Monday, May 30, 2005


My thoughts on the French "Non" Vote

Started with the best of intentions (unleashing the effects of the market on the continent of Europeby creating one US-like continental sized market), the EU has developed into an over-regulated, protectionist, bureaucratic nightmare. As such the EU is in desparate need of a "reboot", and the French "Non" vote provides the opportunity to start over (starting over is no disgrace - the US did it when we decided the Articles of Confederation weren't working out).

However, the French "Non" vote appears to be largely premised on the French belief that the EU was insufficiently regulated, protectionist, and bureaucratic. * As it's hard to envision a EU without France, the French concerns will probably be addressed in a future Constitution.

So I fear that yesterday's vote signals that Europe - if this is even possible - will become more regulated, protectionist, and bureaucratic....

* The rest of the Non vote can largely be explained as expression of the sentiment that "Chirac sucks" - a sentiment to which I'm rather sympathetic.


Happy Memorial Day

Like many Americans, I plan on having a special memorial meal today to honor our fallen veterans of this battle during the Tet Offensive. (It doesn't involve hufu.)


Friday, May 27, 2005


History of Violence Trailer

The trailer for Cronenberg's next movie, A History of Violence, is up. It was at Cannes in competition, but didn't win anything. I saw this a few months ago (it's one of New Line's); it's excellent. Unlike most of Cronenberg's stuff, this one is pretty much a straight genre movie. It'll be interesting to see how it does commercially.


Bush Lied Meme

Something's been bothering me about Jody's post, namely his assertion that Bush didn't lie. I didn't mean to assert that Bush lied about WMD. I do mean to assert that Bush lied about U.S. intentions and commitment to a diplomatic route. Throughout the fall before the war, Bush repeatedly said that he was commited to seeking a diplomatic solution; that Iraq could, by readmitting inspectors and disarming, avoid war. As the Downing St. Memo makes clear, they couldn't. The United States was involved in the U.N. route only to seek legitimacy for a preordained war. As a bonus, the inspector's inability to find any WMDs allowed the U.S. to discredit the inspectors. Bush lied about our commitment to this process, in that he knew that we were not seeking a diplomatic solution, and that no Iraqi actions could avoid military occupation. Bush lied about when the decision to go to war was made. Again, I supported the war. But I don't think you can avoid conceding the point that Bush knew that reality didn't match his speeches. Whether you think that's justifiable, or whether you call it diplomacy or realpolitik, is a different argument. Whether Bush lied about WMD as a prime motivator for the US is also a different argument. Neither is the argument I am making.


Who knew?

Viagra may be making some men blind. (via email from Walt)

In related news, I shave my palms weekly. [Damn you Matrubation Month!]

This somehow seems related and might be useful to know if we have any equinamorous readers.


New Criterion Contraption

M, now at the Criterion Contraption.


Thursday, May 26, 2005


I wonder what quorum is in the Tennessee Legislature

As a former resident of the great state of Tennessee (so is Matt), I can't help but rubberneck at the political trainwreck that occured today.


Equal Time Photo Op

Paul Feig, one of the creators of Freaks and Geeks and writer/director on Undeclared and Arrested Development, wants to be on the front page of the New York Times propping up his father's decomposing corpse outside the White House. I say we let him; this is a guy who knows good televison when he sees it.


Full Disclosure

In the comments to this post on Volokh.com (the post is about an online essay-writing service called Professays), there's a link to this excellent article by Gene Weingarten from 2000, which details his attempts to buy a diploma online. His boss agreed that the Washington Post would pay for such a diploma, but required him to tell them that he was a writer for the Post. Here's how he did it; in one of his letters he, apropos of nothing, decided to include an autobiography.
Underneath, I have written a more lenthy summary of my life. I urge you to take the time to read it.


The fact is, when I was born in October 1951 it was raining and I think that explains a lot of who I am and who I became. I believe there is always rain in life but you have to stick out your tongue and catch the raindropes and taste the wetness. Basically, I am an optomist. I believe very much in not dissapointing yourself.
[Paragraphs of unreadable prose follow]
Clocks, as you are seeing here, are very complicated, like this letter which is roundabouts trying to tell you I write for the Washington Post, which is a big newspaper in Washington, and I am going to write about you so be careful, but that is a whole nother story too! [Emphasis Mine]
[More paragraphs of semi-coherent autobiography]

Read the whole thing.


The last of it.

Slate today has an interactive primer on American interrogation by Emily Bazelon, Phillip Carter, and Dahlia Lithwick. I agree with their conclusion, Jody won't; boring. It's a useful resource, though; all of the legal memos that created the conditions for abuse are there, there's a summary of the chain-of-command from Lydie England up to President Bush, and most interestingly, summaries of all the Army and Pentagon investigations into interrogation techniques. I'm not going to write about torture anymore.


Three notes on GDP and forecasts

It's all just statistics about the past, so perhaps it's not that important, but GDP growth for the first quarter was revised today up to 3.5% from 3.1% (to clarify: that's US GDP for our international readers) .

Note 1:
Now one of the things I find interesting is what was being said when the initial estimate was released in April.
"The newest snapshot of the economy is likely to disappoint economists. Before the report's release, they were forecasting a 3.5 percent growth rate for the first quarter."
which means the economists did a pretty good job forecasting.

Note 2:
The next thing I find interesting is that there while there was some reporting that economists had been expecting a revision up to 3.6% (which means this revised forecast is still close enough for me to call "pretty good"), I'm having a hard time finding a note in current articles about the initial forecast of 3.5%. I'm not alleging bias or anything like that; I'm just wondering if I'm the only one with a long term memory.

Note 3:
Then consider this discussion in the corner (which also missed the fact that the new estimate matches the original forecasts):
"Hey Jonah, doesn't it seem like the "revised" figures for the nation's gross domestic product are routinely 10 percent higher than the originally reported figures? If the initial figures are almost always too low, isn't it time for the feds to start changing the way the initial calculations are done? This is getting ridiculous, no?"
This prompted the following email from me: [Update: this email is now posted in the Corner]
Here's an assertion which I don't have the time to check today (I'll see if I can find some stats to either prove or disprove this assertion tonight):
"For an accelerating economy, revisions are generally upwards. For a decelerating economy, revisions are generally downwards."
This makes some abstract sense if you assume a) that GDP estimations are measuring "things" that are coming into and out of existence and b) your best first estimate of the rate of change in the current number of those "things" is the measure from the previous quarter. For instance, consider the creation of companies during an economic cycle.

