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Showing posts from 2009

Cool people don't look at explosions

This is what YouTube videos do best: point out a ridiculous cliche that you've seen a zillion times, but haven't recognized as a cliche until seeing the video:

Damn: Lieberman kills Public Option

Those progressives (like me) who warned the Democrats about Lieberman at least have the consolation of saying "I told you so". Small comfort for the loss of the public option from the Senate health care reform bill. And we're not even getting some kind of substitute. The scuttlebutt is that Rahm told Reid to cave to Lieberman (who will probably find something else to object to between now and when the final bill comes up for cloture.)

It could get put back in during the conference committee, but I assume Lieberman will raise the same stink he's raising now.

Fixing our political institutions is very important. And the Senate is one in most desperate need of reform. I understand that most of the country is more right-wing than me. That's fine. But it's not fine that the Senate gives disproportionate power to one side of the political spectrum.

We're already cyborgs!

I fully agree with Scott Adams:
Technically, you're already a cyborg. If you keep your cell phone with you most of the time, especially if the earpiece is in place, I think we can call that arrangement an exobrain. Don't protest that your cellphone isn't part of your body just because you can leave it in your other pants. If a cyborg can remove its digital eye and leave it on a shelf as a surveillance device, and I think we all agree that it can, then your cellphone qualifies as part of your body. In fact, one of the benefits of being a cyborg is that you can remove and upgrade parts easily. So don't give me that "It's not attached to me" argument. You're already a cyborg. Deal with it.So, should I upgrade my current original iPhone component to an iPhone 3GS or a Motorola/Google Droid? I'm leaning towards a Droid right now, but could go either way.

By the way, why do the Droid advertisements evoke HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey? [spoiler warni…

Obama and Afghanistan

Someone somewhere said something like, "Afghanistan isn't so much the graveyard of empires, it's more like a place that empires eventually realize isn't very important." (Google reveals it was Matt Yglesias.) I am pessimistic about this 30,000 troop escalation. Can't say I didn't see it coming: Obama campaigned on increasing our presence in Afghanistan. Seems stupid (what interests do we have there? Couldn't terrorists just go somewhere else? Weren't the 9/11 folks radicalized in Europe?) and immoral (How many people have to die for this?) to me. Internal Monologue is going on record saying this proposed increase is a bad idea.

I should probably outline my argument more extensively and clearly. But I just wanted to put another anti-escalation message out there.

Uncany Valley explored

Remember the uncanny valley? Monkey's have it too:
New findings published in PNAS this September are putting some long-overdue experimental rigor behind the uncanny valley. Last spring at Princeton’s Neuroscience Institute, Asif Ghazanfar developed a computer model of a macaque monkey designed to interact with real macaques. But the monkeys weren’t fooled. Further testing revealed that, much to Ghazanfar’s surprise, his model was eliciting an uncanny valley response from the monkeys. It was the first time scientists had ever observed such a response in a non-human species.The article is a pretty good history of the notion of the uncanny valley and various explanations for it. I didn't know Freud wrote about the uncanny, but it's not surprising.

Texas constitution forbids all marriage, or anything like it

"This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

-The Texas Constitution

Oops. In an effort to prohibit gay marriage or domestic partnerships, it appears as though Texans have abolished marriage. I don't know why people are just discovering this now, since it happened a while ago. But it is pretty funny.

Term of the Day: "The Wingularity"

Wingularity, the: the point at which the insanity from the far right and those controlling the Republican Party [continues] to grow exponentially until it reaches an unsustainable weight and collapses upon itself. This is also known as the Purity Spiral, wherein the density of wingnut increases compared to mainstream conservatives to the point of pure wingnut. As the ratio rises, this creates a phenomenon wherein no logic or sanity can penetrate or escape. When rightwing argument has become completely inaccessible to the uninitiated, it has reached the Wingularity.

Empire blobs!

A visual representation of 4 colonial empires (British, French, Spanish, Portuguese) from 1800-2010. (HT: Pablo via email.)
Visualizing empires decline from Pedro M Cruz on Vimeo.

Abortions for me, but not for thee

Atrios:ShockedHey, Politico finds a nut.

The Republican National Committee's health insurance plan covers elective abortion – a procedure the party's own platform calls "a fundamental assault on innocent human life."

