Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oh, this isn't awkward, is it?

Earlier this year, young Ms. Samantha Power lost her position on the Obama campaign for calling Hillary Rodham Clinton "a monster". But being in the doghouse in Washington is a temporary thing, and Ms. Power is back among the employed as... a consultant on the Agency Review Team for the State Department.

You know, helping in the transition from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Those meetings should be fun in a "meow" sort of way.

This job sounds temporary, what with the whole "transition" idea built into the the team concept, but I hope Ms. Power can find work in the permanent Obama administration because she has a lot of good ideas.

And terrific gams.

Also, she has the slightest remnant of an Irish accent. I'm a complete sucker for faint Irish accent. So damn adorable.

Yay, Flags of Many Lands™! Yay, Zimbabwe!

What would bring a person from this country with the worst economy in the world, suffering from hyperinflation as bad as the Weimar Republic, to this humble blog?

"Find giant woman" were the words this plucky Zimbabwean typed into The Google.

Best of luck! It's nice to know My People can be found almost anywhere you go.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Decisions made by adults with money.

I saw this album cover over at Padre Mickey's Dance Party and I was shocked and amazed. What exactly was this and where did it come from? Why did an adult with money decide to record this album, put this cover on the album and give it the title Colonel Sanders' Tijuana Picnic? Does that family and that setting scream out TIJUANA to you? No, I didn't think so.

Seriously... wtf?

The album is filled with covers of songs recorded by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, but no artists are actually named on the liner notes, so you can bet your bottom dollar this is a bunch of off-brand Herb Alpert wannabes.

Yes, there are liner notes! And we are supposed to believe that Colonel Sanders wrote them! Apparently, the Colonel likes the music, but he likes Kentucky Fried Chicken a whole lot more, and he hopes you do, too.

We live in a world of cross-fertilization and product placement in video games and tv shows made about characters from insurance commercials, but this is what our monstrous dystopia looked like in its infancy, and it's miracle it didn't die then and there.

Gotcher biodiversity right here!

I moved back to Oakland, near Lake Merritt, in February, and walking around the lake a couple times a week, I was struck by the paucity of bird species compared to when I visited Lake Merritt as a kid. For most of this year, we have had Canada geese, Herring gulls and pigeons hanging around, species that gladly live off of whatever humans throw out. In the water, there are coots, drab gray water birds with white beaks, and the occasional mated pair of mallards.

All I had to do was wait. Now in late November, Lake Merritt is teaming with bird species. There are many species of ducks, including several exotic looking critters I didn't remember from my youthful days as a bird watcher. The ducks I could definitely identify were canvasbacks and ruddy ducks. There might have been a few teals as well. The only species I remember from my childhood that I didn't see yesterday were wood ducks, which is a shame because they are one of the prettiest duck species of all.

Besides ducks, there were also swans and geese, and not just the omnipresent Canadas. There was a big light brown goose that I looked up on the interwebs, and as far as I can tell it is called a buff goose. I couldn't find a picture that did it justice because it is HUGE. It towers over the Canada geese like the Canada geese tower over the ducks. The buff is supposed to be a farm goose and extinct in the wild. You come to Oakland and tell him he's extinct yourself, buddy, because frankly, he frightens me.

There are also other waterfowl that are kinda sorta like ducks, but without the duck bills. I'm sure I spotted both grebes and mergansers, as well as some obvious and better known critters like pelicans and cormorants. Since I have been in the area nearly a year, my guess is the surprise visitors are on their migration route. They aren't planning on staying long, but Lake Merritt is a nice stopover where there is stuff to eat and people don't hide in bushes with shotguns. Or if they do, they aren't hunting ducks.

A couple other sightings of note were the American bittern and the night heron. The bittern has a distinctive cry "allukidsgetoffmylawn! allukidsgetoffmylawn!", which is why they call it a bittern, I suppose. And in Oakland, the night heron completely psychs people by showing up in the day time. Kind of like with Canada geese, humans call these critters whatever we want to, but they live their own lives, thank you very much.

It's really nice to see all these guys back in the neighborhood.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Random 10+1, Friday 11/28

Song for the Dumped Ben Folds Five
Minus Beck
In Dreams Roy Orbison
Let’s Get It On Marvin Gaye
The Big Payback James Brown
She’s an Angel They Might Be Giants
Midnight Sun Ella Fitzgerald
One Love/People Get Ready Bob Marley & the Wailers
Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now Fats Waller
Basin Street Blues/Sleepy Time Down South Louis Prima
Breaking Us In Two Joe Jackson

So is the random shuffle deejay on my iTunes a lover or a fighter? This Random 10+1 makes the argument both ways. It's starts with two really angry tunes, switches over to Roy Orbison and Marvin Gaye in romantic moods, then James Brown ready to fight and he's not kidding.

In the last half of the Random 10, we have a lot of songs The You Tubes don't include. They Might Be Giants aren't so sure about this love thing, but Ella and Bob Marley and my hero Fats Waller definitely come down on the side of love, then Louis Prima shows his love for Louis Armstrong with a medley of tunes associated with Satchmo, only to finish with Joe Jackson singing a song hoping against hope to keep a love together that is falling apart.

So which way is it this week?

I'm going to give the last word to the only lady on the list, the phenomenal Ella Fitzgerald, singing the romantic lyrics of Johnny Mercer, written on top of an instrumental piece by Lionel Hampton and Sonny Burke.

