28 February 2006

Note to self:

If you're going to leave a post up for a few days, don't have it be about bugs. People feel an inexorable need to tell their horrible bug stories.

Why don't we tell stories about our first cars instead? My first car was a 1995 Chevy Corsica, named Red Leader after the character from Star Wars. (Yes, that Red Leader...the one who plummeted to a fiery death on the surface of the Death Star. In retrospect, I probably should have chosen a less prophetic name. I actually wanted to call him Rogue, as a Star Wars reference, but everyone thought it was an X-Men reference, so I had to abandon that idea.) My precious Red Leader served me well from 2000 until last July, when he suffered wounds the repair of which would have cost about four times what he was worth (extrinsically...his intrinsic value to me was beyond quantification), so I bought a new car, which I named James after the fourth president of the United States (and also so I could say "Home, James").

James and I get along pretty well, but he's just no Red Leader. Other than being considerably younger and having better fuel economy, he has no advantages over my well-beloved Corsica.

Well, he does have cruise control. And a CD player. And working drink holders. And power windows. And power side mirrors.

But he just doesn't have the heart.

(I really shouldn't anthropomorphize inanimate objects to the extent I do...I even felt a little guilty when I ogled Corvettes while behind Red Leader's wheel.)

Feel free to share first-car reminiscences in the comments.

Update, Just Because of Dave:
When I said to feel free to share your reminiscences, I meant stories that don't involve making out or bugs.

27 February 2006

I really f'n hate bugs.

That is all.

24 February 2006


Apparently, Michael has finally worn Monty down, so there will be poetry at Monty's on Saturday. Of course they would have to pick a weekend when I'm busy. So, here are my contributions, a day early. (They're intentionally bad, in case you were wondering.)

On one wild Friday at Ace's
a commenter said that
Friday Night Open Thread for the Dateless
should be a recurring feature.
At first, I laughed,
and then I felt sad.

Chris Klein Reprise
I'm nice, so I say,
"Hey, thanks for the attention.
Get out of my face."

Brawny Man Reprise
You've dropped your ice cube.
Let me bend down to get it.
(Wow, these jeans are tight.)

Paul Anka Reprise
I told you that I
Slice like an f'n hammer.
What is this loose shit?

I wonder: is the noun form "placater"
or the somehow-more-elegant "placator"?
Dictionary.com is of no use,
but either way, Chuck Connors isn't one.

Chuck Connors
Firing your rifle
Seven shots, quick as a thought
Those talented hands!

For Michael, with Alliteration
Oh Caped Crusader
sexiest superhero!
Hey, your suit is stained.

The Maximum Acceptable Area of Pubic Hair
(For anyone who missed it, this is based on a sick marriage contract that Ace linked last week.)
Do you remember the golden days, long ago,
in eighth grade geometry class?
When the boys were just beginning to need to shave,
and the girls were just beginning to understand
how much may be said with a look?
Do you remember the classic beauty of an equilateral triangle,
each side equal to its brother,
each angle equal to its sister,
able to be bisected into two right triangles, standing back-to-back?
Marriage is like that - when two right triangles,
choose to subordinate themselves
and unite into something greater, something yet more beautiful.
And that is why I chose an equilateral triangle
and asked that you calculate its area.
I've always liked the fraction three-fourths
(or three-quarters as our British friends would say)
and that is why I multiplied it by the length of your
(fanny is the British term for it)
to determine the height of the triangle.
Our triangle, love, is what I see.
And that is why you must present yourself
on the eve of every third day
for an inspection,
because a strong marriage is built on frequent examinations.

21 February 2006

The most horrible nightmare ever

So in my dream, I came home to find some random guy, who was apparently supposed to be my brother (I don't have a brother), on the driveway, working on a gorgeous sunny yellow brand new Chevrolet Corvette.

Now, I should probably explain that I'm not the materialistic sort, or the type of person who knows or cares very much about cars, but Corvettes have been my dream car for as long as I've been driving. I first admired them for the acceleration they pulled, which far outstripped the '95 Corsica I was driving at the time. And one day, I was attending a lacrosse game at another high school, and in their parking lot, I saw the most gorgeous car I had ever seen in my life. It was a Corvette Stingray, and I spent several minutes just standing there, drinking in the beauty of it. I think that was the first time I ever saw beauty in a vehicle of any kind.

So, back to my dream. When I saw my "brother" standing by the Corvette, I gave him an appealing look, and he was kind enough to hand me the keys. (At this point, I dropped all questioning as to who this guy was. I mean, a guy hands me the keys to a Corvette, I'm sure not going to argue with anything he says.) So I pulled out of my driveway, passing my dad on the way and giving him a cheery wave, and headed for a state highway that's fairly near my house. Once on the road, I floored it and went 0 to 50 (the speed limit on that stretch of the road) in about half a second. It was so awesome. The convertible top was down, and yet the wind wasn't messing with my hair a bit.

But then some little kids ran out across the road, and I braked and came to an easy stop, because my brakes kicked ass like that. I yelled at the kids to get off the damn road and went on driving. But now the kids were pursuing me, hollering at me and wanting me to buy them lunch or something. (I should probably interject that I don't like children at all. I'm very uncomfortable around them.) I accelerated wildly. So wildly, in fact, that I took off, and started flying. But the little rugrats continued to pursue, yelling about being hungry, somehow keeping up with my f'n flying Corvette.

Thus, a dream that should have been the best ever turned into a horrible, horrible nightmare.

Damn snot-nosed kids.

20 February 2006

Well, that settles it.

