Sunday, August 31, 2008

Baby blogging

Saturday, August 30, 2008

McCain's VP pick: Huh?!?

Dude, WTF? McCain has shot himself in the foot with a large caliber
weapon. Why on earth would he pick some creationist unknown under
investigation by her own state legislature? Ambinder says that most of
the Republican strategists he's spoken to don't get it. Pawlenty and
Romney are baffled and annoyed at being passed over. McCain has jumped
the shark many a time, but this time he's done it in a way that people
are going to find hard to ignore.

Sarah Palin. Huh?

[I sent this from my iPhone, so please excuse any excessive brevity or
typographical errors.]
--Zachary Drake

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fetish incompleteness

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Michelle Obama's speech at the Convention

I'd never heard her speak before. I was quite impressed. Much better than what I heard of Pelosi on NPR. Many in the lefty blogosphere are asking "When will SHE run for something?"

Daily Show welcomes Republicans to Twin Cities

This billboard greets people leaving the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. From Crooks and Liars.

Nine Inch Noëls

Because "Head Like a Hole" to the tune of "Santa Claus is coming to town" is not to be missed. HT: Mad Latinist via email.

Obama ad mocks McCain for lack of interest in economy

Via Open Left, where they've posted the lyrics:
I'm not up on the economy
Don't know much about industry.
Really can't explain the price of gas,
Or what has happened to the middle class.
But I know that one and one is two.
And if I could be just like you
What a wonderful world this would be.

McCain trying to fight the 1960's one last time

The immortal billmon on DailyKos:
Maybe associating Obama -- who was all of seven or eight years old when the Weathermen were play acting at revolution -- with an armchair radical old enough to be his father will be enough to push all these old buttons one more time. Certainly McCain's allies in the corporate media will do what they can to help lean on those buttons.

Nevertheless, I don't think there's much future in this strategy. The '60s culture war is gasping its last gasps, with McCain and his Rovian crew frantically trying to get one last bestial fuck out of the old sow before she lays down in the mud and dies.

Possible plot to assassinate Obama foiled

Scoped sniper rifles and white supremacist trappings. Glad they were caught.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baby blogging

Here's a picture of Quinn from our walk today.

Obama/Santos parallels: West Wing and the 2008 campaign

A fictional character based on a real person...
...who is now following a path similar to that of the fictional character.
Photo of Obama and Jimmy Smits in 2005 stolen from here.
(Chris Greenberg/Getty)

Steve Benen spies a parallel between Barack Obama’s choice of Joe Biden and Matt Santos’ selection of Leo McGarry as a running mate during the final season of The West Wing. There really are a somewhat freakishly large number of parallels between the Santos-Vinick race and the Obama-McCain matchup. It’s worth noting, though, that it’s not all coincidence. As Jonathan Freedland pointed out in a perceptive Guardian article some months ago Santos was actually modeled in part on Obama.
The result is a bizarre case of art imitating life - only for life to imitate art back again.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Touch the fungus!

via Sullivan.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Everyone thinks it's Biden

Apparently, CNN is saying so. Intrade has him at 97%. I'm sort of hoping it will be someone else now, just for the shock value. I don't know much about Biden, but that's a link to his Wikipedia entry.

Capitalism for us, Socialism for them

American automakers want a bailout, in the form of a $25 billion dollar government-backed loan:
The plan is for the government to lend some $25 billion to the automakers in the first year at an interest rate of 4.5 percent, or about one-third what the companies are currently paying to borrow, the report said.

Under the proposal, the government would have the option of deferring any payment at all for up to five years, the article said.

Oh wait, make that $50 billion:

Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC and U.S. auto-parts makers are seeking $50 billion in government-backed loans, double their initial request, to develop and build more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Here's what Yglesias has to say about that:
On a somewhat less jokey note, observe that at the moment the entire market capitalization of General Motors is just $5.91 billion. If it’s genuinely the case that access to a low-interest line of credit would turn GM around (I have no idea if this is true), the government could easily afford to buy the company, use the government’s ability to borrow at low rates to effect the turnaround, and then re-privatize it for a profit. Not saying that’s a good idea, but it seems like a better idea than giving loan guarantees to firms that are objectively bad credit risks. On the other hand, Michigan’s a swing state so who knows what the possibilities may be.
Um, dude. I propose an alternate plan: let's give all GM, Ford, and Chrysler workers some government-backed loans so they can go to college or get job retraining or just support their families while they find new lines of work. And let the corporations sink or swim as they can. For once, let's let the corporation slip through the cracks and throw the lifeline to the people.

