This blog is still alive, just in semi-hibernation.
When I want to write something longer than a tweet about something other than math or sci-fi, here is where I'll write it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wednesday Math, Vol. 3: The Pythagorean Theorem


Today, I'm giving a talk about graph theory, which a mathematical way to deal with connecting dots with lines. At least, that's the simplest way to look at it. In graph theory, you can always draw a picture to represent the situation, but the representation is just a metaphor. In geometry, where we also deal with dots, better known here as points, and the lines and line segments between them, the picture is more than metaphor. The picture by itself can be a proof.

The Pythagorean Theorem is often remembered by students as "a squared plus b squared equals c squared", and when prompted, the students might recall that a, b, and c have something to do with a right triangle. This nugget of knowledge has been independently discovered by civilizations from around the globe. There is good evidence the Egyptians had some idea of it at the time of the building of the pyramid. There are proofs from around the world, including China, India and the Middle East. The Western convention of naming it for the great Greek mathematician Pythagoras isn't incorrect, since he definitely studied right triangles, but he is by no means the first in history to do so.

The big square in the picture is (a + b)^2. I use the up arrow to represent exponents when I don't have a word processor that lets me easily write superscripts. When multiplying a binomial like a + b, we have to remember the middle terms produced by the FOIL method so what we get is a^2 + 2ab + b^2.

The little square in the middle that is rotated slightly is c^2. It is a square and not just a rhombus, because the two small angles in a right triangle must add up to 90 degrees, so if we get three angles that add up to 180 degrees (a straight line) and two of them add up to 90 degrees, the third angle itself must be 90 degrees. Since a triangle's area is (base * height)/2, the four copies of the right triangle add up to 4*ab/2 or 2ab to write it simply. by subtracting away the 2ab term from both ways of representing the big square's area, we are left with the famous equation for the theorem, a^2 + b^2 = c^2.

Using the precise rigor of proof as it is practiced today, the picture isn't a proof of the Pythagorean Theorem, but just a proof that the Pythagorean Theorem works for this one particular right triangle I drew. To make the proof complete, I would have to prove that I could choose any right triangle, make four copies of it and arrange those copies to make a picture with the same properties as the one above. This part of modern proofs is often given the prefix without loss of generality or w.l.o.g., and in this case the fact that the straight line means the "missing angle" will be 90 degrees, as 'splained in the paragraph above, is the fact that lets us construct a big square/little square/four triangle picture with any given right triangle.


The picture proof above is just one of many, many proofs of The Pythagorean Theorem, some of which have been known for many millenia. The picture of the trapezoid here to the left is just the picture of the square above cut in half along an oblique line, but if you know the formula for the area of a trapezoid, this will give us (a^2 + b^2)/2 = (c^2)/2, so it also counts as a picture proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. Credit for this proof goes not to the lasagna loving cat Garfield, but to James Garfield, the American president best known for getting shot by a crazy person who wanted to be ambassador to France. (See? You had to be crazy to want that job even back in the 19th Century!)

Whether this should count as a separate proof from the first proof is a matter of debate, kind of like whether My Sweet Lord is really different from He's So Fine, or if Cole Porter's tune Be A Clown is really different from Make 'Em Laugh, the tune Donald O'Connor sang in Singin' In The Rain.

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Now playing: Tom Lehrer - That's Mathematics
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Keeping track of scurrying rats.

Stick with me on this one. It gets confusing. I have brought many pictures to help 'splain.


FEMA runs a fake news conference during the Southern California fires last week. The guy answering the questions is real enough, but the folks asking the questions are all FEMA employees, not actual reporters. In Vegas, these folks are called shills.


Dana Perino is outraged. Nothing like this would ever happen on her watch.

This will not stand!


No questions are asked about the fake reporter and man-whore Jeff Gannon who had a White House press pass for over a year while weasel scumbag Scott McClellan was White House press secretary. Obviously, that's old news and not relevant to this situation.


People get fired! Yay! The White House does the right thing! Even Keith Olbermann has Lawrence O'Donnell on his show praising the swift and morally correct action and Olbermann praises it, too, though with some well-deserved snark about the lack of morals exhibited for the past six and a half years.


Meanwhile, this guy, John "Pat" Philbin, head of External Affairs at FEMA, is one of the people who resigns in "shame". He wasn't the guy at the podium, he was just one of the fake reporters. Also, given his title, he was probably one of the ringleaders of this scam.

I put quotes around "shame" because he is out of work a total of three days, and two of those days were a Saturday and Sunday. He landed a job at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, one of those extra layers of bureaucracy created by the Bush Administration to make it harder to tell exactly who the fuck is in charge of anything.


Where did I learn this breaking news? Over at Impeachment and Other Dreams, the blog run by the owner of this little guy, Niblet. The owner is better know here as dguzman.


The crap that goes on in this administration is so hard to keep straight, I think they could have a kitteh as press secretary and the amount of information that would come to light would not change.

Deep, calming breaths.

Update: dguzman informs me in the comments that the job offer to the fake reporter has been rescinded, no doubt because it was brought to light. If either dg or I had heads as big as, say, Bill O'Reilly, we would take personal credit, but our mocking and outrage are just the crazy blogosphere stuff. Real reporters deserve the credit.