I felt like reading something totally mindless during dinner as a break from schematics, so I busted out my Tom Swift e-books. Check out this paragraph, in which emphasis is added:
"Well, I might find some work for you to do," replied the young inventor, thinking this would be as good a means as any of placating the darky. "But come, now, try and see if you can't stand. I don't believe I broke any of your legs."
So, that means that Tom, despite having killed an innocent elephant just for ivory, decapitated a perfectly preserved ancient statue because the whole statue was too big to bring back with him, and forced Koku to be his personal slave, is still a placater.

It figures.

It's not often you see "tiger.poo" in a URL.

But today, I did. Apparently, some researchers have found that tiger poo is an excellent goat repellent, and CNN thought it would be clever to use the phrase "black gold" in their headline.

Come and listen to a story about a man named Pete
A poor professor, barely kept shoes on his feet
Then one day he was playin' with some shit,
And found that wild goats didn't like the smell of it.

Crap, that is, black gold, tiger poo.

Well, now it's time to say good-bye to Pete and all his turds,
And they would like to thank you folks fer reading these here words.
You’re all invited back again to this locality
To have a heapin helpin of their hospitality.

Tiger poop, that is. Set a spell. Take your shoes off*. Y'all come back now, y'hear?
*Don't actually do this, unless you want a parasite.

I think this post just lowered my effective age about three decades from its usual comfortable position in the mid-40s. I blame lack of sleep. Maybe later I'll watch a Jimmy Stewart movie and see if that gets my effective age back up where it belongs. I can probably get a pretty good "Movies these days are trash!" rant going.

(But seriously...whatever happened to just closing the door and fading to black? That gets the point across so much more elegantly than showing a soft-core porn scene.) (I am thinking of The Notebook, which I thought sucked. I'll be happy to explain my reasoning if anyone likes.)

But now, I should return to my schematics.

Relationship advice, Pentagon style

My dad sent me some crazy emails, as is his wont, and while checking them out on snopes.com, as is my wont, I happened to click on their "Daily Snopes" link, and found this story.
U.S. Army chaplains are trying to teach troops how to pick the right spouse, through a program called "How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk."

The matchmaking advice comes as military family life is being stressed by two tough wars. Defense Department records show more than 56,000 in the Army - active, National Guard and Reserve - have divorced since the campaign in Afghanistan started in 2001.
That's sad, but not particularly surprising. I can readily imagine that repeated deployments are very hard on a family, especially if, as the article mentions, the soldier returns with severe wounds.

But then the Army, being the Army, has to bring in acronyms.
The "no jerks" program is also called "P.I.C.K. a Partner," for Premarital Interpersonal Choices and Knowledge.

It advises the marriage-bound to study a partner's F.A.C.E.S. - family background, attitudes, compatibility, experiences in previous relationships, and skills they'd bring to the union.

It teaches the lovestruck to pace themselves with a R.A.M. chart - the Relationship Attachment Model - which basically says don't let your sexual involvement exceed your level of commitment or level of knowledge about the other person.
I'll let that last one speak for itself.

Lewis & Clark Quotation of the Day

As originally penned by "Captain" Clark:
Great joy in camp we are in view of the Ocian that great Pacific Octean which we Been so long anxious to See.
I put scare quotation marks around "captain" because Clark wasn't actually a captain at the time of the Corps of Discovery's expedition. He and Lewis just agreed to call him a captain so that they would be the same rank. However, Congress recently promoted Clark to captain, retroactive to 1803, so I guess you could say he was a captain. Except that he wasn't really. But a retroactive promotion is still a promotion, so he was. But not really.

It makes my head hurt.

19 February 2006

Two-million-year-old fossil murder mystery solved

A bird did it.

This reminds me of that Monk episode in which Monk approached an ancient skeleton and stared at it carefully.
Monk: This man didn't freeze to death. He was murdered. There's a puncture wound in the side of his skull.
Natalie: It was over 30,000 years ago.
Monk: Well, there's no statute of limitations on murder. I think I know what happened...
Natalie: Detective Monk, why don't we solve my case first and then we'll come back here later and figure out what happened to Og, okay?
The trouble with Monk quotations is that they lose an awful lot without Tony Shalhoub's delivery (or my impression thereof; I can't do accents at all, but my impressions are better than Colin Mochrie's). For example, one of my favorites: "There's an old saying: Don't...change anything...ever." Still funny, but just not the same without Monk's gestures and facial expressions.

I'll leave you with this thought: It's a gift...

...and a curse.

18 February 2006

Missing the obvious

From an opinion article in the Batt: "Ironically, most European countries have astoundingly fewer incidents of drinking and driving [than America], despite the fact that young people in Europe drink more often and more heavily than American teens."

First of all, Aylsworth, there are fewer people in any given European country than in the entire United States. Second, while drinking ages are lower, driving ages are higher, so many European teens don't have licenses. Third, people don't drive much in Europe. They tend to use the public transportation systems. So of course there's less drinking and driving in Europe than in America.


17 February 2006


It's really sad that I didn't have to look up the spelling.

From the "Wookieepedia" article (I love that they spell "Wookiee" correctly):
[T]he three Corellians remained largely with Thrawn aboard his command ship Springhawk, their status somewhere between that of prisoners of war, strategic pawns, and an unofficial cultural exchange. In this time, Car'das and Thrawn formed what seems to have been a lasting friendship, while there were some hints of romantic feelings between Thrawn and Ferasi.

Anyway, I ought to catch up on the EU one of these days. I haven't read any of the stories about the Yuuzhan Vong at all. Timothy Zahn rekindled my interest in Star Wars lo these many years ago, but Kevin J. Anderson killed it lo these slightly fewer but still many years ago.