The flame of it may dwindle to an ember, and the stars forget to shine,
And we may see the meadow in December, icy white and crystalline,
But oh my darling always I'll remember when your lips were close to mine,
And we saw the Midnight Sun.

And so, hypothetical question asker, I'm going to say this week, it was all about de luuuuuuv.

Yay, Flags of many lands™! Yay, round numbers!

A little lazy blogging on the biggest shopping day of the year, which I will spend busily not spending for the most part, because I'm mostly broke.

This handsome and simple geometric pattern is the flag of Greenland, and it marks flag #150 on the list of places with their own flags that have visited this blog since I started counting flags way back in April of last year, within a few weeks of starting the blog.

Yay, Greenland! Stay frosty, buddy!

Technically, some of the flags are not flags of nations but flags of protectorates or colonies or whatever, like Guam and Puerto Rico and Greenland, which was granted home rule but is still owned or ruled or whatever by Denmark.

There are still places with flags that haven't sent a single visitor to this blog, but the numbers are getting smaller and there's no promise the list will ever get to 200, so here's what the continental maps look like at 150 flags.

The continent of North America is covered completely. There are still some Caribbean islands who haven't visited, most notably Cuba, but those numbers are dwindling.

In South America, I've had no visitors from Guyana (formerly British Guiana) and French Guiana.

All the Spanish speaking countries: check.

Brazil: check.

Suriname: check.

In Europe, I'm missing some of the postage stamp sized countries, Liechtenstein, Andorra, San Marino and Vatican City and the islands of Jersey, Guernsey and Gibraltar. That's it.

In Asia, no visitors yet from North Korea, Myanmar and some of the Stans.

Also no love from the Paracel Islands or the Spratly Islands. Who knew?

Australia and New Zealand are covered. Still some Pacific islands with flag unaccounted for.

Africa is the continent where there is still the chance to pick up a bunch of flags, but whether the worldwide total will ever get to 200 is questionable.

Still, happy to make it to 150, another thing to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving weekend.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day to all my gringo readers

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers Padre Mickey would call the estado├╝nidense. Hope the turkey is just right and the fixin's are plentiful.

I just spent an hour and a half over at the other blog, Unified Football Theory, making predictions about this week's games. I have ten picks I like, and so far this season, I've been pretty good, statistically speaking, and I have a couple picks for the games being played today.

Let me put on the Cranky Pants for a brief moment and say that this is the only Thursday of the year when there should be NFL games, and on Thanksgiving there should be two, count them TWO, NFL games. This Thanksgiving, the NFL has three games, including the Cardinals at the Eagles in a late game on that cockamamie* pay-per-view NFL Network thingie.

*I like the word cockamamie almost as much as I like lollygagging, the fun vocabulary word from earlier this week, but this is probably just because I have the emotional age of junior high school student.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday Math, Vol. 49: The Most Famous Mathematician

When discussing "the most famous _____", we deal more in opinion than fact. With mathematicians, the best known names include the ancient Greeks like Euclid, Pythagoras and Archimedes, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Isaac Newton is the best known mathematician in human history.

Why Newton over Einstein? Because Einstein was not a mathematician, but a physicist. Newton was both. Newton not only came up with the three laws of motion and the laws of optics and universal gravity, but he needed to invent the mathematical tools that would solve these problems in physics, and the most important tool he is given credit for developing is calculus. Einstein, in contrast, came up with relativity and the photoelectric effect and gravity being the natural consequence of curved space, but all the mathematical tools needed to solve these problems in physics already existed by the time Einstein was working. Perhaps the most important pre-existing concept Einstein used was the Riemannian manifold, which allows calculus methods to find areas not just over "easy" shapes like lines or planes or circles or spheres, but also on bendy, twisty things as well.

If we expand the list of mathematicians not just to people who spent their careers in the field, but to people who did advanced study, then a more famous name pops up on the list, Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was a talented student, and at the age of 16 passed exams given to him by Pierre-Simon Laplace when the great mathematician was the Examiner of the Royal Artillery Corps. LaPlace not only worked for French royalty, but his career also survived the French Revolution and flourished when his former student became emperor.

Napoleon was of the opinion that Laplace was not the greatest mathematician of his day, but instead gave that place of honor to Giuseppe Lodovico Lagrangia, who Napoleon called "the lofty pyramid of the mathematical sciences." Lagrangia, like Napoleon, was of both Italian and French ancestry, and he is known to posterity as Joseph Louis Lagrange. Some put Lagrange as the greatest mathematician of the entire 18th Century, though the more popular modern view is that he was not quite as significant as the man who helped launch his career, Leonhard Euler, who has been mentioned on this blog many times already.

Napoleon and Laplace crossed paths after Napoleon became emperor when Laplace's masterwork on celestial mechanics was published. Their famous exchange is translated into English as follows.

Napoleon: "How can this be! You made the system of the world, you explain the laws of all creation, but in all your book you speak not once of the existence of God!"

Laplace: "Sire, I did not need to make such an assumption."

Napoleon was reported to be amused by this and told the story to Lagrange, who replied, "Ah, but it is such a lovely assumption. It explains so many things."

Napoleon served with distinction on the winning side during the French Revolution, and when the bloody battles were over, he said his plans were to return to private life and teach mathematics. But, you know, stuff came up.

Conquer Europe, proclaim yourself emperor... you know.


