Archive for January, 2010

Jobs Undergoes Radical Shrinking Procedure…

Friday, January 29th, 2010

…but gets to keep his iPhone.

(Lucy’s joke, not mine. But I thought it was funny when she tweeted about that.)

Protect Your Kids with Trimz!

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Cory Doctorow has a thing for Disneyania, and this one is pretty fun (in a scary kind of way): Disney-logoed DDT-impregnated wallpaper for the kids’ room (1947).


In light of the recent Supreme Court decision overturning legal limits on corporate free speech in the political arena, I thought this was a nice reminder of what you get when companies are free to say whatever they want.

Hey; it’s certified to be absolutely safe for home use. C’mon.

(Actually, the comments on the item at Boing Boing are pretty interesting. It’s still scary, but like most scary things, the underlying reality is more complicated when you look at it up close.)

Good on the Final Solution for the Guantanamo 47

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Besides being a cool musician, Matthew Good is also a cool blogger, one deeply concerned by a lot of the same things that deeply concern me. Here he is doing his best to follow the logical thread of the Obama administration’s arguments on Guantanamo detainees. In particular, he’s looking at the subset of detainees who are deemed “too dangerous to release,” but who cannot be charged, presumably because the only evidence the government has against them was obtained by torture: The 47.

Of course, detainees are not viewed as ‘prisoners of war’ by the US, rendering the application of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions moot. So given that US law doesn’t apply, and international law doesn’t apply, one has to ask the question – would simply eliminating them be breaking the law?

Given the vast ambiguities used to justify their detention, the answer to that question is rather straightforward – the law isn’t applicable. If they can be detained indefinitely without legal recourse, then they can be killed without legal recourse. They aren’t prisoners of war, according to the United States they have no legal rights, so the law doesn’t apply. That said, if they are as dangerous as the Justice Department claims them to be, eliminating them wouldn’t be in breach of anything being that nothing applies. In the end, the only thing standing in the way of that option is negative publicity.

When you get right down to it, the issue really is that simple. I think this might actually be a worthwhile avenue for the opponents of state-sponsored torture to take: Tell Obama to put up or shut up. If the rule of law means anything, then charge these guys or let them go. And if the rule of law doesn’t mean anything, then just kill them already, quickly and cleanly, rather than a little at a time by locking them away with no legal recourse for the rest of their lives.

Drum on Obama’s and Congressional Democrats’ Testicles

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Kevin Drum has the following blunt advice on what should happen next with healthcare reform: Time to Grow a Pair.

This really is a defining moment for both Obama and the Democratic Party more broadly. So far both have failed miserably: the party is in a state of meltdown, surrendering completely to a resurgent Republican narrative, refusing to fight for anything it believes in, and caving in to a truly toxic combination of electoral fear and narrow interest group parochialism. For his part, Obama seems either unable or unwilling to rally his troops. I’m not sure which. But the American public really needs to hear some conviction from him, and so far they haven’t. He’s remained aloof from the healthcare upheaval, pivoted on financial regulation in a way that looks driven more by politics than by core beliefs, and has just generally sounded more chastened than reinvigorated.

This really needs to turn around fast. Another week like this — hell, another day or two like this — and we might as well start measuring the Oval Office drapes for the upcoming Cheney/Palin administration. It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and grow a pair. Today would be a good time to start.

I happen to think Drum is exactly right. It’s not clear from this excerpt, but what he (and a lot of other smart people) are calling for is for the Democrats in the House to just pass the Senate version of healthcare reform, to avoid sending it back to the Senate where a 41-vote Republican minority could kill it procedurally.

I’m really not sure what’s going to happen. I think Obama means well, and has the ability to make (some) things happen. But I don’t know if that’s enough to turn things around in the face of the demonstrable collective cravenness of the House Democratic caucus.

Update: The same message, in video form, with beer and bikinis. Now how much would you pay?

Hail Fail

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Continuing the streak of posting about the climate (or at least about the weather): Hail Fail.


On Wednesday afternoon, when hail fell on Forney, photos came in showing hail nearly the size of a golf ball.

As photos came in to, one photo caught our attention. The photo, from “Tyler,” clearly shows ice cubes from a refrigerator. We especially liked the scattering of ice cubes on the ground. Nice touch!

Audioholics: Oppo on the Inside, Lexicon on the Outside

Monday, January 18th, 2010

The folks at Audioholics decided to do a review of Lexicon’s new, high-end DVD player, the BD-30. They were intrigued, they said, by the fact that the $3,500 unit’s back-end panel looked more or less identical to that of the Oppo BDP-83 — a player that sells for $3,000 less.

When we received the player the first thing we did was open it up to get a look at the inside. Imagine my surprise when I found that not only did the Lexicon share the same boards and transport as the Oppo – it was in fact AN OPPO BDP-83 PLAYER, CHASSIS AND ALL, SHOVED INSIDE AN ALUMINUM LEXICON WRAPPER.

They were unable to find anything — other than the slightly larger aluminum chasis and the logo — that differentiated the two products.

