The [Ninja Turtles] henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady have hijacked the musical genres for us just like the Lone Ranger hijacked the William Tell Overture for our parents.

- xkcd

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Everyday Horror Pt. 4

It's time for yet another installment of everyone's favorite blog segment, Everyday Horror. Today's entry is people who have web pages that automatically play video. Jackasses who do that deserve to be eaten by a giant prehistoric bear.

Snakes on a PumpkinWait, no, that's not it. Today's everyday horror is actually about people who spend way too much time carving pumpkins. It's a pumpkin it's meant to be either a) looked at or b) smashed. Spending inordinate amounts of time trying to come up with clever designs or carving them into pumpkins are just proving that they have way too much free time and should probably be doing more productive things like calling their boyfriend/girlfriend.

The pumpkin on the right was inspired by Snakes on a Plane. And while it doesn't truly capture the awesomeness of that great internet movement (it is not biting somebody's face) you have to appreciate the dedication to such a noble cause.

Still, it's way overkill for this much work to be put into a pumpkin. It's a pumpkin and will be gone in a week. Just leave it sitting there, uncarved.

What's next, elaborately decorated pumpkin pies or crazy Christmas cookies? It's just a holiday.

Some additional too-much-effort pumpkins:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Everyday Horror Pt. 3

So I was at Hollywood Video this past weekend trying to rent the recently released DVD of Slither. I've heard nothing but good things about the movie. The fact that it's directed by the writer of the Dawn of the Dead remake and husband of Office person Jenna Fischer seem to weigh heavily in its favor.

Add the fact that it's got Nathan Fillion, Gregg Henry, and Michael Rooker in it also helps.

Sadly, Hollywood Video was out of it. I don't even bother checking Blockbuster anymore because they're always out of everything. It took me a month to be able to rent Kung Fu Hustle there. Lame!

Anyway, while there I came across a sight of such unrelenting horror that I felt I had to take a picture and share it with you.

To the right you will see the 4 (FOUR!) copies of the Adventures of Pluto Nash that they feel the need to keep around. I can't figure out why you'd even need one, let alone 3 more. Notice also that they mislabeled it as a comedy ... somehow implying that it's funny.

Truly frightening.

World Series Survived

Unfortunately I was not in St. Louis this past weekend to enjoy the festivities surrounding the World Series victory by the Cardinals. In fact, in the past 10 years, I've probably only spent about 30 total days in the the Lou.

Some of that has to do with the fact that St. Louis is apparently the most violent city in the country. More probably has to do with the fact that if you live in Chicago or another large city why would you really even want to go to the city except for those required holidays.

Either way, even though I managed to escape that black hole of the Midwest I haven't been able to leave my allegiance to the premiere sports team of the area behind.

Being a Cardinals fan the past 10 years has been kind of difficult. Not difficult because they've been horrible but rather the opposite, the fact that they've been so good for so long and hadn't managed to win a World Series.

2004 had to be the most painful. As you can tell by the explosion of Red Sox hats you still everywhere, the Cardinals didn't beat the curse. In fact, that hundred win team dropped like a sack of suckery in 4 straight games. Having never led a single inning of a single game of that series, it's easy to admit that the Cardinals went down much more meekly than the Tigers did in this past series. After not having been to a world series in 17 years, they blew what was probably their best chance.

The next year, things looked to be much better. The team actually even improved. They finished that season with 105 wins. However, they didn't even make it to the World Series that year. Instead they ended up losing to the wild-card Astros in the NLCS (in fitting revenge for that defeat the Astros were also swept).

This year started off much the same way, the Cardinals dominating the first several months of the season. In 2 months they were 15 games over .500. Then it started. They lost ace pitcher Chris Carpenter for a couple weeks because of bursitis, then Pujols went down with an oblique strain, then they lost pitcher Mark Mulder to shoulder problems. During that span they had an 8 game losing streak.

Still, somehow, before the All-Star Break they began to turn it around, it looked like the tough stretch was behind them. Jim Edmonds got red-hot for a month. But then in August things began to go bad again. It started to become evident that 4th start Jason Marquis should really be more like a 15th starter, then Jim Edmonds began to suffer from Post-Concussion Syndrome, then once Mark Mulder came off the disabled list, he came out and pitched like crap, giving up an insane amount of runs. Eventually they concluded that there was still something wrong with his shoulder. In this time there was another 8 game losing streak.