Even so, though he didn't make much time to pursue mathematics as an actual career, there is a theorem with Napoleon's name on it, a geometry proof shown here. Take any old triangle, like triangle ABC in bold in the illustration. Construct equilateral triangles on the outside of ABC using the sides AB, BC and AC. The new shape isn't a triangle at all, but if we link up the centers of the equilateral triangles, as shown in green with the triangle GHI, that triangle also has to be equilateral.

To this day, this is known as Napoleon's Theorem, and helps give credence to the idea that he is the most famous mathematician of all time, though his fame does not arise from his work in the field.

As my father is fond of saying, you learn something new every day, if you are not careful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

lolz giantess levels... dangerously low!

I like lolz. I like giantesses.

Two great tastes that go great together?

Let's give it a shot.

I know the stubble look is a big hit among the young people, but if she is going to all the trouble of being nicely groomed and neat, it's only fair that her little boy toy make some effort as well.

The original collage is from new blog buddy and commenter Undersquid.

Of course, giant women on the go can't spend all day lollygagging* in bed with their little friends. They are out in the world, getting things done, making things happen, crushing tiny co-workers who do not comply with their demands.

I stole this collage from a Sprint ad and I stole the caption from an episode of Chappelle's Show, when the Wu-Tang Clan are selected by the Asians in the racial draft. I only steal from the best.

Still, that's a lot of stealing for one lolz. I deserve to be punished in some way. If the woman in the elevator has any ideas as to what would be fitting punishment, I'm certainly willing to listen.

*When was the last time you used the word lollygagging in a sentence? Do your best to find a good use for this wonderful word soon, won't you?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Was Brokeback Mountain a remake?

No, hypothetical question asker, I think it's the first time that novel was turned into a major motion picture. But if you click on this re-editing of another famous film now available on The You Tubes, what the young people call a mash-up, I think you will see some undeniable similarities in the works.

Three quick DVD reviews

Here are my opinions of the last three things I rented on Netflix.

The British TV series State of Play is definitely worth watching, especially for the information for Americans about how the British journalism and justice systems work. The people who will be most easily recognized by American audiences are Bill Nighy from Love, Actually and Shaun of the Dead as the newspaper editor, James McAvoy from The Chronicles of Narnia and The Last King of Scotland as one of the many reporters on a complicated story, Kelly MacDonald from Gosford Park and No Country for Old Men as another one of the reporters and Polly Walker from Rome, Emma and Enchanted April as the wife of the politician who is in the middle of the complicated story.

The main stars, David Morrissey as the M.P. whose girlfriend is killed and John Simm as the main reporter on the case, might be less known to American audiences because a lot of their best roles are on British television.

The casts are very good on all the DVDs reviewed here. What makes this worth watching, like almost all fiction films, is the writing. Matty Boy says check it out before they make an American verison of it and ruin it.

Next up is Ridley Scott's 2007 movie American Gangster. This movie fictionalizes the true story of Frank Lucas, the right hand man of legendary Harlem gangster Bumpy Johnson, who takes over the drug trade in Harlem after Bumpy dies in the 1960's. Lucas is able to secure a better supply of heroin from Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and has it flown in on military planes. The movie stars Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas and Russell Crowe as the cop who is trying to bring him down. Also in the top notch cast are Clarence Williams III as Bumpy Johnson, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes from Deadwood, Idris Elba from The Wire, Carla Gugino, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Armand Assante, Joe Morton, Jon Polito, Ruby Dee and my adopted actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, playing one of Lucas' many brothers he brings up from North Carolina to help him run his business.

This is also worth a watch.

Todd Haynes got some buzz for his movie I'm Not There by casting multiple actors to play characters that are all supposed to be some aspect of Bob Dylan, the most unusual casting being Cate Blanchett.

Here's my opinion of the movie I'm Not There. You shouldn't be there, either.

The long and short of it was that Young Bob Dylan was an asshole. He was an asshole to the people he liked and even more of an asshole to the people he didn't like. He was put in a very bizarre fishbowl back in the 1960s and he didn't like it one bit. Boo hoo for you, Bob.

Way back in my first month of writing this blog, I reviewed Dylan's memoir Chronicles: Volume 1. My strong advice if you want to know something about Dylan is to read that book and avoid this movie at all costs. Like the other films on this list, there is a strong cast here, but they are all wasted because of weak writing, so I won't list them here. The movie is a mess and it's not their fault.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's a candy bar, it's a milestone...

It's two great tastes that go great together.

At 9:24 am Pacific time, visitor #100,000 logged onto my blog. This person is from San Francisco, a Comcast user who logged onto the front page. It may be someone I know personally, but I am not sure. It wasn't my mom, though that would have been very fitting.

Yay, 100 k!

I'd like to thank all my readers who made this moment possible.

Fans of lolz and giantesses and lolz about giantesses.

Fans of gigantic child brides and Rock F@#king Stupidity and They Wouldn't Believe Me.

Fans of the Hubbard Fambly Photos and the Random 10.

Even the fans of the 'splaininess and the mathiness! Thanks to you all.

Hey, what about me? Don't I get any love?

Of course you do, hypothetical question asker. Thanks for having my back for all these months. I couldn't have done it without you.

But thanks most to the readers, 'cos that's what the 100,000 visitors is all about.

Do gigantic child girlfriends count?

Given the mockery that the modern institution of marriage has become, what with how fickle and untrustworthy heterosexuals have shown themselves to be, I suppose it will have to do, hypothetical question asker, though a traditional person such as myself will shake my head and make that little clicking sound with my tongue.