Federal Election Commission Records show the RNC purchases its insurance from Cigna. Two sales agents for the company said that the RNC's policy covers elective abortion.

The Stupak amendment: As much about class as about choice

So sad. Using poor women who get pregnant as a political punching bag. So much work to do.

The Stupak amendment: As much about class as about choiceRep. Bart Stupak's amendment did not make abortion illegal. And it did not block the federal government from subsidizing abortion. All it did was block it from subsidizing abortion for poorer women.

Stupak's amendment stated that the public option cannot provide abortion coverage, and that no insurer participating on the exchange can provide abortion coverage to anyone receiving subsidies. But as Rep. Jim Cooper points out in the interview below, the biggest federal subsidy for private insurance coverage is untouched by Stupak's amendment. It's the $250 billion the government spends each year making employer-sponsored health-care insurance tax-free.

That money, however, subsidizes the insurance of 157 million Americans, many of them quite affluent. Imagine if Stupak had attempted to expand his amendment to their coverage. It …

I'm represented in congress by an atheist Unitarian!

I didn't realize this, but now that I live in Alameda, my congressperson is Pete Stark (D-CA 13). Rep. Stark is the proud recipient of Internal Monologue's Atheist of the Day award back in May 2007, and is a fellow Unitarian. (Apparently, my wife mentioned this to me a while back, but I forgot.)

Jon Stewart parodies Glenn Beck

This is frickin' hilarious. A cut above the usual high standards for a Daily Show/Colbert Report clip, and a tour-de-force performance by Jon Stewart:

Zac leaps to the defense of Dungeons & Dragons yet again

I regard it as one of my moral duties to respond whenever I see players of Dungeons & Dragons used as some sort of rhetorical shorthand for immaturity or social ineptitude. In this thread on Rod Dreher's blog, he asks "Why are there no old Randians?" A commenter responds:
For the same reason there are no old Dungeons and Dragons players - eventually they find someone to date and what with the new experience of intimate human contact and socialization, their previous hobby sort of falls by the wayside.Except, as Sharon noted above, when two hobbyists hook up and reinforce each other.To which I responded:I must, once again, correct some notions about the players of Dungeons & Dragons. I'm 35, married, have a 3-year-old son, and I play D&D regularly. Most of the people I play with are in similar situations. While many people did stop playing Dungeons & Dragons after its fadish burst of mainstream popularity in the mid-1980's, I think D&D's re…

Right wingers throw NY-23 to the Democrats

The right wing managed to chase the Republican nominee out of the race, thus throwing a usually reliable Republican seat to the Democrats. Let us hope they do this a lot in 2010. The Republican civil war continues. They did pick up governorships in New Jersey and Virginia, and the Maine gay marriage vote looks like it may go the wrong way. Washington state kept its civil unions by a very narrow margin.

What does this mean for 2010 and2012? Pretty much nuthin'.

Lieberman threatens to filibuster health care

Senator Lieberman (Lieberman for CT-CT) says he'll join the Republican filibuster of Senate health care bill if it includes a public option:
"I told Senator Reid that I'm strongly inclined--i haven't totally decided, but I'm strongly inclined--to vote to proceed to the health care debate, even though I don't support the bill that he's bringing together because it's important that we start the debate on health care reform because I want to vote for health care reform this year. But I also told him that if the bill remains what it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage. Therefore I will try to stop the passage of the bill."There are two procedural issues at play here. Most people think of a filibuster as a minority blocking passage of a bill that's already been debated ad nauseum on the Senate floor. That's the most standard filibuster. But on major legislation, it's become more common for the minority…

Bold Prediction: Republican party will split

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that before the 2014 mid-terms, the Republican party coalition will split, with the conservative wing going one way and the fundamentalist wing going another way. (Note that I'm using "conservative" in an Andrew Sullivan way rather than a Sarah Palin way.) This could happen in one of two ways: either the fundamentalist wing will solidify its control of the GOP, forcing the conservatives to set up their own party, take over a third party, or become Democrats (as many have already done). Or the fundamentalist wing will break off and take over the Conservative Party or form their own party. I sort of think the latter is more likely, as the right-wing movement thrives on its image as outsiders and insurgents (even when it simultaneously controls the government).