Now estimating the number of companies in a large economy can be a pretty difficult task. Assuming the change in number of companies is the same as the previous quarter is not a bad first estimate. However, for an accelerating economy, that leads to an undercount in the first estimate as the acceleration has led to a faster growth rate. Similarly during decelerations, that first estimate leads to an overcount.

Now, I'm an engineer, not an economimst, (Dammit Jim!) so the assertion might well be wrong, but it does gives the GDP economists an "out" for being off by 10% for some scenarios.
As I said in the email, I'll try to find a good dataset to analyze my assertion tonight.

Update 2
This report (pdf) has some good information on the assertion. Repeatedly, the report claims that any bias is insignificant, but the data presented alongside belie that point.

For instance, see the following two charts that I've extracted:

(from page 11)

(from page 20)

Takeaway points:
1. Regardless of what the conclusions the report draws, empirically, there appears to be a methodological flaw that initially underestimates the rate of growth in a growing economy by about 10% (I'm assuming about 3-4% annual growth for the page 11 chart. For an error of 0.4 percentage points, that's about 10% ). This 10% error appears to swamp most other effects.

2. The revisions only tend to overestimate growth (i.e., revise down) in a contracting economy (and then only by a little bit).

3. Perhaps I gave the fed economists too much credit in my acceleration explanation - a second order effect. It appears that they can't even account for first order effects (is the economy growing or shrinking?).


Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Three Simple Lessons and Seven Specific Comments

Simple Lesson 1:
If you believe A, claim A, then A turns out to be wrong, then it is neither a lie nor a canard. It is an error. (Perhaps a pretty big error, but not a lie nor a misrepresentation of the facts).

Hypothetical Example of Lesson 1:
Person in charge of decision making: “How confident are you that A is true?”
Person in charge of making sure A is correct: “It’s a slam dunk.”
Person in charge of decision making: “Ok then. I’ll go in front of the public and say A.”

Simple Lesson 2:
If you believe A and B, and both A and B support course of action C, then stressing A over B in the course of arguing over C is neither intentionally misleading nor lying.

Hypothetical Example of Lesson 2
Jody: “Let’s go for a walk. It’s a nice day out and it’s good exercise. Did I mention that it’s a nice day out?”

Simple Lesson 3:
There are an infinite number of outcomes in the world, failing to account for all of them is not inadequate planning, particularly when you have an intelligent opponent.

Hypothetical Example of Lesson 3
Consider any strategy game that you (any reader) might have played with me.

Seven Specific Comments to this post
1. I don’t take too kindly to having my ethics slurred.

2. Giving Tommy Franks the Medal of Freedom was definitely the correct decision. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were two of the most successful operations in military history, and even though it created the later perception of inadequate planning, the decision to quickly press into Baghdad was an excellent one. If you have a beef with the actions of the military post invasion, then it's more appropriate to take it up with Abizaid.

3. Giving Paul Bremer the Medal of Freedom was probably the right decision. On the negative side, stopping the first attack on Fallujah was probably a bad idea. On the plus side: there’s a government there now; there’s no civil war between the Shiites, Sunis, and Kurds; Iraq didn’t have to be partitioned.

4. Giving Tenet the Medal of Freedom was probably the wrong decision. On the plus side, he was quite instrumental to the Afghan effort – probably the most successful war largely fought by the CIA. On the negative side, he f*d up the intelligence on Iraq pretty badly and on 9/11. While there’s the egg-on-the-face factor that faces the US now (and causes otherwise smart people to call errors “lies”), its more serious effect was causing our troops to have to carry and sometimes fight in CW suits (seriously limiting our effectiveness), and to overestimate the resistance in Baghdad (twas supposed to be our Stalingrad) slowing down the assault and causing our resources to be allocated in a less than optimal manner.

5. On “Could we spend 1/10th of the effort spent selling the war on winning the peace?”
Color me thoroughly confused (I think that's a shade of orange).

6. On not spending money to improve the army, I assume Matt is referring to the humvee armoring issue which a) didn’t solve the IED problem (signal jamming did) and b) is a long term bad idea for the army (it makes those humvees useless for anything but peace keeping as it destroys handling and speed).

On the larger issue of funding to improve the army (which is what was actually written), I have to assume Matt is ignoring a) the investments we’ve made in UAVs (which have proved the single best investment we've made during this war) and improved communications (which has also been tremendously useful) and b) that $85 billion supplemental that a certain Senator was for, before he was against (and the other supplementals).

7. "Politically palatable" in the context of the article is for the British, not the Americans (sic semper tyrannis, no?). I'll assume the juxtaposition of the politically palatable graph with American diplomacy was just the result of a simple reading comprehension error.


We Like The Service

Thason's post made me think it was time for all of us to just sit back, take a deep breath, and remember that Quiznos was smart enough to use one of the most amusing flash cartoons ever as the basis for an ad campaign. Then they took it a bridge too far with a stupid talking baby. But still: They Got A Pepper Bar! And they like the moon. We would all do well to remember that.

Seth Stevens wrote about the spongemonkey ads in Slate at the time.


Hope is on the way.

Jody seems concerned about a coming hit to the economy; I bring a message of hope: CivAnon. With their straightforward motto (No More Turns), heartwarming testimonials from fellow sufferers, and 12 step program, these guys may be able to help not just Jody, but America. Be sure to click the "Learn the Truth About Civilization" link for a confession from someone surprising. I knew he had an addictive personality, but I never thought he had the concentration for a turn-based game...not to mention trouble with managing insurgencies.

Civilization Anonymous.

Update: How could I forget this Open Letter to Paul Bremer with life lessons from Civilization? Answer: I couldn't. Highlight:
First, quell the resisters! Install a military force with strong units such as the Knight, Pikeman, or Hoplite. If you have not created a Barracks in Baghdad, I suggest doing that, too. Subsequent military units built there will begin as Veterans. (We don't want Regular Swordsmen going into Tikrit, do we? I didn't think so.) Obviously you should Fortify (Ctrl-F) your forces if you haven't done so already.


Selling a War

Whether you see Bush's actions during the summer and fall of 2002 as masterful realpolitik or propaganda at its worst, you should find Mark Danner's piece about the Downing Street memo to be an interesting read. Yep, he violates Godwin's law. But it's the best article about this memo that I've read so far, with a succinct wrap-up of what the memo establishes about U.S. diplomacy during this period:
  1. By mid-July 2002, eight months before the war began, President Bush had decided to invade and occupy Iraq.
  2. Bush had decided to "justify" the war" by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD."
  3. Already "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
  4. Many at the top of the administration did not want to seek approval from the United Nations (going "the UN route").
  5. Few in Washington seemed much interested in the aftermath of the war.

