Happy Holidays, etc. Here are some recent happenings in my life.
Yesterday, I watched a spider murder an entangled bee. It was the closest thing that I had to a television at that point, since the power was down. In fact, it was so enthralling that I videotaped the bee's last three minutes. The spider, which is roughly 1/3rd of the bee's size, just goes right up and ninja kicks the bee all over the place. It's kind of crazy. I'll post a video when I can.
Lee called me last night. She was pseudo-freaking out because there was a spider on her ceiling. After ten minutes of instruction on how to use a rolled up newspaper to capture/squish the aforementioned spider, she promptly hung up and had her dad do it.
This morning, when I came back to my apartment, I looked out my sliding door and saw the bloated corpse of a mouse. It looks like it froze to death outside. This is the second mouse that's died in my back yard and it's starting to give me the heebie jeebies. I still haven't brought myself to the point where I want to go pick it up and throw it away. The worst part is my tacit understanding of the fact that the longer it stays out there, the more putrid it gets. Sigh.
Update: There's nothing worse than having to remove a fat, squishy, shiny corpse that's been sitting around so long that it's actually stuck to the ground.
Much like phonelesscord about two days ago, I've gotten bit with the urge to post about everything remotely interesting that comes my way. Unlike phonelesscord, I am incapable of writing reams of witty text in rapid-fire succession. Hence, links to videos about a dick in a box.
If you really want some text, here's some text. I read a fictional article about a crazy dictator in Kazakhstan that created a new name for himself that all of his people had to use, put statues of himself all over the country, and renamed the days of the week after himself and his family members. Well, it turns out that a) I've been watching too much Borat and not reading enough about Eastern Europe and b) that article was not fictional.
As was published in the Times, WSJ, and CNN today, that man was actually Saparmurat Niyazov, dictator of Turkmenistan. He ordered his country to refer to him as Turkmenbashi, or "Head/Father of all Turkmen," depending on which news source you check. His feats of craziness include:
* Putting his name on everything, including streets, buildings, the month of January, days of the week, a sea port, farms, military units and a meteorite
* Putting his face on all of the national currency
* Erecting statues of himself throughout the nation
* Authoring the "Rukhnama" (Book of the Soul), and making itrequired reading in schools.
* Children pledge allegiance to him every morning.
* Announcing that he would provide citizens with natural gas and power free of charge through 2030.
* Tapping the country's vast energy wealth for outlandish projects -- a huge, man-made lake in the Kara Kum desert, a vast cypress forest to change the desert climate, an ice palace outside the capital, a ski resort and a 130-foot pyramid.
* Banning video games, gold teeth, opera and ballet
* Encouraging his people to chew on bones — good, he said, for their teeth.
Oddly enough, most of these news articles seem to focus on regional instability caused by his death, the lack of a succession plan and threats to natural gas supplies.
Lee showed this to me. I know I'm in my mid-20's, but this is hilarious.
At some point in time, Sony had a marketing company put up a fake blog called alliwantforxmasisapsp.com. By the time I got wind of it, it had been yanked. However, thanks to the people at Consumerist, we can now see its contents.
There's a lot of attention being called to the moment where the guy in the springy Santa hat humps a ladder. I think that's pretty good. I think the comments are actually a lot better. Not only do you get to see market exec characterizations of the web community -
OMFG! IMHO that is teh LAWLZ funniez! I SMP! Srsly. 'O'RLY?', You may ask. Yes, RLY.
Comment By Young Squeezy At 12/5/2006 7:33 PM
but you can also see the comments of the dozens of pissed off people that caught on.
Sometimes, I can't help but feel sorry for Sony. As far as crappy years go, this one has got to be the most craptacular. The PS3 is late, too expensive, too short in supply, and has totally bombed review-wise. Their batteries start blowing up and require a massive recall. And now this. Too bad it's all their own fault.
Breaking news: There are congressmen out there that don't like Muslims.
