Saturday, March 31, 2007

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Brian

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

New Idea for a Medical Publication

Brian

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Image credits:
Anatomy of a Pygmy, Edward Tyson, from Orang-Outang, sive Homo Sylvestris: or, the Anatomy of a Pygmie compared with that of a Monkey, an Ape, and a Man, 1699, courtesy BibliOdyssey.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How John McCain's MySpace Page Hacked Itself

Brian
Why would anybody want to contact John McCain about design help? That's what Mike Davidson thought when he first looked at John McCain's campaign page on MySpace. In fact, Davidson knew the real reason McCain had such an announcement on his site:
You see, John McCain's people commandeered my world-renowned MySpace design template and did a few things wrong:

1. They did not credit me for the template, even though the template explicitly requested credit.
2. They used my own unmodified imagery, specifically for the "Contacting John McCain" table.
3. As if #2 wasn't bad enough, the McCain crew is actually pulling their image directly from my server on each page load. So every time someone visits the McCain MySpace page, my bandwidth is being used to deliver part of the page! Bad McCain!

So...
The "design help" note may have been the tell-tale sign, but I'm partial to the "gah!" aside after the Block link. What's a computer-savvy sometime MySpace-page designer with images from McCain's site unwantedly hosted on his own server to do?
So, the only thing necessary to effectively commandeer McCain's page with my own messaging was to simply replace my own sample image on my server with a newly created sample on my server. No server but my own was touched and no laws were broken. The immaculate hack.
Link (via Metafilter). The result had a mix of technical know-how, political awareness, and juvenile humor worthy of, well, just about any political blog:

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Onion News Network

Brian

Inevitable.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
This Stalker's triumph proves that perseverance really can get you that coveted job.

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Big Mac

Brian

When I have a television production company, my sign-off card is going to have this guy saying "I'm sorry, I only caught the double cheeseburger. Can you throw that down again?"

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Win the Lottery, Get Your Social Security Number's Photo in the Paper

Brian
When Newport, Maine, resident Venison Turner Jr. (that's right—he is at least the second in his family to be named after the meat that comes from deer) won $300k in the lottery last month, the local paper published a photo of him, his son, and lottery commission forms with Turner's personal information clearly visible:
"What has he won? Because of the lack of editing he has won a lifetime of grief," [Maine Morning Sentinel reader John] Ferry wrote. "Within seconds of glancing at this picture, I noticed the form in the picture includes the man's name, address, telephone number, date of birth and even his Social Security number."
Link (via Freakonomics). I'm sure now that Vension can afford a new identity he'll return to playing the lottery again. I just hope he uses my system.

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Image credits: "Lost - and Hurley's Lottery Ticket after He Passes Out," courtesy Preston and Steve, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Blame the Corn, Not the Cows

Brian
A recent report, "Livestock's Long Shadow," published by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (pdf) underscores the role livestock is playing in greenhouse-gas emission and climate change:
Direct emissions from livestock come from the respiratory process of all animals in the form of carbon dioxide. Ruminants, and to a minor extent also monogastrics, emit methane as part of their digestive process, which involves microbial fermentation of fibrous feeds. Animal manure also emits gases such as methane, nitrous oxides, ammonia and carbon dioxide, depending on the way they are produced [solid, liquid] and managed [collection, storage, spreading].
Cows, in other words, fart and poo. But when that fart and poo starts melting glaciers, New West's Peter Holter says we should be reexamining not the cows themselves so much as what we feed them:
As best we can tell, the UN study is primarily based on animals that have been raised in an industrialized manner, confined to pens and barns where they are fed a steady slaughterhouse/feedlot diet of synthetic minerals, grains, fodder, and antibiotics. These would make anyone belch and produce unpleasant gas!

. . . .

Historically, before “modern” agricultural methods took hold, animals were not confined. On roughly two-thirds of this continent, there were once hundreds of millions of herding, hoofed, grazing/browsing animals and sufficient pack-hunting predators – human and otherwise - to keep them constantly bunched and on the move.

