And I'll leave it there for now.

P.S. In case you're wondering, my next choices were red, green, light blue, white, red, yellow.

Activity on Mars

I've been surprised that none of the astro-geo blogs I follow have posted this... The Big Picture has a terrific set of 35 Mars landscape images today. It's easy to think of Mars as a dead planet, and historically it has been been described as such. It is very likely (though not certainly) tectonically inactive- i.e. there is most likely no recent volcanism, and the crust is not mobile, as is that of Earth. Nevertheless, there are numerous processes that cause change to the planet's surface: wind, mass movement (for example, the landslide down the cliff face, above), sublimation of CO2 and H2O moving masses of those substances from pole to pole over Mars' year (about 2 Earth years), and the occasional meteorite impact. With few exceptions, the images depict change, however small, in relatively recent time- keep in mind, to a geologist, "relatively recent" may mean thousands to a few million years.

I think one thing that really struck me was how wonderfully abstract and "organic" some of the landscapes appear. And that these beautiful forms actually exist.

I Love Alice in Wonderland

But I never expected to find myself living it. (OregonLive.) There's been a torrent of news this week, some of it tedious, some of it overplayed. For example, the Fort Hood shootings are important, but it amazes me how eagerly journalists rush to report "No one knows anything yet." Yeah? And that's news? On the other hand, there's also been a lot of important and interesting news... I just haven't taken much time to discuss it and pass it along.

I have a backlog of posts that I want to get up; hopefully it'll slow down over the weekend enough to recover lost ground. But if you've been wondering why I haven't been saying much (as opposed to lazily passing along stuff that's amusing or interesting without much comment), it's because I've been spending 10-12 hours a day reading.

I'm a heavy believer in pointing out flaws in reasoning; and while I expect to be on the receiving end of that practice from time to time, I do not expect to like it. I'm also a firm believer in the idea that I learn more when my mouth is (or in this case, fingertips are) inactive than when it isn't. I've just been using my fingertips for scrolling, it seems.I may have not spent much time writing this week, but you can rest assured I'm not going to waste your time with long columns expressing how important it is to express that no one knows or understands what happened. Unless it is.

Oops... and Oops

Yesterday I posted a clip from the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, in which William Shatner recited poetry from Levi Johnston's Twitter account. Turns out, it's an impersonator, not Sarah Palin's grandbaby's daddy. Conan and I both offer our sincere apologies.

What I Think

This won't be funny unless you are familiar with Athens, Ohio, and know that I grew up there. Context here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Deep Thoughts From Levi Johnston

"Anybody know where I can get some good weed?"Sounds to me like he's already used up that last baggie full.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It's Been Nice and Sunny

It's sort of heartbreaking to see the sun sinking below the buildings across the street by 3:00 PM, and the mornings (especially today) have been foggy, but we've been getting some really nice, warm sunshine the last few days.

That won't be the case tomorrow.
According to OregonLive,
Winds are forecast to gust to 50 to 60 mph on the Oregon Coast, with higher gusts on exposed headlands, and the coastal mountains could see two to three inches of rain Thursday into Thursday night.
I like weather, and I like it to change, so I'm not in the least opposed to this. Honestly, I would prefer a dramatic, showy storm to long periods of placid drizzle. Buy have no fear... we'll certainly get some of that, too.

If I Had A Car

I would so put a Dodge Viper logo on it... upside down. Yay, Daffy! From Reddit.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

About Those Elections Today

...and what they say about Obama's presidency.
Toles, from October 23.
Found at Wonkette, from early May.
OregonLive, today (Lukovich)

As far as I'm concerned, they're irrelevant. The rubblekins continue to purify themselves into a corner... and there are areas where that will play well. I have to admit, I'm curious to see the outcome of the NY 23 race. But in the end...... fap, fap, fap. (above from Night Deposits) It's an event for Wolf Bitzer to impress himself some more, and pretentiously pause several times in the middle of his sentences, as he works toward an enormous on-screen egasm.

Reporting Done Right

Every now and then, I go on a rant about bad science reporting. Most often, it's about geology, the science I know best: I can spot the weaknesses in the study, I often know what's being left out or misrepresented, and I'm sensitive to hype- overstating the meaningfulness of the results.

I think medical reporting is the worst, but I don't often comment on it because I don't know much about medicine, or the particulars of research design in that field. But on any given day, you can be assured that there will be some medical story in almost any given news source you follow thoroughly, stating that this new discovery "may" lead to a cure for cancer, or aids, or acne or whatever, with the stern implication that you should eat more broccoli steamed in red wine and covered with chocolate sauce. If you want to live.

I don't read a whole lot of those articles anymore.

Research is always going to be an iffy thing. The complexity (and I would argue, beauty) of the real world is due to many, many interacting factors. One of the goals of scientific research is to reduce those factors, or variables, to a number that can actually be managed. So a bit of research that says "x" under conditions "1,2,3" may be contradicted by research that says "y" under conditions "1,2,4," even though "x" and "y" seem mutually exclusive. And that doesn't even take into account unrecognized variables "33, 47" that may or may not have existed in one or both studies.