You know, tsk tsk tsk.

The gentleman on the left is Pharrell Williams, musician and producer. His lovely escort is Karolina Kurkova, lingerie model. He is 35 and she is 24. He is 5'8" (1m73) and she is 5'11" (1m80), though if she takes off all the clothes she wears and stands on them, she's 5'11 1/4" (1m81).

Pharrell has worked with many artists, including Snoop Dogg, Nelly, Kelis, Gwen Stefani, Madonna, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Dame Joan Sutherland. (I made one of those up.)

Ms. Kurkova is famous for having almost no belly button, leading to speculation she was raised on one of the supermodel factory farms that are rumored to exist in Eastern Europe, just another cog in the machine that will bring about worldwide Communist domination.

But, Matty Boy! Didn't we, like, defeat communism about twenty years ago?

That's just what they want you to think, hypothetical. That's how those devious bastids roll.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How about an experiment, Matty Boy?

Okay, hypothetical question asker, I like a good experiment.

Resolved: Melissa Theuriau is jaw dropping beautiful, right?

Sure. I'm with you so far.

What if it is just her amazing golden eyes that turn strong men's knees to jelly? What if there was a picture where you could not see her eyes? Would she still enchant and bewitch?

Fair questions, hypothetical. Here is the test case.

Experiment completed.

Still breathtakingly gorgeous.

Next question.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Random 10, Friday 11/21

With a Girl Like You The Rutles
Rockin’ Chair Hoagy Carmichael & His Orchestra
Angel from Montgomery Bonnie Raitt
The Needle and the Damage (Live) Neil Young
Under Your Spell Amber Benson
Don’t Let Me Get Me Pink
Fool That I Am Etta James
Prashanti Ravi Shankar & Philip Glass
Hard Time Killing Floor Blues Chris Thomas King
Smut Tom Lehrer

This is another example of hitting to all fields. Quite a wide selection, though everything is from the 20th or 21st Century. Only thing missing is a piece from the album Passages, the great collaboration between Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass.

We start with the parody of the Beatles and end with the vile mocking of everything that is good and decent by my personal hero Tom Lehrer. Did I already mention that he's a mathematician by training? If I haven't before, I am glad to do it now.

I broke one of my "rules" and put in a more recent recording of Hoagy Carmichael playing his tune Rockin' Chair. I chose the shortened version of Chris Thomas King's tune from the scene in O Brother Where Art Thou, with the main actors listening to the song by the fire. Etta James showed up last week, but The You Tubes didn't have that song; it's got this one. I know dguzman will be happy to see the Buffy soundtrack tune in the middle.

Click on a link and enjoy yourself.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Returning to the scene of the crime.

Back in the mid 1980s, Michael Lewis came to Wall Street fresh out of college. He left a few years later, much wealthier but shocked at what he saw. He wrote the book Liar's Poker based on his experiences, and it started him on a new career as a non-fiction writer. He was young and idealistic back then, and he thought Liar's Poker might be the death knell of the excesses he saw in the financial markets. He soon saw the error of his ways, most notably when he got letters from college students who saw his jeremiad as a how to get rich quick self-help book.

Now, nearly twenty years later, Lewis returns to Wall Street to write an article about the new panic. Though the battlefield changed drastically, Lewis sees all the old problems of unchecked greed from every corner and the obliviousness of the people at the top still there, with the people who are doing his old job now armed with financial weapons he could not have dreamed of two decades ago. He gives a great blow by blow account of the collapse of the financial world from the perspective of some bright people who saw the trouble coming and both warned against it and profited from it. They were shorting the financials using clever methods, knowing something bad was coming, not knowing exactly when or how big.

It's a good read, informative and exciting and terrifying, like a well paced thriller about the outbreak of a disease. Unlike bird flu or the flesh eating bacteria, the reader is actually likely to be personally effected by the disaster that is chronicled here, which adds to the article's morbid fascination.

Thanks to my long-time friend and occasional freelance fact checker Ken Rose for supplying me with the link.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday Math, Vol. 48: Error correcting codes

Today's story revolves around Richard Hamming, a pioneer in computer science who was one of the many young geniuses who worked on the Manhattan Project. After the war, he went to work at Bell Labs and stayed there for several decades, until he left to become the head of the computer science department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA in 1976.

While I am considered an O.G.P. (Original Game Programmer), Hamming was an honest to Lenny O.P. (Original Programmer). Programming has always been a tricky business, since you can make typographical errors, which the computer will catch unless you misspell a word and the misspelling is another legal word, or logical errors, which will tell the computer to do something legal, but not the thing you wanted it to do. (To kids who want to program, here's a little tip: "less than" is NOT "less than or equal to". Make that mistake once in a few thousand lines of code and your life can be misery for weeks.)

Hamming had a problem for most of his career I only had to deal with as a college student.

Punch cards.

The problem with punch cards is something most 21st Century people can readily understand through bitter experience. Chads. Hanging chads, pregnant chads, all kinds of damn chads that should have fallen away but didn't, and so the machine that reads them misunderstands you when you didn't really make an error. For example, the letter 'H' turns into the seven bit pattern 100 1000, where 1 is a hole punched in the card and 0 means no hole punched. If one of the chads doesn't fall, the punch card reader will think you typed '@', which reads 100 0000, or possibly the symbol for back space, which is 000 1000.

(Note: while punch cards are a thing of the past, garbled data transmission of ones and zeros is not. Hamming's methods are still in use in some applications.)

