June 29, 2007


American politics these days is less than 1 dimensional; it's binary. Are you a liberal or conservative? Those are the only options. But, as anyone who has discussed political and social issues for more than five minutes knows, the full palate of opinions that people can have about an issue cannot be forced into one of two camps.

Some libertarians have developed a two-dimensional chart that effectively expands how to think about where you stand in the political landscape. It's called the Nolan chart. I've including some links to various tests to place yourself on the Nolan Chart.

Here's the short version
Longer test 1
Longer test 2

And here's a decent explanation of how the Nolan Chart works with different issues. And here I am on the chart with some famous people. The blue dot exactly opposite George W. Bush is me.

SEMI-IMPORTANT NOTE! Some of of these sites invert the y-axis so that Anarchism is at the top and Authoritarianism is at the bottom. You should take this into account if you compare your results to my chart above.

June 28, 2007

Everybody Loves Cheney

Defective Yeti has come up with a very creative analogy worth checking out. Here's a brief quote from the post.
The xenomorph--antagonist of the Alien film series--has a complex lifecycle. After hatching from an egg, the "facehugger" attaches itself to a host organism and implants an embryo deep within its body. Having done so, it seemingly dies. In reality though, the creature lives on, gestating, advancing toward its next stage. Sometime later the parasite violently emerges from its carrier, then rapidly grows to enormous--and lethal--size, a near-perfect killing machine.

This reminds me of nothing so much as Dick Cheney...

Yes, in 2000, Cheney was appointed as head of the committee to find the most qualified Vice President to serve as Bush's running mate. His extensive search revealed that he himself was the most qualified for the job. Literally, a "Dick Maneuver". A lot of people missed that piece of news when it happened because reporting on it was not widespread.

A Bargain's a Bargain

Talk of benchmarks for the Iraqi government by US politicians or the media is often accompanied by the curious phrase that Iraqis must "hold up their end of the bargain." Every time I hear this phrase I want to smack someone. These kind of statements are the moral equivalent of saying a woman deserves to be raped because she is attractive. There was never any dialog or bargain between the US government and the Iraqi people. Are the people who talk about sharing responsibility for the state of Iraq imagining this conversation:

(The Scene: Late 2002, Halls of Justice)
All Iraqis: Excuse me sir, but you've got to help us.

US Government: Whatever do you mean?

All Iraqis: Our country is magically controlled by a brutal dictator that not a single one of us supports. We're desperate to remove him but too lazy to do it ourselves. If only the magic spell could be broken by simply removing this one person.

US Government: Sounds bad but what are we supposed to do about.

All Iraqis: Invade our country at once. It's the only way.

US Government: I don't know. The whole thing sounds dubious and could be pretty risky for us. For one thing, invading your country will hurt our standing with the rest of the world. It will hurt us financially and militarily. I mean, think about it. Unilateral aggression against a sovereign country that is no threat to us goes against everything we stand for. Not to mention its blatant illegality and...

All Iraqis: We don't care. We demand that you do this. In exchange, we'll meet any demands you might have of us. I think that would be a fair bargain.

US Government: Fine. We'll do it but you'll have to meet a number of arbitrary benchmarks that we will set in the future otherwise the deal's off. It's the least you can do.

All Iraqis: We agree and we thank you. You'll be greeted as liberators for the decade or more that we demand you stay.

June 27, 2007

The Ultimate Hunt

Since the announcement that a team of researchers will attempt to find Bigfoot in the expanses of my current home state, Michigan, I've constructed my own wish list team of experts. A Bigfoot "Dream Team" if you will. And they are:
  • Jane Goodall
  • Stephen Hawking (Smarty pants who sees the impending danger before anyone else)
  • Richard Branson (Wealthy Gadabout)
  • Ice Cube or LL Cool J (Black man with street smarts)
  • Studs Terkel
  • Arlen Spector (Government liaison who's thoughtless politicking puts everyone in danger)
  • Alan Moore (Disheveled artist and inappropriate expert)
  • Megan Fox (Needs the exposure to keep her on the "hot" list)

So, who's on your team?