Why do I think this? Two things are prompting me. The first is the special election in New York's 23rd congressional district:
A three-way Congressional race in up…

Our new (to us) dining room table & chairs

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There are two more chairs and 3 leaves to the table, not pictured. I
love having a dining room table (and sitting at the head of it) a lot
more than I thought I would.

The unseen cost of plastic waste

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Photo by Chris Jordan

There's a huge region of the Pacific Ocean that's full of floating plastic garbage. Albatrosses pick up the plastic, thinking it's food, and feed it too their chicks. The chicks die. The plastic in these photos was apparently not moved. It's hideous to see. (Here's a video on the subject of all the plastic in the Ocean.)

Prototype of D&D 4th Edition on Microsoft Surface table

Obviously needs a lot of work and tweaking, but the potential is there (HT: Jak Koke on Facebook):

Surfacescapes Demo Walkthrough from Surfacescapes on Vimeo.

WWII veteran pleads for equality for his gay son

Yay! New marijuana policy from Obama administration

This is good. It looks like the new policy is "If they're in compliance with state law, don't go after them.":
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday. Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state laws.The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.Hat Tip: Adam Buchen on DailyKos.

If you get why this is funny...

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...then you get 10 geek points or 10 80's pop culture knowledge points (take your pick). From here. Hat tip: Mad Latinist via email.

Yes, they really are living in a different world

This tends to confirm my worst prejudices about Obama-haters:
A new focus-group of Republican base voters by the Democracy Corps (D), the consulting and polling outfit headed up by James Carville and Stan Greenberg, presents a picture of the GOP base as being motivated by a fundamentally different worldview than folks in the middle or on the Dem side -- and they see the country as being under a dire threat."They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a 'secret agenda' to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism," the analysis said." While these voters are disdainful of a Republican Party they view to have failed in its mission, they overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country's founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail."The analysis argues that Obama's unpopularity among conservative Republicans is both quantitatively …

There's a rep for that?

Best signs at gay equality march

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The sense of humor evident is awesome. Now Obama and congress need to act. It is past time.

Best Obama Nobel reaction quote so far

"Certainly from our standpoint, this gives us a sense of momentum — when the United States has accolades tossed its way, rather than shoes."

-PJ Crawley, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State.

Oh, snap!

Our cat is back!

Kitty has been found and is with us once again. Yay!

Christianist revisionist American history watch

This is almost unspoofable (Hat tip: Pablo via email). But someone did manage to do it (via Kos). I love how someone trying to depict the heritage of our country in a fundamentalist Christian light managed to include 4 Unitarians (John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Clara Barton, and Susan B. Anthony) as well as Thomas Paine in his portrait. The latter wrote, in Age of Reason:
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

How regressive is today's GOP?

Very. In response to a horrifying rape incident, Al Franken proposed an amendment to the 2010 defense appropriations bill that would deny funding to firms that try to prevent raped employees from bringing their cases to court. The amendment passed 68-30. Guess which party the 30 senators who voted against this were from? Yes, our friends the Republican party. Kos:
Of the 40 Republicans in the Senate, only 10 voted for the Franken amendment, including all four women in the Senate GOP. Of the six Republican males who voted for the amendment, all of them represented states outside the deep South -- Bennett (UT), Hatch (UT), Grassley (IA), LeMieux (FL), Lugar (IN), and Voinovich (OH). The other 30 men, including luminaries like David Vitter, John Ensign, and John McCain, didn't think the amendment warranted passage.This is interesting. According to Republicans, a fake pimp and ho, reported to the police, was apparently so beyond the pale that they've worked to strip ACORN of all fe…

Pissing off European Dairy farmers is a bad idea...

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Georges Gobet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
(brazenly ripped off by me without asking anyone's permission)

...unless you like your milk very fresh. Image stolen from the New York Times.

"Dust Storm" in St. Louis at Washington University

If you're in St. Louis this weekend, come see the show. It's me! It's free! (But I'm gettin' paid big bux (for the performing arts) whoopee!)

Saturday 8:00-9:30 p.m., Steinberg Auditorium, Danforth Campus, University of Washington.

Sunday 4pm, same place.

For more info on the show, see here.

Our cat is missing from our house on Broadway in Alameda, CA.

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Name: “Kitty” Missing from our house on Broadway in Alameda CA. Last seen Thursday September 10th near Broadway & Washington. Still missing as of 9/27/09.