Hamming's idea was this. Add extra bits, sometimes called the checksum bits, but only have so many legal patterns, and the legal patterns spaced far enough apart that if there is one mistake at one position, the reader of the code will see that a mistake was made and an illegal code was sent, but every illegal code is exactly one mistake away from a legal code, and the reader will correct the error.

The method uses binary matrix multiplication and null spaces of linear transformations and a lot of other stuff I won't go into detail about, but it is simple enough that it is taught in the first course of linear algebra that I am currently teaching at Berkeley City College. My readers will have to take my word when I say it was a very clever and elegant solution to a very serious problem in early computer science and the general method still has applications today. Hamming even came up with methods that could correct more than a single mistake per code word. His method was robust and could spot when the mistake was an 1 turned into a 0 or vice versa, though in the original application there was no need to worry about a 0 turning into a 1 by mistake, which would be a hole accidentally punched when the typist didn't intend it.

Nice thinking, Dr. Hamming!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Starting an argument at Trader Joe's

At Trader Joe's, like at nearly every other shopping establishment, there are the impulse buy items near the checkout stands. At the Lake Merritt TJ's in Oakland, the single line that feeds into many checkout stands can get long, but it moves quickly most days. The impulse buy area includes some relatively healthy stuff, but as you get closer to the front, it's chocolate, baby, so deal with it! The latest addition is the Chocolate Palette, this attractively bundled selection of eight different chocolate bars from around the world.

Ten bucks for eight chocolate bars.

Have they misjudged their market? Don't get me wrong, TJ's isn't Wal-Mart. It isn't all about the low prices, but low prices are almost always an option. There are $20+ bottles of wine as well as the Two Buck Chuck. You can get a cheap vodka like Burnett's or Vodka of the Gods, but you also have the fancy schmancy Grey Goose and Finlandia and Skyy options for your tasteless, odorless alcohol enjoyment. To be fair, they come in lovely bottles.

So I brought this up in line, and there were several opinions. Some agreed with me that as an impulse buy, the price is too high because it makes you stop and think. Some thought it might be a nice gift or a thoughtful thing to bring to a party. One older woman, when several of us got to jawing about it, picked up the package and seriously gave it consideration. In some ways, I felt as though she was doing it just to show us that she wasn't a cheap ass broke mofo like the rest of us. Maybe I'm a little sensitive about this right now.

In the end, she put it back. "Ten bucks. Too much." she said.

With all the various options for wonderful chocolate at TJ's, some of them almost as much of a bargain in chocolate as Two Dolly Cholly is in wine, would you be tempted?

So who is Peter Schiff and why is he right all the time?

Good questions, hypothetical question asker!

If you never watch Fox News and rarely stay on CNBC when they have a show telling you how to invest, you may have never seen Peter Schiff. I know I hadn't heard of him until a few weeks ago. Peter, not to be confused with fictional district attorney Adam Schiff or actor Richard Schiff, is a financial adviser who is invited on these shows, and for the past few years, when he is on these shows, he is the one gloom and doom guy, while every other guest is talking about how super terrific things are.

Nearly every other guest not only disagrees with Schiff when he says we are heading for a recession and it's going to really bad and last years instead of months and the financial market is to blame, they mock him and laugh at him and treat him like he's a retarded cousin. Art Laffer and Ben Stein are particularly derisive of him on the following clip from The You Tubes. If you guessed by their political persuasion that Schiff must be a liberal because they are Republican hacks, you would be wrong. Schiff is an economic advisor to Ron Paul, and he believes deeply in spending cuts by government.

So if you have ten minutes and find humor in condescending people being 100% wrong, have a few laughs with this. (Note: when Ben Stein said buy Merrill Lynch because it's crazy cheap, it was at about $70 a share. As of this morning, it's under $12. Welcome to the new game show Lose Money with Ben Stein! I wonder if Jimmy Kimmel still has time to emcee.)

If you want to know what the amazing Mr. Predicto Schiff believes is a good investment in 2009, he thinks gold, currently languishing at around $750 an ounce, is going to be at an unprecedented $2000 an ounce sometime next year.

Matty Boy, Investment Advisor to the Stars* likes silver, which plummeted even more severely from its highest highs of 2008 than gold did. Usually the metals climb in tandem and it looks like silver has a greater upside potential. Also, over the past few years, silver outperforms gold for the first few months of the new year, then gold catches up. Buy silver, watch it climb fast for a while, then switch over to gold. Right now, it costs about 80 ounces of silver to buy an ounce of gold, which shows a remarkable lack of value for silver historically. When it climbs back to 60 ounces of silver for an ounce of gold, convert.

*No stars come to Matty Boy for investment advice. He may like silver, but he is currently investing in food and shelter, and he isn't making any cash on either. You are free to take investment advice from Matty Boy, but be advised he is a broke mofo trying to figure out how to cut costs so he can afford the rent come February.

Just sayin'.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's the man on the left, officer!

The one on the left, ma'am? You're sure about that?

And again, you can definitely identify the man on the left as the one you saw fleeing the scene.

And again, it's the man on the left you saw.

I'm sorry, ma'am, but there's nothing we can do. The men you identified? They can't even get arrested in this town.

It's department policy, ma'am. I'd like to help, but my hands are tied.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hey, Matty! Is that a blog buddy list or an ark?

Good question, hypothetical question asker!

