Tuesday, December 29, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Farewell '09, and good riddance

I'm sure we can all agree that with very few exceptions 2009 sucked poopypants.

Here's to a new start in 2010. Stay safe and stay clean.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

I wish you a hopeful Christmas

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter's light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
’till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
Then I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’d be snow at Christmas
They said there’d be peace on earth
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Protection racket

I have to hand it to the Obama administration. They have really renewed the faith I have in our federal government.

Not that my faith was faltering in any way. Thanks to the Clinton and Bush administrations, I've had a very strong faith that our federal government can take on any bad situation and, through incompetent meddling and corrupt special interest influence, make it even worse.

My Obama loving friends told me more than a year ago that this administration was different. This time they would get it right, they're changing the political paradigm. But I never lost my faith. And now this administration ends the year with the worst first-year approval rating of any president ever.

That's due in part to the recent hot mess that is the so-called health care reform bill. It's pretty much universally reviled -- even by the most ardent Obama supporters -- as a special interest sellout. But some, even as they bemoan the terrible legislation, still want to give credit to the administration for doing some kind of reform.

But here's where I point out that putting the word "reform" in the title of the bill doesn't make it a reform bill, just as putting the word "Patriot" on a bill doesn't make it patriotic.

In fact, it's clear even to the most casual observer that rather than reform a broken system, this bill actually makes it more corrupt. And I'm not talking about the millions of kickbacks and earmarks some Senators are bringing home. Not a bad gig when you can get hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money for voting for terrible legislation. This is not an exaggeration.

Of course, the real sweetheart deal goes to the very insurance industry that is one of the main root causes of runaway health care prices in the first place. The "reform" bill requires EVERY PERSON to buy health care insurance -- the so called individual mandate.

So, almost overnight, the government is creating millions of new customers for an industry that is already raking in record profits. Is it a surprise that insurance corporation's stock prices spiked the day after the Senate attained bought a key vote on cloture?

Personally, I wonder how the individual insurance mandate is even legal. I mean, how can it even be constitutional for the government to order me to by something that I can't afford or don't want? What, are they going to fine me money that I don't have then throw me in jail if I don't pay it? Seize my house, car, digital TV converter box?

Is this the America we live in now?

Oh yeah, I forgot. I guess it is.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Beating up Bill

It probably shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the anniversary of the Bill of Rights was a couple of days ago and nobody noticed.

In a more rational time in our history, our country's founding fathers were more concerned about the corrupting influence of governmental power than they were with making sure there were no performance enhancing drugs in baseball. Because of this rational concern one of the first and most important things our federal legislature did was pass a set of constitutional amendments aimed strictly at limiting government power.

It was a great idea. Unfortunately, they forgot to include an 11th amendment that went something like "No, really. We really mean it. You can't do the stuff that these first 10 amendments say you can't do. Really. Seriously, just stop it."

With a complicit congress, our last few presidents have done a pretty good job of telling Bill of Rights to sod off. Let's review, shall we?
  1. Free speech – Today you can be thrown in jail for videotaping your sister's birthday, or fined into poverty for endorsing a product on your blog. Hurray for free speech!

  2. Bear arms – In a lot of places, you can still legally own a gun (at least for another year or two). Of course, "bearing" it will usually get you tossed in jail. Or worse.

  3. No quartering – This is probably the only right that Americans still have intact. 1 for 3! Huzzah!

  4. No unreasonable search – Oh sure, but what's a little domestic spying among comrades?

  5. Due process – I guess you could say that the city of New London, Conn., went through due process before condemning, confiscating, and destroying Suzette Kelo's home at the request of a large pharmaceutical corporation. Of course, you would totally be wrong despite what the Supreme Court says.

    And don’t even get me started on the whole red light camera scam.

  6. Speedy trial – I wonder what the kind gentlemen at Guantanamo Bay would say about this.

  7. Civil trial by jury – With the low level of education in this country, I'm not so sure this is a right you would want to exercise. Besides, with the country simultaneously becoming both a police state and a nanny state, this one probably won't last long.

  8. No cruel punishment – Well, unless you happen to be a "enemy combatant."

  9. Rights not enumerated – Just to review, the founders were saying that, just because we're layin' it down that we have these rights in these 10 amendments, don't assume that we don't also have other rights that we haven't mentioned. Like, maybe, the right to keep the money we earn at our jobs.

