Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lame thoughts on learning to do music

• I wonder if a guy like Brahms ever sat down, wrote a piece and then asked himself, "Dammit, did I just write a capriccio, or was that an impromptu?"

• Because GarageBand is a .AU host, and my keyboard has a MIDI output, I can use my printer cable to hook up my keyboard to my computer and start playing synthesizer. I have never felt more stupid than when I tried to read software specs for synthesizers. For example: "TAL-Elek7ro is a virtual analog synth with some special features like oscillator hard-sync and frequency modulation. It features alias-free oscillators, newly developed fast envelopes and LFOs with a wide range from 0.1Hz up to 400 Hz. A free routable envelope with attack and decay is available too." I recognize that's supposed to be English, but really, can't they just say "This one goes BBRRRRRROWWWOWWOWWOWWW?"

• Speaking of MIDI, if I use MuseScore, I can automatically convert any MIDI file into sheet music. So the Internet's ancient MIDI websites have become my sheet music library. If you weren't on the Web in 1999, here's what it looked like. Under construction! Sign my guestbook!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Today's Mystery

Seen at the laundromat today: a sign reading "No Dying of Any Kind."

The "No Dying" part is perfectly understandable. I can see why a business wouldn't want corpses sitting around, scaring away the customers and possibly creating fire hazards.

But what possessed them to add the "of Any Kind" bit? The only possible reason I can think of is that the Amazing Zombo was in the laundromat and was trying to argue that practicing his Mysterious Hindoo Death Trance didn't count as "dying" because it was only an illusion.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I can't believe I'm defending Ohio State

As some of you may have heard, Ohio State president Gordon Gee complained that some unnamed college football teams played a schedule consisting of "the Little Sisters of the Poor. Boise State president Bob Kustra not only bitched about Gee's comments, but added the following remark:

"I just hope that when he speaks about his research profile or the quality of his university he’s a little more believable than he is about athletics, because he’s just so wrong on this one."

Are you sure you want to pick an academic fight with Ohio State, Bob?

Per US News and World Report, Ohio State is the #56 national university in the USA. Boise State is the 51st best regional university in the West, behind such luminaries as Central Washington, Northwest Nazarene, and Cal State-Stanislaus.

Ohio State has the 21st best graduate business program in the country. Boise State's program is unranked.

Ohio State's school of education is the #15 program in the country. Boise State, again, unranked.

In graduate-level engineering, Ohio State is #25. Boise State's program is undergraduate-only.

Ohio State has the #35 ranked law school and the #27 medical school. Boise State has no law school and no medical school.

Ohio State has 20 colleges. BSU has seven.

Ohio State has produced nine Pulitzer Prize winners and four Nobel Laureates. BSU has produced zero of each.

Ohio State's alumni include Jesse Owens, George Steinbrenner, Arthur Schlesinger, Roy Liechtenstein, Paul Iams (of pet food fame), Richard Lewis, Bruce Vilanch, Dwight Yoakam, Jack Buck, Howard Metzenbaum, and Teflon inventor Roy Plunkett. Boise State's alumni include Bob Kustra.

There are certainly legitimate reasons why someone would want to attend Boise State, but if Kustra thinks BSU is in the same academic weight class as Ohio State, he's as crazy as he was when he burned his bridges with another local university.

Friday, October 29, 2010

End of the line

After possibly identifying my biological mother, I sent an email and a voice mail her way. Nothing too confrontational, just saying that she was in the same class as my mom and I'd like some help. I did the same thing with a couple of her classmates.

It's been two weeks and I've heard nothing. Maybe I guessed wrong, or maybe she'd rather not meet me. Understandable. She doesn't seem to have any other kids. Probably doesn't think of herself as a mother. Doesn't want to have to explain her decision.

That's fine. But if she changes her mind, she knows where I am.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Playing doctor" is less fun with psychologists

It's been quite some time since I appointed a new TV Girlfriend. Probably because I haven't had cable and haven't watched much TV in the last year or so. But I have been able to keep up with some shows on Hulu, and that's where I met my most recent TV Girlfriend.

Say hello to Dr. Elizabeth Moore, a staff psychologist at the Hartford Hospital's Anxiety Disorders Center. She's been making appearances on "Hoarders," and I was won over by her elfin good looks and her PhD. I also wouldn't feel the need to clean up my apartment before she came over for a date.

Now, I think she'd look better with longer hair, but I can understand why you'd want to keep your hair short if you spent a lot of time wandering through houses full of feral cats.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Annals of masterful lawyering

Imagine you are a lawyer who is representing a client who has been convicted of raping his girlfriend while they were both very drunk. Imagine, now, that you are taking this case up on appeal. Imagine that you are looking for an insightful quote to start your brief off with a bang.