Update: Whoa, apparently that novel (Outbound Flight) was written by Zahn himself. I was thinking it was a KJA type taking liberties with Zahn's characters again. (That was one of the things that pissed me off the most about him. I mean, Mara Jade with Lando? Please.) Anyway, it stars Thrawn, so I'm going to have to go buy it, and conveniently ignore any hints of romance.

Pun Thread

Something else to keep y'all busy while I work. I'll get you started.

Q: What's green and sings?
A: Elvis Parsley.

Two drums and a cymbal fall off a cliff.

A pirate walks into a bar. He's got a giant steering wheel in his groin. The bartender says, "Hey, you've got a steering wheel in your crotch," and the pirate says, "Arrr, I know. 'Tis drivin' me nuts!"

A woodpecker walks into a bar and asks, "Hey, is the bartender here?"

A neutron walks into a bar and asks, "Hey, how much for a drink?" The bartender says, "For you, no charge!"

Q: What's a tachyon?
A: A gluon that's not quite dry yet.

An atom is walking down the street when another atom suddenly bumps into him and knocks him down. "Oh no! Are you all right?" the second atom asks. "No," replies the first atom, "I've lost an electron!" "Are you sure?" "Yes, I'm positive!"

Two peanuts were walking down the street, and one was assaulted.

I never could figure out how Chris Widger got 18,449 votes for the All-Star game, considering the Expos had only 2 fans. I eventually figured the decimal point was in the wrong place, so that he got 1844.9 votes. The 0.9? Obviously the vote of someone under the control of a ghost, because possession is nine-tenths of the law.

The first delivery by Chinese boat was junk mail.

And yes, these were supposed to make you laugh, so don't tell me no pun in ten did.

Update 18 Feb 12:10 P.M.:

Click to view the finale of Mrs. Peel's Jokes Go Unappreciated Week.

(I "drew" a webcomic called Borealis DuQuesne off and on for a couple years. Mrs. Peel's Jokes Go Unappreciated was one of my favorite weeks. That's me and my ex-fiancé in the last panel.)

Ultimate Matchups

I believe I've answered some eternal questions that plague the mind of many a nerd.

Ultimate John:
Jonnie Goodboy MacTyler versus John Carter, fighting man of Virginia.

There are three parts of this battle:
  • unarmed: hand-to-hand, no holds barred
  • armed: Jonnie has a kill-club; John Carter has his swords, radiation gun, etc.
  • full-on army action: Jonnie aided by his gratuitous medieval Scotsmen, the Russian Red Army, and a bunch of Buddhist monks; John Carter leading the red, green, black, white, and yellow men of Barsoom
Personally, I give the first two to John Carter, no hesitation. I'd like to give him the third as well, but the trouble is gravity. If the battle is fought on Earth, the Barsoomians don't stand a chance; but if the battle is fought on Barsoom, the Earthlings are super-strong. Maybe the battle should be fought immediately after the Earthlings land on Barsoom, before they have time to adjust.

If you could resolve the gravity issue, I think the Barsoomians would win hands down. Otherwise, I think it goes to the MacTyler.

Overall, the Warlord of Barsoom takes two out of three, and is the champion.

Ultimate Tag-Team:
Here's a troublesome matchup. On the one side, you have Sauron, aided by three teenage wizards. On the other, Lord Voldemort, aided by four hobbits.

Given that Sauron is a Maia and Voldemort at least used to be a human, we'll level the playing field as much as possible by pitting pre-Ring Sauron vs. post-Horcrux Voldemort.

On the other hand, maybe it should be post-Ring Sauron, without the Ring. Because then both he and Voldemort can't be killed until their objects are destroyed. But the difference is that destroying the Ring is an insta-kill, but destroying the Horcruxes isn't (as far as we know). Maybe that would help make up for Sauron's Maian advantage, though.

Of course, what would really happen is that the kids and the hobbits would join forces and kill both Voldemort and Sauron. And Harry would probably bite the dust, too. Sorry, man.

Ultimate Strategist:
Batman versus Grand Admiral Thrawn.

I gotta go with Thrawn here. While Batman is the coolest comic book superhero by far, Grand Admiral Thrawn is the absolute coolest villain EVER. He'd just have to get one look inside Wayne Manor and he'd know everything about Batman. And don't tell me Batman is a secret identity. You think Thrawn wouldn't find it out? Please.

Notice that Thrawn was never beaten. He died because of his own mistake, not because of anything the New Republic did. The New Republic didn't stand a chance against him in fair fight, so they assassinated him. (Ok, so Rukh may have been acting on his own, or on orders from his matriarch, but my point stands.)

Any thoughts?

16 February 2006

Light blogging this week and next

First round of midterms 'n' such.

So, consider this an open thread. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic: Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island. Discuss.

14 February 2006

The Brawny man

Every time someone referred to the Brawny man, I kept picturing Chuck Connors. Boy, was my mental image ever off. Chuck Connors would never placate.

Click on "Pre-made" and watch 'em all. "Because it's Monday" and "Your Hair, it's Perfect" are my favorites.


13 February 2006

On the topic of Ace's horrible, horrible post:

I didn't think Ace's riff was particularly funny, but the article was interesting.

To get Ace out of the way first: I don't think he meant any malice. I think he was just being tasteless for the sake of it. Personally, I wasn't very amused.

Anyway, the article, which is about a dating workshop for autistic and mentally retarded youth, interested me for a couple reasons. One participant wrote as part of an exercise that he wanted a partner who "isn't afraid of me because I have a disability." I don't know what this specific individual's diagnosis is, but my take on it is that having a physical disability is one thing. Being mentally retarded, as the majority of the young adults discussed in the article are, is another. Those who are afflicted with the latter condition almost certainly have a diminished capacity to understand the difference between right and wrong. People are afraid of such individuals, with good reason.