UPDATE! - As per the first comment, I've modified the original team to make a no white all black team.
  • Mae Jemison
  • Neil Degrass Tyson (Smarty pants...)
  • P. Diddy (Wealthy Gadabout)
  • Desmond Tutu (Same reason Studs is in the previous list)
  • Al Sharpton (Government liaison...)
  • Maya Angelou (Inappropriate...)
  • BeyoncĂ© (Hot list...)

(a debt of gratitude to hua bing chong ji for risking life and limb to capture such a rare and beautiful moment of nature as when bigfoot battles a giant squid)

June 24, 2007

Gotta Have That Confidence

For the most part, sports commentators are morons. That's a big reason why I like going to actual games a lot better than watching them on TV. The mute button comes in handy too.

The basic problem facing your typical sports commentator is how to make himself (usually a male) even remotely useful since most games are self explanatory once you understand the sport. Home runs, yellow cards, sacks, three pointers and other important moments generally don't require the subtle eye of a veteran broadcaster.

King Kaufman has a whole article about announcers this week and he brings up the classic commentator lines about "knowing how to win" and "having confidence".

June 22, 2007

Location in Space

And, on the topic of sexy soulful female British singers, here's my attempt at a cultural triangulation of Amy Winehouse:

Lauren Hill : Cypress Hill : The Chantels

Triangulation is a technique used to locate the position of a point in space so cultural triangulation would be the cultural equivalent. Art and music critics sometimes use it or the it's two point equivalent which I would call artistic addition. For example, you might say that The Scissor Sisters might be described as Elton John meets a New Orleans Rag Time band or something like this:
Elton John + Rag Time = Scissor Sisters

Seen Your Face Before

I've always thought that Lily Allen often sports a look remarkably similar to the Captain's Daughter from the comic Maakies. Hoop earrings, super long lashes, straight black hair cut like a hemisphere across the forehead.

Now that Lily is in a video as a cartoon and the Maakies cartoon The Drinky Crow Show have come out, the whole thing's looking a bit more intentional. If you choose to follow The Drinky Crow link and are unfamiliar with Maakies, let me just warn you that it's extremely offensive.

June 21, 2007

The Whore of Babylon 5

I don't know how it happened but I've been watching Babylon 5 for the past week. That show has got to be the geekiest of all the TV shows I have ever seen. I don't even really like it but somehow I end up watching an episode every few days. I guess now I know how S feels about the Gilmore Girls. The only redeeming quality is that because it's hosted by tudou I get to bone up a little on my Chinese reading skills. Yup, the Chinese are to pirating video like crazy is to cats.

So, Babylon 5 is getting better as the series goes on. It seems to be one of the earliest examples I can think of with a seasonal or series long story arcs. Reasonably solid and complex characters. The science is pretty good too. I'm at the middle of season 2.

Now, the show's turning back bad TV again. I get the feeling that the writers painted themselves into a corner of the plot. I'm at the beginning of season 4.

June 19, 2007

Spiders, Spiders Everywhere

I had a dream last night that I was staying with my family in a hotel room full of spiders. I was freaking out trying to brush them off me and vacuum them up while my brother who is actually afraid of spiders just ignored them and went to sleep. That feeling of being immersed in spiders lasted for a few minutes after I woke up.

The moral of the story is: Don't sleep with the fan on you even if it's hot. That wind will penetrate the superficial layers of your body and cause some wind type diseases like headaches, stiff neck or in my case formication (no, not fornication you dirty birdies).

The other day, I was in a gas station and some guy with an African accent was telling the cashier not to sit to long with the fan on her because it will make her sick. It makes me think that African traditional medicine has a concept of wind, too.

("Gust of Wind" by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer via ARC museum)

June 18, 2007

He Loved Mother Russia

I've been reading a bit lately about one of the most complex and brilliant figures of the 20th century, Andrei Sakharov.Besides his achievements in the field of Russian hat wearing, Sakharov played an important although complicated role in nuclear proliferation. He was instrumental in both designing bombs and movements to limit their use. His scientific and engineering genius pushed the Soviet nuclear program to great heights in the 40s and 50s but then in the 60s the guy turned around and became a leader of the peace activists and internal critics of the Soviet system. He was an outspoken advocate of intellectual freedom as well as a strong opponent of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. For his work along those lines, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the West and was imprisoned in the closed city of Gorky for six years by the Soviet government (While I'd like to talk about "closed cities" here, this post is getting long enough as it is.).