September wasn't much better, but thanks to their excellent start (and the amazingly bad NL Central) the Cardinals were still somehow in a pretty commanding division lead. Simple .500 baseball would get them into the post-season handily. That's when they lost Eckstein to an oblique strain and began what could have been the Greatest Late Season Collapse in History. Unfortunately for sports media everywhere, the Cardinals managed to hold onto their division lead and limp into the playoffs with a great 83-78 record (after another losing streak ... 7 games this time).

But as had happened all year, after a big losing streak the team began to play better. They managed to tear through the favored Padres in 4 games. Held on to beat the tattered Mets pitching in 7 games. And somehow capitalized on the Tigers' mistakes to win the World Series 4 games to 1.

The chattering is already going on about how either A) The Cardinals shouldn't have been in the post-season or B) The Tigers blew the World Series with their costly mistakes. I don't agree with either of those sentiments but it doesn't really matter. All that matters is that after a 24 year drought and 2 supposedly superior teams not winning it all, this tattered club somehow managed to win those 11 games in October and bring home the trophy. It was a blast.

For me, this post-season will always be represented by a phrase thrown around at StL blog Cardinals Diaspora by commenter The Inspiration. His rallying cry of, "We might just fuck around and win this thing" ended up representing these unexpected champions to a 'T'. It may not have been the prettiest but man it feels good!
Read the full account >>

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sick of Blogger

Bleah, stupid Blogger has been up and down so much lately I've finally gone to the trouble of registering the domain name. Right now it's going through it's usual process of percolating through the DNS servers of the world.

Hopefully sometime in the next day or so it'll be pointing towards this Blogspot blog.

However, I think sometime in the next month I'll try to move this to an externally hosted site. Probably one that is down for maintenance significantly less (we can hope).

Blogger's been a little bit of a jackass in the "I'm not functioning department" so I thought it would possibly be worth the $9 to register the domain.

The best part of the whole process were the suggestions for alternate domain names suggested by the registrar. I think we may need to change the name to one of those!

Some of my favorites are:


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Greatest News In the History of the Universe EVER

Today I was killing time at lunch and I was reading some news on annoying videogames site Kotaku when I came across something so Earth-shatteringly awesome that I had to post about it.

One of the greatest songs of all time, Trogdor the Burninator (Flash link), from Homestar Runner is going to be included as an unlockable bonus track. The only thing that could possibly compete with this would be if there was some Teen Girl Squad version of DDR.

The list of songs available is already pretty cool but this inclusion is the single most awesome thing ever.

Kotaku Article

Also, thanks to the Homestar Runner Wiki for the links.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Everyday Horror Pt. 2

In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday I'm going to be posting about scary things yo
Sorry for the delay in getting this new one up. I was on a little vacation and while I was out everything seemed to blow up at work. Plus, on the first day of my vacation (actually right when I got off the airplane), my cell phone crashed an wouldn't boot up the rest of the trip.

I've finally gotten things back in order (and with my St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series) I can get back to business.

Pictured slightly fuzzily on the right is what may be the freakiest plastic tree fountain thing I've ever seen. I don't know if it's supposed to look like an Ent from Lord of the Rings or maybe those crazy ones in the Wizard of Oz. What I do know is that when you see a wall of them at a random outlet mall you know it's time to stop drinking Peach Schnapps for breakfast.

I suppose the real horror was that I was at an outlet mall but that's another story.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Everyday Horror

In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday I'm going to be posting about scary things you can run into in everyday life. This is part 1 of the series. There is no fixed number of parts and I may not even ever bother to post additional parts. Anyway, onwards!

As I was headed out the door from work the other day I ran across something that shook me to my very core. Something that if there was a loving God, would not exist. That unholy abomination was the package pictured on the left.

After overcoming my first urge to flee in abject terror I began to wonder what this Pandora's box could possibly contain. The possibilities were all pants-wettingly frightening (trust me ... I have the pants to prove it).