And that's why the article didn't give me the warm and fuzzies at all. In fact, it gave me the creepy crawlies, and reminded me of the following passage from Cannery Row.
"Frankie - you shouldn't have done it," said Doc. The heavy stone of inevitability was on his heart. "Can't you parole him to me?" Doc asked.

"I don't think the judge will do it," said the chief. "We've got a mental report. You know what's wrong with him?"

"Yes," said Doc, "I know."

"And you know what's likely to happen when he comes into puberty?"

"Yes," said Doc, "I know," and the stone weighed terribly on his heart.
As harsh as it sounds, I believe that someone with a diminished capacity to understand morals and ethics should not be mainstreamed into society. From either a utilitarian perspective or a rights perspective, the possibility of such a person's infringing upon other people's right to mental and physical security (I am not referring to a Constitutional right, but rather to the tiers of rights we studied in engineering ethics) doesn't outweigh his right to pursue happiness.

Steve Martin's latest abomination doing well in the box office

Thereby proving that a significant portion of America's populace needs to be shot.

In the dark.

And preferably in a rit of fealous jage.

Seriously, I would say I can't believe anyone would even consider seeing a Pink Panther movie that didn't have Peter Sellers, but we are talking about the country that thinks Keira Knightley is a good choice to star in Pride and Prejudice.

I mean, Keira Knightley. What the H-E-double-hockey-sticks?? Don't get me wrong, I think she's a beautiful girl, and I loved her in Pirates of the Caribbean, but she is no Elizabeth Bennet.

Folks, the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice, with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, is the only one to watch, and Peter Sellers is the only Inspector Clouseau to watch.

12 February 2006

I Am Express My Inmost Feeling Brilliant

Over the weekend, I tracked down an old Ann Landers column from the year I was born. The column itself isn't interesting, but the following letter, presented in its original, unedited form, is.
Dear Ann Landers: Your letter against pot last week was joke. If you want kids to believe you, who don't you tell the trooth? I yet to see a single letter in your column tell the GOOD tings about pot. Why is that?

Because you are a bunch of dry up creeps who are out scare kids to death. Well, it won't work. Most of us no more about pot than our parents and teachers put together. Getting turned on by Jesus is deffinetley out. I'm a 16-year-old girl who live in a medium-sized midwestern town. Smoking pot (4 to 6 joints daley) for two years. It hasn't hurt me. In fax it has done me a good.

It has expanded my conscientious and opened my eyes to the beaties of the world and unquestionable. This proves the police are pigs.

Grass has not dull my mind. It has sharpen it. My think is clearer. I am aware things I never notice before. Objects that used to look small look big. I see mental images in color instead of black and white. I used to be too shye to speack up in a crowd. Now I am a brilliant converationist. I get stoned yet I am 100 percent lucid. I am express my inmost feeling brilliant. When I finish this letter it will be a mastpiece.

If you don't print it, I will know you are a Communist. In Russia they print only one side of the story. The side they want people believe.

--The Troot Will Win
In other news, Geoff slices like an f'n hammer. Thanks, man.

10 February 2006

And now you know!

The opposite of a namesake is an eponym. So the character played by Diana Rigg is my eponym.

(Somebody referred to her as my "namesake" in a comment thread a while back. That's wrong, because I wasn't even alive when that show came on, much less blogging. But I didn't know what the right word was. So when I ran across a reference to it today, I decided to share my new knowledge with all of you.)

A very special week in the Batt's comics section

I have a feeling my readers will enjoy this. Evidently the artist is familiar with the Cool Facts about Chuck Norris.

(click to enlarge)

The real question is: when will Dick Cheney be making an appearance?

Incidentally, I notice when previewing that the image is still a bit small and the text is hard to read. I can't control what Blogger does to an image when I upload it, so here is the script:
Prof: Alright guys, today we're going to be talking about famous Americans. And you're in luck, because we have a special guest.
Student: George Bush? Oprah Winfrey?
Prof: Nope. Chuck Norris.
Prof: Now I'll open the floor to questions for our guest, Mr. Chuck Norris.
Student: Mr. Norris, how do you even use accounting in your line of work?
Chuck: It helps me count the bodies.
Student: Mr. Norris, this may sound stupid, but can I train with you?
Chuck: What's stupid is you thinking that I would allow a spy into my dojo to steal the secret technique of my roundhouse kick. [This is my favorite line by far.]
Student: What?
Chuck: Who sent you? Sadaam? Jean Claude? I have many enemies.
Chuck: Before you train with me, I have to know that I can trust you. TOUCH MY BEARD.
Student: Excuse me?
Chuck: Touch it.
Chuck: Now your training can begin.
Student: Woah.
Student: Mr. Norris...are you sure this will improve my martial arts skills?
Chuck: How would you like to wear my fist as a retainer?
Student: I'm washing, I'm washing. [That's a truck in the background, drawn very lightly.]
Hope y'all enjoy the strips. I know I did.

(Of course, my all-time favorite Batt comic is still the Dunn Boyz strip in which the main character purchases a George W. Bush cardboard cutout for his room, and when his roommate protests, responds, "But I was bipartisan on the purchase! I stopped by the Halloween store and got a Kerry cutout, too!" and proudly displays a Frankenstein's monster cutout.)

Finally, a mail call worth mocking!