Yay, real reporters! Boo, fake reporters!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Why did Nestor step aside?

Cristina Fernandez Kirchner will replace her husband Nestor Kirchner as the president of Argentina, though he was eligible to run for another term. Speculation runs rampant as to why.

Some think it is possible he did not want her to wave to the tiny crowds so vigorously that she would inadvertently swat him into the cheap seats.

In reality, this is El Presidente waving in front of a large backdrop picture of his wife. She is neither gigantic or even a child bride, the age difference being a mere three years. In pictures, she could be a lot younger, but it she might have had some work done or at least some botox, while he hasn't had any and might could use some.


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Now playing: XTC - Then She Appeared
via FoxyTunes

Google likes me....

but only as a friend.

I did some Google searches where my humble blog is on the front page, but not necessarily the number 1 choice to find information. Here are a few examples, of course provided with 'splainin', one of the specialties here at Lotsa 'Splainin'.


#6 melissa theuriau lazy blogging
There are many websites you can use to find pictures of La Belle Melissa. Many, as in fish in the sea many. If you ask for her and lazy blogging, my place is sixth on the list.

Matty Boy, you scamp! Some of my faithful readers will think. This is an elaborate ruse just to publish another picture of the lovely French newsreader!

In my defense, I'd like to say, the ruse is not that elaborate. And secondly, is someone actually complaining about a picture of Melissa? I hope not.


#5 Splainin
While the word is right there in the title of the blog, it was lifted from I Love Lucy, where Ricky would often exclaim "Loo-cee! You got some 'splainin' to do!" So the first few websites dealing with 'splainin' deal with the original source of the word.

It's still the 300th anniversary of the birth of My Favorite Lenny, Leonard Euler. So there's some 'splainin' of the picture I chose.
Dumbass Design #4
I made Dumbass Design an early fixture on the blog, but I haven't been back to it recently. I'll see if I can rectify this in November.

This is an ant skeleton filled with cordyceps fungi, just in case you never saw the picture or just blocked it mercifully out of your memory.


#3 They Wouldn't Believe Me
Another early mainstay of the blog, when I would make a list of stuff that would surprise the heck out of folks some 40 years ago. It's been a while since I made one of these lists, mainly because they are tough to make. Again, I'll see what I can do in November.


#2 boyband gaysex
Somebody from Germany recently found this blog typing in the two words above. This is the actual original impetus for this post. The boy band above is The Singing Senators and the guy in the big gay sweater on the right is none other than Larry "Wide Stance" Craig. I'm sure that in his subculture, being able to see his watch has some secret meaning, but I don't want to know what it is.


#1 indira varma collarbone
#1 creepy ass blue tooth
It is the yin and yang of the Internets that I am the number one purveyor of something I love, Ms. Varma's wonderful neck structure, and something I hate, the blight on humanity that is the earclip telephone. I put pictures of these things together, but only because I sense trepidation in Ms. Varma lovely visage, though not outright disgust. She's too good an actress for that.



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Now playing: Pete Wingfield - 18 With A Bullet
via FoxyTunes


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Apologies to my U.K. readers

There are several regular readers of Lotsa 'Splainin' from the U.K., and I would like to apologize to them for the "NFL" game we sent them this week.


In our defense, no one knew how bad the Miami Dolphins were going to suck this year.


But we should aplogize for sending Eli Manning when we could have sent you Peyton Manning.


That's sort of like sending you Ashlee Simpson when you had your heart set on Jessica Simpson.

As for the weather, we don't take any blame for that. You don't even get to blame global warming for the weather being crap in London at the end of October.

But I will apologize for the fact that if you go to Foxy Tunes looking for Around the World by A Cruel Hoax, you will find that it is indeed a cruel hoax, because they will not have this fine song. In fact, other than Padre Mickey, the Lovely Mona, the Dresbabies and myself, there are damn few people on the planet who get to listen to this great tune.

Again, our apologies.

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Now playing: A Cruel Hoax - Around the World
via FoxyTunes


Puzzler (and Meta-Puzzler) in time for Halloween


Hey, kids! It's a Super Scrambler puzzle you can have finished by Halloween! This picture was created by putting a grid on top of the two photos of Debra Cagan I put together when she was in the news a few weeks back, then took rectangular grid sections and rotated them or flipped them horizontally or vertically. You can load this into a paint program and get it back to its original form. Ooh, scary!

The Meta-Puzzler is... why would you want to?

I like writing my blog and reading the comments from my readers, but I also enjoy going backstage with the Site Meter software to see who is reading and how they got there. A disturbing number of surfers got here searching for "Debra Cagan". (Honestly, any number more than one is disturbing in this case.) Some of these searchers after truth even started the searches from computers linked up to the Pentagon address. Ms. Cagan currently draws her paycheck from the Pentagon. Maybe she wanted to see what people were saying about her after her "I hate all the Iranians" quote made it into print.

Here's something I never thought I would write to my beloved readers.

Hey! Pentagon web surfers! GET BACK TO WORK!




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Now playing: Was (Not Was) - Out Come The Freaks
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I have no idea what this cat is talking about...

and I'm starting to dislike her attitude.

