Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ride-By-Haircuts: A Blessing or a Curse?

The Grave Digger
Scissor-wielding psycho cyclist attacks schoolgirl in ride-by snipping, the headline reads.

A Tokyo man riding a bicycle attacked an elementary school student by suddenly cutting the ten year old girl's hair with a pair of scissors, then sped off.

The victim said the man appeared to be in his 50s. Police are searching for him on suspicion of assault.

At around 3:50 p.m. on Friday, the man riding a bicycle approached the fourth grader ... from behind and suddenly cut her hair with a pair of scissors and fled the scene, local police said.

The girl went home and then visited a local police box with her mother to report the incident. She was on her way home from school when she was attacked.

Link (via Newsvine). Pmgraham dislikes haircuts, and says that he would have considered it a favor. Oh yeah? Think about this one and get back to me.

I bet in Japan they didn't have a "runs with scissors" comment pre-written for report cards. You see what happens when you don't nip this in the bud during early childhood? They progress to bicycles.

Indexed by tags biking, scissors, haircut, Japan, schoolgirl, report card.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
Memorial Day marks the end of the reign of yet another Dairy Princess.

Indexed by tag Montrose.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Who Is Osama Txting For?

Brian
Osama bin Laden released another of his greatest hits yesterday just hours before the American Idol finale. Is that why millions of Americans rushed to vote for Taylor? Maybe Osama wanted us to vote for Taylor, so we really should have voted for Katherine.

Indexed by tags politics, terrorism, Osama bin Laden, American Idol, Taylor Hicks, Katherine McPhee, vote, influence.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

BS and BM

Brian
At some point I'm going to reorder my bookshelves according to the Library of Congress Classification system, if for no reason other than so my books on religion from college will all be filed under BS and BM.

Indexed by tags books, Library of Congress, classification, BS, BM.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Archie Comics as Pop Culture Barometer

Brian
The Onion's A.V. Club offers a tour through the middle decades of the twentieth century with Archie as guide.





Indexed by tags comics, Archie, history, Americana, decades.

Pennies and Nickels Aren't Worth Their Metal

Brian
If you were counterfeiting money and realized that your materials cost more than the face value of the money you were printing, you'd stop. But then, you're not the U.S. Mint:

For the first time in U.S. history, the cost of manufacturing both a penny and a nickel is more than the 1-cent and 5-cent values of the coins themselves. Skyrocketing metals prices are behind the increase, the U.S. Mint said in a letter to members of Congress last week.

The Mint estimates it will cost 1.23 cents per penny and 5.73 cents per nickel this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. . . .

The estimates take into account rising metals prices as well as processing, labor and transportation costs. Based on current metals prices, the value of the metal in a nickel alone is a little more than 5 cents. The metal in a penny, however, is still worth less than a penny.
Link (via Neatorama). None of this would have happened if we'd listened to L. Frank Baum.

Indexed by tags money, government, mint, penny, nickel, metal, cost, manufacturing.

Now That's How You Meet Someone

Brian
Girl: Hey, you!
Random guy: Yes?
Girl: Not you, the guy behind you.
Other guy: Yes?
Girl: On a scale of one to ten, what do you think my chances are with the guy I just spoke to before you?

(from the frequently dirty, often insiteful, and always entertaining Overheard in New York)

Indexed by tags pickup lines, New York, overheard.

Ebu Gogo: Dumb Species, or Just Dumb Human?

Brian
A new article in science suggests that the remains found on an Indonesian island two years ago look more like a busted Homo sapiens than a new species:
Robert D. Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago and coauthors wrote in Friday's issue of the journal Science that the fossil of Homo floresiensis appears to be a modern human with microencephaly, a disorder that results in a small brain and other defects.

Martin argued that the brain of the specimen, discovered in 2003 on the Indonesian island of Flores, is far too small to be a dwarf species. Its brain size of 400 cubic centimeters would indicate a creature 1 foot tall, one-third the size of the actual skeleton.
Link. The Sydney Morning Herald allows representatives of the sides of the dispute to speak:
"There has been too much media hype and too little critical scientific evaluation surrounding this discovery," said Robert Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago.

However, Mike Morwood, co-leader of the Australian and Indonesian team that discovered the remains, dismissed Dr Martin's claims published in the journal Science as bizarre and unsubstantiated. "I'm surprised Science published their study," said Professor Morwood, of the University of New England.
Link. North Carolina's Conservative Voice suggests that these findings prove that man was not descended from monkeys, or something. Then of course there's this old National Geographic article (which we've seen before) that argues that the small brains didn't hold Ebu Gogo back:
Despite having very small brains—roughly the size of a chimpanzee's—they appear to have hunted animals twice their size, made stone tools for hunting and butchering, and used fire for cooking.

