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June 28, 2002

Great Vein

Today I donated blood. The nurse took one look at my arm and said "Wow! You've got a great vein!"

I don't know if it was the blood-loss or the flattery that made me so light-headed.

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Amazon Ad

Speaking of Amazon ...

Xerox is in trouble. Why? Because they overstated their profits. Worldcom is aflame. Why? Because they overstated their profits. Enron is pretty much a memory. Why? Because they overstated their profits.

Hey Amazon.com! I got your newest ad campaign right here!



Who Can You Trust?

Enron?
Tyco?
ImClone?
WorldCom?
Xerox?

No.




Honestly reporting our lack of profits
Since 1994.

I'm not kidding, guys. This is the sort of edgy, willing-to-laugh-at-ourselves campaign that you used to employ all the time back when you could be legitimately called a "start-up." Furthermore, you have taken way more than your share of flack for bravely telling shareholders about about your continual lack of profitability. Why not use this as an opportunity to subtly dig at your critics by saying "We've said all along that building a business takes time and a willingness to forgo immediate profits for longterm stability. And while hearing the truth about our debt might be unpleasant, it sure beats the alternative."

If you incorporate this idea into a multi-billion dollar ad campaign, I expect a free hat.

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June 27, 2002


Hot In Herre!

defective yeti's Music News You Can Use!: The number one single in America right now is the smash hit "Hot In Herre"! (Listen to a clip.) The chorus goes:

Male: Its gettin' hot in here
(so hot)
So take off all your clothes
Female: I am gettin' so hot, I wanna take my clothes off!
Male: Its gettin' hot in here
(so hot)
So take off all your clothes
Female: I am gettin' so hot, I wanna take my clothes off!
Recognize that voice? You should: the lead male vocalist is Vice President Dick Cheney, singing here with EPA Administrator Christie Whitman! At long last the truth about Cheney's seclusion has been revealed, as the first single from his forthcoming CD "Life of Vice" has been released to the public. Each song, according to the liner notes "will emphasize to American youth the positive elements of our administration's policy." The release of "Hot in Herre," for example, was timed to coincide with America's announcement that the greenhouse effect does, in fact, exist. And, as Cheney put it in a recent MTV interview, "The more people gettin' hot, the more people takin' off der clothes! Iss dat simple." The second single "Mo Money 4 Me (And Nuthin 4 The Man)," a R&B duet with Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Niell calling for further tax cuts, will be released in early July and is expected to debut at #1.

[ link | News]


June 26, 2002

Nice job CNN!

CNN is renowned for it's ability to cram a bunch of different images into a single graphic, but they have outdone themselves with this one. Who else could get a pair of breasts into a story about a failed long-distance provider?

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Poor Taste

Today a federal appeals court ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional "endorsement of religion". Conservative members of the House of Representatives, predictably, rushed outside, queued up in front of the tv cameras, and recited the pledge of allegiance.

I don't like how, when confronted with a court ruling they disagree with, right-wing congressmen go on television and do the very thing that the courts just outlawed. I thought this practice was in especially poor taste earlier this week when the Supreme Court prohibited the execution of the mentally retarded.

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June 25, 2002

Test Your ULQ!
Test Your ULQ Urban Legends Quotient

It's a little unsettling how many of the "Urban Legends" listed on the Snopes New Addition page are actually true. So here's a little quiz I just whipped up. For each of the "Urban Legends" listed below, choose either true or false. All links open in a new browser window.

ClaimTrueFalse
1. Starbucks recalled this promotional ad because some customers complained it was too reminiscent of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
2. During a recent MTV appearance, singer Shakira said she'd "rather have pigs listening to her music than Israelis".
3. In an effort to protect viewers from so-called "inappropriate material," the ABC television network bleeped out the name "Jesus" from its daytime program "The View".
4. You can look up anyone's driver's license or police records for free on the Internet.
5. Home Depot is refusing to do business with the US Government.
6. This image will be on a new 9/11 commemorative stamp to be issued by the U.S. Postal Service.
7. Coca-cola as announced that it will be donating four days' worth of income to Israel.
8. This is an actual, unaltered photo of a bear shot in Alaska.
9. Abercrombie & Fitch had a line of shirts with Asian caricatures and slogans such as Wok & Bowl and Wong Brother's Laundry: Two Wongs Can Make It White.
10. An upcoming film from director Steven Spielberg will document the current uprising in the West Bank from a pro-Palestinian point of view.

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June 24, 2002

Loaded From The Get-Go

(Rewind is a National Public Radio sketch comedy show, and I was on it last weekend doing the "Loaded From the Get-Go" bit below. The broadcast, in RealAudio format, is available on this page. I appear about 45 minutes into the show, and talk entirely too fast.)