Statistics (Can) Lie (If You Want Them To)

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

It’s really nice when you get an opportunity to stop, step back, take stock, and really admire the way satire can point out how easy it is to (mis/ab)use statistics: Voting Democrat Causes Cancer.

The real humor I find in the whole thing, is the way this is overtly presented as a direct corollary to claims by Democrats advocating Health Care reform, with out any apparent consideration that this is the sort of thing lots of different groups do to add legitimacy to their position(s).

Like Climate change deniers … just to pick an example off the top of my head.

Romm on Hansen on How Weather Isn’t Climate

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Joseph Romm is my favorite source these days for insightful commentary on global warming. He links today to a draft essay from James Hansen and the boys at NASA: If It’s That Warm, How Come It’s So Damned Cold? (PDF). He excerpts the following graph:


…and quotes the following passage that I find highly relevant to recent discussions hereabouts:

Why are some people so readily convinced of a false conclusion, that the world is really experiencing a cooling trend? That gullibility probably has a lot to do with regional short‐term temperature fluctuations, which are an order of magnitude larger than global average annual anomalies.

As Romm concludes, “Weather isn’t climate.” For people who get their science from Rupert Murdoch’s infotainment outlets, that fact apparently is easy to overlook.

I is B on the C on AGW

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Ah, Information is Beautiful, bringing the clarity that good data visualization provides: Climate Change: A Consensus Among Scientists? They took the numbers provided by (“31,486 American scientists have signed this petition, including 9,029 with PhDs”), and attempted to put them in a meaningful context.


Our maths here is somewhat coarse. Some better data suggests the ‘consensus’ figure is around 97.5% of publishing climatologists and around 90% of all publishing scientists supporting the human-induced climate theory.

I also thought this part was interesting:

In fact, when you adjust the PetitionProject’s odd categorisation – they filed ‘chemical engineers’ as chemists and physical engineers as ‘physicists’ – the total number of engineers who signed the petition, by our reckoning, jumps to 49%.

Why so many engineers?

Good question. Ideas, anyone? (Disclaimer: My official job title includes the word “engineer.” And even the word “senior.”  Though I’m not sure I’ve really earned either.)

Newton on Denialism

Friday, January 8th, 2010

It’s been a few days since I gave you a good denialism article to whine about, so here you go: from Steven Newton: Science Denial on the Rise.

Science requires conclusions about how nature works to be rooted in evidence-based testing. Sometimes progress is slow. But through a difficult and often frustrating process, we learn more about the world.

Science denialism works differently. Creationists are unmoved by the wealth of fossil, molecular, and anatomical evidence for evolution. Global-warming denialists are unimpressed by mountains of climate data. Denialists ignore overwhelming evidence, focusing instead on a few hoaxes, such as Piltdown Man, or a few stolen e-mails. For denialists, opinion polls and talk radio are more important than thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles.

Alex Roman Has Mad Skillz

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

You know that point when you realize you’re living in the future, when nothing you see in video form should be believed, despite all the evidence of your highly evolved monkey senses? I don’t think we reached that point with Avatar, despite actually liking the movie (yes, really! I liked it), but I’m pretty sure we have reached that point with Alex Roman’s The Third & The Seventh:

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.

You owe it to yourself to HD+maximize it.

Understand, this was one person, with off-the-shelf hardware and software. And (I’m guessing) an obsessive interest. And time.

None of that stuff exists. Except it really does, sort of. (And since he modeled it on real buildings, it really really does, in another sense. But you know what I mean.) Pretty cool what one person can accomplish when he (she) sets his (her) mind to it.

More details in this interview. And this other interview. And this still yet other interview. I especially like this part (as translated by Google):

How long has you finish it?.

In total, about one and a half, with several stoppages during development. I thought it never would end. He was becoming a nightmare, but seeing people’s reaction to the first “teasers” which was published on the Internet, gave me encouragement to continue.

I totally want to live in the Fuji House.

Rosen’s Simple Fix for Sunday TV

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Jay Rosen thinks the Sunday politics shows on TV could be improved: My Simple Fix for the Messed Up Sunday Shows:

The beauty of this idea is that it turns the biggest weakness of political television–the fact that time is expensive, and so complicated distortions, or simple distortions about complicated matters, are rational tactics for advantage-seeking pols–into a kind of strength.  The format beckons them to evade, deny, elide, demagogue and confuse…. but then they pay for it later if they give into temptation and make that choice.  So imagine the midweek fact check from last week as a short segment wrapping up the show the following week. Now you have an incentive system that’s at least pointed in the right direction.

This assumes, of course, that the Sunday chat shows are interested in fostering truth for its own sake. I get the feeling that news divisions at the networks have been moving in a different direction for a while now. But maybe calling people on their B.S. would be good for some ratings?

I actually don’t think more than a handful of people actually watch those shows. But since that handful includes lots of bloggers and politicians, maybe putting Rosen’s truth incentive in place would still have some sort of impact, at least among bloggers and/or politicians?