October 31, 2005

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A very cute couple. I don't know either of them.
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My friend Graham, as Andy Warhol.
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As best I can tell, this guy's costume was made primarily of carpet samples.
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I knew almost no-one at this party. Here's some random cute woman dressed as Hermione Granger.
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Dancing. The smoke machine worked really, really well.
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Halloween pictures


From the party I went to last night. We'll start off with my awesome costume, to which manda owes considerable credit.
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October 30, 2005

The popularity of women in sports

It seems as though we can roughly divide sports into three categories: competitive and combative sports, and races.

In competitive sports, such as gymnastics or pole vaulting, the competitors do not directly interact, and have basically no influence on the performance of the others. A competitive sport is as much about beating one's personal best as beating others.

By contrast, combative sports such as hockey or baseball usually involve two teams, or at least two individuals, matched up and competing directly with each other on the field of play. In a combative sport, improvement and achievement only make sense in the context of victory over others, and there are no absolute measures of skill.

Races fall somewhere in between. A race is decided by the time to complete the course, naturally, but often there's a level of interaction between competitors during the race that can be important.

I find it notable that, with very few exceptions, almost all the sports with prominent, professional female athletes are competitive or running events -- gymnastics and ice skating are probably the two most watched sports in which women compete during the Olympics, for example. The exceptions are tennis, soccer, and basketball. Even here, though, women and men do not go up against each other; there are separate soccer and basketball leagues, and tennis tournaments are divided into a men's and women's tournament.

On the other hand, the most prominent sports around the world are combative -- football and baseball here in the US, soccer everywhere else, rugby and cricket in the former British colonies -- and the 'ladies' leagues of these sports (if they even exist) are often regarded with open derision (how many lame jokes have you heard about the WNBA?). Can women have any hope of being professional atheletes as prominent as their male counterparts so long as combative sports are segregated in this way? Or is this a chicken-egg problem, and we're not liable to see, say, women quarterbacks without more prominent women in the non-combative sports?

This Post's For You

This week's debate question: Why don't women play video games in nearly the numbers that men do? Obviously, there are some female gamers, and they even have a conference. By and large women, at least in my anecdotal evidence, don't like, play, or have any interest in playing video games. Why is this. I'm particularly interested in hearing from my female readers, what precious few of you there are, but male comments are encouraged as well. I as only that the conversation remain civil people avoid the posting of patently offensive statements. If you're a woman and you like games, what types of games and why? If you're a woman and you don't like games, what about them turns you off? And while I'm watchful of ignorant comments from men, I'm really hoping to get more probing responses from women than "They're boring".

So let's get to the bottom of this gender gap!

"Link, he come to town / Come to save the Princess Zelda / Gannon put her away / Now the children don't play / But they will / When Link saves the day / Hallehiuhia!"

October 29, 2005

In case you didn't know

cell phones do not like going through the washing machine.

Oops ...

One Last Contest

Ok, this is the last major, and I stress major, source of Ra points that I'll be offering this month, so anyone wanting to take Grumlock down is going to need to kick ass at this one. The idea's been out there for a little while now, but here's the contest:

Take the word verification letters, treat them as a word, and write a definition for that word. There, easy! Everyone gets 10 Ra points for entering, and the winner will get an extra 25 for producing the best of the lot. I might throw out some extra points here or there, creating new categories to encompass standout entries. Have fun, but remember that this is an October contest, so all entries must be in before the month is over!

I'll post the current standings after the flip if you want to know where you are.

Grumlock 120
Dan Brottman 110
Joy 80
Jamie 75
Jay 70
Sarah 70
Meghan 30
Jenna 30
Andy 25
Ok.nowwhat 10

One last note, I said this would be the last major source of points, and I meant it. There are a few people here that could greatly close the gap on the lead with a win in the contest and then take the lead with other points-getting measures. Remember that participation is almost always the best/most consistent way to get points.

"It won't be long yet, till you're alone / When your lover, he hasn't come home"

October 28, 2005

Fitzmas Is Here!

With the first indictments coming down today, it's a good time to announce the winner of our Fitzmas Day contest. Unsurprisingly, it's our only entrant, Joy. So many congratulations to Joy on her glorious victory! I have decided, however, to withold the 15 point "best entry" bonus since it didn't really turn out to be much of a competition. I know, kind of cheap, but then, she's getting 25 points just for entering, so that's still a pretty good prize. Just for kicks, check out Joy's song beflow the flip.

To the tune of "Jingle Bells"

Dashing to the Post
With a scoop that can't be beat
Novak's gonna boast
That Plame's career's deplete
Too bad he'll later claim
That he had not a clue
So let's hold hands and pass the buck; It's Miller's new milleu

Oh...Miller time, Miller time
We're not talkin' beer
Someone's got a bone to pick
and Judith's gonna hear
Miller time, Miller time
We're not talkin' beer
Oh what fun it is to play
the blame game every year!

Let me get this straight
Her man's an agent too
Rove didn't like her date
So she's screwed over too?
No yellow cake was found
Joe Wilson said what's true
Novak and Rove are off scott free
and Wilson's in the pound?!

Oh...Miller time, Miller time
We're not talkin' beer
Someone's got a bone to pick
and Judith's gonna hear
Miller time, Miller time
We're not talkin' beer
Oh what fun it is to play
the blame game every year!

So Novak loses Cred
And Miller's in the Fed
DeLay has shady finances
in prison lays his head
Katrina's wake is dread
Iraq's 2000 dead
But question our fine president and you're a terrorist instead

Oh...terrorists! Terrorists!
Plame and Wilson too
They should go to Gitmo
'cause they fought with "W"
Terrorists! Terrorists!
Your neighbor might be one
Isn't being paranoid what makes our lives more fun?

"I got my shoes shined up / I got my hair slicked down / 'Cause baby I wanna hit the town"

Finally On Friday, A Random Ten

Here's this week's Random Ten, folks, enjoy it!

1. Hard To Explain - The Strokes
2. Calm Down - Optimus Rhyme
3. Bachelor and the Bride - The Decemberists
4. That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day) - Johnny Cash
5. La Nina De Puerta Oscura - Paco de Lucia
6. Stand By Me - Marvin Gaye
7. The Two Gates - Ayreon
8. Hungry - Large Professor
9. The Flintsones - TV Themes
10. Wasted My Hate - Metallica

I'm really happy with this mix. None of my all time favorites, but when drawing from a really big list you can't expect that very often. Still, it covers lots of area musically, which I like in a Random 10.

"Watch that side, watch that side don't you know it gonna be dead in the drive"

A counterexample to ID

A generic argument for Intelligent Design goes something like this:

  1. Organism O exhibits biological system S
  2. Biological system S has distinct parts X, Y, and Z
  3. Without any of X, Y, and Z, S would not function properly
  4. Hence, S exhibits irreducible complexity (IC)
  5. The best explanation for IC is the existence of a designer
  6. Hence, by inference to the best explanation, from S we conclude the existence of a supernatural designer

The most obviously contentious claim is (5), but more often opponents of ID attack the inference from (3) to (4) as begging the question against natural selection -- experiments reconstructing the evolution of, for example, the eye, show that 'irreducible complexity' is a bogus notion. My interest here is to provide counterexamples to (5). (Continued below the fold.)

Consider first an apple pie. While simple enough by our standards that one can be thrown together in just a couple hours, the pie is a rather sophisticated culinary construct.

First, there's the crust, which requires flour, a solid fat (usually butter or margarine), and knowledge of how to turn those into pastry dough -- knowledge which certainly never occurred spontaneously as someone idly watched a wild cow grazing in a field of undomesticated grass. Similarly, there are some surprising ingredients (cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree, for example) in the filling of an apple pie, and many are crucial to its final flavour and structure. And, of course, the crust and the filling have to be brought together and cooked properly, which requires the technology of an oven.