Your wedding is fast approaching, and the expenses are piling up. Your dress cost a fortune, the flowers are expensive, and the catering -- you don't even want to talk about the catering!  With your checking account dwindling and your Visa bill skyrocketing, it looks like you're new life together will be one of debt.   And, worse of all, you probably haven't even considered one of the biggest wedding expenses of all, the one the brings most American newlyweds to the brink of penury.   I'm talking, of course, about the staggering cost of getting one of your  wedding guests drunk so he can make a fool of himself at the reception.

Hi, I'm Matthew Baldwin, founder and CEO of "Loaded From the Get-Go".  The modern US wedding  incorporates elements from dozens of other cultures, but the one, distinctive, All-American tradition is that of some guest getting really, really drunk and making a complete fool of himself at the reception.  The  problem, of course, is that no one knows in advance who the drunken fool will be -- it's not a job that any of your friends or family covet, but a task that many will gladly undertake if that's what's needed to give  you that "perfect" wedding.  So your reception guests drink themselves to the edge of intoxication, all waiting for someone else to step up to the plate, each willing to do so if no one else rises to the challenge.   And although someone will eventually take the plunge and allow the rest of the guests to relax (knowing at last that all the wedding rituals have been performed),  just think of all the money that's wasted as dozens of guests consume glass after expensive glass of pricey liquor, all to ensure that someone shoulders the burden.

That's a cost you don't have to pay.  When you hire me, Matthew Baldwin, I come to your reception already loaded, and begin making a fool of myself even before the bride and groom arrive.  Just lookat all the benefits Loaded From the Get-Go offers:

  • The foreknowledge that you'll have a guaranteed, professional drunken fool takes the pressure off your other guests.  You don't even have to serve alcohol -- a savings of  hundreds of dollars!
  • I get drunk on nothing but the cheapest of domestic malt liquors -- and pass the savings on to you!
  • Not knowing the guests in advance and secure in the knowledge that I will never see them again, I have no inhibitions about what I say, what I do, or whom I make passes at!
  • I bring my own poorly concealed "strategic reserve" of red wine to ensure that I am fully loaded at all times and all the way to the end of the reception. No premature sobriety and weepy apologies here!
  • I will pass out in the restroom after last guest has left, sparing you the needless worry about my driving home drunk.
Best of all, I come equipped with a full repertoire of drunken antics I can perform upon request, from knocking over the wedding cake, to making long, incoherent toasts, to insisting the band play backup while I slur my way through "House of the Rising Sun".  All my drunken shenanigans are guaranteed to generate colorful stories that your guests will tell and retell for years.  And isn't that what you're wedding is really about, the memories?

Call, or visit my website at loadedfromthegetgo.com.  Free estimates, references upon request.

"Loaded From the Get-Go:  Make Your Wedding Inebri-great!"

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June 21, 2002

Summer COlors

Terror Warning System Converts to Summer Colors Today

Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge announced today that the "Terror Warning System" he unveiled in March would be converting to summer colors today. "Preparedness is never out of season," Ridge told the joint session of congress, "and that as why we will be tailoring our schema for the upcoming months." In the following Power Point presentation, Ridge revealed that Green will be replaced with "Mint," Blue will become "Cornflower," Orange will make way for "Putty," and Red, the highest level of threat, will henceforth be "Brick". The conversion is estimated to cost $47 million, and is expected to be every bit as comically useless as the old system. Ridge reassured the nation that, despite the recent fears of a July 4th attack, "we remain on Maize Alert."

[ link | News]



Rats

Hi! Well, as you probably noticed I haven't updated my blog in a few weeks, and I'm totally sorry cause I know that when you come here every day you expect to see updates on how I'm doing and what's up with me and that girl from the Expresso stand and how my pet snake is doing and stuff, but I've been REALLy busy the last few weeks that's why I haven't been updating as much as I shoudld. Work has been a total drag -- I'm SO backed up right now -- and I've been playing a LOT of "Grand Theft Auto III" so I haven't really had time to work on my blog. And then i was going to post something last Sunday, but, like, 20 minutes before i sat down at my computer all the power in my house went out. I checked the fuses and it wasn't that, so I went down into the crawl space under the house and found that our power line had been completely chewed through and there was this fried, dead rat right next to it (it smelled AWFUL!) but it was huge and had a face like a person and instead of paws in had tiny hands. and then i saw another one go into a hole at the end of the crawl space so i checked that out, and through the hole i could see a small room, so I cleared away the dirt and found a trap door and whent down into the room. It was like a libary, with all these voodoo books with titles like De Vermis Mysteriis and The King in Yellow and stuff, and when i took this one big black book off the shelf the whole bookcase swung open and there was a passageway behind it. So I walked down it for a while and wound up in this underground temple where a bunch of guys in black robes were inside a big pentagram and doing some chant where they said " Nyarlathotep" a lot. And then this big mist started to appear it was sort of shaped like a man, but then one of the robe guys saw me and stopped chanting and jumped towards me, but he scuffed the chalk pentagram marks which I guess is bad because the mist person thing started eating all the guys, I think (I don't know because I left then, but i could hear screaming all night long). But anyhow, the next day i electrical taped my power cord back together and then went to do that update, but by then I totally forgot what I was going to blog about (wouldn't you know!). So anyhow, that's why i haven't been updating every day, but I'll try to do better, i promise. That's all i have to say for now, cause nothing much has happened recently, but I'll write more tomorrow. Bye! Oh, PS: I'm selling some voodoo books on Ebay today, check out my auction!

