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.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The sound of one saber rattling.

Turkey is currently invading Iraq. This isn't some "Oh, no were not" invasion. Ask them and they will tell you. Those are Turkish troops on non-Turkish soil.

If this were Israel invading Lebanon, the international community would be up in arms. For this, not so much. For some reason, the international community has it in their heads that what happens in Iraq is none of their concern and it's the Americans job to clean up any mess that occurs there. I wonder how they got that idea?

So it's up to our new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, seen here swearing allegiance to his boss while some chowderhead in a bright blue tie acts as a useless appendage, to deliver the message to the Turks that we aren't happy. It went something like this.

Dear Turks:

Don't invade Iraq. Didn't you get the memo? That's our job and we aren't done yet.

Could you give us a time table as to when you'll be done? 'Cause the guys you're killing are kind of our only reliable pals in Iraq and it makes us look bad that we aren't stopping you.

Best to the wife and kids,
Bob

The Turks, skilled in the language of diplomacy, have fashioned this reply.

Dear pizza faced midget,

We'll get out when we damn well feel like it. Didn't you get the memo? Time tables embolden terrorists, and that what your only reliable pals in Iraq are. We've got the dead bodies to prove it if you'd like to see them.

Love and kisses,
The Turks

Isn't it great when people use diplomacy to solve problems?

And since it's Friday, it's time for a Random 10.

Ask Me Why The Beatles
Some Are Phillip Glass
Mansize Rooster Supergrass
Wild is the Wind Nina Simone
Spooky Girlfriend Elvis Costello
Tempted Squeeze
Sleep, Forever Madder Rose
Little Wonder David Bowie
Pollution Tom Lehrer
Caravan Van Morrison

We get a double dose of the One True Living Elvis, since he produced the biggest hit Squeeze ever had, and we get a double dose of David Bowie, since the Phillip Glass song is from the Low Symphony, variations on themes written by Brian Eno and David Bowie. Supergrass and Madder Rose are the closest thing to obscure, both good bands from the 1990s. How do I know about them? Padre Mickey turned me on to both those albums. He's a pal like that.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What does a monkey with a clean bill of health do?

He cavorts.

He galavants.

He canoodles.

Dr. Monkerstein has been quoted as saying Ms. Varma is "a really sweet kid" and they had "a lot of laughs" on the project where they worked together.

Imdb.com lists no films or TV shows where Dr. Monkerstein and Ms. Varma worked together.

Oh, shameless monkey!

Still we bloggers who know him are happy to have him back, ready to go and full of piss and vinegar.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No math this Wednesday, just numbers.

Yesterday, the inflation numbers for the U.S. were released, and they weren't good. The commodities I keep track of, gold, silver and crude oil, all jumped in price. So did all the major foreign currencies with respect to the dollar. The USD, an index which tracks the dollar, shrunk under 75 for the first time.

Also for the first time, a Euro now costs $1.50. I've shown this by putting pictures of the two coins side by side with the area of the Euro 50% larger than the dollar coin. Poor old George Washington deserves better, and so do we.

Sadly, the living George W. doesn't deserve better, and we are getting what he deserves. He has presided over a laissez faire screwing of everybody but the absolutely richest people in the country, and even the richest Americans are finding that their billions of dollars have lost a lot of lustre in the last seven years.

Years ago, Bob Dole spoke of "Democrat wars", that most of the wars we got stuck in were during Democratic administrations. He was right when he said it, as far as that went. In a similar fashion, we are now experiencing a "Republican recession", since most of the economic downturns of the past 100 years have begun in Republican administrations. We need a lot of things to change in our economy for us to pull out of this. It's not all government's fault. We are spending a lot more than we take in right now, both at the federal level and at the personal level. Way too much of that spending has been on George W. Bush's favorite toys, the wars without end in Afghanistan and Iraq. John McCain has made it clear he sees no way out. We have to elect a president who isn't tied to these disasters and doesn't want them to continue. Someone who can get this country back on the right track.

You know. Before a Euro costs $2.00.



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Now playing: Marvin Gaye - Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Howz 'bout a nice steaming cup?

Of Shut the Frack Up!


The Huffington Post this featured an article from some outfit calling themselves Tango Magazine about how bad it is to be a short man in love.

Really?

Look, being a man in love isn't a picnic sometimes. But some short guys do just fine.

Going from being a big time movie star to a person most of the public finds creepy as hell, THAT sucks. But bedding Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes and being the father of a cute kid... that doesn't suck.

You know what sucks? Being so bad at being in love that you read Tango Magazine for clues. That, my friends, sucks BIG TIME.

Just sayin'.


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Now playing: The Beatles - I Saw Her Standing There
via FoxyTunes

Monday, February 25, 2008

Boycott GM.