"It's remarkable. We've always been taught and thought that as humans evolved, the bigger the brain, the better they are," said Charles Hildebolt, a physical anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

"If this little creature actually made the tools and was using the tools, built the fire and was using the fire, then that really tips human evolution upside down and changes the way we have to think about brain evolution. It may indicate that the reorganization of the brain was just as important and may be even more important than size."
Link.

Indexed by tags science, nature, cryptozoology, biology, evolution, ebu gogo, Homo floresiensis, human, microencephaly.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I Can't Keep up with the Goodness

Brian
BoingBoing has pointed toward some awesome videos in the past day and a half:

Hip-hop Charleston

Earth Sandwich

Ten Things I Hate about Commandments

That should keep you busy for ten minutes.

Indexed by tags videos, BoingBoing, hiphop, Charleston, Earth sandwich, Ten Things I Hate about Commandments.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Random Movie Quote Thursday

Brian
Where do I begin?
My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner
from Belgium
with low-grade narcolepsy
and a penchant for buggery.
My mother was a 15-year old French prostitute
named Chloe with webbed feet.
My father would womanize, he would drink.
He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark.
Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy—
the sort of general malaise
that only the genius possess and the insane lament.
My childhood was typical.
Summers in Rangoon,
luge lessons.
In the spring we'd make meat helmets.
When I was insolent,
I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds.
Pretty standard-really.
At the age of 12,
I received my first scribe.
At the age of 14,
a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles.
There's nothing like a shorn scrotum
it's breathtaking; I suggest you try it.

Indexed by tags movies, quotes.

P.O.D.'s Legacy: Nevaeh?

Suedo Apmuza
In 1999 only 8 babies were named Nevaeh (nah-VAY-uh). In 2005, 4,457 little Nevaehs entered the world. It is the fastest growing name ever.

It's not biblical. It's not a celebrity's name. How, then? According to the New York Times article:

The surge of Nevaeh can be traced to a single event: the appearance of a Christian rock star, Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D., on MTV in 2000 with his baby daughter, Nevaeh. "Heaven spelled backwards," he said.

Yeah, Nevaeh = heaven spelled backwards. (It is sorta cute...)

Now, call me crazy, but I'd say this Nevaeh thing that P.O.D. 'started' will have a bigger impact on the world than any of their music. In 20 years no one will be listening to P.O.D. but we'll still have (at least) 10,000 Nevaeh's proudly smiling and constantly saying, "It's heaven spelled backwards!" Get used to it now.

Azumpa Odeus out.

Indexed by tags Suedo Apmuza, Nevaeh, POD

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The $150,000 Song(s)

Suedo Apmuza
The RIAA, protecting the interests of the record labels and artists, sued XM satellite Radio today because of an XM device that lets users record songs for later listening - essentially a 'radio TiVo.' The RIAA lawsuit seeks $150,000 per song downloaded to the device.

Now, I am all for paying artists a fair share. The payment to broadcast a song on XM radio is for a one-time playback. This device clearly circumvents that, allowing users to listen to a broadcast song multiple times. XM is even encouraging its users to download songs and create a personal catalog of music -- so there is something wrong and there does need to be additional compensation. But $150,000 per song per customer?

More like $6-$9 - the cost of buying the single from a record store. Heck, $.99 from iTunes? XM is expected to settle the case by paying the RIAA a set amount every time a device is sold, so there is no way that $150K number ever gets used...but it still bugs me. Who can possibly justify $150K of lost profit per song? I'm not going to spend $150K over my lifetime on CDs, downloads, concerts, posters, etc. I can justify the $100,000-per-stitch of personal injury lawsuits better than this crazy talk.

Good case, bad math.

Indexed by tags Suedo Apmuza, XM, RIAA, Lawsuit

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Lotteries and Insurance: Safe Bets?

Brian
Slate's Tim Harford says you shouldn't buy rental car insurance unless you are a terrifically bad driver:
[F]or just $10 a day, I could protect myself from the frightening-sounding insurance deductible of $900—a sum I risked being charged if anything happened to the car. I bravely turned them down.

This was a strikingly overpriced offering. For each day's rental I was being asked to pay $10 to protect me from the risk of paying $900. The mathematics are hardly difficult: The insurance is fair only if I crash into something every 90 days. If I believed that, I wouldn't get behind the wheel at all.