Besides stealing the best lolz cats from I Can Has Cheezburger, I also frittered away valuable time this morning writing yet another screed on The Smirking Chimp, sounding the tsunami warning on what looks like some very serious inflation coming at us and right quick.

I warn you that the post over there is not very cheerful, not amusing like our little kitteh friend here. In fact, you may be as unamused as the kitteh herself is.

Sue me.

Where is this flag from, you may ask? Why, it's the flag of Bahrain, a place where increases in the price of crude oil seem like blessings.

We'll see how long that lasts.

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Now playing: Fred Astaire - Let's Face The Music And Dance
via FoxyTunes

Friday, October 26, 2007

And your bird can... dance?

Yay, Flags of many lands™! Yay, Bosnia and Herzegovina! The list of flags is now at 80!

(Warning: If it Herzegovina for more than three days in a row, consult your physician.)

I prefer dogs and cats as pets to other animals. My sister Jennifer has had pet birds. She even wrote a book about training parrots. Still, an animal that shows affection by administering a painful bite... not for me.

I don't like The Backstreet Boys at all.

But put a dancing cockatoo and the Backstreet Boys together, and you have Internet Magic!

Enjoy!



Thanks to my brother Michael for sending this to me via e-mail.

And since it's Friday, let's get to some music I do like, the weekly Random 10.

36” High Nick Lowe
That Day Is Done Paul McCartney
My Prayer The Platters
Tighten Up Archie Bell & The Drells
Good Day Sunshine The Beatles
Waiting In Vain Bob Marley & The Wailers
Burning Down The House Talking Heads
Youkali Tango Teresa Stratas
Withered And Died Elvis Costello
Innocent When You Dream Tom Waits

Nothing particularly obscure on this list. Pretty much all rock, soul and reggae, except for an appearance by Teresa Stratas singing a Kurt Weill song. The Beatles make two appearances on the list, since the Cute Beatle has a solo tune, and The One True Living Elvis makes two appearances, since he wrote the song The Cute Beatle is singing.

Unusual coincidence: Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello are both great songwriters and usually record their own material, but 36" High was written by Jim Ford and Withered and Died was written by Richard Thompson.

My 'splainin' here is done.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A cartoon about creepy ass blue tooth phones

The second season of The Boondocks has started on the Cartoon Network. New episodes air at 11:30 pm on Mondays. Of the first few episodes, my feeling is that they have been kind of hit or miss. The one that aired this Monday, Thank You For Not Snitching, was a hit in my book. The link will take you to the online version.

In the opening scene, Ed Wuncler III and Gin Rummy, criminally minded Iraq War vets, are on their way to a home break-in. While the crime is part of the plot, the scene is really about creepy ass blue tooth phones. Ed has one and Rummy hates it.

Rummy says nearly everything I would say about why creepy ass blue tooth phones are a blight on humanity, except it is voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, which means it's much cooler than what Matty Boy would say. It also has about 50% more obscenities than I would use, but it's SAMUEL L. JACKSON, MOTHER F#@KER!

He has to use obscenities, it's in his contract.

You can watch up to the title sequence if you are pressed for time. But you will miss Marion Ross as a member of a neighborhood watch group packing an automatic weapon.

Just sayin'.

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Now playing: Blondie - Hanging On The Telephone
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wednesday Math, Vol. 2: The numbers of war


Good morning, Latvia! This means I have my Baltic nations merit badge!

Who reads Lotsa 'Splainin'? Estonians, Lithuanians and Letts do it. So let's do it. Let's start this post.

The phrase "World War III" is being tossed around a lot these days. Some even say the Cold War was World War III and whatever we are involved in now is World War IV, like neocon godfather/pinhead Norman Podhoretz. It is my humble opinion that these people, almost all of them Americans, should put a sock in it because they don't know what they are talking about. Neither the Cold War or the current unpleasantness deserve comparison to the great wars of the 20th Century.

Before we knew enough to start numbering world wars, WW I was called The Great War. It might be fairly called The Great European War, because the vast majority of the battles took place there and the vast majority of casualties were European. At that time, the British Empire covered an astonishing percentage of the land mass of the world, so the British colonies were also involved as soldiers. Australians will never forget a town in Turkey named Gallipoli, for example, where their brave soldiers were slaughtered because of the incompetence of the British officers who commanded them. Of course, the Americans got involved near the end. That's the way Europeans think about our involvement in both world wars.

There had been nothing like The Great War in Europe ever before. Even the Napoleonic Wars, which hit a remarkably large area of Europe, were dwarfed by the magnitude of The Great War, when 100 years of technological advances were put forward to turn to battlefields into unimaginable slaughterhouses. Civilized nations decided to pull away from some of the technology, most notably poison gas, but better guns and bigger bombs were going to be part of every war afterward.

World War II technology surpassed the technology of World War I in even deadlier ways. We might think the atomic bomb and long range rockets are the most notable examples, but the difference in aircraft is the biggest factor in how widespread the death and destruction became in the Second War. The massive aerial bombardment of cities is the signature change from the way the two wars were fought, and how the numbers of dead are dispersed.

Here are the countries that Americans might list as the "major combatants" of World War II and the percentages of their entire populations lost.

