Friday, February 29, 2008

I recently discovered the STATS blog, which is devoted basically to taking news stories based on studies, and checking the methodology of said studies. Their current project is heaping well-deserved scorn on a three-part CBS series on "exploding pyrex" (due to thermal shock):
Chicago’s CBS affiliate has discovered the laws of physics, and the shocking news is that…um… glass can break....

In a segment blowing gale-force spin, CBS 2 tries to make out that a supposed spate of ‘exploding’ Pyrex dishes means that…um, glass bakeware isn’t safe....

Based on emergency room data for 2005, you had a 1 in 3,706, 338 chance in the United States of sustaining a non-fatal injury from glass bakeware that didn’t shatter from mechanical breakage (i.e., being dropped).... For 2006 all calculation is moot: there were no injuries recorded by emergency rooms participating in the CPSC database, so the risk, as best we know, was zero. All of which means, compared to other kitchen equipment, glass bakeware is pretty darn safe. Take blenders for example, based on 2006 data, you have 1 in 95,152 risk for a non-fatal injury. And they have moving blades.

But if glass bakeware is going to be a benchmark for risk... people should stay out of the kitchen altogether. And, in fact, to be super-duper safe, people should probably avoid watching local TV news too... because vastly more people injure themselves from television sets in the U.S. each year than from glass bakeware or blenders – in fact, based on 2006 data, you had a 1 in 5,613 chance of incurring a non-fatal injury from lifting, moving, and, believe it or not, watching TV.
Note to CBS: if there's no story there, you should just drop it, rather than trying to get something out of your "investigation" by hyping almost-nonexistent dangers.


From Derek Lowe's blog:

The actual mechanism of the placebo effect is a field of great interest and potentially great importance.

That's right: someday soon scientists may be working to develop a pill that can mimic the placebo effect.

Personally, I find this immensely cheering. I think I love this universe the most when it's operating at maximum ridiculousness.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Over at Crummy Church Signs, I find a message that really has no business being on a church sign:
Want a perfect life? Make right choices.
Where do I even begin unpacking how unchristian this is? If we could make right choices and live a perfect life, what need have we of a Savior? Morons...

Another reason I dislike California (politically):
The California labor board has ruled, in its infinite wisdom, that my company is responsible* for the unemployment insurance payments to an employee who got hurt when he wrecked his motorcycle on his own time and was physically unable to work. So an employee gets hurt in his off time and leaves us in the lurch when he can't work during our busiest season, and we owe him money for staying home?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I may not like McCain, but there's only one way to describe this:
McCain mocked Democrat Barack Obama today for saying he'd take action as president "if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq."

McCain told a crowd in Tyler, Texas "I have some news. Al-Qaida is in Iraq. It's called 'al-Qaida in Iraq.'"

File Under: Things that would interest my college roommates.

I stumbled across this over at Got Medieval, and thought of y'all:
I came across this small aside in a post from Quod She:*
And last night one of my students e-mailed me just to say -- I kid you not -- that he realized that the American rural regionalism "of a night," as in "when I lie awake of a night," is a hold-over of the genitive of time from Old English and early Middle English.
This is why the world needs linguists: they remind us of where we come from.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I just discovered another reason to love the fiction of John C. Wright. I'm reading some of his fantasy, which is truly excellent. This man has a mind like flypaper - every myth he's ever heard must have stuck there - and so his fantasy is so full of references and allusions that nobody but him can fully unpack them. Anyway, new reason to love his work: he's made The Shadow into an honest-to-God character in The Mists of Everness. Similarities? He's described as "a black shadow... [with a] long, black cape, black hat, face hidden in scarf. But... his eyes stab through things like knives." He first appears bearing a colt .45 automatic, doing detective work. And yes, the character too has the "ability to cloud men's minds," in a way.

All I have to say is: his writing is made of awesome - read it.

(Okay, really the character is jst copying The Shadow. But we don't find that out until later - and it's still awesome).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Megan McArdle puts her finger on exactly my issue with McCain (aside from the abomination that is McCain-Feingold):
His record bespeaks little respect for spontaneous order and individual freedom. What free-market instincts he evinces seem to have come as part of the conservative ideas combo-pack he bought because it was cheaper than buying the parts individually--all he really wanted was the national greatness and the moderately conservative social structure.
So true!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Heh, geek humor:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Scalzi continues to excel at LOLcats:

Also, he has a pretty great auction going on right now. If only it weren't so clearly out of my financial league...

Here's my kind of "Yes We Can" video:

File under: Reasons I Love Capitalism.

Bob Lutz, big GM honcho, says global warming "is a total crock of sh*t."

But, "GM has promised to roll out one new hybrid every three months for the next four years," as well as the highly touted Chevy Volt.

Why the disconnect? Varifrank says it pretty well:
He doesnt care why you want zero emission cars, he just wants you to buy them from him. He's not making cars for you and your sense of well being. He's making them so the shareholders of General Motors can make a profit. If there's a profit in it, he would make cars that run on hamster pellets.
In a capitalist system, it generally doesn't matter why you want something, so long as you're willing to pay for it. The manufacturer doesn't need to agree with you, he just needs to accept your money.

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Heh: Parking - Leave it to the professionals

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A new source for all my sarcastic t-shirt needs:!

I'm a big fan of their argyle... er... Aaarrrgyle:

UPDATE: And Travis totally needs one of these:

I was working on the wording for the vows for my wedding today. Apparently "keep yourself for him, forsaking all others" is grammatically fine, but "keep yourself for her, forsaking all others" is not.