June 20, 2002

Enemy Combatants

If the Justice Department gets its way, all they'll have to do is declare you an "enemy combatant" in the War Against Terrorism and you will be stripped of all your rights: denied council, held indefinitely, and the courts will not be allowed to second-guess the decision to give you the "enemy combatant" label.

Next up: people suspected of being drug users are labeled "enemy combatants" in the War Against Drugs, and the homeless become "enemy combatants" in the War Against Poverty!

(I'm joking, of course. See, it's funny because, unlike the War Against Terrorism, The War Against Drugs and the War Against Poverty are just catchy names given to ill-defined, undeclared "wars". Plus, the idea that the US Government could just strip some of its citizens of their rights whenever they want is a laughably far-fetched idea. Laughably!)

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Ease of Use

First check out this Ease of Use poster from IBM. Then check out the "ordering instructions" that accompany it. Spotted by TNLNYC, stolen from mefi.

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June 19, 2002

My Abdomen Always Rings Twice

I bought one of those new cell phones that fit in your tooth last week and have been using it on and off since then. But this morning, while eating my Cap'n Crunch, it came loose and I swallowed it. I called the cell phone company but they said there was nothing they could do -- I'd just have to wait a few days before I could, you know, get it back.

In the meantime, if you get a phone call and the caller ID says it's from me DO NOT ANSWER!!

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June 18, 2002

Watchin' Tv At the Gym
  • All the tvs are muted, but the programs have close captioning. The problem is that they lag: when a segment starts the captions reflect what the person on screen is actually saying, but by the time the next commercial rolls around the video is usually several minutes ahead of the text. This results in the captioning for the show continuing on into the first minutes of the commercial break.

    Yesterday the first ad after a "CNN Headline News" segment showed Jamie Lee Curtis holding a cell phone in one hand and a big, metal bucket in the other. She spit into the bucket and then, according to the close captioning, said "That's a major breakthrough in the fight against Parkinson's Disease!"

  • Does Oprah even host her own show any more? Every time I see it on, that guy, that Dr. Phil guy, is basically running things. He's always sitting up there in the midst of one his convoluted and life-affirming metaphors, while the crowd nods and mutters "that's true ... that's so true." "Life is a grapefruit," he says, "and a positive attitude is a grapefruit spoon -- you know, those spoons with the point at the end that help you dig on into the grapefruit of life? And sure, sometimes life squirts you in the eye with juice, and sometimes life tastes a little sour, but if you eat the whole grapefruit you'll get 80% of the daily recommended allowance of that Vitamin C we call 'empowerment'.

  • During a "news" story about the upcoming Webby Awards, CNN cut to a shot of a computer screen that was slowly downloading the front page of The Onion. In the lower right-hand corner of the shot they had the word "Live!" in bright red letters. It was uncanny how similar it was to actually watching the Onion page download over a 27.7k modem!

  • "You know, I think the American people would be a lot more enthusiastic about this "War Against Terror" if they added the "Dude, you're gettin' a Dell!" guy and the "Can you hear me now? Good." guy to the Axis of Evil.

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June 17, 2002

Don't Spend All My Love

I finally got so sick of that "Don't Spend All My Love (In One Place)" song that I took action. You know the song I mean, the one by Friday Father that you hear on every radio station and at baseball games and on tv commercials, the one with the tune so awful yet catchy that you can't get it our of your head for fortnights? Oh -- hah hah, of course you don't know the song, now. Well, trust me: this was the most obnoxious song of all time. Worse than "Who Let the Dogs Out," even worse than the "Macarana" -- it was terrible. So yesterday I went back in time and told Malcom Cander (grandfather to Stephen Cander, lead singer / songwriter for Friday Father) that I was his finacee's lover, which caused him to call off his engagement to Katherine Sinceso. Since those two neither married nor had children, the existence of Stephen Cander was negated. And sure enough: when I returned the band was gone and the song never existed! Yay!