Intrade thinks its Biden

According to the betters on Intrade (as of this post), Biden is most likely to be Obama's pick:
Biden 78.8%
Hillary Clinton 11.3%
Chet Edwards (who is that?) 6.5%
Evan Bayh 2.1%
Tim Kaine 1.3%
Wesley Clark 6.1%
[bunch of others]
Fluctuations have been quite dramatic. On the Republican side, top contenders include:
Romney 56.0%
Pawlenty 22.7%
It's been a wild ride. Word is that Obama will announce tomorrow morning.

Friday, August 22, 2008

McCain couldn't remember how many houses he owned

McCain deserves to be walloped for other things more. But I'll do my part to propagate this gaffe: McCain couldn't recall how many houses he and his wife own. The Democrats have chosen this blunder to pounce on. I'm glad they're attacking him, but it's sad that this is the sort of thing that seems to work. I think his confusion of Shia and Sunni is a lot more disqualifying. How can he brag about foreign policy cred when such a distinction was lost on him until Joe Lieberman whispered in his ear, multiple times?

But I suppose a lot of Americans don't know the difference between Shia and Sunni, so perhaps they don't mind that McCain doesn't either. Though I don't see how that enters into it: There are a lot of things I don't know that I would expect a candidate for president to know.

But most Americans do know how many homes they own. I, for example, am an American, and I am quite confident that I own zero homes. So the fact that McCain was unable to answer this question probably alienates a lot of people who think the President needs to be some kind of national beer buddy.

I'm certain the comedians are going to milk this for long after it's funny. I can practically hear in my head the Leno monologue writers whirring into action.

I'm glad the Democrats smell blood. But I'm a little sad that being forgetful about your vast real estate portfolio is more unforgivable than combining ignorance of foreign matters with reckless posturing on war-related matters (Iraq, Iran, and now Georgia of all places).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Intel Developer Forum Keynote

Soon I will be doing a demo on this stage. Emotiv's podium is second
from the right. Funny to be blogging pre-show jitters. What was once
an intensely private experience can now be shared in almost real time.
Here comes the future.

McCain's anti-D&D blogger pwned

Just like the death of Momofuku Ando (the inventor of instant ramen), Michael Goldfarb's gratuitous and weirdly out-of-place disparagement of the "Dungeons & Dragons crowd" has become a much bigger story than I thought it would. Sullivan links to Ta-Nehisi Coates:
It's amazing to me that this dude [Goldfarb] didn't know that a lot of military cats play D&D. I would estimate my old guild in WOW (Gnomeland Security for the win!) was about ten percent military. On another note,you like that Tucker's Kobolds reference, don't you. Once again to quote Ghostface--My remarkable armor is supreme.
Who links to Hilzoy and Robert Mackey at The Huffington Post:
Well, as anyone with half a brain should know, not all D&D players live in their parents' basement. Some live upstairs.

And others, the vast majority of them, became doctors, lawyers, excelled in business, the arts, and even politics. And a more than a few of them put on the uniform and stand by the colors. And more than a few of them have come back from the very wars that men like Mr. Goldfarb have sent them covered in the colors, the same colors that are given to grieving mothers, wives, and girlfriends.

Yes, Mr. Goldfarb, I play Dungeons and Dragons. And I have, in my home, a very large box filled with medals and decorations that prove my service to this nation. Where were you, sir, when your country called? Oh yes, writing for the Weekly Standard.

While gaming geeks rallied around the flag.
OK, it's not the New York Times, but this some pretty prominent coverage in the blogosphere. Don't piss off the gamers, man. There are a lot more of us than you think.

For those who don't know what "pwned" means, there's a link for ya.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

If cookbooks were critiqued by people who post to RPG forums

Anyone who's read people arguing about the merits of a gaming system on an Internet message board will get a kick out of this:

Posted: 12:15 a.m. by LordOrcus I'm so mad that there's a new edition of The Better Joy Cookbook out. Thanks for making my old copy obsolete, you greedy hacks! For five years now, my friends have been coming over for my eggplant Parmesan, and now I'm never going to be able serve it again unless I shell out 35 bucks for the latest version.

