Friday, April 29, 2005

They're evolving...

This is clearly the first stage of an evolutionary leap that will ultimately lead to horrible, deadly creatures, of the sort previously confined to the fever-dreams of Japanese videogame designers: Exploding toads.
It has been speculated that [the swamp dragons'] habit of exploding violently when angry, excited, frightened or merely plain bored is a developed survival trait to discourage predators. Eat dragons, it proclaims, and you'll have a case of indigestion to which the term "blast radius" will be appropriate.
(Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms).

Thursday, April 28, 2005

For those who don't read Slashdot

An interesting blog: The Darth Side: Memoirs of A Monster. Also, apparently Chewbacca is blogging from the other side's point of view. And Boba Fett has one as well, although his and Lord Vader's don't seem to match up in terms of timeline. Probably due to relativity or something.

"Whose trachea do you have to crush with your mind to get a little service around here?"

Terror Level Toys

As tempting as the Terror Alert Level and the Terror Alert Level ones were, I've opted for the one you see over there, solely because it uses Noam Chomsky to represent what seems to be the most common level in effect. That effectively conveys the notion of "terror", to me...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

My Mind Boggles

Sex offender accused yet again

Two things:
A 19-year-old Union man, who had just been released on bond from a previous sex offense...was arrested by Union police who said he was having sex with a 14-year-old girl inside a car in plain sight of passersby.

Ok, so three days before you're going to be sentenced for the sex-with-teenagers you already pled guilty to, you're having sex with another teenager in plain sight of passersby. Just how dumb are you?

Union police said McKenzie met the 14-year-old on the Internet.

Oh. My. God. Someone actually met a real 14-year-old girl on the Internet? This is, no exagerration, the first time I've ever heard of that happening. Granted, there will be selection bias in news reports, but in every other news item I've ever read on this sort of subject, the "14-year-old girl" they thought they were meeting turns out to be an undercover cop posing as a 14-year-old girl, who then arrests the creep (and why is it always 14, specifically, that they pretend to be?). I have occasionally proposed the not-entirely-tongue-in-cheek theory that there are no actual 14-year-old girls on the internet: They're all undercover cops.

Maybe that actually explains it: This guy wanted to get caught. He tried to arrange to be arrested by an undercover cop posing as a 14-year-old girl, but when she somehow turned out to be one of the three actual 14-year-old girls on the internet, he had to have sex with her in a car out in plain view in order to get caught.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Oh, Hooray

Michael Bay wants to remake The Birds. Personally, I don't see the point. The Birds already has a perfectly good remake in the form of Night of the Living Dead.

Actually, for all Michael Bay's reputation as a talentless hack, he did direct one of the greatest films of all time. In fact he's arguably a master of the under-one-minute short film. I wonder if he could be persuaded to make his Birds remake 30 seconds long?

Monday, April 25, 2005

My Eyes Won't Roll Back Far Enough

This show might be worth watching, if only they would also interview the native people and get their opinion of the stupid fucking rich white people jetting in to admire their "lifestyle". Let me explain something: Nepalese villagers are not using cow dung to plaster their walls because it's environmentally friendly, they're doing it because it's all they have.

Jesus Fuck. For anyone still wondering: This, right here? This is the sort of thing that explains why Trey Parker & Matt Stone made such vicious fun of celebrities in Team America: World Police.

(Hat tip: Radley Balko)

Great Moments in Unbiased Journalism (Part III)

P.C. scholars take Christ out of B.C.

When the first sentence is "In certain precincts of a world encouraged to embrace differences, Christ is out", and the last sentence is the quote, "It sounds pretty silly to me", shouldn't this be labeled as an op-ed piece? And a rather snarky one, at that.

The main bias problem I see, actually, is why even write about it now, anyway? I can remember history classes in college officially replacing B.C. with B.C.E., and A.D. with C.E., more than ten freaking years ago. What suddenly made it an AP national news item today?