Of course some other stuff got screwed up too, as always happens when you change time like that: there's a polio vaccine now (which is obviously a great side-effect) but apparently the Dominican Republic is no longer the 51st state. Despite all the changes, I'm sure you'll agree it was worth it -- that song was terrible! Well, I guess you wouldn't agree, since you've never heard the song, now. To you everything must seem the same as it's always been.

You know, it didn't really occur to me until this moment that I'm not going to get any credit for doing this.

June 14, 2002

Cinerama Story

I was at a dinner party yesterday evening, and one of the other participants told a great story. I am hereby stealing it, and will retell it as best I can. First a bit of background. "SIFF" is the "Seattle International Film Festival", an annual event in which many of the larger theaters throughout the city suspend their usual schedules for a week or two and instead show foreign and "art house" films from around the world. Among the cinemas participating in SIFF is the Cinerama, Seattle's largest, one-screen theater, which typically devotes itself to nothing but the biggest of big-screen pictures: Gladiator, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and, currently, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

The story:

So I'm working as a volunteer at the Cinerama for SIFF this year, and I was there just the other night when they were showing this real obscure documentary about the native people of the Himalayas who guide climbers up Mount Everest. Now, SIFF volunteers usually get a few free passes for the films they work at, but they often have more than they need and so they usually just give them away to someone outside the theater -- for a film like this it's not like anyone is gonna buy them anyhow. So apparently that's what happened here: someone had an extra ticket and just stopped some guy walking past the theater. He asked this guy if he wanted a free pass to the movie playing at the Cinerama, and the guy took it and was totally psyched.

So this guy, the guy who got the free pass, comes into the lobby and then charges in to the theater to get a seat. He's totally excited because he got this free ticket. But not a whole lot of people were at this particular movie, and almost none of them were in the theater -- they were all out in the lobby, talking and mingling. So after a while the guy comes back out and looks over the crowd in the lobby with this look of total bemusement on his face. Eventually he comes over to me and says "Hey, what's the deal here? Why is everyone standing around here in the lobby instead of going in to the theater?" You can tell this guy can't wait for the movie to start.

So I say, "Well, there's going to be, like, a pre-movie discussion out here."

And the guy says "Really? That's cool!" But you can tell that he's thinking it's kind of wierd, and he doesn't really know what to do. So he askes me "Do we just, you know, walk around and talk to other people, or what?"

"Yeah, sure," I reply, "But this discussion whatever really starts when the director shows up. The guy who directed the movie is coming and will be talking to everyone."

At this point the guy with the free ticket goes into paroxysms of excitement. "The director?!" This guy is just going berserk. "The director is going to be here?! Oh my God! I've always wanted to meet George Lucas!!"

So at first I'm thinking "What is this dude talking about?" And then I'm like "Ohhhhhhh noooooooo ..." So I gently say "Uh, yeah. Uh, you know that Star Wars isn't playing tonight, right?" and the guy's face just freezes, like he's been shot. And I say "Yeah, tonight they're showing SIFF movies," and they guy is, like, "'SIFF', what the hell is that?" and I point to his ticket and he looks at it for what must be the first time, and there, in huge letters, it says Sherpa: Unsung Heroes and he just deflates like someone opened his air valve or something.

The funniest thing about this guy was that he simply refused to believe that he hadn't scored a free ticket to see Star Wars. Even after I pointed out his ticket he was still like "So, wait: when is George Lucas showing up?" And he points to the stairs on the other end of the lobby and says "Where do those go? Are they showing Star Wars in that theater?" and I say "No, those go to the same theater you just came out of" and he points to some other stairs says "What if I go up there?" and finally I'm like "I'm totally sorry, dude, but you're seein' Sherpa."

Apologies to David Kaludy for stealing the story that he told so well that I laughed until my side hurt.

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Signs of the Apocalypse #14

Mr. Cunningham shilling for spammers.

Apparently Bosley also hosts a SMC Infomercial as well. No, that's okay: I wasn't cherishing that childhood memory or anything!

[ link | Spam]


June 13, 2002

The Fatal Consequences of Masturbation

Are the French less prudish about having sex with one another than we Americans are? Well, considering The Fatal Consequences of Masturbation over there, I guess they would have to be.

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Write Your Own Political Thriller

Oh, so you want to write a political thriller? Okay, here's your plot. Set it in the present -- same time, same world, same middle-eastern crisis -- except have both Pakistan and India in the World Cup. Then send an international team of espionage agents over to Japan to work behind the scenes, doing everything in their power to ensure that Pakistan and India do not, under any circumstances, meet in a soccer match. And then, of course -- in spite of all the bribery and assassinations and underhanded machinations -- the two teams do meet, in the championship I assume. Meanwhile, tensions between the two nations continue to spiral out of control, with troop build-up on both sides of the disputed region and leaders boasting about their willingness to use nuclear arms first. And the whole world tenses as the final match approaches, knowing that, regardless of who wins and who loses, this is going to be like a match to a fuse.