Wow...read the DU much?
The crazy thing about Joshua Dwyer's column is that he fails to mention that Arlen Specter, a Republican, has mentioned impeachment of George W. Bush. The Democrats have been very easy on President Bush - although his approval ratings have fallen dramatically, the Democrats have failed to produce a leader to step over the corpse of this failing administration. The column mentions the "revelation of Valerie Plame's not-so-secret identity." However, the most recent issue of Newsweek indicates that Plame's identity was perhaps more secret that the defense attorneys for Scooter Libbey [sic] have led us to believe. Bush will not be impeached, however his impeachable are multitudinous [sic]. First and foremost is the Downing Street Memo, which stated that intelligence was being fixed around Bush's plans to go to war with Iraq. The American media and the Democrats have largely ignored this memo. Other good reasons for impeachment include the Plame affair, the use of torture, the yellowcake affair, and the warrantless domestic wiretaps. President Clinton was impeached for far less. If Texas A&M has an honor code that states: "an Aggie does not TOLERATE those who lie, cheat, and steal," how can any Aggie tolerate Bush?
I couldn't stop laughing as I typed this out. I've never seen so many liberal boogeymen packed into less than 200 words.

Ok, Jason, let's take your "points," such as they are, one by one.
  1. Arlen Specter is a RINO. Your citing him in this context is equivalent to my saying that your claim that Democrats don't like the President is silly because Zell Miller does like him.
  2. "The Democrats have been very easy on President Bush"? Man, do you ever leave the DU?
  3. "The Democrats have failed to produce a leader." You and I are in agreement there.
  4. L'affaire Plame is a ridiculously minor inside-the-Beltway "scandal" that has nothing to do with George W. Bush.
  5. "However his impeachable are multitudinous" reminds me of the classic Ann Landers column with the letter from the pothead. I'll have to find it and type it up for y'all. ("[Pot] has open my eyes to the beaties of the world and unquestionable. This proves the police are pigs.") But I suspect that was probably an editing mistake - I've had my mail calls messed up before.
  6. "Fixed around" - You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  7. You know what would be real torture? If we told the terrorists at Gitmo who killed Professor Dumbledore before they get to read the book.
  8. Joe Wilson has been thoroughly discredited.
  9. There are no warrantless domestic wiretaps. There are wiretaps on people who are f'n calling al-Qaeda. Don't want your phone tapped? Then don't give Abu Hamza a ring to ask how his hook-hands are working out.
  10. The Aggie honor code says, "An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do." And yet, most of us tolerate President Bush just fine. But not Clinton so much. Go figure.
Jason is clearly an accredited member of the reality-based community. I salute him.

07 February 2006

Blood donation

There's been a lot of discussion in the Batt lately on the topic of donating blood.

All I have to say is that some of us would love to donate blood, but unfortunately, we don't weigh anywhere near 110 pounds.

06 February 2006

Proud to be an Aggie!

The main reason I'm proud to be an Aggie is our tradition of service to the country. So, I'm grateful to USMC Lance Corporal Darrell Brandes for sharing his story and photos with us.

Corporal Brandes and Chris Holtkamp, class of '05 (WHOOP!)

Brandes and two friends at an Aggie Bonfire

(Both photos were provided to the Batt by Brandes.)

Thank you all for your service, and GIG 'EM!


My masterpiece took first place in "Loose Shit." I reproduce it here for you:
Super Bowl party
Why must I attend you?
Is it because
You are an engagement party, too?
Love and football don't mix
But apparently, love and bean dip do.
Thanks, Dave in Texas! I'm sure your judging wasn't at all biased by our shared home state.

(I'm amused, because I was commenting off-topic and decided to throw in something on topic at the end of the comment, and those lines were the first I thought of that rhymed. I guess that's the very epitome of loose shit.)

04 February 2006

Open Letter to People Who Design Those Little Packages for Contacts

Has it ever occurred to you geniuses that people's hands are wet when they open these things, and a material other than slippery metallic film would be useful? Look, I know the thing has to be sealed, but couldn't you at least put some ridges on the pull tab? That part doesn't come in contact with the fluid.

And who thought it would be a good idea to put the contents under pressure so that when we finally get a good enough grip on the film to pull it away, a thin stream of fluid shoots out and hits us directly in the eye? Ridges would help with that, too, because they would allow the package to be opened more steadily.

I've just given you guys an idea worth countless millions of customer satisfaction for absolutely free. I hope you appreciate it, but I know you won't, you sadistic bastards. You probably spend every Saturday morning chuckling in the knowledge that across the country, thousands of people are attempting to put in a fresh pair of contacts and are getting squirted in the eye, and that eye-squirting is only one annoyance of a process that takes far longer than it needs to thanks to your shoddy design work.

Mrs. Peel

(I know this post probably didn't make much sense to those of you who don't wear contacts or glasses and have never observed the process of trying to open one of these packages. I would say I'm sorry, but I'm not. I resent you people with your damn 20/20 vision. And I resent the way you hop around flaunting it. "Look at me, I don't have to wear glasses! I can be a pilot! When I wake up in the morning, I can see more than one foot in front of my face!" I hate you all.)

(By the way, I'm probably getting some new readers because of guest-blogging at Ace's this weekend, so to clarify for the benefit of those who aren't familiar with my style or weird sense of humor: this post is a joke.)

03 February 2006

On the Mohammed cartoon

"Blogburst" covered by Michelle Malkin, and protesters shown at Sweetness & Light (thanks to lauraw at Ace of Spades).

My take: I try to show respect to others' religious beliefs. For instance, I wouldn't take communion at a Catholic church, and I wouldn't give a Jewish friend a winter holiday present wrapped in paper that says "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." So I personally wouldn't draw a depiction of Mohammed (or if I did, wouldn't publish it), and won't be showing the cartoons on my blog.

