Thursday, February 26, 2009

The new Prohibition

It looks like we may be entering Great Depression II, The Sequel.

An op-ed piece looks at Prohibition II - the War on Drugs - that bears a distinct similarity to the War on Alcohol of the early 20th century.

Oh, and the piece is by a former Seattle police chief.

article at HuffPost

No love for antidepressants

Some new research indicates that common antidepressants may inhibit one's ability to fall in love.

Now that's depressing...

article at Wired

Evolution of the slow cooker

The LA Times has a neat piece on the evolution of the slow cooker, looking at ways people are experimenting with them to actually create some decent food.

article at LA Times

Miracle Water!

How about a liquid that can disenfect, killing all manner of nasty microbes, and clean as good as bleach?

What if you could drink it?

What if it was water and salt?

article at LA Times

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Octomom loosing the babies?

It appears that some more reasonable and cooler heads are prevealing at the hospital where Octomom gave birth.

It appears they're probably going to withhold the children due to concern over the living arrangements and her ability to take care of them; any premie births are gone over by Child and Welfare Services to ensure that the child can be safe.

Octomom's home, which is owned by her mother, is about to go through foreclosure; her mom is over $30,000 behind in her house payments.

These kids deserve safe home where they can be cared for properly. It would probably be best if they were put up for adoption and never really told about their mom, at least until they're adults.

article at HuffPost

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"I'm shocked - shooked! - that the Web existed before 2000!"

Okay, this columnist, Farhad Manjoo, at Slate is officially driving me nuts. He seems clueless about technology and the Web. But, he gets paid to write a column at Slate. After tackling online college lectures (an emerging phenom a year or two ago), why satellite radio sucks, and why Microsoft should copy the Apple Store in recent columns, he turns to history.

Today's piece is about the state of the Web, circa 1996. He got the inspiration for the piece by noting that someone asked him what it was like to browse the web way back when.

So, he does some research in the Internet Archives and old editions of "Time" magazine and comes to the conclusion that people could read Slate, look at the weather, and play the Kevin Bacon Game. In other words, there wasn't diddly squat there.

I beg to differ.

The Web, in many ways, was quite interesting in those early days. Of course, Manjoo just talks about the commercial Web, ignoring the many websites of academics, artists and individuals that were the backbone of the Internet we know and love today.

He seems amazed that people were "blogging" before 1999, when the term came into existence. No doubt he would be surprised that people were actually creating their own content for the Web before Web 2.0, YouTube, blogs, wikis and all the rest of it.

Sigh. It's columns like this that make me browse to Slate less and less.

article at Slate

High wages, few jobs

The New Yorker has an article that tackles an odd contradiction - during recessions and even the Great Depression, wages rise. It may be tough to find a job, but when you do, salaries remain competitive.

Companies are concerned about loosing talent and overall employee morale, but there are other factors during this economic downturn - the "just in time" model is making companies and workers more productive and the job market more unstable.

article at the New Yorker

San Franciscans save economy, cut your hair, and beat the crap out of you

News from San Francisco:

An assemblyman from the city has introduced a bill to legalize marijuana, controlling and taxing it similar to alcohol. A stimulus plan for the California economy, perhaps?

In a photo essay in the SF Chronicle, meet Mike the Barber who also happens to be Mike the Boxer.

And only the Chronicle could have a headline on the front page that reads "Five Shot in Tenderloin".

And even more gay news

A vandal struck one of the benches in front of a dorm at Duke.

For those that aren't employees of Duke or alumni, I'll explain that the benches in front of the dorm are wood and each group of dorm residents paints them up with something having to do with the name of the dorm - they burn them in a big bonfire as part of some kind of tradition at some point. (The details escape me.)

But, regardless of that, the bench in front of Giles, which said "G-Spot", was painted over with an F and A in front of the G.

The students responded by pasting over the thing with messages of support for gays and against hate speech.

Hmph... times are changing. I remember a decade or two ago when this kind of stunt wouldn't get any attention at all.

article at the Duke Chronicle

Sniper versus sniper

I'm not sure what's more creepy.

Two men suing each other because they both put up windows on ebay, both claiming to be the one used by Lee Harvey Oswald in the Kennedy assassination.