At the very least, an apple pie cannot 'function' as an apple pie wtihout all of the following: flour, solid fat, water, apples, brown sugar, spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, salt, a metal pie plate, and an oven capable of surrounding the pie with a roughly regular temperature throughout the entire cooking time. Missing just one will lead to a defective and undesirable pseudo-pie.

Hence, an apple pie exhibits irreducible complexity.

But is it right to say the apple pie was designed? I argue that this is not the case. I'm not a culinary anthropologist, so I can't recount for you the history of pastry; but certainly the first apple pie recipe did not spring into existence ex nihilo. Rather, the inventor of the apple pie no doubt drew upon previous experience baking other sorts of pastries; and pastry itself probably developed gradually, as bakers experimented with the different agricultural products surrounding them, pursuing those developments which proved to be the tastiest. That is, pastry (and thus the apple pie) evolved gradually, in a fashion that is much more reminiscent of natural selection than intelligent design.

Another, example is beer. Successfully brewing beer requires the technology to make glass bottles, sterilize them, and hermetically seal them; as well as cultivate and exploit the metabolism of yeast, and raise, roast, and integrate hops to provide flavour. Beer exhibits irreducible complexity, but it is ridiculous to think the complete brewing process, from field to Braeuhaus, was first conceived in its entirety. Small innovations, tiny steps and experiments, were the key to the development and evolution of beer.

Jams and jellies also exhibit irreducible complexity, as cooking, the stabilizing effects of sugar, and sterilization techniques are all necessary for a successful jam (not to mention knowing which fruits can and can't be jammed). But, again, no designer looked at a blackberry bush and came up with the whole preserving process in one fell swoop.

Hence, not only is the conclusion of design not inference to the best explanation; there are actually empirical cases where it is simply false. There's an important difference here with the experiments done to reconstruct the history of the eye: those experiments merely show that the defender of natural selection is a viable alternative to ID, not that ID itself is flawed. (5) is not shown to be false by naturalistic accounts, merely cast into doubt. The examples I've given here, on the other hand, show (5) cannot be true. To preserve their theory, an IDer must qualify (5), and argue why it applies in the case of biological evolution, but not culinary evolution.

October 27, 2005

Miers Withdraws Nomination

I was pretty sure this was going to happen, but today it actually did. This is, of course, a very minor victory since her nomination was hated by pretty much everybody. The real victory will be when Bush nominates, and he will, someone that conservatives like but who is just downright awful.

"There goes the siren that warns of the air raid / Then come the sound of the guns sending flak"

Insulting to women, insulting to men

As Amanda points out, sexism often deploys just as offensive and patently absurd portrayals of men as of women.

Virginity is the sort of human version of Real Doll-ness in this case--it makes the woman a blank slate to have fantasies projected on without interference from knowing she had a sexual past, which sounds a little stupid, but remember, we're talking about men here who think women have nothing else to offer men to keep them around except sex.[...]

To tell women that we have to grind our subjectivity out and be walking fantasies of blank slate virginity to be marriagable is to say that men are incapable of loving women as human beings. Granted, sexists blame women for this, on the theory that women are loathsome and have to bribe men with sex. Still, if I were a man, I'd be wildly insulted, not only to be told that I need my partner to be a sort of human blank slate but also that I have the brain of a humpy dog and can be coerced into relationships I don't want with sex.

But Amanda has missed something here, something she's caught in other contexts ('doofus dads' on teevee): 'men are stupid'/'men are run by their dicks' narratives provide an excuse for bad male behaviour, such as viewing women as sort of interchangable customized covers for vaginas. But, while the iron grip of biological determinism means men aren't responsible for womanizing, it also means that women are entirely responsible for 'not being women enough' -- women who don't conform to their 'essential female nature' are to blame for their own (supposed) lack of husband and brood. Men are biologically determined; women have a biological essence. Hence, ironically, women are granted much more agency and free will than men are, and agency becomes not a sine qua non of ethics, but an obstruction to proper behaviour.

And, really, this shouldn't be a surprise. Philosophers as diverse as Plato and Kant, writing on metaethics, provided devastating critiques of any ethical theory that grounds itself on mindless conformity to the mores set down by church Elders. The rejection of moral autonomy and rational agency is just the flip side of the call to zombie religiosity: for a fundamentalist, agency REALLY IS incompatible with morality.

Morning Links

I'll try to write something a little longer later in the day, but for now I just have a few links to show you.

1. I know we have some PlayStation fans in the audience, so it's worth reporting that full backwards compatibility, that is, the ability to play PS2 games on the PS3, is not certain. Microsoft has gotten a lot of heat from some gamers due to the fact that the 360 will not be able to play every Xbox 1 game, but my feelings on this are two fold: 1) When you're emulating software from one machine on another completely different machine you're never going to get 100% compatibility. and 2) Backwards compatibility just isn't that big of a deal, especially after the first 6-12 months. Sony really shouldn't be crucified for this, it's simply reality, but hopefully this will bring some of the fanatics online into the light.

2. The Experimental Gameplay Project is pretty cool. Four students at Carnegie Mellon each make one game a week for the entire semester. Each student is responsible for creating the entire game from code to art to sound, the idea being that hyper complexity is not necessary for fun. It's a pretty cool concept, and they let you download the games they make.

3. Jack Thompson is back, baby! He evidently took a few days off the crusade to, you know, not be a media whore during a major hurricane, but now that that's all wrapped up he's fired another volley across the bow of the SS Penny Arcade. Unless there's a link in his story that I don't know about he, unsurprisingly, has no case yet again. I do have to give him credit for inventing "pixelantes", a derivation of "vigilantes", because I love invented words and that one's fantasmic.

4. Here's an interesting article about Live Action Role Playing gamers(LARPers), and the people that love them.

5. On the one hand this editorial criticizes our buddy Jack Thompson and his rediculous video game law suits, which you don't see much in the media, but on the other hand they're basically calling for massive tort reform, which I'm sure you all know I think is moronitastic. I was a lot more sympathetic to the "anti-frivolous lawsuit" crowd before I came to law school, but underlying a lot of the movement's arguments are a basic misunderstanding of how the law works both in theory and practice. The article cites the McDonald's coffee case, which right there destroy's the writer's credibility with me.

6. Modern Humor Authority doesn't post nearly as much as I'd like them too. See the Doom review, though I suppose I should warn you that there are spoilers there, if you wanted to see the movie "fresh", like Frank Costanza.

Hat tips to EA, and Game Politics for the uncredited links.

"Hello. / Is there anybody in there? / Just nod if you can hear me. / Is there anyone at home?"

October 26, 2005

Quick Pic Post

The countdown to the day I move in with frequent commenter Jamie, otherwise known as the launch of the Xbox 360, is quickly arriving, and with it more sexy pictures of new soon-to-be-released video games.

Evolutionary psychologists locate "humour gene"

Surprisingly (or not), it turns out to be located on the Y chromosome. One wouldn't think the tiny Y would code for all those sex-linked traits EPers keep finding on it -- aggression and competition, sense of humour, mathematical ability, physical prowress, hairy, etc. -- but these remarkable geneticists keep doing it!

Oh, wait. They didn't actually locate a gene. They just saw that women like men who make with the funny, while men like women who laugh at everything that comes out of their mouth like fucking trained seals, and spun some bullshit essentialism out of it.

Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and author of The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature, argues that the humor divide is best understood as a result of sexual selection: Women are the choosier sex, and because they prefer funny men—a signal of cognitive fitness—men learned to deploy humor and wit to attract a mate and perhaps to outsmart other men.