. . . .

[A]nyone who pays even slightly more than the fair premium to escape from a risk on a $90 phone or a $900 insurance deductible must be making a mistake. The stakes are too tiny: In the context of a $1 million lifetime income, even $900 is a small enough risk to swallow. We should turn down these offers of insurance and save the money in a contingency fund to pay for the occasional loss. The odds would be well in our favor and the petty uncertainty shouldn't cause us a single sleepless night.
Link. This is all fair enough, but, according to this golden oldie from Slate's Jordan Ellenberg, where you could really be making a smart investment is in the Powerball:
The question to ask is: What is the expected value of a lottery ticket? If the expected value is more than a dollar, and the ticket costs a dollar, you should buy a ticket. If the expected value is less than a dollar, you should keep your money.
Let me interrupt to underscore this point, because if you understand it, Deal or No Deal is the stupidest, easiest, fish-in-a-barrel money-winning game show of all time. Since each case has the same odds of containing any given dollar value, all you have to do is add up all the money left on the board and divide by the number of cases left. That's the expected value of the eventual case you get to keep. If the deal Mr. Banker offers you is much less than that expected value, you'd be a fool to take it. If it's more, you'd be a fool not to. The rest of the show is theater and psychological tricks meant to draw you off your game. That's a hundred times easier than understanding the Monty Hall problem. Now back to our regularly scheduled article on the lottery:
So the masters of Powerball take in $200 million in ticket sales for Saturday's drawing. Very likely, they pay out $280 million in jackpot—not to mention the sub-jackpot prizes, which amounted to $41 million in Saturday's drawing. Which means the house loses. And if the house loses, by definition, the average player wins.

This may make Powerball look dumb; why would a casino run a game where the house stands to lose? The answer is that the current large jackpot is the result of a long string of games when the house did win. Cumulative-jackpot lotteries such as Powerball are essentially a massive transfer of value from the dupes who play when the jackpot is small to the wiser ones who wait until the jackpot is big, with the house taking a healthy cut along the way. Here's the one piece of solid advice in this column: If you play Powerball every day, stop playing Powerball every day. If your dollar can be spent for a 1 in 80 million chance of $10 million or a 1 in 80 million chance of $120 million, why would you choose the former?
Link. Well you don't have to tell me twice. Next time I won't make the same mistake as Jerry Seinfeld.

Indexed by tags economics, math, statistics, rental car, insurance, lottery, expected value, Deal or No Deal, Monty Hall Problem.

Happy Mother's Day

Brian
Indexed by tags mother, Mother's Day, photo, mom.
Image credits: "Lori 1972," capnpitz, courtesy
Flickr, acquired via Creative Commons license.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Concert Review: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Suedo Apmuza


On 4/12/2006 I, Suedo Apmuza, met up with my friend NP for the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah concert at the Avalon Ballroom in Boston, MA. In brief, it was a good, fun show.

I don’t feel like writing coherent prose, so let me just highlight some moments:

- Eating a huge $7 sausage outside of Fenway Park (next to the Avalon).
- Eating a second huge $7 sausage because NP is crazy.
- Trying to figure out why The Brunettes started wearing Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen masks for their last song.
- Getting a great spot about 5 rows from the front of the stage with a clear view behind some short girls.
- Enjoying the first few chords and thinking, ‘Gee, these girls are really getting into the music. I’m glad I’m not next to some corpses that don’t enjoy it.’
- Realizing the short girls are severely impaired as they repeatedly bump into everyone around them. After a few dirty looks from a guy in front of them that had been hit repeatedly, he finally (and rightfully) says a few words. The girls clearly didn't understand and/or care. Wishing I was closer to the corpses.
- Pleasantly surprised but scared that CYHSY is playing a great ‘The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth’ as like the 4th or 5th song in the set. I would’ve expected it to come much later as a closer/encore. I hope they have more good stuff. (They did)
- Complement: CYHSY has tons of energy and seem to be having a great time.
- Criticism: They end their songs poorly. On the CD, the songs fade into one another with cool electronic beeps and static…but live, the songs just end with no extra choruses, no big finishes.
- The drummer looks like the big guy from Freaks and Geeks.
- They play the funky opening song to start the encore. It’s fun.
- I have no idea what their songs are about, even when I read the lyrics on the liner notes. I wonder if they’ve created some alternate reality with bees and teeth and odd melodies. Maybe they have a whole mythology and backstories.
- In conclusion, check these guys out.