The money quote:

Though "the UN route" would be styled as an attempt to avoid war, its essence, as the Downing Street memo makes clear, was a strategy to make the war possible, partly by making it politically palatable.

I think the above statement is something both sides of the aisle can agree on, and a conclustion that will be borne out by history. Now, how bad you think this is depends on whether you think we should have invaded Iraq or not (and more generally, depends on your philosophy about political power, noble lies, &c.). As I've noted before, I supported the war on a much more general basis than WMD or any of the other canards Bush used during that summer and fall: sic semper tyrannus. And as Jody has noted, that's not a good enough reason to get the American people involved; another rationale was necessary. Is it morally okay to play the U.N. against itself the way Cheney did, or to blow up false intelligence to discredit U.N. inspections? I would prefer to think it isn't; I would rather see an administration make an honest play and fail, like Wilson with the League of Nations, than lie and succeed. But that's probably too idealistic of me, and a reason I would make a terrible politician. Jody clearly thinks it's okay to misrepresent facts in the service of greater goals; it's interesting which one of us is a moral relativist when it comes to political power...

In any event, knowing the war was a foregone conclusion makes the administration's appalling failure to adequately prepare for the aftermath of war all the more unforgiveable. Rumsfeld is right: you go to war with the army you've got. But not spending the money to improve the army you've got is a mistake. And awarding the Medal of Freedom to Tenet, Franks, and Bremer may send the right message to the masses (you were right all along, guys! We're winning!), but it doesn't inspire much confidence that this administration is concerned with getting things right. We're in Iraq and we can't get out. Bush doesn't have to run for election again. In a real sense, it doesn't matter what the public thinks of him. So could we spend 1/10th of the effort spent selling the war on winning the peace?


The Sub Rule

No one has ever convinced me that working in the fast and medium-speed food services is particularly difficult. Perhaps those of you who have done it can enlighten me in terms of a particularly cute experience I had today.

I like Quizno's subs. For me, they are sufficiently superior to most Subway subs that I don't mind the additional cost. I've decided that I like toasted subs, but that I don't like the way that Subway toasts their subs.

I am quite partial to Quizno's Mesquite Chicken with Bacon sub. It's pretty standard fare - mesquite chicken, bacon (surprise, surprise). lettuce, tomatoes, (I always get extra tomatoes on mine), red onions, and ranch dressing. Note the central ingredients: Chicken. Bacon. Ranch.

Putting aside the issue of just how tasty it is to eat two different kinds of animal on the same sub, I'll point out that it follow's what I will now call Jody's sub rule - that is, the name of the sub makes it quite self explanatory as to what you're getting for your money.

Here it is worth mentioning that Blacksburg hasn't been particularly kind to the sandwich places that have tried to find fertile purchase on College Avenue. I would say that Extreme Pita (where I never found the food to be worth the cost) went down in ignominy, except that Touchdown Subs went down in even more ignominy. They went out of business in a few months - before I even had a chance to try their overpriced food.

Now there's a new place whose name I can't remember. Jody ate there once, and came away with the complaint that inspired the sub rule. They apparently use unnecessary embellishment and failed humor to extend the description of their subs out to six or so lines. He posits that if you're not good enough to describe your subs in a few words, then you're on your way out of business. It should be about the food, and not what you might have to say about the food.

And I agree...well, maybe not as much as I did before.

I went to Quizno's today. I got to the counter, thought for a minute, and ordered the same thing I always get. (Variety? Bah!) Except that when I placed the order, I ordered a "Chicken Bacon Ranch."

Now despite the fact that I'd clearly communicated what I wanted on the sub, the woman at the counter looked at me and said "I think that's at Subway."

This is bad on two levels.

First, the corrollary to the sub rule is that if you tell the person behind the counter what you want on your sub, and they have the stuff that you want, then they should be able to make your sub without any problem. Giving a sub a simple name that tells exactly what you like on the sub should dispel any confusion as to what should go on said sub.

Now had I walked into Quizno's and asked for a "Ricochet Rabbit" - that's a sandwich at Macado's that is essentially a Mesquite Chicken with Bacon, except it's served on a bagel - that would be totally different. But Macado's can get away with giving the sandwiches personality-laden but totally undescriptive names because a) they've been in business long enough to be a fixture, and b) they have a listing of the sandwich toppings that they have, so someone could easily "build" his own sandwich by stating what they want on it.

When the woman behind the counter inadvertently tried to tell me that they didn't have the sub that I wanted and that I knew was on the menu, I was a new resident of the state of confusion. I had to scan the menu with some annoyance to find out where my sandwich was. And besides being annoyed, the fact that she didn't just make the sandwich I wanted consumed time, energy, and sanity - three things that I have in short supply.

Now as if this weren't bad enough (and I'm looking for you people who have been on the back side of the counter to confirm this) it occurs to me that one thing you should never do is to mention the competition in a manner that sells their product. What would she have done if I'd said "Oh, yeah. You're right." and then walked out of the door to go to Subway - that is, aside from being directly responsible for the loss of a sale and for a sale going to the competition? Isn't that something that they'd teach you on day 1 of Quizno 101?

Anyway, I got my sub. And it was delicious. Mmmmmm...meat.


How to Serve Man

Say you're a cannibal and you're recently decided to become a vegetarian. You can no longer eat the flesh of your vanquished enemies to gain their powers, or consume their souls, or get that soft sweet flavored meat that melts in your mouth like butter from the churns of heaven...

And the the cravings have started. Oh the cravings. It's enough to drive a vegetarian cannibal mad.

Well just in time for the beginning of grilling season comes Hufu - human flavored tofu. (h/t Marginal Revolution)
HufuTM is designed to resemble, as humanly possible, the taste and texture of human flesh. If you've never had human flesh before, think of the taste and texture of beef, except a little sweeter in taste and a little softer in texture. Contrary to popular belief, people do not taste like pork or chicken.
For the low low price of $11.98, you can buy 3.5 ounces of Hufu strips. Why, that's enough for a vegetarian cannibal feast! At least if all your vegetarian cannibal friends are Smurfs. (Did you ever notice that there were no Smurf graveyards?)

Of course, I've never liked any of the tofu meat substitutes because while close, they always taste noticeably different from the original meat item. (For me approximating the flavor of meat is like approximating a human face - being close but off is frequently more distasteful than being way off.) So I have my doubts on how close Hufu will come to matching the taste and texture of real human flesh and if it will satisfy the tastes of the discriminating cannibal. I am doubly doubtful about the approximation as the CEO/founder/inventor of Hufu has never eaten human flesh. But then again, I've also never eaten human flesh so I won't know any different.