If we think back to the time when the American Bison roamed the Great Plains, the tall grasses were healthy and abundant and able to support both the grazers and the predators. The Bison played a major role in maintaining the health of the grasslands, due to their grazing patterns, hoof action and natural (not synthetic) fertilizing actions.

Why is that important?

According to a recent study from the University of Montana, healthy grasslands actually pull significant amounts of carbon from the air and sink it into their roots by weight and volume. (Some evidence suggests they sink more carbon than trees.) This is carbon that does not enter the atmosphere to cause the problems referenced in the U.N. report.
Link (via the Ethicurean).

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Did You Know . . .

Brian
. . . I want one of these speech-bubble coffee tables made out of cardboard (via Neatorama)?

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Wonder Woman and Great Moments in the Womens' Liberation Movement

Brian

Since appearing in December 1941, Wonder Woman has gone through feminist and antifeminist cycles. Points to whoever can figure out which of those periods the above panels (via YesButNoButYes) represent.

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Saturday Morning Cartoon

Brian

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
It's Heat the Seat time again, and it still makes me giggle. Yes, chili is hot, and yes, Montrose is the county seat, but think of all the heating of the seat that will go on after the attendees consume that chili.

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Humans Aren't the Only Ones Doing It. Rats Do It Like Crazy.

Brian
Laughter.

In TierneyLab, John Tierney follows up on his report in the Times's Science section regarding the nature of human laughter (previously blogged here) with the news that laughter might not be unique to humans. If chirping when you are tickled counts as laughter—and Jaak Panksepp of Washington State University is putting together evidence that suggests just that—rats have been laughing for some time, but we just couldn't hear it until now:

Link. Meanwhile, Discover Magazine has a rundown on twenty pieces of rat trivia. Sure, they may laugh, but at least we can sweat.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Gender-Switching Vienna's Signage

Brian
Vienna is making an attempt to move away from traditional gender roles in its public signs:
In mid-December, the Vienna City Council launched the "Vienna Sees It Differently" campaign, unveiling posters which featured the city's public pictographs – but with gender changes.

. . . By the end of the year, all city buildings will have signs featuring men changing diapers and women riding elevators. This month, the Vienna Public Transport system, which is also taking part in the campaign, will begin replacing old, tattered stickers for reserved seating with updated ones featuring men with babies, elderly women, and disabled women.
But while the city's stylized new depictions of men and women break down some stereotypes, they may reinforce others:
[Association of Austrian Safety Practioners representative Franz] Kaida, however, did have one question about the artistic liberties taken with the city's campaign signs: "Do you think that long hair, skirt, and boots represent all women?"
Link.

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Image credits: "3 Vienna - Tram Sign," The Good Reverend, available on Flickr via Creative Commons license.

Just to Recap: Chute Fails . . .

Brian

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

FBI Report: RFK Masterminded Marilyn's Suicide

Brian

According to a just-released FBI file, Marilyn Monroe's suicide was "induced" by Senator Robert Kennedy in conspiracy with Peter Lawford and Monroe's housekeeper:
It hints at a link between her death and her threats to publicise her affair with Kennedy. It states: “Her housekeeper put the bottle of pills on the night table. It is reported her housekeeper and Marilyn’s personal secretary and press agent, Pat Newcomb, were co-operating in the plan to induce suicide.”

It says that on the same day Kennedy booked out of the Beverley Hills Hotel and flew to San Francisco, staying at the St Charles Hotel, owned by a friend.

“Robert Kennedy made a telephone call from St Charles Hotel to Peter Lawford to find out if Marilyn was dead yet,” it says.

Lawford called and spoke to Monroe, “then checked again later to make sure she did not answer”.
Link (via Trouble with Spikol). So RFK pulled a Bree Van De Kamp?

