Thursday, December 30, 2004

He Would Choose The Tsunami

Last night I was talking with my brother about the tsunami. "I've been thinking about this all day," he said, "and I've decided that a tsunami would be a great way to die. If could choose how to go, that would be it."

"What are you talking about?" I said. "What makes that a 'great' way to die?"

"You'd be on a beautiful beach, surrounded by supermodels, and then a big wave comes in, and you're like 'maybe I can ride this one' and then whack you get slammed into a palm tree or something, and that's it."

"Uh, I'm not sure that's exactly how it would be." I said. "It could be much more awful than that . . ."

"No," he said, as if explaining the obvious, "it would definitely be the best way."

"I have a different idea of what would be best," I said. "One day, I walk out of my office building, and then wham, I'm crushed by a falling piano. It's so quick, I never feel a thing."

"What?" said my sister-in-law, "Where did the piano come from?"

"Somebody dropped it from the 15th floor."

"Why would that happen?"

"I don't know, maybe they were trying to move it in through the window and the rope broke. But it strikes my head in such a way that for a split second it plays a perfect C major chord, and that is the last sound I hear."

[Author's note: the recent tsunami was a terrible tragedy, of course. My brother and I happen to be the type of people who deal with such things through black humor. It is almost an involuntary response.]

Monday, December 27, 2004

Mixing Paint

As I was in the hardware section of a store, buying some wrenches, I overheard a young woman have this conversation on her cell phone. (She was standing near the paint aisle.)

"Hello? Oh, I'm mixing paint with Jesse . . . no, that's not a euphemism, we're actually mixing paint."

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Amity Sunnyside Pinot Noir 2002

I got this wine as a Christmas present, and it is amazing! This is like the Oregon wine equivalent of a classic Rhone wine, with maybe a bit more fruit. Get some if you can.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Law of Slacking

Iron Monkey's Law of Slacking: Every action creates the need for an equal but opposite period of inaction.

The Tale of Supply-Side Santa

Supply-Side Santa: Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas! What's your name, little boy?

Timmy: I'm Timmy, and I want you to bring me a new bike for Christmas.

SSS: Ho, ho, ho! Oh, no, Timmy, I can't do that!

T: What? Why not?

SSS: Supply-Side Santa doesn't believe in handouts, he believes in encouraging investment. Why, if I decided what each boy and girl should get for Christmas and gave it to them, that would be a single-provider system with a centralized control mechanism! That's a very naughty Socialist idea, it's anticompetitive and anti-business, and it makes Supply-Side Santa very unhappy.

T: But if you don't give kids presents, what do you do?

SSS: I'm glad you asked, Timmy. I'm going to visit the houses of the wealthiest people, and give them even more economic advantages than they already have.

T: That doesn't seem fair, Supply-Side Santa . . . have the rich people all been very good this year? Better than me?

SSS: Ho ho ho! Of course they have! The fact that they are rich shows how they have been good and wise and hardworking. Those people will invest their new wealth, which will create jobs and stimulate the economy. Then maybe you can get one of those jobs, and someday you can afford that new bike you want!

T: But Supply-Side Santa, what if the rich people invest in companies that outsource all the jobs overseas? Then how will I get the bike?

SSS: Now Timmy, it's not Supply-Side Santa's fault if people like you are greedy, and demand higher wages and benefits than the global market can support. You'll just have to be more reasonable and work harder. Maybe you can do a little union-busting on the side to earn some extra cash.

T: OK Supply-Side Santa, now I see! If you gave me the bike, I would become weak and lazy and dependent on handouts. But by giving me nothing, and giving everything to the rich, it's actually all for my own good. I'll have an incentive to work hard and develop the right moral values.

SSS: Ho ho ho! Very good, Timmy, now you understand the true spirit of Christmas! Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

(Inspired by The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Her: What was that song about racism I used to like a long time ago?

Me: Ebony and Ivory?

Her: No, it wasn't that. It was a much angrier song.

Me: Ebony and Ivory 2: The Kill Whitey Remix?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

At The Tree Farm

Jim: "How should we cut down the Christmas tree this year?"

Me: ". . ."

Jim: "I say we set up from long range with a sniper rifle and then . . . crack!" [mimes tree falling down] "One or two shots should do it."

Me: "What about this one?"

Jim: "It isn't tall enough."

Me: "We can always put some viagra in its water."

Jim: "OK, now this is the one."

Me: "This is the tree. Time to take it down. Release the termites!!"

Jim: "That's a good idea but . . . I know, beavers! That's what we should have brought."

Me: "Next year we'll bring a pack of trained beavers, on leashes. They can fell the tree for us. That will save us so much work. Well, if you don't count the training."

Rating Beheadings

Her: ". . . that was just gross. But the best decapitation scene in a movie was . . ."

Me: ". . . um . . ."

Her: ". . . in Conan."

Me: "Yes! I knew you were going to say Conan. And you're right, that was the best decapitation in a movie."

Her: "When Conan's mother got killed."

Me: "What? No, not that one! The other one, at the end, when Conan killed Thulsa Doom and his head went bouncing down the stairs! That was the best one."

Her: "No way. The first one was better, because of the way the headless body slowly fell down . . thud."

Me: "I can't believe we're arguing about what the best beheading scene is."

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Winter Party Quotes

After Summer and Fall party quotes, it is now time for Winter party quotes. There aren't many yet, but I'll keep adding to them.

"You can always tell what's in the oven . . . by the color of the smoke."

"The mininimum to get into the investment club is at least one indictment for securities fraud."

". . . and you know what else the wine steward said?" "Uh, 'Drink it all in one gulp or you're not a real man'?"

"I will suck out all your chi and use it for evil."

"Figure skating would be more interesting if they let them fight like in hockey."

"Tango is the Argentine version of Judo. There is a lot of grappling, but nobody gets slammed to the mat."

"Aren't you going to eat?" "I'm trying to put some meat on my wife for the winter."

"Your wasabi looks like an Ewok."