Is this AP writer suddenly accusing the nebulous Left of "a concerted attack on the religious foundation of our social and political order" and "secularization, anti-supernaturalism, religious pluralism, and political correctness" as a continuation of "Justice Sunday", the conservative-Christian response to the Senate Democrats' "filibuster against people of faith"?

I don't particularly care one way or the other about the issue of changing the rules to eliminate filibusters. I'd probably marginally prefer that they be permitted, if only because I think anything that makes it more difficult for legislators to legislate is usually a Good Thing. But I do think that presenting judicial appointment votes, and filibusters thereof, as a battle of Christendom vs. Vile Heathens is scary and dangerous.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Sins of the Fathers

From a thread on another blog:

The question is, is a military invasion the best way to prevent such behavior on the part of tyrants particularly given that said dictator, Saddam Hussein, was a beneficiary of American largesse for years? Donald Rumsfeld himself, acting on behalf of President Reagan, handed the guy anthrax in the mid-1980s. We didn't really care what old Saddam did to his own people as long as cheap oil keep comin'.

I've always found incoherent the argument that "But we gave Saddam [weapons/money/support/etc.] for years!" Our past support of a regime does not excuse whatever atrocities they have committed since then. Or even *while* we supported them. By that logic, Britain couldn't have done anything when Germany invaded France, because they had previously let them get away with invading Poland. If it is wrong to support regimes that commit atrocities, then our past support was at best a compromise of our principles to further some other goal, and at worst an outright mistake. Smacking them down now is just rectifying that past mistake/compromise.

As for the response that it doesn't matter whether we gave Saddam aid or not it was not an endorsement of his policies I've heard that one too. While in China the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime came to light which was a surprise to many Chinese people since Pol Pot was an ally of China's against the Vietnamese. And the answer was the same as provided above: we never endorsed his policies in exchange for material aid which was intended for defensive purposes.

As far as I can tell, the argument here is, essentially: We supported Saddam Hussein in the past, therefore we cannot legitimately attack him now. The problem is, I can't derive the second part of that sentence logically from the first part.

Was our past support of Saddam morally right or wrong? If you say it was right, then you are endorsing mass murder. If it was basically wrong, but excusable due to a greater (perceived) threat (i.e., the lesser of two evils), then conditions have changed, and that excuse no longer holds. If it was wrong, and not excusable, then the sooner we reverse our position, the better.

There are only two ways I can see that being a past "beneficiary of American largesse" can have any possible relevance: It might make him a more dangerous target, since he may possess resources we gave him that could be used against us. Or, if we had a contract, and he had upheld his end, then our invasion would be a breach of that contract (though if that's the case, it must have been a pretty lousy contract to begin with, from our point of view). But I have never heard this presented as either a strategic or a contractual argument against invasion.

Make no mistake: I'm not saying that our past support of Saddam was not an endorsement of his policies. I'm saying that even if our past support of Saddam was an endorsement of his policies, that does not mean we are required to continue endorsing his policies today. I'm saying it has no relevance to our current behavior.

A reductio ad absurdum: During the height of the Cold War, the U.S.S.R. launches a nuclear attack against us. The bombers are in the air, on their way to their targets inside the U.S. Are we precluded from trying to shoot those bombers down because we were allied with Russia during WWII? I would say we are not.

Saddam's regime was at some point (we can argue over precisely where) along a continuum from smiling happy friendship, to launching a nuclear attack. There must be somewhere along that continuum where we are allowed to reverse our earlier position of supporting the regime. We can argue over precisely where we draw that line, and we can argue over which side of the line Saddam was on. But to deny that such a line exists strikes me as simply delusional.

So I suspect that bringing up past support of Saddam is nothing more than America-bashing: Oh, look, we're hypocrites. That's fine, as far as it goes (I like Green Day as much as the next punk), but it's not a rational argument. If anything, it's a kind of ad hominem. It's an attempt to delegitimize America's current actions by bringing up past behavior, in which America either compromised its principles, or simply exhibited bad judgment.