Posted: 12:42 a.m. by KathraxisHey, I have a question! When you preheat the oven, can you start it before you measure out the ingredients, or do you have to do it afterward? Please answer quickly, my friends and I have been arguing about it for four hours and we're getting pretty hungry.

Posted: 12:48 a.m. by Goku1440 I found an awesome loophole! On page 242 it says "Add oregano to taste!" It doesn't say how much oregano, or what sort of taste! You can add as much oregano as you want! I'm going to make my friends eat infinite oregano and they'll have to do it because the recipe says so!

There are more in the Alt Text post, and more here that were edited out for space reasons. HT: Mad Latinist via email.

Wired on True Dungeon

For those of you curious about the True Dungeon event at GenCon, here's a Wired article about it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

McCain campaign hates gamers (UPDATED)

A big "fuck you" to from Internal Monologue to the McCain campaign: Michael Goldfarb, posting on McCain's website, has decided that "Dungeons & Dragons" is a fair term of abuse to use against Obama supporters:
It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others. John McCain has often said he witnessed a thousand acts of bravery while he was imprisoned, and though not every one has been submitted into the public record, they are remembered by the men who were there (one such only recently reported by Karl Rove though it escaped mention in any of Senator McCain's books). But as Swindle said, this is a "desperate group of people trying to make something out of nothing."
Emphasis added. What an insult. The day after GenCon (the world's biggest Dungeons & Dragons convention) ended, no less. Well guess what Michael Goldfarb, this Dungeons & Dragons
playing Obama supporter is making a contribution to Obama's campaign based solely on your gratuitous insult to my hobby. And I'm posting this to every frickin' gaming forum of which I'm a member.

I've posted at Maxminis. There's already a thread over at Wizards of the Coast.

UPDATE: Michael Goldfarb has apologized. Quite nicely, too:
If my comments caused any harm or hurt to the hard working Americans who play Dungeons & Dragons, I apologize. This campaign is committed to increasing the strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma scores of every American.
HT: Mad Latinist in the comments. We can tell that the McCain campaign is familiar with 4th Edition D&D, as they use the 4th edition ordering of the six ability scores.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

R2-D2 and R4-?? at GenCon 2008

These droids were quite well done. So much so that people were asking,
"Kenny Baker, are you in there?" (He plays R2-D2 in the movies.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Seen at GenCon: d4 hat

I'm at GenCon!

Here I am at the Gygax memorial charity dice collection. It's great to
be here! Thanks are due to my lovely goddess wife who is taking care
of Quinn for me. I love you and I miss you and baby.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Grassroots Anti-McCain ad

Recognize the movie from a single letter

This quiz asks you to identify a movie from only a single letter. The letter is taken from the title of the movie on the poster for that movie. I only was able to identify 10 of these. Here was one I did get:

McCain: "in the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations"

Yes, he actually said that. On FOX News, of course.
Via Yglesias.

I'm going to give some money to Obama right now.

Too much pressure on Chinese kids

This sentence from an article in Psychology Today caught my eye:
At one top Beijing kindergarten, students must know pi to 100 digits by age 3.
Arrgh. Sounds like hell. And I'm quite a fan of pi.

New rule for personalized license plates

New rule for personalized license plates:
Any personalized license plate whose meaning is not obvious must be accompanied by a bumper sticker containing an explanatory footnote.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Why didn't the Georgians blow up the tunnel?

Morality and politics aside, here's a tactical question about the Georgia-Russia conflict over South Ossetia:

When Georgia tried to re-take South Ossetia, why didn't they blow-up the south end of the Roki Tunnel? It's a major supply route from Russia to the South Ossetia region. Russia has been pouring tanks, troops and supplies through it. This article says the Roki Tunnel was a target of Georgian forces, but they must have been beaten back from it. War Nerd also wonders why they didn't use planes, commandoes, or other means to take it out.

Well, Georgia seems to be paying a penalty for not accomplishing this. Stratfor (subscription required) is implying that the Russians have already won. Other news sources report ongoing heavy fighting, with Georgian troops retreating to defend the capital.

