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

Ferns at Lost Creek, Oregon Posted by Hello

Britney vs. Tonya

Mia writes about Britney Spears:
[. . .] she's still trying to market herself to young girls. It's no freakin wonder we have so many teenagers out there banging anything with a pulse, and wearing teeny tiny outfits that would barely fit my cat.

What I'd like to see is a kickboxing match between Britney Spears and Tonya Harding.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


Tom Cruise: You don't wear a wedding ring.

John Stewart: Not on my hand.

-- The Daily Show

Gene Treatment Cures Monkey Procrastination

Scientists have found a way to turn procrastinating monkeys into workaholics:
Just in time for back-to-school season, researchers have turned procrastinating monkeys into workaholics by suppressing a gene that encodes a receptor for a key brain chemical.

The receptor, for the neurotransmitter dopamine, is important for reward learning. By suppressing it, researchers at the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland caused monkeys to lose their sense of balance between reward and the work required to get it.

"Like many of us, monkeys normally slack off initially in working toward a distant goal. They work more efficiently—make fewer errors—as they get closer to being rewarded," says Barry Richmond of the NIMH Laboratory of Neuropsychology. "But without the dopamine receptor, they consistently stayed on-task and made few errors, because they could no longer learn to use visual cues to predict how their work was going to get them a reward."

But the article goes on to say that the monkeys stopped procrastinating because they effectively had less information available.
Before the gene tweak, the monkeys would make fewer errors as they got closer to receiving a reward. After the gene tweak, they couldn't associate visual cues with workload and therefore couldn't figure out how much more they had to work to get a reward.

Well, of course, effective procrastination is impaired if you can't calculate how much there is left to do! All this is really saying is that the gene treatment made monkeys less intelligent, so they couldn't figure out how to procrastinate. Not much of an accomplishment, if you ask me. Hey, here's an idea, I could do a study where I make people less likely to commit robberies -- by getting them so drunk they can't figure out how to get up off the couch.

(This story also implies that workaholics can't reason effectively about rewards, which I find kind of funny.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Quake Dreams

Last night I had a dream about an earthquake. So when I got up this morning I searched Google News to see if there had really been an earthquake somewhere, and it turns out there was a quake in China, as well as several other quakes in other countries in the past day. Spooky!

Well, it is true that when I dream of earthquakes there is an earthquake. It is also true that whenever I dream of penguins there is an earthquake, and whenever I don't dream at all there is an earthquake. That's because on average, an earthquake of intensity 5 or greater happens somewhere in the world more than 3 times a day. So I guess I can't quit my job and become an Earthquake Prophet.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Party On

My brother is getting married this summer. I asked him tonight if he is going to have a bachelor party. He said, "Why would I need a bachelor party? For me, every day is a bachelor party!"

Monday, August 09, 2004

Blogging for Readers with Mobile Devices

Lately I've been doing a lot more of my web browsing from mobile devices such as the Treo 600 and the Sony Clie. Some blog designs work a lot better than others for mobile readers. Here are some ways to make your blog look good for mobile readers:
  • Don't use frames. Mobile devices have small screens, and even though some of the browsers can display frames, it never looks good. One of the frames always seems to wind up being 20 pixels wide or tall. This is not a big issue for blogs because most do not use frames anyway.
  • If you have a two-column layout, put your main content on the left and your navigation stuff on the right. When mobile devices display multi-column content, they display the left column first and then the right column below it. This means that if you have the navigation stuff on the left, the reader has to scroll down through all of your navigation stuff just to get to your first new post. It feels nicer to have the new post at the top. I used to have my links on the left because I liked the look of it better, but I moved it to the right once I started to do more mobile browsing.
  • Pictures and tables are usually OK, because most mobile browsers can be configured to ignore pictures and table formatting if the user prefers it that way.

Song Titles

Pick a band and answer only using that band's song titles: Jethro Tull

Are you male or female?: Mountain Men

Describe yourself: Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll, Too Young to Die

How do some people feel about you?: Thick as a Brick

How do you feel about yourself?: I'm Your Gun

Describe your girlfriend/boyfriend/interest/spouse: European Legacy

Where would you rather be?: Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day

Describe what you want to be: Minstrel in the Gallery

Describe how you live: No Rehearsal

Describe how you love: Mayhem, Maybe

Share a few words of wisdom: One White Duck / 0^10 = Nothing At All

(Found at The Swamp)

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Poverty Genes

As the Guardian reports, Tennessee GOP congressional candidate James Hart has some interesting opionions about genetics:
Hart, 60, vows if elected to work toward keeping ``less favored races'' from reproducing or immigrating to the United States. In campaign literature, Hart contends that ``poverty genes'' threaten to turn the United States into ``one big Detroit.''
Poverty Genes! Oh, it all makes sense now. Poor people are likely to have poor parents, and rich people are likely to have rich parents, so obviously poverty must be a disease with a genetic basis. Why had we not noticed this before? There must be a specific gene for poverty. If children of poor parents grow up to be poor themselves, it is not due to lack of opportunity or anything like that, it is because they inherited the Poverty Gene from their parents. If poverty is increasing, it is because irresponsible people with the Poverty Gene spread it to their offspring.

The short term solution to this would be to encourage rich people to have as many children as possible, so that they can spread the Affluence Gene. Even if we have to pay the rich to have kids, it would be worth it to society in the long run.

But the good news is that with advances in Gene Therapy, there could one day be a cure. Scientists could develop a retrovirus that could replace the Poverty Gene with the Affluence Gene, so a simple injection of this serum could turn poor people into rich people! The only catch is that the Anti-Poverty Injection would probably be very expensive. Oh, well, nobody ever said science was fair.

[For the humor-impaired: though the quote above is real, the rest of this article is, of course, a joke. I do not believe in a Poverty Gene.]

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

A Field Guide to Birds of the "My Yard" Region

This robin has made a nest above my front door. Every day when I get home from work, the robin flies up and perches on the railing of my front porch until I go inside, probably to make sure I don't disturb the nest. Earlier in the spring some finches made a nest a few feet away, but they seem to be gone now.

I've been noticing how the birds use my garden. I don't have a bird feeder, but they eat some of the berries I grow. They use other plants, especially my Irish Moss, as nesting materials. Yesterday when I turned on the sprinkler, within minutes dozens of birds flew up to perch in the bushes and drink from the water drops on the leaves. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Bike or Die, a Game for Palm OS

Bike or Die is an action game for Palm OS, based on mountain bike trials riding. It also has a level editor. I like this game for many reasons. First, it is hard. Old-school video game hard. Some of these levels take a lot of practice to beat. Second, because it is a physics-based simulation, there is really a lot of skill involved in controlling the bike. You can learn to do all sorts of crazy tricks with the bike, too: wheelies, stoppies, front and back flips, etc. Third, you can export the "movies" of your best runs to the web site, and watch how other people tackle the levels. This gives the game a social aspect.

Until I played this game, I didn't think the Palm was very suited to action games. This one changed my mind.

If I could add anything to this game it would be the ability to customize the bike. I'd like to be able to try out different tires and suspension settings.

Learning in the Car

I've gotten hooked on the Portable Professor Series of audio CDs. Each set is a series of college lectures on a single subject, and the choice of subjects ranges from the American Revolution to the Bible. I've also tried listening to audio books in the car, but these lectures seem more engaging, because they were designed for listening, rather than being written content read aloud. Each lecture lasts about 30 minutes, so I can listen to one lecture per day's commute. I'm currently listening to the series about the American Presidency in the 20th century, but my favorite so far was the series on ancient Rome.