Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Maybe it's the lack of sunspots

By the way, we still really aren't chugging along with Solar Cycle 24. I am *not* looking forward to this winter, and by the way did you notice we've already gotten the first snowstorm? In October.

Yesterday was ... strange. It started with someone absconding with my garbage can, which happened to be full of garbage because it was the day the garbage fairies come. I know it wasn't them, though, because it disappeared hours before they made their rounds and they have always had sufficient intellect to only collect the actual garbage, not the container it resides in. No sign of wreckage or scattered contents, either. Aliens? What does one do in the event of abducted garbage cans, post flyers and offer a reward? The etiquette is unclear.

Later in the day as I went to my car I heard a screeching noise coming from my roof. A squirrel was at the very apex of the roof, screaming. Nothing was chewing on it, it looked perfectly healthy, and yet there it was, glaring at me and doing the Mad Scene from Lear. Again, I must have missed a memo. Or landed in the wrong dimension. Again.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Funnies

-Lackadaisy is taking some time off, but has a nice pic of one character transmorgrified to human
-Dresden Codak is finally done with the Hob storyline. New story to come!
-The kitties of TwoLumps are exploring Wonderland, partially stoned.
-Argghhh-onauts is making highly dubious excuses for the lack of comics.
-Lawn Darts explores the fine art of revenge, with some power washing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Some random Snarks

-Not really a snark, but a cool news item: Unrolling scotch tape emits X-rays! Don't worry, they get that part of the science right -- x-rays don't travel in air very far at all. And if you are in a vacuum, x-rays are the least of your worries.
-The real reason why Joe the Plumber offends the delicate sensibilities of Obama et al.: See, Michelle Obama, with multiple degrees and all the right opinions, is earning 300K. Therefore some uppity white male blue-collar type, who probably doesn't even like arugula, can't POSSIBLY earn 250K. It would be a violation of ... of everything! It's not FAIR! He shouldn't even think it is possible, or try.
-Burn After Reading: Any movie that features Brad Pitt getting shot (messily) in the head is a Good Thing. Plus, the rest of the movie is funny too.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Funnies

-Dresden Codak had a fit of epilogue. And a penance beard.
-Lawn Darts goes bittersweet, and theraputic
-Schock Mercenary A space mercenary with a midlife crisis is trouble waiting to happen.
-Girl Genius Sneaking into a castle, but forgetting the crowd to watch you sneak in the castle. Don't do Mad Science drunk, kids!
-Rummage bin: Two Lumps, xkcd
-Argghhh-onauts, where are yoooooou?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Unintended consequences

Dear Representative Jay Inslee;
Thank you for your amusing letter of October 14. I will admit, I was surprised to see an envelope bearing the return address of an Idaho politician in my Washington mailbox, but all was explained when I opened it to discover you were so confident in your own re-election you decided to raise funds for someone in a completely different state. I suppose it is my own fault you have my address. I made the mistake of thinking you represented me, years ago, and contacted you to point out your support of Vast Quantities of H1-B visas was not such a hot idea when folks like me, with government-sponsored degrees, couldn't find work because of them. You ignored every word I wrote but happily stuffed my name and address into your database.

You ignorant, effluent cheese-whistle. Every time you send one of your smarmy communications I just get more angry with you. I wouldn't send this buddy of yours in Idaho a used kleenex, let alone cash. Why on earth would I want MORE people like you in power?

Funny thing --I got a letter from the McCain-Palin campaign the same day. Nice and polite, it was. They haven't sold my address to anybody else, either. You will doubtless be displeased to know I sent them money instead. Mostly because I was mad at you.