If an armchair guy like me can think of blowing up this tunnel, why didn't the Georgians do it? I don't even know much about the geography of the place. But it seemed a crashingly obvious thing to do.

UPDATE: I've found some other people have a similar opinion of the importance of the tunnel. Here's Stratfor writing for Business Spectator:
Fundamentally there are only two locations in this conflict that matter: the capital and the southern end of the Roki Tunnel, which connects South Ossetia to Russia. The capital is the only city of note in South Ossetia, and the Roki is the only means for Russia to shuttle forces to and from the territory. The tunnel is only two lanes wide and is an excellent choke point. If Georgia can capture and hold those two targets, South Ossetia’s 15-year rebellion will in essence be over. But that can happen only if the Russians let it.
But the Georgians didn't have to hold it. They only had to render it unusable. Even if they had managed to block it for a short period of time, it might have prevented them from getting overrun by Russian forces.

After only three days, the Georgian leader has had to pull back, partly because his troops failed to seal off the Roki tunnel, 2½ miles (4km) long, that links South Ossetia with North Ossetia and provided passage for dozens of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles. It was a military blunder.

Nothing is happening in the presidential campaign

The best couple paragraphs I've read about political polling in a while:
As everyone knows, there’s sampling error associated with polling. As a result, if you poll 1,000 people on August 1 and then you poll 1,000 different people on August 2 you shouldn’t be surprised to see the results differ by several percentage points even in the absence of any change in the underlying public opinion. Beyond that, doing one poll per day throughout a long campaign would mean that you’d expect to see one or two relatively rare outlier results per month even under circumstances of total stasis. And as Alan Abramowitz points out if you look at the daily results this is actually what you see — incredible volatility with Obama’s lead oscillating violently around an average of 3-4 points. Since it’s not plausible that the public mood is really swinging anywhere near as rapidly as a very naive reading of the Gallup daily results would suggest, people could see that this is basically statistical noise in a stable race.

But Gallup doesn’t report its daily results, they report a multi-day rolling average. Abramowitz notes that if you report a ten day rolling average, you get a chart where nothing happens — Obama maintains a flat lead of 3-4 points. Again, a stable race. But if instead of doing either of those things you do what Gallup actually does and report a three day rolling average, you get these pleasant looking peaks and valleys in the race. The change over time here is large enough in magnitude (unlike on the ten day chart) but also slow enough in pace (unlike on the one day chart) to be plausibly interpreted as public opinion shifting in response to events. And since the human mind is designed to recognize patterns and construct narratives, and since it suits the interests of campaign journalists to write narratives, people interpret the peaks and valleys of the three day average as real shifts in public opinion. But while I have no way of proving that it’s just statistical noise and nothing’s really happening, the “nothing happening” narrative is completely consistent with the data, and it’s telling that the conventional narratives collapse when the data is presented in different ways whereas the “noise” narrative is consistent with multiple ways of displaying the information.

Emphasis added. I'm in favor of the null hypothesis here: Obama has a 3-4 point national lead. He's had it for a while. And not much is happening. There's a tiny sliver of the population that's sighing and gasping with every new ad, response, gaffe, and poll. And I am a member of this sliver, certainly. But that doesn't mean that millions of American voters are changing their mind every couple days.

Russia: just because you can invade Georgia doesn't mean you're a great power

Charlie Whitaker:

Now that we can measure it,* we find that Russia’s GDP is approximately equal to that of Portugal Brazil (which is not to knock Brazil). Much of Russia’s wealth comes from resource extraction: in other words, Russia is not making stuff. Is it thinking stuff instead? Well, is there a nascent biotech or semiconductor industry in Russia today? (Or is there maybe some other, more esoteric kind of activity that hasn’t yet permeated popular consciousness?) How are Russian universities doing?

Russia is fairly populous, although no one would call it densely populated. However, its population is shrinking; in part, because it is not a healthy country.

Via Matthew Yglesias, at his new home at Think Progress.