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Image credits: "Fred Woodress interviews Marilyn Monroe in 1963," courtesy 87th Infantry Division, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

You're Gonna Make It After All

The Grave Digger
That's right - it's a chandelier made out of gummy bears. Like it? Check out the link (via Dooce).

Oooh, easy peasy, you say to yourself. Anyone could do that. Oh really? Try this:



The woman knit a Ferrari. For fun. Link

I knit a toy for my cat a month ago. It's essentially a cube with a tail - it took me 30 minutes. I thought I was pretty great - but now I see, not as cool as Lauren Porter.

Well, Lauren, my question is simple: can your cat carry the Ferrari in it's mouth? And can your cat lose a Ferrari under the couch just 10 minutes after you give it to the cat?

I doubt it.

Image credits: "Chandelier" and "Knitferrari", courtesy makezine.com, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Friends around the Campfire and Everybody's High

Brian

Congratulations to the Great State of Colorado for selecting a new state song. It's only a matter of time before West Virginia comes around.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dick Cheney Is Officially Less Popular than Torture

Brian
Dick Cheney's approval rating is now 18 percent. As Ana Marie Cox points out at Time's Swampland, this makes him less popular than torture, which 37 percent of Americans are willing to approve of at least in some circumstances. It makes me think at least some of those Americans are actually really only in favor of torturing Cheney.

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Red and Blue State Cola Wars

Brian
It's not nearly as scientific as the work of Bert Vaux, but this popular survey compares one particularly prominent regional dialect difference: the preferred generic word for soft drinks. The pretty map above shows pop drinkers in blue, soda swillers in yellow, and sayers of the universal coke in red. The South is hardcore coke country, showing pride in Atlanta-based Coca-Cola. The huge northern swath of the country from the Pacific Northwest across the Midwest prefer pop. The preferrers of soda are much more spread out: they monopolize the Northeast and Mid Atlantic as well as California, Arizona, and Nevada, and they have invaded South Florida. But they also inexplicably radiate outward from St. Louis and up the eastern lakeshore of Wisconsin.

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Image credits: "Generic Names for Soft Drinks by County," Matthew Campbell, courtesy popvssoda.com, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

You May Take Away My Polite Laughter, New York Times, but You'll Never Take My Muffin Joke

Brian

The New York Times reports that neuroscience now tells us why people laugh, and it's not because something's funny. It's because we want to signal friendliness to people:
When Robert R. Provine tried applying his training in neuroscience to laughter 20 years ago, he naïvely began by dragging people into his laboratory at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to watch episodes of “Saturday Night Live” and a George Carlin routine. They didn’t laugh much. It was what a stand-up comic would call a bad room.

So he went out into natural habitats — city sidewalks, suburban malls — and carefully observed thousands of “laugh episodes.” He found that 80 percent to 90 percent of them came after straight lines like “I know” or “I’ll see you guys later.” The witticisms that induced laughter rarely rose above the level of “You smell like you had a good workout.”

“Most prelaugh dialogue,” Professor Provine concluded in “Laughter,” his 2000 book, “is like that of an interminable television situation comedy scripted by an extremely ungifted writer.”
Link (register or use BugMeNot). But what really bakes my muffin is that the Times demonstrates this insight by irrelevantly and misleadingly skewering one of my favorite jokes, right there in the lead. Jack Balkin says the muffin joke is funny, and, dagnabbit, if Balkin says it's funny, it's funny.

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Image credits: "Muffins Baking in an Oven," Fir0002, Wikipedia, acquired via GNU Free Documentation License.

Did Red Bull Give Britney Spears Delusions of Wings?

