Thursday, May 31, 2007


Here's a good piece at Time about the science of "icky".

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Punk Rock Baseball Cards

Hopefully more to come. Here's another via Glyph Jockey.

Birdman Of The Eiffel Tower

In 1911, Austrian tailor Franz Reichelt attempted to fly from the first observation platform of the Eiffel Tower. It ended badly. Early footage and photo of the tragedy here via Improbable Research.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Demographic Shift

A major world demographic shift occurred last week. There are more "city folk" than "country folk". Full story at Science Daily.


The most common name in the world is Mohammed.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Creationism And Science

Kentucky's Creation Museum is two days away from opening. The museum claims to tell the full story of the Bible, but oddly includes animatronic displays of humans and dinosaurs living together. Using the same designers from Universal Studios, the museum offers opposing views to science. I think "Shrek in 4-D" at Universal Studios Hollywood does the same thing.
I wish religion didn't have such a problem with science. It's been going on for hundreds of years, and I don't get it. Any well rounded person should have room for both in their life. One is about faith, the other is about stuff you have to prove. I can accept that.
There's a name for this movement against science - it's called fundamentalism. Unchecked fundamentalism is what turned a place like Baghdad from the most advanced city in the world into the harrowing dust bowl of violence it is today. It's good to believe in God, but we better be careful with those who want to use Him for their own purposes.
Here's an excerpt from an article about how it may be human nature to resist science because of our childhood experiences:

"One intuition that causes trouble for science is "promiscuous teleology," a natural tendency in children to see a purpose and design in everything, part of normal development in making sense of the world. For this reason, children in studies prefer creationist explanations for animals and people."

The full piece here is pretty interesting.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Endgame In Iraq

I still don't know what it is.
Just viewed "Iraq In Fragments" and am overwhelmed by the complexity of the problems there. I can't help but feel that America went there not understanding the country at all. For a culture that is so steeped in religion, the place seems utterly God-forsaken - wracked by violence and conflict. The fact that we are sending 20 year old soldiers into the middle of it seems absurd.
Maybe partitioning the country into three regions makes the most sense, but I'd like to hear SOME plan that isn't about the next three months only. All I hear from the president is the same thing I heard years ago - "We have to fight the "terrorists" there so they don't come here" and "We can't leave until the job is done."
Can somebody please tell me what that means? Do we have to stay until there is no more terrorism in the world? When is that going to happen?
We can't keep making this mistake. America went to the polls twice and voted for a man because they thought he shared their moral convictions and he was the kind of guy you "could have a beer with". Well, unfortunately, six months after taking office, a problem of enormous complexity was placed before a president who functions on very simple terms. He did not understand what he was dealing with, and still doesn't. The American people have to bear much of the burden for this.
I'd like to hear more ideas about what to do next.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Search For American Soldiers

There is a brave effort going on right now in Iraq in the search for missing American soldiers where comrades are leaving the safety of their Humvees and operating on foot in extremely dangerous environments. Excellent NYT war coverage here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Clown News

Any news item I come across that has anything to do with clowns, I'll post it- period. Here's this month's clown link out of Germany.

How We Could Have Won

Yeah, I know this is Monday morning quarterbacking, but this is how it could have worked. You send twice as many soldiers right at the beginning, not to secure Iraq, but to secure Baghdad. Right behind those troops you bring in a shitload of engineers for the biggest overseas infrastructure project ever. I mean, they're unrolling electric power lines so fast, the spools are smoking. They power up every house they can and give everybody a TV. If somebody urinates, a toilet and a pipe to the new sewage plant appear before pee hits the ground.
You erect a state-of-the art military style mobile hospital and you hang a sign out front that reads: Baghdad Civilian Hospital. If an Iraqi kid limps in because he sprained his ankle playing soccer, you patch him up, give him a lollipop, and send him home. Give people food. You tell Shiite men that if they help rebuild their homes and businesses, you'll pay them $100 a day - If they help a Sunni do the same thing, $300 a day.
You make this stuff WORK in the first six months, and people start to feel good about you. Even Mussolini got popular because he made the trains run on time. People love that kind of stuff. And once Baghdad is a functioning place, you move on to the next town, do the same thing, get some real help from other countries, and maybe, just maybe, it could've worked.
(Oh, also, DON'T move into Saddam's old prison at Abu Ghraib and start doing the same crap he did).