Or that, at the bottom of the article, there's a link to a live web cam looking out on Dealey Plaza from the Schoolbook Depository building's sixth floor where Oswald fired the shots.

article at Dallas CBS TV 11

Utah senate shuts down over anti-gay remark

The Utah Senate shut down for two hours as Republicans discussed the furor created by the public remarks of one of their colleagues that compared gays to terrorists.

It's interesting to me that the Republicans are finally have to deal with the fall-out of pent-up prejudice among their ranks - these kind of spiteful remarks were overlooked for many years. Now, they're seen by the public at large as extremist.

We can certainly disagree on issues, like gay marriage, but using broad brush strokes to paint a whole minority with invective just isn't acceptable any more and is a political liability. Some Republicans are beginning to understand that it makes them look angry and hateful, rather than productive.

Even Rupert Murdoch has apologized for the New York Post's distasteful "monkey" cartoon.

article at MSNBC

New Yorker films closing

New Yorker Films, a major distributor of art house and foreign flicks, is closing after 44 years. It's library of films, which includes major classics, was put up a collateral for a loan by the distributor's owner. Now, since the loan is due and the films are being auctioned off, New Yorker's going under.

article at NY Times

War is such a bear

A movie waiting to happen - a bear that fought with a Polish unit during World War II.

blog post at

Valenti, gays, Hoover and survelliance

Slate has an article that delves a bit more into the Johnson administrations hunt for Gays circa 1964. The incident was started by a Johnson administration staffer that was arrested for performing oral sex in a Washington rest room - the investigation, which included Jack Valenti, drew on the resources of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. (And, the article notes, Hoover's "gaydar".)

I wish someone would do a full history of gays by government entities over the last century. There was a 1919 sting against Navy personnel, a flap over Gays in the State Department in the early 60s, and many more incidents that come up here and there when you look through old newspapers and magazines.

I recall in the early to mid-nineties, during my time with the Tarheel Leather Club and other gay political organizations in NC, rather suspicious men that would kind of come and go from these groups that didn't seem like they fit - we often wondered if they were FBI men. In the late 90s, I saw a brief article where someone had requested their FBI file and, indeed, g-men were doing survellance on gay political and AIDS activist organizations.

I'd challenge the Obama administration to come clean on what the government's been up to the past few decades. What kind of survellance was the Bush administration up to on gays? What was Hoover's FBI up to that still hasn't emerged after all these years?

After the debacle with Rick Warren at the Inaguaration, it's the least that Obama could do to start proving he's serious about taking the interests of gay citizens seriously.

article at Slate

Friday, February 20, 2009

Something Awful or Something Creepy?

The site is running a strange little series. The site, in general, is devoted to humor pieces that make fun of memes or other such nonsense on the Web. (For example, take a gander at their recent "Celebrity Stalker" column.)

These things are just, well, creepy.

It's similar to another series they ran, which seemed to take place in another parallel universe, called "Instructions for a THing".

This one's called "That Insidious Beast" and each entry is a piece of something - a web site, a series of personal journal entries, a blog, etc - from some type of universe parallel to our own with a totalitarian state that's gone right-wing crazy. Here's the different parts of the series:

Magnum PI
TV Infodot Mixups
Televised Broadcast Schedule
Holy Hand Broadcasting
A Great Haul
Active Area
Ghosts of Brier Hill
Field Dominance
Screen Burn

If you want to dive in, the best places to start, at least for me, are TV Infodot Mixups, Ghosts of Brier Hill and Field Dominance.

Make your own fabric

I'm probably late on this, but there's a site out there that lets you create your own fabric.

Just send them a design and they'll print it for you for $18 a yard, no minimum order.

There's one graphic designer that sells custom cloth designs printed at the site here.
A kid in China was recently killed by an exploding chair.

No, it wasn't some kind of terrorist plot or murder scheme. The cylinder in the chair used to lift it up and down exploded and he died from his injuries. A similar chair also seriously injured a 68 year old man.

Yet another reason one shouldn't be a worker in the New Information Economy (TM).

article at Anorak

Charities going bankrupt

The bad economic news continues. The Times has a piece about the growing number of non-profits declaring bankruptcy in recent months.