Whatever GM might say in its commercials, the real position of the company is made abundantly clear by the statements of the vice chair Bob Lutz, who recently defended his statement that climate change is "a total crock of shit". This is understandable from him, much in the same way the positions of tobacco executives about the relationship between their products and disease are understandable.

They can be understood as denial of responsibility for the actions of the companies that have made these guys rich.

The science is in. Climate change is real. How much of it can be traced to human action is debatable, but no serious person in the discussion says human action is responsible for 0% of the problem. Anyone who can claim the title of scientist who says anything approaching this is very likely in the pay of the automotive or petroleum industry, just as the "scientists" who denied the smoking/cancer link after the early 60s were all in the pay of the tobacco industry. It's the same tactic; only the issue has changed.

Not every denier of climate change is in the pay of the oil or car industry. Some are just morons with microphones, a depressingly large population in the United States. There's no science in these guys; they wouldn't know the red shift from a bit shift. Some, like Joe Scarborough, are knee-jerk reactionaries. When they hear someone they perceive as a "liberal" say x, it is their first reaction to say "not x!" as loud as they can. Some are like this from birth, or at least from early childhood, due to both genetic and family environmental factors. Others, like Dennis Miller, have become reactionary largely due to fear. September 11 fried Mr. Miller's brain to the size and usefulness of a cinder. He is Bin Laden's fondest wish come true. Terror has turned him into a turd.

Simply put, we are the species that burns the world to keep warm. Whether we burn wood or coal or petroleum products, we produce pollution whose effects stretch beyond our local regions. Not everything we do makes the world warmer. September 11 provided a three day experiment as to the effects of contrails, the proto-clouds caused by jet exhaust under the right circumstances. Without air traffic for several days, the contrails disappeared over the continental United States, and temperatures showed a warming trend not seen in Canada or Mexico over those days, where air traffic was still taking place.

But the many directions of human effects on the environment should in no way let GM off the hook. As is clear from the statements of Bob Lutz and their bullshit ads making Hummer drivers look socially aware or the hot rich chicks driving grotesquely oversized Cadillacs, all they want is your money, and they don't give a crap what happens to the environment when you use their products. It's time for people who believe in the environment as a major issue of our lifetimes to spend their money elsewhere, and help pry GM's greedy hands off the wheel of leadership in their industry.



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Now playing: Elvis Costello & The Attractions - 5ive Gears In Reverse
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Everyone's entitled to their opinion...

but you are extra entitled to agree with me when I am obviously right.

What Jon Stewart did for Markéta Irglová tonight at the Oscars makes him the Best. Oscars. Host.

Evah!

He could have chided the people who didn't let her speak the first time, but all he did was bring her back on stage and let her have her say.

She deserved it. If you saw Once, you know that though Glen Hansard is the first focus, the story is nothing without her. She's a wonderful musician and songwriter. They chose the right song to be nominated from the movie, and given that three bad songs from Enchanted were splitting the "we vote for crap" vote, the song was pretty much a shoo-in to win.

The best choice for Best Song is often overlooked. But this time the right one won, and both the people responsible got their say.

Good on ya, Jon. You are one heckuva menschy little Jew, and I say that with love.

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Now playing: Various Artists - Falling Slowly
via FoxyTunes

New Blog Buddy


I have made clear my devotion to the website I Can Has Cheezburger, one of the great sites on for lolzcats and other lolz critters. I present this one both because it made me laugh and as a shout out to blog buddy dguzman of Beginning to Bird and Impeachment and Other Dreams fame.


Cheezburger is heavily weighted towards cat lolz, but as we see in these two pictures, are willing to have lolz of other species as well. I put this one up because it made me laugh and as a tribute to Miss Egyptian Hippo of Love over at Padre Mickey's Dance Party, another of my blog buddies as well as a face-to-face pal for over twenty five years.


One species is woefully under-represented on Cheezburger, and that is dogs. They show up rarely, and almost always as a supporting character to a cat. That is because the makers of Cheezburger have a companion site I Has A Hot Dog, devoted entirely to the canines and canine lolz. Foolish me, I was unaware of this terrific site until this week, and now I add them to my blog buddy list gladly so the dog lovers amongst us can laugh at silly captions on dog pictures as well as cat pictures.

Enjoy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Your Hollywood minute.

A movie now in production will tell the story of Chess Records, the great R&B label of the late 50s and early 60s. The story will give particular attention to Etta James, a singer I love a lot, whose songs are proudly saved on my computer and who I have seen live in concert back in the 1990s.

Singer/Actress (emphasis on the singer) Beyonce Knowles will be playing Etta James. Notice the resemblance? Me neither. Their voices aren't much alike, either.

Playing legendary blues guitarist Muddy Waters will be the lovely and talented Jeffrey Wright. Notice the resemblance? Me neither. The importance difference here is that I know Jeffrey Wright is a good enough actor to pull this off. Ms. Knowles, while probably the sweetest piece of eye candy in pop music today, hasn't shown that much talent on the acting side.