Obama's last videogame: Pong

Entertainment Weekly via GamePolitics News:
What's the last videogame you played?
Pong. That gives you a sense of my age. I loved that game.
Um, dude. I volunteer myself as the Obama campaign's video game advisor. I'm not really completely up-to-the minute the way I used to be. But Pong. Egad. That sound like something McCain would say. (The analogous McCain interview in EW doesn't even have a video game question, so Obama wins.) Hasn't Obama even played Tetris or Ms. Pac-Man or something? I mean frickin' everyone played Ms. Pac-Man in the 80's, didn't they? I know it would be too much to ask for the probable future president of our country to be familiar with the greats like Civilization, World of Warcraft, or DOOM. But surely someone's had the chance to hand him a Wii remote or a Guitar Hero guitar at some campaign stop/photo op somewhere?

Obama close to choosing VP

According to the email I just got from his campaign manager, David Plouffe (it's Obamaspam; I don't have any special connection to the campaign or it's manager). You can sign up to get an email when he makes his pick. I did. I wonder if I'll actually get the pick before the press gets it. I doubt it, but that would be cool. You can also get it texted to your phone:
You can also text VP to 62262 to receive a text message on your mobile phone.
I did this and got a quick text in response. So it is possible I'll know before most people. But usually this stuff leaks. We'll see.

Of course, Internal Monologue readers will find out as soon as I do, if I can get a 'net connection.

Google street view offends Japanese privacy sensibilities

Apparently, urban Japanese don't gaze from the street into other people's homes, unless they are being impolite (HT: Marginal Revolution). Thus, they find Google Steetview to be very intrusive and offensive.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Russia and Georgia at war

CIA version of Georgia map from

Update: Via Sullivan, a good summary of what's going on and why from James Joyner.

I had heard about this conflict, but didn't know it was so close to open warfare. Now we're talking about planes and tanks and thousands of troops. US is calling for restraint. The dispute is over South Ossetia, which as I understand it wants to break away from Georgia and has Russian support for doing so. From

Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said ``war has started'' over the breakaway region of South Ossetia as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili accused its neighbor of a ``well-planned invasion.''

Saakashvili said in a Bloomberg Television interview that his nation of 4.6 million people is ``fighting to secure its borders'' amid a ``full-blown military aggression'' involving thousands of Russian troops. Aerial bombings and wide-spread fighting in and around the region killed an unknown number of civilians and wounded ``scores'' more, Saakashvili said.

Putin earlier today told U.S. President George W. Bush in Beijing that ``volunteers'' were pouring over the border to help defend South Ossetia from Georgian forces, according to Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. ``War started today in South Ossetia'' when Georgia attacked Russian peacekeepers in the disputed region, Putin said. The Defense Ministry later said it deployed ``reinforcements'' in the region.

200 Bad Comics

The author of recently completed a challenge to write 200 bad comics. I haven't finished them yet, but some of them are pretty good. Here's #75, for example:

And #144:

Hat Tip: Grishnash via email.

2007 mortgages going bad fast than those of 2006

Looks like more dung is still being added to the big shitpile:

Mortgages issued in the first part of 2007 are going bad at a pace that far outstrips the 2006 vintage, suggesting that the blow to the financial system from U.S. housing woes will be deeper than many people earlier estimated.

An analysis prepared for The Wall Street Journal by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. shows that 0.91% of prime mortgages from 2007 were seriously delinquent after 12 months, meaning they were in foreclosure or at least 90 days past due. The equivalent figure for 2006 prime mortgages was just 0.33% after 12 months. The data reflect delinquencies as of April 30.

Via Atrios. So 2007 mortgages are going bad a rate almost three times faster than those of 2006. This can't be good for the housing market.

Conflict of interest disclosure: As I've stated before, it's in my interest for the housing market to go down.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wingnut Micro-Welfare: astroturfing for McCain

The McCain campaign has been reduced to bribing people to talk favorably about him on the Internet:

Spread John McCain's official talking points around the Web -- and you could win valuable prizes!

That, in essence, is the McCain campaign's pitch to supporters to join its new online effort, one that combines the features of "AstroTurf" campaigning with the sort of customer-loyalty programs offered by airlines, hotel chains, restaurants and the occasional daily newspaper.

On McCain's Web site, visitors are invited to "Spread the Word" about the presumptive Republican nominee by sending campaign-supplied comments to blogs and Web sites under the visitor's screen name. The site offers sample comments ("John McCain has a comprehensive economic plan . . .") and a list of dozens of suggested destinations, conveniently broken down into "conservative," "liberal," "moderate" and "other" categories. Just cut and paste
John McCain, official sponsor of AstroTurf! Does he realize that with this program, he's immediately cast doubt on the legitimacy of ANY pro-McCain comments on any of the sites in question? As dday says:
I think the accurate response to any McCain supporter on the Web at this point is "how many buttons did you just win for that comment?"