Soviet Union: 13.44%
Germany: 10.77%
Japan: 3.67%
France: 1.35%
Italy: 1.04%
Great Britain: 0.94%
United States: 0.32%

When I was a kid, born ten years after the war was over, it was common to honor the Brave Brits and laugh at the cowardly French and Italians. As these numbers make clear, the war hit France and Italy slightly harder than it hit England, and of course, from these numbers, it looked like it barely hit the United States at all. The only mention of the Eastern Front was as a running gag on Hogan's Heroes, the place that German soldiers did not want to be sent.

From this list, we see that the war was very different for the Americans than it was for other "major combatants". Other countries that lost so little a percentage of their people are places we think of as barely in the war at all, like Sweden and Norway. Here is a list of countries that lost more civilians than the United States lost people in World War II.

China
French Indochina
Germany
India*
Indonesia
Japan
Poland
Soviet Union
Yugoslavia

When I think of World War II, I don't even think of it taking place in India, but there it is. More civilians lost their lives in India than American fighting men. A lot of these losses were due to a Bengal famine in 1943. Maybe a Great Britain not ravaged by war could have made an effort to save members of the Empire; maybe not.

This list shows that this truly was a world war, not just a European war.

Here is a list of countries that lost more than 10% of their population during the war.

Poland 18.51%
Lithuania 13.71%
Soviet Union 13.44%
Latvia 11.38%
Portuguese Timor 11.0%
Germany 10.77%

For me, the surprise on this list is Portuguese Timor. I would have thought that others who suffered under Japanese attack and occupation rule would have made this list, but that's not what the numbers say. The 10% club is almost all on the dreaded Eastern Front, countries that lived under the brutal attack and rule of both the Germans and the Soviets. The war in Eastern Europe was a horror beyond imagination.

When we learn history, the losers of the war are the ones forced to surrender and the winners are the ones who get to set the terms. This is a child's view of war as a game. In war, countries are beaten beyond endurance. The Germans beat the Soviets and the Soviets beat them in turn. It is fair to say the German war machine drowned in a ocean of Russian blood. The Poles, the Yugoslavians, the French, the Dutch, the list in Europe goes on and on. In Asia, Japan administered beating after beating. Japan beat the Chinese, the Burmese, the Filipinos, the Indonesians, and the Americans in turn beat the Japanese. As we watch San Diego and Malibu in flames today, we might spare a thought for all the Japanese cities burned out and bombed during the war. We did what we had to, but it was a horrible thing nonetheless. The United States won World War II by sustaining very light casualties as a nation and being able to return to prosperity when other countries were taking decades rebuilding.

Some might read this and think that I demean the price paid by American fighting men in World War II. Let me conclude with some numbers that tell their story.

We were attacked in December 1941 and the war ended in the summer of 1945. While that is 3 1/2 years, we didn't really mobilize for war until well into 1942. We had 1.5 million men in uniform. About 450,000 died. This means on average, we lost about 10% of our army every year for three years. Compare this to what happened to our troops in Vietnam, where in 1968, we lost about 3% of our soldiers. In Iraq, we haven't lost even 1% in a year yet, and our armed forces are a fraction of the number we sent to WW II or Vietnam.

The averaging isn't a fair picture of what happened. Losses started at a low level, and grew to terrible rates as we fought the Japanese from island to island. In Europe, we started in the North African campaign, then the even bloodier invasion of Italy, and then the huge assault on mainland Europe that began on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The seemingly endless graveyard pictured above is just Americans buried in France that died in the invasion.

What is happening now is not World War III or IV or anything like it. Dealing with terrorists is a nasty job, as the British and Spanish and French can tell us. But if World War III comes, it will likely be us against the Chinese, and there is only one thing I know for sure.

We aren't ready.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Riverbend posted again today

Riverbend, the Iraqi woman who blogged regularly before and during the invasion, is now a refugee in Syria. She has posted a new entry today, her first in over a month.

If you've never read her stuff, get over there immediately.

If you have read her stuff, you don't need me to tell you to get over there immediately.

Another plug for Trader Joe's

Maybe it's just me, but I find it much easier to strike up conversations at Trader Joe's than I do at other grocery stores. I was in line at the Emeryville store, which is walking distance from the school I teach at, and I saw that the guy behind me in line had some of the fancy chocolate bars they put up near the register. I asked him if he had tried the Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate, which is also displayed up by the register when available. He said he hadn't. He looked at the product, looked at the price and decided to buy it.

"If you don't like it, I owe you $1.50." I said magnanimously, both of us knowing we'd probably never see each other again.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate is the Two Buck Chuck of chocolate. Three bars of chocolate for about 50 cents each, which is less than any big name candy available today. It's not as good as the best stuff they sell, but it's good and a great value. A glass of Charles Shaw Shiraz and half a bar of the Dark Chocolate is about as happy as I can make myself spending 75 cents.

Inflation is hitting everywhere, sadly. This candy was $1.29 earlier this year.

Still, Matty Boy says check it out.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nekkid pitchers of young blue eyed blonde lap dancer.

With readership down slightly, what does Matty Boy do? He resorts to pandering!

I see a bright future for that young lad.

