Friday, April 29, 2005

Friday Quote Blogging

"He is a small, mean, dangerous criminal masquerading as a sophisticated person of means."
- Female Perversions

I don't really remember the context, or much about the film other than that it had Tilda Swinton and Clancy Brown in it, who are always compelling.

The quote just jumped out at me for some reason, not sure why...

Look! Cats!

Cats don't have hands... Posted by Hello


I am intrigued by stories about shadowy realms behind the scenes that no-one ever thinks about - possibly because I feel like I work in one. The cabbie waiting area at JFK airport is a surreal international community in microcosm:
During the day and early evening, the lot feels like a crowded schoolyard, with restless, distracted men hovering over card games or swarming around a soccer ball, their shouts drowned out every 90 seconds by the roar of incoming planes. Haitian drivers favor dominoes played on the trunks of their cars, Russians clot around backgammon boards held up by trash bins and Hispanic drivers crouch between vehicles, throwing dice and sometimes wagering their hard-earned dollars.

As the light faded on Tuesday night, an elderly Korean man jogged around the perimeter while groups of drivers wearing turbans power walked up and down a vacant taxi lane quietly reciting sacred Sikh verses. A charmless patch of concrete behind the restrooms sheltered a dozen kneeling men who prayed toward Mecca.

Cool slideshow, too.

Quote Of The Week

From a follow-up article on the slime mold beetles named after George, Dick, and Rummy:

"There are only so many times one can use the species name 'australis' or 'grandis' before the thought, 'maybe I should name this one after Joey Ramone' goes through your head."

No, this does not count as Friday Quote Blogging. Completely separate animal.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Not Gonna Do It.

Beards are the new black:
Well, perhaps not in the white-collar corridors of corporate America. In fact the full beard - that is, one that stretches from the chin and mustache out to the sideburns - has become a kind of signifier for the glamorously self-employed. It is a favorite of Hollywood actors like Russell Crowe and Matthew McConaughey (who flaunt their whiskers as a kind of too-cool-for-school look when not shooting) and a key part of the brand identity of hot young fashion designers like Rogan Gregory of Edun, Josia Lamberto-Egan of Trovata and Alex Carleton of Rogues Gallery; and of musicians like Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes and Babydaddy of Scissor Sisters.

Among other things, today's beard is a kind of nostalgic nod to counterculture heroics that peaked - at least in Hollywood - in 1978. That was the Year of the Beard, brandished by Kris Kristofferson as an outlaw trucker in Sam Peckinpah's "Convoy" and Steve McQueen in his serious-actor turn in "Enemy of the People."

Stubble is as far as I'm gonna go, I think. Beards would have to go out of style again before I would even consider growing one.

Actually, I'm not even sure I can. I might have to get beard plugs or a beard toupee or something...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Interesting article about age differences in the New York Times:
Now that I peer in on workplaces for a living, I see that too many allow age to divide them. Workers align themselves like middle schoolers at a dance - the upstarts (or young go-getters, depending on your point of view) on one side, the experienced (or past their prime, ditto) on the other. This explains why I so often hear from employees who feel disposable and unappreciated. It also explains why the Supreme Court recently lowered the threshold for age discrimination claims to 40....

There was a time in the working world when age correlated pretty much exactly with experience and, therefore, seniority. While I do not think things were better then, they certainly were less confusing. You started at a job young, then moved up the ranks until you became either important or obsolete. Then you retired, from the same company where you began.
This is not exactly a revelation, but I found the article intriguing because at 35-going-on-36, I feel like I am in transition from the youthful go-getter category to the seasoned pro category. I had never really given it much thought until a few weeks ago, when I was asked to meet with a couple of internal consultant/efficiency expert types. All of a sudden, I found myself in the role of the Experienced Voice Of Wisdom Who Knows How It Works, trying to rein in the Bright-Eyed Young Hotshots Full Of Wild Ideas. It was a dizzying moment of inversion.

Don't get me wrong - I still have plenty of wild ideas of my own, and I try not to be a naysaying stick-in-the-mud - but it was still a strange experience to realize that I'm not a young turk anymore. Hell, most of the time I have trouble remembering I'm supposed to be a grown-up.

Dairy For The Grace Of God...

Behold, the power of cheese...

I Should Have Such Problems.

From the NY Daily News:
...asked by his lead lawyer why a $25 million bonus from the company did not appear on his 1999 tax return, Kozlowski said he could not explain why.

"I just was not thinking when I signed my tax return that I had a $25 million loan forgiveness," Kozlowski said. "Year in and year out at Tyco, my tax returns for the most part had been correct. I didn't pick up on it."

Man, I wish I had enough money that $25 million could just... slip my mind.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Just to remind everyone of what they'll be missing if the Hubble is allowed to die (Mars, bitches!). Be sure to check out the slide show. Just breathtaking.


For the record, I would just like to state that I am very grateful that my name is not Teahen. Or Prettyman.