"She wants to help the downtrodden, but she works at [Law Firm]." "Oh yeah, and they only help the up-trodden."

"What do you think about those Internet-enabled refrigerators?" "Time will tell if it is just a fad." "Yeah, well, that's what they said about the wheel."

"For some people, 'I like you' is harder to say than 'I love you' because 'I love you' just means 'I'm going to get you into bed in a minute.' Don't you agree?" "Well, yeah, if it's said right . . ."

[After a discussion about catnip.] "Wouldn't life be more exciting if there were a such thing as human-nip?"

"The drug of choice there is sunshine." "Yeah, but it can lead to harder drugs."

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Miracle Cure

When I was a child, I had the bizarre belief that when I was sick, I could be cured by eating onion rings. I don't know how I came up with that. My mother tried to talk me out of it, but usually after I kept insisting it would work, she would get me some onion rings (maybe just to demonstrate that it didn't work?). Most of the time I felt better after eating them. I'm sure it was all in my head.

But the weird part is that even now that I am an adult, this still usually works. I know how absurd it is, and that actually, eating onion rings when I am sick should make me sicker or at least have no effect, but it still works. Is it some kind of psychosomatic voodoo?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Give The Gift Of A Stick

Give the gift of a stick this Christmas! Pottery Barn has these fine sticks on sale. They were $5.00 per stick but they are now marked down to $3.49. A stick has so many uses: it can be a bat for stickball, a piece of kindling, a weapon, raw material for a whittling project, a dog toy, and so much more. Plus when you give two sticks, you have also given the gift of potential fire! Yes, there's nothing like a store-bought stick. Posted by Hello

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Modernizing Proverbs

Many of our proverbs have become outdated. They refer to things that are no longer common in daily life, but we still retain the sayings. Here are some suggestions for modernizing old proverbs.

Proverb: Strike while the iron is hot.
Problem: Refers to blacksmithing.
New Proverb: Flame while the newsgroup thread is hot.

Proverb: Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.
Problem: People don't count unhatched chickens any more, or watch them hatch. Modern bioengineered chickens are grown in vats.
New Proverb: Don't count your share of the Nigerian exile's fortune before it's wired into your account.

Proverb: Closing the barn door after the horse is gone.
Problem: Barns and horses uncommon.
New Proverb: Closing Internet Explorer after the spyware has been installed.

Proverb: Putting the cart before the horse.
Problem: Carts and horses no longer used for transportation.
New Proverb: Putting the athletic competition before the steroid use.

Proverb: The straw that broke the camel's back.
Problem: Straw, camels.
New Proverb: The spam that broke the email server.

Proverb: Don't judge a book by its cover.
Problem: Decline of book readership.
New Proverb: Don't judge a download by its filename.

Proverb: . . . Bob's your uncle.
Problem: Erosion of traditional extended-family based group formation.
New Proverb: . . . Bob's some guy your mom met in a chat room.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Lil John

Back when George Bush, Sr. was in office, Dana Carvey did an impression of him on Saturday Night Live that was so memorable that the impression eclipsed the real thing. I couldn't watch a real George Bush speech without thinking of it as somehow being a second-rate Dana Carvey act.

Dave Chappelle has done the same thing to Lil John. I can't hear "what!?" or "yeaaaah!" in a Lil John song without thinking of the Chappelle version and laughing.

Free Lil' John mp3 download here.

Unsatisfying Fairy Tales Vol. 1: The Boy Who Was Almost Prince

Once upon a time, there lived a poor, orphan peasant boy who worked hard in the fields. He was smelly and unsophisticated, but he had a heart of gold. For a while it seemed like maybe he was secretly the son of the King, because the King's son had mysteriously vanished as an infant. But then it turned out that the King's real son lived in a nearby city where he worked as a furrier, and since he was 10 years older than the peasant boy, the whole theory never made very much sense anyway. So the peasant boy was just some kid. THE END.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Commuting Not As Fun As Sex, Study Shows

Today's lesson is that you can learn all sorts of fascinating things, if you have the wherewithal to put together an official, multi-university, academic research project. For example, a recent study of women's happiness revealed that "Having sex is the high point of most women's' days, while commuting is the low point."

Faced with this startling new information that women like sex more than commuting to work, one might ask, how much more fun is it? 10 times better? 100 times better? Thanks to the Inexorable March of Science, we now know quantitatively that sex is actually less than twice as fun as commuting:
On average, the 900 women gave "Intimate relations" a positive score of 5.10, compared to 4.59 for socializing. Housework scored 3.73, which was better at least than working at 3.62 and commuting with a lowly score of 3.45.

The creators of this study aim for more than just the accumulation of abstract knowledge. The article reports that "
they propose that their tool could be used to plan social policy." Well, one obvious social policy leaps out from this data. Society must find a way for people to have sex while commuting. In addition to increasing happiness levels, this could provide new, compelling reasons to car-pool, which would reduce pollution and oil consumption.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Bush Arrested In Canada?

Imagine my surprise at seeing this as the top story on Google News: "Canadians Authorities Arrest U.S. President Bush On War Charges." Don't bother looking for it, it is already gone from Google News, which is why I took a screenshot. It was a link to a parody article, but it was good for a momentary shock. Posted by Hello

Sunday, November 28, 2004


I like to tell people that the P.F. in P.F. Chang's stands for "Pablo Francisco," and that it was a successful chain in Mexico before expanding into the U.S. Of course, this is all a fabrication. Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 27, 2004

One State, Two States, Red States, Blue States

These are our new flags. Please discard your old U.S. flags and use one of these, according to whether you live in a Blue State or a Red State. If we are going to have two Americas, we should have two flags.