A Montana lawyer, Palmer Hoovestal, decided that under these circumstances, the right way to start off his brief was with this quote:

"Don't worry about it... Like he said, we all do dumb shit when we're fucked up." - Mike Tyson, The Hangover

The Montana Supreme Court found this to be more than a little tacky, and delivered a delightful judicial slap in Hoovestal's face.

Belanus' brief on appeal opens with an expletive-laden quote from former boxer Mike Tyson... a peculiar choice for this case, given Tyson's conviction for raping an 18-year-old girl in Indiana in 1992.... The not-so-subtle point of this Tyson quote is that people should be forgiven for outrageous acts committed while extremely intoxicated... and which he now, for whatever reason, believes the court should bear in mind as we consider the legal issues raised in this appeal.

Do you think he won the appeal?

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Il Procuratore," an opera based on life in the C-Squared

Act One:

The curtain rises on the prosperous town of Canyon, and the audience is introduced to Giovanni di Bujak, a lawyer who boasts of his prosperity ("Io sono un uomo ricco"). His aria is cut short when a messenger brings news that the banks have failed. A panicked crowd rushes the bank and bewails their lost assets ("La mia casa è andata").

Giovanni returns home to his wife Pepe, who compares him to her new automobile ("Ah, mia Escalade è delizioso"). Their reveries are interrupted by a stream of Giovanni's clients, who cannot pay him ("Mi merito un avvocato libero"). As the clients leave, they are followed by a man from Revenue Interno, who warns Giovanni and Pepe that they have fallen behind on their taxes. He will return in six months if the bill is not paid, and take everything they own ("Si lavora per nessuno, ma me").

Giovanni and Pepe are stunned by the news ("Mie scarpe! Miei vestiti! Mia Mercedes!"). But Giovanni has a plan: the office of Procuratore has recently become vacant. If he can become the new Procuratore, he can borrow some money from the public and repay it when fortunes improve. The two decide to go ahead with the plan, and contribute the last of their money to Giovanni's campaign ("Si ritornerà a noi triplice").

Act Two:

The curtain rises on Giovanni walking the streets of Canyon, proclaiming his candidacy ("Io sono duro su bande"). Meanwhile, Pepe sings of her fear that their poverty will be exposed ("Tutto nascondi"). Pepe is overheard by a local man, Roberto Enrico, who becomes suspicious.

Election Day arrives, and Giovanni becomes the Procuratore. He receives a triumphal coronation ("Io sono il ministro della jusice"). After the coronation, Giovanni embarks on a whirlwind of change, replacing all his staff, appearing frequently in the media ("Per il rilascio immediato solo"), and sneaking money out of the treasury ("E 'tutto lì nel contratto.")

Roberto Enrico relays his concerns to a former Procuratore, Michelizzi, who plan to expose Giovanni's fraud. As Giovanni and Pepe celebrate the return of their prosperity, Roberto and Michelizzi sing of their corruption ("Presto saremo fuori del debito / Ladro! Donnola!")

Act Three:

Revenue's deadline is fast approaching, and Pepe realizes that they cannot afford to repay the tax collector and the money owed from the treasury. Giovanni reassures her that their actions will not be discovered ("Nessuno deve sapere").

At the next meeting of the Commissari, Roberto and Michelizzi arrive and accuse Giovanni of theft. The Commissari panic ("Può essere vero?"), but Giovanni reassures them that he is prosperous and has no need for Canyon's money ("Fidati di me, io sono incorruttibile"). Roberto and Michelizzi are turned away, and after the meeting, Giovanni expresses his private fears that he will be discovered ("I proiettili sudore").

Giovanni returns home to find Pepe trying to balance the family budget. She urges him to come clean before things get worse ("Dobbiamo porre fine a questo inganno"). Giovanni refuses, stating that his plan has almost come to fruition ("Dimettersi? Nel nostro momento di trionfo?").The two pray for their deception to work. ("Noi li rimborsa e saremo perdonati").

Act Four:

The curtain rises on the office of the Procuratore, as Giovanni directs his employees ("Nostro ufficio è senza carta"). Suddenly, the Revenue Interno man arrives, flanked by Roberto, Michelizzi, and the Commissari. The agent, Roberto, and Michelizzi confront Giovanni with proof that he has stolen money from the treasury to pay his debts ("Ladro! Donnola! (reprise)"). As Giovanni issues denial after denial, more and more of the Commissari, and even Giovanni's staff, join into the reprise. As the complaints come to a head, Giovanni can no longer bear it and cries out his resignation ("Ah, io sono rovinato!")

Giovanni is led away to the stocks as Pepe mourns ("Siamo così stati vicini") and his staff frets about their fates ("Non c'è lavoro per gli avvocati").

Act Five has yet to be written. Will Michelizzi take the office of the Procuratore? Will Giovanni go to jail? Will he flee to Buenos Aires? Will Pepe denounce him? Will he fall upon his sword? Will he be dragged to hell like his namesake? We shall see…

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Closing in on a solution

I went to Iowa City this past weekend, and in addition to being part of a massive gold stripe, I paid a visit to the university archives to have a look at my birth mom's graduating class.

