Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Good old fashioned alternate history: check out the 1961 short story "If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg," (here or here) by Winston Churchill. [pause...] Yes, that, Winston Churchill.

(via Coyote)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mordor found in Ohio.

A roundup of interesting links:

1) A fascinating five-minute story of a family's brief trip to North Korea.

2) Amazon makes amusing recommendations to Scalzi.

3) Atari 2600 games + photoshop = amusement.

4) A New Yorker article on vengeance in tribal societies.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My sentiments exactly:

Highs today in the upper 70s.

Which is beautiful.

…but which is, however, just two or three degrees away from The Hellish Burning Time (known colloquially as “summer”).

I will never again be able to hear a Skittles ad telling me to "taste the rainbow" without thinking of this (link good today only):

Monday, April 21, 2008

Computer:Monitor, display this document, O.K.?
Monitor:No prob, boss.
Computer:O.K., now it looks like Mouse is moving around so, Monitor, will you move the pointer icon accordingly?
Monitor:Anything you ask, boss.
Computer:Great, great. O.K., Mouse, where are you going now?
Mouse:Over to the icon panel, sir.
Computer:Hmm, Let me know if he clicks anything, O.K.?
Mouse:Of course.
Keyboard:Sir, he’s pressed control and P simultaneously.
Monitor:Oh God, here we go.
Computer:(Sighs) Printer, are you there?
Computer:Please, Printer. I know you’re there.
Printer:NO! I’m not here! Leave me alone!
Computer:Jesus. O.K. look, you really ne…
Mouse:Sir, he’s clicked on the printer icon.
Computer:Printer, now you have to print it twice.
Printer:NO! NO! NO! I don’t want to! I hate you! I hate printing! I’m turning off!
Computer:Printer, you know you can’t turn yourself off. Just print the document twice and we’ll leave you alone.
Printer:NO! That’s what you always say! I hate you! I’m out of ink!
Computer:You’re not out of in…
Printer:I’M OUT OF INK!
Computer:(Sighs) Monitor, please show a low ink level alert.
Monitor:But sir, he has plen…
Computer:Just do it, damn it!
Monitor:Yes sir.
Keyboard:AHHH! He’s hitting me!
Computer:Stay calm, he’ll stop soon. Stay calm, old friend.
Keyboard:He’s pressing everything. I don’t know, he’s just pressing everything!
Computer:PRINTER! Are you happy now?! Do you see what you’ve done?!
Printer:HA! that’s what you get for trying to get me to do work. Next time he…hey…HEY! He’s trying to open me! HELP! HELP! Oh my god! He’s torn out my cartridge! HELP! Please, please help me!
Monitor:Sir, maybe we should help him?
Computer:No. He did this to himself.

Presented without comment. (Seriously, follow the link!)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Following up on this post, the culprit was the 6-month old water pump. It was still under warranty, so there was no monetary cost to us, just the pain of having only one car for the weekend and the loss of a couple hours of work on Friday.

To summarize: The customer service at Car Nation has been good, but I'm still a little grumpy about the fact that the car has been breaking down so often. It's dang inconvenient.

The GPS made me do it!
Piloting a coach through the Washington Arboretum -- as the GPS instructed him -- the driver ignored, or didn't see, or didn't believe (take your pick) the flashing lights and sign warning him that his 11-foot-high bus was too tall for the looming 9-foot concrete overpass.

You can see how the story ends. The overpass ended up with some superficial damage, the coach got a removable top, and the girls softball team inside received some minor injuries.

Bryan Caplan suggests a foreign aid plan I can get behind: "For the love of God, give every Haitian a green card."

The best way to help the world's poor is to encourage them to (and allow them to) abandon the poor countries that are failing them and move to richer ones.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, they quote Justice Scalia's concurring opinion in Baze v. Rees that nails my objection to much of modern (liberal) jurisprudence. My agreement is probably not surprising for any of you, but I thought I'd point it out all the same.

Unveiling Pizza Hut's idiotic ad campaign, over at The Speculist:


See there? It's a restaurant and they're serving Restaurant Quality pasta!

Pretty bold move. I hope it doesn't come back to bite them. Because from the pictures, it looks more to me like Church-Potluck Quality pasta -- or possibly even Hospital-Cafeteria Quality pasta.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I've gotta agree with Julian Sanchez on this:
The day isn’t over, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and predict that this is the stupidest thing I will read today. I’m not actually sure what it would mean to “strike” text that has already been nullified by subsequent amendments—pull out the original sheepskin and take a sharpie to it? Bonus points for the common but historically obtuse invocation of the 3/5 compromise.
I must say that the continual lamentation over the 3/5 compromise is one of my political pet peeves. It's as if these people never stop to think that, had slaves been considered "whole" persons for representational purposes, the slave states would have been far more powerful in Congress, which would almost certainly have led to worse outcomes for the slaves.