On the other hand, if (like me) you are getting sick of hearing about red states and blue states, you can keep using our old flag as a kind of "retro" statement about your belief in a single America. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Monday, November 22, 2004

Give Kids The Crack They Crave

I was sent this picture of a friend's nieces. Apparently in France there is a cereal called Choco Crack. These kids have been dreaming up their own possible cereals, and they suggested one called "Goat Balls: little balls made with chocolate-covered goat cheese." As Dave Barry would say, I swear I am not making any of this up. Actually I like both chocolate and goat cheese, so I would try that.Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Mountain Biking San Fierro

Mountain biking below the bridge in San Fierro, in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Posted by Hello

Bullets vs. Drywall

I heard a report about assault weapons on NPR today. The reporter, obviously trying to play up the menacing nature of assault rifles, said something like, " . . . and these bullets can punch right through drywall and kill someone in the next room!" Drywall? Dude, I can probably put a hole in drywall with my elbow. That's not a good example. If a bullet couldn't go through drywall I would want my money back. Assault rifles are scary, but that is not why.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sex, and even monsters, sells much better than economics.

-- Comment on the plot of Jason and the Golden Fleece in the TV documentary The Real Jason And The Argonauts.

Later in the same show:

Narrator: "Perched on the Georgian coast, beside the Rhioni river, is the ancient port of Poti."

Me: "Huh? The ancient Port-a-potty?"

When Headline Writers Attack

I just saw one of the silliest headlines ever:

FDA Hard On Viagra Ads

Sunday, November 14, 2004

From the Hood to the Woods

Grand Theft Auto is no longer just about city life. In GTA:San Andreas, you can head out into the woods for some off-road driving. But don't try to take your ATV or dirt bike across a section of stream that's too deep. Just like in real life, you will get it stuck there and have a long walk back to the nearest highway. Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Skynet In Development

As The New York Times reports, the Pentagon is building Skynet:
The Pentagon is building its own Internet, the military's world wide web for the wars of the future.

The goal is to give all American commanders and troops a moving picture of all foreign enemies and threats - "a God's-eye view" of battle.

This "Internet in the sky," Peter Teets, under secretary of the Air Force, told Congress, would allow "marines in a Humvee, in a faraway land, in the middle of a rainstorm, to open up their laptops, request imagery" from a spy satellite, and "get it downloaded within seconds."

Haven't they seen the Terminator movies? Don't they know this is how the machines take over?

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sponsored Money

One of the last places that sadly lacks advertising is our money, unless you count the back of the one dollar bill as being an ad for the Illuminati. So to raise government revenue and help pay off the deficit, I propose allowing corporate sponsorship of money. For example, Sony could sponsor $1 bills that have a picture of Crash Bandicoot instead of George Washington, and that say In PlayStation We Trust on the back. The pricing scheme would be simple: one dollar per dollar. For a million dollars, a company could get a million of their branded $1 bills into circulation. And people on a limited budget could spring for a few hundred "personal dollars."

Client Quotes

Clientcopia has a collection of funny quotes from clients, including this gem:
Client: (After viewing a sample of a multiple choice question)

Please change the "SUBMIT" button to "DONE".
Submit sounds too kinky.

(via Collision Detection)

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Delicato wine in the Bota Box is great. I tried their Cabernet Sauvignon. It's not just a case of "oh, I can't believe it's so non-awful for a really cheap wine." It really is good, even though it works out to the equivalent of $4 to $5 a bottle. I found it at Trader Joe's.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Lack of Tango Hurts Your Brain

If you want to lower your risk of Alzheimer's, try tango dancing:
Scientists in York have specifically identified tango dancing as reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by an astonishing 75 per cent.

In other news, leather jackets reduce your risk of un-cool-ness.

Slinging Rhymes

Thomas P. M. Barnett, who wrote The Pentagon's New Map, is looking for a name for his newsletter. So he posed the question, "know anything that rhymes with blogozine?"

I couldn't resist trying to come up with an answer to that, and I think I've found the perfect rhyme. It may be a little off-topic for his newsletter, but it is memorable. The answer, of course, is "snog a teen."

A Google-search of this phrase found no matches, a result which -- given the nature of the Internet -- I found extremely shocking. It's a sign, it is. Snog A Teen: The Journal of 21st Century Geopolitics.

Monday, November 08, 2004


Today I am feeling whelmed. Not overwhelmed, and not underwhelmed. Instead, I am whelmed just the right amount, like Goldilocks at the moment she tasted that third bowl of porridge. My goal is to remain in this whelmed state as long as possible.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Denmark 3, U.S. 1 (women's soccer)

Abby Wambach is becoming the "Shaq" of women's soccer. In the U.S. vs. Denmark match this weekend, Abby "posted up" just outside the 6 yard box. Then when Ally Wagner beat two defenders and crossed the ball in the air, one of Denmark's defenders jumped up to try to body-check Abby off the ball. The defender bounced off ineffectually like a rubber ball hitting a brick wall, while Abby calmly headed the ball into the net to tie the game.

And that brings me to my point: the future of women's soccer will be a game that is more physical. I don't mean "physical" in the sportscaster sense of "committing bad fouls," I just mean that size and strength will play as big a role as speed and fancy footwork. The U.S. will find it harder to succeed, not because they have gotten worse but because the rest of the world has caught up. With many of the traditional U.S. stars headed for retirement, the U.S. will need to rely on players like Abby Wambach, Ally Wagner, and Cat Reddick, and they will have to play tough. This weekend, they proved that they can.

The U.S. lost, 3-1, but the game seemed more even than the score. On a better day, Luckenbill might have saved the first goal, and the U.S. might have converted another chance.

Extreme Unicycling

Way back in the day, I rode a unicycle in the driveway, in parking lots, and even on the street. But back then we didn't have extreme off-road unicycling. (via Struggleville)

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Guess The Missing Words

Guess the missing words from this ad copy:

"When twilight falls, prowl the night with the mysterious ------. Shrouded in the mystery is a passion that will only reveal itself as you slide it open. Its sublime form is exquisitely crafted, leaving you with a slim, sleek object of beauty, unmatched by any other. You and the -----, a combination that's as compelling as the night. "

Any guesses? The answer is here.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Removing the mouse ball can lead to hilarity. (at Deviant Dawl)

Rule of the Rails

Iron Monkey's Rule of the Rails: A train is just a big elevator that goes sideways.