  10. Powers of States and people – Again to review, the founders are saying that if the Constitution doesn't say the Federal government can do something, then the Federal government can't do it. For example, neither the constitution nor any of the amendments thereof mention anything about spending $650 million to make sure everyone has a digital television converter box.
So, can we just stop referring to America as a democracy? Or even a democratic republic? I don't know what we are, but it's pretty clear the constitution has about as much authority anymore as an Bannister Mallcop.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Christmas Halo

Nothing captures the true meaning of the season like a visit from Santa Claus. But maybe he shouldn't always drop in unannounced.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Random Photo XXII: No need to be koi

The weather outside was frightful, but inside the greenhouse at Family Tree Nursery the weather was downright pleasant.

We took a break from some light holiday shopping to sit among the citrus trees and feed the koi. Before we finished, I realized that the scale of this gillty pleasure was rather small.tagged: , , , , ,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Blogthing: Tiger Hunting

In case you haven't yet had your fill of schadenfreude at Tiger Woods' expense, Kansas Sity Sinic has pointed us toward the Tiger Hunting flash game.

Obviously I'm not going to be very good, not being a European super model and all. But still, give it a try and see if you can beat (heh) my high score of 51 (which, coincidentally, is the number of strokes it takes me to finish the first 6 at Dub's Dread). One good sign is that these kinds of memes are usually a trailing indicator of pop culture. In other words, unless Woods does something to make things even worse than they are now, we should be moving on to a new target du jour any time now.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bullitt list -- 12.10.09

Today's category: Really?!?!!

  • Alright, I've got a lot to say to say and not much time to say it. I'm starting on the other side of the pond, but believe me there's more later about our own effed up country. But before we get to that...

    Really, East Africa? Really!???

    The AP reports that more than 10,000 East African albinos are in hiding after more than 50 African albinos have been killed since 2007.
    The mistaken belief that albino body parts have magical powers has driven thousands of Africa's albinos into hiding, fearful of losing their lives and limbs to unscrupulous dealers who can make up to $75,000 selling a complete dismembered set.
    In the latest reported killing last October, "albino hunters" beheaded a 10-year-old boy and cut off his leg as well.

    Can someone explain to these people what century it is? I thought we got past this witch doctor crap and moved on to the violent racism crap.

  • Next, on to the UK...

    Really, Leeds University? REALLY?

    You're seriously advertising a job that pays a guy to go to strip clubs and conduct "research"? According to the ad "prior experience of conducting research in the female sex industry" is essential.

    So again, really? No, seriously, really? 'Cause I might be interested in a new gig. Do you pay for relocation?

  • Oh, and while we're in Europe, really Italy? REALLY? Why give up centuries of tradition for a mere boost in worker productivity.

    The Italian Program Minister (really?) is urging Italian workers to give up the traditional 2-hour mid-day lunch break to increase the country's productivity.

    Now look. I like Italy. It's one of my favorite countries. I find the culture fascinating, and lazy workers and corrupt public officials are part of the culture.

    Besides, I think Italian productivity may be a bit overrated. Do we really need more $500,000 cars and $50,000 dresses? I mean, really...

  • Okay, bringing it back home now. You guys remember when liberty used to mean something in America? Yeah, me neither. But it seems like there was a time when it was more than just a punchline in an election year stump speech.

    Well, those days (if they ever really existed) are long gone as evidenced by two recent events.

    Last week a Chicago woman was tossed in jail when a couple of short segments of the movie New Moon were captured on her video camera as she taped her sister's surprise party.
    Managers contacted police, who examined the small digital camera, which also records video segments, Cmdr. Frank Siciliano said. Officers found that Tumpach had taped “two very short segments” of the movie — no more than four minutes total, he said.
    Hey, I'm not advocating pirating movies. But really?? We're going to throw people IN JAIL?! without a trial? For taping a birthday party?! REALLY?!?! Why not just go ahead and tattoo a serial number onto her forearm while you're at it?

    And science help you if you decide your waitress doesn't deserve a tip. Theft charges against John Wagner and Leslie Pope have since been dropped after they were arrested for refusing to pay a $16 gratuity for craptastic service in a Pennsylvania bar.

    But the fact that you can get arrested and carted away to the police station for not paying A FRIGGIN' TIP? Really?!! Do the police/restaurant owners know what a gratuity is?

  • Finally, if you need any more evidence that our country has reached its cultural nadir, reference yesterday's ridiculous Barbara Walters Special. I mean, really. This show gives new meaning to the word "special."

    According to Walters, the most fascinating people of the year include Kate Gosselin, Adam Lambert, Laddie GaGa (I can't believe I just typed that), Glenn Beck and Sara Palin.


    What does it say about a person when they can be fascinated by such vapid pop culture personalities. I wouldn't even know who these people were if it weren't for their ability and eagerness to self-destruct in public.