Or Prettyteahen.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Sunday Softball Blogging

No softball today. Rained out. Posted by Hello

Current stats:
2 games, .556 BA, 3 runs, 4 RBI.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Incontrovertible Proof Of Geekiness

As of 10:52 PM, my PC has now been up continuously for 40 straight days, running Windows XP.

The downside is, I still haven't installed my new dual-layer DVD burner because I don't want to break the streak...

Sports Musings

Okay, it's almost time for the NFL Draft - somewhat less exciting than usual now that neither New York team has a first round pick - and once again we are treated to that all-important skill-position stat, the time in the 40-yard dash. It's to wide receivers and defensive backs what radar gun readings are for pitchers, and probably about as reliable an indicator of success.

One of the interesting phenomena about the 40 time is that it seems like almost every year there's a prospect with a surprisingly slow time, or someone who "plays" faster than his 40 time. This is usually explained away with a variation of "everything's different when they put on the pads," which I don't entirely buy.

Anyway, here's my thought: 40 yards is a very short distance, so short that a significant portion of it is used up just getting up to full speed. So is the 40 really a true measure of raw speed, or is it more of a hybrid measure of speed + acceleration? What if the guys who play faster really are faster, but take a little bit longer to reach their top gear? There's a shuttle drill that measures acceleration a little more specifically - I wonder if anyone has ever correlated the results of the two drills, especially for those players with seemingly out-of-whack 40 times.

The other thing I reflect on is defense and speed in baseball. Taking the level of competition into account, I sometimes wonder if the slowest and clumsiest of major league defensive players (i.e., a Mo Vaughn or David Ortiz) would be agile, gazelle-like shortstops or centerfielders if they found themselves in one of our pickup softball games. Or if they're just lummoxes at any level.

I also wonder just how slow the slowest players are "in real life." Sure, they're slow compared to Ichiro, but are they slow compared to me, too?

Any volunteers to time me in the 40?

Friday Quote Blogging

Once again, I am taking liberties with myself (whoa!) - this week's quote is in fact an excerpt from the book I am currently reading: Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan (see Book Meme posting for more information). It's really not a political book, but it has a quote from an imaginary political book that had some very aptly cynical observations (albeit perhaps a bit... militant for my tastes).

The personal, as everyone's so fucking fond of saying, is political. So if some idiot politician, some power player, tries to execute policies that harm you or those you care about, take it personally. Get angry. The Machinery of Justice will not serve you here - it is slow and cold, and it is theirs, hardware and soft. Only the little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide out from under with a wink and a grin.... [call for bloody personal vengeance deleted] And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous, marks the difference - the only difference in their eyes - between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate. And time and time again they cream your liquidation, your displacement and brutal execution with the ultimate insult that it's just business, it's politics, it's the way of the world, it's a tough life, and that it's nothing personal. Well, fuck them. Make it personal.
Things I Should Have Learned by Now
Volume II

I wonder if the call waiting will say "Federal Bureau of Investigation", or just "FBI"...

And here is a subversive, militant cat (as evidenced by Of Arms and Men on the left, and the Risk game above, suggesting dreams of World Conquest):

Dozer has apparently selected Pictionary, a bold move for someone without opposable thumbs. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

And Eye Meme, Eye Meme So Far Away... Couldn't Get Away.

Okay, here they are. I hope y'all are happy. Posted by Hello

Now, where to spread the love?
How about Jeffraham, Phila, and John- er, charley.

It's all NYMary's fault.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Sentence Of The Week

Once again, props to the shadowy and mysterious Codename V. for the tip.

From The Sun (UK):

"THE DARKNESS frontman was being towed on an inflatable donut by a speed boat when it all went horribly wrong."

That's just... beautiful. I'm all verklempt.

Don't Mess With The Not-Quite-Jesus.

"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to move along."
"(Suspect is raising his arms in a threatening manner.)"

"Sir? What are you- Oh, this can't be good."

"Aw shit. Officer down! Officer d-" Posted by Hello

On My iPod... Right Now!

I really, really dig "I Love To Hate You", by Erasure - also "Hatred", by The Kinks.

Does this make me a bad person? Does liking "Oh L'Amour" and "Chains of Love" balance it out?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Say It Ain't So!

Alas, the shadowy and mysterious Codename V. has uncovered a painful truth:

Superman is a dick.

So I guess we're not getting any help from him in 2006.

Inaugural Sunday Softball Blogging!

Today was Opening Day for our semiweekly softball pickup game, and we opened with a doubleheader. First game, not so hot: 1 for 4, and we got crushed. We reshuffled the teams for the second game, and I went 4-5 with 3 runs and 4 RBI, and we won. Still pretty rusty in the outfield, but I did throw someone out at the plate to end the game. Woohoo!!!

Current stats:
2 games, .556 BA, 3 runs, 4 RBI.