How does it end? I dunno. That's why you are writing it and not me.

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June 12, 2002

How Does Soap Work

Dear Answer Guy,

How does soap work?

Heather Kern,
Panda Springs, OH

Soap molecules are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. These three elements work in conjunction to lower the self-esteem of dirt and grime, eventually driving it off all together.

Your body is covered with a protective layer of oil, secreted by your skin. This layer forms a barrier that prevents dirt and particles from entering your body's pores, but you will begin to look "dirty" as soil becomes trapped in this protective layer. When soap is first applied, it mingles with the dust and other foreign matter coating you body, insincerely promising friendship and intimacy. After the soap has become accepted into the so-called "filth clique," it then turns on its new "buddies" -- first by undermining their self-confidence with subtle digs and "accidental" misstatements, then later assaulting the grime's esteem by "dogging" on it with blatant, witty, mean-spirited insults called "snaps". Betrayed by its newly found "friends," the dirt and grime slink from the scene and leave the skin cleansed.

Answer Guy

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Crime Stoppers!

I love how the Bush administration, in an attempt to deflect criticism and distract attention from the 9/11 congressional hearing, has trotted out this guy they captured last month and is giving themselves a daily pat on the back by citing all the things he would have done if they hadn't stopped him. All of the news articles about the "dirty bomb" suspect started with "Ashcroft today announced that the US had apprehended a man in the process of planting a full-made and armed 'dirty bomb' in a preschool" and then go on to explain, in paragraph two, that despite the fact that Ashcroft has already printed up Crime Stopper! certificates for everyone in the Justice Department, the captured guy had really just "thought about exploring the possibility of perhaps making a dirty bomb someday maybe." (Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz even came out and admitted "I don't think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk") Then, today, officials say that the suspect plotted other attacks, including blowing up gas stations. Wow, we thwarted a dirty bomb and a gas station blowing-up, all in one week -- waytago guys! Tomorrow we'll find out that he was also planning to send junk email, strangle kittens, cut you off in traffic and cancel Everybody Loves Raymond.

I try not to be so partisan, but this one's really getting my goat. Sheesh.

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June 11, 2002

L7

You may think that, just because I have bought a house in the suburbs, I've lost my "edge," that I am no longer as "cool" as I once was. Well, I'm here to tell you that that just ain't so. Why, just the other day I went to a move called "American Pimp"! And do you know what it was about? Pimps!

Although, admittedly, it didn't really "go to see it" -- I watched it on DVD. With, uh, my wife. We would have gone out, but I was tired because I'd spent the day cleaning out the gutters. Oh, and the movie was ... ummmm .. a documentary. But I did get kind of buzzed on merlot while watching it, which is edgy behavior is ever I've heard it.

Jesus. Could I be more L7?

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Three Pints of Pith

I firmly believe that there are two types of people in the world: people who like to blow soap bubbles, and people who like to pop the soap bubbles that other people have blown.

Note: I don't actually believe this. But it seemed so pithy I had no choice but to post it here.

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June 10, 2002

Books: Journey Through Genius

In a desperate attempt to appear "hip,' to "connect" with his teenage students, my high school math teacher compared geometry to Dungeons and Dragons. "You all love D&D, right?" he said, assuming we all did since, in 1987, it was the fad du jour. "Well, geometry is just like that: it starts as a few, basic, fundamental rules, and then builds a whole bunch of secondary rules to handle special cases. So in D&D you have basic rules for fighters, thieves, wizards and whatever, and in geometry you have rules for circles, squares and triangles. And from there you build more and more guidelines until you have an entire system!"

At the time I hated math, so I rolled my eyes at this amazingly lame analogy right along with everyone else. But now, years later, I can't help but wonder if he might have been on to something. In the decade since high school I have become fascinated both with games and math, and I now understand that the two are intimately connected. Indeed, reading Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics was a lot like reading a rule book for the natural world.

Author William Dunham chose a dozen or so theorems, each of which advanced -- and, some cases, revolutionized -- the world's understanding of mathematics. It starts with the ancient Greeks and the problem of "squaring" various shapes. (One "squares" a figure by turning it into a square with sides of a known length, which, in turn, allows you to determine the area of the original shape. "Squaring the circle" was, for quite a while, the holy grail of mathemastics, until it was proven to be impossible.) The first Great Thereom demonstrates how to square rectangles, then pentagones, then hexagons, and so forth. This discovery paved the way for such other revelations as Pythegoras' Theorem (a2 + b2 = 2) and the value of pi, which, in turn, served as building blocks for still more profound insights. Journey Through Genius almost seems like a mystery novel, where clues are slowly revealed and more and more conclusions are drawn.