If found, please email Zac at zdrake314[at]hotmail[dot]com. (Change [at] and [dot] to "@" and "." respectively.) You can also leave contact info on this post.

She is much missed and we would happily provide a $100 reward for her safe return.

Appearance: small female cat, stripped with orange markings, cute face, people friendly, not de-clawed. She’s not wearing the tag or collar shown in this picture.

Quinn's first day of new school

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He seems to be settling in nicely!

Don't shave off your eyebrows

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It's easier to recognize faces that lack eyes than those that lack eyebrows. I've always been a bit vain about my own prominent eyebrows, and found over-plucking & over-thinning rather creepy when I see it on other people. Maybe this study explains that reaction somewhat.

My rather awesome looking house

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If only it had a foundation. And a kitchen. And a furnace. And a
master bathroom sink. And...

Graphical Representation of Beethoven's 5th, 1st movement

This is an excellent music theory and composition lesson and general cool thing. It really highlights the structural repetitions and multiple uses of the same figure ("da-da-da-DUH!") in different voices and places:

Highbrow "tagging"

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Quinn and his second cousins at his great uncle Leo's 70th birthday

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Quinn, far right, with his second cousins. Photo by Stephanie Sakai-Cheng taken at the Metropolitan Club in San Francisco.

I live here now!

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I'm squinting into the sun in front of my house. We moved in on Friday.

Zac to do staged reading with Shailja Patel in Oakland September 12th 3pm

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Portrait of Shailja taken by Cato Lein at WALTIC in Stockholm 2008.

I have the great honor of doing a staged reading of excerpts from Bwagamoyo (The Father): Part II of Migritude. Here's the information from Shailja's calendar:
September 12th, Excerpts from Bwagamoyo, Oakland Staged reading of excerpts from Bwagamoyo: The Father - Part II of Migritude
Guest Actor: Zachary Drake [that's me!]
Followed by Q and A with the audience
Saturday September 12th
3pm - 5pm
Oakopolis Gallery
447 25th Street (between Broadway and Telegraph)
Oakland

View Larger Map
Phone: 510-663-6520 Email: oakopolis@gmail.com
$5 - $20 (sliding scale)For more info in the show itself, see here. The opening lines:
The most telling - and compelling - line of a man's body is that place where his neck joins his shoulder. From which the head extends, retracts, responds. It can be beautiful in its cleanness and purpose. Its strength and flexibility, its balance and alignment. It can…

Venn diagram of mythical creatures

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Not really all that useful, but fun:

Image from Flickr.

“There really is an app for almost anything, even when there shouldn’t be.”

Note: This is a parody, thank goodness. Alas, if it weren't for Apple's review process, I'm sure it wouldn't be.


Via Feministing.

Oh my God, some people go to IKEA for fun

In Beijing, some people go to IKEA just for fun. This is very disturbing to me. Things must be very bad in Beijing if people take refuge in that disorienting hellhole. I don't remember things being so bad when I was in Beijing 19 years ago. But then I was a pampered tourist. I can understand wanting to escape from the heat, humidity, press of people, and gaudiness though.

I think my shock that anyone would spend leisure time there says something about how privileged I am.

Private industry offers low co-pay for essential services! Thank God those things aren't run by the government!

Now we can enjoy the benefits of the destruction of socialism!
We Defeated Socialism! INSUROCORP! - watch more funny videos

256 kinds of awesome: a LEGO-animation tribute to 8-bit video games

Oh yeah, here's "8-bit trip":

Robot Chicken Star Wars: Episode II

Watch Robot.Chicken - Star Wars Episode II in Comedy | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

This is another video of the sort that had us cracking up at GenCon. Episode I is here.

Quote of the Day

"The real world is something for people who can't face science fiction."
-André Müller via Mad Latinist on Facebook.

Putting the "cul" in "Dracula" [NOT SAFE FOR WORK]

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This had us laughing hysterically at GenCon. What that says about us, I'm not sure. Definitely not safe for work or for those with any taste or decency. This blog has subsequent episodes, which aren't as good in my opinion. (HT: Mad Latinist.)

When the Robotrons can do your work, is socialism the only answer?