I was just looking through my blog buddy list, and while I can't account for every last buddy this way, I can pair up a lot the blogs using the right categories. Lemme 'splain.

Hyper-intelligent political primates: 2
Hyper-talented artistic hairdressers: 2
Super-political Lavender Menaces: 2
Ultra-funny lolz repositories: 2
Extra involved Alaskan lefties: 2
Personal bud ex-Atari programmers: 2
Bloggers married to each other: 2
Bloggers who are cat fanciers: 2
Prose champs who are occasionally mommy bloggers: 2
Church-going Commie bastids: 2

Card carrying members of My People and Our Agenda: 1

1? One? That can't be right. Only one?

I agree, hypothetical, that can't be right, so today I fix that. I'd like all y'all to meet Undersquid, loyal reader and commenter here at Lotsa 'Splainin', who is also a member of My People and Our Agenda. Agenda is technically a plural, like media, so My People actually all have their own particular agendum. Undersquid, has a couple distinctive twists to the already twisty interest My People share.

Undersquid is a she. Not unique among My People, but relatively rare.

Undersquid does not care for giant women. She much prefers shrunken men.

This shows a great deal of practicality for a people known for their unpractical obsession. Where are giant women going to live? How will they eat? Where will they shop for clothes? All these concerns vanish if we have shrunken men instead of giant women, except maybe for the clothes question. But if you get a particularly hunky homunculus and he is the beloved pet and sex toy of one particularly pretty regular sized woman, who says he has to have a wardrobe at all? He can just walk around naked all day for all his owner cares.

And in the fantasy world of the Undersquid, she actually cares a lot.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How can we miss you when you won't go away?

For the record, I would like to say I made this lolz of Sarah Palin within 24 hours of her introduction to a breathless world.

Just as I am not the only person to consider Bush the Lesser to be the worst president in living memory, a consensus is growing that John McCain ran the worst presidential campaign since the invention of the TV, its myriad faults made obvious not just by the TV but also by those new fangled Internets. McCain's people derided Obama as a celebrity and inexperienced, but somehow they convinced themselves that those were in fact his strong points, and went out and put someone in the second slot who would be much more of a celebrity and much less experienced.

They didn't lose in spite of Palin. They lost because of Palin. She was great for 24 hours. She was strong for a week. But the tide turned, and she turned out to be the siren who lured the Republicans to the rocks.

Some of the idiots on board think they've landed in Tahiti and want to stay. Best of luck to them.

She's had a passel of interviews since the election, and the Republican governors had their meeting so she was in the public eye yet again, but as the votes get tallied, it looks likely that Mark Begich will beat the felon Ted Stevens for senator, and the only chance Sarah Palin has to get out of Seward's Icebox, which would be to run for senator and win, is quickly slipping away.

A lot of people look at the losing V.P. candidates and call her career dead on arrival, but Barry Goldwater's running mate William Miller is not the only template. The loser in 1968 was Edmund Muskie, and he still had a career. In 1972, it's Thomas Eagleton and Sargent Shriver, who faded away. In 1976, it's Bob Dole. Mondale lost in 1980, and was the losing standard bearer in 1984. Geraldine Ferraro did become a trivia answer. 1988's losing V.P. candidate Lloyd Bentsen never gained traction. Quayle in 1992 is a post script now. Likewise Jack Kemp in 1996, who may be the most competent Republican on this list. We wish the 2000 loser Joe Lieberman was a nobody, but sadly he's not. John Edwards' career was finished by his penis, not by his association with John Kerry.

Being a losing V.P. candidate who was never V.P. isn't complete death, but without a senate seat, it's pretty damn miserable.

So Sarah Palin may be in the mix in 2012. As a Democrat, I hope she's the standard bearer, though I highly doubt it. I don't think she'll get through a long primary fight, what with her knocked up daughter and traitor husband and socialist check writing policies in Alaska and her general rock f*#king stupidity. Some of the losers in the Republican party think they just have to double down on the hate, but the middle of the spectrum isn't with them anymore. Of course that can change in four years, but they better realize that Barack Obama is a better politician than Bill Clinton, and Clinton kicked their asses twice. If I were comparing politicians to baseball players, I'd say Clinton is at the level of Pete Rose or Mike Schmidt, and Obama is somewhere at the level of Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. A party in disarray doesn't stand a chance against this guy.

Speaking of disarray, let's talk Joe the Plumber, shall we? I love this picture from the New York Times, because it's at just the right distance and we have a dog in the frame sniffing the long lens camera. Imagine the dog's disappointment at not smelling the hoped for smells.

This guy thinks he's going to cash in on the circus, but he's more likely being left just to clean up after the elephant. As reported at Princess Sparkle Pony's wonderful blog, his book will be published by Pearlgate Publishing, a vanity press that has published one book, the author of said book acting as Joe's ghost writer. The book will be released on December 1, as in two weeks from next Monday.

Just in time for the holidays! It's the perfect stocking stuffer/gag gift, especially if you have already given the lonely wingnut single male relative on your list an inflatable sheep last Christmas.

These people may be with us for some time to come, but for my money, they seem a lot more like Andrew Ridgeley than they do like George Michael.

Just sayin'.

Coming soon to a theater near you...

Or as nerds will like to call it...

Gort and Klaatu's Excellent Adventure.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Here's a job I could do.

Historical consultant for the new ABC TV show Life on Mars. Because whoever is in charge knows nothing about 1973.