The most fascinating part of the book, I though, was the depiction of mathematicians as gunslingers in the 17th century. Up and coming mathematicians would challenge established scholars to "duels," where the participants would swap tests and see who could stump whom. He who could crack most of his opponent's questions would become (or remain) Mathematics Fastest Gun; the other would be shot down in ignominy. An unfortunate consequence of this institution was that mathematicians who discovered new methods of solving problems would be reluctant to share their secrets, instead hoarding their knowledge and using it to win in these gun fights. Who knew that Math Guys could be so ruthless?

I freely admit that I didn't really follow the Theorems presented in the last four chapters, although Dunham still explained the role and importance of each. Overall I found Journey Through Genius to be a fascinating read, and one -- like all the books on mathematics I read these days -- which made me wish I had cared more about this stuff when it was being taught to me to free. Criminey, if I had listened to my geometry teacher's advice and treated mathematics like D&D, I could have been a Level 13 Trigonomiter with a +2 Slide Rule of Sharpness by now. Ah, wasted youth.

[ link | Books]



The Official Rules to Shotgun

Codified at last: The Official Rules to Shotgun.

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June 07, 2002

Directors, and Their Bad Bad Movies

After this entry, a friend wrote to tell me I had to include more Movie Trivia Posts. So, here you go ...

Orson Wells' first film, Citzen Kane, is widely regarded as the finest motion picture ever made. But not all directors have such copious quantities of beginner's luck. Match each of the "Best Director" Oscar recipients below with the film they made early in their careers.

1. James Camereon [Titanic]a. 1941 -- Hysteria grips California in the wake of the bombing of Pearl harbour as an assorted group of defenders attempt to make the coast defensible against an imagined Japanese invasion in this big budget, big cast comedy. Members of a Japanese submarine crew scout out the madness.
2. Frances Ford Coppola [Godfather] b. Caged Heat -- A girl is caught in a drug bust and sent to the hoosegow. The iron-handed superintendent takes exception to a skit performed by the girls and takes punitive steps, aided by the sadistic doctor who is doing illegal electroshock experiments and raping drugged prisoners. After a while the prisoners put away their petty differences and plan the Big Prison Escape.
3. Jonathan Demme [Silence of the Lambs]c. Foxfire -- The Soviets have developed a revolutionary new jet fighter, called "Firefox". Naturally, the British are worried that the jet will be used as a first-strike weapon, as rumours say that the jet is indetectable on radar. They send ex-Vietnam War pilot Mitchell Gant on a covert mission into the Soviet Union to steal Firefox.
4. Clint Eastwood [Unforgiven] d. The Hand -- Jon Lansdale is a comic book artist who loses his right hand in a car accident. The hand was not found at the scene of the accident, but it soon returns by itself to follow Jon around, and murder those who anger him.
5. Ron Howard [A Beautiful Mind]e. Night Shift --A nebbish of a morgue attendant gets shunted back to the night shift where he is shackled with an obnoxious neophyte partner who dreams of the "one great idea" for success. His life takes a bizarre turn when a prostitute neighbour complains about the loss of her pimp. His partner, upon hearing the situation, suggests that they fill that opening themselves using the morgue at night as their brothel. Against his better judgement, he gets talked into the idea, only to find that it's more than his boss that has objections to this bit of entrepreneurship.
6. Barry Levinson [Rainman]f. Pirahna II: The Spawning -- A sunken US supply ship off a Caribbean island resort is the focus for a series of mysterious piranha attacks. Investigating the death of one of her son's companions after a scuba-diving trip, Anne Kimbrough breaks into the morgue with holidaymaker Tyler Sherman, only to discover that the fish have wings and can fly. But the hotel manager refuses to call off the annual fish fry on the beach, with inevitable consequences.
7. Steven Soderbergh [Traffic]g. The Playgirls and the Bellboy -- This sixties sexploitation teaser concerns a bumbling bellboy who takes an amateur detective course and sets out to prove that the lingerie models in his hotel are really hookers.
8. Steven Spielberg [Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan]h. Schizopolis -- Fletcher Munson is a lethargic, passive worker for a Scientology-like self-help corporation called Eventualism. After the death of a colleague, he is promoted to the job of writing speeches for T. Azimuth Schwitters, the founder and head of the group. He uses this as an excuse to be emotionally and romantically distant from his wife, who, he discovers, is having an affair with his doppelganger, a dentist named Dr. Jeffrey Korchek. As Munson fumbles with the speech and Korchek becomes obsessed with a new patient, a psychotic exterminator named Elmo Oxygen goes around the town seducing lonely wives and taking photographs of his genitals.
9. Oliver Stone [Platoon, Born on the Forth of July] i. Used Cars -- Jack Warden stars as Luke and Roy L. Fuchs--feuding used car-selling twin brothers who square off in an outrageous, all-out attempt to put each other out of business. Rudy Russo (Kurt Russell), Luke's star salesman, is doing all the lying and cheating that he can in the name of the cause, but only in preparation for what he feels is his true calling--a career in politics! You'll howl at the proceedings, which involve strippers on television and a 200-car chase that turns into a full-on demolition derby.
10. Robert Zemeckis [Forrest Gump]j. Young Sherlock Holmes -- Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson meet as boys in an English Boarding school. Holmes is known for his deductive ability even as a youth, amazing his classmates with his abilities. When they discover a plot to murder a series of British business men by an Egyptian cult, they move to stop it