As reported in the Times and CNN, Virginia congressman Virgil Goode (I'll let you guess his party affiliation - It's a real shocker) has suddenly realized that a Muslim has been elected into Congress. Not realizing that Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is actually an African-American that can trace his American ancestry back to 1742, Goode is calling on all American citizens to "wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration."
The Goode position, as he puts it, is "to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country."
Never mind that the vast majority of America's technological innovation is fueled by the foreign immigrants that actually have the fortitude to go through our higher level research programs. America's progress will certainly be unimpeded by this well-thought out policy, as God will continue to guide us through this rough patch of increasingly global competition. Never mind that his name is being invoked as the guiding light behind a bazillion other countries at the same time.
Goode's attack on immigration was provoked when he realized that Ellison wanted to swear in using the Quran, a book that is clearly less rooted in evidence-based reality than the Bible or the Book of Mormon. My guess is that he was worried that Ellison was planning on a suicide-bombing the House.
For a differing viewpoint, check this out. Quote:
"The article above is an attack on an American public servant. He voices his opinions of the current state of immigration in the United States and got attacked for his beliefs. I do not know anything about this man personally, but I can tell you this. It appears that anyone who feels strongly about something and is man enough to say it gets labeled a bigot these days. It is sickening."
Holy cow, I'm not sure that someone can miss the point more completely.
After sniffing through her bookmarks, I found Katey's blog. It is the only blog on my list that is allowed to have posts like this:
(from Hadjikhani et al, Nature Neuroscience, 1998)
And that's it!
It does, however, have some awesome things in it, such as this description of the safety video that she saw when she started working at her lab:
"At least the question "What's the worst thing that can happen?" was answered repeatedly in slightly different scenarios.....they were: fire extinguisher torpedoes into fMRI, fireman rushes into scanner room and gets stuck to MRI with the O2 tank on his back, recent grad drains all liquid helium out of MRI by pressing wrong button during first week of work, nurse wheels entire surgical cart into magnet room and entire contents of cart becomes projectiles...etc. There's a lot that can go wrong."
Worth checking out.
I confess that a lot of my time these days is now being absorbed by Google Reader. I know - Bloglines has been out for about three years and performs essentially the same function. Yet, somehow I never got around to really using the Bloglines account that I set up. At some point, I'll check it out and see if they're package is more capably put together, but for now, I'm really happy with Google's product.
For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, Google Reader is an RSS reader that lets you track all the web pages that you find yourself constantly checking throughout the day (newspapers and blogs, primarily). It solves the problem of having to go to each individual website to find out if they've posted something new. It does this by essentially treating each site as a sender and their posts as e-mails. In keeping with this paradigm, the site looks a lot like Gmail.
The one thing that I will say about this is that trying to keep up with the volume of content being posted is impossible. Granted, that should be obvious, given the number of sources that are constantly producing information. But now that it's so much easier to quantify just how far behind I am on my reading, I keep finding myself overwhelmed by the amount of content that I have yet to look at. Rachel, stop writing so many damn posts.
So, Miss USA has been caught drinking. Donald Trump was this close to firing her but, gracious man that he is, decided to stay his hand, allowing her to stay as the symbol of... something or other.
I've got to say, I've never properly understood the purpose of the Miss USA and Miss America pageants, which are apparently both owned (and poorly brand-differentiated) by the Miss Universe organization. Cynic that I am, I thought they were nothing more than a (great) excuse to get a bunch of pretty/hot girls into a room and make them walk around in bathing suits. I never believed that the "values" portion of the competitions were the actual centerpiece driving the competitions; rather, they were an adjunct put in place so that older, red state-ish Americans that watched the shows could feel like good Christians while they compared Ms. Kansas and Ms. North Dakota's rack size. Either that, or they were put in place to make sure that the girls had enough poise and diction to string together sentences that weren't blitheringly stupid.
Lest you think that I'm just being a cynical prick, let me quote some relevant Wikipedia articles.
Re: Miss USA
Unlike the Miss America pageant, there is no talent section at Miss USA. Delegates are required to compete in Evening Gown, Swimsuit and Interview.