No, that's not underdetermined by the evidence at all! You are a fine biologist, and not a hack who just makes shit up, Dr. Geoffrey Miller! Never mind feminist theories of gender socialization that have been around for about forty years now, or the existence of Janeane Garofolo, Wanda Sikes, and other incredibly successful female comedians; the power of your masculine mind has perceived Truth directly, in the real spirit of science!

Prop 73 even worse than previously thought

I've only mentioned it once or twice, but there's a Parental Notification law on the ballot for the election in California in just a few weeks. Any Parental Notification law is bad, of course, but this was has some particularly nasty bits:

Like most such laws in other states, Prop. 73 provides a court alternative: A minor could appear before a Superior Court judge and obtain permission for an abortion by showing, with clear and convincing evidence, that she is 'sufficiently mature and well-informed'' to make the decision on her own or that notifying a parent would not be in her best interest.

The hearing and the minor's name would be kept confidential, but the judge's decision would not. Prop. 73 would require each court to issue a public report once a year on how many abortion requests each judge has granted and denied.

Apparently, it's fairly common for doctors and judges to be required to report this sort of thing for statistical purposes; but their names are not published. Why did the authors of this bill include this unusual provision? Because politicization of judges is a good thing. No, I'm not kidding, that's what they say:

Stan Devereux, spokesman for the Yes-on-73 campaign, said the purpose of the reporting requirement is to make judges accountable to the public.

"Given the politicized nature of abortion, shouldn't there be some kind of accountability to make sure that judges are doing their job rather than following their own ideology?'' he asked.

"As public officials, we are subject to evaluation by the public,'' said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Nash, president of Juvenile Court Judges of California, whose members would conduct most of the hearings under Prop. 73. If a judge's abortion rulings became a campaign issue, he said, "that's really one of the hazards of being an elected public official.''

Yet another problem crops up in the language used by the bill to define an abortion:

The other Prop. 73 provision that worries opponents is its definition of abortion as a procedure that intentionally causes "the death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born.'' That differs from the current definition of abortion under state law as a "medical treatment intended to induce the termination of a pregnancy.''

You don't abort a child, or even a foetus or embryo; you abort a pregnancy. And, of course, this language lumps a foetus or embryo in with children, which is nothing more than begging the question. It does seem true that this wouldn't have any immediately legal consequences, but as more laws around the country employ this sort of language, the better pro-coathanger lawyers will be able to argue in front of the Supreme Court that abortion is infanticide.

October 25, 2005

In Memoriam


Rosa Parks passed away Monday night. Amanda commemorates by recalling a short essay by Sarah Vowell, and hosting her own Rosa Parks-off. Go and contribute your own utterly inappropriate analogy to Parks.
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Double mashed potatoes


Here's an interesting variant on traditional mashed potatoes I came up with tonight. A quick google search didn't reveal any comparable recipes.

  1. 1 medium sweet potato
  2. 3 small red or Yukon Gold potatoes

    You want about the same amount of each kind of potato. Don't use Russet potatoes, the big brown ones you use for baking; they don't have enough starch, and the result will be thin and watery. I like Yukon Golds for their rich, creamy taste.

  3. 1/4 cup (soy) milk
  4. 2 tbsp butter or (soy) margarine
  5. Optional: 1/2 of a small package of thawed frozen peas

Wash the regular potatoes, and peel the sweet potato (you can peel the regular ones, too, but I like the texture a little peel lends to the end). Cut the regular potatoes into 6-8 chunks of roughly the same size, and cut the sweet potato to match. You don't have to be perfect, but you do want all the potato chunks to be about the same size and shape so they cook consistently.

Put the just the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan with enough cold water to cover both the sweet and regular potatoes. Sweet potatoes are much denser than regular potatoes, and they'll need a head start: heat on high until boiling, then turn down to medium-high to prevent boiling over and let the sweet potatoes cook for 10 minutes, or until they yield to a knife about as well as the uncooked regular potatoes. Add the regular potatoes and boil about another 10 minutes. The potatoes are done when they crack as a paring knife is pressed into them.

Drain the water and put the cooked potatoes in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add milk and butter and mash with a masher or beat on low with a mixer, until everything is nicely combined and the potatoes are fluffy. (Aesthetic note: A masher will probably let you keep the two colours of potato separate, while a mixer will turn everything a uniform pale orange.) Now it's time to season. I used salt, pepper, and garlic powder for a taste more like traditional mashed potatoes (chives are also a classic), but you could also go with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and brown sugar or honey for a more sweet potato flavour. Continue to mash or beat until seasonings are combined. Try not to overwork the potatoes at this point -- the starch molecules holding the mass together have already been boiled and beaten enough, and are liable to fall apart entirely if you push them too far. Fold in peas with a wooden spoon, then transfer to serving dish.

This recipe will serve 2-3 people as a main dish, and about twice as many as a side dish.

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The Next Quiz We Will All Take

Who doesn't like internet quizzes? Only the crazies, that's who! Anyway, today's question is, "Which Punctuation Mark Are You?"

It's a fun post, so here's a completely unrelated, but fun article. Apparantly those of us living in South Jersey need to watch for zombies coming from the ill-protected nearby west.

"Aight little man, let me tell you 'bout the days / When your favorite MC's had no major airplay / No video, car, crib, or large deals / Only a single got you city-wide appeal"

Yay The Brits!

The Brits are releasing all the PSAs made by the government during the 20th century for our viewing. They could have made a four hour film on their previous monetary system and it still wouldn't have been enough.

Hat tip to Fark.

"I guess you didn't know it / But I'm a fiddle player too / And if you'd care to take a dare / I'll make a bet with you"

Funny Google Hits

It's time again for me to get completely uncreative in my posting and just type up the most interesting things that bring people to the old site o' love. Of course, by typing them here I will bring further people here that are searching for those terms, but I can think of worse, and smuttier, ways to draw traffic to the site.

1. Several searches for the xz.bat fix that I posted, which I find very gratifying. Nice to know I'm (hopefully) helping people out.

2. Funny Misleading Graphs. Fortunately, I'm fairly confident that we're not making any of these graphs.

3. How to make fantasy headpiece. I'm pretty sure I didn't help these people out at all

4. Shiving definition. Because when I'm being stabbed with a toothbrush in the shower the thing I most want to know is that it conforms to the standard definition.

"Kano! / Liu Kang! / Raiden! / Johnny Cage! / Scorpion! / Sub-Zero! / Sonya!"

This Is A Final Test

This is a final test of the new expanded comments system and what it can do. I hope this worked. That would be wicked cool. I need lots of text here to make it look right. Anyone know how the Transformers got back and forth to Cybertron in the first couple seasons of the cartoon? How about the name of Skeletor's castle? The name of the biker gang which was bizarrely a part of the worldwide organization known as Cobra? Where did the Carebears live? I'll give you five points a piece for those, one entry per person.

This part is a test to see if I can get lyrics to still show up on the main page outside of the expandable comments tags.

October 24, 2005


Trying to make the video thing less intrusive....

Edit: Ok, so I tried to post the video in the comments so it wouldn't load every time you come to the front page, but it won't accept those tags in the comments. Unless I can figure out some way to post it out of the front page, my current thinking is to post a video on the weekends and then delete the post Sunday night so it doesn't bother people at work.

Any thoughts?

Review - Psychonauts [VG]

Psychonauts has been a long time time coming. Haven't heard of it? I'm wouldn't be surprised; it's not exactly one of those games with a marquee that you can't avoid when walking into your local Gamestop. Still, it's the first game produced by video game god Tim Schafer since he left Lucas Arts in 1998. I know most people don't know nearly as much about the history of video games as they likely know about the history of movies, but Schafer's body of work includes the first two Monkey Island games, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango; all classics in the adventure game genre. Bottom line, in video game history Schafer's a giant, but gaming has moved away from the point and click adventures of the past in favor of more action oriented affairs in the last several years.