Fortunately for me, electrical engineering was not a popular major for women in the early 80s, so I was able to narrow down my list of candidates to ten people. From there, I applied a little Internet detectivery and was able to find one member of the class who appears to match up well with the information I have.

This candidate is an electrical engineer with brown hair and eyes, who worked in satellite communications for many years, is from southern Iowa, and enjoys cycling. She now lives in Louisiana, works as an Internet systems designer, and, oddly enough, is associated with the Big Easy Rollergirls. I guess it might run in the blood…

I'll try contacting her in the next week or so and ask her for help finding my birth mom - I don't want to go right out and accuse her of being my mom.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Game For My Readers!

When you hear the phrase "more money than taste," what kind of people come to mind? The two categories of people I most associate with that phrase are Russian zillionaires and televangelists. I have no idea how these two subcultures came to inspire each other to develop similarly gaudy tastes. (Maybe the part of your brain that demands gold-plated Gulfstream jets is the same part that's associated with a desire to cheat on your taxes?)

Anyhow, I'm presenting a little game to you, my faithful readers. I'm going to post pictures of ten houses, and for each house, I want you to identify whether it belongs to a Russian business tycoon, or to a noted TV preacher. You may post your responses in the comments. High score is crowned the King or Queen of Chintz. Good luck!











Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More puzzle pieces

Received 5 pages of documents from Lutheran Social Service. A summary:

• Bio-Mom was 22. 5'7", 150, brown hair, brown eyes. She mentioned "slightly oily skin, some acne problems."
• She was the 4th of 5 kids, and also the shortest: the others range from 5'10" to 6'6". She had an older brother who was also an electrical engineer.
• She was from a blue-collar family. Bio-Maternal-Grandpa was a factory worker until his heart attack, Bio-Maternal-Grandma worked at a department store. Bio-Mom worked there with her in high school.
• She was descended from Germans on her dad's side and Irish on her mom's. No mention of Czechs or Hungarians, whom I had expected to see.
• She smoked marijuana once but "didn't enjoy it." No word on whether she inhaled.
• The information sheet for Bio-Dad is in a different handwriting than Bio-Mom's, so presumably he managed to visit LSS on his own (weighing against the "rape baby" possibility). His information is sketchier.
• Bio-Dad was 6'2" and working as a stagehand at age 23.
• He had a half-sister who was in 9th grade. He listed no information on the father's side of his family.
• His mom was a teacher: two uncles and his grandfather were M.D.s.
• Bio-Mom provided the following handwritten statement:

I will graduate in 1½ years. My major is electrical engineering. [University of Iowa, Class of 1983?] I am very interested in satellite communications and I would like to get a job in electronics dealing in satellites, or other space programs, such as the space shuttle. [I remember when I was in kindergarten and I kept asking Mrs. Church to show me the new pictures from Voyager 2] History & government & english classes were not interesting to me. [Apple fell pretty far from the tree here.] I enjoyed art class, but found out young I was not talented as for art drawing. I did take violin lessons for a few years and my teacher said I had potential. My little brother is very talented. He plays the upright bass & the bass guitar. I enjoy outdoor activities – camping, canoeing, swimming (though I'm not a good swimmer). I have a very nice bike and I really enjoy riding it. I want my baby to grow up in a fair sized town – like Davenport, but not Davenport. [“not” is triple underlined] I want my baby to be raised a Roman Catholic. My first preference is that the adoptive parents be a couple that will be leaving the state of Iowa. If this can't be arranged, I'd like my baby placed in the northern part of Iowa, as I have a lot of relatives in the Southern and South Central part of Iowa. [Not sure what she was going for here - afraid someone might recognize me?]

I enjoy music – folk, rock, jazz, classical. I was in chorus in high school and was in the alto section. My child may be musically inclined, [hey, she said I might be "inclined," she didn't say I'd be any good!] please encourage these talents, but if she/he is like me, she/he will also enjoy the logic of math. I also enjoy horseback riding & someday hope to have a horse of my own.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Big Deal

"Have you ever thought about finding your birth parents?"

I've heard this question a zillion times, generally as soon as someone finds out I'm adopted. So I really should've expected my doctor to ask it when I told him I didn't have a medical history.

"Kinda sorta."
"Well, it's tough for me to give you a general bill of health unless I know what I'm looking for."
"Yeah, you know, every year, we find out more diseases have a genetic link to them, so a medical history can be very helpful."
"So you're saying I should start looking?"
"If I were you, I would."

I'd always been on the fence about this issue. Normally I love to learn new things, but in this case, knowledge comes with risk. What if my parents are dead? What if they're meth dealers? What if they'll try to sell me on Amway? What if they won't be proud of me? What if I'm the result of a rape? And, as Professor Anderson always said, risk aversion is the true sign of a lawyer.