The Mad, The Scared, And The Stubborn

Tell me if you've heard this one lately, "We can't pull out of Iraq now. Violence will spiral out of control, and it'll be a total bloodbath!"
Uh, yeah. That's the way wars end. Whether it's now or later, it's gonna be a mess. And if you want to start a war, you damn well better be prepared for the end.
Even World War II, the "good" war that many are practically nostalgic for, ended with two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan - 140,000 dead civilians in Hiroshima and, three days later, another 74,000 in Nagasaki. That's how wars end.
Anybody old enough to remember Vietnam (not that long ago!) knows what's coming in Iraq. It'll be the same deal - terrible violence and death followed by retribution against any perceived enemies. I pray the US military or CIA have a way to evacuate Iraqis who have helped them, but I have a bad feeling that will be botched also. Imagine being an Iraqi interpreter for American soldiers, and you wake up one morning, and they're gone? FUBAR. Maybe there will be a version of Pol Pot in the region. It's possible.
Unfortunately, the rotted aftermath will be dropped into the lap of the next president, and people will try to blame that administration. Don't be fooled. This war is the legacy of one man.
It took a long time to finally pull American troops out of Vietnam. Even as they returned home, polls showed that many Americans still believed it was a mistake because Communism would spread further around the globe. Sound familiar? It wasn't until polls conducted in the early 1990's that 90% of Americans were able to admit that Vietnam was a mistake. That's a long time. Bush's flawed war in Iraq has failed, and, yes, it will end badly. It shouldn't take us twenty years to get our heads around it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sex In Space

NASA starts to address some real human needs for astronauts in outer space. I guess they can't do it with a jar of Tang anymore. Full story from Wired here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Milton Bradley's Game Of Life

Last night, read Jill Lepore's great article in The New Yorker about board game creator Milton Bradley. Prior to launching his board game company in 1860 with "The Checkered Game Of Life", his ancestors suffered several bloody deaths at the hands of Indians. Milton went on to invent his game that still exists today and went on to champion his favorite cause - the concept of kindergarten.
There is great board game history as well. Many current board games are based on ancient Asian games that have existed for centuries. This excerpt about the Indian game, Jnana Chaupar:

"Beginning in 1892, Jnana Chaupar was sold in Britain as Snakes and Ladders; in the United States, it survives today as Chutes and Ladders."

Bradley's games were meant to instill in children the principles of virtue as they moved through life. A commemorative version of the Game of Life is due out this year.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Michael Jordan makes more money from Nike annually than all Nike factory workers in Malaysia combined.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Medical Supply Shops Make Me Sad

Sometimes when I'm walking, I see something that takes my mind someplace else. Like when I see a medical supply shop. The objects displayed in the shop's window conjure up thoughts of the sick, the frail, and the infirm - and I am suddenly consumed with sadness for the people these items are meant to help. This item is always particularly discouraging:

The fact that there are folks out there that can't move far enough away from where they are to take care of their personal requirements just brings me down. At least this particular model has a little built-in shelf to help pass the time - I imagine that's a place to set down your martini or keep a bowl of pretzels.

For some reason it reminds me of my friend, Bob:

He doesn't have a colon.

Another aspect of these items that distresses me is so many of them seem downright medieval, as if no progress has been made in the scientific area of medicine these devices are at the service of.
I'm not sure what this is meant to cure, but I think Mozart made his wife wear one so other men couldn't have sex with her.

And how can you not feel sorry for this guy:

I don't know if this is for someone with an injured leg or no leg at all:

Whoever he is, he needs new shoes.
But then I realize that all these products are made to help people - to ease their pain and make them more comfortable so their lives can be better. That's a good thing, and I think maybe it's not all that bad.
As I move away from the shop and continue down the street, I start to feel better. A sense of comfort comes over me. Then I see this:

And I get sad again.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Weight Loss Made Easy

Check out these unappetizing Weight Watcher recipe cards from 1974. I am tempted to throw a party and serve all of them!
Courtesy of gigglesugar.