Hooray for Hollywood.

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Now playing: Etta James - I'd Rather Go Blind
via FoxyTunes

Friday, February 22, 2008

I read the news today, oy vey.

So the big damn deal news is that John McCain was spending too much time with a female lobbyist. People's minds being what they are, too much time = dirty illicit sex. He denies it. His wife goes on stage with him and denies it.

We all know how important the appearance of the wife on stage with you is. Ask Larry Craig.

Here's the thing.

I. Don't. Care.

The metaphorical truth that McCain is in bed with lobbyists is much more damaging than the alleged literal possibility that he is in bed with a particular lobbyist. But I can't possibly vote for McCain for a reason that isn't news anymore.

He says it's okay if we are in Iraq for fifty years. Or one hundred years. He says we will be fighting more wars.

Thanks for playing. Here's your fabulous parting gift. I will vote for your opponent and work as hard as I can to get that person elected. You can't be our next president, and if you are, I will make a serious effort to emigrate.

The news about Obama is plagiarism. Again, I don't much care. I don't want to come off as pro-plagiarism any more than I want to come off as pro-adultery. I put up the Obama sign on my blog not as a born again lover of the man, but as someone who really thinks the black guy has a better chance of being president than the white woman.

There's a sentence that I should save for a They Wouldn't Believe Me post.

I'm not a Hillary hater, but I worry about how many there are. Also, she talks about forcing people to pay for health insurance. I have a real problem with this, as I will make clearer in the next few weeks.

We know the print, TV and Internet news media need to fill up space and time every day, but just because they get their teeth into the pant leg of a story and won't let go, it doesn't mean that story is really important to people or our republic. For me, after the war and the economy, I have two major questions.

Does the government have the right to torture prisoners?

Does the government have the right to spy on citizens without a warrant?

I want the candidate who answers an emphatic "NO!" to both those questions, and even when the people who did these things are out of office, I want the full weight of the law to hit them, just so no future president/vice president/attorney general/secretary of defense thinks they can get away with this shit without facing serious consequences.