(Early this morning while I was sleeping, this thought came into my head, and in my dreamlike state I thought it was the most profound thing I have ever discovered. Now that I am awake, it does not seem quite so useful.)

Monday, November 01, 2004

Bacon Flavored Tennis Balls

From the people who brought you Broccoli Flavored Basketballs. Posted by Hello


If the opposite of warm is cold, what is the opposite of warmth? Coldth? Coolth? Chillth?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Air Superiority

When playing Star Wars: Battlefront multiplayer on the Hoth level, here is my advice. Be the Rebels, be a pilot, and run straight for the snowspeeder before other players get it. This level is completely unfair because the Rebels have aircraft and the Empire does not. As a pilot in the snowspeeder, you will be almost invincible. If you take more than half damage, fly away from the battle and as high up as you can get. Wait until your piloting skills repair the vehicle and then rejoin the battle.

You can use the Empire ground troops for target practice as you go on repeated strafing runs. Anyone without a missile launcher will be helpless against you, and even if they have missiles you can usually dodge them. The only problem with this strategy is that after doing it once or twice it gets boring.

Then you'll want to try something else, like joining the Empire and trying to shoot down the snowspeeders. I've shot down only 1 so far. I think if enough of the Empire players would all spawn with missile launchers and all shoot at once, it should be easy, but people don't seem to do that.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

my house has a new set of lungs
breathing in cold air, breathing out warm

the furnace, in the dark corner of my garage
sits with a belly full of fire like a young dragon
the garden hose its coiled tail
the rake its claw

I know from the sound of its breathing
whether it is day
or night

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Late last night I walked past a guy on the street and he said, "Can you spare a million dollars? I need a million dollars for some crack!" We both laughed.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

"Grass. Just a pinch between my cheek and gum, and I get pure grass satisfaction all afternoon long." Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Friday, October 15, 2004

Email Takedown

If you use Microsoft Outlook, eventually you will probably get hit by one of those Outlook worms that infects your computer and then forwards its vile payload to everyone in your Contacts list. You may not be able to prevent this, but what you could do is to add some people you don't like to your Contacts list. After all, why should only your friends suffer from your misfortune? That wouldn't be fair, would it?

Saturday, October 09, 2004

If That's What They Are

"It's alarming to some degree that crazy people, if that's what they are, in Iraq are taking notice of a school or anything else in our community."

That's a quote in The New York Times from a concerned parent who heard about a scary computer disk found in Iraq. As the Washinton Post reports:
The FBI advised officials in as many as eight cities last month to tighten security in schools after U.S. soldiers raiding an apartment in Iraq seized computer disks containing information about those towns' school systems that was taken from Web sites, government officials said yesterday.

What you say? Some kind of "information" that was publicly available on the Web somehow made its way onto computer disks in some guy's apartment? Gadzooks!
U.S. officials said they remain uncertain whether the Iraqi whose computer disks contained the school information was involved in terrorist activity, and stressed that the government has no evidence of a plot to attack any schools in this country.

Well, for that matter I'm "uncertain" whether my neighbors are cannibals, and I have no evidence that they eat human flesh during midnight raccoon-worshipping rituals, but just the fact that I mentioned it is a little unsettling, isn't it? But what was on the disks? The Star-Telegram says:
Some material on the disk appeared to be randomly downloaded from a publicly accessible Education Department Web site and included such things as manuals on workplace safety, crisis management studies, student codes of conduct and building security diagrams. It also contained an Education Department report on school crisis planning that was published in May 2003.

No sane person would be interested in student codes of conduct, so we are obviously dealing with a madman here. And someone who wanted to make workplaces more dangerous could read the workplace safety manuals and then do the opposite of everything they said! On the other hand, according to The New York Times:"The officials said the man may have been downloading the information as part of a civil redevelopment project for Iraqi schools."

But forget all that. What I love about the first quote is the clever phrase: if that's what they are. I'm going to start using that all the time. For example, just a moment ago I heard elephants, if that's what they are, rustling around outside my garage.

A parent in a Miami Herald story said:
''Do you keep your kids home from school?'' Howe asked. "What do you do? Unfortunately, we have to go on living our everyday life.'

Well, I'd keep writing about this, but unfortunately I have to go on living my everyday life, and it's time for me to drink a few beers, if that's what they are.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

How to Scare People with Letters

Bruce Schneier blogs about a flight disrupted by Arabic writing.

Last month in Milwaukee, a Midwest Airlines flight had already pulled away from the gate when someone, the articles don't say who, found Arabic writing in his or her copy of the airline's in-flight magazine.

I have no idea what sort of panic ensued, but the airplane turned around and returned to the gate. Everyone was taken off the plane and inspected. The plane and all the luggage was inspected. Surprise; nothing was found.

Just wait until people notice that their flight number contains Arabic numerals! That will be a scare. Airlines will have to switch to Roman numerals just to be on the safe side. I can't wait to board "Flight CCCLXXVIII to Albuquerque" leaving from "Gate D-XIV."

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

How to Scare People with Statistics

Step 1. Start with data that shows a positive trend, like this DOT highway fatality data that shows that the traffic fatality rate is at the lowest level ever recorded. This article states the correct conclusion at the top:
The fatality rate on the nation’s highways in 2003 was the lowest since record keeping began 29 years ago, the U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced today. The number of crash-related injuries also dropped to a historic low in 2003.

"America’s roads and highways are safer than ever," said Secretary Mineta. "The decreasing number of traffic fatalities and record low death rate on our roads shows that we are headed down the right road – one that leads to a safer America."

But don't worry, we can find ways to make this data sound scary, as if it means just the opposite.

Step 2. Change the comparison. The fatality rate went down, but we can still make it sound like it went up by comparing absolute numbers (instead of percentages) against some past year.

42,643 people died in traffic accidents in 2003, an increase of 1032 deaths compared to 1999.

(The absolute number can go up even when the rate goes down, because of increasing population and increasing miles driven.)

