Monday, July 28, 2008


I love old typewriters, so at least a tiny part of me is sad at cannibalizing venerable machines to make other stuff...but these sculptures are amazing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Google ROCKS

I know that this has been around for awhile -- HOW could I have MISSED THIS?!

Google has scanned/digitized thousands of books and made them available online via Google Book Search. I went looking for a book on Irish grammar and came up with two dozen old books on the subject, which led me to browse the books that have "full versions" available -- usually books that are far, far out of print and have moved into the public domain. I love these old books -- I tend to collect them (on cooking and household life, and travel) off eBay. I have no idea that they were likely available from Google as electronic files!

I knew that they had limited access to current books (a few pages, etc, to allow for cites), but I had no idea that they had the full text of out-of-copyright materials. This is what the internet should be! Books, books, and more books.

I am so excited to continue browsing I can barely focus on work.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lacking Math Skills

The Adorable Husband ran into this toy vending machine last night when we went out for a burger. Obviously, their counting skills leave much to be desired. Either that, or they're redefining a baker's dozen.

Seeing a Trend

I know, I know, no one ever pays attention to polls. At least that's what we're supposed to believe.

Which is a entirely untrue, of course. Everyone pays attention to them (whether they act on them is an entirely different matter). Everyone really pays attention to them when every single poll shows the same trend.

Someone sent me a link to, which summarizes the primary political polls nationwide and has presented page of Bush's approval ratings for the last three years. The results aren't surprising, of course, but the symmetry among the twenty or so polls is rather striking.

Polls are a difficult thing to judge, though. Change the wording of a question even slightly, and the results change dramatically sometimes. I get called for a lot of polls (since I'm listed as an independent, I think), and some of them are so poorly put together that there is no "good" answer. The binary options are not equivalent - "do you think George Bush has done the best job possible based on the economic and political issues left to him by a Democratic congress" is not the same question as "do you think Bush has done a good job" -- writing poll questions is an arcane and powerful art, and sometimes it's very interesting to try to tease out what the pollster really wants you to say.

So, like everyone, I don't put too much faith on polls as accurately representing the "will of the people", but when all twenty show the same general trend, it's likely that they are measuring a real-world dissatisfaction fairly closely.

Of course, the last poll I took asked me some pretty odd questons: are you a nascar fan? how often do you shop at walmart? do you think child safety seat laws are too lax? I think they tossed in the first two just to throw me off....

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cake Wreck Blog

I've been laughing until I cried over some of these cakes. The idea that someone actually paid for them is kind of sad, but some of them are so incredibly awful you have to laugh.

Especially, Baby-Butt Cake. Or Naked Mohawk Baby Carrot Jockeys.

[image from Cake Wreck Blog]

What were these people thinking!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Geek Hierarchy

Ah-hah! Finally, a charg to determine just how geeky you are, based on the subjective decision of "consider [yourself] less geeky than...." Should I be embarassed that I can make it down to at least level 3 on a number of different paths? Hmm...

I don't speak Klingon. That should count for something!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Male Un-Bifurcated Garments

A letter-carrier in Washington state is on a mission to change the US Postal Service's dress code to allow him to wear a kilt.

Or, as NPR so amusingly characterized it: a MUG - Male Un-bifurcated Garments. That is, a kilt.

Dean Peterson wants to be able to wear a kilt on his rounds as a USPS Letter Carrier. He says they are more comfortable and allow for more choices in uniforms for male letter carriers. Female letter carriers can wear skirts, of course, but men are limited to trousers and shorts. He owns and wears kilts exclusively when not at work, and wants the option to wear his chosen garment -- in Postal Service Blue -- to work as well.

He's waging a one-man campaign to change the dress code. He spent his own stimulus package check on letters and materials to convince other mail carriers to join him:
"MUGs are worn all over the world, and have been for thousands of years because they are comfortable," he wrote to fellow mailmen. "Unbifurcated Garments are far more comfortable and suitable to male anatomy than trousers or shorts, because they don't confine the legs or cramp the male genitals the way that trousers or shorts do."
He is presenting his proposal to the 66th biennial convention of the National Association of Letter Carriers in Boston. Quite a few of his compatriots aren't terribly supportive. Most don't think it's "manly", or would be embarrassed to wear a "skirt" -- some have suggested that it would be unsafe, or at the very least, immodest (due to climing stairs, etc), although those arguments could just as easily be leveled at women wearing skirts, which is an allowed uniform option.