But with a doctor's suggestion, I figured it might be time for me to sign up for Iowa's voluntary Adoption Reunion Registry. My mom is starting to send me the information she knows, and it turns out she knows more than I'd thought she'd known.

Birth-Mom was a student at the University of Iowa, majoring in electrical engineering (women engineers in 1981!). There would've been a whole generation gap between her and my mom. My parents listened to the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary; Birth-Mom would've listened to The Police and Van Halen.

Birth-Mom specifically requested a Catholic family. That answers one of the big questions I'd always asked myself - considering that Iowa City has had an abortion clinic in town since the 70s, why did Birth-Mom stick it out for nine months at virtually no benefit to her?

Nothing is known of Birth-Dad, so it could have been a one-night stand… or worse.

Birth-Grandpa would be 84 if he's alive, but he'd already had a severe heart attack by the time I was born. Now I'm going to have to feel guilty every time I eat mozzarella sticks.

More remains to be found, assuming Birth-Mom signed up for the registry herself. Did she change her major? Did she graduate? Is she still Catholic? Does she still live in Iowa? Is she of Eastern European ancestry, as I've always suspected? Do I have brothers and sisters?

Would she be proud of me?

Stay tuned…

Friday, July 2, 2010

About time, New York!

New York has finally joined the 21st century and passed a no-fault divorce law.

Quick historical review - in the olden days, in order to get a divorce, one spouse had to go to the court and prove that the other spouse was at fault for ruining the marriage on one of a number of specific grounds. (In Idaho, those grounds included adultery, extreme cruelty, desertion, neglect, and drunkenness.) Note that I said one spouse had to prove the grounds for divorce. If both spouses proved grounds for divorce - wife proves husband is a drunk, husband proves wife cheated - then they had to stay married!

So wife really wants a divorce, but none of those things has happened, so she goes ahead and arrange for husband to cheat on her. That'll work, right? Nope, that's collusion and/or condonation, so they have to stay married.

Since the 1970s, every state has decided this was a ridiculous process, and allowed no-fault divorce, where the spouses just have to prove that they don't want to be married any more. Every state except New York..

Most of the opposition to this law comes from the usual religious sources, but then there was this quote:

“Attorneys who line the wallets of elected officials will benefit legislatively and gain new clients from this heinous law,” said Marcia Pappas, president of the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter.

Pappas called out female legislators “who danced in the aisle as they threw women and children under the bus.”


In a short editorial, Pappas explains why she is campaigning vigorously against the meteor that is about to wipe out the legislative dinosaur of fault-only divorce.

Under “divorce on demand” legislation sponsored by Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, either party can go into court, say the marriage has broken down, and get a divorce — no grounds are necessary. Approximately 95 percent of divorce cases in New York are resolved by the parties themselves, not by the judge, without going to court. This is the best possible process.

This happens in no-fault states, too. The vast majority of my cases settle out of court.

No-fault takes away any bargaining leverage the non-moneyed spouse has. Currently she can say, “If you want a divorce I’ll agree, but you have to work out a fair agreement.”

Fault-based divorce takes away any leverage an abused woman has. Currently she can say, "I'm leaving you," and her abuser can say, "You can't divorce me." Yes, she could prove up extreme cruelty, but that requires gathering a lot of evidence and using a lot of an attorney's time, making it quite expensive. Battered women generally don't have the money to do this.

Or, hypothetical #2, she says "If you want a divorce I'll agree, but you have to work out a fair agreement." Husband responds by saying, "Here's our fair agreement: you give me exactly what I want, or I'll do this," as he punches her in the eye. She reaches for her phone, but he pulls it away and breaks it over his knee. Then he grabs her by the hair, throws her to the floor, and strangles her until she passes out. Clearly wife could've used a third party, such as a lawyer, to help keep her safe during these "negotiations."

In fact, elsewhere in the same set of editorials, a Penn researcher notes that states that adopted no-fault divorce saw a 30% decrease in domestic violence, plus a drop in the suicide rate for women. One would think that the National Organization for Women would be in favor of reduced rates of domestic violence and female suicides, but whatever.

That is not “blackmail” as has been claimed by some no-fault proponents. Negotiating the terms of the breakup of a partnership is the way partnerships are dissolved in the business world. Women should have the same protection.

Partnerships in the business world don't have to prove that one of the partners is at fault for ruining the business. Why not? Because it would cost them a lot of time and money to prove this, and because it would make the partnership dissolution process more bitter.

In fairness, any partner to a marriage should be provided with notice that the other partner wants a divorce and given an opportunity to negotiate the terms for the divorce.

In the no-fault world, to initiate a divorce, the plaintiff has to give the defendant a copy of a summons that tells the defendant she's being sued, and a copy of the complaint that explains what she's being sued for. Then the defendant gives the plaintiff a copy of an answer and counterclaim, explaining what she wants out of the divorce. The parties are then free to negotiate right up until the date of the trial.