In more recent years, the importance of the interview portion of the competition has been greatly diluted. From 1975-2000, all delegates who made the initial cut were tested in an Interview competition in some format. As of 2001, the interview portion was taken away and only the "final question" left. The finals judges thus only hear the final candidates speak.Re: Miss America
Since the pageant's peak in the early 1960s, its audience has eroded significantly. In 2004, when its audience fell to fewer than 10 million viewers, its broadcaster, ABC, decided to drop the pageant. "Broadcasters show data proving that the talent show and the interviews, the pageant's answers to feminist criticism, were the least popular portions of the pageant, while the swimsuit part still had the power to bring viewers back from the kitchen. So pageant officials - who still require chaperones for contestants when they are in Atlantic City - are thinking about showing a little more." 
With all this in mind, it strikes me as being a sad state of affairs when the population cares more about the substances that a girl ingests than the things that she has to say. Talk about female objectification. Anyway.
Side question: What is this "job" that Miss Universe did so poorly? Waving her hand in that weird sidewinder pattern? Someone fill me in.
In other news that I'm dumping in from my daily WSJ reading, parents are apparently sneaking away from their children to spend time with their Blackberries. Quoth the WSJ:
"The children of one New Jersey executive mandate that their mom ignore her mobile email from dinnertime until their bedtime. To get around their dictates, the mother hides the gadget in the bathroom, where she makes frequent trips before, during and after dinner. The kids "think I have a small bladder," she says. She declined to be named because she's afraid her 12- and 13-year-old children might discover her secret."
For many of us, this may sound a bit reminiscent of what we had to do to catch a cigarette. If you had particularly restrictive parents, you may have had to go to a friend's place to watch TV or play video games. This list could clearly be added to, but the point is that these are all things that are mainly associated with "fun," whereas a lot of Blackberry activity, at least among the people I know, is associated with "work." And much as I like my job, I really couldn't imagine sneaking out of bed to play around with Excel.
Here's the best part of the article:
"Elsa has hidden the BlackBerry on occasion -- Hohlt says she tried to flush it down the toilet last year... But Elsa also seems to recognize that it brings her mom comfort, not unlike a pacifier or security blanket. Recently, seeing her mom slumped on the couch after work, Elsa fished the BlackBerry from her mother's purse and brought it to her. "Mommy," she asked, "will this make you feel better?""
That's just messed up.
Just found this blog courtesy of the WSJ, which seems to be extremely interested in all of the pain that the Wii is causing the American consumer. It's a little bit sparse and perhaps destined to be short-lived, but I thought this picture was great. The other picture of the kid with a mark across his face is also pretty priceless.
Oddly enough, I have two posts on science and religion sitting in my draft list. They're both boring and not particularly original. I'll post them eventually, but at a time when they won't really be noticed by anyone that bothers to look at this stuff.
I've been playing around with del.icio.us. I know, I know, it's really old. I've probably had my account for over a year, but never did anything with it. I'm playing with it now.
It's neat and oddly compelling. If you've been swept up by the Web 2.0 desire to have every part of your life aggregated and tagged on the Internet, then the appeal will be obvious. For everyone else, I'd say that the neatness comes from having a quick/easy way to bookmark anything and everything that comes across your path. There are so many awesome websites that we come across on a daily basis - now you can save them for perpetuity and not have to worry about clogging up your bookmark bar.
If my bookmarks are any indication, I seem to think that the coolest things on the web are do-it-yourself posts, blogs about various web 2.0 crap, and cooking sites. I seriously thought I would be more interesting than that, but apparently not.
The other thing about del.icio.us is that it allows you to peruse other people's bookmarks. For instance, I've been checking out some of the ones posted by AKA. He has many interesting things.
My one comment is that it would be great if you could figure out which sites are one-offs and which ones are truly, incredibly interesting. You can do this to some extent by checking the link-count. But it would be good if, for each person, I could tell which of these sites they visited frequently and which sites they spent a lot of time at. Unfortunately, that would probably take a level of data-collection and privacy-infringement that wouldn't be possible.