Good luck to Mr. Peterson! I hope that the Letter Carriers support you!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Geek Womb

I've got to get one of these! A self-contained techno-gek "pod". Obviously aimed at the gaming crowed, but wowsa! How cool would this be? Three 19" monitors, filtered air, surround sound, ergonomic seat and keyboards. I am such a geek.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Onion Gets it

I occasionally have to re-read Onion stories a few times to make sure they really are satire. Some of them veer a little to close to reality.
WASHINGTON-A panel of top business leaders testified before Congress about the worsening recession Monday, demanding the government provide Americans with a new irresponsible and largely illusory economic bubble in which to invest.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Not Very Neighborly

An amusing, albeit rather shortsighted, response to a shop permit in Allenspark, CO has left the residents without an ATV rental and supply shop...and given them a close-up-and-personal porn shop.

Jeff Mead was recently denied the permit to open an ATV rental location in a shopfront he owns in Allenspark -- residents complained that ATVs are noisy, and have damaged private land. The story isn't terribly clear on whose private land - the renters of the ATVs? Someone else? -- but the residents successfully lobbied against the shop.

Well, Jeff Mead and his wife have responded by putting up a sign advertising "Patterson XXX Porn" on the site.
Mead said he's serious about opening the adult store to make money since he was denied a permit to open his rental shop.
Patterson is the name of one of the more vocal opponents to his ATV Rental shop proposal.

Childish, and immature, yes, but pretty damn funny.

It's a matter of economics, of course. There is no law preventing the use of the building as an adult store.

She and her husband, Jeff, say they are not smut peddlers but frustrated property owners. They say pornography is the only way they can survive in Allenspark after Boulder County turned down their request to run an all-terrain-vehicle rental business in a building they purchased for $428,000 in 2007.

The two-story log building housed the Eastin Gallery and Studio for 16 years just off the Peak to Peak Highway. Since the gallery has been an approved use, Boulder County cannot object to a use dedicated to adult artwork, Mead said.

"We just were shot down and shot down by Boulder County until we decided this is the only thing that's allowed where we might make some money," she said. "We just got to the point where we will do something legal with the building even though it appears unreasonable."

Patterson has made some rather snide comments about the Meads, apparently. Sniffing that what they really intend to do is sue Boulder Country, "that's how he would make his money" and argues that the sign is retribution for her fencing off a meadow that could have been damaged by the poposed ATV renters.

Yes, I laughed. I do hope they change the name - it't not nice to antagonize the neighbors. But I also with them well in their venture.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ultimate Power!

Where was this guy when I needed him to make the puppies sleeeeeeeeeeepppppy!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tool of The Man

I got sucked into a rather contentious argument earlier this week on the common practice of name-changes at marriage -- more specifically, when women change their surname to be the same as their husband's when they marry. Not everyone does, of course, but the social convention for a long time in the US has been for the woman to adopt her new husband's last name. For a long time, it wasn't really an option to not do this, which is probably what set a few people off.

I had a ramble about this very topic back in January - about how it really is rather unfair that a woman changing their name at marriage is a no-brainer, while any other combination of things requires far more effort. Apparently, the discussion is still going on!

A question came up about "what name do your kids have, if you and your husband kept your last names?" and suddenly the initially polite conversation became one of "if you even consider changing your name, as a wife, then you are perpetuating a horribly and damaging sexist policy of the "Establishment" and patriarchal ownership and you should be ashamed!" from a couple of posters.

Wha? Apparently, the only reason (according to one of the arguers) that married couples might share a last name is to perpetuate and support a historical context of female subservience. We wouldn't even be thinking about it nowadays, if the tradition hadn't been instituted to enforce a husband's "ownership" of his wife. She had to take his name, so everyone would know to whom she belonged.

If you change your name, then you obviously fully accept and buy into this concept. There is no other option. By sharing a last name with your spouse, you accept that women are subservient and that is ok.

Uh., sorry. No.

And - even better, this logic is just painful -- if you don't change your name, you are also just recognizing the de-facto social oppression of women, by not going along with it. Same for suggesting that the husband change his name.

Well, which is it? Changing your name is supporting oppression, or not changing your name is supporting oppression? Add in a soupcon of patronizing and insulting commentary about "how it's really hard for some people to buck conventions, tsk tsk", and it erupted into a kerfuffle.

I didn't realize that by wanting to have a common surname, and making the explicit decision to change my name, that I was suddenly assumed to have condoned, nay, supported, the historic denigration of women throughout history. Wow. Because what I call myself, what name I have, is obviously of such world-rocking importance that I need to carefully weight my impact on society.

As I noted before, it important to me that a married couple (me, again) have the same last name. Kind of a "unit" thing, presenting a unified front to the world. I don't expect anyone else to do this, but I must admit that I prefer it to the bothersome proliferating hyphens. People aren't any more or less "married" based on name, but I like the symmetry. This is apparently righteously offensive to the self-identified feminists on the discussion board.

Sure, it's frustrating that women who don't change their names are still faced with criticism from some people. Maybe you need a bit more documentation of your relationship in certain circumstances (for example, travelling with a child who does not share your name in this new TSA regime), but no one really pays that much attention anymore.