Anyway, Mikhail Gorbachev released Sakharov from his "internal exile" in 1986 partially to get his scientific opinion on the planned US missile defence shield. Sakharov's main advice, by the way, was that the shield could be largely ignored as it would easily be fooled and effectively nullified (a fact which is most certain known by Putin and most certainly been told to and fogotten by Bush). What really interests me though is that Sakharov continued to advocate for reform but was also willing to give military advice to the Soviet government. I can understand the man's confusion since I used to drink Miller Lite because it tastes great but then I find out it's less filling. DILEMMA!

His scientific achievements include two of my favorite nerd fantasy level ideas. The first one being the invention (worked on in conjunction with Igor Tamm) of the Tokamak, a machine that attempts to use a toroidal magnetic field to contain a plasma and produce fusion energy. Now that's the kind of science a geek can chip a tooth on!

The second idea is that gravity is not a fundamental force but instead is an emergent quantum property. That one makes a person feel smart just saying it. So, what the hell does that mean? Well if you're a physicist you can just read this paper. But here's the layman's cliffnotes: Basically, the idea is that if you looked at the fundamental rules of how things behaved at a quantum level, gravity wouldn't be in there. Gravity only looks like a rule when you put together a large group of quantumy things. This theory is called induced gravity and has some proponents even today.

If you still don't understand emergence, just think of traffic. If you look at the local traffic laws, you won't find the rule that you must slow down as you go into a tunnel or as more and more cars get on the road. But, if you look at the behavior of cars on the road this might as well be a law. That's how the concept of emergence works.

(Photo of Sakharov via Gulag)

June 16, 2007

Movie Bananaza

I just watched a slew of movies over the past few days. The Hunt for Red October, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Chisholm '72. Yes, one of these things is not like the others but all the three movies are really enjoyable. I wish that they came out with sequels.

The Hunt for Red October 2: The Journey Home/Back in the USSR
Glengarry Glen Ross 2: Death of a Motherf-ing Salesman
Chisholm '08: Making Obama Look Like Dole

The first two movies feature some shiny hot acting and Alec Baldwin but are so male and macho that it took the third just to get me back to square one. Seriously, the first two movies combined have female characters on screen for a total of about 40 seconds (no exaggeration).

I tried to make Connery look like he's rolling his eyes but I dont' know if it came off.

June 13, 2007

President Hobo

So, I'm following JFK and Jackie O down the sidewalks of Dallas while they're on their way to some strange skyscraper/church to the wedding of one of the more obscure Kennedy brothers. The place is fairly deserted and the clouds cast a weird sepia tone over everything. Suddenly, a loud bang crackles through the air and Jackie O enthusiastically leaps on top of JFK to shield him with her body.

She's so into it that he's forced to cower against the wall while the secret service are scrambling around like ants on a freshly kicked anthill. JFK finally gets up and rushes into the church with the secret service close behind. No one is hurt. Then, even though the entire presidential party is safely in the church, some more shots ring out. I trace the sound back to it's source and discover a bunch of construction worker running around a building site firing rifles at the girders. Possibly because of their love of the second amendment, rifles play some role in the construction industry in Dallas.

But, the secret service still has no idea where the shots came from. So, they come up with the brilliant idea of disguising Kennedy as a hobo to protect him. To complete the illusion, they send JFK stumbling ahead alone while they follow about a block behind.

The plan works as far as it get the hobo president across town and into an old two story house badly in need of repairs. JFK stumbles through the front door to find the CIA agents all sitting around playing poker, smoking cigarettes in dirty wife beaters and wholly unprepared to see the president dressed in rags. But, being professionals, it doesn't take long for them to spring into action.