I watched the first episode, where the guy on the right of the picture gets a bump on the head and is transported from 2008 to 1973. I didn't like it much and made no plans to watch any more, but I tuned in last night's episode because of ads saying "This is the episode to watch to get hooked."

I watched it. I'm not hooked. My first impression was right, it sucks.

Here's a problem. Harvey Keitel. Obviously a very good actor, but miscast because of his age. He's supposed to be a hard ass lieutenant who likes to beat people up. At his age, he should be a hard ass captain who likes to beat people up. He's too old to be a lieutenant.

Remember when he was in Bad Lieutenant? That's sixteen years ago. He shouldn't be a lieutenant anymore.

Moreover, an old school, beat 'em up cop in 1973 would have his hair trimmed much shorter. He wouldn't put up with any hippy crap.

They are trying, with limited success, to make the guy from the future "talk funny", but a lot of this falls flat because the writers don't know the language well enough. The new guy says "think outside of the box", and this confuses people. That was a good one. But Keitel, who is supposed to be from the era, uses the modern construction "they got their ____ on". Bad work.

Also bad work. Guy from the future calls the other cops "tools", and this confuses the police woman, played by Gretchen Mol. I first heard the phrase "tool", synonymous with "dick", in the Firesign Theater routine Nick Danger, Third Eye recorded in the late sixties. The police woman went to college. She would have heard it, probably when some guy offered her some pot in an attempt to get laid.

The tool.

I really like the period drama Mad Men. The writers work hard at keeping it historically accurate. The people making Life on Mars are trying, but their work is second rate. It's too bad, because the cast, including Keitel, Mol and Michael Imperioli, is very good. All the good actors in the world can't save you when the writing sucks.

Getting this stuff right isn't that hard. Just one fiftysomething guy who pays attention could keep them from tripping up so much.

I'm available if you need me.

Random 10, Friday 11/15

You’ve Changed Etta James
My Old Man Ian Dury
Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd Len Cariou and cast
Success Iggy Pop
Glamour Boys Living Colour
Big Tears Elvis Costello & the Atttractions
El Cuarto de Tula Buena Vista Social Club
Clint Eastwood Gorillaz
Hold on I’m Coming Sam & Dave
Easter Oratorio, Sinfonia #1 in D (J.S. Bach) Ludwig G├╝ttler, Max Pommer and the Neues Bachishes Collegium Musicum

You never know what songs will be available on the You Tubes. Etta James and Elvis Costello are far from obscure, but their songs on the list this week are not available. Classical music on the You Tubes is a little spotty, so not having one particular Bach composition is disappointing but not surprising.

I like the Ian Dury song a lot, with its combination of sentimentality and matter of fact recital of the particulars of his dad's life.

The recording of Sweeney Todd is an unauthorized videotaping from an audience member.

I'm always taken with the cheerful smile on Iggy Pop's face from the album cover for Lust for Life, where the song Success is taken from. He went through a lot and it is gratifying to see he made it through somehow.

Living Colour billed themselves as black heavy metal, but they were pretty funky.

Sam & Dave play their big hit live, with the Stax house band, Booker T and the MGs behind them, featuring the horn section of the Bar-Kays. Yes, that is Duck Dunn and Steve Cropper in the background behind Sam & Dave.

But I'm going to give the featured spot on the Random 10 to Gorillaz, the virtual band from earlier this century whose biggest hit was this song, Clint Eastwood. All the bands' videos are cartoons, and the band members Russel, Noodle, 2D and Murdoc are featured both playing the song and getting involved in an adventure fighting zombie gorillas who steal dance moves from Michael Jackson's Thriller. It has to be watched to be believed. The rapper featured in the song is Oakland's own Del tha Funkee Homosapien, which is still my favorite name in rap music.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

They are called lolz cats...

Because sometimes you Laugh Out Loud.

Or at least I did.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday Math, Vol. 47: Fractals

Benoit Mandlebrot, a mathematically trained computer programmer who worked at IBM, is considered the father of fractals. His pioneering work The Fractal Geometry of Nature was met with skepticism and outright hostility in the mathematical field. It was more like a picture book than a math text, and exactly what he meant by the word fractal was vague. Vague definitions flew in the face of everything that had been done in math in the 20th Century, and the applications of the processes were also vague, and when not vague, trivial.

My dear friend Mina Millett hated fractals. She suffered from migraines and she said that a fractal was what a migraine looked like. When someone asks me what fractals are, my standard answer is they are the mathematical proof of the existence of paisley.

Snarkiness aside, the definition of fractal processes has been made more precise over time. The important idea in fractals is self-similarity. The major method for the creation of fractals is the iterative process.

The two patterns shown here are simply created fractals. At the top, we take a triangle, cut it into four triangles and remove the middle one. We now have three triangles, so we cut each of them into four parts and remove the middle again. Continue the process over and over. This shape is known as Sierpinski's Gasket, and it has a connection to the much older mathematical object known as Pascal's Triangle.

The second series of squares from a checkerboard pattern is also created by removing shapes from an original pattern, and continuing the process with the smaller shapes that look like the original shape. It was discovered about twenty years ago nearly by accident that an antenna using this shape is extremely effective while covering a small space, and such fractal antennas are the standard in cellphones today.

The idea of self similarity is that an object when magnified looks something like the entire object. In nature, a craggy rock looks something like a mountain, and the branching pattern in a tree or in blood vessels has a similar pattern whether at the smallest branches or the largest.