A man in Canada finally gets justice for his grandson's bar mitzvah that was sabotaged by a janitor. A real fiasco. Story here.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Look at your zipper. See the initials YKK? It stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushibibaisha, the world's largest zipper manufacturer.

Past View Of The Future

Here is a great site called Paleo-Future that shows past views of the future that never came to be. But here is one clip from 1967 that got it almost entirely right!
As an adult exposed to these images during childhood, I often feel we have been cheated out of all these great devices we were supposed to have. I mean, airplane travel is basically the same as it was when I was a kid. Still five hours from New York to L.A. in 2007? You gotta be kidding! And where's my friggin' flying car?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Fashion Advice

Hey, all you gals who live in the West! Be glad you don't have to deal with this.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Hundred Years. Still No Time.

This from the Harper's Index:

Percentage change since 1900 in Americans' average amount of leisure time: 0

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Right Honorable Men And Women Of Government

Why is there something perversely entertaining about brawls breaking out in halls of government?
It seems to happen in Asian countries for some reason. And the women are right in the middle of it - sometimes pounding on the heads of their male adversaries. Well, here's another one.

Blog Launch

Go check out Night Swim, an entertaining new blog with insight, humor, and general brilliance. Here is a great first post.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Obama In Detroit

From Obama today:
"Here in Detroit, three giants of American industry are hemorrhaging jobs and profits as foreign competitors answer the rising global demand for fuel-efficient cars. The need to drastically change our energy policy is no longer a debatable proposition. It is not a question of whether, but how; not a question of if, but when. For the sake of our security, our economy, our jobs and our planet, the age of oil must end in our time."

Glad to hear somebody stating the obvious here. Of course we can't get off oil quickly and completely, but the fact that we haven't begun detoxing from it already is ridiculous.
Full story here.

Spare Time

One has to have some extra time to create this.


Dramatic photos of a sand storm. Photographed in Iraq 2005.

Friday, May 4, 2007


Thursday, May 3, 2007


This is a wonderful site called Shorpy, where people submit hundred year old photos for viewing. The site is named after a turn-of-the-century coal mining boy from Alabama - Shorpy Higginbotham

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


It's amazing what scientists can learn from a cargo container full of bathtub toys that falls overboard. This from Science News.

Professional Professionals

Lou Lesko of infiniteblue rightly raises the red flag on the new "faux authorities" in the blogosphere - folks who are trying to make rules about something that shouldn't be ruled. Read the full post here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


A reader sent this link today.
This clip of Arab-American psychologist Wafa Sultan aired on Al-Jazeera last year, but it is worth watching again. I admire her for having the courage to say these things, and I also think she is entirely correct. Interesting how her adversary in the debate labels her a heretic and would probably approve of her stoning. This is a battle between ancient narrow thinking and modernism, and she gets it right.

Children Of Men

Finally saw Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron's excellent film Children Of Men - a harrowing look at the future based on much of what's happening today. The film's visceral depiction of a world of violence, terror, and frightening politics is all too familiar.
The film is both compelling and disturbing at the same time. Several of the it's images are pulled directly from the graphic images we saw coming out of the prison at Abu Ghraib - huddled masses of nude prisoners, bags on heads, etc.
I find it profoundly disturbing as an American now to watch a film that depicts a world gone haywire by reenacting the violence and degradation that really occurred at the hands of my countrymen. America's move toward torture and abuse, and the lies about it, is disgraceful. It betrays everything we stand for. It doesn't represent the America I grew up in, and I hope to see our reputation restored. I hope to watch Children Of Men someday, and think, "Yes, that's a reality of the past, not of the future." I'm worried, and not so sure.

(Not So) Forward Thinking

Chrysler announces they will create more fuel efficient vehicles. Improve from 15 mpg to 19 mpg! No wonder Toyota is kicking their ass. Read this ridiculous headline.