This is Li'l Hunter Kitteh. Technically, since she is wearing a flea collar, she is not completely nekkid, but worrying about literal truth when readership is down is a luxury the desperate blogger cannot afford.

Because she has the collar and doesn't appear malnourished, I assume that the owner of Li'l Hunter Kitteh lets her roam during the day when the owner is at work. While she doesn't look dangerously skinny, Li'l Hunter Kitteh is starved for affection.

When the old guy with the big nose sits down on his stairs, Li'l Hunter Kitteh will come up to him, brash hussy that she is, climb up on his lap, then put her paws on his chest and demand attention. The old guy with the big nose knows what teh kittehs like. When he scratches behind her ears and on her back near the base of her tail, Li'l Hunter Kitteh purrs and sometimes even drools a little. She sticks out her tiny tongue. When she really likes it, she tries to bite the big nose. She doesn't bite hard, and when he pulls away, she doesn't force the issue.

The old guy with the big nose doesn't really mind when she tries to bite his big nose, but if someone would invent kitteh breath mints, he would certainly buy them.


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Now playing: The Rutles - I Must Be In Love
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Setting a bad example for the young people

Young people are going to get the wrong idea about what good acting is.

In what will likely be a hit, they will hear this computer generated character scream "I ... AM... BEOWULF!"

This is done by the excellent British actor Ray Winstone. What makes him think this is acceptable technique?

THIS! IS! SPARTA!

Yet another good British actor thinking that screaming and spitting is good acting.

Tsk, tsk.

Where could he get such an idea?

THERE... ARE... FOUR... LIGHTS!

Did Patrick Stewart get the idea of how to play this scene from watching a poor kitteh in pain?

No, he got it from the wellspring of bad acting for this and generations to come.

KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

And so we can see, as always, that most of society's ills can be laid at the feet of William Shatner.


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Now playing: Tom Waits - Such A Scream
via FoxyTunes



My representatives in Congress

When I moved back to the Bay Area from Davis, CA, I lived in the district represented by Barbara Lee. She is the only member of Congress who voted against the blank check to wage war that the Congress spinelessly agreed to back in 2001. Good on ya, Barbara!

I moved to another apartment a few years back, just one stop away on the BART line, where my representative is Pete Stark. I am also glad to have Pete Stark as my rep. (A few years ago, I worked in an office building in Fremont and Stark's office was on my floor, so I sometimes said hey to him on the way to the elevator or the restroom.) The Republicans have their panties in a bunch because he said on the floor that Bush enjoys blowing things up. Here is the clip from C-SPAN.




The people of San Francisco, who are just as progressive as the people of the East Bay, are stuck with this moral midget as their representative, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She's the reason the impeachment of Dick Cheney isn't moving forward. She's the one who has caved to the Republicans on the General Petraeus ad and now is saying Stark went too far.

No, Ms. Pelosi. It is you who does not go far enough. The people who brought in this new House and Senate were hoping for fighters, not pantywaists and pansies. You want to know why the House is held in lower regard than the President? Look in the mirror, you stupid cow! Conservatives will hate you because you are a "liberal", and liberals will hate you because you are NOT a liberal.

The authors of the Constitution assumed the system would work because each branch of government would fight like tigers to keep the powers vested in them by the Constitution. The Republican controlled legislative branch handed way too much power over to this president, but you are no better.

Fight! Hold things up! No attorney general until all papers the Congress wants are delivered. The president vetoes S-CHIP. Send it to him again and again until either he caves or the weasels who won't override his veto cave.

Dguzman, who is the author of Beginning To Bird, has another blog entitled Impeachment and Other Dreams. I add this blog as another of my blog buddies today. Go get 'em, DG.




Saturday, October 20, 2007

Holy Shucking Fit! Vol. 2

(Click on pic to see her vibrate like a banged gong.)

I don't want to be alarmist. But I'll admit, it's getting to be a habit.

You may have heard that the price of a barrel of crude oil went over $90 for a hot minute on Thursday, but then fell to a "mere" $88.50 by Friday, finishing lower for the first time in the week. As I understand it, these are the prices for six month contracts. The gas we use right now was made from crude oil that sold at about $65 a barrel. The rule of thumb is a gallon of gas will cost about 1/20 of the price of a barrel of crude. We could easily be looking at $4.50 a gallon for gas by the spring in the U.S. Also, it's fair to say that oil is to industrialized economies what water is to living organisms. This will have an effect on the worldwide economy, not just on Americans.

Then there's news on a more local level. This story on the SF Gate website (home on the internet of the San Francisco Chronicle) from Friday gives the September sales numbers for existing homes. This was the worst September in 20 years.

How long have they been keeping this statistic? 20 years. Imagine that.

The drop is a 44.8% decrease from this time last year. It's a 34% decrease from August. The big problem is that "jumbo loans" are drying up. A jumbo loan is any loan over $417,000.

The median price of a home that sold is $670,000. This means you get a jumbo loan or you put down a BOATLOAD OF CASH.

The housing market in the San Francisco Bay Area has been nuts for at least 20 years. There needed to be a correction. I don't have the data for the rest of the country, but even taking all that into account...

Holy Shucking Fit!