Old-school D&D cartoons

Those with familiarity with the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual might get a laugh or two out of these cartoons. A teaser:

HT: Mad Latinist via email.

Great Fed protest signs

Via uggabugga, some pictures of people protesting the Federal Reserve a while ago:

More pictures at The Big Picture, where I got the one above.

Randy Pauch's "Last Lecture"

My dad sent me a link to this a while back. But I didn't watch it until Sarah and I watched it just now. Inspiring. Many of the messages he gives can be found elsewhere, but filtered through the specifics of his very geeky sensibility and amazing career, they come through in a way that I haven't felt before.

Professor Pauch died on July 25th, 2008.

Tire gauge gate

The Republican party is really desperate. Stephen Colbert has as good a take as any on the latest laughable line of attack McCain's campaign has attempted:

To top it all off, McCain has now decided that keeping your tires inflated to their proper pressure is probably a pretty good idea:
“Obama said a couple of days ago says we all should inflate our tires. I don’t disagree with that. The American Automobile Association strongly recommends it,” McCain said.


Paris Hilton strikes back

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

I'm late to this story, because when I first saw this video I assumed it was a Paris Hilton impersonator. It turns out it isn't. Paris Hilton is actually responding to the McCain attack ad which compared Obama to Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton. Apparently, Ms. Hilton has deigned to respond. It's pretty funny. I don't think much of her energy policy compromise: any US coastal drilling woudn't have enough effect or be implemented soon enough to be a viable "bridge" to a next generation energy future. And the climate change risks demand a more immediate switchover to greener energy sources. But Ms. Hilton's proposal is pretty mainstream for US politics right now. Obama's proposal allows for some offshore drilling, in return for lots of funding for alternative energy and ending some tax credits for oil companies.

I think Steve Benen gets it right (via Sullivan,whose link is wrong):
First, why is that Paris Hilton’s fake ad includes more substantive talk about energy policy than John McCain’s real ad? Second, if writers helped Hilton with her script, and writers helped McCain with his script, why is it that Hilton seems to have a better grasp on policy details than McCain does? Shouldn’t that be, you know, the other way around?

And third, why is it that a 27-year-old heiress/reality-show star can read a teleprompter better than the presumptive Republican presidential nominee?

So Ms. Spears, where's your snarky response to McCain's ad comparing Obama to you? I sense a unique opportunity for you to revive your career!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Why does China have so many embarrassingly bad English signs?

James Fallows, who had been in Beijing a great deal leading up to the Olympics, wonders why one finds so much bad English signage in China:
On the other hand, it truly is bizarre that so many organizations in China are willing to chisel English translations into stone, paint them on signs, print them on business cards, and expose them permanently to the world without making any effort to check whether they are right. I can't resist this example: when we lived in Shanghai, a local museum had a very evocative and politically daring exhibit about villages that were being drowned by the Three Gorges Dam. And on huge banners outside, in letters six feet high, it said: "Three Georges Exhibit." If they had shown the banners to anyone who actually spoke English....

Why does this happen? I wish I knew. In micro terms, it must come from rote reliance on dictionaries or translation software. For instance, the title of this post: the dictionary will tell us that 叔叔, shu shu, means an uncle. But of course it does not mean what "Uncle!" means in U.S. slang -- as any Chinese speaker would point out if you asked him to check out the title. (For those who don't know, "Uncle!" means, "I give up! You win!") In the larger sense, why so many people would so carelessly waste money and -- the real mystery, considering Chinese sensitivities -- so brazenly expose themselves to ridicule is a puzzle. Learning a language means being willing to make mistakes. That's different from presenting formal, error-filled material for outsiders to read.
I noticed this when I was there back in 1990. My pet theory as to why this is has to do with the Cultural Revolution (from the Wikipedia entry, of course):
Elsewhere, the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution also brought the education system to a virtual halt. The university entrance exams were cancelled during this period, not to be restored by Deng Xiaoping until 1977. Many intellectuals were sent to rural labor camps. Many survivors and observers suggest that almost anyone with skills over that of the average person was made the target of political "struggle" in some way. According to most Western observers as well as followers of Deng Xiaoping, this led to almost an entire generation of inadequately educated individuals. However, this varies depending on the region, and the measurement of literacy did not resurface until the 1980s.[20] Some counties in the Zhanjiang district, for example, had illiteracy rates as high as 41% some 20 years after the revolution. The leaders denied any illiteracy problems from the start. This effect was amplified by the elimination of qualified teachers--many of the districts were forced to rely upon chosen students to re-educate the next generation.[20]
This can't have been good for fostering good English translation: for an entire generation, knowing English was likely to get you sent to a re-education labor camp or worse. Maybe a careless attitude towards foreign translation took root during this time, and was never corrected. (Are the Chinese similarly careless with other languages, or is there propensity for humorous mis-translation confined to English?)