Step 3. Find some geographic area where things got worse. The fatality rate went down on the whole, but that doesn't mean it went down everywhere. There are probably some areas where it went up. Find one of those areas and comment on it.

In the District of Columbia, 20 more people died compared to the previous year.

Step 4. Change to percentages if that sounds scarier.
Since there were so few traffic fatalities (47) in D.C. in 2002, an increase of 20 is large if stated in percentage terms.

In the District of Columbia, the fatality rate increased by 43% over the previous year.

Step 5. Always round up.
Why not make 43% sound even larger?

In the District of Columbia, the fatality rate increased by nearly 50% over the previous year.

As an added bonus, some people who are math-challenged will think that an increase of 50% means that the rate "doubled." Let them think that.

Step 6. Find some category that got worse
. Even though the fatality rate as a whole went down, there is probably some category of accident that increased. Quote that part.

SUV rollover fatalities increased 6.8 percent from 2,471 to 2,639, even as SUV registrations increased 11 percent.

Step 7. Edit to remove context.
Oops, that isn't really worse, it's better. The second half of that sentence explains what is really going on: there were more SUV rollover fatalities because there were more SUVs on the roads. Since the number of registrations increased more than the fatalities increased, it means there were actually fewer rollovers per SUV on the road. But that doesn't sound scary, so remove that part, and only leave in the part that makes it sound like things have gotten worse.

SUV rollover fatalities increased 6.8 percent from 2,471 to 2,639.

Step 8. Use "slippery slope" arguments
to imply that small changes now are only warnings of much bigger disasters to come.

If these increases continue, eventually 100% of SUVs will roll over and kill their drivers, and everyone in the District of Columbia will die in a car crash. If road speeds keep increasing, in the future it will be common for drivers to speed through school zones at 200mph.

Step 9. Add a scary headline
. The headline is the first thing people read, so it will color their interpretation of everything that comes afterwards.


This example is hypothetical and meant to be a humorous illustration of how to scare people by creatively interpreting statistics. But look for this type of analysis "in the wild" and you just might find it.

Friday, October 01, 2004

It's been a while since I posted flower porn, so enjoy these flower photos.

Added Bonus: volcano porn. More.

Quote of the Day

I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged.

- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (link)

The Future Does Not Rock . . . The Vote

I'm shocked—shocked!—to learn, in the October 2004 issue of Wired magazine, that our democracy tragically disenfranchises people who have not yet been born.
The future doesn't vote. And when tomorrow's generations get their turn at the polls, they won't be able to punish those who failed to consider their interests.

This makes me angry, mainly because it reminds me that I have no way of punishing people who lived in the past. If I did, I would surely fine Edith Wharton for writing Ethan Frome. But if there's one thing I've learned from watching all of the Terminator movies, it's that future generations definitely will come back to change whatever they don't like about the future.

I'm more worried by the fact that my future self can't vote today, and I might be unwittingly working against his interests, if I change my mind about things between now and then.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Legal to Park

Willamette Week has a story on pocket bikes, and it includes a chart showing which laws apply to which vehicles, whether you have to wear a helmet, etc. The part that cracked me up is where the category says "Sidewalk Parking OK?" and for "skateboards" it says "Yes." Who the heck parks a skateboard? Wouldn't it be easier to carry it with you? "Sorry I was late, I couldn't find a parking place for my skateboard!"

More Palm OS Fun

Hold 'Em is a great version of Texas Hold 'Em Poker. HandMap is great for travel, and it can search for street intersections and show you where you are. Flight Status shows you flight arrival/departure times. It requires Internet access, so it is good for devices like the Treo 600.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Growing Gap Between Sense And Nonsense

The U.S. Census Bureau tracks statistics on poverty. They show that the 12.5% poverty rate in 2003 was lower than during any of the years from 1980-1998. The poverty rate did go up from 1999 to 2003, but by less than one percent. So why do we hear so much gloom and doom in the media?

Kevin at WizBang shows how a misleading analysis can make good economic news sound bad. As part of an article with the ominous title As Income Gap Widens, Uncertainty Spreads, the Washington Post compares 1967 data with 2003 data and worries over the fact that there are "more high earners but . . . fewer in the middle."

Why phrase it in terms of an income "gap" and "fewer in the middle?" If things are so bad, why not simply say "the poor make up a larger percentage of Americans now than in 1967"? They can't say that because that is false. The data shows that the percentage of poor people went down over this period, from 14.2% to 12.5%. So they have to invent a different way to scare us.

"Fewer in the middle" sounds scary, but the data in the Post story shows that the middle is disappearing upwards. If people in the middle got richer and moved up into one of the higher groups, while at the same time the percentage of poor people went down, that sounds like on the whole, people are better off than before.

Another trick the media sometimes uses to scare us is to talk about absolute numbers instead of percentages. The number of poor people went up from 27.7 million to 35.8 million from 1967 to 2003, because the population increased. Remember, the percent of poor people went down. With a growing population, there will tend to be more of everything: more poor people, but also more rich people.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Cage Fighting in Portland

The Oregonian reports that Portland will have a Cage fighting event today called Bikes, Babes & Brawls:

Between 3,000 and 6,000 people are expected to gather outside the Safari Showclub to watch men get into bloody "ultimate-fighting" battles in a cage.

In fact, everything will revolve around the cage. Motorcycle acrobats will jump over it. Heavy-metal bands will perform in it. Women in skimpy bikinis will wash motorcycles and breathe fire (yes, fire) near it. Booze will surround it.

I found a poster for the event online, but the poster appears to say Pro Gage Fighting. That sure looks like a G and not a C. They should call it Bikes, Babes & Brawls, But Not Spelling Bees. The Ogre-Onion continues with some words of wisdom from the club manager:

"When you're dealing with cage-fight enthusiasts, and you pour liquor into them, you need to have adequate security."

Hmm, good thinking. Then a neighbor poses this question:
"People are going to drive by and see what's happening," she said. "How do you explain to your child why there are nearly naked women out there washing bikes and men fighting in cages?"