An interesting editorial about the problem of superfluous people. You may be secure now, but at some point some computer program or robot will probably be able to do your job at a fraction of the cost of maintaining your current lifestyle. Our economic system will need to adjust to this. It seems to me that if machines can do your job, that should be a good thing rather than a bad thing. You should be able to pursue other interests. But that's not how our system works.

Humans have dormant gene that produces HIV resistance

Fascinating:
The ability to reawaken retrocyclin genes from their 7 million years of slumber using aminoglycosides could provide a novel way to secure enhanced resistance to HIV-1 infection.Via Jak Koke on Facebook.

Update: a more readable article on the same subject.

Awesome beyond all description: a Brazilian PSA for peeing in the shower to save water

I think this is the greatest thing ever. And I don't even understand the Portuguese:

Zac devolved!

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Zac as a Homo erectus

Watch me morph back into various pre-modern hominids! I think I look best as a Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis.

You can do yourself too.

Kenyan Birth Certificate Generator

One of the better satirical responses to the "birther" lunacy: the Kenyan Birth Certificate Generator.

Lego 80's arcade

LEGOs and classic 80's arcade games. What could be better?

A short documentary on Dungeons & Dragons featuring Zac

Some students at Ex'pression College put together this 5 minute documentary on Dungeons & Dragons which features some footage of me and my gaming group. I don't like how my hair looks, but other than that I think it's pretty good.

A stroll through Sun City, Roseville CA

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Visiting Sarah's parents for a couple days.

Robotron 2084 watch: Make that Robotron 2047

From the "What could possibly go wrong with this?" department:
Leave it to the military to dream big. In its recently released "Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047" report, the US Air Force details a drone that could fly over a target and then make the decision whether or not to launch an attack, all without human intervention. The Air Force says that increasingly, humans will monitor situations, rather than be deciders or participants, and that "advances in AI will enable systems to make combat decisions and act within legal and policy constraints without necessarily requiring human input." Programming of the drone will be based on "human intent," with real actual humans monitoring the execution, while retaining the authority and ability to override the system. It's all still extremely vague, with literally no details on exactly how this drone will come into existence, but we do know this: the Air Force plans to have these dudes …

Quote of the Day

"I am not persuaded that deep inward tranquility is an automatic result of being sprayed in sequence with oils from Sacred Chaco Canyon and Tibet, and I don't know that the strand of rose quartz beads she draped like a rosary over my eyes was really connecting me with my chakras; nor do I believe that the interpretive Sanskrit chants with which the room was filled were inscribing antidepressant virtues into my meridians. All that being said, four days of gentle handling by beautiful women in an opulent resort did a great deal for me, and I left high on peace."

-Andrew Solomon, from his book about depression The Noonday Demon

I'm not the only one worried about the Robotrons

People are concerned enough about Robotron 2084 scenarios that a bunch of them recently got together in Monterey Bay to discuss the dangers posed by artificial intelligence and autonomous robots:
Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone. Their concern is that further advances could create profound social disruptions and even have dangerous consequences. As examples, the scientists pointed to a number of technologies as diverse as experimental medical systems that interact with patients to simulate empathy, and computer worms and viruses that defy extermination and could thus be said to have reached a “cockroach” stage of machine intelligence.This is gonna be so cool. And possibly very dangerous. It is frighte…

And I thought I had trouble with women

Nothing is more reassuring to someone who was painfully shy and awkward around women for much of his life than hearing about a group of people who are even more painfully shy and awkward around women. Like, for example, people who have relationships with body pillows covered with eroticized anime images of little girls:
Nemutan doesn’t really have a leg. She’s a stuffed pillowcase — a 2-D depiction of a character, Nemu, from an X-rated version of a PC video game called Da Capo, printed on synthetic fabric. In the game, which is less a game than an interactive visual novel about a schoolyard romance, Nemu is the loudmouthed little sister of the main character, whom she calls nisan, or “big brother,” a nickname Nisan adopted as his own when he met Nemu. When I joined the couple for lunch at their favorite all-you-can-eat salad bar in the Tokyo suburb of Hachioji, he insisted on being called only by this new nickname, addressing his body-pillow girlfriend using the suffix “tan” to show ho…

100 movie quotes in 200 seconds

Here's a fun bit of fluff: 100 famous movie quotes in 200 seconds:

Now we can argue about which ones should be included/excluded. Personally, I wanted to hear the famous mis-quote "We don't need no stinkin' badges" and the Wilhelm scream.