Unlike his previous works, Schafer made Psychonauts a platforming game (think Mario/Sonic), probably precisely to up the action level a bit for those people too deficient in attention to think of themselves are a participant in a story as opposed to just some character that shoots stuff. The action's fine and all, and well executed for that matter, but if you're skipping the cut scenes in this game or choosing not to talk to the people you run into on your journies you're really missing what makes this game special. The thing that Schafer's games do that almost no other games out there do is make the world feel unique to itself. What's that you say? There's a new WWII shooter out there?! How original! There is literally no game quite like Psychonauts. Yes, it shares some basic fundamentals with other games of the genre but unlike so many of its (better selling) competitors there's nothing generic about Psychonauts.

The story starts with young Raz sneaking into a secret government-run training camp for psychic cadets. Since he's not officially enrolled the councilors call his parents to come pick him up, leaving Raz a mere two days to complete all of his training and become a Psychonaut! In order to do this Raz must enter the minds of various people he meets along the way, sorting out the emotional baggage (literally baggage), fighting back their ego's censors, and curing their psychoses while earing psychic power merit badges. Again, there's really no game like it, and there are several parts of the game that are genuinely funny

I had the option to buy it used, but though my default cheapness almost always forces me into that purchase, I ended up with a new copy because it's so rare that a truly original game comes around that I wanted to actually give some level of support. I couldn't be happier with the purchase.

If you like platforming games you really owe it to yourself to play this game. Just please God don't skip the cutscenes!

"I turn from surreal to seclusion / From love to disdain / From belief to delusion / From a thief to a beggar / From a god to God save me"
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Ra Points Update

With just one week left in the month of October (boy, did it seem like this month flew by to anyone else?) I though I'd let everyone know the standings as of 1:34pm on 10/24.

Dan Brottman - 65
Drew - 55
Joy - 35
Jay - 30
Andy - 15
Meghan - 15
Jenna - 10
Ok.nowwhat - 10
Sarah - 10
Jamie - 10

It might look pretty spread out, but between commenting, sending me cool links, and participating in contests, everyone still has the potential to take the lead and win your very own post dedicated to your crushing victory over all competitors.

"If she runs, let her run, run, run / Just hope she comes back"

Fitzmas Is Coming!

Shakespeare's Sister does a nice job of tying together some stories on the upcoming Fitzmas excitement.

Really, this post is just an excuse to remind you all that you've got a couple days left to enter the Fitzmas music contest. Lots of points up for grabs here.

Also, anybody catch last night's West Wing? Any thoughts?

"You're out of the woods / You're out of the dark / You're out of the night / Step into the sun, step into the light"

Let's Get Some Posts Going!

What good is the internet if not used as a means to steal other people's ideas? I say no good at all! That being the case, I'm going to steal an idea from Shakespeare's Sister and start a series of posts that are merely questions and let my lovely readers discuss it on their own.

The first one is: What is the funniest movie of all time? It'd be best if you explained why you think your movie is the funniest of all time and not simply post the name.

"I woke up this mornin' with the sundown shinin' in / I found my mind in a brown paper bag within / I tripped on a cloud and fell-a eight miles high / I tore my mind on a jagged sky"

Extra points for the first person to guess my pick. To help a bit, the song lyrics are a hint.

So, When Do I Get Paid?

A fun link from Pandagon. A little growth and I can retire baby, or at least, buy a car. Here, I'll even do some work for you:

1. Headpiece for the Staff of Ra - $4,516.42
2. Terminus - $9,597.18
3. Orcinus - $469,697.28
4. Little Green Footballs - $0 (Ah hahahahaha! I know it's just a glitch in the software, but still)
5. Daily Kos - $5,689,434.12
6. Eschaton - $2,118,154.08
7. Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler - $79,035.60 (Booooo!)

And just for fun

8. Penny Arcade - $3,049,080.54

"No friends for playing games / No foes who scorn my name / Computerized machines of steel and rust"

Mmmm Bop! Racist Mmmm Bop!

I know at least a couple of you have already seen this, but I'm just facinated by these girls. I mean, they look normal enough, right? And, I suppose they are normal in most ways, it's just the "being racist pop singers" thing that sets them, shall we say, a little atypical. I'm just trying to imagine what their songs sound like. "Oops, I Did It Again", but about talking to minorities? "Genie In A Bottle", but about Hitler? I might actually try to track down some of their tracks because the horror of it all is just too engrossing.

"Too high / Can't come down / Losing my head / Spinning round and round / Do you feel me now?"

October 23, 2005

I Must Love Disappointment

We've taken an accidental break from the Random 10s, because I keep forgetting, but you guys never post yours anyway....I'd just like to remind you that posting comments is a good way to get Ra points. We haven't exactly been on a tear in posting stuff, like we were last month, but a timely comment could be worth some points indeed.

Anyhow you know the drill, load your mp3, set the program to random, and post the first ten songs it spits out. Do not, however, alter you list, especially to make it cooler.

1. Girl Don't Tell Me - The Beach Boys
2. In My Life - Johnny Cash
3. Positive Contact - Deltron
4. Lord Of The Thunder - Rhapsody
5. It's Tricky - Run DMC
6. Funky Nassau - The Blues Brothers
7. Money For Nothing - Dire Straits
8. The Big Medley - Dream Theater
9. Public Speaking II - Park-like Setting
10. Old L.A. Tonight - Ozzy Osborne

"I'll get me a hat, you'll wear a thong / We'll learn hula dance to Metallica song / O baby, what a lovely day"

October 22, 2005

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The Golden Dome caps the administration building in the centre of campus, and is often used as a shiny, shiny symbol of the school. That's either Jesus or Columbus on top (I'm not kidding, I really don't know, and it could go either way). Posted by Picasa
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Few Links For Yas

A Spartan soldier from Halo is going to be an unlockable character in the Xbox 360 fighting game Dead Or Alive 4. It's worth point out that though the most commonly known Spartan soldier is the Master Chief, this isn't him. The nerds on the internet have determined that this is a female Spartan, based on the armor. This is all explained in the Halo novels (yes, there are several Halo novels), but supposedly there are many more Spartans than the Master Chief. Anyway, these shots are pretty cool looking.

Xbox 360 kiosks have been popping up in store across the country lately, mainly to Walmarts, though apparantly some of them are being improperly hooked up.

Here are some shots of the next-gen Sonic game. These aren't super impressive, but some other shots I posted a while ago looked pretty cool.

Hmmm, might update with lyrics later...

Fall in the S.B.

One of the very, very few things I don't like about the West Coast is the paucity of seasons we get to enjoy. With the exception of San Francisco, there are mostly just two, Wet and Hot, with transition periods of 5 weeks or less in September and April as it gradually becomes less hot or less wet. Since the vast majority of the trees are evergreens and oaks, I simply grew up not knowing the explosion of colours the more eastern part of the country calls Fall. Chicago got to show off a bit, but no city can compare to the spectacle more rural areas will offer. The Notre Dame campus is normally quite photogenic, and yesterday seemed to be showing off for the football-weekend visitors. Posted by Picasa

October 19, 2005

Funny Link = Points

Good buddy Casey sends this link for us all to enjoy. Remember kids, sending me cool links like this can earn you 15 Ra points.

"Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies / Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit, I"

A Fitzmas Contest

In celebration of Fitzmas Day I thought it would be fun if we had some songs to sing. Since this is the first official celebration of Fitzmas Day we're going to have to write our own! The contest is this, take a Christmas song and change the lyrics to be appropriate for this new holiday. I know most of you aren't Plame junkies, so here are a couple links to help you come up with lyrics. Everyone that enters will get 25 Ra Points and the best entry will receive an extra 15 Points for their skill. I'll post my own lyrics in the comments to get things started.

Edit: Most Christmas songs are very simple and repetitive, so I'm not going to give you lots of time on this. My song took me a half hour or something, so I'll give you a week to work on yours. This should be more than enough time for you guys to submit something. I do reserve the right, however, to deny an entry if there's not any work there (such as a submission where the only change is changing all the "Christmases" to "Fitzmases").

Happy Fitzmas!

It's been a while since I've posted a link to Daily Kos, so here you go; a ten step program for dealing with Fitzmas. For those that aren't aware of the upcoming holiday, Fitzmas is the celebration of the handing down of indictments by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the Valerie Plame case. Speculation has run wild about who will actually get indicted, this is the internet afterall, but here's what people think thus far in order of likelihood: "Scooter" Libby, the VP's Chief of Staff and Karl Rove will be indicted; Cheney and maybe Bush are listed as unidicted coconsipirators.

Edit: Deleted a sentence where I mentioned the possiblity of Bush and Cheney being indicted because I forgot that their jobs are immune from prosecution and can't be indicted. My bad dawgs! Still, it's worth noting that Nixon wasn't even listed as an unidicted co-conspirator until after he left the office. It's a really really big deal for something like that to happen.

Well, Happy Fitzmas, one and all!

"There's a saltwater film on the jar of your ashes; I threw them to the sea, but a gust blew them backwards and the sting in my eyes that you then inflicted was par for the course just as when you were living."

Art blogging

For 10 Ra points, name the artist and a/the movement they are associated with.
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A statue

A statue in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago. Photo taken this May.
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An elephant

This is my elephant. This picture was taken about 95 seconds after the rhino one. It's much less disgusting.
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A rhino

This is a rhino at the Brookfield Zoo just outside of Chicago last July, shortly after it finished spraying shit all over the wall of its pen.

Rhinos are kinda disgusting.
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October 18, 2005

Miers is unacceptable

I've avoided weighing in one way or the other on Harriet Miers, Bush's nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. It was not clear whether she was another wingnut in moderate's clothing or just a somewhat more acceptable crony nominee.

Things have become quite clear over the past few days that the former is the case:

[Miers' run to become the first female president of the Texas Bar] remained [lawyer and feminist Louise] Raggio's priority -- even though the two women had talked candidly about abortion on various social and professional occasions, according to Raggio. 'She thought it was murder,' Raggio says. 'I'm pro-choice, so it concerns me that's she been appointed to the Supreme Court, because her religion is so dominant. She'll vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.'

Others who know Miers personally -- including Texas conservatives -- are said to believe the same. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported on a conference call regarding Miers attended by James Dobson and prominent religious conservatives. Two conservative judges, Justice Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court, and Judge Ed Kinkeade, a Dallas-based federal trial judge, were also on the call. According to the Journal, both judges said that based on 'personal knowledge of her' they believed Miers 'absolutely' would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It's as simple as that.

A Sick Computer Fix

I recently (read: today) contracted a virus over instant messenger and I'm pretty sure that it's been fixed here, so I thought I'd pass on the solution to you guys in the event you get it.

First, and #1 rule for this virus: If you receive a message from somebody, even a friend you know, that says something about a picture or whatnot, don't click the link! I, like a fool, just clicked the link thinking, "Cool! Pictures!" only to curse myself half a second later. So yeah, check with your buddies if you get links out of nowhere.

If you're unfortunate enough to contract this virus, here are the steps that got me clear...

First go to Start --> My Computer --> Your C: drive and see if you have a file in that directory called XZ.bat or something like that. Don’t double click it if it’s there, just leave it for now. Then go to Start --> Run --> msconfig. When the window loads go to the Startup tab (furthest to the right of the tabs). Then find all the things that look like they could be viruses (that is, weird names like mc-62-602-0000156.exe) but which is NOT in the Windows directory (which you can see in the “Command” column). Things in the Windows directory tend to be important. Anyhow, uncheck the items that you think are viruses (I had the mc thing, something called pokapoka, lockx, and a few others). This keeps them from loading on startup which is why you can’t normally get rid of them through anti-viral software or manual deletion.

So, now that our files are unchecked restart the computer. Before Windows loads you want to enter into Safe Mode by hitting F8. There are several “Safe Mode” options, but just go with vanilla “Safe Mode”. When you’re at the desktop go back to the C: drive where we found that XZ.bat file. Now you’re able to delete it. Restart Windows normally and run anti-viral software, you should be able to get rid of everything now.

I hope this doesn't help anyone, but if it does than that's great. It cost me an hour today that I'd love to get back.

"Infiltration hits your station / No Microsoft or Enhanced DOS will impede / Society thinks they're safe when / Bingo! Harddrive crashes from the rendering"

Open Thread

I think I tried this a long long time ago, but I'm going to create this open thread to let you folks talk about whatever you want. Use it to bring things up that are on your mind, alert us to things you think we should know about, or give us feedback on the site. Make it what you will.

Breaking News! Jack Thompson Is A Real Jerk!

Evidently Jack Thompson is striking back at the PA boys by trying to get the Seattle PD to harass them. I say harass because I'm not entirely sure what they could arrest Gabe or Tycho for, despite Thompson's assurances that they have committed "criminal harassment". Says Thompson, laughably, ""I look forward to working with your fine Police Department to shut this little extortion factory down and/or arrest some of its employees."

Like the article mentions, it's probably too early to hear anything from the PA guys, but I'll let you know when something developes. Amusingly, Thompson forgot the hyphen in the PA link, which used to take you to a porn site, though I think it's been shut down now.

Edit: Forgot the links.

"Been slept on, passed-over like in the Jewish tradition / Cast in cameos like I'm dressed in hand-me-downs"

Finally, Some Politics

Unfortunately, I'm in class and tired, so you're not going to get much out of me in terms of commentary. Fortunately this isn't something that requires much out of me because it's so damn great. I hadn't been familiar with The Poor Man's Institute before this, but it's going in my bookmarks now for sure because this sort of snark will not be denied!

Hat tip over to Atrios.

Edit: More links instead of more posts...

First, Jack Cafferty is quickly turning into my hero. Orange jumpsuits indeed!

Second, since we're already at Crooks & Liars, here's a great quote from Newt about the state of the Republican party:

I think we're at the biggest crossroads as a party we've been at since Ronald Reagan was nominated in 1980, and I think the party has to change fairly dramatically...

Rush disagrees, but even though I'm not fond of him I'd say Newt is roughly ten times smarter than Rush.

Three! Ezra always finds/creates the best healthcare stuff, and destroying the myth of "Canadians invading the US healthcare system because their's sucks" is right up there too.

Finally, Bush's approval numbers break into the 30s. Wow, even if we were all a little burned by polling in the election, that's a pretty impressively crappy number.

"Well time and tears went by and I collected dust / For there were many things I didn't know / When daddy went away, he said, try to be a man / And someday you'll understand"

October 17, 2005

The Continuing Adventures Of Jack Thompson

As I'm sure regular readers of Penny Arcade are aware, Jack Thompson, anti-video game lawyer extreme, is really having a time of it recently. First, Jack Thompson made an open offer to the gaming industry in which he promised to give $10,000 to charity if a company would make what he called a murder simulator in which players had the ability to kill not only the heads of several game companies, but local minimum wage game store employees as well. In response Gabe, the artist for Penny Arcade, sent Jack an e-mail in which he mocked the offer a bit. Yeah, perhaps a little juvenial, but if anyone's earned it it's Jack Thompson, and if anyone in the internet community has earned the right to mock Thompson's feeble philanthropy it's the PA guys, who have collected and donated over fifty times that amount to charity.