I don't see why that's so hard to explain. Here are some suggested phrases for confused parents:
  • Those are motorcycles. Those women are washing them because they are dirty. They are wearing bikinis so they don't get their clothes all wet and soapy. Those guys are fighting in a competition. Sport fighting has been around throughout human history, and continues to enjoy popularity today in such forms as Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, Tae Kwan Do, and Fencing, all of which are featured in the Olympic Games. Other types like Sumo, Kickboxing, and Cage Fighting are not in the Olympics, but could be someday if the Olympics need a ratings boost.
  • Honey, this is just like a Reality TV show, but without the cameras.
  • When people grow up and become adults, some of them want to watch cage fights, motorcycles and fire-breathing strippers. It's perfectly natural, just like erosion.
  • If you study hard and get good grades, I'll take you to see the cage fights next year.
  • If you eat your spinach and work out, you can compete in the cage fights some day.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Corporate Salary Caps

It would be funny if corporations had Salary Caps like some sports leagues do. It would help small-market corporations to be competitive with the bigger, more successful ones. And we would get to read news stories that say things like: "Motorola named a new CEO this week, but they had to transfer 2 VP's to Citigroup to stay under the salary cap."

Eux Autres

These lyrics are stuck in my head:
The other girls tell me that
You don't love me
You think I'm declasse
I should wash my hair

-- Other Girls, by Eux Autres

Maybe it's because I've never heard the word "declasse" in a song before.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

F-ing Story Contest

The Rogue Angel is having a story contest where the object is to use the F-word as often as possible in a story of 250 words or less. I've submitted my entry. Go give it a try.

You Can't Handle It

My girlfriend is a lawyer, so tonight I asked her if she has ever said, in court, "The truth? You can't handle the truth!!" She hasn't, so I dared her to do it. Somehow I don't think it will happen, though. It's too bad. That would be hilarious.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Fall Party Quotes

Summer is over, so I can no longer add to the Summer Party Quotes. It's time to begin a new Fall collection:

"She has this theory that dolphins are from another planet and they are trying to communicate with us." "Oh, so all this time, they've been trying to tell us about their technology and interstellar travel and how to cure cancer, but we thought they were just hungry and threw them a fish!"

"That's not necessarily inappropriate -- I mean, one person's pornography is another person's . . . " ". . . another person's textbook?"

"Would you like to try some of my young wife's puddin'? [Points to dessert]" "Don't say things like that while I'm drinking, or I'll spit coffee all over both of you."

"Would you ever go to Jamaica?" "I'd rather go to Jamoca, the Island of Coffee-flavored Ice Cream."

"You want a good physical connection, but then you also want a good emotional connection." "Yeah, but most important is a good Internet connection!"

"I bet everyone hoping for an Oscar this year is glad there is no Peter Jackson movie." "But they might sneak one in at the last minute . . ."

"Have you ever had DSL?" "No, but I've had LSD."

The Simulator

Me (to girlfriend): "Let me simulate for you what it would be like if we had kids . . ."

Me (holding head and shrieking): "GWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

Me: " . . . except it would last for hours and hours."

Her: "I already know that. That's why we don't have kids."

Me: "Didn't you enjoy my simulation?"

Her: "No."

Blog Quotes Of Note 2

A youngish guy is in the hotel right now and was asking her what there was to do around the amazing metropolis of Horn Lake. I don't remember what was said, but he jokingly made the statement that apparently he was asking the wrong person, as she didn't seem to know what to do for fun. Her response was, "if you had seen the videos me and my friends made while we were at the Marine base in North Carolina, you wouldn't say we didn't know how to have any fun." --Crankydragon
And if that hotel were really committed to customer service, those videos would be available as in-room pay-per-view.
I have indirectly licked the remnants of a mosquito. -- Head wide open
It seems as though one of these roadkill deer carcasses was turned into a lovely lined leather jacket that was worn by Joe's brother, then passed down to Joe, then eventually co-opted by me. -- The Random Muse
Chechen Rebel Grimly Vows More Attacks -- headline, The New York Times
Well, I guess that's slightly preferable to "Chechen Rebel Cheerfully Vows More Attacks."
I would have had to yell to the Fiery One from the bathroom oh, Fiery One, I am getting sluttier by the second in here! Do you know what a whore I am becoming?, and then I would have run around in the parks, trying to scrape the arms of small children with my leg stubble. It would have been awful. And the police would have had to come up with weird new laws just to deal with me. There would be strictly enforced leg-waxings funded by the state to keep me from using my stubble as a weapon against the weak. The Fiery One would leave me, unable to deal with my obsession with my own sluttiness. Life would have been a nightmare. -- Schmutzie
Even if your computer has been invaded by evil ad software that you never requested for the third time in a week, do not go too crazy deleting things. That SYSTEM.INI file is kinda important. -- A Picture Of Me
Getting married is so lame now; we totally had the idea first. -- Izzle pfaff!
I almost rear-ended about 5 people who cut me off, which is an all time low for lunch rush traffic down near the Strip. -- Deviant Dawl
I want an iPod flask mod.
Two shots of whatever slakes your fancy
sealed neatly alongside the innards of a modified iPod. -- TheyBlinked

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Where would these doors lead, if they were real? Seen in Northwest Portland. Posted by Hello

Monday, September 13, 2004

Blog Quotes of Note

"When the sidewalk guitar busker gets a sound system, your neighborhood no longer qualifies as gritty." - Mighty Girl

"We giggle at the Peruvian Guinea Pigs, which look remarkably like Tribbles." - Birgit

"During this period I will be sunning myself on the beautiful island of Menorca. Please feel free to email me during this time and say how amazing I am." - The Whiskey Priest

"Have you ever dreamt so little, that nothing seems fake anymore?" - Soul of a Pirate

"The heat is so dense I could probably reach up and tear it off in strips. At 11pm I go out on the balcony with a beer and a half pack of cigarettes, and stare up at the sky as if the sky just said something stupid." - Gregor