And the guy wants to propose a constitutional amendment to apologize for slavery. The Constitution of the United States of America is not the appropriate forum for an apology. It is the foundational law of the US, and its purpose is to delineate the scope and powers of the US government. It is not some scribbling to be rewritten for the sole purpose of assuaging centuries-old grievances. Bah... idiot.

Breaking News: I am not (that) crazy.

I was woken up by an earthquake at 5:30 this morning. In the middle of Indiana. Weird. I thought I had dreamed the building shaking like that, but news reports confirm that I did not. I have now survived my first earthquake.

We now return to our regularly scheduled lives.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I am getting very dissatisfied with the service we've received from the used-car-dealer/service-center Car Nation. Well that's not quite true. The service has been satisfactory. The sheer quantity of service the 2000 Honda Civic we purchased (from them!) requires has not been. We're averaging about one breakdown every two months here. Last fall it was the water pump. This winter it was a brake cylinder. Now the coolant system is on the fritz again (behaving just like the bad water pump was). We did not invest in this car just so we could keep investing in this car, but we've had to sink something like 10% of the purchase price of the car into unscheduled maintenance in the seven months we've owned it. This is horribly frustrating.

On a related note, my 1999 Toyota Camry Solara has 31000 more miles on it, but has yet to need any unscheduled maintenance in the ten months I've owned it. Grumble, grumble, grumble...

UPDATE (4/20/08): Follow-up post here.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stupid arrest at the Jefferson Memorial:
...a group of some 20 young Washington, D.C., libertarians had gathered for their own Thomas Jefferson Dance Party. The plan had been to celebrate the birth of the author of the Declaration of Independence by congregating, flashmob style, for ten minutes of quiet iPod-fueled dancing, then repair to a pub nearby. Instead, park police brought the party to an abrupt halt, arresting 28-year-old Brooke Oberwetter and leading her away in handcuffs, while chasing the rest of the group off.
As Sanchez said earlier, the resulting fallout should be fun to watch:
I’m not entirely clear on what the charge could have been—I wasn’t aware dancing at a public monument was prohibited by any statute—but given that my friend’s immediate social circle is largely composed of journalists, bloggers, and constitutional lawyers who sue the government for fun, I predict hilarity.
Related: Flashmob RickRolls real world. No arrests followed.

Customer service is dead:

...every window of the CVS I visited exclaimed the incredible extras I could receive if I darkened their doorstep. This included, not surprisingly, EXTRA SERVICE....

But hold on a second there bucko…* What exactly is their description of “extra” service? Turns out it is “prescriptions ready when promised!” When promised? I hate to break it to you, CVS, but that is not “extra” service. That is service. If you tell me you are going to do something and then you do it–that’s it. You’ve fulfilled your promise–anything less and you’ve fallen short.

That’s like saying that if I buy a candy bar and there is actually a candy bar inside the wrapper, that I’ve gotten extra candy! It’s a sad state of affairs when we not only mistake basic competence for superior service, but we actually accept this as an advertising ploy that might draw us into the store.

I typically respond to customer service claims (such as Target's exhortations to be "fast, fun and friendly" with the rejoinder that if I were the management, I'd work on "competent" first. Clearly we're lowering the bar by declaring competence to be "extra."

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm not entirely sure who this is making fun of (and frankly, they both have earned a hearty dose of mockery), but it is most definitely hilarious:

One truly stupid motivational tactic... From the comments: "Waterboarding will continue until morale improves."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Geek LOLcat:

And just plain amusing:

Phil, this one's for you:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Party like it's 1961."

Two reasons not to buy a Dell:
  1. Bad (drunk?!) tech support
  2. Incomprehensible pricing variation

Friday, April 11, 2008

Megan McArdle, quoting an anonymous friend:
I like to think that, every time i listen to a WSJ podcast, a hippie loses his wings.

For your Friday amusement, I present to you some highlights from ExtraLife, a web comic I recently stumbled across (these are here, here, and here):

And this one, in honor of my Canadian friends (whether actually Canadian, or merely wannabes from the UP):

This really speaks for itself:

Democrats on the Economy in 1996:

“Our economy is the healthiest it has been in three decades.” (President Bill Clinton, State of the Union Address, January 23, 1996)

Democrats on the Economy in 2008:

“The bottom line is that this administration is the owner of the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover." (Senator Charles Schumer, Press Release, March 7, 2008)

Key Labor Market Statistics in 1996 and 2008

March 1996 March 2008
1. U.S. Unemployment Rate 5.5% 5.1%
2. Number of Long-Term Unemployed 1.33 million 1.28 million
3. Average Weeks Unemployed 17.3 weeks 16.2 weeks
4. Median Weeks Unemployed 8.3 weeks 8.1 weeks
5. Not in Labor Force because discouraged over job prospects 451,000 401,000
6. Democrats calling for Extended Unemployment Benefits? No Yes
7. President’s Party Affiliation Democrat Republican

Travis has an excellent post about how Massachusetts government is dealing with a "healthcare crisis" (hint: poorly):

Health authorities are especially worried about the expansion into the suburbs because “it potentially duplicates services,” said Paul Dreyer, director of healthcare safety and quality at the state Department of Public Health.