But at the same time, I hardly think threatening to behead, slay, butcher, exterminate, and/or massacre "those who insult Islam" is an appropriate response to a handful of silly cartoons.

It certainly makes accepting Islam as the "Religion of Peace" somewhat difficult.

All right, I admit it.

I can't possibly do today's crossword in the Batt. I mean, "2005 hurricane"? Could they have picked anything with more possible answers? Sheesh.

Try it yourself here.

Today in the Science News

There weren't too many interesting stories in the science news this morning, but here are the ones I thought were nifty.

Radio device tweaks software to use incompatible wireless standards:
This device uses software to perform tasks generally done by hardware. I look forward to hearing how the trials turn out.

Someone shoots you the finger? Uh-oh, there's like a two-thirds chance he might be armed!:
There's a big difference between "driving aggressively or making obscene gestures" and "whipping out your .45 to bust a cap" or whatever the kids call it these days. But of course, as we all know and as I'm sure researcher Mary Vriniotis would tell you, anyone who owns a gun is, at any given time, only seconds away from going on a killing spree through the local Safeway.

We're all going to die!:
Today's global warming hysteria is about the impending melting of the permafrost and the collapse of the ice cap. The ice cap story is from the same dude that claims NASA and Chimpy McHitlerburton are muzzling him.

Just out of curiosity, has it occurred to anyone at all that the Earth warming might possibly be a good thing? For one thing, the length of the growing season increases, allowing for increased agricultural production.

Good news: HIV prevalence declines in southern Africa!:
Glad to hear it. I hope the trend continues.

Cocaine users at risk for stomach damage:
Shut up, really?

Once-secret Pentagon program now revealed:
We've set up a robot unit that, in the event of a nuclear attack, will attempt to identify the perpetrators based on the radioactive signatures of the material used.

Of course, I think we all know who the perpetrator of a nuclear attack on the U.S. might be. (coughcoughIrancough)

Frogs carrying a weird fungus that appears to be the result of human pregnancy testing:
Yes, you read that correctly.

Apparently, there used to be a pregnancy test that involved injecting frogs with a woman's urine. If the woman was pregnant, the frog would spawn within hours.

I couldn't even pay attention to the fungus part of the story because my mind boggled at the concept of taking a syringeful of urine and injecting it into a frog, which would probably be urinating on you as you did so. I think we have a new contender for world's worst job: pee-injector.

Correction...assistant pee-injector.

NASA inspector general probed:
It seems that he's been accused of hampering investigations. Not cool, dude. You have astronauts' lives depending on you. That's more important than NASA saving face.

If you wake up before sunrise, you can see Venus!:
Or I guess you could stay up until sunrise, but that's just not the way I roll.

"Scientists force evolution in the lab":
By finding a mutation and then studying it. Sounds more like observing evolution. Also, they didn't demonstrate speciation, so I'm not impressed.

An ancient Greek shipwreck found:
Awesome! And an underwater robot was used to map the location of the wreck.

On the topic of ancient Greece, the Nike of Samothrace is the most gorgeous statue ever. I have a little plaster model of her on my bookshelf.

02 February 2006

I am so excited!

Ace invited me to guest-blog over the weekend! Expect something cool and science-y tomorrow morning. I'll try to find something with a funny angle or something that will engender interesting debate. I've been lurking there long enough to have a fairly decent idea of what Ace readers like.

Crazy blog-money, here I come!

Seattle and Trademark Infringement

The more I hear about the Seahawks' blatant infringement of our 12th Man trademark, the angrier I get.

For those who might not know, Texas A&M is rich with tradition and history. One of the most meaningful traditions is the 12th Man.

The story goes that back in Old Army days, there was a basketball player named E. King Gill who was a former football player. His senior year, the Ags were playing an important game and had suffered any number of injuries. There were only eleven players left. The coach, Dana X. Bible, knew that if another player left the game, he would have to forfeit. He remembered E. King Gill, called him out of the stands, and sent him to change into one of the injured players' uniforms. Gill obeyed, and spent the rest of the game hovering at the coach's elbow, prepared to enter the game at any moment.

He never did play, but in recognition of his willingness to enter the game and in symbolism of our own willingness to support fellow Aggies, we all stand throughout the entirety of every football game. Our tradition is over eighty years old, very meaningful to the student body and to former students, and far predates the Seahawks' use of the term "12th Man."

I am particularly angry because Seattle has ignored the cease & desist letters A&M has sent, and to this day refuses to comment on their trademark infringement. They are displaying a complete lack of respect for us and our ancient tradition, not to mention our legal ownership of the trademark.

I fully support Texas A&M's decision to take Seattle to court. It is the only course of action we have remaining.

Today in the Science News: Part 6: Space Policy

There were two interesting articles on the space program and the federal government today. One was about this year's budget, which does not cut funding for NASA, and the other was an op-ed about ProSpace March Storm, a group that meets with Congress to promote their space-related goals.

On the first topic, this year's federal budget, I am of course glad to see that NASA has not experienced cuts. But I am somewhat surprised to see Mike Griffin still insisting that the shuttle will complete another 17-18 flights before it retires in 2010. It is now 2006, and even assuming the shuttle retires at the end of 2010, we're still talking about 17-18 flights in 59 months, or about one flight every 3 months. And that assumes flights start right away; as far as I know, the foam issue is still unresolved. Given the unspectacular record of 1 flight in the last 36 months or so, I'm not convinced.