"If you find an error on this site, I will send to you via PayPal one whole, green, American dollar. 1USD. 4 quarters. 10 dimes. 100 pennies. It's just that easy for you to make a dollar. [ . . . ] Don't be a nitpicker. Besides, I reserve the right to use poor grammar if I think it sounds better." - Joel

"All right, I'm so excited. I got people to comment on my blog. I guess it's like oral sex: if you give, you're more likely to get." - Aeusoes1

"It is eerie to see her face in the sword, among so many other countless vampires. It is my belief that Dawn's soul is somehow trapped inside the sword. But I do not understand the sword. 'Maybe Dawn has a cell phone with her inside the sword,' Kristin said." - Vampire Journal

"I looked her up on google and at 3:35 pm on September 5th 2004 added 'nude' to the search. Before I knew it I was downloading spyware against my will. " - Aeusoes1

"i've never seen a scarecrow that looked good in a pair of overalls." - J

"I've always been a great admirer of my work. I've also been quite of a loner. I suspect the two things may be connected." - spluttermonkey

Apparently Chicken is a Vegetable

Today the local Indian food stand listed their Vegetarian Lunch Combo as including Chicken Curry and Tandoori Chicken. It was bad enough when ketchup was a vegetable, but now chicken, too?Posted by Hello

Saturday, September 11, 2004

End User License Agreement

By clicking below you agree to abide
By the river in a tin shack five feet wide

You agree to cast shadows on a bright spring day
And to look much smaller when you're very far away

You will post no bills, you will jump no claim
You will think that khaki and tan are the same

You agree not to sue or complain if you're sued
You agree with the clauses we forgot to include

The product may work as described herein
Or it may run amok with a villainous grin

It could deal with you fairly or it just might cheat
It could walk across your carpet with muddy little feet

We make no warranty expressed or implied
Refund requests will be denied

But on the contrary, notwithstanding
Lack of a warranty, we're demanding

You surrender all your rights
And recite this contract twice each night

Friday, September 10, 2004

What Politicians Do

"Politicians are doing what politicians do. I liken it to when you go to the zoo, and the monkeys are sitting in there jerking off and throwing their s---. And you just gotta go, 'Well, they're monkeys.' But you can yell at the media and go, 'You know, your job is to tell them when they're being bad monkeys.'"

-- John Stewart, quoted in the Sept 17, 2004 issue of Entertainment Weekly

Thursday, September 09, 2004

One To Remember

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters) - Half a million Jamaicans were urged to leave their homes in low-lying areas on Thursday as ferocious Hurricane Ivan swept nearer with 150-mph (240-kph) winds after a deadly charge through the Caribbean.

Guess where my brother is, right now, on his honeymoon. That's right, he is in Jamaica. He says that the hotel they are in has a reinforced underground storm shelter. I guess that's where they will be spending the night. I hope he will be safe there. But after the hurricane, how will he get home? Will there still be an airport left to fly from?

Mysterious White Dust Sprayed In Hillsdale

A strange thing happened on my way home from work. A truck drove by spraying some sort of white powder all over the place. This caused a traffic jam because drivers could not see through the dust cloud. At first I thought it was smoke, but it was definitely a powder, because some of it was left behind on the road surface. What was this stuff? Pixie dust? Pre-election mind control powder? Or did the road just need some talcum powder to prevent chafing? Posted by Hello

Monday, September 06, 2004

All Wet

The champagne hit the ceiling of the limousine and splashed back down on everyone. Bridesmaids squealed and leaned away like falling dominoes. I leaned away too; it was too late to do any good, like body english applied long after the frisbee is headed for the roof. Seconds earlier, the "don't open that in here" faction had finally lost their spirited debate with the "come on, we need champagne!" crowd.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Transportation solutions

The latest technology for urban transportation is the teeter-totter uniwheel board. Shown here with half non-slip / half grass deck and optional bull horns, the board is perfect for commuting. Art in the Pearl.Posted by Hello

Pirate Pottery

For all your pirate-themed pottery needs, shop piratepots. Seen at Art in the Pearl 2004. Posted by Hello


If lovin' dorks is wrong, I don't wanna be right . . .

Seen at Art in the Pearl 2004. (This festival-goer's shirt says "I [heart symbol] dorks.") Posted by Hello

Friday, September 03, 2004

At the Wedding Rehearsal

"Who is that other priest?" "Oh, that's just the stunt double."

(My brother is getting married tomorrow.)

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Nicole: They have those church things everywhere, don't they?

Brandon: What church things?

Nicole: What is it called, a mosque or something? They're on every corner. It's like Starbucks here.

- The Amazing Race

Feel The Strangeness

This large poster in the window of a shop downtown says only: FEEL THE DIFFERENCE!

The picture shows a woman wearing a tank top and bikini bottoms. There is no other information. It is an advertisement for some mysterious product. On closer examination, the woman's bikini bottoms have a pattern of flames on them. So every time I walk by this, I think to myself: FEEL THE DIFFERENCE . . . SET YOUR PANTS ON FIRE!

Or maybe the flame pattern is supposed to be symbolic, indicating that she is a liar. (Feel the difference . . . lie!)

Update: I found out this is an ad for tanning beds.Posted by Hello

Monday, August 30, 2004

Queen of Pop - The GonnaBees skewer Britney Spears

You're the Queen of Pop
And you're so damn hot
Every thing you do will make the news
So don't get caught

The GonnaBees make fun of Britney Spears (and other pop singers) in their hilarious song Queen of Pop. Download the song here (site may require free registration).

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Latest Quotes

"So then he walked in with his . . . trophy acquaintance."

"I don't like it when people call their significant other their partner." "OK, then let's call what we have a coalition of the willing."

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Being Happy Makes You Stupid?

According to a recent study:

People in a positive mood such as happiness were shown under experimental conditions to have relatively unreliable memories, and show poorer judgement and critical thinking skills.

By contrast, those who experienced a negative mood such as sadness were shown to provide more reliable eyewitnesses accounts and exercise superior thinking and communication skills.