So vegetarians, this Memorial Day, pass on the Boca burger and instead ask for the human flavored tofu by name - Hufu (or ask your local grocer, I'm sure they'll be thrilled to help).

In the meantime, I'll be eating a half pound of grilled cow.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Public Service Announcement

I feel it is my duty to pass this important message on to our readers.


Monday, May 23, 2005


Geek Fantasies

I know this site is what I used to fantasize about... (definitely not work safe)
(h/t Fleshbot - which isn't worksafe either)



There's a pretty good TV Funhouse cartoon here, in which a superhero named the Divertor saves America by getting Sinbad to drop trou in front of schoolchildren.


Keeping up the pressure

In the comments to a post below, Jody writes:
On its own initiative, the military exposed these abuses. On its own initiative, the military is investigating these abuses. The NYT only has this article because of the work of the military to prosecute those responsible for the torture of Dilawar.
This would be nice, if it were true. Actually, it would be more accurate to say:

On its own initiative, the military ignored autopsy findings of homicide. On its own initiative, the Criminal Investigative Command reported that they couldn't determine who could possibly have done such a thing. On its own initiative, the military recommended closing the cases against the interrogators who murdered Dilawar. On its own initiative, the military transfered the interrogators from Baghram to Abu Ghirab.

From Tim Golden's follow-up to his piece on torture at Baghram:

While the proposal to close the case was ultimately rejected by senior officials, documents show that the inquiry was at a virtual standstill when an article in The New York Times on March 4, 2003, reported that at least one of the prisoner's deaths had been ruled a homicide, contradicting the military's earlier assertions that both had died of natural causes. Activity in the case quickly resumed.

It's the nature of institutions to protect their own. Always has been, always will be. Please don't confuse this with Glenn Reynold's favorite strong man, the one about "the larger story" being true; Newsweek got it wrong. But let's get it right; the military won't solve their problems on their own, and that hurts everyone. Keeping up the pressure for full accountability can help us win this war. And that's what this is about, isn't it?

Conservative blogger John Cole has a nice roundup of Hugh Hewitt's utterly inadequate response to media stories about torture, which you can find here. I won't conflate Hewitt and Jody, but whether or not you think Hugh is representative, he's not a straw man. Money quote:

[S]pend 1/10th of the energy you spend defending the status quo and urge the Republicans to use our majority status and the trappings of power we now enjoy with the control of Congress and the Presidency, and stop the torture and abuse. Do that, and your critics won't have anything to complain about.


Revenge of the Wilhelm

I saw Revenge of the Sith on Saturday and will write more about it later; for now I just want to point out that there's a Wilhelm scream in the first big space battle--when one of those big gun batteries goes up, a dying clone trooper leaps toward camera and lets loose a Wilhelm. This marks the first movie where I've recognized the scream while watching it. Probably will not be the last.


Sunday, May 22, 2005


Music Meme

I frequently like to play along with the online blog memes, but I'm afraid I'll disappoint with this one cause I'm a freak or a close fascimile thereof.

1. The person (or persons) who passed the baton to you.


2. Total volume of music files on your computer.


Though I did download "Bombs Over Baghdad" once so I could have it playing during the press conference where Bush announced that we were going to war with Iraq.

3. The title and artist of the last CD you bought.

Whatever I got for my brother and Preethi for Christmas (twas on a list - I didn't pay too much attention to what I bought)

However, I believe this question is really about what was the last CD I bought for myself.

So in answer to that question: in 97 while I was co-oping in Raleigh, I decided I needed to get with the music scene so I finally bought a boom box, some random classical CDs (they were cheap), "Hot" by the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and the Violent Femmes' Greatest Hits (all at the same time). I played them some, but never bought any more CDs for myself. I did for a while have a number of tapes, mostly made from copies of my brother's music.

I was also given some country CDs for Christmas (I did ask for them - a first for me for Christmas -I also once asked for a Fine Young Cannibals tape for my birthday and a Fresh Prince tape), but they're still in their shrink wrap (this doesn't mean I don't appreciate them, it just means I've been busy).

4. Song playing at the moment of writing.

ESPN is on. No music. Unless the "Baseball Tonight" theme counts.

5. Five songs you have been listening to of late (or all-time favorites, or particularly personally meaningful songs)

The only time I listen to music is when I'm in the car and I don't like what's on talk radio (similarly the only time I listen to talk radio is when I'm in the car). So I listen to whatever is on. For the last couple years, that's been country music mostly because I think most current top 40 music is crap, if not worse. So I guess whatever is on the current country hits list.

On a related note, once for an English assignment we were supposed to analyze the lyrics of our favorite song and possibly bring in the song on tape or CD to play for the class. I didn't own a tape at the time and didn't have a favorite song so I asked my piano teacher for some popular sheet music and he gave me Don Henley's "Heart of the Matter" which I then pawned off as being a meaningful song to me.

6. The five victims people to whom you will 'pass the musical baton.'


My slight interest in music may be a surprise to some readers (though not to many others) as I'm pretty good at recalling artists/titles/lyrics/melodies and have been known to drunkenly sing entire songs and drop in lyrics in my everyday conversation. But that's a function of having a good memory and not from having a particular interest in music.


Bad News for the Economy

No, unemployment isn't up - it's still around 5.2%.

Rather, at E3 Civilization 4 was announced. I figure if the opening of Revenge of the Sith could do $300 million in damage to the economy due to lost productivity, Civ4 is good for at least a billion. There's no actual release date on the Firaxis site, so I don't know when I should short the market.

Ignoring the economic ramifications for a moment, here's my thoughts on the new stuff in the the game:

And just for Thason, there's a little note at the end about Colonization2.


More Good Medical News

The sun is good for your health.
The vitamin is D, nicknamed the "sunshine vitamin" because the skin makes it from ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen blocks its production, but dermatologists and health agencies have long preached that such lotions are needed to prevent skin cancer. Now some scientists are questioning that advice. The reason is that vitamin D increasingly seems important for preventing and even treating many types of cancer.

In the last three months alone, four separate studies found it helped protect against lymphoma and cancers of the prostate, lung and, ironically, the skin. The strongest evidence is for colon cancer.
So to maximize the effects of the health news reported on polyscifi, your overweight self should go outside in the sun to mastrubate, making sure to drink beer and whiskey while you do so. I hear nude beaches are wonderful places to engage in such activities.