And I mean "Empty your pockets and give us your belt and shoelaces" serious.

~~~

And since it's a Friday, we end with a Random 10.

Girls Talk Elvis Costello & the Attractions
Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy Mose Allison
Caught by the Fuzz Supergrass
The Hallelujah Chorus The Roches
James K. Polk They Might Be Giants
Dust My Broom Elmore James
What’s Her Name Today? Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach
Crazy Little Thing Called Love Queen
Thunderball Tom Jones
Son Tutta Duolo (A. Scarlatti) Cecilia Bartoli

And random is right. A double dose of Elvis C., never a bad thing. Elmore James' signature tune, Queen singing the best Elvis Presley song Elvis never sang, an embarrassing selection from Tom Jones followed by a not at all embarrassing finale from Cecilia Bartoli, who while not a giantess, has a look I like. I choose as the signature song Mose Allison at his most cynical, which contains the line that catches the current political situation too well.

Everybody's cryin' Peace On Earth,
Just as soon as we win this war.



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Now playing: Mose Allison - Everybody's Cryin' Mercy
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Good, The Bad, The Cute Overload: a quick review

I came up with the idea of three types of lolz, the good, the bad, and the cute overload last year, but as a teacher, I know that reviewing a concept always helps keep an idea in mind. A good lolz, by my definition, catches a critter behaving in a completely critter like fashion and puts often misspelled words in his or her mouth to comic effect.

The bad lolz dresses up critters, or puts them in un-critter like situations. Since I call them bad lolz, I must have some objection to them, and I do. But sometimes comedy isn't pretty. This one made me laugh, so I present it here.

And then there's the cute overload. Critters are generally cute, but sometimes a pose can push the cute into the red zone, and just the right caption means the cute overwhelms everything else, so the impulse to laugh strains mightily with the impulse to make baby noises and say "Awww... IZ SO CUUUUUUTE!"

As the hazzing of a doodle is wont to do.

Enjoy. And if you do enjoy, you might want to visit the place where I do all my lolz shopping.



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Now playing: Rufus Thomas - Somebody Stole My Dog
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wednesday Math, Vol. 16: John Tukey


Last week when I was thinking about publishing my post on obsolete math, I considered putting in the ideas of John Tukey, a mathematician and statistician who did a lot of his best work in the 1960s. I decided not to, because I didn't want to show disrespect to a guy who was a lot better at this stuff than I am. So let me list some of the ideas he is still remembered for.

A not at all obsolete idea of John Tukey: Tukey is given credit for a data compaction idea called the Fast Fourier Transform, or FFT for short. This is huge; a list of the top ten algorithms of the 20th Century included this, as well it should. Quite simply, without data compression, the Internet wouldn't work, and the FFT is a central concept in data compression. Good on ya, Tukey!

A knack for names: Not every good mathematician is good at naming things, but two words Tukey coined are now in everyday usage.

He came up with the word "software" to signify the instructions that a computer uses, different from the actual wires and circuits, which was already called hardware.

There is also the idea of a binary digits. In base 10 math, there are ten symbols for numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. In base 2 math, or binary, there are two symbols: 0 and 1. Back in the beginning of computer science, someone wanted to shorten "binary digit" to binit, pronounced either bin-it or bine-it. Tukey thought bit sounded better, and there wouldn't be any confusion about pronunciation. He was right, of course.

Two ideas of Tukey's from data representation: I present two of Tukey's inventions that still get taught a lot, but not used that much. Both deal with ways to represent lists of numbers. Here are two lists of numbers, the numbers of wins by teams in the NBA as of a week ago Monday, split up into the East and the West, fifteen teams each.

West: 36, 34, 34, 33, 33, 32, 31, 30, 30, 28, 23, 16, 13, 13, 10
East: 39, 37, 32, 28, 27, 24, 23, 21, 21, 21, 20, 19, 18, 15, 9

Idea #1: Stem and leaf plot: The idea of the stem and leaf plot is to write the same data using less writing, and also to give some idea of where the data falls. What we do is clump all the numbers from 39 to 30 together, all the numbers from 29 to 20 together, etc. The tens digit they share in common is the stem, and it is written first, followed by a separator, for which I use the | symbol. We then write a list of the ones digits, here listed from low to high. Here is the data from above re-written in stem and leaf form.

West:
3|001233446
2|38
1|0336
East:
3|279
2|01113478
1|589
0|9

Notice among the leaves in the first stem in the West data, there are two 0s, two 3s and two 4s. This is because 30, 33 and 34 show up on the list twice each.

The other thing we see from this listing is that a large clump of the data in the West list is in the 30s, while the largest clump of data in the East list is in the 20s. What this shows is that the West has more successful teams than the East does, though the east has the top team with the most wins at 39, as of a week ago Monday.

Idea #2: The Five Number Summary and the box and whiskers plot: The Five number Summary of the data was a labor saving way to show how the data was spread out. The numbers are High, Q3, Q2, Q1 and Low. Once the data is put in order, the median (the middle value) is Q2. This splits the list into the high half and the low half. The median of the high half is Q3 and the median of the low is Q1. The most used method of finding out about data spread in statistics is standard deviation, and back in the 1960s before calculators and spreadsheets were readily available, standard deviation was incredibly labor intensive, even for lists of numbers as small as the ones here. Here are the five number summaries, West first and East second.

Hi: 36 39
Q3: 33 28
Q2: 30 21
Q1: 16 19
Lo: 10 9


Tukey took these five numbers and turned them into a box and whiskers plot, a visual representation of the five numbers. The outside edges "box" are where the Q1 and Q3 numbers fall, and the dotted line is Q2. The whiskers extend out to the high and low numbers. The longer whiskers in the East show that the East contains both the best team around and the worst team around, and the fact that the rightmost side of the West box and the dotted line of the West box and both to the right of the East box shows that the average team in the West is doing much better than the average team in the East.