First pitch of the season... as far as you know. Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Parking Lot Blogging

Man, these icons just get more and more specific every day. This is apparently a parking spot reserved exclusively for handicapped individuals with ghost lovers. Or priapism. Posted by Hello

Friday, April 15, 2005

Reverse The Polarity Of The Opportunistically Pipelined Flow!

Teh Funny (thanks to the mysterious and shadowy Codename V. for the tip):
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - A bunch of computer-generated gibberish masquerading as an academic paper has been accepted at a scientific conference in a victory for pranksters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jeremy Stribling said on Thursday that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with nonsensical text, charts and diagrams.


To their surprise, one of the papers -- "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" -- was accepted for presentation.


"Rooter" features such mind-bending gems as: "the model for our heuristic consists of four independent components: simulated annealing, active networks, flexible modalities, and the study of reinforcement learning" and "We implemented our scatter/gather I/O server in Simula-67, augmented with opportunistically pipelined extensions."

Friday Quote Blogging

This weeks quote is, in fact, a lyric - it's my blog and I can do what I want.

"A lady doesn't wander all over the room, and blow on some other guy's dice."
- Frank Sinatra, Luck Be A Lady

It was playing on my iPod this afternoon, and I made up my mind to use it today before I even read Wolcott...

And, as is the custom...

Dozer's first... Holiday. La Sexy Eek's sexy ear in the foreground.Posted by Hello

And The Lord Said, Let There Be Strip-Mining...

I am just utterly disgusted by the latest anti-filibuster posturing:
As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.


But Mr. Perkins stood by the characterization of Democrats as hostile to faith. "What they have done is, they have targeted people for reasons of their faith or moral position," he said, referring to Democratic criticisms of nominees over their views of cases about abortion rights or public religious expressions.
My God, how I loathe these people. What's especially galling is that a lot of the Bush nominees are being blocked because they're too beholden to corporate interests, not because they're religious fanatics.

So now it's anti-Christian to not want corporations to run amok? Now there's a side of Jesus that really was not adequately captured in the New Testament...


This can't be good...
Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean says his party needs to do more to appeal to voters who have been lost because of unease over "values," including people who oppose abortion and parents who are dismayed by TV programs they find offensive for their children.

"We need to be a national party, we need a national message, and we need to understand why people in dire economic straits — people who certainly aren't being helped by Republican policies — why they vote for George Bush," he said. "We need to respect voters in red states who want to vote for us, but we make it hard for them by not listening to what they have to say."
Man, I show hope Ho-Ho knows what he's doing. From here it looks like the DLC managed to slip something severed under his covers...

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Thursday Mannequinblogging!

After all, what's a Thursday without some festive mannequin photos?

I have to say though, that while I'm pretty well used to headless mannequins, putting hats on the stumps where their heads should be is just creepybadwrong.

"Dude. Don't feel so bad. At least you got a hat."

"Kick it to me! I'm open! Uh, I think."

"Somebody say they needed a head?" "Uh, no, that's okay, I'll pass..." Posted by Hello

Stopped Clocks

I know Howard Kurtz and Richard Cohen are pretty much universally reviled in the lefty blogosphere, but they do get it right sometimes; in this case, on the same day!

As the Tom DeLay controversy refuses to die--or, I suppose some folks would say, the press refuses to let it die--we've been hearing a lot from the Texas congressman about liberal media bias.

Are journalists really "out to get" the House majority leader, as he seems to believe? And is that because they don't like his conservative views?

I'd suggest that DeLay is simply a big fat target for investigative reporters because he lives close to the edge (if the three House ethics panel admonishments are any indication). In fact, when another Texas congressman was in a House leadership position--a congressman who happened to be a Democrat--he also got pummeled by the press.
He then provides a very comprehensive-looking timeline of two years' worth of Jim Wright scandal coverage. This is is not earth-shattering, but it's nice to see someone who so often channels the Republican viewpoint (to put it charitably) say that the Liberal Media Conspiracy claim is total bullshit.

It is my impression -- gleaned from reviews -- that Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink" posits that first impressions often are right on the nose. Nonetheless, for reasons having to do with caution, prudence and a debilitating sense of fair play, I have until now withheld my first -- and only -- impression of John Bolton, probably destined to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations: He's nuts.


I have never seen such a performance by an American diplomat. He was dismissive. He was angry. He clearly thought the questioners had no right, no standing, no justification and no earthly reason to question the United States of America. The Bush administration had said that Iraq was lousy with WMD and Iraq therefore was lousy with WMD. Just you wait.

This kind of ferocious certainty is commendable in pit bulls and other fighting animals, but it is something of a problem in a diplomat.


... once an ambassador is instructed as to a policy or personnel issue, it is up to him or her to implement it. That means constructing the argument, persuading opponents, flattering friends. It means, in short, diplomacy.