While everyone's setting up chairs and wiping down tables and moving large pieces of radio equipment around make things a bit more presidential, I take the opportunity to talk to the coordinator of the safe house. For no reason that I can discern, I ask him why he joined the CIA. He gets a distant look in his eye, then starts shaking his fists at the heavens and yelling "Damn you, Castro!". He picks up a sledgehammer that's lying around and starts smashing everything in front of him (including the flimsy walls). The whole house collapses.

I thought that dream was weird when I had it but now I find out that there's an actual conspiracy theory that JFK was killed as part of a hobo plot. I guess people who've seen the Oliver Stone movie already know about this. And now, looking at that combination of Rockwell and a JFK portrait is giving me some wicked deja vu.

June 12, 2007

Bob Ross is the Bruce Lee of Landscapes

Every day of high school used to end the same way. The bell would ring. I'd jump out the window and slide down the back of a dinosaur right into my car. Then, I'd race home like a maniac to catch some Bob Ross with my wife Wilma and neighbor Barney.

And it's all true too. Except, I didn't have a wife and my neighbor's name was Mike Noe but the point is that Bob Ross an the Joy of Painting was like crack for my developing brain. Somehow, every episode kept me riveted to the edge of my seat eating popcorn. Mike and I watched Bob Ross paint like we were dogs watching someone juggling ham bones.

Now I find out that there's going to be a Joy of Painting video game. How the hell will they pull that one off?

Part 2
Part 3

June 11, 2007

Like a Hole in the Head

I've been reading about the practice of trepanation in the hills of Algeria and I came across this cool tidbit. Apparently, some practitioners considered the cranial sutures to be the calligraphy of Allah who uses writes destiny of each person on their skulls. Cranial sutures do kind of look like a loose script of some kind. And, Islamic calligraphy is some of the most amazing art in the world so I could see the connection.

(Calligraphic fire via Islamic Arabic Caligraphy and the book on native Algerian Medicine is Hilton-Simpson's Arab Medicine and Surgery. A Study of the Healing Art in Algeria)

Coddling Criminals

Now that the war on terrorism is the new hotness, we don't really need the drug war much anymore. So, it was a bit refreshing that a candidate for president finally came out in favor of a progressive drug policy. His drug policy discussion starts about 2 minutes from the end.

Legalize drugs and use the money made from selling drugs to fund rehabilitation? I love it. And why not apply the same principle to alcohol and tobacco which are the most serious important addictive drugs to rehabilitate people from? The approach is far from polyannish. A great site which uses only facts and research to back up this type of drug policy is drugfacts.org. Go to the treatment chapter and you'll find this quote from a 1994 study on cocaine done by the RAND Corporation:
Domestic enforcement costs 4 times as much as treatment for a given amount of user reduction, 7 times as much for consumption reduction, and 15 times as much for societal cost reduction.

Treatment is way cheaper and more effective than drug enforcement and it turns out that the worst way to control drug use is to fly helicopter gunships around Columbia. Another chapter, compares The Netherlands to the United States, in terms of amount of drug use and the violence associated with it and the results are pretty significant.

I've been going through that website mainly over the last few days because I'm interested in using acupuncture and chinese medicine to help recovering addicts. Including these techniques the ones usually used, should make treatment even move effective and less costly.

June 10, 2007

Lightning Strikes Twice Again

Something weird is happening to Lionel Messi. This time he's duplicated Maradona's infamy on the field with a "hand of God" goal.

Now, He Will Kill Us All

Half of the clip is credits because it's part of the whole movie now on youtube. Here's the check list of goodies from the movie:

Self consciously over the top acting - CHECK
Ridiculous plot twists - CHECK
Nonsense science - CHECK
Smarmy dialog - CHECK
Slapstick - CHECK
Alien invasion - CHECK

I would posit that the tone and style of this particular movie, "Godzilla 2000" were purposely crafted to distance the franchise from the '98 American Godzilla film. The alien being that Godzilla fights earlier in the movie is somewhat symbolic of the conflict between American and Japanese culture and attempts at assimilation. I would further argue that throughout the movies aliens are generally an allegory for American culture while Godzilla represents an aspect of Japanese national pride.

So, it shouldn't be too surprising that, at the end of the movie, the scientists have given up on trying to eliminate Godzilla and just watch as he gets free run of the city and he'll inevitably destroy us all. Oh, well, I guess there's a little Godzilla in everyone.