Unless everyone makes up a new name, there would be no way to make this person happy about naming choices, though. My surname was passed to me by my father, so it's no more "my name" and out from under the thumb of the patriarchy than my husband's name. Keeping my maiden name would not be any different than choosing to adopt the surname of my married family.

I'm actually all for making up new names. It could be fun. It would freak out the geneaologists to no end, but it could be fun trying to figure out who everyone was and who they were related to. "Hi, my name is John Snufflebooger and this is my wife Jane Gugglewhump, my son Jack Moof and my two daughters, Jill Zappa-Tweet and Jillian Smythe"

Can you imagine the name-tags?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Manufactured Controversy

Apparently, some college student in Florida went to Catholic mass (apparently on campus), and instead of eating the eucharist wafer, he carried it back to his seat -- and took the wafer from the church. (He has since returned it, btw). This, apparently, is something that he churchgoers are equating to killing and torturing someone. He was physically accosted and threatened when he didn't immediately eat the wafer. The student has been vocal about his opposition to public school funding for religious activitives on the campus, so it is quite likely that he was acting to prove a point.

Now the Catholic league is screeching about "vile acts" and comparing this to kidnapping and terrorism and hate crimes. Deranged, that's what it is. The hyperbole is soaring high.
“We don’t know 100% what Mr. Cooks motivation was,” said Susan Fani a spokesperson with the local Catholic diocese. “However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”

We just expect the University to take this seriously,” she added “To send a message to not just Mr. Cook but the whole community that this kind of really complete sacrilege will not be tolerated.”
PZ Myers, at Pharyngula blog, has more info on this -- and since he posted his angry response to this ridiculous message, he has received threats , sly accusations of pedophilia, personal attacks, and the Catholic league has -- get this - contacted the legislature in MN, apparently in an effort to force people to respect their superstitions (and to threaten to get people fired for not properly respecting their beliefs.)

The comments on the blog are rather interesting. The hatred and death threats really only seem to be coming from the good "christians" among the commenters. Does the irony not register on them that they are demanding tolerance and respect while specifically denying it to anyone who disagrees with them? This makes me very angry, so I'm sorry if I start to sound strident.

I don't suggest specifically and pointedly offending someone by goring their sacred cow, but the reaction by the church is over the top. Yes, the student was disrespectful; yes, the student was out of line -- but the assertion that this is the worst thing ever is a bit dramatic, especially to the point of demanding respect. Sorry, we might have to accept that you have a specific belief, but other than the social rules that we all abide by to live comfortably together -- there is no onus on a non-catholic to endorse those beliefs. We just have to tolerate them. I can think of hundreds of things more vile than not accepting the idea that a wafer is anything more than a wafer, and treating it as such. Making this a huge issue is an odd misplacement of priorities. The point of PZ's blog entry is that this student has been assaulted and threatened because he doesn't believe in transubstantiation. The assertion by the Catholic league is that because some hold it sacred they are entitled to insist that everyone should. They aren't. And that's the point.

I do think the student should apologize for taking it, because there are a lot of people who take this stuff seriously. The student wanted to make a point, and in doing so purposely jabbed a stick at someone's belief. Rude, yes. Insensitive, yes. But criminal? Horrible? Vile? Please., ratchet the rhetoric down a bit, eh?

This is a breach of etiquette, not an oppression of religion. No actual harm to anyone was perpetrated. Get a grip.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to

Sometimes, people should not use big words. A poster on TT posted this earlier in the week, after the announcement of the death of Jesse Helms. I didn't hear this -- I'm not sure where 'local" is for this person, but I still got a chuckle out of this.
I just heard a local newsperson talking about the career of Jesse Helms, saying that while he was often controversial, he spent many meretricious years serving his country.

Freudian slip? Big word confusion?
The word does not mean "full of merit" or "worthy of respect", as was probably intended here.
Main Entry: mer·e·tri·cious
Pronunciation: \ˌmer-ə-ˈtri-shəs\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin meretricius, from meretric-, meretrix prostitute, from merēre to earn — more at merit
Date: 1626
1: of or relating to a prostitute : having the nature of prostitution <meretricious relationships>
2 a
: tawdrily and falsely attractive meretricious trash — Carolyn See> b: superficially significant : pretentious meretricious but stylish books
Sometimes the typos and misspeaking are far more amusing than they should be.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Now That's Fancy!

I am a bad person. This made me laugh like a hyena.
" Debra Jackson said she likes shopping at the Dollar Palace because it is convenient and casual.

"I don't have to get all dressed up like I'm going to Wal-Mart or something," she said, adding she shops at Williams' store "to pick up my cleaning supplies."
It's an actual news clipping from the Daily Town Talk -- you can see the actual clip here.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


While it's entirely possible that Windows is running on this laptop, the picture is awfully amusing!