A box that size is clearly too large to hold a simple book or coffee mug. So I began to fear that it was a collection of all of his books. Or Perhaps a number of the O'Reilly Factor For Kids books that were going to be handed out to unsuspecting Trick or Treaters this Halloween.

Worse yet, maybe it's a collection of O'Reilly talking dolls ... and they're going to be handed out as people get fired from the company. These parting gifts will be saying things like, "Welcome to the No-Spin Zone" and then somehow cut off your mic as your try to explain why you shouldn't get fired.

To me the worst fear was that it's a life size animatronic bust of Bill O'Reilly's head. With motion sensors in it's eyes, it will be setup so as to pepper you with quotes from the previous day's show that it had downloaded from the central Fox News server every time you walk by.

This truly is an Everyday Horror.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Difference Between Us

There's been a topic we've been discussing of late, that being the dumbing down of science for the "unwashed masses." I'm trying to wrap my head around whether this means that the primary problem is that the material is presented inaccurately; or perhaps if the inaccuracy is just a symptom of an untrained public; or worse yet, if the problem lies in our education system and recent cultural bias against scholarly pursuit.

No matter how you feel, it's clear that inaccuracies in mainstream articles are a problem simply because they are misrepresenting the work or research that have been done. This can be seen in any one of 8 billion journal articles that is picked up by news services and turned into the "Next Stop: Cure for Cancer ... tune in tonight to find out more about this amazing medical breakthrough!"

In spite all of this though, is the academic and scientific communities real problem is that they don't get respect. When the reporter presenting the segment says something like, "But I didn't understand any of it either" it's easy to see why scientists would feel that way.

In a world where we have a multi-billion industry and an entire infrastructure around reporting the scores of sports games it can be amazingly frustrating that they can't even get a 3 minute segment about important science research correct.

In the case of sports though, what makes it easy to capitalize on is the predictability. It's baseball season, it's football season, it's the playoffs, etc. They turn it into a story and once they've established a means of presentation that gets good ratings they can just keep running with it.

Science doesn't quite have that luxury. It has things like DARPA Challenges, X-Prize or the Nobel Prizes but nothing as constant and ongoing as sporting events. So the question becomes, is explaining something like science inherently different than explaining something like what happened in a sporting event to people?

So the question becomes: is there a way you can build a base of people with a collective fundamental knowledge about science in the same way that fans of sports know about their team, the rules of the game, the history, etc. so that you can present those kind of stories in the same way? Is this something that needs to be done in the school system or is it something that should be taken on by the media? Or maybe it is just that science is ALWAYS boring.

Read on for more ramblings ...

Friday, October 06, 2006

The 3B! Listserv Presents:

The San Francisco greater bay area (read: Northern California) just went three for three on the Nobel Prizes of Science (Medicine, Physics, Chemistry). This has resulted in modest amounts of TV coverage and presumably has upturned events in a variety of laboratories at the "University of Suck" and other bay area universities. As a result, my bovine overlords have been bitching about how the camera crew, when wandering to a real lab, stepped on his petri dish. Both I and dEn tried to go over there and explain the situation but all he wanted was to say how horribly misunderstood he is.

Below the fold, let's go through all three news stories on the Nobel Prizes and see who is really at fault:

click here

Lets go through them in chronological order. First up is Dr. Andrew Z. Fire, co-winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Medicine. What's the Z stand for? Boring! Below we have five minutes of his press conference courtesy of KTVU and dEn's impressive internet sleuthing skills.

I don't expect you to have gotten through that. It was boring, wandering, and, I think, might have mentioned science twice. Meanwhile, he's responsible for the science fad that is sweeping the nation, RNA interference (RNAi). The first freely available scientific publication of that work is here. A one sentence summary is, "RNAi is the use of short RNA molecules to stop gene expression by destroying messenger RNA (mRNA)." He works with C. elegans but this model has been shown to work with vertebrates and people are exploring its use in a vast array of fields and applications. It is impressive work; he discovered a genetic regulatory system people didn't know existed before 1998.

However, based on what we've seen and the remaining lackluster presentation by news crews, why would anyone care. Instead, haha, we get a cute story about the Berkeley - Stanford rivalry. Pshaw on science!