Why the Bush administration would want such a person at the United Nations is beyond me. As always, the administration is entitled to great leeway when it comes to presidential appointments. If it wants a neocon, fine. If it wants a hard-liner, fine. If it wants a U.N.-trasher, it can have that, too. But it should not have someone who will be ineffectual in implementing its own policies -- who, if he is himself, will alienate other delegates and further isolate the United States.
On the plus side, I'm looking forward to the futile attempts at damage control every time Bolton shoots his mouth off or forgets that the ambassador from Togo or Nepal is not one of his buddies' employee. But this is who they wanted - apparently they believe that a living, breathing fuck-you to the UN than someone who can eloquently advocate and cajole. We'll see how that all works out for them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bobo's World (or Brer Bush's)

Mom accused of selling sex with daughter, trading another for car.
OKEECHOBEE -- A mother is under arrest, accused of selling a 12-year-old daughter into prostitution and trading a 14-year-old daughter for a car.


The youngest girl and her mother were living out of their car, and the prostitution was for food and an occasional shower at the men's homes, according to a report by Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office Detective K.J. Ammons.

The youngest daughter is three months pregnant, the report said, and the girl was 11 when her mother first forced her to have sex with a man. She charged $20 for the sex.

The older daughter refused to be used as a prostitute and was sold for a car, deputies contend.

"She was sold to a man for a Mercury Cougar," Ammons said. "But he never gave the mother the vehicle."

Ammons said the car has an estimated value of $500 to $1,000....

The Sound Of One Head Exploding

From the AP:
To House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Republican Party's ''Contract With America'' ranks right up there with the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights among the ''great documents of freedom.''

So says DeLay's Internet Web site. It describes that 1994 campaign treatise, credited with helping the GOP end four decades of House rule by Democrats, ''a written commitment that presented to the people an agenda for the House of Representatives.''

See for yourself if you don't believe me. I'll just be over here, sputtering incoherently...


Courtesy of Cornell News Service, via Froomkin:
U.S. President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld may not all get a library, airport or highway named after them. But each has a slime-mold beetle named in his honor.

Two former Cornell University entomologists who recently had the job of naming 65 new species of slime-mold beetles named three species that are new to science in the genus Agathidium for members of the U.S. administration. They are A. bushi Miller and Wheeler, A. cheneyi Miller and Wheeler and A. rumsfeldi Miller and Wheeler.

The entomologists also named some of the new species after their wives and a former wife, Pocahontas, Hernan Cortez, the Aztecs, the fictional "Star Wars" villain Darth Vader ("who shares with A. vaderi a broad, shiny, helmetlike head"), Frances Fawcett (their scientific illustrator) and the Greek words for "ugly" and "having prominent teeth" and the Latin word for "strange."...

The decision to name three slime-mold beetles after Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, however, didn't have anything to do with physical features, says Quentin Wheeler, a professor of entomology and of plant biology at Cornell for 24 years until last October, but to pay homage to the U.S. leaders. "We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular," says Wheeler....

Maybe they're tongue-in-cheek about the homage, but the result is the same. Too perfect.

UPDATE: Makes it all the more fitting if Tom "Bugman" DeLay brings them down...

Blue Sky Photoblogging

I have always been a complete sucker for a nice deep blue sky, preferably with some nice fluffy white clouds. I would take pictures out the window of airplanes of the beautiful cloudscapes below, and my dad (who is a very accomplished amateur photographer) would scoff - but I always thought the end result was pretty nice, and so did he.

Question: Would a digital camera be considered one of those proscribed electronic devices you can't operate during landing or takeoff? My camera in high school and college was an old Pentax Spotmatic, and the full extent of its electronicism was a light meter with a plus sign, a minus sign, and a stick, so it's strange for me to think of a camera as an "electronic device".

Anyway, some (hopefully) beauty sky shots. I have some more, but these are the best of 'em.

I was crossing the street, and I just happened to look to my right while on the traffic island...

Could maybe be a touch more blue, but I still dig it. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Presidential iPod Follow-Up

I was over at The Heretik, preparing my selections for President Bush's iPod, when I realized I had entirely too many (some of them may be more appropriate for America's iPod, but hey, L'etat, c'est lui). So I will post the complete list here, and attempt to whittle down to a Top Ten for there and Agitprop's Presidential iPod Commission.