I'm torn on this issue, as I mentioned in my memorial post. On the one hand, I do think humans are meant to explore space; but on the other, I'm not at all happy with the shuttle. The problem with the shuttle is that it tried to be all things to all men, which is why I am happy with the current plan to replace it with a fleet of vehicles. And the shuttle is so unsafe. During STS-114, the Return to Flight mission, I don't think I drew a full breath from the moment Discovery's engines ignited to the moment it landed two weeks later. And when I saw the footage of the foam breaking off the ET and just barely missing the Orbiter, I began to believe that retiring the shuttle immediately, and devoting the shuttle program's resources to developing the Crew Exploration Vehicle and Crew Launch Vehicle, would be the best decision.

The primary disadvantage of this plan is that it would effectively abandon the International Space Station. Crews could still get there on the Soyuz, at least as long as NASA is willing to pay Russia for Soyuz flights, but without the shuttle, construction can't continue, and a crew larger than 2 can't be maintained.

Now, I don't see a problem with abandoning the ISS on the principle of not throwing good money after bad, but we did make a promise to the international community. Perhaps if we were able to reach an agreement on a new space station (which I hope would model the cooperative framework on Cassini-Huygens), we could be released from our promise. But otherwise, I feel that we have an obligation to continue construction of the ISS.

Regardless, we need to develop our new vehicles as efficiently as possible. I'd like to see NASA form a stronger partnership with commercial companies, which brings me to the March Stormers. They mention the stark contrast between Burt Rutan's rapid and inexpensive development of SpaceShipOne and the government's effort to develop a new human-rated vehicle. Sadly, they are completely right, and I would like to see NASA take advantage of the private sector's abilities and resources while not burdening them with excessive bureaucracy. (Don't ask me how. It's a pipe dream.)

In short, I'm excited about the upcoming development of a new fleet of vehicles, and very excited about the efforts going forward in the private sector, but not exactly sanguine about continuing to fly the shuttle and maintain a presence on the ISS.

But, to end on a positive note, I'd like to remind everyone that NASA has done and continues to do spectacular scientific work. NASA administrates several space telescopes besides the Hubble, and has craft at Mars and Saturn, with another vehicle currently on its way to Mars and one on its way to Pluto. And, of course, there are Spirit and Opportunity, pluckily exploring away. I know they're there, I've seen the footage, and I even have a picture Spirit took as my desktop background, but I still can't quite believe that two pieces of humanity are on another planet. It's incredible - and inspiring.

Today in the Science News: Part 5: Amateur Spy

Wired magazine has a story on Ted Molczan, a Canadian man who spends his time tracking American spy satellites and publishing data on their orbits.

Molczan got interested in satellites as a child when he spotted one and correctly calculated the time at which it would traverse the sky on the following night. Somewhere along the line, he decided that since the American intelligence agencies don't publish their satellite orbits, he would start calculating and publishing the orbits on their behalf. He claims to be driven by the technical challenge.

I can understand that, but I don't see why Molczan needs to publish the information. He's even gotten a mysterious call from someone who offered to trade information on one group of satellites in exchange for information on a group of CIA satellites. Obviously, the individual represented a country that wanted to hide activity from the United States. Molczan didn't make the trade, and claims to have become concerned with what would happen if this information fell into the wrong hands.

And then he started a website and organized a group of observers across the world to publish data on the orbits of spy satellites, particularly those belonging to the United States.

This article left me with mingled anger and contempt. The source of the anger is obvious - how dare he undermine our intelligence? - and the contempt would be pity if not for the anger. I get the distinct feeling that Molczan is a very lonely, pathetic, sad little man.

Granted, his website does tell the United States which satellites are successfully hiding, so I suppose that's beneficial to us. The article also claims that Molczan's findings can be easily reproduced by anyone with basic mathematical skills and a good pair of binoculars. If that's true, he isn't really helping our enemies.

Even so, I can't say I appreciate his actions very much.

Today in the Science News: Part 4: Miscellanity

An opportunity missed:
I can't believe I never sent a telegram.

Now an entire generation will grow up not knowing those classic lines:
Western Union man
Bad news in his hand
Knocking at my door
Selling me the score

Western Union
dit-dit-dit-dit-dit dit-dit-dit-dit-dit
dit-dit-dit-dit-dit dit-dit-dit-dit-dit
Actually, now that I think about it, that might have already happened.

"Nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1995":
In the words of Mr. Bill, "OHH NOOOOO!"

I can't believe this can be true! What can possibly be happening to the Earth? What have we done?!?

...Wait, what's that you say? "On record" spans only 130 years?

Oh. Well, that's completely different. In the words of Emily Litella, "Never mind."

Singularity! Robotic deer catches poachers:
Actually, it just stands there and turns its head. But if you're dumb enough to shoot at it, then you're a poacher and get a fine.

I wish my audience read Sluggy Freelance so I could make a Deputy Deer joke here, but I have a feeling they don't. Alas, a brilliant joke must once again go unused.

On that topic, one of these days, I'll have to post the "Mrs. Peel's Jokes Go Unappreciated" series from my short-lived web comic. Some of y'all might actually get them without tedious explanation on my part.

Today in the Science News: Part 3: Medicine

Got bird flu? Get the common cold!:
Interestingly, an adenovirus-based vaccine is powerful against bird flu. The really interesting part is that two vaccines made for two different strains each exhibited cross-protection against the other strain.

Shocker: Male and female brains are different!:
Apparently, male and female mice exhibit different amounts of myelin in their brains and spinal cords (the males have more). If this is true for humans as well, it could explain, among other things, why multiple sclerosis affects more women than men.