Then Jack Thompson called Gabe and yelled at him a bit. Also at around this time it seems like Thompson was also involved in a bit of an e-mail war with the proprietor of another web comic. Then the head of one of the groups Thompson has called allies asked him not to envoke their name any longer in his mad rants. And if you thought for a moment that Thompson could dare the nerd community to make a game and it would go unchallanged, well you would be wrong. And when the nerds actually followed through on Thompson's proposal he said that it was all made in satire. Evidently, the charity money was also satire, though the Penny Arcade guys have since made a $10,000 donation in Thompson's name to the ESA Foundation.

"I will not cease from mental fight / Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand"

Pop-Up Review-o

About.com has started a feature where they review video games in a format similar to VH1's Pop-up Videos, that is, while video of the game plays on the screen info blurbs pop up saying things they liked and didn't like about the game. It's a pretty effective format, as it really allows them to show you why the problems they saw in the game really do hurt it.

"I carry the cross, if Virgin Mary had an abortion / I'd still be carried in the chariot by stampeding horses / Had to bring it back to New York"

October 16, 2005

The future!

It's a fairly common environmental element of films set in The Future, especially since the rise of CGI made the effect easier and cheaper to make: moving images on newspapers, magazines, and billboards. Siemens made an announcement this weekend:

Cheap, paper-thin TV screens that can be used in newspapers and magazines have been unveiled by German electronics giant Siemens.

The firm says the low production costs could see the magazine shelves in newsagents come alive with moving images vying for the customers' attention as they move along the aisle.

They expect to start producing it commercially in about two years.

I'm actually not sure how widespread this will become. Certainly we'll see it in specialized magazines; but the newspaper and newsmagazine publishing industries have been struggling for a while, and I don't think people are going to read a physical newspaper instead of an internet newspaper just because the former has moving pictures -- especially when the internet version can have those same clips!

More likely, these will be used to make screens for a wide variety of new portable electronics. Smaller, lighter camera- and videophones, or higher-quality portable video players (like the latest version of the iPod, or portable DVD players), or even smaller and more compact laptops.

One especially neat idea are the genuinely appealing e-book readers that could be manufactured with these. For example, perhaps you'll be able to buy one that's the size and shape of an ordinary sheet of newspaper; subscribe to the New York Times (or whatever), and every morning you can download and read an electronic copy with the same 'feel' as a print copy. A book-size reader the size, shape, and weight of a thin hardback could do to publishing what the iPod is doing to music.


1962 was such a spectacular year in film. Some highlights:
  1. Lawrence of Arabia
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird
  3. The Manchurian Candidate
  4. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  5. Sanjuro
  6. The Miracle Worker
  7. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
  8. Lolita
  9. Birdman of Alcatraz
  10. Cape Feare

The late '50s and early '60s was an incredible period of filmmaking. We have Twelve Angry Men and Inherit the Wind, plus Kurosawa's most famous films, amidst a general flourishing of filmmaking in Japan. But 1962 stands out as a spectacular year in this spectacular decade: no less than TEN great films, all released in a single twelve-month period.

October 14, 2005

Now this is what I call art!


Via Jesus' General.

Hugo thinks about anti-feminist women

And mentions my "favourite" "philosopher" in the process:

The other aspect of this anti-feminism I encounter among my students is a disturbing refusal to see any sense of responsibility for and towards other women. Not all anti-feminist young women are selfish. But I have to admit that more than a few of the brighter ones, are alas, going through that depressing stage where they think the Fountainhead is the greatest book ever written, and Ayn Rand has become -- at least temporarily -- their hero. (Thankfully, they usually grow out of it. Lots of young men and women become captivated by the radical self-centeredness of objectivism in their teens and early twenties; most abandon it once they learn what it is to truly love another human being unconditionally.) Young women like this flatter themselves into believing that sexism is just an excuse used by unhappy and unsuccessful women to explain their failures; the Rand devotees insist, with an almost heartbreaking naivete, that in the modern world any young woman can succeed at anything she wants if she tries hard enough, and she can do so by herself. Women's failure to achieve happiness, they defiantly declare, is due to individual shortcomings only, and not to broader social problems.

One thing I know right now: dealing with college freshman and sophomores who are enamored of Atlas Shrugged is something I will have to do again and again over the next forty or fifty years. I expect this to be a monumentally frustrating task, because these are liable to be my 'best' students -- intelligent, literate, hardworking. They'll ask thoughtful, relevant questions and make thoughtful, relevant comments; but then there'll be all the comments that Kant was CLEARLY wrong about the categorical imperative, because, as Ayn Rand shows, blah blah blah. And, of course, as much as I'd like to, I can't just dismiss comments like this offhand. Nor can I just start blatantly arguing with one of my students in the middle of class; the moderator isn't supposed to get involved in the debate!

Maybe I'll just include some Nietzsche in all my Intro to Ethics courses. Start them off with some Genaeology of Morals, which the Randiac should enjoy, and then slip in something to trip them off just when they're gloating.

For a change, I've got some lyrics. But there's a trick: for ten points, name the artist, the song, and the episode of Buffy the song was performed in.
Because nobody knows that's how I nearly fell / Trading clothes and ringing Pavlov's bell / History shows there's not a chance in hell

October 12, 2005

Nerdy Links

Alright, evidently yesterday there was a press event for the Xbox 360 in New York. Evil Avatar has some previews here, here, here, and here. Check out the first one in particular. Live Arcade sounds totally cool.

Apple announced the Ipod Video today, which will be available next week. It's not the play-anything-you-have-on-your-computer type of player that you may have hoped for, but I suppose it's a step in the right direction. If you're looking for something a little better for video stuff, there are other options out there.

"The other day around the way I seen you illin' at a party
Drunk as skunk you illin' punk and in your left hand was Bacardi
You went up to this fly girl and said "Yo, yo, can I get this dance?"
She smelt your breath and then she left you standin' in your illin' stance"

Juvenial Humor

From Dan Brottman, we have the sophmoric humor for the day. It seems that .ck is the domain of the Cook Islands and, furthermore, .co.ck is the .com of that domain. I should also warn you that on the site I'm linking to there's another link that takes you to a nude picture of Tony Danza, so don't let your Danza curiosity get the best of you if you're not prepared for some "Hey oh, oh-ay!" action.

"Takin' a dive 'cos you can't halt the slide / floating downstream / So let her go don't start spoiling the show / It's a bad dream"

October 11, 2005


I just signed up with myspace.com, which I hear is like Friendster but better. Don't ask me, I don't know yet. Anyway, as it common with going through with lots of people's profiles on the internet you run across various levels of annoying emoticons. Generally I'm not a fan of the standard smiley faces and such, but I'm a bit more open to more inventive emoticon ideas. I just wanted to say that <3 doesn't look like a heart to me...

Not your ordinary review

A literary analysis of Serenity. Interesting stuff!

October 10, 2005

No pie for you!

Because I'm lazy and forgot to take a picture of it before I cut into it. It's damn tasty, though.

And now for something completely different.

In Book V of the Physics (or somewhere around there), Aristotle gives a teleological argument against the reduction of biological beings to mere complicated material structures. Briefly, he argues that organisms are organized into structures with a particular end (telos), the well-being of the organism itself. Even the most charitable version of reductivism cannot give an account of this telos, and hence cannot be true.

Now, prima facie, this conflicts with the sort of evolutionary account that's fundamental to contemporary biology, but I think the Aristotelian teleology of the organism can be cashed out in terms of the reproductive success basic to natural selection.