Dude, this is SO COOL!

Chinese experts grow live mice from mouse skin cells:
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese researchers have managed to create powerful stem cells from mouse skin and used these to generate fertile live mouse pups.They used induced pluripotent skin cells, or iPS cells -- cells that have been reprogrammed to look and act like embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, taken from days-old embryos, have the power to morph into any cell type and, in mice, can be implanted into a mother's womb to create living mouse pups.Their experiment, published in Nature, means that it is theoretically possible to clone someone using ordinary connective tissue cells found on the person's skin, but the experts were quick to distance themselves from such controversy.
Via Mad Latinist on Facebook.

Ahmadinejad vs. Khamenei

There appears to be a rift among the Iranian hard-liners. Supreme Leader Khamenei doesn't like President Ahmadinejad's pick for vice-president. But Ahmadinejad won't back down. I don't know what's going on here. There are a lot of factions in Iranian politics and I don't know what the fault lines, interests, power relationships and alliances are. Maybe nobody knows right now, as things are possibly in a state of flux. I hope they can have some real reform of civil society.

Health Care reform: comprehensive, progressive, and soon please.

Just for the record, I urge all federal legislators to support a comprehensive health care. I think health care should be separated from employment, and I think there needs to be a strong public option. And most importantly, health care must be available to everyone in this country. Taxing the highest income Americans (who have done quite well for themselves recently) to pay for this is a very good idea. Make this happen.

Term of the day: Rickrolling

I'm embarrassed to say that I only recently learned what "Rickrolling" is (yeah, -20 geek points for me). "Rickrolling" is an Internet prank that's been going on for the past couple years. The prank involves posting a link which seems to be to something of great interest, but is in fact a link to the video for Rick Astley's 1987 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up". It's quite a popular prank: that video in the previous link has over 23 million views as of this post.

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Another annoying aspect of Windows...

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xkcd rules.

Never fear! The alleged "flesh eating robot" is actually a vegetarian!

Via Mad Latinist from the comments on this post, here's Wired.com's Danger Room, posting what they call "the most incredible press release of all time":
POMPANO BEACH, Fla.– In response to rumors circulating the internet on sites such as FoxNews.com, FastCompany.com and CNET News about a “flesh eating” robot project, Cyclone Power Technologies Inc. (Pink Sheets:CYPW) and Robotic Technology Inc. (RTI) would like to set the record straight: This robot is strictly vegetarian.On July 7, Cyclone announced that it had completed the first stage of development for a beta biomass engine system used to power RTI’s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR™), a Phase II SBIR project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Defense Sciences Office. RTI’s EATR is an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling.RTI’s patent pend…

Getting better all the time

If you didn't know this, you should: violence per capita has been on a downward trend throughout human history, on both a macro and micro scale:
[...]if we consider the evidence, we find that the decline of violence is a fractal phenomenon: We can see the decline over millennia, centuries, decades, and years. When the archeologist Lawrence Keeley examined casualty rates among contemporary hunter-gatherers—which is the best picture we have of how people might have lived 10,000 years ago—he discovered that the likelihood that a man would die at the hands of another man ranged from a high of 60 percent in one tribe to 15 percent at the most peaceable end. In contrast, the chance that a European or American man would be killed by another man was less than one percent during the 20th century, a period of time that includes both world wars. If the death rate of tribal warfare had prevailed in the 20th century, there would have been two billion deaths rather than 100 million, horrible as …

Gross things in science: ant suturing

I know how we'll repair that intestinal perforation! We'll use severed ant heads:
An interesting procedure [described in the Sushruta Samhita, an Indian text from the sixth century BC] is the use of the heads of certain ants for the suturing of intestinal perforations:. . . large black ants should be applied even to the perforated intestines . . . and their bodies should be separated from their heads after they had firmly bitten the perforated parts with their claws [jaws]. After that the intestines with the head of the ants attached to them should be gently pushed back into the cavity and reinstated in their original situation therein.This procedure is also mentioned in the Caroka Samhita [probably third century BC]:And if there is a perforation of the intestines, the part should be made to be bitten by big black ants and seeing that the perforation is welll closed by the firm bites taken by the ants, their bodies must be cut off. Then putting the intestines back in their plac…

Our new bathroom floor

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This is the bathroom off the master bedroom.