There were, and are, several legitimate arguments against invading Iraq, but this is not one of them.

Literal Offshoring

Sea-Code apparently offers the benefits of offshoring combined with the benefits of local coding, by putting a bunch of low-cost Indian software developers on a reconditioned cruise ship parked a few miles off the coast of California.

Supposedly, this means they don't have to deal with getting work visas or US employment law. I'm somewhat skeptical about their ability to make this work, considering the ship is parked 3.1 miles off shore, but someone in the Slashdot thread about it points out that that's far too close to be in international waters (US territory extends 12 nautical miles, and the "exclusive economic zone", whatever that is, goes out to 200 nautical miles).

Still, I look forward to being able to file defect reports filled with "avast" and "ye scurvy dogs".

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Approaching Nerdvana

It's just possible my obsession with technology is getting slightly out of control. Here, you can see my new dual-monitor setup peeking out from behind the color laser printer: Posted by Hello

Well, I upgraded my video card recently, and the new one can drive multiple displays, and I had an old monitor just laying around collecting dust in the basement. What would you have done?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Oh, goodie

Officials want to avoid another Schiavo case: Legislation would keep judges out of process
For such a patient, a judge could not find that there was clear and convincing evidence to withdraw food and water if there were a dispute among the patient's relatives about whether that was the patient's wish, they said.

The family members whose views would be considered would include the patient's spouse, parents and children, said Jacobson, who took the lead at a news conference.

Also, the view of a majority of the patient's siblings could be considered, Jacobson said.

Apparently, such a patient's same-sex life partner is just S.O.L. Because, y'know, giving those people the same rights/status as heterosexuals would destroy civilization.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Wisconsin: America's Cat-Murderers

Wis. Governor Rejects Cat-Hunting Idea

Poor, little Wisconsin kitties... they just came to America's Dairyland looking for saucers of milk...

"Some experts estimate that 2 million wild cats roam Wisconsin, and the state says studies show feral cats kill 47 million to 139 million songbirds a year."

OK, but then if you do manage to significantly reduce the feral cat population, what are you going to do when the state is overrun by teeming multitudes of songbirds? Not to mention mice, moles, rabbits, and all the other things that I would expect the wild cats aren't just ignoring.

And if you don't significantly reduce the number of cats, is it really worth the public relations disaster? I'm picturing PETA posters featuring evil hunters in cheesehead hats blasting away at sad, big-eyed kittens. On velvet.

So, in summary: What genius even proposed this idea in the first place?

Besides, as everyone on the internet probably knows by now, there's an obvious and much more pleasant solution to the problem.

Wendy's Finger

A leopard attack?

Boy, this case just keeps getting weirder and weirder, don't it?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Fiat Lux

3 Then Congress said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.
4 And Congress saw the light, that it was good; and Congress divided the light from the darkness.
5 Congress called the light Day, and the darkness They called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

"Extending daylight-saving time makes sense, especially with skyrocketing energy costs...The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use."

So saith Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, co-sponsors of an amendment to some energy legislation that would extend daylight-saving time to include March and November. Yes, they apparently believe that by passing this law, they will increase the quantity of daylight.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Oh, my God

Extreme Bugs Bunny. Just go watch it now. Unless you're at work. Not work safe. No.

Update: Found another URL for it, though that one doesn't have the link to the relevant news article.

On Sin City and Constantine

Sin City (yes, it kicks ass), thus far, appears to be both a critical and commercial success (Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%, #1 box office opening week). It's also one of the most faithful screen adaptations of a comic book I've seen. It's flawed, to be sure, but its flaws are Sin City's flaws, not flaws unique to the film adaptation.