One thing I'm curious about though, reading through the massive debt and mislaid plans of these organizations is if we're looking at some "weeding out" of badly managed groups. Some of what they were doing and the debt they were taking on sounds nutty.

article at NY Times

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another nutjob Republican

A Utah state senator has gone on the record in an interview comparing gays to Muslims and stating that gays represent the biggest threat to America today. He previously was in hot water for making racist comments.

In his spare time, he no doubt mumbles about the dangers of fluoridated water taking away the purity of essence of our precious bodily fluids.

Feel free to buy the man a straitjacket and a one-way ticket to a mental institution any time now.

article at local Utah tv station

Forget about that Swiss bank

It seems that UBS has lost a case dealing with tax evasion with the IRS and has agreed to disclose information on 19,000 US citizens that have Swiss bank accounts that are suspected of tax evasion.

This would mark a big change - many think that Swiss banks will no longer be a "safe haven" for those wishing to keep their finances quiet.

I suppose cash is the safest bet.

article at HuffPost

Sugary soda! Woo hoo!

Apparently, Pepsi is releasing two sodas - Pepsi Cola and Mountain Dew - under the "Throwback" label in April. The sodas are flavored with real cane sugar rather than corn based high fructose corn syrup.

Sodas haven't tasted the same since manufacturers went with corn based sweeteners to save costs. I've heard that actual cane sugar is better for you than corn products if you indulge in a soda on occasion. Currently, the only plant in the US I'm aware of that still uses cane sugar is a bottler in my home town of West Jefferson, NC that produces Dr. Pepper. Some sodas are available from Mexico and other countries that still use REAL sugar.

article at

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

State Department historians crisis

By way of the New Yorker, is this blog post looking at a recent shake-up with historians who are assembling the official record of the State Department's activities.

This sounds like the worst management practices one would find among academics - petty politics, little dictatorships, and fiefdoms.

blog post at

Lawyers ... bah!

Slate has an article about an absolutely nutty court case.

A law firm, consisting of idiots who don't understand how links work, sued a real estate company for linking to bios of lawyers on their site in recent real estate buy listings, which are open and public.

Seems the law firm thinks that linking violates their trademark - that consumers would be confused, thinking that the real estate site was part of the law firm. The real estate site, a small start-up with not much cash, had to cave and settle the case with these sleezeballs, who are basically trying to control access to public information that they don't like being public.

I would like to make quite clear that this site (or me personally) have nothing to do with these high-priced ambulance-chasing opportunists. I hope you'll join me in placing links to these ridiculously Internet-retarded individuals on your own blog.

article at Slate

Batty Bachmann

Frankly, I think that the voters of some states should be required to prove, in court, that their Senators and Reps aren't completely insane. Minnesota is one of those states - Rep. Michelle Bachmann seems to be living in a fantasy land and has lost touch with reality, telling an interviewer that ACORN got $5 billion in the stimulus package (it got nothing, really) and several other outright hallucinatory lies.

It's people like her and liemeister Rush Limbaugh that the Fairness Doctrine were made for. If you made them tell the truth, their head would explode.

article at Washington Monthly

Controversy over Rent

A high school production of "Rent" has been cancelled because of controversy over the gay characters in the musical.

article at LA Times

Major fossil find in LA

The LA Times has an interesting piece on a major Ice Age era fossil find in the city near the Tar Pits. The collection of fossils include a nearly complete mammoth.

Another interesting point in the article is a novel method the archeologists are using at the site - it had to be quickly cleared because of a construction project, so they dug up the site in crated sections.

article at LA Times

Friday, February 13, 2009

Octomom at my economic stimulus


Is there any end to the weirdness coming out about Nadya and her never-ending need to birth? When will California's Social Services department take these poor kids away from this grotesque, bizarre, mentally ill woman? When will the State of California take away the medical license of her IVF doc and forbid him from touching any other human being in a medical context for the rest of his life?

Now it seems Nadya wrote creepy letters to Angelina Jolie ... and had plastic surgery to look more like her.


thread at buzzfeed

She now claims that she's receiving death threats via phone and email after putting up a website asking the public to support her kids. Police are investigating.

Oh, and let's not forget, she's $50,000 in debt and on food stamps and a couple of her pre-existing kids were on disability. Some have tallied that the hospital cost for her eight babies will be $1.3 million. The total cost of raising all her kids through age 17 are estimated at between $1.3 million and $2.7 million.