    Fascinating?! Really!??? This is the best our culture can do? There's no scientific, medical, literary or artistic accomplishment we can point to? You're telling me we're stuck with "pa-pa-pa-poker face, pa-pa-poker face," as our crowning cultural achievement this year?

    Come to think of it, that sounds about right.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

World Class Dirty Old Man

When the first real blast of iron cold arctic air hits every winter, I have this little mental trick that I like to do as I make the frozen trek from the parking garage to my cubicle. I go back in my mind to the last perfect weather day of the year.

That happened to be a few days after Thanksgiving this year.

We were home from our annual Thanksgiving tour of Kansas so we decided a casual family dinner out would be a good way to decompress. We hit up one of our favorite neighborhood eateries, had a nice supper then walk (in my case hobbled) around the local strip mall. We ended up stopping at Foo's for a desert nightcap.

We took our custards to Foo's backroom to enjoy them in the couch lounge area. We were the only people in the room with the exception of a mid-40ish aged guy in the corner setting up a microphone and amps, one-man-band-style.

Presently, he got out his guitar and harmonica. He announced his name, which I missed at first, then proceeded to give us a free private concert.

Harry Hewlett played a set of original songs, his sound very Country Americana, a kind of Hank Williams Senior vibe. Not my cup of musical tea, but it was pretty entertaining for an intimate show over butter-pecan frozen custard.

Hewlett himself has a great sense of humor that comes through in the lyrics to his original songs. A quick Google search pointed me to his début album "World Class Dirty Old Man" at CDBaby.

His sense of humor also came through when he didn't get pissed or irritated at me for turning on my cell-phone light and holding it in the air while I yelled "Play some Free Bird!"

We left before his set was over, but by then another family had made their way into the room. We sent our 7-year-old up with a 5'er to drop in his guitar case. He gave us a shoutout as we left.

According to what (little) info I've been able to find about Hewlett, he plays coffee houses, restaurants and other small rooms around town pretty regularly. If you seem him some night, tell 'im Emawkc says hey. And request some Free Bird.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Beam me up, Frosty

The internet has been great for adding to the canonical base of classic holiday children's programing. We all remember the classic Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph and Santa Clause is Coming to Town stop motion animation specials.

And now thanks to online video distribution, new classics are emerging, not the least of which is today's YouTube Tuesday entry. We follow the exploits of a lovable Snowman as he endeavors to bridge the gap of interstellar communication, bringing the true meaning of Christmas and saving the world.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

A Salute to KU and Lew Perkins

3AM presents Real Men of Genius
Real Men of Genius

Today we solute you...
Mr. Abe Vigoda look-alike athletic director.
You totally look like Salvatore Tessio

Like an old Sicillian don, you've shown you're adept at getting what you want no matter how many lives it destroys.
Is that a decapitated horse head in Mangino's bed?

To you, KU Athletics isn't just a family, it’s a family business. Whether it's kickbacks to bowl officials, extortion of local businesses, or just your garden variety academic fraud, you know that the bottom line is the bottom line.
Gotta keep the money rollin' in!

And while you don't mind having abusive people on you staff, when your biggest earner fails to bring in fat wads of cash, you know it's time to make him an offer he can't refuse.
Tonight he sleeps with the fishes...

So leave the gun and take the cannoli, oh floppy eared arbiter of lesser men's fates. Because firing the best coach your team has ever had is a sure way to keep the rest of your organization in line.
Mr. Abe Vigoda look-alike athletic director!

RELATED POST: A salute to KU and Mark Mangino

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Random Photo XXI: Lonely Flint Hill

I like the way the sun brings out subtle hues of the Flint Hills this time of year.

I know it's not for everyone. I get that a lot of people consider it barren looking. But to me, it kind of feels like the real-life version of a Mark Rothko painting.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Movie Mini Review: The Blind Side

Title: The Blind Side

Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron

Plot Summary: An affluent white Southern family adopts an athletically gifted homeless black teen. They provide a bed, home, food and educational assistance that eventually allows the teen to pursue a football career.

My Thoughts: The Blind Side is based on Michael Lewis' book (same name) about physically gifted but socially disadvantaged teen Michael Oher.

The story is fairly well known by now, and the movie is directed as the quintessential holiday feel-good hit. It wastes no time charging the emotions with a sad soundtrack to match the tragic life circumstance of the principal character, Oher.

I have some pretty mixed feelings about the film, and it could be that I'm just over thinking it.

It does deliver on the tugging-at-the-heartstrings mission of the typical holiday hit. Pretty much all of the ladies in the theater were tearing up within 20 minutes of the start of the movie. By the time Michael Oher admitted that "I've never had a bed before" there wasn't a dry female eye in the house.