I haven't seen Constantine yet, and don't plan to until it hits the movie channels. However, from what I can gather from the reviews and descriptions I've read, they seem to have taken most of what was appealing about the comic books and thrown it out in favor of a much more generic Hollywood "fallen hero striving for redemption" concept. Critics seem to generally dislike this movie, and it hasn't exactly been a blockbuster success (Tomatometer: 44%, never higher than #2).

Now, I have no problem with someone making a movie about a guy who, as a result of an unsuccessful suicide attempt, can now see demons, and fights them in an attempt to buy his way into Heaven when he dies. As Hollywood "high concept" goes, I've heard worse. I don't have a problem with making a movie about Will Smith fighting robots, either. What I don't understand is why you would spend the money to acquire a license to the John Constantine character, or the I, Robot title, and then make this trite high-concept movie that changes so much about what made the books interesting and popular in the first place. People who aren't fans of the comic/book are not going to base their decision to see or not see this movie on the comic/book license: They don't care, one way or the other. People who are fans of the comic/book are going to be pissed off that you screwed it up. In other words, the only people whose decision will be affected, one way or the other, by the fact of the license are going to be less likely to go see the movie.

Now, there's enough of an "automatic" market for action-adventurey, special-effecty type movies that you may still be profitable, even after annoying the fans. But that "automatic" market doesn't care what you call it, or what the characters are named. And the sci-fi/comic book geeks would probably be a significant piece of that "automatic" market anyway, for a non-licensed movie, and to basically start out by changing things in such a way that you alienate part of your potential audience, and precisely that part that could have been the most vocal word-of-mouth advocates, doesn't seem to me to make much business sense, to say nothing of artistic sense. Unless geek word-of-mouth hurts a movie more than it helps it, but I find that hard to believe given the relative successes of, say, Lord of the Rings, Sin City, and the Spider-Man and X-Men movies. All of those are both financially successful and fairly faithful to the source material. Granted, faithfulness isn't enough by itself (Daredevil was pretty much faithful to the comics, too...), but it does seem like there is some correlation there, and it makes logical sense to me that there should be.

Because Somebody Has to Say It

Holes are positively attractive. Let's look inside one, and see: This is a typical hole. Not a hole in the wall, but a hole like a well. Well, well, what the Hell? That's the sun at the center of the Earth. What a nice, warm fire!
(Firesign Theatre, Everything You Know is Wrong!)

Friday, April 08, 2005


Found this under the headline "Manic, Psychosis-Inducing Timewaster" (along with the comment, "I think I'll go slam my head in the door a few times."). Hence, I pass it along to you, my closest and dearest friends.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Unfortunate Cropping

This was one of the headlines that greeted me when I opened up my homepage (click to see the full-size, readable picture): 
;Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

New political party? I wish...

I rather like this reference to "Rep. F. James Sensebrenner III (Prig, Wis.)".

Dayton: Silicon Valley of the Midwest

We're wireless.

Leaving aside the issue of whether wireless internet access is something that ought to be provided by the government, I'm not sure people are going to want to hang around abandoned buildings and brave the occasional near-riot just to use the net.

Monday, April 04, 2005

"File sharing causes tremendous financial loss to the movie business, untold hardship to support workers, and costs thousands of jobs."

(Quote source: Jack Valenti)

Oh, glorious awesomeness...

Boing Boing reports on an event of mad genius. Jack Valenti, president of the MPAA, was on his way in to the Supreme Court hearings regarding Grokster, one of those evil P2P file-sharing/copyright-infringing apps that Valenti says are going to destroy the movie industry.

Someone from the EFF got him to autograph a Betamax tape. And not just a blank Betamax tape, but a Betamax tape containing an "unauthorized" recording of Woody Allen's Sleeper.

You may recall Mr. Valenti's testimony in the 1982 "Betamax Hearings" before Congress, in which he predicted that the videocassette recorder would destroy the TV and movie industries: "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone." Because, you know, they could be used to duplicate copyrighted material.