Or you can just follow a little maxim I like to say, "Moderation in all things, including moderation."


Long Term Good News

Bush is pushing for a long term US-India alliance:

When Rice went to New Delhi she presented this outline to Singh, its purpose being "to help India become a major world power in the 21st century", the abiding dream of the Indian elite.

The spokesman continued: "We [the US] understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement."

Not just for familial reasons, I think it's in the long term interests of the US, India, and the world for the US to foster a closer relationship with India.


Saturday, May 21, 2005


Fun with Nigerian Scammers

This is a great site. Basically, they carry on an extended conversation with one of the Nigerian email scammers. Much absurdity ensues. You gotta see the photographs exchanged...

A choice excerpt:
"Is this offer still available??? I have lost touch with my friend. I believe he was molested by some chupacabras on an excursion to Peru, as we have not been able to reach him on his satellite phone. I hope all is well for him!"
Thanks to oxblog for the pointer.


Just wondering...

Scott McClellan:
And so now I think it's incumbent and -- incumbent upon Newsweek to do their part to help repair the damage. And they can do that through ways that they see best, but one way that would be good would be to point out what the policies and practices are in that part of the world, because it's in that region where this report has been exploited and used to cause lasting damage to the image of the United States of America.
Well, all right, Scott; here's what the policies and practices are:
Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.
Pointing these things out and demanding accountability at the top isn't anti-American; it has to be done if we're going to build a functioning democracy in Iraq. Read the whole thing. Seriously, sit down and read it. Now are we ready to talk about torture? Or accountability? Or repairing our image?


Friday, May 20, 2005


Episode III Online

Now that Jack Valenti and Manny Perry have exited the stage, movie pirates are growing bolder. Just today, I found this link to Episode III online. I was a bit surprised at the direction Lucas decided to take the series, but I salute his boldness. Worth watching all the way through; trust me.


The Comas make Screenhead

Screenhead today has a link to the video for "Invisible Drugs" by the Comas. If you're from Knoxville, and specifically from Farragut High School, you may remember Comas frontman Andy Herod as the bass player for Dim Kitchen. Anyway, the video's pretty decent; I've been meaning to recommend their new album, "Conductor," for a while. It's excellent; if you get one song from it, go for "The Last Transmission," which is sci-fi space rock at its finest. Sample lyric:
At this time, sirs, I recommend that we move to phase three
Exterminate them all for the glory of our interstellar queen.
Attack, attack.
They will not fight you.
They are not like you.
We have already won.
That "sirs" is an excellent touch.


Anthony Lane: Anger Leads To Hate

Two scifi things:

1. I saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy tonight; it's pretty good. I felt kind of like I did watching Spinal Tap again; I knew all the best jokes ahead of time, even though I haven't read the books in fifteen years. I think that conservative anger at Lucas might be better aimed at Sam Rockwell, though; his Zaphod is straight out of Crawford. It's worth seeing, though.

2. Judging by the costumed crowd outside of the Arclight last night (The Night of the Hunter, which is better every time I see it) and the empty 2nd floor at work today (Development: We Work When We Want To), a new Star Wars movie has been unleashed on the world. I'll be seeing it Saturday (3:30 show, non-digital projection, reserved seating: scientifically selected to maximize movie-going experience while minimizing waving lightsabers from the audience members) and I'm looking forward to it. Some people aren't as enthusiastic, though. I like Anthony Lane a lot; he introduced me to the films of Lukas Moodysson, who I really like (Tillsammans, especially). Anyway, whether I agree or disagree with him, he's fun to read, and I have a new favorite sentence, from his vitriolic review of Revenge of the Sith, about Yoda:
Also, while we’re here, what’s with the screwy syntax? Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. “I hope right you are.” Break me a fucking give.


Thursday, May 19, 2005


French Bashing, European Style

Is it wrong that this article brought a smile to my face? (h/t KLo)


As goes Walmart, so goes Santorum

In what I can only interpret as a show of solidarity with Walmart, Senator Rick Santorum just compared the Democrats to Hitler. Regarding Democrats who suggest that eliminating the judicial filibuster might not be the best idea, he said:

"It's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, "I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city? It's mine."
I'm pretty sure we didn't bomb Paris, actually. But anyway, I sure hope Frist exercises the nuclear/constitutional/Byrd/Hitlerian-Democrat option (what are they calling it today?); we need to get some judges on the bench who will show proper respect for Godwin's Law.


Socialite Engineering

There's a decent account of the Paris Hilton Sidekick hack in the Washington Post, complete with misspellings in the online chat interview with the hackers in question. As you probably know, the main action took place on t-mobile's website, but what I didn't know is that the hackers needed Paris Hilton's phone number to access the correct page; they got that through a few carefully placed phone calls to T-Mobile.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Only a Sith is so foolishly touchy.

So Tony Scott liked Revenge of the Sith, which I'm cautiously optimistic about. (In fact, he says it's better than Star Wars...) But the always-humorless Professor Bainbridge thinks Lucas has violated continuity by having Obi Wan say "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes." Scott notes this is an anti-Bush jab, coming as it does, after Skywalker uses Bush's "with us or against us" formulation. Bainbridge notes later points in the story where Obi Wan or Yoda think in terms of absolutes, and then writes:

The whole point was that both the Jedi and the Sith had fallen into a trap of believing absolutes, with Luke's task being to restore balance to the Force. The clear implication was that the Force had a yin-yang aspect, which both the Sith and Jedi had lost sight of. The core story arc thus was to be Luke's restoration of that balance despite opposition from both the remnants of the Jedi and the Emperor.

In choosing to put those words in Obi-Wan's mouth - "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes" - Lucas did more than just play to Hollywood left-liberalism. He betrayed his own creation.
Except, of course, that Obi-Wan and the rest of the Jedi fall into the trap of believing in absolutes afterSkywalker goes nuts and kills all the Jedis; it's Skywalker's fall from grace that pushes the force out of balance to begin with. Hate Lucas for putting a Bush reference in there all you want (if you accept that A. O. Scott is reading this correctly); as he's already abundantly demonstrated (Greedo shoots first!) he doesn't care much what you think. But come on; "betrayed his own creation?" Professor Bainbridge, you'd make a terrible continuity editor.


Heils! Files! Savings!

I got a kick out James Lileks's unhappiness at the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library's ad campaign featuring Mao. And his counterexample of an ad they didn't run is priceless. He's right, too; there's something creepy about the way Communists have avoided the stigma Fascists got; Martin Amis has written a great book about it that I highly recommend.