Both stem-and-leaf and box-and-whiskers are still taught in math classes, and a Texas Instruments TI-83 calculator or better will give you the five number summary. Many spreadsheets have box-and-whisker options for data representation, but if you look up these topics on Google, you will find a lot more websites that teach these ideas than one that actually use them to represent data.



One place where an idea which branched off from box-and-whiskers shows up is weekly financial charts. The scale is now up and down instead of left and right, but a week is represented by a dot and whiskers. The whiskers represent the highest and lowest values of the index that week, and the dot is the closing value. If you just connect the dots, you can follow the closing values, but the whiskers give an idea of how volatile the prices were in a particular week. In this chart for example, we can see the prices staying the same for most of the early part of 2006, steadily rising in the second half of 2006, making a big jump early in 2007 with volatility growing slightly, then much greater volatility in late 2007, along with the market peaking and then losing value.

You can't blame Tukey for what's happening to the market, him being dead and all. But he is the originator of this better way to represent the data. Good on ya, Tukey!


Yay, Flags of many Lands! Yay, Cambodia!
The total number of visiting countries is now 121, which is 11x11, for you fans of perfect squares.


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Now playing: Blondie - Picture This
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Milestone day.

Today is my 400th post. Yesterday, visitor 27,000 showed up, somebody from the Polaroid company checking in on what was said about the discontinuation of instant film. But another number is much more important today. It's my mom's birthday. After a certain age, it's not polite to mention the exact age of a woman, so let me just say this.

Spirit. Trombones.

If you get my drift.

In honor of my mom's birthday, I am publishing some family photos my brother Michael sent to me. Here is my father as a young and carefree man before the burdens of paternity have set in.

Run, man! Run for your life!


I kid. Being the dad of this brood wasn't all bad, as this quiet moment between my mom and dad will attest.


Here is my brother Michael, the sharer of this treasure trove of nostalgia, looking nothing at all like Alfred E. Neuman. His eyes are straight and his hair's not red and his ears aren't anywhere near as sticky out as the Mad Magazine icon, so there.


See? Give him a better haircut and a nice snack to eat, and he's a good looking guy. Here he is with my sister Kimberly. If the photos in our albums are to be trusted, the Hubbard family spent almost no time at all indoors.


That's Kim again in the background, and Karla, regular commenter here at Lotsa 'Splainin', in the foreground. Since this picture is in color and there's an American flag and the ice cream making machine is out, I am going to assume this special shot is from a Fourth of July celebration. When I was a kid, I thought this was a national holiday celebrating my Grandma Hubbard's birthday.

Here's the baby of the family Jennifer, not completely certain that this whole "family snapshot" craze is really going to be so popular a few years from now.


And since it's my blog, the last picture is of me. Karla sent this picture to me with the caption "Heil Matthew!", but for the record, I think I look more like Moe Howard in that haircut than Adolph Hitler. Moreover, there is no recorded evidence that Hitler ever wore paisley, so there!

And all this family silliness is my way of saying happy birthday to my mom, the person most responsible for this mob.



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Now playing: Young Fresh Fellows - Picture Book
via FoxyTunes



Monday, February 18, 2008

Venture Brothers Season 2... now available on Netflix

The second season of The Venture Brothers, one of my favorite shows currently on TV, though the third season is not quite in view yet, is now available on DVD, which means you can rent it on Netflix.

You haven't seen the first season? Okay, first things first. It's available on Netflix, too.

This picture is from the climatic scene from Twenty Years to Midnight. From left to right, starting with the little guy, we have Jonas Venture Jr., Brock Sampson, Doc Venture, Sally Impossible holding her son Rockit, mentally challenged New York Jets fan Ned (is that redundant?), Dean Venture, the former pirate captain and Hank Venture. Seem like a lot of characters to keep track of? This isn't half of it.

The show is kind of a parody of Jonny Quest, but that really doesn't do it justice. The writers Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick both have close ties to the 90's classic The Tick, and the creator of that show Ben Edlund still kicks in an idea or two occasionally. In the same way that The Tick was a study of the super hero genre, The Venture Brothers is an exploration of super-villainy and the exciting career world of being henchmen. And there's lots of great references to the music of the past 40 years or so.

If I have a quibble, it's that the commentary tracks are intentionally weak. TV writers, especially TV comedy writers, are among the bitterest people on the planet, and Hammer and Publick are no exceptions. Sometimes, when writers become producers, their attitudes get a little better, but not so with these guys. While their ideas actually make it to TV, the most powerful medium on the planet today, the psychological cost is very high. The largest part of that cost is dealing with the people from the network, who in the case of Adult Swim are not only meddlesome, as all networks are, but also stunningly cheap. Hammer and Publick take this out on the viewing public by yammering pointlessly on the commentary track for the most part.

As much as I love the show, and I love the show a lot, I'd like to tell these guys that the people who choose to listen to your commentary aren't the enemy. We are actually your fans, not the people paying you peanuts and screwing with your artistic vision.

Just sayin'. And Go Team Venture!


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Now playing: The Band - When I Paint My Masterpiece
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Yo, goose! This ain't Canada! Move it along.