Brian
Dr. James Cocores of Boca Raton's Southcoast Psychotherapy and Education Associates says energy drinks like Red Bull, when consumed habitually in large quantities, have caused mood and behavior alterations in his patients:
"I have witnessed numerous other similar situations, and this should serve as a wake-up call for parents. Energy drinks do, in fact, contain several stimulants and one sedative that can alter brain chemistry in a very dramatic way. When used in excess and in the absence of wholesome nutrition, these drinks can cause the kind of brain soup that changes personality and mimics numerous psychiatric disorders, including bipolar disorder."
Link. Cocores thinks this might be at the root of the latest problems of Britney Spears (pictured at right, in happier times):
"If you did not see it on the set of some of Spears latest antics then you will need to check out other sources to know that she is a big fan of the stuff," said Cocores, who referred to Wikipedia. "So, this pertains to Spears if she in fact consumed large amounts because it could explain, at least in part, her recent bizarre behaviors as depicted in the media."
Liz Spikol opines in her terrific Trouble with Spikol that Red Bull might be the source of not only Britney's head shaving, but also her snake charming. But I think this gives a whole new meaning to the chorus of "Toxic."

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Image credits: Cover,
Rolling Stone 932, courtesy Elliott Back, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
No one actually cares about local policy.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Codpiece

Brian
Most phallic. Super villain. Ever.
(via Metafilter)

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Image credits: "Codpiece," Rachel Pollack, Doom Patrol, DC Vertigo, courtesy Head Injury Theater, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Random Movie Quote Thursday

Brian
Angraecum sesquipidale.
Beauty!
God!
Darwin wrote about this one.
Charles Darwin?
Evolution guy?
Hello!
See that nectory all the way down there?
Darwin hypothesized a moth with a nose 12 inches long
would pollinate it.
Everyone thought he was a loon.
Then sure enough,
they found this moth with a 12 inch proboscis.
Proboscis means nose by the way.
Point is, what's so wonderful,
is that every one of these flowers
has a specific relationship with the insect that pollinates it.
There's a certain orchid that looks exactly like a certain insect
so that this insect is drawn to this flower,
its double,
its soul mate,
and wants nothing more than to make love to it.
Then
after,
the insect flies off,
spots another soul mate flower,
and makes love to it,
thus pollinating it.
And neither the flower nor the insect
will understand the significance of their lovemaking.
And how could they know
that because of their little dance,
that the world lives by simply doing what they're designed to do,
so that something large and magnificent happens.
And in this sense, they show us how to live,
how the only barometer you have is your heart.
Now when you spot your flower,
you can't let anything get in your way.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Robert Zimmerman Meets Theodor Geisel

Brian
Link (via Rocketboom).

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

McDreamy Battles Facebook for the Coveted Fifteen-to-Twenty-five Demographic

Brian
The above graph represents traffic on Facebook one Thursday evening a couple weeks ago. The long, declining tail at the end of the graph marks the nighttime hours as young people presumably either go to bed or find other, less-Internet-based things to do. But what is the anomaly in the center of the graph? Traffic seems to be holding fairly steady at about 165-70 thousand, then suddenly plummets to about 150 thousand just before 18:00 Pacific Standard Time. Why would twenty thousand users abandon Facebook at 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time on a Thursday night? Because 6:00 Pacific Time is 9:00 Eastern Time—Grey's Anatomy was coming on:
A more granular view of activity: the number of users who have taken an action within a 60 second period. It’s easy to see 10-15k people taking Facebook breaks during each of the commercials. Not Pictured: Another 20k viewers took more traditional bathroom breaks, and 12k made a snack.
Link (thanks, the late great Suedo Apmuza). You can even see fifty thousand people coming back online at the end of the hour. My instincts say those tweens and college kids aren't logging off for C.S.I. Grey's is this season's highest-rated scripted show, does even better in the "adults" demographic of eighteen- to forty-nine-year-olds, and, well, Facebook got rid of its Pulse feature a couple months ago, so it's difficult to compare the shows most added to users' favorites, but any show that has such an effect on a website's traffic must be notable with its base. Too bad the show jumped the shark a few weeks ago.

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Rarely Is the Question Asked . . .

Brian
"Who then was the being whose blond hair inexplicably became wrapped around Peter Khoury's penis?"