So it was kind of great to see perpetual bad guy Walmart violate Godwin's Law and jump straight into the Nazi advertising craze. In Flagstaff, Arizona, they recently ran an ad with a picture of a Nazi book-burning and the following text: "Should we let government tell us what we can read? Of course not....So why should we allow local government to limit where we shop?" Lileks couldn't have dreamed this ad up if he'd had all year (me either).

It is, of course, a straight line from government action that stops Walmart from opening grocery stores to burning books. What a courageous stance! Remember, all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

And of course, Walmart doesn't want the government to tell you what you can read. Private industry can do that more efficiently.

(For the record, I do think that Walmart should be allowed to open grocery stores if they want to, so long as their workers are allowed to unionize, are as well paid as other grocery store workers, and their stores fall under standard environmental and development regulation (see, I also think local communities should have some say in how their land is developed). I don't think other grocery store chains should use the government in an anti-competitive way. I also don't think Walmart should use government to create regulation-free zones like they recently tried to do in Inglewood).

H/T Wonkette.


Hollywood Economist

Edward Jay Epstein has been writing an excellent series of articles about the economics of my business for Slate. The most recent article focuses on box office grosses and how little they have to do with the ultimate profitability of a film. There's also a good piece on the German shell corporations that are responsible for financing most big budget pictures these days (New Line is doing this on more and more of its films). Highly recommended.


Saturday, May 14, 2005


New Criterion Contraption

Flesh for Frankenstein, now at the Criterion Contraption.


Friday, May 13, 2005


Pining for Barry

Another entry in the "who said that" files:
The religious factions growing throughout our land are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. From where do they presume to dictate their moral beliefs to me? I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of Conservatism.
Barry Goldwater, from the days when conservative didn't mean theocrat. What would Frist think?

H/T Lyn Lear.

UPDATE: Jody suggests equating conservative and theocrat isn't productive, and he's right. Let's put it this way instead: that's from the days when conservatives could publically renounce religious influence in government. And ok, a conservative can still do that. But they certainly won't get the Republican party nomination for president. The fact is that the mainstream Republican party currently does a whole lot of bowing and scraping to the Christian Conservatives. I think people like James Dobson do want others to believe as they do; at the very least, they want their moral beliefs to be the foundation of public policy in America. And you see them around centers of power a bit more often than you do, say, Marxists.


Now they've got Volokh, too...

Eugene Volokh has joined the Huffington Post. I do want this to succeed, not as any anti-right Drudge, but because I think getting these people all talking to each other should be interesting.


Thursday, May 12, 2005


New Criterion Contraption

Sid and Nancy, now at the Criterion Contraption. I've now finished spine numbers 1-25, which means most of the real rarities; it should be easier to go in order now.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Evans Blogs!

You can say what you will about The Huffington Post; they got Robert Evans to blog. He's an existential hero, in my book. Did they make fun of old Bobby when he started blogging? You betcha! Did he stop for a second? Not on your life!

UPDATE: Evans has now gone completely, gloriously insane. Here's the first paragraph of his latest post, which you couldn't possibly improve by parody:
Have you ever been involved in a ménage a trois? Well, while putting together an expose of the porn biz for Sirius Satellite Radio, I found myself smack in the center of an experience that’s thought of as strictly taboo… And where did this clandestine rendezvous take place? Well, I hate to say it, but right here in the bed of the notorious Robert Evans -- that’s me, pal.
From now on, I'm ending stories with "I hate to say it, but right here in the bed of the notorious Matthew Dessem--that's me, pal.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005



In the morning I'm off to sunny Seoul. Immediately followed up by a trip to breathtaking Lansing. So my blogging may be very light to nonexistant for the next week or so.

For added fun, my laptop's motherboard died this morning (this is being written from my wife's home PC), so posting may be very very light.


Eugene Mirman v. United American Technologies

United American Technologies is an Oklahoma-based long distance company who want phone customers to know the following things:

They're running a telemarketing campaign to spread their message and Eugene Mirman has been recording his conversations with them. I can't do justice to his shocked, shocked delivery, but here's a little taste:

EM: What about the others? What does Verizon do?

UAT: Ok, Verizon, what they do, is they train their employees to accept the gay and lesbian lifestyle.


UAT: No. No. They train their employees to accept it.


UAT: That's correct. And if they do not...

EM: Are they, are they... MAD... FUTURE ROBOTS?

UAT: Exactly... exactly.

EM: And amoral, Godless... sex... hello?

UAT: Yes?

EM: God, I mean, basically God hates AT&T, MCI, and Verizon.

UAT: Yes.

Give these a listen; they're funny as hell.

Conversation 1.

Conversation 2.


Monday, May 09, 2005


World Beard and Moustache Championships

I got to this link via Drezner. While this perhaps one of the most banal comments about a link I've ever made (and I've made a lot of banal comments) - it's just cool. Particularly the gallery. Kinda makes me want to grow a kickin handlebar moustache.


NPR Roundup!

Don't worry; I have no intention of posting much about NPR. But it's worth noting that they recently did a piece on Strongbad, and another on this weekend's Time Traveller Convention. Both stories are worth a listen, and the Strongbad story has an outro that's pure, new, Strongbad.


Huffington Post Goes Live

So Arianna Huffington's celebrity blog, The Huffington Post is now live. I think it's a pretty interesting idea, and she seems to have chosen well, as far as who she's getting to write for her. It's a gigantic group blog; my guess will be only posts with a front page link will be read by most people. Worth giving a look; it'll be interesting to see what it looks like six months from now.


More News from the Best of All Possible Worlds Department

Drinking whisky protects you from cancer. (h/t Daily Pundit)

The effect appears to be similar to the one provided by red wine, but better. So drink up!

Other Recent Panglossian News
Drinking beer induces neuron growth
Being a little overweight (by BMI) is good for your health (statistically)
Mastrubation fights prostate cancer


Saturday, May 07, 2005


Life after politics?

So I'm watching the TV infomercial for the Magic Bullet Blender System. I really want one of these. I've watched this infomercial a number times (no comments, please!), but today was the first time that I found myself thinking...

"I think Arlen Specter should appear in these commercials..."

I slay me sometimes...

In any event, maybe he'd have better luck selling it to America this time around.


Save me from the low gas prices!!!

Surely some customer said that in Maryland.

A gasoline price war erupted in St. Mary's County last week after one station slashed its price for regular to $1.999 a gallon and spurred three others to follow suit, giving drivers some hope of relief at the pump.

But the price dip proved fleeting.

