Monday, March 31, 2008

Zimbabwe's Mugabe-imposed economic implosion, by the numbers (lowlights):


In 1987 inflation averaged 11.9 percent. It surged to an official record of 100,586 percent in January 2008, but economic experts say the real rate is much higher.


Average life expectancy dropped from 63 years in 1990 to 37.3 years in 2005, according to World Bank and U.N. figures.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

So, fun story from Grad School:

During my "Mechanics of Composite Materials" class yesterday, we were discussing quasi-isotropic laminates, when the professor accidentally bumped a button which rotated the image of the notes (projected on the wall) by 90 degrees. We then pointed this out to him. His response?
Oh. See? My lecture is not isotropic - it is dependent on orientation!
Engineers everywhere will find this amusing. The rest of you will merely carry on with your lives a bit mystified.

Hilarious! Over at The Bellows, commentary on why exactly the NY Times published this sentence:

In addition, house prices there have been stable compared with other areas, Ms. Sigalla said, adding, “We have lots of available land and fewer regulations, so we have a homebuilding boom sufficient to keep home prices at bay.”

Let’s diagram this sentence. First, circle the parts that are hilarious. Second, underline the portions that are nonsense. Third, draw a square around the parts that while true, should cause a real economist to explain that perhaps the party might not go on forever (see also: Phoenix). Fourth, draw squiggles indicating concern that this person is a part of the policy-making process. Finally, make stabbing motions at the paper, indicating that this piece of information, deemed important by Times editors, likely made the average reader substantially dumber.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


And for those of you who prefer your Easter in secularized confection form, I present the following.

First, if you really hate chocolate bunnies, you'll love this video (via Scalzi):

Second, I give you Peep Research!

Cool: First extra-solar organic molecule discovered.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

John C. Wright on not fearing Christians - it really is pricelessly hilarious and a bit poignant at the end. I highly recommend reading it (and the rest of his blog).

Easter without the Crucifixion? NOT OKAY.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Is it bad that while writing my term paper on Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, I feel the urge to insert an imaginary interlocutor whose only role is say, "Why yes Socra... er... sir, that is most certainly true," and am having a hard time resisting it?

Heh. At the Consumerist:

Mmmmm... bacon lollipops... ("The least kosher lollipop in the history of candy!")

Thursday, March 20, 2008

This video is pretty awesome.

Hat tip: Volokh

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

So, while my lovely fiancee and I were traveling for spring break last week, our travel plans were interfered with by that blizzard that hit the east coast. To make a long story short, we were flying Continental, missed our connection due to a delayed flight, and got stuck in Houston overnight, where we were able to crash with some friends and were rebooked to go out the next morning. Unfortunately, this meant we missed church, but such things happen.

The next day, I decided to check my email, since I'd been out of the loop for a while. I then discovered that some Continental Airlines email-bot had decided to be helpful and email me my updated travel itinerary. This was good. But it emailed it to me 278 times. This was bad.

Note to Continental: you may want to check on this inbox-clogging robot. Please dial back its enthusiasm. That was annoying.

Usually I find Penny Arcade mediocre at best, but this is absolutely brilliant.

Over at Marginal Revolution, there are two things worth drawing attention to.

First, this:
Over here in the Netherlands, court proceedings are starting this week on the "biggest speculation fraud ever in the Netherlands", according to a national newspaper that ran a big story about it today. Investors have lost tens of millions of euros in what turned out to be a big pyramid scheme.

Now for the ultimate irony. Any idea what these people were investing in? Tulip bulbs. Really.
Yes, it's funny. Really.

Second, it would seem that Adam Smith's old house is up for sale:

The house where Adam Smith lived for many years with his mother and which more recently was used as a home for troubled youth has been put up for sale by the Edinburgh Council for £700,000. Sir Alan Peacock says "It's a disgrace that the council has agreed to dispose of a building as significant as this. It should be saved for the nation."

I think it would be a disgrace if the house went to anyone but the highest bidder.

To which I can only respond: hear, hear!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Calling tech support sucks. But here's a helpful reminder: sometimes it's not the tech guy's fault the experience is frustrating. Sometimes it's the user:

A Canadian customer was calling to find out if there was a faster way to trigger menu commands than mousing up to the menus.

Agent: Certainly, sir. There are keyboard shortcuts for many of those commands. For example, suppose you want to trigger the Select All command…

Caller: Yes, I use that one all the time! How do I do it?

Agent: Well, you just press Control-A.

Caller (after a pause): Well, that's not working for me.

Agent: Do you have a text document open in front of you?

Caller: Yes, I sure do.

Agent: OK, now press Control-A.

Caller: I am, but nothing happens.

Agent: The text isn't highlighted?

Caller: No, there's no change at all.

Agent: That's odd. If you press Control-A, the whole document should be highlighted. Try it again. Press Control-A. Tell me exactly what's happening.

Caller (nearing his Canadian breaking point): Listen. I'm pressing Control, eh? And nothing's happening, eh?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Screw the Obama-as-Messiah meme. This is way better (and geekier): Obama as Kwisatz Haderach!

(That's a Dune reference for all you non-geeks.)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

"Ok, I'm going to clean it with some alcohol. This is going to sting like a bitch".
"How does a bitch sting?"
10 seconds later: "YAAARRRRGHHHHHH! Son of a bitch!"
"That's how".

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Added to my "chemicals I never want to be within five miles of" list: chlorine trifluoride. Check this out:

It is apparently about the most vigorous fluorinating agent known, and is much more difficult to handle than fluorine gas. That’s one of those statements you don’t get to hear very often, and it should be enough to make any sensible chemist turn around smartly and head down the hall in the other direction.

The compound also a stronger oxidizing agent than oxygen itself, which also puts it into rare territory. That means that it can potentially go on to “burn” things that you would normally consider already burnt to hell and gone, and a practical consequence of that is that it’ll start roaring reactions with things like bricks and asbestos tile....

There’s a report from the early 1950s (in this PDF) of a one-ton spill of the stuff. It burned its way through a foot of concrete floor and chewed up another meter of sand and gravel beneath, completing a day that I'm sure no one involved ever forgot. That process, I should add, would necessarily have been accompanied by copious amounts of horribly toxic and corrosive by-products: it’s bad enough when your reagent ignites wet sand, but the clouds of hot hydrofluoric acid are your special door prize if you’re foolhardy enough to hang around and watch the fireworks.

Those poor delivery boys...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Reading this sign, I really have to wonder: do they have a clue what it even means?