The East Bay of San Francisco is blessed with some of the mildest weather on the planet. What we call winter much of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere calls spring. Once the winter storms are over, which often happens as it did this year in February, we can get weeks of early spring, like we are getting now. The sun is out, the temperature is in the mid to upper 60's, there is very little breeze. In the next few months, the days will get longer and warmer, there will start being a breeze in the late afternoon.

In other neighborhoods I've lived in, I would call this hummingbird weather, the first time I would see the ruby throats out and about. Near Lake Merritt, the most noticeable difference in the local bird population is the Canada Goose. In any little stretch of open space, besides our local urban scavengers the gulls and pigeons, there are now a few Canada Geese hanging out. If these geese think of humans as hunters, you wouldn't know it from how they act when they are in Oakland. They don't show a lot of fear of humans. In fact, some of them have serious attitudes and noisily make sure their territory isn't being encroached. The thing is, it isn't their territory for long. Brassy honkers who chase folks off the lawn one day are no where to be seen the next, because this is just a stopover on their trip north for spring. They are called Canada Geese for a reason.

Still in all, it's nice to see them. Our local economy needs the tourists.



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Now playing: Nina Simone - Feeling Good
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why I love the French. (No, really.)

What I love about the French is that when one of their politicians gets a bad idea, the country is up in arms. Unlike the U.S., where we pretend their are two sides to a story, everybody gets a say and life's rich pageant becomes clear.

As reported in the New York Times, new French leader Nicholas Sarkozy wants every French fifth grader to do a report on some ten year old French child who died in The Holocaust. It's important history, right? What could be the debate?

Some Holocaust survivors think it is too much trauma to visit on ten year olds. Some historians think it focuses too much on the Nazis and their victims and ignores the culpability of the Vichy government. Some think it perpetuates the view of The Holocaust as a Jewish tragedy instead of a human tragedy, ignoring the plight of the Gypsies and others. Others see it as a way to sneak religion into the field of government, which is viewed very dimly in Europe. Let me take this quote from the Times piece.

Other analysts blamed the confessional approach of the United States for infecting Mr. Sarkozy’s thinking. “Listen, it’s in the air of the times,” said Régis Debray, the philosopher and author, on France Inter radio Friday. “There is a religious sentimentality, a pretty vague religiousness, let’s say, in the world of show business, in the world of business, that comes from America. It’s the neoconservative wave of the born-agains.”

Look at that. On the radio in France, they have philosophers!

PHILOSOPHERS!!!


In the U.S., we have the morning zoo. We have guys who became multi-millionaires lying through their teeth about politicians they don't like or hoping that San Francisco gets blown up or interviewing strippers. Interviewing strippers on the radio?!?! Where's the entertainment in that? It's like how my dad used to complain about ventriloquists on the radio when he was a lad.

The French put philosophers on the radio. And for that, yes, I love the French.

Of course, I love the French more when they look like this, but I am a heterosexual male, and therefore completely at the mercy of my hormones in a situation such as this.

It really can't be helped.



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Now playing: Teresa Stratas - J'attends un navire
via FoxyTunes

The giantess as public art

Not every example of a giantess is created by My People With Our Agenda for our dirty reasons. For example, this giant nude made out of peaches was displayed in Brisbane to promote better skin care by Australian women. How long a giant statue made out of actual peaches can last in the Brisbane sun was not made clear, though the local newspaper guessed that ten days was about the limit.

In Nantes, France, this gigantic puppet of a little girl drew large crowds back in 2005. What was the artist trying to say? Who knows? They're French!

This enormous realistic mannequin with her head stuck in a photo booth was displayed in a London train station recently. This artwork's purpose was clear enough. On the small of her back was a tattoo advertising the show London Ink, one of the many reality shows that has both British and American versions, the American show being shot in Miami.

Instead of oversized women in public settings, photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten took pictures of young women in scale model city scenes for an exhibit entitled Teenage Stories.

See, it's not smut for wierdos! It's art!

At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.



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Now playing: They Might Be Giants - The Statue Got Me High
via FoxyTunes

Friday, February 15, 2008

Obsolete week becomes obsolete: Digital Audio Tape


Back when I was a video game programmer, fledgling pop star and overall young man with more money than sense, many were the investment opportunities. After we recorded out first single, it was mastered at a studio in San Francisco, and the guy who ran the studio told me about the wonder that was Digital Audio Tape. He said that it was going to surpass the CD, because of recordability, and become the new standard both for audiophiles and the general public. He would let me in on the ground floor for a minimal investment.

I wavered and waited.

He persisted. I considered it, but decided to put my money into other stuff instead.

A few months later, I heard that he had left town and other investors were spending more money trying to find him and the money they gave him.

And so, Matty Boy, Investment Advisor to the Stars, saved money by being lazy and indecisive.

I knew those character traits would come in handy some day!

And since it's a Friday, let's have a Random 10.

Come Dancing The Kinks
Innocent When You Dream(Barroom) Tom Waits
As Always You Were Wrong Again UB40
Concierto de Aranjuez (Rodrigo) Zoltan Tokos
Wrong Em Boyo The Clash
Somebody Stole My Dog Rufus Thomas
Mammal They Might Be Giants
Substitute The Ramones
The St. Stephen’s Day Murders The Chieftains (Elvis Costello, vocalist)
Soul Finger The Bar-Kays