I've seen a number of divorce decrees negotiated by parties alone, with no lawyers involved. They frequently leave out assets or debts that they forgot they had (or that one spouse deliberately concealed from the other), or produce totally unworkable and/or unenforceable custody schedules. Sure, a no-lawyer divorce can work if you don't have kids, a house, a business, or a pension, but everyone else probably ought to see a lawyer.

Here in flyover country*, the parties are almost always ordered to see a mediator, who sits down with the parties and helps them negotiate divorce agreements. We have some mediators here who are absolute miracle workers, defusing conflicts and helping the parties come up with solutions they wouldn't have thought of on their own. I see no reason why New York, a state with about 12 times the population of Idaho, wouldn't have a number of qualified mediators available to assist in negotiations.

With “divorce on demand,” not only can the more-moneyed spouse begin hiding assets (which happens even under our current laws), but this spouse can proceed quickly with legal actions before the other spouse, with limited means, even has the time to find and hire an attorney.

Sure, the richer spouse can get a lawyer faster. But in the fault-only world, the richer spouse still has the advantage. The spouse with money can stop making payments on the other spouse's bills, or hide assets (as the author has acknowledged). Furthermore, if the parties are expected to negotiate without the benefit of a court, they won't be able to conduct discovery, the method lawyers use to find out things they don't know about. I've had plenty of clients who never had access to family finances and didn't know how much money was available to them until the case started and we started getting bank records, tax returns, credit applications, and so forth.

We must look at the socioeconomic standing of women in our society. Women clearly continue to be the non- or lesser moneyed spouse, as women continue to give up careers and financial independence for the role of housewife and mother. For this reason alone we must look closely at how divorce affects the lives of women and children and the role that the state should play to ensure that homemakers and children not be left destitute after divorce.

So the author has just said that the wife and the husband are in unequal socioeconomic positions, and yet the author expects the poorer wife, who may have little knowledge of the family's assets and debts, to be able to negotiate, by herself, on the same grounds as a richer, more financially involved, and probably physically stronger husband. No wonder the legislature wasn't persuaded.

*seriously, we try to tell people that Idaho isn't totally backwards and then they come out with a lottery game based on "Cheers"

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ha! Ha! I'm watching the Mariners!

The Seattle Mariners have traditionally been dreadful on the field, but they have one of the more colorful marketing departments in Major League Baseball.

Last night, the Mariners reached out to the community of goddamn nerds, and provided attendees with the following bobblehead:

The Internet? In my baseball? It's more likely than you think! DO NOT WANT

(aside #1: are we transforming into a society that communicates entirely in image macros, a la Darmok and Jilad at Tanagra?)

(aside #2: it's no Funny Nose Eyeglasses Night.)

(aside #3: do you think that the guy who invented "Mr. T Ate My Balls" sometimes wishes he'd just written down the idea somewhere, then found it and posted it on the Internet ten years later?)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book reviews

From my most recent trip to Nampa's woefully inadequate library.

Idaho's Constitution: The Tie That Binds, Dennis Colson. Generally dry and informative. C+

Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence, Gerard Jones. Take that, Mom! Note that Mr. Jones is a comic book author so there may be a certain conflict of interest. B-

Up Till Now, William Shatner and David Fisher. Is there some kind of school you go to if you want to be a celebrity autobiography ghostwriter? Because they all have the same writing style. Most of these anecdotes appear in Shatner's talk show "Raw Nerve." C+

The Book of General Ignorance, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. Generally well-written, but I have two bones to pick: first of all, it's no mystery why the ancient Greeks and Egyptians didn't use steam power on a grand scale, it's because their metalworking wasn't advanced enough to create a large steam boiler, and secondly, I don't care if Henry VIII said he only had two wives, we fought a goddamn war so that we didn't have to listen to the king's patently false assertions of how many marriages he had. B

On the Wealth of Nations, P.J. O'Rourke. Watch this video. If you agree with the guy with hair, you'll give this book a D-. If you agree with the bald guy, you'll give it an A-

Baudolino, Umberto Eco. Signed up for medieval adventuring and got sideswiped by gnostic hippie bullshit. C+

More Information Than You Require, John Hodgman. Basically the same thing as The Areas Of My Expertise, but not as funny. Hodgman (who is apparently my #1 celebrity lookalike) cursed himself by including a Secret World Government Recognition Test in the book and now every nerd in the goddamn country is going to approach him in public and say "Then I presume you are a noble?" C+

Bobby the Brain, Bobby Heenan and Steve Anderson. Unremarkable. C

What Grandpa Laughed At, Homer Croy. This book was written in 1948, so its jokes date from the 1890s to World War I. A couple of them are actually kinda funny. C+