What could possibly go wrong with an armed robot that can feast on human flesh?

Don't worry, EATR is being funded by the Department of Defense, so it will be perfectly safe, of course:
The purpose of the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR)™ (patent pending) project is to develop and demonstrate an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling, which would otherwise preclude the ability of the robot to perform such missions. The system obtains its energy by foraging – engaging in biologically-inspired, organism-like, energy-harvesting behavior which is the equivalent of eating. It can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable.Hat Tip: Grishnash via email.

Fox Newshelpfully explains:
That "biomass" and "other organically-based energy …

Computer Game Producer in Bay Area seeking work

I'm on the prowl for work. If you or someone you know has use for an experienced computer game producer (either full or part time) in the Bay Area, please let me know.

Depressing

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/safety-net-by-digby-in-case-you-were.htmlThat link goes to a post discussing who gets paid with cash and who
gets an IOU from California. Those with the least power get the shaft.
Our state is dysfunctional. Constitutional convention please.[I sent this from my iPhone, so please excuse any excessive brevity or
typographical errors.]
--Zachary Drake

Gay marriage argument chart

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This is pretty good:
HT: Mad Latinist

Iran's government: "We'll quell them with hobbits!"

The Lord of the Rings movie adaptations are pretty good (I could discourse at length about their flaws, of course), but somehow I don't think the Iranians will accept this in lieu of the changes they're demanding:
In Tehran, state television's Channel Two is putting on a "Lord of the Rings" marathon, part of a bigger push to keep us busy. Movie mad and immunized from international copyright laws, Iranians are normally treated to one or two Hollywood or European movie nights a week. Now it's two or three films a day. The message is "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Let's watch, forget about what's happened, never mind. Stop dwelling in the past. Look ahead.Frodo: "I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish that none of this had happened."Gandalf: "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."The author of this piece wonders:
Who pic…

Kudos to Mark Sanford...

...for not making his wife stand next to him when he delivered his mea culpa.

I could use a week-long solo vacation to Argentina, too...

Update: Sanford confesses to an affair. Sullivan:
Dog Bites ManAnother far-right Republican confesses to an extra-marital affair. Not the most effective way to keep it under wraps: disappearing for days with no notice. But it's important to remember at these moments that we're all human. I just wish the GOP leadership would apply that lesson to everyone else. [end update]

...But I'd at least tell my wife and co-workers where I went. Apparently, Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina, decided that was unnecessary:
We didn't know the Appalachian Trail went all the way down to Buenos Aires!AWOL South Carolina guv Mark Sanford resurfaced at the Atlanta airport this morning, and toldThe State newspaper he hadn't been hiking the trail, as his staff said. Instead, he'd taken a jaunt down to Argentina...OK, there's gotta be a good story behind this: a Republican Governor disappears for a week, leaving his clueless staff to spout bullshit stories to the media. H…

Upside-down thinking

The Green Revolution in Iran is provoking some odd reactions among some of the neocon hawks. One would think a peaceful, popular uprising against a regime that the neocons have demonized would be a welcome development to them. But instead, we're getting a lot of stuff like this:
I had a conversation at lunch yesterday with a friend, a neocon Jewish American, that fascinated me. We were getting ready to get up from the table when he said, "Hey, wait a minute, do you want to talk politics for a minute?" We proceeded to discuss the events in Iran and at one point I brought up my amazement at the protesters' embrace of non-violence and their courage in the face of aggression. I said, "I wonder if this will be a lesson to the Palestinians. That perhaps if they renounce violence and embrace peaceful resistance they too could garner more international support for their cause, a la Gandhi." His reaction fascinated me. He got this very serious, dour look on his…

Internal Monologue supports a strong public health care option

I should be more active on this issue. There are all sorts of signs that
Democrats are caving. No. I want real health care reform. I think that
has to include an optional government administered plan.

Back to English

The right-aligned text and strange formatting was too weird. I'm shifting back to the English language setting. I'm still keeping the green and the Tehran location and time zone.

You want me to go back where? For what?

A former slave responds to his ex-master's request to come back and work for him:
Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the…

Violent muppets sell coffee in the late 50's

This is pretty stupid, but funny:



Yes, those are real muppets by Jim Henson.

Dangers of Pornography

xkcd warns us of one of the dangers of internet porn.