And the fact is that the vast majority of us simply don't have the background, patience and perseverance to actually read the professional literature outside of our own discipline(s).

All that said, I just finished a brilliantly written article in The Guardian that lays out the methodolgy, results, and conclusions of a recent journal article on smoking cessation. The author starts with a template of questions, then writes one to a few paragraphs answering each of them.
  • What do we know already?
  • What does the new study say?
  • How reliable are the findings?
  • Where does the study come from?
  • What does this mean for me?
  • What should I do now?
I encourage other journalists to use this form, and not just in medicine, but to report any research that might be expected to have implications for the general public. Quit copying press releases. They're not about research. Some of the relevant information might be in the press release, but part of what we used to expect from journalism was that it would do the hard work of making sense of something, then explain it in a way that was mostly accurate, reasonably objective, and palatable to consume for the average high schooler.

I'm not demanding perfection, I'm just asking that you do your jobs.

Heh. I was going to end by applauding the author. Here's the citation at the end:

Piper ME, Smith SS, Schlam TR, et al. A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial of 5 Smoking Cessation Pharmacotherapies. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2009;66(11):1253-1262.

© BMJ Publishing Group Limited ("BMJ Group") 2009

BMJ is the British Medical Journal. It was written by professional medical journalists and doctors.

See what happens when you have journalists who actually know something about the subject on which they're reporting?

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Hate it When That Happens

The Telegraph has a mind-blowing gallery of Lego sculptures. The artist, Nathan Sawaya, quit a job with a "six-figure salary" (keep in mind this is a London Paper; in Pounds Sterling, that's a minimum of 150 K USD), and sells these for thousands of dollars apiece. Looking through the photos, I personally wouldn't buy them- I can't afford that kind of money, and I have no place to put them that would do them justice- but they're totally worth it.

More ObamaCare

New And Improved! Sociocommunislamifascist Obama tells you what to wear! So here's what I have to wear tomorrow: sunglasses, jumper, sweater, jeans and sneakers.Then Wednesday through Friday, I must wear a summer jacket, shirt, tee, jeans and sneakers. Saturday will be a re-run of tomorrow without the sunglasses (it is western Oregon, after all).

All Hail Obama! Freeing me from the onerous task of figuring out what to wear, so I can spend more time reading LOLCats!

Oh waitaminit... I just realized it's the Weather Channel, not Whatev's. All Hail our corporate overlords! Freeing me from the onerous task of figuring out what to wear, so I can spend more time reading LOLCats!

Followup: We can also get fashion instructions from Bender and Dr. House. All hail our robotic doctor caregivers! and cetera...

Followup 2: And Angelina! Oh HAIL yeah! Also, too, in the category of "things you can't unsee," NSFW, in a cartoonish sort of sense. And BTW, it's not the weather Channel; that's where they get their data, and I guess that's why they're using TWC logo.

Umm... Oops?

Don't text while forklifting.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Funnies

Mr. E.T. Skull Swap
The Saturday Bulletin
funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy picturesAvailable in grocery stores everywhere. Criggo
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny picturesBaby Beavis. Or Butthead... I never could keep them straight. My First Fail
Above and below from How's That For a Slice of Fried Gold?
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
albert einstein
see more Political PicturesProblem solved
Magnicifent! Regretsy
Agent-X Comics
The Saturday Bulletin
Ahhh, the sweet bliss of existentialism... Darius Whiteplume's tumblr
engrish funny peeled foul
see more Engrish
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Skull Swap
Pundit Kitchen
New rule: only pay attention to protest signs that are spelled correctly. The Daily What.
Well, Yale beat me to it, but good on ya, anyways. Probably Bad News
Partnership for a Drug-Free America... Skull Swap
Pushmi-pullyu: the automotive version. Picture is Unrelated
Such a sunny disposition... I Hate My Parents
Non Sequitur
From Dork Tower, via the Daily What.
Luke Surl

This is funny in and of itself, but the guy laughing hysterically makes it ever so much funnier. Via Buzzfeed

Remember: more than two-thirds of the earth's surface is water. Skull Swap.
The origins of Punk. Skull Swap
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Don't feed them. Indexed.
Mortar for a Brick... House. That Will Buff Out. (Disco still sucks.)
robert downey jr
see more Lol Celebs
The title of the post is "It's subtle." The title of the image is "Philomath." Enjoy, Bob-who-lives-in-Philomath. Brown Sharpie.
Criggo. Keep in mind that it's editors- the ones who've truly mastered the intricacies of the English lananguage- who write the headlines. (sic, he said)
Help Help! Criggo
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Finally, an enlightened approach to those with health issues... Criggo
funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures
Click for readable size... from xmason's flickr photostream.
The back side of Mount Rushmore, from Skull Swap