Anyone who tells you the economy is strong when you kind of feel like it's getting tougher to get by causes the famous old problem first stated by Groucho Marx: "Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?"

Your eyes aren't lying. The economy is in trouble and headed for more.

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Now playing: Chris Isaak - Things Go Wrong
via FoxyTunes


Friday, October 19, 2007

Does no one listen?

I kiddingly complained in the previous post that readership is down a little this week. Yes, kidding. I kid because I love. The number of readers goes up or down from week to week, but the general trend has been upward. I love my readers, whether they head straight for the front page or look in on gigantic child brides or search in vain for naked pictures of Indira Varma or any other actress or model I have ever featured in a post.

Welcome to you, readers! Come one, come all, both here in the U.S. of A. and also the regular readers from other countries.

But apparently, none of these regular readers has the last name Steinbrenner. The Yankees made a low ball offer to Joe Torre and he refused it. The money, of course, is an insane amount for any regular person to consider, but for Torre, it's a pay cut from last year and possibly more insulting, it's just a one-year contract. This is not the first public step in a negotiation. Most insiders believe Torre will not be back, to the consternation of many Yankee fans.

While the Yankee organization has set a nearly impossible level of achievement to be success and anything less, like twelve straight years of going to the playoffs, as failure, this is not their most pinheaded act in all this nonsense. The big mistake is that the #1 candidate for manager is perpetual bad luck omen Don Mattingly!

Hey, Steinbrenner! You hate the stink of losing the big one? You hate the smell of not being the champs? Follow your nose, you senile old goon! That smell comes from the albatross around your neck. That albatross signs the name on the back of his paychecks...

DON FECKING MATTINGLY!

George isn't listening. Kind of like another well known George in an important Decider-ator position right now.

And with that, we go to the Random 10, where at least I know someone is listening.

Mammal They Might Be Giants
I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Right Myself a Letter Fats Waller
Blue Jean David Bowie
Twilight Time The Platters
My Brave Face Paul McCartney
Back Stabbers The O’Jays
I’ve Tried Everything Eurythmics
The Other Woman Nina Simone
Life Is A Carnival The Band
Lucky Number Lene Lovich

Now batting leadoff... They Might Be Giants! A favorite band of mine that doesn't get as much play on the Random 10 as they deserve. Of my Big Three, Costello, Waits and Waller, only Fats Waller makes a direct appearance, but The One True Living Elvis is the co-writer of the song that The Cute Beatle adds to this week's list. And the most obscure artist is not all that obscure, new wave songstress Lene Lovich, one of many great artists first signed by Stiff Records, a great record company in its day.

The FoxyTunes song is not on the Random 10, but is put there as tribute to Joe Torre, who deserves to be treated better. Then again, anyone who shakes hands with George Steinbrenner knows what kind of boss they have chosen to deal with.

Enjoy.






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Now playing: David Bowie - Joe The Lion
via FoxyTunes

Readership has slipped this week...


I blame Halo 3.

Okay, I'm kidding, but other people are serious. The makers of The Heartbreak Kid with Ben Stiller are blaming the poor showing of the film on the release of the third installment of this video game. Likewise, some new CDs haven't sold as much as the makers had hoped, and they blame it on Halo 3.

It can't possibly be bad word of mouth or commercials that make the products look really weak. It can't be that.

No.

Can't be.

Gotta be Halo 3.




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Now playing: Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Get Yourself Another Fool
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Three for one puzzler!

Let's say you had three different roles portraying historical characters in three different productions. You wanted one actor who could play Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., legendary jazz clarinetist Sidney Bichet as a young man and the 1980's New York City art scene sensation Jean Michel Basquiat. Who could do all those three things well, even brilliantly?

If you guessed Jeffrey Wright, you are correct. Wright played King in the excellent HBO movie Boycott, Bichet on the short-lived TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and Basquiat in the movie Basquiat. I know the first and third films are on DVD now, the TV series will be released later this year.

Just a little love for the lovely and talented Jeffrey Wright, my first adopted actor, to let him know that I haven't forgotten him, even though I have now adopted another actor and his ilk, the talented and lovely Christopher Guest. Go, Jeffrey!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bonus post: video of Code Monkey

There is a TV show called Code Monkeys. Avoid this at all costs. One of the problems with 500 cable channels is that some people green light projects that are complete crap. This is one such example. Amazingly unfunny cartoon show.

This, on the other hand, is a song called Code Monkey, written by a guy named Jonathan Coulton. Coulton works at Adobe, so it is a fair bet that he has seen a code monkey or two in his lifetime, which explains how accurate the portrait is. For me, Coulton is somewhere between Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, because his day job is his inspiration, and They Might Be Giants, because he can write a catchy tune with clever and observant lyrics.

It is the theme song to the crap TV show, but the song itself is cool. Kind of like I feel about the show Friends, which I hate, as do all right-thinking Americans, and the theme song, which is a pretty good pop tune.

Here is the video made with characters from Sims 2. There are some other videos on YouTube for this song, but this one is my favorite.



Code Monkey like Fritos.
Code Monkey like Tab and Mountain Dew.
Code Monkey very simple man...
With big warm fuzzy secret heart.
Code Monkey like you.