Oh well... there's goes the economic stimulus!

article at HuffPost

The functioning sociopath in business

This piece from the AP wire is fascinating; on the surface, it's about the owner of Peanut Company of America and how he's become a recluse since the firestorm over the salmonella outbreak in his plants.

However, if you dig a little deeper, it paints a picture of something not uncommon in business and the workplace - a functioning sociopath.

These are people who are good at putting on a "good face" and telling people what they want to hear. In public or among superivsors, they seem like the nicest person in the world. In private or in their business practices, they're uncaring, dishonest, irresponsible and reckless.

Managers or business people like that can go far, but leave a big trail of destruction in their wake.

article at AP news wire

Another sign of changing times

The Book Exchange, which opened in the early 1930s in Durham, NC, is closing its doors on February 14th.

The store carries an eclectic mix of used books and was a fascinating place to visit. Currently, they're offering a bag of books for $10 and the rest will be donated to charities after the store closes.

article at the News and Observer

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dutch city's pornography collection missing

Too bad we don't have local historians like this in the States...

article from the AP wire

New kidnap-for-ransom capital of the US is ....

... Phoenix?

Yes, and it's all drug related. Arizona has become the main entry for the Mexican drug trade into the US and this type of crime follows. Last year, the city of Phoenix had over 350 kidnappings.

article at LA Times

Former Our Gang actress passes

Shirley Jean Rickert, who appeared in five of the classic "Our Gang" comedies in the thirties has passed away.

She never really found stardom in Hollywood and wound up being a stripper in Burlesque in the 1950s, billed as "Gilda and Her Crowning Glory".

article at LA Times

Well, if it worked for Springer...

The Royal Opera has announced they're working on a new production based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith. The libretto will be by the co-creator of "Jerry Springer: The Opera", Richard Thomas.

article at SF Gate

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The peanut scandal - the missing detail

With all the attention paid to the Peanut Corporation of America's problems with salmonella and shipping tainted products, along with the seemingly lax FDA inspections that have led to this miss, there's a couple of details that are getting ignored.

Stewart Parnell, the owner of the company, was on the FDA's Peanut Standards Board. He was appointed to the position in 2005 and was taken off the board only a few days ago.

Also, the company was involved in two lawsuits, in 1990 and 1991, when they supplied peanut products to candy manufacturers containing toxic mold.

article at Wikipedia

Parnell appeared before a Congressional committee today; invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions.

This is the type of behavior that makes me want to throw out all corporate law - I don't think crap like this would happen if a company President/CEO/owner could be held personally liable for damages or legal punishment for endangering the public.

article at CNN

Noooo!!!! Not satellite radio!!!! Nooooo!!!!


I've been a subscriber to satellite radio for some time. I'm rather sad to hear that Sirius-XM will soon be filing for bankruptcy.

Sat radio's a great service, so there's a possibility that somehow the company or some variation of it will survive. However, I can't see anyone going out of their way to buy a radio and subscribe with Sirius-XM in bankruptcy, which will likely erode the audience and income base of the company further.

Both Sirius and XM weren't able to make a go of it as individual companies and merged a few months ago. With such a great idea - a selection of commercial free and limited commercial stations in a broad range of genres, a great alternative to bland commercial and public broadcasters - it's hard to believe that someone could screw it up.

In my thinking, the companies focused in the wrong areas - too much on the automobile market and not enough on flexible, portable devices (like the Inno); too much on flash in the pan "stars" and expensive sports packages and not enough on strengthening the diversity of the shows.

If Sirius-XM does go the way of so many failed tech companies, I'd petition the FCC to require all AM and FM stations with a certain power level to upgrade to HD Radio and to limit the number of ad time per hour on existing stations.

article at NY Times

However, there is a bright side to all this bad economic news for technology and entertainment companies. Muzak, that purveyor of bad elevator music and annoying shopping ear drivel is in bankruptcy as well.

article at The Street

Online guide to 3d movies

When digging a bit after my Arch Oboler movie post, I ran into this helpful list of 3d movies.

It includes technical details on the specific format used for each 3d movie release.