The Persian Version of Internal Monologue

Internal Monologue is temporarily publishing as a Persian blog with a Tehran timezone.
This is going to make the formatting and timestamps pretty weird for a bit.
Why am I doing this?
See this article in Wired.

Going Green for Iran

Following Sullivan and Instapundit, I've changed Internal Monologue's background color to a shade of green as a show of support to the Iranian protesters. This is until I figure out something more constructive to do.

And yes, I am aware that the US has a horrible history of meddling for the worse in other countries' affairs, particularly in Iran in the 50's with the Shah. And I'm aware that the Iranian opposition is not a bunch of sinless Persian Unitarian Universalists ready to make nice with every single US policy aim. They have their own set of vested interests. They'll be messy and difficult and maybe even awful and catastrophic. But they would be more legitimate than the current rulers, who have exposed themselves as contemptuous thugs. There's a lot of cynicism out there in the blogosphere about what's going on in Iran. But it seems to me that if that hardline theocracy were to fall, it would have to be because of a movement like the one happening …

Iranian upheaval

I wish there were something the United States could do. But I'm afraid any statements or actions of support by the United States will be used by the oppressive government to justify oppression in the name of keeping "foreign meddlers" out of Iranian politics. We really shouldn't have helped that coup in 1953. Anyway, if I figure out some decent way to help I'll let Internal Monologue readers know. Sullivan's blog continues to offer extensive coverage.

Update: Digby's blog mentions wearing green tomorrow as a show of support for the protesters.

Potential revolution in Iran

Sullivan's blog is covering it. I hope the Iranian people can choose
the government they want.[I sent this from my iPhone, so please excuse any excessive brevity or
typographical errors.]
--Zachary Drake

Facebook user ID

I'm zdrake314, just like my email addresses.
http://www.facebook.com/zdrake314 takes you to my Facebook page.

First Tiller, now this

More right-wing domestic terrorism, this time at the Holocaust Museum. I hope this stops. But unless someone reaches out to these folks and calms them down, I don't see that happening. I'm starting to get scared, though there are so many other things that are more likely to hurt me.

New media & old media

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From Ben Joseph via Sullivan.

My scores on the big 5

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(This and other quizzes here.) Hmm, interesting. My scores in green, average in purple.

Openness to experience: not too surprised here, as this dimension is all about thinking of cool new things andbeing curious about different ways of looking at things. Not surprising that I almost maxed
Conscientiousness: not surprised that I'm higher than average here. I've always been a good student, concerned about getting things right, etc.Extraversion: thought I'd score lower on this. I've always thought of myself as pretty introverted. Maybe all the Facebook chatter is making me more of a people person.
Agreeableness: I would have thought I was nicer than the average person, but I guess I'm not. Maybe there are times when I can't be bothered. Neuroticism: Ouch. I used to think of myself as cool under pressure and emotionally stable, but recent life events have kind of upended that. I do worry, I'm anxious about things, and I've always been sensitive and cried easil…

Moral foundations of liberals and conservatives

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On Yourmorals.org, (registration required) you can take a bunch of quizzes about your personality and how you think about morality. The first tests involve assessing how important harm, fairness, loyalty, authority, and purity are to your moral decision-making. The above graph shows my results in green along with average liberal results (blue) and conservative results (red).

So, I'm slightly less concerned with harm than the average liberal. I'm actually closer to conservatives than to liberals in my opinions about fairness: I think fairness is more important than conservatives do, but only by a little bit. On authority I'm pretty much an average liberal. And I'm less concerned with loyalty and purity than everybody. Overall, I'm not too surprised.

(HT: Mad Latinist via email)

Side note: From the numbers at the top of the graph, it appears that liberals are much more interested in taking Web-based quizzes about their morality than conservatives are. Or it could be tha…

Women dominating higher education

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Wow, I didn't realize the numbers were so dramatic:
Of the more than 3 million college degrees for the Class of 2009, women will earn close to 60% of those degrees (1,849,200), or almost 149 degrees for every 100 degrees earned by men.
And it's now official: Women dominate men at every level of higher education, in terms of degrees conferred.This has dramatic implications for the distribution of power in our society. 30 years from now, things like legislatures and corporate board rooms and the upper echelons of academia are going to look very different than they do today. I fear backlash.