One of the major metaphysical accounts of mathematics for the past 100+ years has been logicism, the idea that (major parts of) mathematics can be reduced to formal (symbolic) logic. Mic Detlefsen (my advisor) has interpreted Poincare (the father of topology, and one of the greatest mathematicians in the history of the subject) as arguing that logicism cannot give an account of the way a mathematician views her theorem as playing an important role in the development of the field of mathematics as a whole.

There seems to be an interesting parallel here. What repercussions follow from interpreting Poincare's point as a teleology of mathematics?

Fantasy Hockey

Ok, this isn't going to be a terribly interesting post for people not involved in my fantasy hockey league, but read it anyway because I said so. Ok, so this year I got roped into a fantasy hockey league. It's the first time I've ever been involved in fantasy sports and, predictably, I've gotten kind of obsessed with it; checking stats all day and such. Anyway, because it's the first time I've done this I did a pretty bad job of drafting players and managed to draft a goalie that doesn't so much play in the NHL anymore. So that's my fault and it left me with one goalie for the first week.

Then in the first game of the season my one goalie hurt himself, leaving me with no goalies for the rest of the week. I could, however, try to get some goalies for the next week, so I dumped my no-longer-playing goalie for a hot young prospect. He injured himself before I got him. So I put both of my injured goalies on my reserves so I could get two healthy goalies, and I managed to get one guy that can play for me this week and another that will get onto my roster next week. The latter goalie was injured today. Seriously, if I lose four goalies to injuries in under two weeks I'm just quitting. It's not safe for the guys playing to have me drafting them.

"Tommy used to work on the docks / Union's been on strike / He's down on his luck - it's tough"

Well, I'm finally posting the results from September's competition for Staff of Ra Points. Drew, of course, destroyed all the competition. It wasn't even close. Like Napoleon in his wet dreams, Drew road over the countryside smacking away the paltry attempts to defeat him launched by his competitors. His strategy was a complex one: Post a bunch and I'll get lots of points. I'm not sure if this bold strategy can be replicated, but I hope some of you might try. Another key aspect of Drew's crushing and demoralizing victory was participating in the several contests offered during the competition which held large awards for participation/victory.

When our reporters caught up with Drew to discuss his victory, the great warrior had little to say, as he was busy trying to win again in October, but we did get this out of him,

"True glory requires more than jsut victory. A warrior must defeat his opponents so decisively that they feel shame for daring to even compete. I have achieved that glory. In recognition of my greatness and dominance, henceforth, I shall be known as Grumlock the Destroyer."

Fare thee well noble Mr. the Destroyer. Your victory is a glory for all to behold.

Here is the final tabulation of scores:
1. Drew - 293
2. Jay - 145
3. Jamie - 125
4. Andy - 90
5. Manda/Joy - 72
6. Rob - 35
7. Casey - 30
8. Dan Brottman - 20
9. The Annonymous Poster - 10
10. Jesse D - 5

"I looked out this morning and the sun was gone / Turned on some music to start my day / I lost myself in a familiar song / I closed my eyes and I slipped away"Posted by Picasa

Of What Worth Are Nerds?

Well, I'd say they're worth a lot. Hugh Hewitt doesn't seem to think so though. In discussing the reactions to Harriet Miers Hewitt takes particular exception to the idea that Supreme Court Justices should all be brainiacs.

The idea that Miers cannot go toe to toe with the giant brains on the Supreme Court is a very odd argument, on a number of fronts. It assumes that the business of judging is very difficult and that only scholars and intellectuals are suited to the task[.]

This reminds me of an episode of the West Wing when, during Bartlett's reelection campaign, two of the characters are discussing the Republican contender, who prides himself on his folksey personality while being downright hostile towards intellectualism. The conservative character made an argument that was somewhat similar to what Hewitt's saying here. The more liberal character replied that while doctorates and nobel prizes aren't required to be president, or for our purposes Justice of the Supreme Court, in a country of nearly 300 million people we should be able to find someone that is personable and all that while still having a certain amount of gravitas.

Hewitt goes on to suggest that Constitutional Law simply isn't that hard and doesn't require the smartest person in the world to do the job. To be perfectly honest, I agree with Hewitt on this part: Consitutional Law really isn't full of difficult concepts. Then again, the "self-evident"conclusions that I come to are going to be completely different from the "self evident" conclusions that Hewitt will come to.

I got this link over at the Volokh Conspiracy, and Orin Kerr makes some good points. It's exactly these sorts of dichotomies that should lead us to searching out clever, smart, educated, and intelligent Justices. And like Kerr says, it might very well be fair to say that extensive experience, and the thoughtful reflection that comes with it, can be a good substitute for natural brilliance, but Miers has niether; at least that I've seen. But at the bottom of it all we're talking about the Supreme Court. We get to put nine people in a group to decide the most important issues of the day. Nine people. That's a pretty exclusive club; shouldn't we be choosey about the people we let on?

I don't think the argument is that Harriet Miers can't possibly comprehend the issues before the Court, it's just that we can do better.

"Though we'll always be apart / Locked forever in a dream / If I ever love again / Even then, nothing will change"

October 09, 2005

My mind is tired

A solid day and a half of philosophy of math is fun, but exhausting. Topping it off with 3 hours of reading (Aristotle and Kant) has turned my brain into a mush not dissimilar to creamed corn.

I think I'm going to go for a bike ride, so maybe you people will get some pretty pictures of Fall in rural Indiana. There is also a very real chance of a pumpkin pie recipe later on, because pumpkin pie is, in fact, the objectively best kind of pie, and Fall is all about pumpkin pie. In the meantime, read this:

The thing about the drive to have bigger houses and bigger cars for you dollar that's helping cause the suburbs to blow up (I don't imagine that's the only factor, but here in Austin it's certainly a biggie) is that I, like Jeanne, doubt very seriously that it's doing much to help people pursue happiness and in fact is probably working against them. I know that when the ex and I lived on the outskirts of Austin for a year--not even the suburbs really, just the city limits--we were getting to be pretty miserable. The traffic alone was a huge issue

Also, the new Wallace and Gromit film is quite funny, especially if you've seen their shorts.

Sunday Random 10

I've had a busy couple of days with personal stuff, but I thought a late Random 10 was better than no Random 10 at all. Whatever, it's not like you guys ever post your own Random 10s! Maybe you should is all I'm saying...

You all know the drill (or do you?). Load up your collection of MP3s in any program or device with a random or shuffle funtion built in. Set it to random/shuffle and then post the first ten songs that randomly come up. The only rule is that you don't alter your randomly selected songs, especially as a means of making the list cooler.

Song - Artist

1. Calm Like A Bomb - Rage Against The Machine
2. The Trees - Rush
3. The Gypsy - Spock's Beard
4. Bad Seed - Metallica
5. Masquerade/Why So Silent - Andrew Lloyd Webber
6. Drop A Jewel - Freddie Foxxx
7. The Alchemist - Bruce Dickenson
8. Jungle Love - Steve Miller Band
9. Taking Control - Tiles
10. Goodbye To Yesterday - Spock's Beard

Overall I'd say it's a decent Random 10. It starts off really well, then goes into lame town with the Phantom of the Opera bit. Yeah, I like the soundtrack. It's a private shame, though now I guess slightly more public. I've never heard #6, which is one of the benefits of having way too many mp3s. I'd probably rate my list a 6 or 7 out of 10. Why not rate your own lists? Might be fun!

"Been downhearted baby / Ever since the day we me / Our love is nothin' but the blues"

Points For Drew

Drew sent me this link and it is awesome enough to warrant the 15 Ra points for cool links. You can get this info from the link, but the basic idea is that there was a contest where people re-cut movie trailers to make them appear to be different types of movies. The winner re-cut the trailer for The Shining into a story about a lonely kid and a lost foster father finding each other. It's fantastic.