But there was something about how the film was executed that just made me felt a little uneasy. It's a good story, don't get me wrong. But I don't know if it was the directing or the editing or what, but it just came across to me a bit exploitative.

One problem is that the story is rife with stereotypes. From the affluent southern bigot to the redneck southern bigot to the black gangster thug to the poor ghetto junkie mother, there was no real character development even in the primary characters.

The other problem I had was what I perceived to be a not-so-subtle mixture of white guilt and White Man's Burden. The implication was that these white folk could save the black folk. It was a simplistic portrayal of race relations, where there was an opportunity to take a serious and sincere look at social issues that still exists.

Finally, Sandra Bullock's portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy really was tragic. I guess it could have been the director's fault, but Bullock managed to take what should have been one of the most sympathetic characters -- the woman who took a black kid from the projects into her home, fed him, clothed him and championed his education -- and make her an unlikable shrew.

Bullock's interpretation of Tuohy was that of an uptight, bossy, entitled harpy. Really, I remarked to my Supermodel Wife at about the 30-minute mark that "That woman hasn't smiled once yet." A few minutes later, she managed to squeeze out the ghost of a grin, but made it look painful, like it was about to break her face.

It was really almost enough to make me racist in reverse.

The rest of the cast did an okay job. Tim McGraw played an Everybody Loves Raymond househusband and Jae Head channeled Macaulay Culkin circa 1990 as the youngest sibling. Kathy Bates... was in the movie.

The best acting job probably goes to Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher, though the sparse dialogue and understatedness of the character made it easy for him.

I hate to get too down on the movie. Like I said, a lot of people really liked it and it is a good story -- maybe even inspiring if you don't think too much about it. I would recommend the book over the movie, though.

Final Rating: Two out of five stars.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: You always take things too far...

There are so many lessons to learn in this video, but I think the most important one is that spiders are evil -- like, Twilight Zone evil.

The setup on this one takes a while, but the ending is totally worth it.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Gravity check

So I'm cruising easily down the K12, the quadruple black diamond run at the exclusive ski resort where our family traditionally spends our Thanksgivings.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the snow was... well, sitting lightly on the mountain side. It was truly bucolic and I basked in the bucolicness as I passed through 20, 30, 40 miles per hour down the mountain.

I was basking all bucolic-like when suddenly I saw out of the corner of my eye a little white snow bunny dart out from behind a tree, right into the path of my slicing skis. It was only my expert skiing ability that saved the delicate rodent creature from certain decapitation, as I executed a triple-axel-reverse-front-gainer to avoid dealing the death blow.

But as bad luck would have it the tip of my ski lightly clipped an overhanging spruce limb, throwing my equilibrium off just enough that I landed slightly askew on my left foot.

The pain was instantaneous as all my weight combined with my downward and frontward momentum transferred and compressed on my left ankle. I heard a sound like the cracking of knuckles, and while I remained upright on my skis, I made the rest of the run down the mountain in severe pain.

Yeah. That sounds pretty good. Pretty heroic and not at all stupid like the actual true story.

You know, the actual true story where I decided not to wake up our six-month-old daughter, instead carrying her to the nursery to sleep. Then, since I was carrying her and unable to see where I was going, I don't realize when I get to the bottom step of the staircase that there is actually one more step to go.

Then I step out to walk down the hall, but there's no floor there and I end up tipping forward, landing on the side of my foot, having it fold under my ankle and hearing that tell-tale knuckle-cracking sound that (I find out three days later) is also the sound of foot bones fracturing.

Yeah, falling down the stairs is totally lame.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: It's like the turkeys mounted a counterattack

In honor of the upcoming heartburn holiday later this week, today's edition of YouTube Tuesday remembers one of the greatest Thanksgiving moments in TV history...

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Bullitt list -- 11.20.09

Today's category: Goin' Rogue

  • Lot's of news on the ladies health care front. First a group appointed by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (Kathleen Sebelius, proprietor) said women don't need to get mammograms until they're 50 (rather than 40) and they don't need to get them as often.

    Next, another group said women don't need to get Pap smears as early nor as often.

    It’s pretty clear to see where this is going. When the Gubmint takes over your health care, they're going to need a way to cut spending. The solution, tell you that you don't need as much health care and then not give it to you. Problem solved.

  • I heard the talking heads on the insipid morning show this morning bemoaning the departure of Oprah Winfrey from the airwaves in 2011.

    The final comment that made me leave the room was when one of the ditsy hosts asked a guest "expert" "How will the audience fill the void left by the departure of Oprah's show?"