Maryland regulators quickly stepped in and told the stations that their prices were too low. They needed to go up by 5 cents.

Looking at this episode and thinking back to the Nixon's price controls in the 70s, and the long history of rent control, I can't think of a single time where government interference in the price of a market supplied good or service has served the long term interests of the public.

Mess with a monopoly, maybe. Cartels, definitely. As an aside, the government is notorious for creating monosopies which are are just as bad. For example see the flu vaccine issues this Fall.

Anyways, I'm interested in data points, particularly ones that run counter to my ideology (I have lots in favor - that's how it became my ideology.). Can anyone think of a situation where the government interfered with a market set price and the public came out ahead?


Friday, May 06, 2005


Upcoming conference

There's a convention for time travelers this weekend. I haven't put together my slides yet, and I didn't RSVP, but I figure I can just come back to it later.

Also whenever I get off my lazy butt in the future and decide to travel back in time to attend the conference, I would make certain to show up in a phone booth and keep referring to this excellent Rufus guy.

Side note: I don't believe time travel is possible (partially because I would expect to see time travelers all the freakin time and partially because I don't think the universe works that way), but there's an excellent chance to prove me wrong this weekend.


Thursday, May 05, 2005


Amusing small government quotes

If you prefer a small government, you'll find this collection of fairly well-known quotes pretty amusing (h/t Club for Growth)

Excerpting one quote partially because I visited Monticello this past weekend:

"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. ..........Thomas Jefferson"


Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Be a professional baseball player for a day

You can bid for an opportunity to play for the River City Rascals on ebay (h/t volokh).

This appears legit, as the auction is announced on the the Rascals' webpage:
O’Fallon, M0- To add to the plethora of items you can purchase on eBay, including cars, islands, and a wad of gum chewed by Britney Spears, the River City Rascals have placed a listing for one lucky winner to become a professional baseball player for a day.

The Rascals, the professional independent minor league baseball club located in O’Fallon, Missouri, began play in the Frontier League in 1999. The proceeds from this auction will benefit United Way, a charity with which the team works throughout the year.

The highest bidder in this auction will get the opportunity to be a River City Rascal baseball player for a day. He or she will star in the Rascals’ sole home preseason game on Friday May 20, 2005, when the club takes on the Gateway Grizzlies. The game begins at 7:05 PM at T.R. Hughes Ballpark, which is located approximately 35 miles West of Downtown St. Louis.

The winner will receive the following: a minimum of one at bat, guaranteed to play half an inning in the outfield, a one-day professional contract, and 20 tickets for family and friends.

The winner of this unique auction will be furnished with a jersey, hat, pants, and socks. He or she must provide a glove, shoes, transportation, meals, and housing, as well as sign an injury waiver. The winner must also be at least 18 years of age.

The Rascals opened their auction last night at $999, and received a bid almost immediately. This eBay item, numbered at 6528846325, will end May 8, 2005 at 18:02:12 PDT. The Rascals accept PayPal, personal check, or money order/Cashiers check. Payment is due 5 days after the auction ends.

In the event the game is rained out before the winner gets to play, he or she will play with the Rascals when they match up against the Grizzlies again on Saturday May 21, 2005 at GMC Stadium in Sauget, Illinois.

For more information please contact Allen Gossett, Assistant General Manager of the Rascals, at 636.240.2287x225. The Rascals 2005 Season commences on Saturday May 28, 2005. For ticket information please call 636.240.BATS (2287) or visit www.rivercityrascals.com.
On a quasi-related note: how about the end to that Bulls-Wizards game? It's May Madness!


From the facts to store away for later department

From Winds of Change, percentages of total number of international terrorist attacks in 2004
subtotal =33.6%

India 45.9%

Israel/ Palestine8.4%


The people of India are attacked more than the next three highest localtions combined. Almost all of these attacks occured in Kashmir (warning: pop-ups).

As a footnote, if domestic terrorism was being counted in the list, I'm pretty sure the terror attacks spawned out of the war between FARC and the Columbian government would put Columbia right up there with India and Iraq.


New Criterion Contraption

Picnic at Hanging Rock, now at the Criterion Contraption.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Story arcs in science fiction

One point brought out by Card in the article mentioned below, was how Star Trek lacked story arcs and character growth and how modern scifi shows have incorporated throughlines and longer story arcs.

Well Spakkadi, must've been thinking along the same lines. She's got a history of the story arc in SciFi TV up here. (Ok technically it's spec-fi, but I don't always differentiate).

She starts with the Twilight Zone and traces her way through Star Trek, the X-Files, B5, Buffy, Lost and BSG. An interesting read.


Card Bashes Star Trek

Orson Scott Card lets loose on Star Trek (the original series) in the LA Times. (h/t Bainbridge)
So they've gone and killed Star Trek." And it's about time.

They tried it before, remember. The network flushed William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy down into the great septic tank of broadcast waste, from which no traveler…. No, wait, let's get this right: from which rotting ideas and aging actors return with depressing regularity.
It just goes down hill for Star Trek from there. Strangely, there's no mention of Star Trek's odd lack of space jousting or its tendencies towards pedophilia. Nor is there any mention of the 2D space battle issue - something Card dealt with very well in the Ender's Game series.


Numa Numa Guy on American Idle

This is a pretty amusting flash animation. (h/t Jonah) Does an excellent job of capturing the original Numa kid (which eBaum is now also apparently hosting).

Related posts:
Previous polyscifi post Ma-ia-hii Ma-ia-huu Ma-ia-hoo Ma-ia-haa
Christiana's numa numa roundup.

Oh and for the record the song is "Dragonstea Din Tei" by Haiducii. Lyrics in the original Romanian and translated to English are here.



Just wanted to heartily recommend Primer, which I saw for the first time this weekend. It's a no-budget film that took three years to go from being shot to being seen; it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year. It's excellent--this despite having any number of technical glitches. For one thing, the filmmaker only did one take of everything, cause he couldn't afford to waste film (the 78 minutes of final film come from about 85 minutes of footage shot--they used everything). For another, he shot it on Super-16mm and blew it up to 35, and they screwed up the blow-up in at least one sequence, resulting in very, very grainy film. And as you'd imagine with the one-take-only limits, sometimes a line reading is flat. And the lighting: for the most part, they just used availble light, sometimes with good results, sometimes not.