Answers [highlight to view]: 1-f, 2-g, 3-b, 4-c, 5-e, 6-j, 7-h, 8-a, 9-d, 10-i

[ link | Movies]



D'OH!

You've probably heard this by now, but just in case you haven't: State-run Chinese newspaper mistakenly runs Onion article as actual news, refuses to admit error.

Yu Bin, the editor in charge of international news, acknowledged Thursday that he had no idea where the writer, Huang Ke, originally got the story. ... But he adamantly ruled out a correction and grew slightly obstreperous when pressed to comment on the article's total lack of truth. "How do you know whether or not we checked the source before we published the story?" Yu demanded in a phone interview. "How can you prove it's not correct? Is it incorrect just because you say it is?"
The article, by the way, was Congress Threatens To Leave D.C. Unless New Capitol Is Built.

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June 06, 2002

The Essence of Wit

Once, when I was in high school, my philosophy teacher was talking about the concept of essence. "A thing's essence," he said, "is that which, if it were to be removed, the thing would no longer be what it once was. Take the clock, for example. The clock is blue, but would it still be a clock if you took away the 'blue' and left it colorless? Certainly: you could still tell time by it. But what if you were to remove the hands from the clock? Then, I would argue, you have removed the very 'essence' of the clock -- it's ability to measure the passage of time.

"Here's another example," he continued, picking up a drinking glass. "What is the essence of this glass? It's shape? I'd say not. But what if we were to remove the bottom of this glass? I submit to you that, if we were to remove the bottom, this glass would lose its essence."

"I dunno," I said. "I don't think that hypothesis holds water."

It was one of those moments that every class clown dreams of.

[ link | ]



Traffic Flow Theory

Newly discovered subject that strikes me as so facsinating that I will be completely obsessed with it for two or three weeks, after which I will forget all about it: Traffic! Flow! Theory!

  • William Beaty is a fellow Seattleite and science hobbiest. He has put together a fantastic page with his observations about traffic, and what ordinary citizens can do to alleiviate traffic jams. He also has an explanation for those "phantom accidents" we have all experienced -- those instances where traffic is all backed up at a certain point, but when you reach the "bottleneck" you discover there is no discernable reason for the slow down. Mr. Beaty's article is so well written and researched that it was even featured in both the San Franscico Chronicle and BBC News.
  • Want to study Traffic Flow Theory without paying for the gas? This page has a number of java applets which allow you to create your own traffic paterns, complete with different scenarios (on-ramps, uphill grades, traffic lights), adjustable "rate of flow" paramaters and even a "Truck to car ratio" setting.
  • Here's an entire chapter from a book entitled "Principles of Driving Psychology." An excerpt:
    A common fear of drivers is that they will break the unspoken rules of the road and thus cause others to hate them. When we inconvenience other drivers, we expect them to react with negative thoughts and emotions aimed at us. In traffic, as a rule, we cut each other no slack, and we attribute negative reactions to all other drivers. How close is this imagined response to reality? The drivers we talked to admitted that they don't always think negatively about other drivers, though it's routine to do so. So, much of what we imagine others are thinking of us as drivers is just fantasy. But these fantasies are standard attributions we make in traffic, and they are knitted into the fabric of our thoughts and feelings while driving.
  • Washington Post: how computers are being used to simulate and study Traffic Flow Theory.

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June 04, 2002

Kitty Porn

My wife and I recently moved from an apartment in the city to a house with a big back yard and large, glass patio doors. Now our cat doesn't pay any attention to us any more. He just sits at the window all day long and watches birds and squirrels. He's like a teenager who just discovered porn on the Internet. We may have to stage an intervention.

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Political Math
Last year, the Bush administration triggered international outrage when it announced the United States would not participate in the Kyoto Treaty, a UN-backed attempt to limit greenhouse gas emissions by industrial countries. At the time, President George W. Bush said the Kyoto Treaty ... would be too costly.