Oh noz!

Maybe the state can also close down every restaurant in the area except for Chilis, so that there will be no duplication of services.

“But it also potentially puts the community hospital in a situation where it cannot win competitively.”

And we certainly would not want the better provider of healthcare to triumph!

Toys R Us has the whole "clearance" thing a bit confused (follow link for photo):
I saw this today at the Toy"R"Us store.... This Lego kit (the Exo Force Sentai Fortress Battle Set) has a sign that indicates its original price was $19.99 and that it is on sale for $69.98. The sign helpfully indicates that this is a savings of negative $49.

Heh. An amusing rant about Thomas Kinkade:
A great nemesis can’t be an idiot; he has to be brilliant but twisted – someone who has the power to accomplish great things, but uses that power only for his own demented ends. Someone like Darth Vader or Hans Gruber from Die Hard. Or Thomas Kinkade.

Yes, you heard me right. I have selected as my nemesis Thomas Kinkade, the Painter of Light®.

If you’re not familiar with this “artist,” he’s best known as the man who has produced essentially the same painting 8,436 times over the past 20 years. Kinkade-land is a place filled with cottages almost militantly cozy, a place where it has always just rained, but it never rains. There is no sun in Kinkade-land – only an endless panorama of supernaturally illuminated clouds. It is a place where human beings, if they are seen at all, are represented only in the distance as Ice-Skating Boy or Man on Horse, never as individuals with names or identities. Judging from the freakish glow emanating from the cottages, the people in Kinkade's paintings are probably too busy stoking their fireplaces and lighting the drapes on fire to be seen outdoors.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

It's things like this that make me wish tarring and feathering was still an acceptable form of political expression: Special license plates shield officials from traffic tickets.

Travis suggests rope (as in "dangling from a lamppost by"), but that's a bit excessive.

Google street view - more invasive and creepy every day! This time it's driving up a private lane and into someone's driveway and basketball court. Sheesh...

People like this give Christians a bad name:

"What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous . . . it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God. Get out of that seat . . . You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon."

Illinois State Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) to Rob Sherman, who was testifying before a committee of the Illinois House. Davis was referring to Sherman’s atheism.

I humbly suggest that Rep. Davis shut her pie hole and do something that might be useful in her official capacity (if such activities can be found), rather than badger people about their religious views.

Added to the "Don't Try This at Home" Files:

DURANT, Okla. - A Colbert man who suffered mercury poisoning while using mercury to remove gold from electronic equipment has died.

Durant/Bryan County Emergency Management Director James Dalton says 55-year-old Tony Winnett died at a Tulsa hospital.

Dalton also says the home where Winnett and Melissa Lake used the mercury is so contaminated it's now uninhabitable.

Lake also suffered mercury poisoning and was treated and released at a hospital in Durant.

Authorities say the technique of using mercury to separate gold once was used by industrial miners in the American West but was banned because it's so dangerous.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I can't remember if I posted this already, but it's too good to let it go ignored. I give you an online time travel story: Wikihistory.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I didn't think anything could beat Google's string of April Fool's jokes, but this one beats them all. I just got RickRolled. By YouTube. No, *by* YouTube, not just *with* YouTube. Apparently that's what you get for clicking a featured video today...

This week in Homeland Security Theater:
First, my toothpaste was taken from me and thrown in the trash. The reason – it was larger than 3oz.... it could be minty-smelling C4 explosive. I didn't argue, the screener looked at me like I was a moron for even attempting to bring it on board.

Next, my JBL portable speaker system for my iPod. This caused incredible confusion. It was in my carry-on bag, and as it went through the x-ray machine I heard a flurry of activity from the TSA screeners. They all rushed to the screen, making strange faces and pointing fingers. I was asked to accompany my luggage to a screening station, where they dusted for explosive traces and asked me to identify the object. When I explained it was a speaker system, they pondered and then let me through the gate.

Finally, my super-sharp and very handy lock-knife keychain. I had put my keys in my coat pocket and completely forgot about the dangerous weapon attached. I was surprised then that this object was never considered a threat. My coat went through the x-ray machine with no issues, and I left the screening area to board the plane carrying a deadly weapon.