Your Flying Car Awaits, Paul Milo. Not as fun as a book about flying cars and robot butlers should be. C

Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates, Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. Borscht Belty exploration of philosophers' theories on death. B

Concise Book of Lying, Evelin Sullivan. Not a how-to manual. B-

Odd Gods: New Religions and the Cult Controversy, James R. Lewis. Less informative than Wikipedia and with more typos. I gave up halfway through in order to watch "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" on Youtube. F

The Hit Charade: Lou Pearlman, Boy Bands, and the Biggest Ponzi Scheme in U.S. History, Tyler Gray. Note that the title is a little old, *NSYNC was not involved with Bernie Madoff. Author thinks he's clever, but he could've used an accountant's help when writing about the actual scheme. C

The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain. Twain is so quintessentially American that we don't think of him riding horseback around the Ottoman Empire, but he did, and he wrote about it. Quotable as always (shades of Groundskeeper Willie arise when he describes the Italians as a nation of "macaroni-stuffing organ grinders"). A

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Is this the "*" in "WIN a FREE* IPOD"?

From State v. Newman, just decided by the Idaho Court of Appeals:

The police were met at the parking lot by the victim and her husband, who had called the police after responding to an online advertisement for a free iPod. The victim told police that she received e-mails from the person posting the ad directing her to come to the park after dark to retrieve the free iPod from a portable restroom.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

100 people who would make better replacements for Oprah than Rosie O'Donnell

1. Greg Gumbel
2. Michael Palin
3. Edie McClurg
4. James Lipton
5. Summer Sanders
6. Vladimir Putin
7. Cheri Oteri
8. Robert Smith (of the Cure)
9. Robert Smith (former NFL running back)
10. Robert Smith (NPR reporter)
11. Rowdy Roddy Piper
12. Bar Refaeli
13. Jim J. Bullock
14. Stephanie "Flo the Progressive Girl" Courtney
15. Linus Torvalds
16. Your dad's high-school girlfriend
17. Dr. Sue Johanson
18. Katee Sackhoff
19. Philip Glass
20. Alex Chiu
21. Snookie
22. "Spaceman" Bill Lee
23. Ezra Klein
24. Bernadette Peters
25. The ashes of Peter Tomarken, in a jar
26. Elena Kagan
27. Garrison Keillor
28. Mario Vargas Llosa
29. Aung San Soo Kyi
30. KCRG TV-9's Bruce Aune
31. Steve Perry
32. Delta Burke
33. George Clinton
34. Rev. Joyce Meyer
35. Rev. Jeremiah Wright
36. Dan Issel
37. Nigel Tufnel
38. Erin Moran
39. A glossy publicity still of Angelina Jolie
40. El Hijo de Santo
41. Gene Ray, The Wisest Human
42. Marina Sirtis
43. Alec Baldwin
44. Alec Baldwin, drunk
45. Jane Goodall
46. Roger Ailes
47. Knuckles the Echidna
48. Michael Bay
49. A Greek guy who trolls Turks on Wikipedia
50. Malinalxochitl, Aztec goddess of desert animals
51. Hayley Mills
52. Hank Paulson
53. Kim Basinger
54. Terry Tate, Office Linebacker
55. Carry A. Nation (via Ouija board)
56. Mary Lynn Rajskub
57. Tay "Chocolate Rain" Zonday
58. Helen MIrren
59. Fannie Flagg
60. Phil Hellmuth
61. Mr. Roush, my elementary school principal
62. Downtown Julie Brown
63. Snarf from "Thundercats"
64. Gordon Ramsay
65. Liza Minelli
66. Grignr
67. Kim Carnes
68. Rex Rammell
69. Sir David Attenborough
70. Dramatic Chipmunk
71. Xuxa
72. That androgynous kid who used to run around Iowa City wearing a jester hat, seriously what was with that
73. Gen. David Petraeus
74. Will Ferrell as Mugatu
75 & 76. England Dan and John Ford Coley
77. Morgan Fairchild
78. Jean Teasdale
79. The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight
80. Brian Blessed
81. Christo
82. Chairman Kaga
83. "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" by Pieter Brueghel the Elder
84. Jessica Pare
85. Marlee Matlin
86. The United States Marine Corps Band, performing the hits of John Philip Sousa
87. Claude Lemieux
88. Heather Mills McCartney
89. A bored teenager who rolls his eyes and makes the "you're a jackoff" hand motion when the guests talk
90. Dylan Moran
91. Peter Frampton
92. Tony Little
93. Oprah herself, sampled from previous episodes
94. Peyton Manning
95. Courtney Love
96. A man purporting to be Emperor Norton I
97. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster
98. Alan Thicke
99. A mechanical fortune teller
100. All 99 people above, talking simultaneously

Monday, April 12, 2010

The tale of Nibru

Maybe you knew an art kid in high school. The kind of kid who spent most of his or her time drawing Big, Meaningful Art that was pretty good by high school standards, and whose Art usually expressed teen angst.