This is still not an absolutely complete list - some people already picked some of my selections, and some of them were perhaps too obscure to recognize - but it's pretty close. Here it is, in all its tedious alphabetical glory (I so totally suck at editing...):

Beck - Loser
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - You & Me & The Bottle Makes Three Tonight
Blotto - I Wanna Be A Lifeguard
Bobby Brown - My Prerogative
Boys Don't Cry - I Wanna Be A Cowboy
Calloway - I Wanna Be Rich
Chicago - Hard To Say I'm Sorry
David Bowie - I'm Afraid Of Americans
David Byrne - Miss America
Dead Can Dance - Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book
Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus
Devo - Freedom Of Choice
Disturbed - Down With The Sickness, Violence Fetish
Doobie Brothers - Jesus Is Just Alright With Me
Edith Piaf - Non Je Ne Regrette Rien
Eels - Novocaine For The Soul
EMF - Unbelievable
Erasure - Let's Take One More Rocket To The Moon (Bitches!), Love To Hate You, Ship Of Fools
Europe - The Final Countdown
Eurythmics - Doubleplusgood, Would I Lie To You
Fabulous T-Birds - Tuff Enuff
Falco - Egoist
Fat Boy Slim - Weapon Of Choice
Fleetwood Mac - Little Lies
Flying Lizards - I Want Money
Fun Boy Three - The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)
Gap Band - You Dropped The Bomb On Me
Gob - Give Up The Grudge
Heaven 17 - We Don't Need This Fascist Groove Thing
Hooters - All You Zombies
Howard Jones - No One is to Blame, Things Can Only Get Better
Hubert Kah - Welcome Machine Gun
Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealin'
Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick
John Lennon - Instant Karma
Julian Cope - World Shut Your Mouth
JXL/Elvis - A Little Less Conversation
Kinks - Hatred
Lindsey Buckingham - Wrong
Living Colour - Cult of Personality
Love & Rockets - Holy Fool
MC 900 Ft Jesus - If I Only Had A Brain
Midnight Oil - The Dead Heart
Ministry - Jesus Built My Hot Rod
Neil Diamond - Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show
New Pornographers - It's Only Divine Right, The Laws Have Changed
Nick Cave - Bring It On, Red Right Hand
Nine Inch Nails - Head like a Hole
Oingo Boingo - Nothing Bad Ever Happens To Me, War Again, (Let's Take The) Whole Day Off
Pat Boone - Crazy Train
Paul Hardcastle - Nineteen
Paul Simon - The Myth Of Fingerprints
Pet Shop Boys - Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)
REM - Bang And Blame, Superman, World Leader Pretend
Sex Pistols - My Way
Simon & Garfunkel - Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream
Sisters Of Mercy - This Corrosion
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Bad Businessman, Fat Cat Keeps Getting Fatter, Hell
Stan Ridgeway - The Last Honest Man
Star Wars - Imperial March
Talking Heads - Burning Down The House, Puzzlin' Evidence, Road To Nowhere, Slippery People
They Might Be Giants - You And Your Racist Friend
Timezone - World Destruction
Tom Waits - Earth Died Screaming
Village People - Macho Man
Violent Femmes - Lies
Wall Of Voodoo - Far Side of Crazy, Shouldn't Have Given Him A Gun
Who - However Much I Booze
XTC - Dear God, Stupidly Happy

Gonad Quandary!!!

Well, the latest New York Times Sunday Magazine had one of the creepier articles I've read in quite some time...

It's about using human stem cells to create genetic chimeras: animals with human cells in some of their organs. The sci-fi reading side of me goes, "Ooo, cool!" when it's not actively cringing right next to my humanist side.

Some samples of the freaky genetic chimera-y goodness inside the article:
Several years ago, Zanjani and his colleagues began injecting fetal lambs with human stem cells, mostly ones derived from human bone marrow. He said he hoped that the cells would transform into blood cells so that he could use the sheep to study the human blood system. According to Zanjani, when he examined the sheep he discovered that the human cells had traveled with their lymphatic system throughout the sheep's body, developing into blood, bone, liver, heart and assorted other cells, including some in the brain. While some scientists are skeptical of his findings, Zanjani told me that some have livers that are as much as 40 percent humanized, with distinct human structural units pumping out uniquely human proteins.

While the idea of partly humanized sheep might make some people a little uncomfortable, it isn't easy to see where they trespass across some unambiguous ethical line. But according to Dr. William Hurlbut, a physician and consulting professor in human biology at Stanford, who serves with Kass on the President's Council for Bioethics, the seeing is exactly the point. What if, instead of internal human organs, Zanjani's sheep sported recognizably human parts on the outside -- human limbs or genitals, for instance, ready for transplant should the need arise? Hurlbut maintains that this is scientifically plausible. But it would be wrong. Every living thing has a natural trajectory through its life beginning at conception, and in Hurlbut's view, a visible chimera would veer dangerously off course.

''It has to do with the relationship between signs and their meaning,'' he told me. ''Human appearance is something we should reserve for humans. Anything else that looks human debases the coinage of truth.''

Um, excuse me, Dr. Hurlbut? If I may interject for a moment? Debasing the coinage of truth is the least of our ethical worries here, okay? Jeez, are you seriously saying that a sheep could have a human brain and internal organs, but as long as it still looks like a sheep, everything's okay?

Apparently, a large part of the reason the sheep do still look like sheep is that the human stem cells weren't injected until late in their fetal development, when they were already pretty definitively sheep. But there's a mad researcher who wants to try a similar experiment with highly impressionable 3-5 day old mouse embryos, which gives even genetic researchers the creeps.