Indexed by tags Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Brunettes, Concert Review, Suedo Apmuza
Image credits: Suedo's Cellphone.

Meanwhile, in Montose . . .

Brian
In case you were wondering, no, you still can't burn your trash.

Indexed by tag Montrose.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Recipe Friday

Brian

Recipe Friday, which you all thought had gone the way of the Hawaiian duck with eyes in the back of its head, has instead gone the way of the ivory-billed woodpecker. Today's recipe is as easy as it is uncommon in the repertoire of the casual cook:
I know, I know, it sounds so Italian and restauranty. Except for the Ratso part, which is optional. But the truth is, if you can make pasta, you can make risotto. In fact, apparently in Northern Italy, from whence my college roommate's ancestors hailed, they prefer risotto to the traditional Southern pasta. What is risotto? It's basically a creamy sort of rice. And if you want to make it quick, it's insanely easy.

You'll need:
  • 2/3 cup arborio rice (This is a round, white, Italian rice you can find in any market that has a selection of rices, which is just about any market. You can do risotto with other sorts of rice, but some folks will tell you that's not really risotto. If you want to do it right, get the arborio.)
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 packets of chicken bouillon granules
  • 2 tbsp store-bought grated parmesan or 1/4 cup fresh parmesan that you grated yourself

You'll also need to use:
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • A large sauce pan with a lid
  • Knives
  • A cutting board
  • A spatula
  • A stove

To get started, clean the onions and garlic. Cut off the white ends of the onions and slice the green stalks as thinly as possible into little rings. Peel off the paper from the garlic, cut the ends off, and dice it into pieces as small as possible. Other fun things to do with garlic: (1) if you've got a garlic press, stick in it and smash it through; (2) lay it flat on the cutting board and mash it to bits by pressing the flat side of the knife down on top of it. Don't hurt yourself.

Heat the butter and oil in the sauce pan over medium-high heat. In a pinch, you could use just butter or just oil, but the butter adds a creamy taste and the oil keeps the butter from burning, so they work best in tandem. When it is melted, add the sliced onion and diced garlic. Fry those, stirring them with your spatula, until they are tender but not brown. If they start to go brown, you're going a little too far.

Add the rice. Stir the rice around with the vegetables, butter, and oil for a couple minutes, but once again, if it starts to go brown, stop.

Add the water and bouillon. If all you've got are the cubes rather than the packets of granules, you should heat the cubes in the water separately until they break down and make broth. Otherwise, you can add them both at the same time. When you add the water, the pan should be hot enough that it sort of flash-sizzles for a couple seconds until the water cools it down. Now turn the heat up to high until the water starts to boil. Then, smack the lid on, turn the heat down to low, and simmer the risotto for twenty minutes. Don't remove the lid during that twenty minutes! If you do, two things could happen: One, seeing the risotto cooking process could put you into shock and you would simply pass out. Or two, it could create a time paradox, the results of which could start a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe!

When the twenty minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat and take off the lid. It should look like creamy rice, which means a little liquidy. If there's a tad too much liquid, you can cook it over low heat for a couple minutes, stirring, with the lid off to evaporate some water. If there's too little liquid, you could just add a little water. Add your parmesan cheese and stir it all up. Voila!

The risotto you just made is basically a plain risotto. Like pasta, risotto can come in all sorts of variations. You can add various vegetables or meats for variety. If you want to add chicken, sausage, or beef, cook it first in small pieces (as in, cut the chicken into the size of pieces you'd like in a salad and then cook it, or just brown ground beef like you would if you were making sloppy joes). If you're going to add vegetables, you can either do it at the start, along with the onion and garlic (which is best for hard vegetables, like celery or carrots), or at the end, either when it is done cooking or a couple minutes before that point (which is best for softer vegetables, like tomatoes).

Indexed by tags food and drink, recipes, risotto.
Image credits: "Risotto alla zucca," Spuma, courtesy Flickr, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.
Adapted from the easy risotto recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Young Man, I'd Like A Word With You

The Grave Digger

William Crawford of Castalia, a northern Ohio candidate, wants to give his sons an earful.

Neither of his two voting-age sons went to the polls Tuesday, and their father's race ended in a tie.

William Crawford, trying to retain his seat on the central committee of the Erie County Democratic Party, and challenger Jean Miller each received 43 votes in the primary balloting.

Officials plan to conduct a recount, but the race may have to be settled by coin flip, said David Giese, the county's Democratic Party chairman and an elections board member.

Link.

Son Jim lives across the street from Crawford's home in Castalia, about 45 miles southeast of Toledo, and son Andy is a college student who lives at home.