But it's great, the best sci-fi film I've seen in a long time. I'm a sucker for "puzzle movies," e.g., things like Mulholland Dr. where you get limited clues to what you're seeing; this one is incredibly minimalist. But as in the best of these movies, all the information is there if you're looking for it. No real insights in this post, just give the movie a look. If nothing else, it shows that it is still possible to finance a film completely independently, shoot for nothing, and get good theatrical (Thinkfilm) and home video (New Line) distribution. If you're making an interesting movie, that is.


Another Star Trek thought

Coming out of the discussion over on Dean's World, there's always been a couple things that bother me about the Picard Maneuver.

In the Picard Maneuver, two ships are separated by a good distance so that it takes light several seconds to travel from one ship to another. Ship A then warps up next to Ship B and opens fire. To Ship B, it appears, at least for several seconds, that it is suddenly fighting two Ship A's.

Sounds like a good tactic in general, and I thought it was kind of obvious. In fact a little too obvious for the Federation to take a couple hundred years of having warp technology to figure out the Picard Manuever. I mean, sure there's a lag between the invention of technology and its proper application on the battlefield, but really. It's even worse when you consider that aliens had warp drive technology for a lot longer than the humans.

"I have a faster than light engine. I wonder what'll happen if I use it to move around quickly in battle."

However, the Federation did recognize the value and made it a part of standard Star Fleet instruction. But that leads me to my second issue.

Why isn't every battle fought by ships dropping in and out of warp? No really.

In addition to the powerful offensive tactic, the use of warp drive in battle for defensive tactics ought to negate every weapon ever introduced into the Star Trek universe. Say your opponent fires his frickin laser or his photon torpedo. Both of these have to travel at the speed of light or less. Just warp away before they hit.

Surely the Federation would think of this as the Picard manuever was supposedly mandatory for all StarFleet cadets. I mean really, screw cloaking. Randomly warping around the battlefield ought to be a far better tactic. It's like your own hall of mirrors but in space.

Instead, the Federation, and admittedly all other alien races, seem to have adopted a "float like a brick, sting like a bee" strategy.

I imagine the following would happen if I had been on the bridge for a single episode.

Me: Sir, they're firing their lasers/photon torpedos.
Star Fleet Officer: Let's sit here and see if our shields can take it.
Me: Wouldn't warping like even a kilometer to the right seem prudent? Better yet, let's repeatedly warp around the battlefield and take a quick potshot at the other ship each time we drop out of warp.
Star Fleet Officer: Nah, let's sit here and take it like a man. Then we can all jump out of our seats when we inevitably get hit.
Me: Screw this. I'm going to the holodeck for some "services" before I die. Even if we survive this moronic battle, my red uniform is the kiss of death as soon as there's an away mission.

Is there any doubt as to why Q held humans in such low regard? And don't even get me started on the de rigeur 2-D battlefields (there were at least a few exceptions to this, but not too many).


Monday, May 02, 2005


The Star Trek Economy

A good discussion of the economics of Star Trek is occuring on Dean's World.

There's also an interesting side discussion. While replicators can make you just about any good, just what kind of services could you get on the holodeck?

Hair cuts? Massages? Ming Lee?

Is this why Riker spent so much time on the Holodeck?



After getting to watch 2-3 quality basketball games each evening for the past week, I thought I would pose the following question to the readership:

Which is the better opening round? The NBA first round or the first weekend of the NCAA tournament?

There's frequently more games in the NCAA opening weekend (49), but on the NBA's side a) you can actually watch every NBA first round game (40-48), b) it stretches out for better than a week, and c) the talent level is higher.

I'm leaning NBA, but I think I could be persuaded otherwise.


Out Obsessed

In the summer of 1997, I spent a rainy week in the lobby of the Jackson Lake Lodge reading Gravity's Rainbow. Everything good you've heard about that book is true; it's really wonderful. But to read it, you have to have the kind of uninterrupted concentration that is only possible on a rained-out vacation; I've tried to reread it several times since and never made it more than half-way. Still, I always thought I was doing pretty well to have read it at all.

Then I heard about this guy. Zak Smith has illustrated every page, and put it online. I don't mean he drew over his pages, I mean for every page in the book, he's done an illustration. I've only flipped through them at random but they seem quite good.

I thought the Criterion Contraption was pretty obsessive. But I know when I'm beat. Zak! You win!

Here's one of my favorite passages from the book:

"I dream of a great glass sphere, hollow and very high and far away...the colonists have learned to do without air, it's vacuum inside and out...it's understood the men won't ever return...they're all men. There are ways for getting back, but so complicated, so at the mercy of language, that presence back on Earth is only temporary, and never "real"...passages out there are dangerous, chances of falling so shining and deep. ...Gravity rules all the way out to the cold sphere, there is always the danger of falling. Inside the colony, the handful of men have a frosty appearance, hardly solid, no more alive than memories, nothing to touch...only their remote images, black and white film-images, grained, broken year after hoarfrost year out in the white latitudes, in empty colony, with only infrequent visits from the accidental, like me...

"I wish I could recover it all. Those men had once been through a tragic day--ascent, fire, failure, blood. The events of that day, so long ago, had put them into exile forever...no, they weren't really spacemen. Out here, they wanted to dive between the worlds, to fall, turn, reach and swing on journeys curved through the shining, through the winter nights of space--their dreams were of rendezvous, of cosmic trapeze acts carried on in loneliness, in sterile grace, in certain knowledge that no one would ever be watching, that loved ones had been lost forever....

"The connections they hoped for would always miss by trillions of dark miles, by years of frozen silence. But I wanted to bring you back the story. I remember you used to whisper me to sleep with stories of us one day living on the Moon.
I should really reread that.


Sunday, May 01, 2005


Family Guy Reminder

It's 20 minutes until Family Guy on Fox (9:00 Eastern). I'll add some thoughts about the show after the episode...

Ok, I'm live blogging it. (Spoilers ahead if you live on the West Coast)

That opening sequence was pretty sweet, but no one tell Jacqueline. Along the lines of Peter saying: "I've got bad news. We've been cancelled. Fox just had better shows to put on than Family Guy." Then Peter went on to list every Fox bomb over the last 4 years (there's been quite a few)

Stay away from that Beyond section...

I could hook up this car battery to my nipples. Is this doing it for you?

Honeymooners gag rocked. Every joke has hit so far.

"What good is mining nose gold if you can't share it with the townspeople?"

Segment 2:
"And now back to 2 and a half guys..."

That Pinnochio bit was SOOOO wrong....

Liked the GI Joe bit...

"Almost... Almost.... Almost... Almost.... There you go..."

Wrapup thoughts
Pretty good. Though umm I thought Peter was a Catholic and I understand now how American Dad fits into Seth McFarlane's universe.


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