Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the automobile now infamous for its fragility and unreliability, whose very name strikes fear into the hearts of mechanics everywhere, the car compared to which all others are performance vehicles. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Yugo:
Yugo introduced its unreliable, underpowered, hopelessly antiquated GV hatchback in 1986 to worldwide jeering and derision, a level of scorn that only grew as people became more familiar with the intrinsic problems with an ancient Fiat design assembled with the meticulous disregard and thorough apathy of Yugoslavia's Zastava auto group.

The GV's carbureted, 61-horsepower four-cylinder engine, its antediluvian suspension design, and four-speed manual transmission were part of the problem. The remainder of the car constituted the rest of the problem.


My uncle has a classic line--he says that the Yugo's optional rear-window defroster is useful mostly to keep your hands warm when you're pushing it.
Worst. Car. Ever.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day?

BRILLIANT! Suggestions for "Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day," which was apparently Dec. 8th:
  • Walk up to random people and say "WHAT YEAR IS THIS?" and when they tell you, get quiet and then say "Then there's still time!" and run off.
  • Discover and become obsessed with one trivial aspect of technology, like automatic grocery doors. Stay there for hours playing with it.
  • Be generally terrified of people who are dressed immodestly compared to your era. Tattoos and shorts on women are especially scary.
  • Greet people by referring to things that don't yet exist or haven't existed for a long time. Example: "Have you penetrated the atmosphere lately?" "What spectrum will today's broadcast be in?" and "Your king must be a kindly soul!"
And the 100% awesome cliche one:
  • Stand in front of a statue (any statue, really), fall to your knees, and yell "NOOOOOOOOO!!!"
As I said, brilliant.

In honor of the Christmas Season, I give you "The Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time," which are all (of course) fictitious. My favorite parody? Ayn Rand's A Selfish Christmas, because it takes her artistic/rhetorical flaws to the absolute extreme:

In this hour-long radio drama, Santa struggles with the increasing demands of providing gifts for millions of spoiled, ungrateful brats across the world, until a single elf, in the engineering department of his workshop, convinces Santa to go on strike. The special ends with the entropic collapse of the civilization of takers and the spectacle of children trudging across the bitterly cold, dark tundra to offer Santa cash for his services, acknowledging at last that his genius makes the gifts -- and therefore Christmas -- possible. Prior to broadcast, Mutual Broadcast System executives raised objections to the radio play, noting that 56 minutes of the hour-long broadcast went to a philosophical manifesto by the elf and of the four remaining minutes, three went to a love scene between Santa and the cold, practical Mrs. Claus that was rendered into radio through the use of grunts and the shattering of several dozen whiskey tumblers. In later letters, Rand sneeringly described these executives as "anti-life."
I seriously laughed for five minutes... The Star Trek one got me pretty good, too.

Phil, this one's for you:


Thursday, December 06, 2007

While I was looking over at Volokh, I ran across a link to a WSJ article (not linking; subscription required) about scientific literacy and the presidency. The article focuses on the central claim that because "[a]lmost all of the major challenges we will face as a nation in this new century, from the environment, national security and economic competitiveness to energy strategies, have a scientific or technological basis" it is imperative that the next president be scientifically literate. While I'd like to see a more scientifically literate President, it's really not that high on my list of priorities. I'd settle for making sure that they can tell when something is scientifically nonsensical.

One thing I do find troubling about this article is that to illustrate the problem, it points out that "Republican debates underscored this problem. In May, when candidates were asked if they believed in the theory of evolution, three candidates said no." They picked one of the most politically/religiously charged issues of all time with which to illustrate scientific illiteracy. If that's the standard by which we are going to judge it, count me out. I know multiple science Ph.D.s who are creationists. Am I seriously intended to believe that they are scientifically illiterate?

It is possible for people of good will and excellent scientific understanding to disagree with evolution for reasons entirely unrelated to being unable to grasp the science. Heck, one could argue that God set the universe up to look like evolution was true in order to prevent there from being irrefutable proof of His existence, thus preserving a sphere in which faith can operate. One could argue that macro-scale evolution has serious falsifiability issues on anything shy of several thousand year experimental timescales. One could argue that the theory is tautological (a position Karl Popper, noted philosopher of science, held). These are all positions that are possible for reasonable people with decent scientific understanding to hold. Accusing them of scientific illiteracy is not only doing them a disservice, but making yourself look silly. Any of the above positions could be wrong, but they are not inherently stupid.

Kingsley Browne is guest-blogging over at The Volokh Conspiracy about issues related to sexually integrating the military (link is to the first post, which has links to the others at the bottom). Check it out - it's fascinating.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Consider My Mind Boggled

Found via