Wednesday Math, Vol. 1: 9/11 and Katrina

As I have written many times before, I love math. The stuff I studied in grad school I might not be able to 'splain to folks, though I may give it a shot in later volumes. But I can give quick lessons trying to make sense of numbers as they occur in everyday life, as the pertain to decisions we are making, and that are being made for us, every day of our lives.

In this first post of my Wednesday series, I want to talk about numbers that literally are about life and death, the field of death statistics. In the United States, about 1% of the population dies every year, from all causes. If we want to split our specific causes, we need to use a scale more refined than percent (which is to say x% means x out of 100) so most death statistics are given as x out of 100,000.

For example, a few years back there were 97 murders in Oakland, California and 40 murders in nearby Richmond. As you might guess, Oakland is a bigger town than Richmond, nearly 400,000 to about 100,000. To put these numbers on the same scale, the Oakland murder rate is at 24 out of 100,000 and the Richmond murder rate is 40 out of 100,000. The national murder rate is about 5 per 100,000, so both of these cities have high rates, but Richmond's is significantly higher than Oakland's.

In New York City, the murder rate has been low over the past decade or so, at around 7 per 100,000. The number of deaths that took place on Sept. 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center would amortize to 34 per 100,000 population in the city of New York. Of course, not all the people who died that day in these two specific attacks were citizens of New York, but even the death of a tourist in New York counts as a crime in New York. If the acts of that day count as murders, New York's murder rate would jump up to over 40 per 100,000 for the year of 2001. In the U.S., very few cities of over 500,000 population have murder rates that high. Currently, only Baltimore, Maryland is on that particular shameful roll call.

The death toll from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans is put at about 700 lives lost. That means the death rate from those few days is about 145 of 100,000. Katrina hit New Orleans four times harder than the World Trade Center disaster hit New York. Of course, New Orleans is much smaller than New York. Let's instead compare the toll in Louisiana, where 1,500 people lost their lives to the hurricane. The effect of the storm on the entire state is almost exactly equal to the effect of the twin towers falling in New York, 34 deaths for every 100,000 in population.

Some will say this is apples and oranges. I do not deny these are very different circumstances. I just wanted people to look at them in perspective. This is hard to do, because in terms of how we take in information in the 21st Century, the destruction of the twin towers was a perfectly planned media event. The first plane hits, it's breaking news, every TV station will cover it and have cameras on the scene, just in time for the second plane to hit. A clear act of malice, an attack not only on two buildings in New York but on all Americans.

Katrina, on the other hand, hits too vast an area to be encompassed by a single camera. Death hits people one by one and out of public view, many drowning in their own homes. Even the failure of the levees is not captured live on television.

9-11 is a clear act of malice and Katrina is an act of nature. But the deaths of Katrina are due also to malign neglect of the system of levees and wetlands, a system that should have been a clear national priority since Hurricane Betsy hit in 1965. It is not the failure of the current Bush administration. It is a failure of the administrations of Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush the Mature, Clinton and Bush the Immature.

The failure of the response to the disaster can be laid at the footsteps of Bush the Immature, but we shouldn't forget the actions of the insurance companies, either. If you want to set aside four hours to be alternately sad and angry, you should watch Spike Lee's documentary When The Levees Broke. It isn't completely a downer. You will get to meet the Mississippi resident who told Dick Cheney to go fuck himself when the vile vice president decided to stage a photo op in this guy's neighborhood. And the music is excellent.

Let's move away from death rates to actual numbers of deaths for a moment. Think about a day when five times as many people die as did on 9/11. Now imagine four straight years of days that on average are that bad, sixteen seasons of daily misery on that unimaginable scale.

That is what World War II was like for the Russians. 20 million dead in a war that lasted about four years for them, when the Germans broke the non-aggression pact and invaded the Soviet Union.

Americans are so ready to fight wars because Americans haven't experienced war the way the rest of the world has.

That's the end of today's lesson. There is no homework assignment, but I hope you took notes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How important is presentation?

We might not like to think about it all the time, but presentation is very important.

Consider that the otter is a member of the Mustelidae family, which includes weasels.

If otters were known as water weasels, would we like weasels more or love otters less?

Oh, Matty Boy! Stop the making funs of the little otterzes! Dey so CUUUUUUUUTE!

Okay, fictionalized reader. I will let you enjoy your lolz in peace. I won't even bring up that the adorable critter now scurrying around the lawns and trees most of the Americas storing up nuts for the winter could be called a bushy tailed rat instead of the more common name, squirrel.

(Picture blatantly borrowed from I Can Has Cheezburger. This is not plagiarism as much as it is a public service, in that here at Lotsa 'Splainin', we promise not to have ads for the latest Ann Coulter book.)

Yay, Europe! For the first time, the European Union flag showed up representing a reader. The more precise location was "United Kingdom" according to the text in the viewer summary, but here at Lotsa 'Splainin', we go with the flags of many lands™, not the names in the text description of many lands (not trademarked).

You have my permission to hum Beethoven's Ode to Joy for the rest of the day, instead of C.P.E. Bach's God Save the (Gender Specific Noun for Monarch).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Riding on a Bus!

Welcome to Blog Action Day! Lots of folks are blogging about the environment today, and I am just one in a mighty army.

