Thursday, January 31, 2008

Food Fight!

An allegorical history (from an American perspective) of armed conflict since WWII where each country is represented by a characteristic food (or foods). See how many conflicts and participants you can identify:



Does any one know the name of the noodle dish that seems to represent the Soviet Union/Russia?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Internal Monologue endorses Obama!

With Edwards out of the race, Internal Monologue is officially endorsing Obama. Explanation will have to wait. It's off to work...

UPDATE: OK, here are some reasons why I support Obama rather than Clinton:
  • Clinton voted for the Iraq war. Obama voted against it. That should count for something.
  • I think Obama has better chances against the Republicans (at this point it will probably be McCain, or maybe Romney)
  • I think Obama is in general more liberal than Clinton. And I'm a liberal.
  • I think Obama is less enmeshed in the Democratic establishment than Clinton. And I'm not fond of the Democratic establishment right now, what with all of its capitulating to Bush and fear of being called weak by Republicans.
  • People abroad seem to like Obama more than they like Clinton. And I think a major task of the next president is going to be restoring America's moral stature. This is going to require a lot of work, but I think Obama will start out with more of a reserve of goodwill than Clinton will.
My main beef with Obama has been my view about conflict vs. conciliation: I think that for things to get better in this country, certain groups that have enjoyed unfair privileges are going to have to be defeated. This seemed to be the place Edwards was coming from. This made me undecided between Edwards and Obama. But with Edwards out, my choice is clear.

I could be wrong about some of these things. And my analysis here is not sophisticated. But it's enough to push me solidly into the Obama camp.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The state of our political discourse

Not good:

PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) – Mitt Romney's failure to eat fried chicken with the skin on is nothing short of blasphemy here in the South, according to GOP rival Mike Huckabee.

Romney, of Massachusetts, dug into a piece fried chicken at KFC while campaigning in Lutz, Florida on Saturday, but not before peeling off what most would consider the best part — the crispy skin.

(via Atrios) Could they please go back to fighting about religion? This is ridiculous.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Your author is ill

For the past few days I've been pretty ill, so that's why there's been a sad dearth of posts on Internal Monologue. My wife has been taking wonderful care of me, and I hope to be better soon.

Contact lenses as computer displays


Well, the technology has a long way to go yet, but the possibilities are very cool (via Sullivan).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Term of the Day: Machinima

Machinima is when someone uses a 3-D game engine, not to play or make a game but to make a film. For example, this Right Said Fred video made entirely with World of Warcraft video captures that I linked to last May is an example of machinima. But at the time I didn't know it was called machinima. Now I do.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Get out of my space, you horrid man!

Sullivan's face of the day is this girl, who seems none to happy about receiving the attentions of our president, George W. Bush.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

This is pretty funny

I suspect it's staged, but who knows? (Via Feministe)

The Onion captures the spirit of the times

Friday, January 18, 2008

Checked your bandwidth lately?

You can do so at speedtest.net.

Here are my results from home:


At work, both values are about 8000 kb/s.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New D&D Miniatures Battle Rules


The D&D Miniatures game, of which I am a big fan, has a new set of rules (based on the 4th edition D&D rules coming out in June). I haven't read them yet, but will do so at my first opportunity.

Image of Mercury

From Bad Astronomy blog, an image of Mercury by the Messenger spacecraft on a recent flyby. This image reveals parts of Mercury that have never been seen close-up before: the Mariner 10 flyby in 1974 missed those parts of Mercury that were in shadow at the time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Term of the Day: Uncanny Valley

This figure is definitely in the uncanny valley. Photo from Wikipedia.

Something is in the uncanny valley if it is human enough to trigger our "that's a person" reaction, but missing enough human traits that it comes across as very creepy. From the Wikipedia entry:
The phenomenon can be explained by the notion that, if an entity is sufficiently non-humanlike, then the humanlike characteristics will tend to stand out and be noticed easily, generating empathy. On the other hand, if the entity is "almost human", then the non-human characteristics will be the ones that stand out, leading to a feeling of "strangeness" in the human viewer. In sum, a robot stuck inside the uncanny valley is no longer being judged by the standards of a robot doing a good job at pretending to be human; but is instead being judged by the standards of a human doing a terrible job at acting like a normal person.
Here's a graphical representation, again from the Wikipedia entry:

(Yes, Internal Monologue is increasingly influenced by what I'm exposed to at work. Computer games seek to avoid the uncanny valley for their characters, unless they're deliberately going there to produce a sense of unease.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Five dollar latte

From this fun series of "moneygami" (via Sullivan).

It's like some Greek Tragedy

You should always marry someone of a different racial background then yourself. That way, you are less likely to be the subject of a story like this one:

Marriage of twins separated at birth is annulled

Twins adopted by separate parents soon after birth later fell in love and married, unaware they were related, it emerged yesterday.

The couple, who have been granted anonymity, had their marriage annulled at a special High Court hearing, where judges ruled that the union had never been legally valid.

(HT: DailyKos) I hope nobody stabbed their eyes out. Poor couple. I think it's the duty of adoptive parents of children who might find themselves in this kind of situation to give the children enough information so that they can avoid this sort of thing. Given that there does seem to be something to the whole genetic sexual attraction thing (for people who are closely related but unaware of it), it seems only prudent.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Quinn the pirate!

Here's a picture of Quinn from our Disney cruise, on pirate night:

Photo and text by Red Taylor

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cool things you can do with a Wii remote

This guy, Johnny Chung Lee of Carnegie Mellon, has done some fascinating hacks using the infrared camera on the Wii remote.