Moving on, we get to physics. Dr. Smoot was the co-winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics. The first half of this presentation seems pretty reasonable but they pretty much fall off the turnip truck when they try to move to the actual discovery by Dr. Smoot. Decent background here and one of the project pages here)

Here is the news segment discussing this that played on KTVU.

If you watched through until the end, you get to my pet peeve about attitude towards science. The, "it's too hard" mode. He closes with the line, "If you didn't understand, well, I'm not sure I did either." Everyone knows the story, right. (Please excuse me if I am chaneling a little too much Daily Howler but I guess now I know why he sometimes goes off the deep end). They do get credit for explaining the basic Big Bang set up effectively. They point to the pretty microwave radiation picture. They don't bother trying to explain why the picture should or shouldn't look like that and it pretty much falls apart.

At the beginning, note again the biographical sketch. Haha, actors! I don't know how that relates to the story but now there's more human interest. Again, notice that the actual scientist says two sentences about science -- in this case, because those are all the sentences he gets on camera.

Finally, the "queen of the sciences," Chemistry. It went to Dr. Kornberg at Stanford. That's pretty much the only thing we see him saying about science. A good (PDF) summary is available from the Nobel Prize organization. More technical (primary literature) summary pre-2001 feat and post-2001. Again, the news clip:

This one is even more lackluster. First we get shots of Dr. Kornberg's house at night. A story about how his aged father once won the prize as well. Finally, we get a crummy explanation of his work by the reporter. Then, we have another botched explanation by someone (grad student?) in his lab. He holds a 3D model that looks like a blob and say, "this protein is responsible for turning on all genes" What a gross misstatement. Plus, they claim Dr. Kornberg discovered(!) RNA polymerase.

Anyways, now you have an AV basis to continue the discussion and I've done what I can for Science Friday.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Back to more Important Matters

I've decided maybe Nero wasn't such a bad guy. Fiddling while Rome burns? Sometimes that seems like the only sensible option. Otherwise you have confront the painful, obvious truth that something you love dearly is becoming a charred, withered husk upon the ground. Something that spectators can only shake their heads and remember when it used to be something more impressive. [Yes, I know Nero may have started the fire but don't harsh my lovely metaphor!]

So, to that end I have planned a glorious trip to Amoeba music store tomorrow to ease my pain with the lovely sounds of piano, bass, cornet, and some ear-splitting guitar. I am pretty open to suggestions right now but I think I need mind-numbingly complex music to overload my brain.

So here's my current thought on things to buy (or not buy) and I'll take additional comments.

Not buying:
  • Yo La Tengo - because despite it's a$$ kicking name and anthemic riffs don't know if I can take the gentle pop ballads. I am open to being convinced otherwise.

  • Brightblack Morninglight - I want this album a lot. Probably because it seems like it might be sufficiently weird. Unfortunately it seems to exceed the qurrent quiet quota.

  • Junior Boys - I think I'm alright with the quantity of nu-dance I already have. I understand they're good at what they do but I think I'm fine without it. Also, to be honest, it is probably 20% anti-PFM favoritism bias.

  • Mastodon - This is the metal all the kids are talking about. Is it everything it's cracked up to be? Only one way to find out, the listening station at Amoeba.

  • Soweto Kinch - British jazz/hip-hop/??? that is getting weird critical reviews. I think it deserves a chance

  • Kinski - I somehow ended up with one of their CDs and it can be a go-to CD for certain moods. This is one of them so their latest seems like a possibility

  • The Guillemots - to make up for unreasoning anti-PFM bias, here's a PFM suggestion that sounds good

  • Xiu Xiu - one of my first weird favorites have another new album. Gorgeous screams and crazy percussion, I hope.

Suggestions and critiques sought. I need to have some plan of action when I go in there or trouble will surely result.

  • Boris and/or sunn0))) - Potentially more awesome metal/noise that is creeping into music nerd vocabulary. I'm on the hunt
  • Yat-Kha - Tuvan Rock! I don't know what it means but hopefully I will soon
  • Zutons - British neo-soul! Maybe? I dunno, but I like a rollickin' sax solo as much as the next guy. If only they didn't have those pesky slow songs. Might not make it this time but definitely on the pile for later