Soul Finger is one of my favorite songs that sounds like they were having a party in the studio. The Bar-Kays were the Stax/Volt house band, who sadly died in the same plane crash that took Otis Redding's life so many years ago. I don't consider there's a lot of obscure on this list, though Rufus Thomas and yet another answer tune to his original dance hit Do The Dog is at least somewhat obscure.


Yay, Flags of Many Lands™! But, Boo, El Salvador!
From everything I hear, El Salvador, a country where I taught nearly thirty years ago, has become a place where nearly every conservative pipe dream has become law, including making abortion a crime and jailing both women and doctors.

With so much crazy going on in the world, it's easy to ignore this, but progressives need to make it a priority.



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Now playing: The Clash - Wrong 'Em Boyo
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Obsolete week continues: 3DO

Do you remember 3DO? If so, you are either a hardcore video gamer of a certain age or you might be one the folks I used to work with from the business who show up here from time to time. In the early 1990s, Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins started a new company to make video game hardware, as opposed to software. 3DO was going to compete against the latest cool platforms, which Wikipedia now identifies as the fifth generation hardware. Other entries in the market included the Atari Jaguar and Sega Saturn, but the two winners in this generation would be the Nintendo 64 and the most anticipated release, the Sony PlayStation.

I was working at EA when 3DO was founded, and before the box had even been released to the public, the company had its initial public offering, or IPO. The amount of stock to be sold and the price it would open at, $15 if memory serves correctly, would mean the company would get a cash inflow of about a quarter billion dollars. 3DO made a special deal and let EA employees buy stock before the public could, at the asking price and stock that could be resold as soon as the IPO hit. Most of my co-workers bought as much as they could, which I think was about 1,000 shares each.

I say think because I didn't buy. In fact, I wrote a very well reasoned e-mail and sent it out warning people about the IPO. I had been at Activision in the 1980's, and their stock had not done well. Moreover, another IPO at about the same time as 3DO's was Robert Mondavi, who was also selling a quarter billion dollars of paper that said you owned part of the company. How could 3DO, which hadn't sold a single box yet, compare itself to Mondavi? A complete upstart company going into a competitive field was a better investment than an established company with a good reputation and outright owner of some of the most valuable real estate in the world?

Well, guess what? 3DO opened at $15 and shot to $45 by the end of the day. Anyone who bought the stuff and sold it then tripled their money. The high went to over $50 within a week. Mondavi's initial offering did very badly early; it dropped to about 50% of the opening day asking price within weeks. Matty Boy, Investment Advisor to the Stars*, was born, giving well-reasoned financial advice that is usually 180 degrees off.

In my defense, within a year Mondavi was at double the original number and 3DO was in the tank and would never get better. Not that I put a dime in either one.

*Matty Boy knows no stars, and his investment advice, well... he's better at math.



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Now playing: Chris Isaak - Things Go Wrong
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wednesday Math, Vol. 15:slide rules


As a math teacher, I don't like to admit that any part of my subject is obsolete, but you have to be pretty damn old school to still be using a slide rule. The idea is that the numbers are put in a logarithmic scale on scales A and B (click on picture for larger version) which means that the distance from the number 1 to the number 3 is the same as the distance from 2 to 6 or 3 to 9 or 4 to 12. By sliding Scale B over so that the 1 on scale A is next to the 3 on scale B, you can easily multiply by 3. You should be able to do this in your head, of course, but it does let you get good approximations of multiplying large numbers together, and using scale B and scale C together, you can get approximations of square roots.

There's other stuff you can do, but it's been ages since I used one, and I can only remember the basics. Some old guys when I was a kid were really wizards with these things.


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Now playing: Judy Garland - I'm Old Fashioned
via FoxyTunes

Placeholder post - lazy blogging with an excuse.

I have an idea for a Wednesday math post about obsolete math, but my one of my actual jobs which pay me is kind of getting in the way. I have the post all set up, but I'll have to wait until I have the time later today.

So instead I present lolz. The first is dedicated to my former roommate Art, who like me had to move early this month, but he moved farther away and with cats. Best wishes to Art and Scooter and Galadriel. (Both these lolz cats look more like Scooter.)

Art's new digs include a small dog his sister owns, and I know eventually the dog will be put in its place, though that is not currently the situation.

Real blogging to follow later in the day.



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Now playing: The Ramones - Out Of Time
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obsolete week: The Segway

Remember when it was called Ginger? It was the secret super special project that was gonna be big. Speculation ran wild. Then we saw it. Was it a better idea in personal transport? Would it replace the car or would it replace walking? It was kind of expensive; I was living in Davis, CA, when it became available and if there weren't any in Davis, home of every environmentally friendly vehicle regardless of price or practicality, the lack of Segways looked like a bad sign. Some cities banned them, like San Francisco which had serious concerns about how safe they would be on the very steep hills. Both Bush the Elder and Bush the Younger fell off the things. (I guess they forgot to turn off the Reject Evil switch.) When the vain and selfish character Gob (pronounced like the Biblical character Job) showed up on a Segway in the comedy Arrested Development, it was pretty much the end of it. The Segway wasn't a product so much as a joke.

Or was it? As the blog's current sub-title states, I live one block away from Segway of Oakland. It's not a giant luxurious showroom, but the guy is doing business. New, used, parts, and most interestingly, he run a business of pimping out Segways. It looks like the funny little contraption has a small but loyal following.

But the wave of the future? Not so much.