Here's a video of him using it to turn your digital projector (or even just a regular computer screen) into an interactive touch surface:

And here he is showing how to use it to create a head-tracking device to enhance the 3-D experience:

Carter cuts loose


Kos linked to this Jimmy Carter editorial in The Onion:
Oh, what's that I hear? The weather's all screwy? You got a global warming problem? Boo-fucking-hoo! I was telling you morons to turn off your lights and unplug all your shit at night to conserve energy in 19-fuckin'-75, for chrissake. Gee, I wonder what woulda happened if we'd all switched to solar power like I fucking did back when we had a fucking chance to do something about it. Think we'd still be sucking Saudi Arabia's dick like a five-dollar whore? I sure as fuck didn't get no fancy Oscar for that little spiel, though, did I? No. But Al Gore, that cum-sucking pig, steals the shit from me and now he's the greatest thing since Jesus Christ made a fucking sandwich.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

How to solve a murder

Slacktivist linked to this famous scene in the first season of The Wire where McNulty and Bunk puzzle out a murder with the help of a special repetitive incantation:

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hi ho, hi ho...

...it's off to work I go!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Fox news anchor or porn star?

Sullivan has been commenting recently on the resemblance between FOX News' female anchors and porn stars. Via this post, we have this quiz, which shows pictures of glamorously made-up women and asks you to guess whether it's a FOX News anchor or a porn star.

I don't think the convergence has progressed too far, as I was able to get 9 out of 10 on the quiz (and no, that's not because I recognized anyone). Usually you can tell from the secondary characteristics of the photograph which is which.

And is it fair to single out FOX News in this way? As I look around our mass media, I see a lot of women looking like porn stars. There are several cooking show hostesses who do a pretty good porn star impressions. And of course I suspect the porn stars themselves are doing their best to look like glamorous women in the mass media. Who knows? Maybe porn stars are, for some deeply sick reason, attempting to look like FOX News anchors.

I don't even want to think about it.

Critical hits revamped in 4th edition D&D

From the "Design & Development" article on critical hits (you have to sign up for D&D Insider to see it):
To score a critical hit in 4th Edition D&D, do the following:

Roll 20.

Simple enough, right? Just one number to remember. And more importantly, just one roll.

Yes, the confirmation roll is gone.

[...]

Here's the part that's going to take some getting used to: Critical hits don't deal double damage.

[...]

Instead, when you roll a critical hit, all the dice are maximized. So your 1d10+4 power deals 14 damage and the monster's 3d6+4 deals 22. Generally speaking, randomness is more of an advantage to monsters than PCs. More predictable critical damage keeps monsters from insta-killing your character.

Having maximized dice also helps out when you have multitarget attacks. You'll roll an attack roll against each target, so maximized dice keep you from needing to roll a bunch of dice over and over -- you can just write your crit damage on your character sheet for quick reference.


Sounds good to me. Every die roll that can be eliminated saves a lot of time. I wouldn't mind eliminating damage rolls altogether, like in D&D Miniatures.

Democrats have far higher turnout in Iowa than Republicans

Devilstower on DailyKos:

Last night, the Republicans produced around 115,000 voters -- an impressive 30% increase.

But the Democrats turned out 236,000. That's an increase of roughly one whole helluva lot.

And it's a huge indicator of both how energized Democrats are this year, and how ready independents are to put their chips on the D line.

I don't know where Devilstower got turnout numbers, but this NYT story gives a similar number of 239,000 for the Democratic turnout.

I'm back

Wow. That was the longest hiatus in Internal Monologue's history (I think). So much to catch up on. And work on Monday.

Iowa caucus reaction: I'm happy with Obama's victory. I hope people start taking him very seriously. Here's Too Sense via Sullivan:
All the Obama volunteers told me how hard it was, even in Harlem, to convince folks that an Obama presidency was possible. Not just because Harlem now lies in the shadow of the Clinton building, but because people in Harlem's barbershops, restaurants and schools didn't think a black man could win. The very circumstances of our own lives pushes the possibility past the realm of belief.

But Harlem believed last night. We all believed last night.
Iowa is about as white a state as there is. For Obama to win there (and by a respectable margin against strong opponents) really blows open some doors of possibility within the mind. I just want to see that he can deal with the national Republican party.

I think Huckabee's victory is a great poke in the eye to the Republican establishment: for years they have taken grass-roots Evangelicals for granted, but not really let their issues and concerns take center stage. (Yes, George W. Bush is a born-again Christian, but he was born into the Republican power structure and generally goes along with its dictates.) Now with Huckabee, the foot soldiers have decided they're not taking orders from Republican machine. This is a good thing.

On the other hand, Huckabee's Christianism really scares me, and his advocacy of replacing the federal income tax with a national sales tax seems potentially very regressive. On a third hand (politics is a multi-limbed creature), I think Huckabee would have a very hard time winning a general election, so maybe I should be happy about his rise. But then I thought he'd have a hard time winning Iowa, so maybe I should be careful what I wish for.

I was wondering when the Republican religious right would find their guy. All the former front-runners (Giuliani, McCain, Romney) seemed to be fatally flawed when it came to appealing to this kind voter. Thompson never seemed to have the drive, money, or organization to do well. It took them until the last minute, but it seems like they settled on Huckabee. Maybe that wacky stuff with Chuck Norris actually worked. Yes, that's an actual Huckabee ad. Watching that ad again, I can't believe Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses. And what's that about putting the IRS out of business? If we switched over to a national sales tax, we'd have to employ massive numbers of IRS agents to implement the change.