By the way, I wonder how good the translations of signs in the United States are? Oh wait, nothing here is translated into other languages. Well, I guess that's not entirely true. The San Francisco airport has a lot of Asian language signs, and of course there's the brouhaha about the increasing use of Spanish in American public signage and in public life in general. (I don't mind it; I rather wish I knew other languages better. My limited French barely qualifies as a second language). Somehow I doubt that this is an equivalent problem in the United States, but given that I can't read the translations I'm not in a position to judge.

Geeky Marriage Proposal

Beeing a Google employee has its advantages: you know when the Google Street View van is going to go by so you can hold up your marriage proposal sign.

What I want to know is: why is it called "PROPOSAL 2.0"? Was proposal 1.0 rejected? If the first proposal was rejected, did this guy think that proposing via Google Street View would somehow persuade his intended to make an affirmative response?

Of course, the big question we want to have answered is: Did Leslie say yes? Maybe she'll paint a big "YES" sign and lay it down in her front yard when she knows the satellite that takes pictures for Google Maps satellite view is overhead.

Did Bush order the CIA to forge a letter linking Saddam Hussien to WMDs?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Great time to be a renter

The saga of what Atrios has dubbed "big shitpile" (i.e. housing loans that won't be repaid, and all the financial instruments that are worthless as a result) is entering another, potentially bigger phase:
The first wave of Americans to default on their home mortgages appears to be cresting, but a second, far larger one is quickly building.

Homeowners with good credit are falling behind on their payments in growing numbers, even as the problems with mortgages made to people with weak, or subprime, credit are showing their first, tentative signs of leveling off after two years of spiraling defaults.

The percentage of mortgages in arrears in the category of loans one rung above subprime, so-called alternative-A mortgages, quadrupled to 12 percent in April from a year earlier. Delinquencies among prime loans, which account for most of the $12 trillion market, doubled to 2.7 percent in that time.

Conflict of interest disclosure: The author of Internal Monologue and his family are currently renters, and and are considering purchasing a home in the intermediate future. So it is in their interest to jawbone down the housing market as much as possible.

Why cables are so expensive at Best Buy

Via Marginal Revolution, I came across a discussion about why simple things like HDMI cables are so expensive at Best Buy. From the discussion in the comments, it sounds like it's a classic razors and razorblades story: Best Buy makes very little on the big ticket items they sell. They have to keep the prices low to compete with online stores. But they make up for it with very high margins on the accessories: ink cartridges, cables, software, etc.

So buy your accessories online.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Where's my bus?

If you live in Seattle, you can find out much more easily now. They have an applet that lets you track where your bus is. Way cool.

Basically, I want everything to have an applet like this.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I'm wearing my UU chalice again

Sarah gave this to me a few years ago. I stopped wearing it for a
while, but after the shootings in Knoxville, TN I decided it was
important to show my solidarity with my fellow UUs.

Wal-Mart doesn't like Democrats

According to the Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart doesn't want Obama to win:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.

Yes, Democrats in power means it might be more difficult to ruthlessly exploit workers. Can't have that, can we?


Anyone who has tried to unhook a bra will appreciate this xkcd cartoon.

My blog is back!!!

Dude, Google/Blogger's automated spam blog detector said Internal Monologue was a spam blog. I had to type in some distorted characters and wait until some human minion verified that my blog was legit. What is up with their algorithm, man?

Well, it seems I'm back. There were so many posts I wanted to do, but I guess I'll just have to pick up on things.