    Are you kidding me? Look at the ratings, toots. There is no void left by Oprah's show. Why do you think she's calling it quits to begin with? When you're best ratings come from an interview with Sarah Palin, you're probably doing well if you can keep yourself from taking a flying leap off the Hancock Center.

  • Think the Great Banker Bailout of 2009 was fun? Well, just wait until next year when we all get to bail out the entire state of California.

    The LA Times reported that there's no end in site to CA's budget woe's -- currently in a $21 billion deficit -- even after the latest tax increases and draconian cuts in state services.

    It's okay though. California has a plan. They have enacted stricter energy efficiency standards on televisions sets that will probably increase the price of the TV's and encourage people to buy new HDTVs in Nevada or Arizona or Tijuana.

    So at lease we know the CA legislature has its priorities straight.

  • And here's a final WTF story to end your week on: Peruvian Police have busted a gang that they say was killing people to harvest their body fat.

    Check this out:
    Police say a gang in the Peruvian jungle has been killing people and draining fat from the corpses to sell on the black market for use in cosmetics, although medical experts say they doubt a major market for fat exists.

    Three suspects confessed to killing five people, but the gang may have been involved in dozens more, said Col. Jorge Mejia, chief of Peru's anti-kidnapping police. He said one suspect claimed the gang wasn't the only one doing such killings.
    According to the story, the suspects claim the bottles of liquid human fat they were carrying when they were arrested would fetch $60,000 a gallon on the international market.

    Given that, I'm thinking KU Athletic Director Lew Perkins might want to think twice about firing Coach Mark Mangino. I don't know if they can afford to loose that kind of natural resource.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009


I was doing my dadly duty last week, taking my 7-year-old daughter to a school skating party.

She had missed the previous skating party and was totally jonesing for a skate. She was so eager to go to the party that we were able to hold it over her blackmail-style and get some extra good behavior and chores "or else your not going to get to go skating."

Anyway, we get to the skating rink, put on her skates and let her out on the floor to knock herself out -- not literally of course, she's not a great skater but she only fell two or three times. And with the exception of a quick snack break, she spent pretty much the whole time on shuffling around the skate floor.

Toward the end of the skating party, I was standing on the carpet waiting for her to come out to return the skates. She rolled off the floor and we went over to a bench to change shoes.

She pulls me down to say something into my ear.

"One of those bigger kids out there said the 'F Word'" she said.

I just kind of blinked and I think I may have done a short sigh.

"Well, just don't listen when you hear that," I replied. I was pretty calm. I said it in the same tone you might use when saying "Just remember to wash your face after the dog licks all of the peanut butter off."

You see, I'd done this quick calculation in my mind. I don't want to fly off the handle and make "The F Word" seem like it's this big magical mystery word. I don't want to encourage her to say the word by banning her from uttering it. It's human nature to want to do something that someone tells you you can do.

I didn't want to turn "The F Word" into some kind of forbidden fruit.

But I also want to let her know that I do not approve of her using that word at her age.

But later, when we got home, I know she was still curious. Out of earshot of her Supermodel Mother, she came and whispered in my ear once again...

"Do you know what the F Word is," she asked, as if she were privy to secret information that I didn't have. "Do you want me to tell it to you?"

"No" I said. "I don't want to hear it and I don't want you to say it."

I don't think the issue is over. I'm sure she heard it at school. In subsequent conversations, she implied that one of the boys (Boys... sheesh... don't even get me started!) in her class had been saying it.

Well, I guess first grade is when you start learning these things...

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Fear and Loathing in the Major Leagues

No real theme to today's edition of YouTube Tuesday. It's just that I ran across this amazingly entertaining story of the role of LSD in a major league pitcher's no-hitter back in the '70s.

Here's what the YouTube description has to say:
In celebration of the greatest athletic achievement by a man on a psychedelic journey, No Mas and artist James Blagden proudly present the animated tale of Dock Ellis' legendary LSD no-hitter. In the past few years weve heard all too much about performance enhancing drugs from greenies to tetrahydrogestrinone, and not enough about performance inhibiting drugs. If our evaluation of the records of athletes like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones, and Barry Bonds needs to be revised downwards with an asterisk, we submit that that Dock Ellis record deserves a giant exclamation point. Of the 263 no-hitters ever thrown in the Big Leagues, we can only guess how many were aided by steroids, but we can say without question that only one was ever thrown on acid.
Check it...

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview with a giant

One of the most anticipated (by me) movie premiers in years is John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road -- now set to debut on Nov. 25.