US Report Blames Humans for Global Warming
Reuters, June 3

Montana Sen. Conrad Burns, a Republican, said Monday he would attach language to an emergency appropriations bill pending in the Senate to help farmers who are suffering through the fifth year of a drought. "Having worked with the (Bush) administration, I am confident this amendment has legs to stand on," Burns said in a statement ... Steve Pringle, legislative director for the Texas Farm Bureau, said farmers were hesitant to ask Washington for more money considering the $51.7 billion farm law just passed a month ago. "It's difficult to go back to Congress and ask for additional funding at this time," Pringle said. "But I know producers are concerned about the existing conditions and whether the farm bill just passed will address these concerns.

Drought-stricken US farmers seek more federal aid
Forbes, June 3

You do the math. Somebody ought to.

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1337

I just got a new primary care physician. His phone number is 562-1337.

You heard right: my new doctor is 1337. I picked him because he has the m4d skillz.

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June 03, 2002

Welcome Wagon

Read about halfway down this article from the Seattle Times and get treated to this paragraph:

At the rehabilitation wing at Swedish's Providence campus, it's clear that the two dogs visiting on Tuesdays are boosting morale, greeting the patients with strokes, brain tumors and other diseases like long-lost relatives.
Maybe it's just me, but I prefer to be greeted with a smile or a handshake.

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Hawaiian Days Are Here

My gym, 24 Hour Fitness, is currently having a "Hawaiian Days" special! Here's some of the things they are doing in honor of the event:

  • Giving away a trip for two to Honolulu
  • All employees are wearing leis.
  • Front desk receptionist answers phone "Aloha, and thank you for calling 24 Hour Fitness!"
  • Brochures and schedules rewritten using a 13-letter alphabet.
  • The signs on the Mens and Womens locker rooms have been changed to read "Kanes" and "Wahines".
  • All clocks now show Hawaii Standard Time
  • Humuhumunukunukuapua`a adopted as the official fish.
  • Ceremony will recreate the discovery of 24 Hour Fitness by oceangoing Polynesians.
  • Will release wild mongoose into the 24 Hour Fitness environment in an ill-conceived attempt to control the rat population.
  • 24 Hour Fitness will renounce monarchy and become newest the state to join the Union.

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Books: A Fire Upon the Deep

About halfway through high school I finished reading my 87,000th crappy sci-fi or fantasy novel and decided that I'd had enough. From that point on I have avoided the genre entirely, except to read books that (a) have won an award, or (b) are personally recommended to me by friends with trustworthy judgment, or, preferably (c) both. Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep fell into the former category -- it won the Hugo Award in 1991 -- but if you'd like that recommendation I'd be happy to provide it myself.

The novel is set in the far far future, and the events take place in a region called The Beyond. The galaxy, we are told, is divided into four distinct "Zones of Thought" like the areas on a bullseye: The Unthinking Depths are in the center, The Slow Zone is the next ring out, The Beyond falls on the fringes of the galaxy and surrounding everything is The Transcend. Each region has its own physical laws. So in The Slow Zone (where our own Earth resides), the "Nothing Faster Than the Speed of Light" limit reigns, but in The Beyond this prohibition is lifted. No one really knows what The Transcend is like because creatures who manage to get there become godlike Powers and generally stop giving a rat ass about mortals.

Our story begins with a ship's crash landing, stranding two human children on a planet inhabited by sentient wolves. Each individual wolf is not very intelligent alone, but they all possesses the ability to "hear" the thoughts of other wolves in about a 10 meter radius. Groups of four to eight wolves, then, come together in packs to become a "person," with a group mind and a single identity. These "people," called Tines, can then use their four to eight mouths in collaboration -- all controlled by the group mind -- to manipulate their environment as skillfully as humans can with their hands. One disadvantage of the tines, though, is that they are unable to come within 10 meters of one another without their thoughts intermingling -- an occurrence which could result in confusion or even loss of identity, The tines are wonderfully well thought-out and described by Vinge, although their unique sense of personhood does lead to some bizarre sentence constructions. (E.g. "Afraid of the noise, he sent some of him to peer over the ridge while other parts of him cowered on the ground.")

The rest of the book is pure space opera: a malicious, virus-like Power called The Blight is quickly taking over the galaxy, enslaving trillions of beings and killing all those that stand in its way. There may be a "Countermeasure" to defeat The Blight, but nobody knows for certain; and this Countermeasure, if it exists at all, is on the ship that crashed into Tines World. A small band of people (two humans, two tropical plant-based aliens) set off to rescue the children and find The Countermeasure, but soon find themselves pursued by an entire fleet of The Blight's minions.

Any one of these ideas -- the group-mind Tines, the Zones of Thought, The Blight -- would have been enough to build a novel around; the fact that Vinge threw them all into the same 600-page work shows that this is a guy with creativity to spare. The writing isn't the best I've read, but the scope of the story and the striking originality of the concepts make is clear why this one snagged Science Fiction's highest award.

[ link | Books]