But could this be a case of reversed cause and effect? Maybe some people are happy because they have bad memories, poor judgement, and impaired critical thinking. This could lead them to wrongly evaluate their life as being much better than it really is. Every time they wake up in the gutter covered in drool, they may conclude that their exciting career in midnight outdoor dentistry must really be taking off.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Scream if you love Art Thieves

An Edvard Munch painting, The Scream, was stolen, and Michelle wonders why the guards weren't armed:
So what is the point of having security guards without guns or anything else that would allow them to stop an art theft that occurred in broad daylight?

Well, this wasn't in the U.S., where every 6-year-old kid with a lemonade stand is packing heat to guard his inventory, but in peaceful, civilized Europe, where security guards and cops are only issued Silly String. But I digress.

Suppose they had guns. If I were a security guard, I might just be willing to enter into a gun battle and possibly give up my life for a painting, but it certainly wouldn't be over this painting. Those guards were probably grinning and high-fiveing each other after the theft, grateful that at long last they wouldn't have to look at the misshapen thing every day.

On the other hand, if I were a security guard, I could imagine having to cap someone to protect a nice Pre-Raphaelite work, and I'd be doing the whole slow-motion John Woo both-guns-blazing-leaping-ballet to keep thieves' filthy hands off of a Moreau or Rothko.

And that leads to the question: readers, if you were security guards, which paintings would you gunfight to protect?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Suggested New Olympic Sports

Summer Games
  • Beach Tennis
  • Water Baseball
  • Poking (like foil fencing, but with index finger)
  • Slapping (like sabre fencing, but with open-handed slaps)
  • Synchronized Whining
  • Quadrathlon:
    • 1000 Meter Dog Paddle
    • Rubber Band Gun
    • Rope Swing
    • Panhandling
  • Slingshot
  • Barbecue
  • Pickpocket
  • Very Uneven Bars (1 and 8 meter heights)
  • Inner tube (on whitewater course)

Winter Games
  • Inner tube (on bobsled run)
  • Snowball Fight (individual & team)
  • Hot tubbing
  • Karaoke

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

U.S. 1, Jamaica 1 (Men's Soccer, World Cup Qualifying)

The U.S. men didn't look that great, but they got a late goal to tie Jamaica 1-1. One incident stands out from the rest. I've seen players get checked into the boards many times in hockey, but this is the first time I've ever seen it in soccer. One of the Jamaican players came up behind Landon Donovan, at a full run, and pushed him into the boards along the side of the field. In American Football, that would have been a penalty for a late hit out of bounds. In hockey that would have been a penalty for checking from behind. In this soccer game, it wasn't even called as a foul! As I've noted before, the rules of soccer need improvement, because even if this had been whistled as a foul, it would have only resulted in a meaningless free kick from midfield.


Diary of a Wolfeman posts on the politics of Star Trek, and mentions how replicators invalidate the economy.

[. . .] if you can press a button and replicate anything, what’s to keep you from making gold, diamonds, or simply funny money? Nothing. This completely invalidates the economy from the bottom up. How? Well, the economy is based on supply and demand: something only has value if people want it.

[. . . ] The only things that a replicator cannot directly create on it’s own are the power it uses and the generic matter it uses to create things. [. . .] Hungry? Make a sandwich. Cold? Make a jacket, then make some tools and materials to build a shelter.

This does not take into account the power of the RIAA. In the future, Star Trek Replicators will have powerful DRM built in to prevent users from replicating copyrighted music CDs. So there will still be an economy based on those. In fact, the basic unit of intergalactic currency in the future will be the Metallica CD. And the replicator doesn't really threaten the World's Oldest Profession either. So the entire future economy could be one where people trade sexual favors for music CDs.

If the replicator were really all you needed, nobody would be willing to work at dangerous jobs like being red-shirt security officers for the Federation. They would quit their jobs and sit at home by the replicator, replicating crack just as fast as they could smoke it. Why do they bother serving in Star Fleet? Because they're getting paid in music CDs.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Olympic Gymnastics Coverage

Kevin notes the negative, mistake-obsessed coverage of gymnastics.

The commentary has not once recapped the good things done during a routine. All they’ve done is pick on all the little things that were done wrong and cry about how much it hurt the US chance to win.

It's true. Typical Olympic gymnastics coverage goes something like this:

"Well, that routine may have looked pretty perfect to the untrained eye, but right here during the reverse inverted half-twisting triple salad roll, her big toe came several millimeters apart from her second toe. I'm afraid that is a mandatory three hundred thousand point deduction, plus she will have to perform her next routine while wearing the Olympic Dunce Cap. That's got to be very disappointing, not just for her team, but for everyone who has ever thought about participating in this sport, which has now been tainted forever by this grotesque mistake."

"I agree, Jim, it was truly a horrifying error, bringing back echoes of the tragic fumble in the finals of the Men's Dwarf-Tossing that cost the U.S. gold back in the Sydney Olympics."

"Yes, after a performance like that, a life-sized statue of her will be placed in the Hall of Olympic Shame as a chilling reminder to other athletes. Now let's look at the replay on the dismount, where the amount of brow-furrowing clearly falls short of the requirement for this skill . . ."

Push It Good

I like a good electronic gizmo, but sometimes the simplicity of low-tech wins out. I bought this push reel mower earlier this year, and now I rarely use my electric mower. For some reason, the reel mower is more fun. Maybe it's the retro factor, or because it is quiet, or because I avoid the extension-cord-wrangling that goes with the electric mower. And the effort to push it is no greater than the electric mower, because it weighs so much less.

The reel mower defies societal wisdom, which would advise us to let robots mow our lawns so we can have more time in which to go to the gym and walk on a treadmill. Posted by Hello

Bed Bug Trooper

C beat the Bed Bugs! This bed bug saga has been like a very small scale Starship Troopers, with C as the heroine, battling on behalf of humans and our way of life. If one day there is interstellar war with the Bugs, I think we'd want C to be our commander. She doesn't give up.

Sunday, August 15, 2004