I'm going to assume that the book is widely enough known that I don't need to give a synopsis of the story line. The film has been in post-production/pre-release for a what seems like forever. I think it was originally supposed to be released last year at about this time.

In case you haven't seen it yet, here's the trailer which shows why this movie is sure to be the feel-good hit of the Christmas season:

Looks charming, no?

Anyway, McCarthy himself has the reputation of being a reclusive genius. So when Friday's Wall Street Journal interview with him popped up on my feed reader, I was eager to see what he had to say.

And he didn't disappoint.

I don't want to swagger jack the WSJ so I'll encourage you to go read the interview for yourself, especially if your a huge McCarthy fan. He did seem to have some tacit condemnation for the vast amount of what we call "user generated content." I don't know how aware McCarthy is of blogging and social media, but the quote below was in reference to the amount of content put out by Hollywood:
Well, I don't know what of our culture is going to survive, or if we survive. If you look at the Greek plays, they're really good. And there's just a handful of them. Well, how good would they be if there were 2,500 of them? But that's the future looking back at us. Anything you can think of, there's going to be millions of them. Just the sheer number of things will devalue them. I don't care whether it's art, literature, poetry or drama, whatever. The sheer volume of it will wash it out. I mean, if you had thousands of Greek plays to read, would they be that good? I don't think so.
And there's also this insight on the nature of mankind. It says a lot about the perspective from which a lot of his writing comes.
I don't think goodness is something that you learn. If you're left adrift in the world to learn goodness from it, you would be in trouble. But people tell me from time to time that my son John is just a wonderful kid. I tell people that he is so morally superior to me that I feel foolish correcting him about things, but I've got to do something--I'm his father. There's not much you can do to try to make a child into something that he's not. But whatever he is, you can sure destroy it. Just be mean and cruel and you can destroy the best person.
Like I said, there's lots more great stuff in the interview, so go check it out.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Science for sale

A few weeks ago, my Supermodel Wife and I were skulking around Parkville when we stumbled into what may be the coolest store in the KC Metro area.

Now before I go on I know that there are certain people out there who will assume that when I say it's a "cool" store that it's stocked with skinny jeans and brand new retro-looking T-shirts and pumps club-mix music through the store speakers.

Or that it's got racks full of pretentious expensive wines and a full-court walk-in humidor with a Scotch tasting stand in between (although, that would be extremely cool).

No. When I say cool, I mean the 2009 definition of cool. You know, where things that we would have been called nerdy back in high school is actually cool now. This is good news for me since I was kind of nerdy back in high school but superhellacool now.

Anyway, the store is called HMS Beagle and it's chock full of sciencey stuff. The store is named after the famous ship on which Charles Darwin made his scientific voyages that lead to his theories on natural selection and evolution.

The owners bill it as the "ultimate science store" -- and after losing track of time while browsing there, I can't argue with that claim.

When we visited, for instance, there was an electrolysis contraption set up on the counter separating hydrogen and oxygen from water. In addition to all of the chemistry gear, there's paraphernalia related to electronics and robotics, astrology, entomology, palaeontology and geology.

It's amazing the kind of stuff they have there. Cases full of fossils -- some of it found around the region. I got a real kick out of showing my wife some of the samples of coprolite.

We visited with one of the store owners, John Kuhns, for a few minutes. He told us about all of the science clubs the store sponsors for youth and adults and about their frequent fossil hunting trips.

After a few minutes, he pushed a flashing LED-laden circuit board across the counter to me and pushed a button. As the sequence of LEDs flashed in a pattern, he asked me if I knew what it was doing.

After a few seconds, I realized that it was counting up in binary, which gave me an opening to share one of my favorite nerd jokes with him...
There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bullitt list -- 11.12.09

Today's category: Face value

  • Is it just me or does Major Nidal Malik Hasan look a lot like Andre Agassi. Not the young Andre Agassi with the long flowing locks and day-glow orange Nike sneakers, but the old, bald strung-out-on-meth Andre Agassi.
    And how much does it suck to be a person of Middle Eastern descent in the United States these days. My cube neighbor, Musheer, threw his hands up incredulously when this story came out. "Oh great! This is just what we need!." I feel for you, brother.

  • As you know, the House of Misrepresentatives passed a healthcare reform bill last weekend. Some people will consider this bill the "change" promised by the Obama Syndicate lo those many months ago. Those people will be wrong. Our government has been wasting money on Federally financed "entitlements" for decades. Nothing new here, just more of the same. Doctors and pharmaceutical company executives should be happy, though.

    Oh, and if any of the congress critters bothered to actually read the entire (roughly 2,000 pages) health care bill before they voted for it, I'll eat XO's Kangol.