One such art kid produced Nibru:

Then the art kid decided to post Nibru on the Internet. Not to DeviantArt, the normal hugbox for teenage artists. No, the art kid posted Nibru at ConceptArt, an art site for aspiring professional artists.

Something about Nibru caught their attention, and soon some extremely talented illustrators (including guys who draw for Marvel Comics) were drawing their own versions of Nibru:

Go here for the whole Nibru story.

Monday, April 5, 2010

On teenagers

I was in the supermarket today and saw (in Us Magazine) that a 15-year-old exchange student in Massachusetts killed herself, and now the other students who bullied here are facing criminal charges.

Seeing this headline was like biting into the proverbial madeleine for me, as my own memories of junior high came rushing back, and I suddenly found myself in the place of an unhappy teenager (albeit one with a cart full of groceries).

So, thought the teenager, here are my options. I can continue with life as is, which is intolerable. I can tell the teachers or my parents or the police, who are well-meaning but ultimately unable to prevent my suffering. I can fight back, but there are always more of them than there are of me.

Or, there's a way by which I become famous, everyone will whitewash all the bad information about me,* all the bullies go to jail and are exposed in the national news as the evil little wretches they are, and maybe state legislators will get together to write "[Insert My Name Here]'s Law," and there'll be a movie about me on Lifetime wherein I'm portrayed by a very good looking young Canadian.

If you think the last option doesn't appeal to teenagers, then I recommend you do a study of Mary Sueism, the habit of immature authors to create infinitely powerful, infinitely wonderful author avatar characters… who frequently die heroically.

So what is the lesson to be learned here? The lesson is that there is no answer to bullying, and that teenage victims need to understand what Alexander was trying to teach them many years ago when he told them about his terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.

*Yes, some kids do have it coming. Anyone who knew me before 10th grade or so can attest to how insufferable I was.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Photo time

Went to Salt Lake City this weekend. Pictures here. Motivation to write clever description on blog running low.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Domestic violence news update

• A while back I wrote about New York Assemblyman Hiram Monserrate, who was convicted of domestic assault and has just been kicked out of the state Senate. Governor Paterson supports the move, and calls attention to potential witness intimidation.

But wait, there's more! One of Paterson's top aides is now under investigation for domestic violence, and Paterson allegedly called the victim himself to convince her to keep quiet.

Lame Weekend-Update-Style Punch Line: In related news, New York announced its new tourism slogan: "If I Can't Love New York, Nobody Can."

• As part of his promotion for a new stimulus jobs bill, Sen. Harry Reid announced that unemployed men are more likely to beat their wives. This is certainly plausible. After all, domestic violence is primarily a control issue, and many abusers are narcissists who need to maintain their images at all costs. Lose his job and he's lost control of your life, and his image, which was tied up in his job, is seriously damaged. The abuser needs to reassert control somewhere else.

That said, Sen. Reid's argument sounds a little like an argument to put more police on patrol in high-crime neighborhoods order to keep late-night coffee shops in business, and carries the nasty undertone that people who oppose the bill not only hate jobs, but hate women as well. The reason the government wants to reduce unemployment is not because of the secondary effects of unemployment. The reason the government wants to reduce unemployment is because unemployment is bad in and of itself.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Off to change all my passwords...

I have learned that a book containing my family tree is now available through Google Books. It was initially interesting to have the search feature available to see if anyone was murdered (one), or if I'm the only one in Idaho (another guy's second wife is from Jerome), and then the information that a bunch of them seem to have died fighting for the Germans on the Eastern Front.

And then I realized that anyone with good Internet skills can find the answers to two very common security questions - my mother's maiden name and my place of birth. Of course, they could've found this out beforehand by buying the book, but if someone's going to steal my identity, I'd at least like them to go to the effort of spending thirty bucks or so on the project.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Useful if you're writing alternate history about Romans

The Catholic Church officially names all its dioceses* in Latin, but they can be maddeningly inconsistent with translations of local names.

For example, in the United States, you'll find an Archidioecesis Ludovicopolitana, a Dioecesis Petriculana, and a Dioecesis Rubribaculensis, but you'll also find a Dioecesis Bridgeportensis and a Dioecesis de Fairbanks.

Why does Santa Fe become Sanctes Fides, but Las Cruces stays Las Cruces? Shouldn't Iowa have something like Monachi? And why do I live near Xylopolis?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Alexander Stern is not very good at video games. Not his fault, of course; he's just got some kind of unspecified "visual processing impairment."* He says that because he's disabled, he's unable to "fully enjoy[] the video games manufactured by Sony.... As a result, [he] has not acquired the items some players of video games amass through their play.... Nor has [he] progressed as far or as successfully in the video games to provide him with sufficient knowledge of the games to meaningfully interact with fellow video game enthusiasts at the conventions and other events Sony organizes to promote the video games."