Shocker: Several different areas of the brain used to process the same memory!:
Ok, so I can't make fun of the scientists on this one, because they did suspect that different areas of the brain might regulate different aspects of a memory. But it's just now been demonstrated? Sheesh.

I didn't even know there was a myth about this:
Eating at night does not make you gain more weight than eating during the day, contrary to the "common warning against snacking at night."

What "common warning"? I have never heard this warning.

Blue light causes alertness:
Interesting study suggests that exposing sleepyheads to blue light helps them wake up. It doesn't say how they measured alertness, though, so I'm curious to know whether cognitive function was comparable to its levels during the day.

Today in the Science News: Part 2: Animals

A study on hibernation:
which I bring up only to note that yes, I am enjoying the unseasonably warm winter. It's about 70 degrees outside today, with the clearest blue sky you ever saw.

"Rats with wings" to blog:
I wish I were kidding.
The pigeon bloggers are due to be released at the Inter-Society for Electronic Arts' annual symposium in San Jose on 5 August. The data they send back will be displayed on the blog in the form of an interactive map. As well as providing local residents with real-time data on air quality, da Costa hopes the pigeon blog will inspire people to come up with new ways to monitor the environment. The pigeons will also carry cameras around their necks and post aerial photos to the blog.
Now that's just wrong.

On the bright side, we may have finally discovered an explanation for spurwing plover.

Monkey dads exhibit sympathetic weight gain:
Sort of interesting. Apparently, males of two monkey species (common marmosets and cotton top tamarins) gain weight during their mate's pregnancy because they will have to carry the babies around after they're born. Matings in these species are for life, and they tend to be monogamous. Also see the LiveScience story, which has much the same information, but unfortunately doesn't have the humorous caption about how the weight gain wasn't visible because the monkeys were too damn hairy.

Grey wolves may no longer be endangered:
Which would allow people to shoot them. I like wolves, particularly of the were- variety, but I can't say I think it's a good thing that grey wolves are running around killing people's livestock and pets.

Those damn dirty whales don't play fair:
A killer whale spits fish onto an iceberg, waits for a seagull to swoop down after it, and then eats the seagull (and the fish, presumably).

I ask you, what's a gull supposed to do?

Today in the Science News: Part 1: Space Science

A "space policy" post follows, but will probably be the last in the science news series since I'll be commenting on it fairly extensively. But now, for space science!

Planet X, I mean Xena, not really a planet either:
It's apparently larger than Pluto, so if Pluto is a planet, then Xena definitely is, and Sedna and Quaoar probably are too.

Of course, there are only eight planets, so there's no debate at all.

Seriously: There is no commonly accepted definition of "planet," so you could say, "Yo momma's a planet!" and be perfectly accurate. The International Astronomical Union hasn't issued a definition, and may never, because it really doesn't matter. "Planet" is more a cultural word than a scientific term, so in that sense, yes, Pluto is a planet, and oddly, Xena, Sedna, and Quaoar may never be considered planets despite being comparable in size to Pluto.

Anyway, Jack M's momma is a planet.

Astronauts and radiology:
A recent study shows that protons cause twice as much serious damage to DNA as was initially thought. Since protons are fairly common in space, this finding suggests that astronauts are in more danger than we've thought. At the very least, we're going to need to have a closer look at these results.

NewScientistSpace vs. Space.com:
On the subject of a pair of Trojans orbiting Jupiter. Compare and contrast the two and notice how much more accurate the Space.com article is. The New Scientist headline is misleading, because the objects are comets, not asteroids, and it leaves out a lot of detail. And yet, the Space.com article is shorter and more readable. The NS article does focus more on the differing theories surrounding the Trojans, though.

Under the moons of Mars:
I forgot to wish happy anniversary to Spirit and Opportunity, which have each been on Mars for over two Earth years, despite having been designed to run only three months. Good work, little fellas!

Spirit is heading toward "Home Plate," and Opportunity is on its way to Victoria Crater. The article discusses the two features and what investigating them might uncover.

Self-healing spacecraft skin!:
This article is really interesting because the self-healing system these scientists have invented is analogous to our own repair functions. If the spacecraft is nicked, resin will bleed out of a network of tiny glass tubes to fill and harden in the nick, just as blood clots in shaving nicks.

No word on whether the spacecraft will need to use tiny squares of toilet paper to aid the clotting process.


I've discovered a particularly invidious member of this species, and thought that I should share it with all of you.
Captain Planet
He's my hero
Gonna take pollution
Down to zero
That is all. Thank you, and have a pleasant day.

01 February 2006

Those darn cosmic rays

I posted a story in yesterday's science news about cosmic rays and their effect on the weather. Obviously, I jinxed the beautiful blue skies we were having, because now they're dreary and grey.

But I remain unquenched.
I'm singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain
What a glorious feeling, I'm happy again
I'm laughing at clouds, so dark up above
The sun's in my heart, and I'm ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase everyone from the place
Come on with the rain, I've a smile on my face
I'll walk down the lane, with a happy refrain
And singin', just singin' in the rain!
The last time I was really in a good mood was summer of '04. I was so full of pep that my boss gave me more work to settle me down. But since I enjoyed the work, it only inspired me to swing on a lamppost while singing "The Real McCoy" as I went back to my building. The lamppost left a coat of white dust on my hand, though, which did calm me down a bit.

Speaking of pep, the guys used to call Carl Everett (a baseball player with excessive amounts of pep) "C4," and the only reason I could think of was that they were making a reference to C4 photosynthesis, the primary compound of which is phosphoenolpyruvic acid, or PEP.

But later, I found out C4 was an explosive. That did make more sense.