Both are registered Democrats.

Let's clarify: Jim could have crossed the street and gotten a ride with his father and brother to the polls. Instead, he and Andy have put their father's job in the hands of... a coin?

Given the circumstances, this may have long term implications for their relationship with their father. Jim, Andy, if you are reading this, click here, here, here, here, here, here, or here, or be disowned.


Indexed by tags Ohio, vote, coin flip, sons, Democrats.

Star Lords

Brian
Inevitable.

Indexed by tags movies, video, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, music, disco.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Doublewide's Worth of Love in a Singlewide Heart

Brian
It's the brand new country and western hit from 1978:

You picked up and rolled your whole home straight into my life.
You cozied on up next to my little lot in the park.
And though you know I need you, lately it's nothing but strife.
I've got a doublewide's worth of love in a singlewide heart.

Doublewide's worth of love in a singlewide heart,
Like a new Chevy truck lookin' good, but the engine won't start.
What I got is a lot but I bought it all at Wal-Mart,
Doublewide's worth of love in a singlewide heart.

When I'm down, you set me up on four sets of three cinderblocks.
I hitched my rig up to you, but I knew I couldn't go far,
Cause I'm here where I'm fated in my prefabricated box,
With my doublewide's worth of love in a singlewide heart.

Doublewide's worth of love in a singlewide heart,
Like a new Chevy truck lookin' good, but the engine won't start.
What I got is a lot but I bought it all at Wal-Mart,
Doublewide's worth of love in a singlewide heart.


Indexed by tags music, country, song, lyrics, doublewide.

David Copperfield Misdirects His Way out of a Mugging

Brian
When I was younger, David Copperfield used to have a special on every year in which he would walk through, leap over, or make vanish some famous landmark, like Europe. Turning the Taj Mahal into a kitten is all well and good, but it's probably more useful to make robbers disappear:
After his show at a West Palm Beach performing arts center Sunday Copperfield was walking with two female assistants back to their tour bus when four teenagers pulled up in a black car and two demanded the group's belongings, according to police.

. . . .

Copperfield says he turned his pockets inside out to reveal nothing in them, even though he was carrying his passport, wallet and cell phone.

"Call it reverse pick-pocketing," Copperfield told The Palm Beach Post for its Wednesday editions.
Link (submitted by Ian9875). Unfortunately, out of force of habit, Copperfield made his passport, wallet, and phone reappear in the pockets of the muggers, along with the three of clubs.

Indexed by tags crime, odd, weird, magic, illusion, David Copperfield, mugging, robbery.
Image credits: "David Copperfield's magic flowers wherever he appears," courtesy
Capital Times, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Magnet Man Now on Video

Brian
Here's another Magnet Man. This one has videos of himself "performing" his "feat" to "bad music." (submitted by Bogdan)


Indexed by tags weird, science, biology, skin, magnet, suction, metal.

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
A Montroser gets a taste of fame on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition! No, not winning a new house. Or building it, per se. Excavating.

Indexed by tag Montrose.

Slapstick and Toilet Humor Amused Early Hominids

Brian

Evolutionary biologists assert that laughter played a normative teaching function for Australopithecus:
[W]hen they saw a member of their group lose his footing they would laugh as a sign to each other that something was amiss, but nothing too serious.

The theory could explain why, to this day, the ungainly walk remains a staple element of slapstick humour from John Cleese’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” to Rowan Atkinson’s accident-prone Mr Bean.

“Becoming bipedal means there was a greater chance of tripping and falling. Essentially, the suggestion is that slapstick and humour evolved from that time,” said Matthew Gervais, an American evolutionary biologist who led the study.

“When we laugh at slapstick, we are laughing at the same things that amused our early ancestors. That’s why we find them funny.”

According to the study, the next basic elements of human behaviour that sparked laughter were flatulence and mild sexual mischief. Language appeared only 2m years after the first laugh, enabling people to combine laughter and words into numerous refinements, from amusement at a joke to sneering at a rival.
Link (via Sploid, which quips, "In other words, our evolutionary progenitors were all Three's Company fans, long before television was even invented."). I'm going to take this to mean that even a caveman wouldn't like Encino Man. Or B.C. comics, for that matter. There's nothing funny about people in the Stone Age talking about Jesus.

Indexed by tags science, biology, evolution, hominid, Australopithecus, humor, slapstick, toilet, fart.
Image credits: Untitled
B.C. comic, Johnny Hart, courtesy Lambiek.net, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.