Arch Oboler, auteur

DVD Savant has a review of the newly-released, "Five", a 1950 post-nuclear apocalypse movie by Arch Oboler.

Oboler is best known today as the man behind "Bwana Devil", the movie that started the 1950s 3d craze. However, fans of old time radio know him for his work on "Lights Out", an influential radio mystery series.

Oboler's film work is mostly forgotten, but is certainly worth checking out - his parody of mass media, "The Twonky", from the early 1950s sounds very intriguing. Besides the subject matter and style of Oboler's movies, which used some radio techniques for sound, the movies are interesting technically. "Five" was the first movie to use magnetic sound recording and was the first movie to use television as promotion for the release. His later film, "Domo Arigato", was the first to use single-lens 3d projection, the format used for movies in the 1980's 3d revival.

You can read an overview of Oboler's film career at (part one and part two).

Mayor of Portland, we hardly knew you...

The newly elected Gay mayor of Portland is embroiled in a sex scandal. Seems he lied about having a relationship with a young man who may have been underage at the time.

The young man's name?

Beau Breedlove.

Slate has the details and links

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Would you vote for ...

... the man who played the lead in "Top Secret"?

Val Kilmer's considering running for the governor's spot in New Mexico.

article at HuffPost

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Bloom County Library

Finally ... a publisher is tackling the entire run of my favorite comic strip of all time, "Bloom County". The hardcover books in the series will include every daily and Sunday strip along with "context pages" that put some of the current events and personalities of the time in perspective so you can understand what's going on in the comic.

press release

Friday, February 6, 2009

The sound you hear...

The New Yorker has a curious piece on tinnitus, a condition where someone hears constant tones or sounds that won't go away, typically due to some type of audio-related trauma or injury.

I knew someone in college with this problem; it definately impacted his ability to hear and how he spoke. Some are suggesting the proliferation of portable mp3 players may increase the rate of this problem in the population over time.

at New Yorker

Thursday, February 5, 2009

IBM's doing what?

A poster of a comment at Wonkette noted something interesting. I'd like to see some verification of this and some quick laws enacted to make it illegal if it's true.

Basically, the poster says that IBM is offering to send American workers to India to do the same job they do here. They'll pay for the visas and paperwork.

The catch?

You only get paid the going wage in India for the job, which is significantly less than what you'd make here.

If you turn down the offer and are let go from your job, you're not eligible for unemployment, of course.

So, is this one true?

comment at Wonkette

Man Caves

The SF Gate discovers "Man Caves"; ie, areas of homes that are off limits to the wifey, stocked with multiple televisions, issues of Maxim, and boxing videos.

In my day, it was called "the basement".

article at SF Gate

Just throw out all your food

Yikes... the FDA has issued a recall on more than 1,300 products containing peanuts.

Just throw away all your food and buy some bananas and steak and you're all set.

recall at FDA site

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Now that's some break...

A company has released a glass pool table.

Yes, you heard that right, a glass pool table. Cost is about $26,000.

Why do I have the feeling it would be a bad idea to combine hard, heavy pool balls and wooden sticks with glass?

Your Eustace contest winners

This year's "Your Eustace" contest winners have been posted at the New Yorker.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Fire sale at Brandais

The Board of Trustees at Brandais has voted to close the university's art museum, despite protests from students, alumni and others. The museum had its own board and did its own fundraising.

Curators of university art museums are watching this one closely, wondering if their institutions might see an art collection sale as a quick way to raise funds in tough economic times.

article at NY Times

Underground theater

... really underground.

A theater troupe has put together a play that is staged on the New York subway system. Sounds like a really fun ride.

article at NY Times


Now, what self-respecting person interested in art and culture wouldn't have a genuine Zardoz mask in their home?

auction at ebay

Carrie Fisher, blogger

Carrie Fisher is now a blogger.

This woman is funny - be sure to read her post about the party she hosted for "Milk" (Paris Hilton showed up, but no one would confess to bringing her as a guest.)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

PediPaws - pet torture device

Here's a little video review from Slate of the PediPaws pet nail trimming gizmo.

I'm sorry - if I were a cat or dog, I wouldn't be too enthusiastic about having someone hold me down and approach me with a buzzing electronic device, especially with a fast-spinning sander on it.