  • I saw the report from the Center for Responsive Politics that showed there are 237 millionaires in Congress. That's nearly half of the Congress (44 percent to be exact), as compared to 1 percent of the general public who are millionaires. Anyone still believe you are represented in Washington?

    The same report showed that of the 10 richest millionaires, 8 are Democrats. There's nothing wrong with being rich, but those of you who like to play in the partisan politics game should now realize how meaningless the term "rich Republicans" is. As I've been saying for a long time, there's no real difference between Republicans and Democrats.
  • Telegraph UK reported yesterday that, based on applications to BeautifulPeople.com (really, there's a website called BeautifulPeople.com? Does anyone even want to argue that our culture has completely waned at this point?), the British are the ugliest people in the world.

    This is incredibly offensive. Are we really so shallow as to judge an entire nationality on such superficial criteria? Really?

  • I've never had to knock on wood, but I know someone who has which makes me wonder if I could. It makes me wonder if I've never had to knock on wood. And I'm glad I haven't yet, because I'm sure it isn't good. That's the impression that I get.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Harnessing the God particle

Looking for something to break me out of a bloggy funk, I landed on the story of the ill-fated Large Hadron Collider.

By now I'm sure you've heard that mankind's latest, greatest, most expensive attempt to find the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything was scuttled once again last week when a crust of bread fell on it.

Uncle Nick breaks it down like this:
A widdle birdie dropped a piece of bread on the Doomsday Machine - the one that 'everyone' is worried will create a black hole centered where Earth used to be and extend outward for 5 light years - and shut that sucker down.

All I can say is if there is a Supreme Entity That Oversees All, it sure is an ironist of the first order. And with timing? Oh, snap!
Personally, I kind of appreciate the cosmic poetry of the situation. This machine is designed to allow physicists to find one of the most elusive subatomic particles yet, the Higgs boson. This particle is so elusive, in fact, that it has never been found. It's only theorized at this point.

What I find interesting is that according to the leading theory of the origin of the Universe, the matter that makes up the bread and the matter that makes up the LHC at one point, a split second before the Big Bang, were occupying the exact same place in space-time. And now, a bird brought them back together and it nearly destroyed one of them (not that matter can be created or destroyed -- except through the will of the Supreme Ironist).

I guess it's not really here nor there (as much as any of us are here or there -- you know, on the quantum level), but can you imagine the incredibly long odds at work here, the vast improbability of having a bird fly by this particular place at this particular time with a particularly sized piece of bread in its beak and dropping it with the accuracy of Luke Skywalker bullseyeing womp rats in his T-16 back home into this air vent that, just incidentally, was enough to cause the whole damn production to shut down?


These long odds led a couple of fairly credible scientists to posit the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Higgs boson doesn't want to be found.

According to this New York Times article, there's a chance that the LHC's many problems are a result of sabotage from the supercollider's own future.
A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one...

“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”
Can you imagine the technical leap forward our species will make if we can isolate and harness this so-called "God particle"? Forget about the energy crisis, say hello to interstellar travel. Hell, it might even mean the development of the Infinite Improbability Drive.

I mean, it's an achievement that would be matched only by the discovery of a way to fix Kansas City Missouri's school system.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Random Photo XX: Indian summer

Temperatures last weekend were almost unbearably pleasant. We spent a lot of time outside soaking up the last of the fall colors.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Just a little prick

"You have to relax your muscles if you don't want this to hurt," she said as she finished rubbing alcohol on my skin.

I honestly thought I was relaxed, but this was my first time doing this so there was probably some background anxiety that I wasn't consciously aware of.

So I took a deep breath and tried to relax while I waited for the little prick of the hypodermic needle injecting dead flu virus proteins into my shoulder.

I don't get the flu. My theory is that I've got a super immunity due to a near-fatal (at least it felt near-fatal at the time) pneumonia I contracted years ago.

Still, with a kid in school and a new baby in the house, I bowed to the pressure of my (admittedly much smarter than me) Supermodel Wife to get the seasonal flu inoculation this year.

The nurse who gave me the shot -- I think her name was Becky or Ashley or something like that -- was sure to point out that "this is the seasonal flu shot, not the shot for the H1N1 flu."

According to Tiffany, the CDC identified back in April/May the flu strains that it thought would be a problem. At the time, they didn't think Swine Flu would be a problem.

"If you want a Swine Flu shot, you'll have to come back in a few weeks when we get the vaccines in," she said.

Now this may be my first flu shot, but I know a scam when I smell one. I'm not sayin' that the Swine H1N1 ain't a real thing. I just find it interesting the way things are working out.