Rather than visit GameFAQs or enter cheat codes or find a different goddamn hobby, Mr. Stern decided his best option would be to file suit against Sony under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

His theory was that because he wasn't any good at the games, he was effectively denied access to Sony's conventions, and Sony was using the games as a test to screen out the disabled so that Sonywouldn't have to accommodate their disabilities - which is a little like saying that failing to allow a blind skater to participate in roller derby is just a ruse to keep her from bringing her guide dog to Rollercon.

Judge Percy Anderson of the Central District of California ruled that no, Americans do not have the constitutional or statutory right to pwn noobs. (I cannot believe I just typed that.)

*Note that some therapists consider OCD to be a visual processing disorder, which might also motivate someone to be so focused on beating a game to cause him to file a lawsuit to make it happen.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I'll be sure to dress nicer next time I go to WinCo

This map of state-by-state locations for Craiglist "Missed Encounters" posts will teach you about lots of regional stores, fulfill some of your stereotypes (either about certain parts of America or about Craigslist posters), and leave you wondering why there are no lesbians in the Dakotas.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Instilling discipline at a young age

From a recent Iowa Court of Appeals decision:

The reported incidents included: (1) the biological father spanking Nicholas while he was a newborn in the neonatal intensive care unit...

Now, surely some of you will note that I am not a parent and don't know what it's like to be one, but how could anyone possibly think that newborns had the intellectual capacity to understand concepts such as punishment for misbehavior? (Unless he was a Scientologist who was trying to instill some engrams.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Indianapolis has an art museum?

The next time an NFL team pleads for public financing for a stadium and needs to argue for the public benefit to the community, it should consider the bet made between the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

If the Saints beat the Colts next Sunday, IMA will loan NOMA J.M.W. Turner's The Fifth Plague of Egypt. If the Colts win, NOMA will loan IMA Claude Lorrain's Ideal View of Tivoli.

Be sure and read the art world's attempt at trash talk.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What would we do without social science?

According to Hazel Markus of Stanford University, "...the enormous opportunity for growth and self-advancement that flows from unlimited freedom of choice may diminish rather than enhance subjective well-being."

So, basically, Stanford is only getting around to discoveries that New Wave groups understood thirty years ago.

(Note that Wikipedia gets this song totally wrong, claiming it's about Aesop's Dog and the Bone when it's pretty clearly about Burdian's ass, dog and bone metaphors nonwithstanding.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A brief discussion of political budgeting

It has come to my attention that Idaho's governor, Butch Otter, has proposed a budget that contains cuts to education and parks. Naturally, the public is up in arms... which is just what I think the governor wanted.

I think Governor Otter is looking for political capital to increase taxes, using the time-honored strategy of presenting the most popular services as the first ones to be cut. For example, any time anyone wants to cut public broadcasting, "Sesame Street" is the first show headed for the chopping block, and President Obama got rid of the world's most advanced fighter jet rather than some other military program. So, obviously, the only way to save these popular programs is to pony up more money.

Now, some would say that Governor Otter is opposed to tax increases, and perhaps he is, personally. But in his role as governor, he has to favor higher taxes and more services, because it increases the power of his office to distribute benefits to the people who elected him, and makes those same people more reliant on his re-election.

There's another time-honored method the state could use if it wanted to pay expenses the voters didn't want - lawsuit funding. Under this plan, organizations that are facing budget cuts sue the state for some reason or another, and the state mounts an ineffective defense (or, if nobody in the press is paying attention, defaults). The state is ordered to make the payments, and the politicians get to blame the "activist judges" for ruining their sure-fire plan to end government waste.

Then again, the city that pioneered that strategy isn't doing so well.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Programmed in multiple techniques

So, science has finally got around to creating a robot lover.

This seems like a mistake, as the first-generation models are likely to be so expensive that only the wealthy and powerful can afford them, and you would think that the wealthy and powerful don't really lack for lovers. Oh, sure, you could pitch in with some of your buddies and co-own one, but that might be unsanitary.

The second problem is that the market for robot lovers has fallen off since its peak demand in the late 70s and the 80s, when robot love was as popular as Cabbage Patch dolls and ninjas. Don't believe me? Try the following examples:

Dee D. Jackson's "Automatic Lover" (1978), which might be the funniest thing you'll see today
"Heartbeeps" (1981), based on the premise that it's not creepy if the robots fall in love with each other
ELO's "Yours Truly 2095"(1982), displaying advances in robot voice technology since 1978
Paulie's robot in "Rocky IV" (1986), which had an implied sex component
"Cherry 2000" (1987), with a cameo by Gort
Data and Yar getting it on in a 1987 episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Two Shatner posts in a row? Yes, The Shat will be hosting WWE Raw on February 1.

In my dream world, the end product would look something like this.