Jonathan Miller in his book The Body in Question noted the importance of metaphor in medicine, his particular field, and in scientific inquiry in general. Ancient civilizations had no idea what the heart did, for example, and considered it a drum in a person's chest. Until the invention of the pump, there could be no useful metaphor describing the heart's function.

The invention of the computer both opened up what was possible for people to compute and the idea that complex things could be created using a simple set of instructions repeated ad infinitum at both the small and the large scales. When a little randomness was thrown into these processes, things that looked "natural" instead of "mechanical" started to appear. This opened up scientific inquiry into how things are made in nature, that the processes used by a computer to create a fractal that looks like a craggy rock or a leaf on a tree might give us insight into how nature creates craggy rocks and leaves on trees.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

They Wouldn't Believe Me™, Vol. 7: the 2008 election edition

It's been a while, but I think it's time for another edition of They Wouldn't Believe Me™, this one based on the presidential election of 2008. For those of you unclear of the premise, I imagine myself sending a message back 40 years ago to throng of people sitting around a speaker in rapt attention, waiting to be astounded by stories from the not so distant future.

I'm sure everyone in my 2008 audience can guess the first astounding fact from today that will amaze the people in the past.

1. In 2008, the Republicans will nominate a war hero from the Vietnam era as their presidential candidate. The Democrats will nominate a young man whose father was born in Kenya and whose mother was born in Kansas. The Democrat will win.

2. During the campaign, officials from the Republican Party will call the young man a socialist, a Marxist, a terrorist and a baby killer. He will win with more than 370 electoral votes, over a two to one margin over the war hero.

3. As gas prices climb to over $4.00 a gallon in much of the country and foreclosures grow at an alarming rate, the main economic adviser of the Republican war hero says the recession is merely mental and that America has become "a nation of whiners".

4. The Republicans will nominate a young woman as vice president, a small town mayor from Alaska who briefly holds the governorship. Included in her resume is a runner-up finish as Miss Alaska and graduation from college after attending six schools in five years. Within two months of her introduction on the national stage, her negative polling numbers will far outstrip her positive numbers, and spark many open defections from the Republican ranks.

5. During a televised debate, the war hero Republican will mention a plumber, and this plumber will be followed by the media as though he were an actual candidate or spokesperson for the campaign. He is put forward as a symbol of the unfairness of the Democrat's tax policy, though it will turn out the plumber would actually get a tax cut under the Democrat's plan, and the plumber had several outstanding tax liens against him.

6. A right-wing reporter asks the plumber at one of his "press conferences" if the election of the young black man will spell the death of Israel. The plumber says yes and the reporter is happy to hear the answer.

7. Virginia will be a hotly contested state in the election. The Republicans claim that they will get support in "the real Virginia", leading people to ask where the unreal or imaginary Virginia might be. The young black man will win Virginia, and what's more, he will strongly out poll the Republican war hero in Richmond, the cradle of the Confederacy.

8. While one of the worst economic crises in many generations looms, many days will be spent debating why lipstick on pit bulls is good, while lipstick on pigs is bad.

9. Seriously. Lipstick, pigs and pit bulls.

10. On the day after the election, right wing commentators on the radio will start blaming the recession in progress on the president elect, completely absolving the right wing president who was in office when the announcement of the financial panic took place.

Any amazing facts my readers want to share with people from the last century?

Busy blogging at other places

I spent some time this morning on two other blogs, and if you want to read what I wrote, let me provide some links.

Last week over at Unified Football Theory, I predicted 9 outcomes of point spreads, and I got 6 right and 3 wrong, which is good but not great. (It is profitable, which is something some gamblers like, but no pressure.)

This week, I predicted 11 outcomes and went 8-3, which obviously better. Also, being at 14-6 after 20 games is very, very good, about in the top 4%. My goal is usually to be in the top 1%, so I feel there's room for improvement, but I'm not complaining too loudly.

If you like football and have been known to put a dollar or two down on the outcome of a game, you should check out my picks, published every Thursday for the rest of the season.

Some regular readers might remember that our favorite troll no_slappz predicted that John McCain was obviously a lock to win the presidency, and made a wager with me back in June. My reward if Obama won was that I got to be guest blogger on his blog for a week, but seriously, nobody reads his stuff. About a thousand hits in 13 months. If there were tumbleweeds on the Internets, you would probably be hit by one if you wandered around no_slappz' blog long enough.

If you want to read my stuff on no_slappz' blog without being inflicted with his writing, click on the link provided.

I should have time later today for a post here at Lotsa 'Splainin' 2 Do, your main source for Matty Boy blogging.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Meet our new presidential press secretary

Barack Obama has named Robert Gibbs as his press secretary.

He's not as mean a dog as Rahm Emmanuel, but he's not going to take much guff from the pinheads on the right.

A few weeks back, he was being interviewed by Sean Hannity, and turned the old "guilt by association" trick back at Hannity for the booking of the anti-Semite Andy Martin on Hannity's America.

Here's the YouTube clip. Also, if you have a strong enough stomach to watch this, you will understand why Al Franken calls the show this is taken from Hannity and Colmes.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

cute overload interlude

Opinions are split on the lolz. Some love them, some don't.

I think dguzman might enjoy this one, but no pressure.

It's not a serious rift in the community, like it was when CDP declared her love of Necco wafers. Still, I want to respect all my readers' opinions on this matter.

At the end of the day, it is my blog, and I get to decide what goes on it.