(via The Anomalist)

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Ancient Chili Peppers

The Grave Digger



Could it be

a) What I exclaim in horror while cleaning out the crisper
b) A sardonic comment about Flea
c) An archaeo-botanist discovery, detailed in Science

You tell me.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Egyptian Grand Mufti Endorses Born-Again Virginity

Brian
Grand Mufti Aly Gomaa, the highest-ranking Sunni religious-law official in Egypt, declared that it is religiously permissible for women who lost their virginity before marriage to have reconstructive hymen surgery and that women who sincerely regret their sexual history are not required to tell their husbands:
Shiekh Khaled El Gindy, an Al-Azhar scholar and member of the Higher Council of Islamic Studies[,] told The Daily Star Egypt that he agrees with the new fatwa.

"Islam never differentiates between men and women, so it is not rational for us to think that God has placed a sign to indicate the virginity of women without having a similar sign to indicate the virginity of men," El Gindy said.

"Any man who is concerned about his prospective wife’s hymen should first provide a proof that he himself is virgin," he added.

. . . .

"If God wants us to know everything about each other, He would have given us the ability to read each others' minds, so why did he not do so? Perhaps maybe someone would have a wrong idea about you now but will change it later," Gomaa said.

. . . .

"According to Sharia, if a husband knew that his wife had sexual intercourse with anyone else, he should divorce her, so by not telling him she would be protecting her home and her life," he explained.
Link (via Feministing and Eteraz.org). So it's still a story of men giving women permission regarding their sexuality, and it's still about women having to physically alter their bodies to hide their sexual history, but when it's a choice between that and being stoned to death because of "honor" (pdf), this kind of proclamation is pretty important.

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Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
Since everything moves a little slower in Montrose, it's really no surprise that it took until now for the President to declare local flood damage from November a disaster area.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Stop Plate Tectonics with Bacteria!

Brian
You can't stop plate tectonics with bacteria. What are you, nuts? But maybe you could use bacteria to stop liquefaction, the phenomenon through with unstable, sandy soils act like liquid during an earthquake and compound the danger to structures on the surface:
Civil engineers already know they can inject chemicals into loose soil to bind grains together. But the chemicals are toxic.

A natural culture of Bacillus pasteurii along with oxygen and other nutrients causes calcium carbonate to form around sand grains, cementing them together. The structure of the soil is not changed; the gaps are simply filled in.

"Starting from a sand pile, you turn it back into sandstone," said Jason DeJong, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Davis.
Link. The solidifying qualities of B. pasteurii might be of interest to the good people of China, who are sitting on top of an Arctic Ocean's worth of subterranean water:
“It would still look like solid rock to you,” [Washington State University seismologist Michael] Wysession told LiveScience. “You would have to put it in the lab to find the water in it.”

. . . . “The water molecules are actually stuck in the mineral structure of the rock.”
Link.

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Jupiter's Spurting, Pimply-Faced Moon

Brian
This relative close-up of Jupiter's moon (and object of lust) Io taken by the LORRI space probe confirms the existence of a 180-mile-high plume of the moon's insides erupting from the volcano Tvashtar near Io's north pole (via Metafilter).

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Image crdits: "Io," NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute, courtesy Spaceflight Now, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hiccups Leave as Mysteriously as They Appeared

Brian
Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Mee of St. Petersburg, Florida, had been hiccuping fifty times a minute since January 23 until the hiccups simply stopped on their own around 5:00 p.m. Wednesday:
"Right now, my nose is burning and my throat hurts," she told the St. Petersburg Times, but she said she felt a lot better than she has in weeks.

. . . .

She saw an infectious disease specialist, a neurologist, a chiropractor, a hypnotist and an acupuncturist. She tried a patented device that is designed to stop hiccups, plus all the old remedies. Her mother called the media two weeks ago to try to find more help for her daughter, who ended up on NBC's "Today" show.
Link (via Fortean Times). Five weeks is nothing. Jennifer still had forty-four years, ten months and change to catch up to this poor soul.

UPDATE: They're baaack.

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