I mean, look at it this way. You know how Apple is always working on the next new release of the operating system and they always give it an animal name (usually feline in nature). You had Mac OSX Cheetah, then Puma, then Jaguar all the way up to Leopard...

The point is, it's just good marketing to give something a name that people can latch on to.

I'm pretty sure that's what's been going on with these annual flu vaccinations. They started out a few years ago with the "Bird Flu" (later called "Avian Flu") that was killing people in Asia. Nobody was scared of it when it was just called "H5N1." But when the media got it's talons on "Bird Flu" -- well, there's a hook you can build some hysteria around.

This year it's the Swine Flu -- very catchy. Gets the media excited. Gets the citizenry in an uproar. Gets some much needed demand for the pharmaceutical industry right in the middle of a consumer recession.

Ah, now we're getting somewhere. It's How to Survive a Recession 101: Create A Demand For A Product For Which You're The Only Provider.

Anyway... I'm not really sure where I was going with this.

My arm is kind of sore.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Random Photo XIX: Foliaged again

It's been a cold wet fall, but nature (or God, or whatever) has tried to make up for it with the beautiful fall colors. Unfortunately, the show is all too brief.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Life and Death of a Pumpkin

Halloween is only a few days away. Hope you have your Balloon Boy costume ready.

In the meantime, here's a poignant portrait of one pumpkin's plight.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Pleading Galty

I'm going to backtrack a little bit because I have a couple of things I want to say about the whiny babies running Bank of America right now.

Seems they've wet their diapers over the Obama Collective's plan to slash executive salaries.
Many of the firms, which have together received more than $300 billion in taxpayer aid, issued conciliatory statements, but Bank of America said the ruling would put it at a disadvantage in competing with companies not under the pay czar's thumb.

"People want to work here, but they want to be paid fairly," said whined BofA spokesman Scott Silvestri.
Some people (who haven't thought things through very well) have latched on to the quote and hit the panic button, warning of a Galtian response to the pay cuts (via Cup O' Joel):
If the administration actually follows through, most of these executives will quit and get higher paying jobs elsewhere. Executives not directly affected by the pay cuts will also quit when they see their prospects for future salary gains have been cut. Chaos will be created at these firms as top people leave in droves. Will the administration then order people back to work?
Like I said, I've got a couple of thoughts on this, and I'm going to try to keep it brief.

First, this whiny weasel of a bank executive is vastly overstating the risk of a "Galtian" exodus of talent. (Can you imagine? A bank executive not being 100% honest?) Yes, the reduction is a 90 percent cut over their pay in 2008. But read the fine freaking print: It only applies to "the remainder 2009..."

That's right, these poor, deprived bastards are going to have a whole two months of punishment for the 18-months-and-counting depression they've caused. Then, it's back to buying disposable superyachts on the taxpayer dime.

Secondly, even if every single bank executive affected by this pay plan decided to take his keys to the executive Korean massage parlor and crawl into a Randian hole in southwest Colorado, that's only 175 people. I say good riddance. Don't let the balloon payment hit you on the way out. By all rights, these people should be out of work anyway.

Which brings me to my final point. If you're going to run you industry into the ground (oh, and the rest of the global economy, to boot) and then go crying, hat in hand, to the government and beh-heh-heg for a bailout, and if the popular sentiment is hard enough against you, don't fuckin' be surprised when the Chief Executive (your new boss, btw) grabs some political points by cutting your pay.

Welcome to the world you created.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

In case you missed it... KC with "international flair"

While you were busy trying on your Billy Mays Halloween costume, I was reading the bit on USAToday.com that puts Kansas City in a Top 10 list of "Great towns with international flair."

The piece is part of a celebration of United Nations day, which I'm sure you all know is tomorrow. The list was put together by Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Center for the Living City (whatever that is).

For KC, Goldsmith plugs the KC Irish Museum and Culture Center ...
"The mixture of Irish culture in this city is not competitive but woven into its fabric," Goldsmith says. Kansas City has a thriving pub, Celtic music and culture scene. The permanent exhibit at this center includes ancient and local Irish history. Events include Irish Beer Night and workshops for singing, fiddle, bodhran (drums) and tin whistle.
Check out the rest of the article to see even more international flair.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: The Kitchen Sink

In keeping with the creepiness of the season, today's edition of YouTube Tuesday is a double feature guaranteed to make you regret coming here all over again.

Actually, Kitchen Sink is a great but creepily weird short movie from way back in 1989. Believe it or not, I actually had an experience not too dissimilar to this back in college.

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