Why all the shuddering? For starters, there is the gonad quandary. If the experiment really works, the human cells should differentiate into all of the embryo's cell lineages, including the one that eventually forms the animal's reproductive cells. If the mouse were male, some of its sperm might thus be human, and if it were female, some of its eggs might be human eggs. If two such creatures were to mate, there would be a chance that a human embryo could be conceived and begin to grow in a mouse uterus -- a sort of Stuart Little scenario, but in reverse and not so cute.

''Literally nobody wants to see an experiment where two mice that have eggs and sperm of human origin have the opportunity to mate and produce human offspring,'' says Dr. Norman Fost, professor of pediatrics and director of the bioethics program at the University of Wisconsin and a member of the National Academy of Sciences committee reviewing stem-cell research policies. ''That's beyond anybody's wildest nightmare.''


More fun with mice:

...[Irving Weissman] came up with an ingenious idea: why not make a mouse with a brain composed entirely of human neurons? In theory, at least, this could be achieved by transplanting human neural stem cells into the fetal brain of a strain of mouse whose own neurons happen to die off just before birth. If the human stem cells took up the slack and differentiated along the same lines as in the earlier experiment, you might just end up with a living newborn mouse controlled by a functioning brain that just happened to be composed of human cells.

Or, if you want to really go for the creepiness home run...
''One could imagine that if you took a human embryonic midbrain and spliced it into a developing chimpanzee, you could get a chimp with many of our automatic vocalizations,'' says Terrence Deacon, a biological anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the Johns Hopkins committee. ''It wouldn't be able to talk. But it might laugh or sob, instead of pant-hoot.''
Thankfully, it doesn't appear that anyone has any intention of trying this. But the man-mouse is unsettling enough, even though the article claims that, in essence, the human brain cells wouldn't have enough space to grow into anything like their accustomed human capabilities, and that the fetal man-mice would be aborted and never brought to term. Somehow, that all fails to make me feel a whole lot better about the whole enterprise...

Finally, this puts me in mind of some works of fiction: One is David Brin's Uplift Trilogies, in which humans have elevated chimps and dolphins to full sentience (i.e., ability to speak and fly spaceships), much to the horror of the galactic community - not really the Uplift itself, but the fact that we bootstrapped ourselves to sentience all by ourselves, without the aid of a patron race. But for what it's worth, we Uplifted the dolphins and chimps by augmenting their existing genetic makeup, not by blending it with our own, so it's somewhat less horrific. The chimps seem a bit rough around the edges, but the sentient dolphins are rather elegant and poetic creatures who like to speak in haiku.

The other is a truly horrific Larry Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo) movie called No Telling, about a bioresearcher and his wife, who move to the country in hopes of salvaging their marriage. He does animal experiments for a pharmaceutical company, and becomes utterly obsessed with his chillingly heartless work. When his employer balks at sending him the monkeys he craves for his experiments, he begins kidnapping and buying up local animals. The movie ends with him showing off his crowning achievement - I can't really tell you what it is, but suffice it to say that this post reminded me of it, and it is possibly the most haunting and awful thing I have ever seen. If you're an animal lover and are even remotely easy to upset, do not see this movie. I'm serious. It's good, but it's terrible, if you know what I mean.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Wacky Book Questions!

Well, thanks to Thersites, I am now obliged to answer some pointless-yet-thought-provoking book questions...

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Solaris. Unless there's a novelization of Waterworld...

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I'm sure there's hundreds of them, but I think Mrs. Stainless Steel Rat comes to mind first. Dead sexy, resourceful, lethal, smart, and tolerant.

The last book you bought is:

I will take this to mean "intentionally", rather than "by default 'cause I didn't decline the book club selection fast enough"...

I'm not rightly sure, actually - I think it may have actually been a cheesy Marvel graphic novel called 1602, where various Marvel characters like Dr. Doom, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, Nick Fury, and The X-Men are living and heroing (or villaining) in 1602.

As far as a real book without any pictures, I think it might be Gridlink'd, by Neal Asher, where the main character is a government agent who has been gridlinked (connected to the cyberuniverse in realtime) for so long that he's started to forget how to be human. His eccentric and mysterious boss has him disconnect from the net to reconnect with his humanity while investigating a massive teleportation disaster, while being chased by a crazy vengeful terrorist and his goons and evil psychotic android.

It's, um, not exactly literary, but fun stuff all the same.

The last book you read:

Lempriere's Dictionary, by Lawrence Norfolk. My stepmother raved about it and loaned me her copy. The main character is a bookish young 18th-century classical scholar who gets sucked into a mysterious and elaborate conspiracy involving the East India Company. The arcane Greek mythology references made it difficult to get into, but after the scene with the village priest who could only achieve sexual climax by covering himself in mashed potatoes, I was pretty much hooked.

What are you currently reading?

Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. More cheesy sci-fi, it's kind of like a mild amalgam of noir and cyberpunk. It's set in a future where everyone (except Catholics, for religious reasons) has hard drives in their heads that store their consciousness, so if their body is killed they can just be "resleeved" in a new one. There is almost no death penalty at all; instead, punishments are in terms of "dislocation", where the criminal's consciousness is stored for months, years, or decades and then resleeved. Seems a bit ineffective to me compared to prison, but what do I know. Anyway, the main character is a criminal who also happens to have outstanding detective training, conditionally reprieved, hired and resleeved by a 350-year-old gazillionaire who wants answers to his own death. You see, he was found in his study with his head blown off (fortunately for him, his consciousness is remotely backed up every 48 hours), and he wants the protagonist to prove that he was "murdered", and did not commit "suicide", which is what the police have decided. Pretty intriguing so far - I have a broad-outline theory on what might have happened.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Ouch, that's a toughie. Definitely Queen Of Angels by Greg Bear, which is just amazing. Possibly the Watchmen graphic novel by Alan Moore. Dune, by Frank Herbert (only the first one, though...). If I may combine a bit, I would round it out with Tom Weller's Science Made Stupid and Culture Made Stupid, and both volumes of Monty Python: All The Words.

UPDATE: Okay, much as I love Dune, I think I would have to replace it with How To Build A Seaworthy Raft Out Of Palm Trees And Coconuts, by Hibiscus J. Moped.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why?

The shadowy and mysterious Codename V., whose reviewing skills are exemplary.

driftglass, because he's a honking great bibliophile and borderline insane.

, because she's a writer herself, and maybe this'll get her to come back...


More Hard-Hitting, Take-No-Prisoners White House Reportage From The New York Times!

How can we expect voters to make informed decisions without knowing what's on the President's iPod?

Mad props to Elisabeth Bumiller for digging deep into this story and refusing to let go until she had all the answers, and thank God there was an MP3 Throat willing to step forward with the goods.

In all fairness, his song selections seem unobjectionable to me, other than country not being my cuppa. But I'd respect him a lot more if he had Bubba Shot The Jukebox or You're The Hangnail In My Life.

Bus Stop Skyblogging

Whilst waiting for buses at the shopping center on my recent vacation, I noticed some rather lovely skies, and figured I might as well make the most of my bus-waitin' time...

It's kinda... wingy. Posted by Hello

Pretty close to sunset, looks like... Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Elections Are The New Free Markets

I want to elaborate a little bit on a flip comment I made on the Eschaton comments page, with regard to Santorum's take on DeLay's ethics issues:
"Now you may not like some of the things he's done," Santorum said. "That's for the people of his district to decide, whether they want to approve that kind of behavior or not."
This is exactly the same as when libertarians and Republicans argue against the corporate regulation: They claim that if a company is behaving badly, that "the market" will fix it, that consumers will "punish" that company for its wrongdoing. This is patently ridiculous: If anything, the wrongdoing gives that company an unfair competitive advantage over its competitors (assuming they're not all doing the same thing), and the consumer will never even know about it, much less care enough to boycott - after all, the corporate miscreant probably has excellent prices as a result of its miscreancy.

Now Republicans make the case that there is no need to regulate elected officials, because if they misbehave the voters will take care of it. So, essentially, anything that doesn't get you voted out of office is a-ok (See: Accountability Moment Has Passed, The). Once again, in many instances, DeLay's in particular, the ethical lapses give the corrupt officials an unfair advantage in the all-important area of fundraising, and most voters are only dimly aware of it, or else have a perception that all politicians are corrupt, so you might as well vote for the one who can bring home the most pork.

In fact, the electoral angle is in many ways considerably worse than the free market angle: In most cases, I have a choice of products, and I am fairly confident that I am getting the brand that I paid for (although this can get a little hazy in the world of computers and electronics). The election "marketplace" is so gamed-up right now that it puts the economic marketplace to shame, with smears, misinformation, feckless reporting, voter intimidation, voter purging, strategically placed machine shortages, and outright fraud all running rampant. So you'll have to excuse me if I'm skeptical about re-election as the ultimate stamp of ethical approcal.

I find it very ironic that Congress is so very outraged about baseball players using steroids to give themselves an unfair competitive advantage, yet cares so little about corporations and elected officials who do the exact same thing. Why not just let the fans take care of the steroid problem? Surely they'll tire of all the scoring and home runs and stop coming to the ballparks, right? I guess it's best not to leave something so important to society to chance; they can work on the small fry in the corporate and government spheres later.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Proof! I Have Proof!

Ha! I told you I have eyes! Ha! Posted by Hello

Friday Quote Blogging

This week's quote:

"I look like your mother and you love me! My therapist says so and it's true!"

is spoken by an extremely ugly and unconvincing transvestite who is in love with the main character, a gay, ridiculously well-endowed, hardboiled Italian cop who works in New York City. Oh, right, the name of the movie: Killer Condom - As one might expect, it involves a captive mad scientist enslaved by addiction to red jelly, and forced to genetically engineer vicious, sharp-toothed, bitey creatures that look an awful lot like condoms, right up until they, um, feed.