This leaves one with two choices:

1) Either Microsoft Word is quite incompetent when checking grammar
2) It carries a hidden misogynistic agenda

I report, you decide.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I certainly hope that this is an exaggeration:
A Smith College professor is being hailed for devising a national model for re-engineering an undergraduate engineering program for women... which emphasizes context, ethics, and communication as much as formulas and equations.
As an engineer, I can tell you that while ethics and communication are important (but context - what's that even mean?), the reason we focus engineering curricula on equations rather than the squishy subjects is that there are so many scientific principles and equations we need to know.

Communications will not prevent a maritime disaster if the person doing the communicating doesn't know that one needs to pay attention to the ductile-to-brittle transition temperature of the hull material, and ethics won't stop an underdesigned bridge from collapsing. I had to work my a** off in order to fit my interests in non-engineering subjects in around all of the material that's necessary to be a good engineer. If you remove the focus of engineering from, well, engineering, you're not going to produce engineers. You'll produce people with a passing familiarity with what engineering does and is, but who are unqualified to do it themselves. I don't want someone who thinks engineering is about "context, ethics, and communication" designing my brake system... do you?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jewelery. Anyone who gives these as valentine's gifts is far braver than I.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New building blocks, intended to teach the Chinese child English... or... Engrish. The First group's not too bad, if a little quirky:

This set here is a bit more bizarre:

But, of course, we saved the best(?) for last:


Monday, February 11, 2008

This just in from the Onion News Network:

Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

What was the line about great truths often being spoken in jest?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'm perfectly willing to admit that Barack Obama may make a good president (or at least as good a president as any Democrat can, in my opinion), however his campaign speeches seem to be largely about how transcendent Obama and his campaign are - and by extension, his supporters. There is something exceedingly unsettling at how little effort it takes to make him look like a messianic cult leader...

This website takes it to the extreme, presenting Obama in all his messianic wonder:
"... a light will shine through that window, a beam of light will come down upon you, you will experience an epiphany ... and you will suddenly realize that you must go to the polls and vote for Obama"
- Barack Obama in South Carolina. January 2008

"We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
- Barack Obama, Super Tuesday
I'm a little weirded out right now.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Scalzi has the scoop on a Tor SciFi e-book giveaway (and his excellent Old Man's War is up next week). There's a very minor catch (sign up for e-newsletter), but for free SciFi? I'll take it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Um... Say what?
[J]ust one corporation (Exxon Mobil) pays as much in taxes ($27 billion) annually as the entire bottom 50% of individual taxpayers, which is 65,000,000 people! Further, the tax rate for the bottom 50% is only 3% of adjusted gross income ($27.4 billion / $922 billion), and the tax rate for Exxon was 41% in 2006 ($67.4 billion in taxable income, $27.9 billion in taxes).
Wow. And we were afraid of their "windfall profits?"

On the subject of stupidity, you'll be delighted to note that the British are now officially as historically illiterate as we Americans are:

The survey found that 47 percent thought the 12th century English king Richard the Lionheart was a myth.

And 23 percent thought World War II prime minister Churchill was made up.


Meanwhile, 58 percent thought Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective Holmes actually existed...
I weep for the future of the world.

Their boys in blue - Danish police being really, hilariously idiotic:
Doughface: [audible gasp] 'If that computer's only two weeks old, how are you checking your e-mails from November?!' [Makes 'gotcha' face.]
Me: 'Wait. What?! These are on the internet. They aren't on my computer.'
Doughface: 'You just said it was two weeks old, but those e-mails say November!' [Gotcha Face intensifies to David Caruso Face]
Me: 'Internet!'
Doughface: 'If it's only two weeks old --'
Me: Internet.
Good thing none of our cops can be that stupid...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I agree with Travis and Brian - this was over the line. A Clown Eucharist at the Episcopal Church.

I realize that it's old news, but I feel compelled to comment. Sheesh... There’s a difference between embracing Christian folly and deliberately making an ass of yourself and your church. In my opinion, this event was clearly the latter. The Lord's Supper should be taken a wee bit more seriously than this.

This is quite possibly the funniest thing I've read in weeks - Joe Buck and Troy Aikman get into an argument over the 12-men-on-the-field rule while calling the Superbowl. And yes, they drag philosophers into it. Money quote:
BUCK: Troy, I just don’t see how you get there. I mean, that’s a complete misreading of aphorism 88—it’s like when Vinny Testaverde tried to argue that there was something fascist in the work of John Stuart Mill. Wittgenstein’s whole point is that we do not need that degree of exactness in order to play a game properly.

This one buried the needle on the irony-o-meter: the candlemakers really are asking for trade protections:
According to The Financial Times, our ever-watchful trade commissioner Peter Mandelson is in the forefront of this endeavour, and is expected to recommend within days the pursuing of a complaint from candlemakers that a surge in Chinese imports is unfairly damaging their businesses.

An investigation by his diligent officials could lead to punitive tariffs on Chinese candle producers...
For those of you to whom this is not obviously funny, I present to you the masterpiece of the satire of Frédéric Bastiat: a piece popularly known as the Candlemakers' Petition. This is the original "life imitates The Onion."

Monday, February 04, 2008

This is quite possibly the best display of Lego stop-motion animation I've ever seen. Okay, I haven't seen that much of it, but this is still pretty awesome.

I give it two thumbs up.

I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!
The subsidized insurance program at the heart of [Massachusetts'] healthcare initiative is expected to roughly double in size and expense over the next three years - an unexpected level of growth that could cost state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars or force the state to scale back its ambitions.
Anyone for whom this is a surprise needs to be beaten about the head with a clue stick.