Good job Drew!

"There are no unbeatable odds / There are no believable gods"

October 06, 2005

It's like a reverse post hoc

The logical fallacy post hoc, ergo propter hoc is based on the difference between correlation and causation. For example, in the time since no-fault divorce became more readily available, the violent crime rate has gone down. But this, by itself, doesn't mean violent crime fell because more people were getting divorced. If someone was going to argue that, they'll need to show some link between the two.

On the other hand, we have this.

The major center of crazy is what I like to call the Shit Maxim. The shit maxim presumes that we are in a shit-filled bathroom. Shit on the walls, shit on the sink, shit on the ceiling. When the person invoking the Maxim entered the bathroom, there was only shit in the toilet. Their answer? "Shit's shit, ain't it?"

It's why Bush can invoke this argument with a straight face.

"Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions of our coalition in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001 -- and al Qaeda attacked us anyway."

See, there was shit prior to Iraq, and there's shit after Iraq! Ignore the fact that the post-Iraq shit is pooling up around your waist - shit happens.

The argument Jesse's criticizing here is just as stupid as the fallacy. In fact, it's worse: post hoc makes an unwarranted leap from correlation to causation, while the argument Bush here just pretends an obvious correlation doesn't exist. That's not just a logical fallacy; that's insanity.

You Luck Is Pressed

I'm sure most of us know the story of the guy that memorized the pattern of the Big Board on Press Your Luck and got lots of money, but this link has the full story, including the downward spiral his life took into the gutter after his amazing performance.

Many thanks to Jocelyn for the link.

Live Life Like You're Gonna Die, Because You're Gonna

The Brottman set me up with this link, which I love. I've got presents planned already for people I know. Feel free to post your favorite bits in the comments.

"I swear to God you take your chances / Too many questions and not enough answers."

City of Villains pricing announced

The pricing scheme for the sequel/expansion to City of Heroes, City of Villains, has been hotly anticipated among the CoH community for three months now. CoV will run on the same servers as CoH, and the games will share four player-versus-player areas (at launch; no doubt more to come later if PvP proves to be popular). It's expected that most players will want to be involved in both games, with hero and villain characters on the same servers. There were concerns that business interests would require players to pay a separate subscription fee of around $15 a month for each game.

Well, we got some good news this morning. The current rate of $15/month will cover both games -- for players who already have CoH, CoV will effectively function as an expansion pack, with a single login and a single interface for managing all of one's heroes and villains. Also, it appears the one month gratis that comes with CoV can be used by CoH subscribers, effectively giving current subscribers something like a 30% rebate on purchasing CoV.

Some Interesting Morning Links

If you all don't remember from a few months ago, Electronic Arts was embroiled in a labor dispute in which a class of employees argued that they had improperly been denied overtime pay. Traditionally in California certain classes of workers, mainly in the entertainment industry, had been exempted from overtime pay with the reasoning that often those workers were expected to work very long hours during a "crunch period" which was followed by a more slack period of work. The EA employees were saying that in practice their jobs had no "slack" and was all "crunch". It seems EA got a little scared because the case has been settled out of court.

Next, in World of Warcraft, an online massively multiplayer role playing game (MMORPG), recently there was a bug which created an disease outbreak in the game. Evidently there was some boss-type creature who would attack players with some kind of plague attack. This was supposed to kill the players pretty quickly and then be over. I'm not exactly sure on the specifics, but either it didn't kill players quickly enough, or it stayed with the player after they had been resurected in the game. This has led to a massive outbreak of the plague in the game world, going so far as to spread to some of the major cities in the game and infecting non-player characters which in turn pass it on to many more players. Now there's a group of scientists, who's main area of focus is the asian bird flu, who are studying the reaction of the populace in WoW to the plague as a potential tool for predicting the reaction of people in the real world to a real plague.

The fanboys are going crazy. Peter Jackson to executive produce the Halo feature film. Also, the script was written by Alex Garland, who wrote 28 Days Later. Rage serum aside, I rather liked that movie, so that looks like a good thing to me.

Game Informer has an interesting interview with Peter Moore and J. Allard, the two big Microsoft Xbox bigwigs, taken at the recent X05 event in Amsterdam. The cover everything from why we don't know the launch lineup yet, to why we don't know which games will be backwards compatible yet, to what stuff will be on the Xbox 360 hard drive on day 1 when you open the thing up. Best quote in my opinion: [When asked about what will be on the hard drive out of the box] J. Allard: "I don’t know if I’m actually allowed to talk about this… I can talk about this. I’m the boss." If you're interested in the 360 I think you should read this, good stuff in there.

Another good quote from the article about the ability to plug in your mp3 player or Sony PSP to the 360 (yes, you can do this to play music or video files):
"I’m pro-consumer to the end on this one and anyone in my company that thought it was a bad idea for us to plug in Sony devices or Apple devices into this thing, I ended that conversation pretty quickly. This is the right thing to do for consumers. Once they’ve invested $500 into their digital media library you can’t ask them to go buy a 360 music player and a 360 digital camera. No! They’ve got their stuff. They’re going to want to plug it in. We want to be open here."
Good stuff

"Are you a lucky lady in the City of Light / Or just another lost angel...City of Night"

A "classical liberal" argument for progressive taxation

There are several subtle differences between various definitions of 'progressive taxation' which I don't want to get into here. I'll just say that a progressive tax scheme is one in which the wealthy pay more than the poor. The tax system in the US is nominally progressive but effectively fairly regressive -- there are lots of loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid having their income and expenses taxed, as well the cuts to capital gains and estate taxes passed since 2000.

So-called "classical" liberalism is the nominal liberalism of the Libertarian party, or more accurately the views of Adam Smith or John Locke. On this view, small, limited government that exists primarily to guarantee freedoms, and a largely free market, are seen as the best way to promote the common good. Note the final clause: that's critical. After all, Smith's book isn't just about how the rich in a free market economy get rich; it's about how a free market economy benefits everyone in the society. I'm not positive, but I believe the supply-side cliche that "a rising tide lifts all boats" is actually from The Wealth of Nations.

(Incidentally, check out Amazon's bundle deal. I'm laughing on the inside, but only because I'm too tired to laugh on the outside.)

Now, in light of that important clause, we consider why the classical liberal feels the whole capitalism thing is so great. A great many of them, of course, just want to be rich, but selfishness has never really caught on a good foundation of moral philosophy. (This is not pace Ayn Rand, for two reasons. One of which is that her "philosophy" doesn't provide a good foundation for a coffee table. 15 Ra points to someone who explains the other reason. You're allowed to ask questions in the comments.) Instead, the more philosophically reflective classical liberals have always argued that capitalism is good because, in a free market, our acquisitive nature gets us to produce more and more goods and services, and distribute them more widely. That is, the pursuit of wealth is good because it drives the creation and distribution of wealth.

My argument here is that capital gains and estate taxes, the two major ways the incomes of the wealthiest members of our society are (were) taxed, and the two inherently most progressive forms of taxation, work in exactly the same way. I take it to be clear that inheriting wealth doesn't lead to the creation of more wealth. The reader might be more sceptical about investment in stocks -- they're offered, after all, as a way for a business to acquire the capital needed to expand, ie, create more wealth. But the remuneration for this takes the form of dividends, not capital gains: capital gains are nothing more than making money by playing on a transient epiphenomenon of human psychology.

Hence, capital gains and estate taxes encourage people to pursue gainful occupations, rather than attempt to acquire wealth by means which do not serve to create new wealth.