Sincerely hoping you will soon have plenty of time to spend with your stamp collection, I remain, your most irritated constituent,


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Or, the things I find in my old house. This is for the regulars at Ye Olde Stoat Y Weasel Bar and Grill who have professed shock and amazement when I revealed my Dark Secret. Yes, there is still DDT in the bottle. It was with some trepidation that I cleared out the huge shed attached to my property. It took me nearly a year, and I was giddy with relief when I didn't find any bodies. Because, you know, there could have been.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Carbon nanotubes get even more clever

They have been used to make "gecko feet" adhesive, which is pretty much like Post-it pad v2.0 -- and is dry. This is a big advantage for dohickys in space, because what makes ordinary adhesives work down here on earth usually evaporates in a vacuum and then it stops being an adhesive. No word on plans to develop wall-scaling gloves and shoes for the ninja market.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The rich, unplumbed depths of Science

It's amazing what you can get research grants for, if you phrase the proposal juuuust right. I am pleased to announce the winners of the 2008 IgNobel Prizes, for actual research that makes Scientific Progress go "boink".
Highlights from the Improbable Research site:

PHYSICS PRIZE. Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE. Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.

LITERATURE PRIZE. David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK, for his lovingly written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Change we can believe in

Past a certain point you just have to accept an addict isn't going to change, no matter how clearly you point out the self-destructive behavior. You can show the list of canceled subscriptions, the plummeting respect of the public, the vanishing advertising income, but they just stare at you with dulled eyes and stick the needle in their arm, with the constant refrain "I'm not biased, it's just that conservatives are always wrong." Walk away, and let them rot. Don't even go to the funeral.

Here's what to do instead. I've contributed; have you?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A thing with feathers

Crises are good for pointing out people's weaknesses. The problem is this all happens while *you* are in the middle of a crisis and not in the best mood for taking notes and pondering the implications dispassionately. Plus humans are emotional creatures and panic is contagious. So far, we have

-the financial crisis/Congressional raiding party
-the election
-radioactive Somali pirates
-Russia acting up
-Solar Cycle 24 still being coy, over a year later than it should be
-the Large Hadron Supercollider has generated more rap songs than Higgs Bosons

And that's just the stuff *I'm* keeping track of. Now tonight is the VP debate, and I am really disappointed in the oh-my-god-we're-all-gonna-DIE tone coming from so many conservative sources. Usually ones that are prone to listen to media content. I am so glad I never got cable, don't watch TV, don't listen to talk radio. Stress-related illnesses are expensive.

Look, I admit from the get-go Sarah Palin could choke. She's human, and under a lot of pressure. Possible. However, there is evidence that her opponents in the past misjudged her and got walloped. Oh, but this is the NATIONAL election, we are told. Completely different! Spock has a beard! Biden has experience! No, he doesn't. He has *seniority*. What has he actually done? What has he said that was insightful, or even, ya know, correct? If he's so wonderful, why was he never a serious presidential candidate (except in his own mind)?

All the investment prospecti have "past performance is not a guarantee of future results." True, but it's really useful for bookies calculating the odds. In the many, many years of Biden in Congress has he EVER wisely kept his mouth shut? The commentariat notice how he gets a bye on the stupid things he says, and say "oh, everyone knows Biden is Just Like That and he won't get criticized." That's my point. Everyone knows he's an idiot. It's rude to point and laugh at the mentally deficient. Palin may possibly fall on her face, but the odds are much, much lower that Biden will find 50 extra IQ points in his sock drawer this morning.

Now Governor Palin has been doing things. I found this article very interesting. I am much more interested, as a voter, on how she does actually governing than in how she can talk to Katie Couric without punching her. I don't know for a rock-solid fact how she will do in the debate tonight, but I have hope. Based on past performance, both for her and for Biden. It won't be the Rocky-esqe knockout complete with swelling triumphant background music and strategic lighting that seems to be the minimum standard for success set by a lot of conservative pundits. That won't happen, ever. The media will make sure of that, even if Palin discloses in her closing statement the formula for cheap fusion energy she worked out in her spare time, after discovering the cure for cancer and a nifty recipe for negative-calorie chocolate.

Please, guys. We have enough real problems to worry about. Don't make stuff up. Don't set impossible standards, just because she's a woman. Don't believe the media's predictions, they WANT her to fail. Here's a paper bag, breathe into it. Wait and see what really happens.

I have hope.

... but mostly because my fortune cookie said "Fame and fortune is coming your way." A fortune cookie wouldn't lie, would it?