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Now playing: Bob Marley & The Wailers - Get Up Stand Up
via FoxyTunes

Monday, February 11, 2008

Obsolete week: Polaroid instant film discontinued

This week, Polaroid has decided to stop making the instant film for their cameras. Edwin Land invented the instant film technology, and the company profited mightily for the better part of four decades on this single idea. There are other companies who make instant film cameras, but the name Polaroid became a false generic for the style of photography, like Jell-O is for gelatin or Q-Tip is for cotton swabs.

Nowadays, instant pictures are just too slow when a digital camera shows you an image, albeit a tiny, tiny image, in a fraction of a second instead of a minute later. I have to wonder if squinting at tiny images on cellphones is going to cause eye strain in the younger generation quicker, or will it be good exercise that causes eye strain to progress more slowly. My guess is the former, but I'm a better 'splainer than a predictor.

I picked today's song because I think Outkast is going to be around for a while, but ten years from now when this is played on a "classic R&B" station, little kids are going to wonder "What's a Polaroid picture and how do I shake it?"


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Now playing: Outkast - Hey Ya!
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, February 10, 2008

There will be blood oranges.


My niece Holly is back from New York, studying for her Master's degree in San Francisco, living just a few blocks away from me in Oakland. Yesterday, we hopped on BART to Berkeley and saw There Will Be Blood. As you might guess from the title, this is not the feel-good movie of the California oil exploration business. Daniel Day Lewis is very good, and he pretty much has to be, since he is on screen about 70% of the time in a movie that runs more than two and a half hours. There are some other major roles in the film, but there are also some tremendously underutilized talented actors in the cast. Ciarán Hinds, who was so good as Julius Caesar in Rome, plays Lewis' second in command, a role with very little dramatic payoff.

I haven't been to many movies in theaters recently, but I did enjoy this, as I did No Country For Old Men. I'm not very good at Oscar predicting, but if I had a vote, I'd vote for Javier Bardem in No Country, because he's scarier.

And if I were making a movie, I'd have the protagonist invite over his adversaries to have a parlay concerning the redress of grievances, and he would serve blood oranges. Everyone would marvel at how tasty the little buggers are, how the peel comes off so easily, how juicy and flavorful they are, how pretty and unexpected the red colored meat of the fruit is.

"Gosh, where'd you get these, Mr. Plainview?"

"They are available at a shop called Trader Joe's when they are in season. My boy H.W. was the first to try them in this house, but now I can't seem to get enough of them."

It wouldn't be a very dramatic movie, but at least it could have a happy ending.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Waiting until something's on

Since I've moved, I haven't jumped back into the TV habit just yet. I've decided to wait until the writer's strike is over before I get cable TV again. The TV is still hooked up to the DVD player, so I'm not a complete Luddite hermit, but without writers, we are stuck with such crap that it just doesn't seem worth the effort.

I'd advocate a boycott in solidarity with the writers, but because the business model of TV is such a jumble, I don't know what the end user can do to change business practices. Back in the day when the United Farm Workers could ask people to not buy table grapes or lettuce, that could put pressure on management. Nice and simple. If we all turned in our cable boxes for the duration, would the cable companies be able to talk the TV production companies into a more reasonable position? There is some integration between the two industries, but would it be enough? I honestly have no idea.

Also, since the industry made a deal lickety split with The Director's Guild over the same issue of the sharing of profits from internet delivery, it's not like the production companies are actually in a position where they can plead poverty or some argument that internet delivery is a fundamentally different business model from delivery through cable and revenue sharing is impossible. Clearly, this is a power play. The writers don't have the power, so the production companies are screwing with them.

I don't know what will bring the end to the writer's strike. I vowed not to watch shows I like, including The Daily Show and The Colbert Report until the strike was over even when I still had cable. As it stands now, my TV is the reason I pay for a Netflix subscription, and nothing more.

What do you think should be done? Is there something you can do, or something we all can do?

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Now playing: Joe Jackson - T.V. Age
via FoxyTunes

Friday, February 8, 2008

Internet Eye Wash Station #3

So what would Condi Rice look like if she was young, sexy and talented? She might look something like Audra McDonald. Ms. McDonald, a three time Tony winner, starred in a recent Los Angeles production of the Weill/Brecht opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, one of the works of Brecht and Weill that drew the special ire of the Nazis before they rose to power. In that wig, Ms. McDonald bears a certain resemblance to Ms. Rice, except that Ms. McDonald has boobies and isn't afraid to show them.

So if some enterprising opera composer wants to make an epic work about the colossal goat fuck of a presidential administration we have now endured for seven years, the casting for the part of Condi Rice is pretty much locked up. Ms. McDonald has shown the physical resemblance and her willingness to play a whore on stage shows she has the right mental state to play Condi. The only problem I can see is this. With Ms. McDonald's great stage presence and powerful voice, it would be a shame to give her a role where all her dialogue is along the lines of "That's a great idea, boss! We should get on that right away!"


Here is a picture of Ms. McDonald out of the repressed little wig, with her handsome mane of curly hair framing her pretty face in a way that makes it look like she is actually proud of her African heritage, unlike some other people I have mentioned in this post.

Wait... Condi Rice is the only other person of African heritage I have mentioned in this post. Funny how that worked out.



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Now playing: David Johansen - Alabama Song
via FoxyTunes