I'm double posting this clip here and over at recon's just so ya know.

June 8, 2007

A Test of the Old Moral Character

Yes, I found another internet based social research test. This one seems to care a lot about hurting people. You can take it here.

June 6, 2007

Caption Contest #2

OK, folks. Same as last time. Leave as many entries as you want and do what you want. In this image, you've got the candy name, the catch phrase, and the dog's speech bubble to work with. And anything else you want to add is fair game too.

I'll start 'er off

Candy Name: DOG BALLS!
Catch phrase: Just like no one used to make
Dog: I got mine!

Caption Contest #1 Winner

Well, that wraps it up for Caption Contest #1. Thanks for all of you who entered and for those of you who still want to enter... it's too late. Or enter something now. I don't care.

The winner chosen by our select panel of judges (me) is Recon with his lengthy entry. The prize is the lamest I could think of namely I spent the time to put the caption in the image. Hope you're happy with that because it's all that's forthcoming. And so here it is (click on the pic for the close up view):

June 4, 2007

Labrynth 2: Electric Bogaloo

I just saw Pan's Labyrinth the other day and let me just say that
  1. I was disappointed that David Bowie didn't at least make a brief reprisal in his role as the Goblin King and

  2. Jim Henson has gone in an entirely new direction since he died

But seriously folks, didn't that movie make the Spanish Civil War look like the feel good war of 1944? It was a crowded field that year what with the "Saving Private Ryan Wars", the "War of Iwo Jima" and my personal favorite "Das Boot Battles" all going on at the same time. With that kind of star power to contend with, a lot of Americans except for us lefties forget about the Spanish Civil War. Kind of the same way the US forgot about Franco when we launched our war against Fascism.

And, as far as muppets and puppets go, I realized a few years ago that Jim Henson was so amazing at what he did that an entire medium of expression was weakened when he died. No more "Dark Crystal", "Muppet Movies", "The Muppet Show" or even muppet Yoda.

June 2, 2007

The Files are IN the Computer

I got the chance to crack open my iBook today and tinker with it's robot innards. And... the operation was a success! A lot of fun all told.

Now, I have the obligation to pass on a bit of advice to all of you iBook G3 owners out there. If you're having problems with your screen (which you certainly will at some point because of a design flaw), check out this post on Geek Technique. It might save you a few hundred buck since this problem is no longer covered under warranty.

June 1, 2007

Good Thing that I don't use Toothpaste

Everyone's suddenly abuzz about poisonous toothpaste. Not just poisonous toothpaste mind you, but poisonous toothpaste MADE IN CHINA! What will those nefarious Chinese think up to unleash on us next? A delicious mousetrap fish? or Landmine cereal maybe?

Personally, I don't think this wave of tainted toiletry is a commie plot. I say the China angle is more "Asia Hysteria" and a red herring (a tasty nonmousetrapped fish by the way).

Why? Because China makes f-ing every consumer product in the US. Saying that the poisonous toothpaste is from China is like saying that the latest acid rain comes from clouds in the sky.

(Yummy in the Tummy via Corbis Photos and that kid looks a lot like my brother diggs did when he was a young boy enjoying mouth watering landmine cereal)

The Right Tool for the Job

I got a flat tire this morning but couldn't pull the stubborn bastard off the car to put on the spare. So, thinking about the cheapest way out of this predicament, I call up AAA. The nice lady on the phone says not to worry; the tow truck guy will come by and he'll use some special tools to get the wheel off.

Long story short, the "special tool" was a 5 foot long 2 by 4 that he used to smack my tire around. When I say smack around, I mean that it looked like he was trying to spear my tire on the end of a very blunt pole using force alone. After a few minutes of this, the old tire finally came loose and I went along my merry way.

So, it is that only yesterday I felt that an xbox 360 was a little out of my price range but now today I realize that it costs just a little more than a new set of nice tires.

PS. I didn't buy a whole new set of tires; just two. For some strange reason, two of the tires were totally worn and the other two seemed good as new. So, I only got two.

(Tire tread wear photo via Autorepair for Dummies)