Like most Americans, I lived my life as though I was on top of a "food chain" of energy. The government has done what it can to keep energy prices artificially low, and we have used the cheap commodity like it was going out of style.

Guess what, Americans? It's going out of style! It might be time to consider other options.

On the album The Beatles Live at the BBC, there are snippets of interviews done with the lovable moptops as well as their live performances played on the radio. When asked what they missed now that they were famous, they said they missed the little things.

"Like riding on a bus!" interjected Paul, The Cute One. (In a Liverpudlian accent, bus more closely rhymes with puss than it does with muss.)

Well, I have been without a car for about a year now. When my car's engine burnt up last year, I couldn't afford to fix it or replace it, and luckily for me, I could get to work without a car, so I didn't fix or replace it. I've been getting around either on foot or on my bike and using public transportation.

In some ways, I'm one of the lucky ones. I work part time at several colleges, and as a group, we are known as the freeway flyers, as most of us need cars to travel to the various places we work. It's my good fortune to work at two schools right now that can easily be reached on public transportation. If that hadn't been the case, I would probably have gone into debt to fix the car last year.

BART, the local commuter train system, is very convenient for me. One school I work at, Laney College, is one block south of the Lake Merritt BART station. The school parking lot is one block west of school, so the walk from BART or the lot is about the same. I've worked there for years and I've never bought a parking sticker. I've only driven there when I was picking up a check while running other errands. I always try to get to work about 20 minutes early and I have never been late due to BART. Friends who drive can't all say the same.

Now I also work at Ex'pression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville, which is several miles away from BART. On the first day, I rode my bike from BART, but I had a flat tire when I got out of class, which was a long walk to get home. I decided to try the bus line until I fixed the bike. I took the EmeryGoRound the next day, and haven't taken my bike to campus since.

The EmeryGoRound shuttle is a free service with several lines covering much of Emeryville, a small town nestled between Oakland, Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay. It is paid for not by the government, but by the businesses on the line. It runs out of the MacArthur station in Oakland, which is the main hub of the east bay lines of BART. Several other businesses run free shuttles out of MacArthur, mostly local hospitals. Again, like when I use BART, I give myself a lot of leeway for how long it will take me to get to work. Given that BART is a fifteen minute walk from my apartment, the train ride is a half hour and the bus is about another fifteen minutes, I usually leave the house an hour and a half before I have to be in class. It works very well.

I don't recommend getting rid of your car to everybody. In some places, walking, biking and public transportation aren't practical options. I certainly have days, especially rainy days, when I wish I could jump in the car to run errands; when I had a car, I could carry more groceries home than I do putting them in the basket of my bike and save a few trips a week. But when I think of the cost of a car payment, insurance, gas, oil changes and various inevitable repairs, the convenience is really very expensive.

Back when we were at war and the government asked us all to sacrifice instead of asking us all to shop, there were billboards asking the question Is This Trip Necessary? Instead of asking if a trip is necessary, maybe you can ask Is your car is necessary for this trip?

The government we have right now won't ask you this. You'll have to do the right thing by doing it on your own. With this government, as we learned in New Orleans, we are all on our own.

Yay, Flags of many lands™! Hello, Belarus! Let's all sing the verse from Tom Lehrer's Lobachevsky!

I have a friend in Minsk,
Who has a friend in Pinsk...




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Now playing: The Beatles - And Your Bird Can Sing
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Superman Is A Dick.

Searching the web this week, I stumbled onto a site called Superdickery.com dedicated to the idea that Superman is a dick. Back in the day, DC Comics relied heavily on Superman for many of its titles, having two Superman magazines a month, Superman and Action Comics, as well as giving magazines to Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen and the Superman-Batman team up mag, World's Finest. There were also the Superboy titles and other teams like the Justice League and the Legion of Super Heroes. Superman was a very busy guy, and like many folks on the go, not always considerate of the feelings of those around him.

Let me restate that. Superman is often a cold, unfeeling scumbag, and unless one carries around a little spare Kryptonite for just such occasions, there's not a thing that can be done about it.

The website takes artwork from old comics, mostly covers and mostly DC, and puts a single snarky sentence as a caption. As a writer of snark, I take my hat off to the author. He may have discovered a new super-power, super snarkiness. Wandering through the site, I cackled like a madman at some of the covers and the captions.

Besides showing multiple examples of the dickishness of Superman, there are other galleries that feature the salacious and often homo-erotic content in "innocent" comics, the tendency of Wonder Woman to get tied up and put in peril every month, how comics helped in the propaganda campaigns during WW II, some ridiculous super-powers of both minor and major characters and the over-use of gorillas as enemies and alternate universe dopplegangers (like Matty Boy and Dr. Monkerstein?).

Instead of borrowing liberally from this site as I do with I Can Has Cheesburger?, I recommend you stop on by and check it out for yourself. You don't have to be middle-aged with the sense of humor of a stunted adolescent to enjoy Superdickery, but it certainly helps.

Yay, Croatia! I now have half of the flags of the former Yugoslavia. The Croatian flag shows their pride as a people. Almost anyone can make a flag using stripes of red, white and blue in some permutation, either vertical or horizontal, but it takes some real flair to then stick a tablecloth in the middle of it.