Released by Troma, so you know it must be quality.

And for those of you with more pedestrian tastes, here is a cat:

Once again, La Sexy Eek. Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Can You Smell What The Hammer Is Cooking?

As my liberal compatriots and I get all excited and frothed up about the various DeLay/Cornyn atrocities, confident that the Republicans' sleaze and overreach have finally caught up with them, I cannot help but think that maybe we're a bit like a nerdy, clueless wrestling fan wringing his/her hands and saying, "Oh goodness, that Stone Cold Steve Austin/Triple H/Iron Sheik/Iraqi Pete has really gone too far this time! He's gonna get kicked out of the WWE for sure now!"

We have forgotten that:
A) The game is scripted, rigged, and completely fake, and
B) The more outre and thuggish the smacktalk and spectacle, the more the people like it.

Every day (or at least every election day) since '96 I pray to be proven wrong, but it hasn't happened yet.

OMG. I Am In Awe.

This is, without question, the most amazing spam I have ever seen. Again, from the Picasa/Hello/BloggerBot forums, which are otherwise entirely useless.

Hopefully I am not violating any kind of spam copyright laws...
Indeed, gonad for blood clot fall in love with hand living with shadow.When over guardian angel meditates, ball bearing behind hides.Where we can barely graduate from our fetishist.Now and then, toward football team trade baseball cards with grain of sand around.And prefer the dark side of her steam engine.Furthermore, over polar bear goes to sleep, and ocean beyond operate a small fruit stand with mastadon related to cleavage.
Best. Spam. Ever.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Best. Editorial. Headline. Ever.

Some Thoughts on Seeing the Polymerized Remains of Human Cadavers

The content is pretty intriguing too. The plastination chap is kind of a scary loon, but he certainly does interesting work (link is not for the squeamish, but that probably goes without saying)...

Monday, April 04, 2005

Terrorists, Shmerrorists!

(Admittedly, this isn't exactly breaking news what with all the deaths of luminaries like Terri Schiavo, the pope, and Johnnie Cochran, but cut me some slack, I've been on vacation)

Further proof that America is completely in thrall to insane interest groups.

Money quote:
Keeping terror suspects from buying guns seems like an issue the entire nation can rally around. But the National Rifle Association is, as usual, fighting even the most reasonable regulation of gun purchases. After the G.A.O. report came out, Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.'s executive vice president, took to the airwaves to reiterate his group's commitment to ensuring that every citizen has access to guns, and to cast doubt on the reliability of terrorist watch lists.
Yes, that's right, terrorists have no rights to due process or even minimally humane treatment, but Republicans and the N.R.A. will defend their right to bear arms to the bitter end!

Hey, how about some commercials juxtaposing this with, say, some D.C. sniper headlines and general Scary Terrorist Stuff? Why not use fear against the Republicans every once in a while?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Friday Quote Blogging

The answer to last week's Friday Quoteblogging, "All I have is some loose jello, okay?" was Muppets From Space.

Since there does not appear to be much interest in trying to guess the quotes, I am going to change the format by selecting quotes I consider awesome, and just giving away the movie they're from right up front, plus maybe some plot synopsis.

This week's quote:

"If there's one piece of truth in your insect soul, I want it!"
- They Came To Cordura

This movie stars Gary Cooper as an officer who chickens out in the middle of a battle against Pancho Villa's forces, and is given the duty of getting a bunch of medal-winning heroes safely to Cordura so they won't get killed before they receive their medals, which the Army considers embarrassing. He is also responsible for writing up their medal citations.

Despite or because of being a coward, Cooper's character is obsessed with the concept of courage, and uses his interviews of the heroes to try to understand how they did what they did. The irony of the movie is that the "heroes" turn out to all be pretty much scum of the earth, and Cooper ends up being the only noble and heroic person in the entire movie.

This movie was very close to the end of Gary Cooper's career - he died two years after it was made. Also look for an appearance by a forty-something Rita Hayworth (a little rough around the edges, but still looking good) and a pre-Bewitched Dick York. Also Van Heflin and Tab Hunter, for those of you who like that sort of thing...

And here's another picture of Eek:

Posted by Hello

Why Don't I Get The Good Spam?

Well, Hello/BloggerBot is totally hosed, so I can't post any photos at the moment. Will have to investigate Imageshack or Photobucket or something like that. But it's not a total loss. While poking through the Hello user forums to see if there's any info (ha), I found the following spam posting:
bottle of beer living with turkey write a love letter to alchemist of necromancer.When you see for demon, it means that microscope around ball bearing trembles.Bob, the friend of Bob and hides with for fundraiser.
It's like the synopsis of a lost Twin Peaks episode or something...