Thursday, January 31, 2008

Westboro Baptist Morons Strike Again

Well, it didn't take the nutjobs at Westboro Baptist Church very long to weigh in on Heath Ledger's death. They're claiming that God killed the actor in retribution for playing a gay character in Brokeback Mountain. So I guess that means that all those various prescription medicines found next to his bed had nothing to do with it.

If the Westboro folks are correct, then Jake Gyllenhaal should be really, really, really nervous!

But wait!! What about Tom Hanks? He played a gay man in Philadelphia all the way back in 1993. That was 15 years ago. Why is he still alive? Shouldn't the good lord have gotten around to smiting him by now?!?!? More importantly, why did God allow Hanks to win an Academy Award for the role? Ah, but Hanks' character died of AIDS in the movie. Was that good enough for God, or did He just get confused by the fictitious death?

So then what about Eric McCormack? He's not dead either, and he played a gay character on Will and Grace for eight seasons. How come he hasn't been hit by a lightning bolt? Or hit by a garbage truck? Gotten squished by an asteroid? Attacked and mauled to death by a rabid squirrel?

And let's not forget Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly. They played lesbian lovers in Bound, yet they're both still alive. Or does God find lesbians hot?

It's groups like the Westboro Baptist Church that make atheism so appealing.

Fifty Years In Space

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Explorer I, the very first spacecraft put into orbit by the United States. In the half century since we've accomplished much. Our nation has landed a dozen men on the moon, launched numerous missions to other planets in our solar system, and landed robotic rovers on Mars. Most spectacular of all our accomplishments is the Hubble space telescope, which continues to return breathtaking photos of our universe. And though I've posted the below video before, I'll do it again because it's just so gosh darn awesome.


But we're not done yet. Even today we have the International Space Station in orbit, with astronauts constantly occupying it, and performing valuable scientific experiments involving the germinating of tomato seeds in outer space and, um, the germinating of tomato seeds in outer space. And who knows where the coming years will lead America? Some day, perhaps, we may even be germinating cucumber seeds in space.

And that would be an accomplishment we could all be proud of.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Narrowing The Field

The campaign to replace President Bush with someone who knows what the f*ck they're doing continues to become clearer. Less than a month into the primary season, several once serious contenders have dropped out. On the Democratic side, former Senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards has thrown in the towel after coming in third in his home state of South Carolina. And for the Republicans, Fred Thompson and and Rudy Giuliani have bitten the dust.

Giuliani's withdrawal is perhaps the most surprising. Just six months ago, he looked like the man to beat. Then he inexplicably decided to sit out the early primaries and caucases and concentrate on winning Florida. Unfortunately he finished a distant third in the Sunshine State.

But it's Mike Huckabee's situation that is the most amusing. He pulled off a big win in Iowa by relying on the evangelical Christian vote. Shortly before the caucuses, when polls showed him with a clear lead, Huckabee explained his popularity this way:
"There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000."
The former Arkansas governor failed to win any more contests after that, and I'd really love to hear Huckabee explain exactly why God has suddenly taken his fish back.

That leaves the Republicans with a two man race: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Arizona Senator John McCain. Romney's only win has been in Michigan, the state where he was born and his father once served as governor. That leaves McCain as the undisputed front runner. This, too, is a reversal of what was once the conventional wisdom. Last summer, McCain's campaign was all but broke and his candidacy appeared doomed. It was Romney who was among the top two or three Republcian candidates.

All that can be said about the situation among the Democrats is that it's now clearly a two person race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Beyond that, there's no clearcut leader. The momentum continues to shift back and forth between the two of them and it's impossible to say who will emerge as the nominee.

February 5 is what is being dubbed "Super Tuesday." Twenty four states will hold primaries and caucuses. By Tuesday night, we should have a clearer picture of our choices for the November election.

Tweaking Off

After some additional tweaking, the new ratings gizmo thingamajig finally seems to be working correctly.

'Also Sprach Zarathustra' Would Have Been Cooler

Japan currently has a probe orbiting the moon. Here's some footage of Earthrise and Earthset (click links for stills) it captured a couple of months ago. It's supposedly in HD, though I don't think that translates very well onto YouTube

By the way, some of you may notice that there are no stars in the video. That's because they're at the end of each post. I've added a rating system.

No, I don't see the connection either. But that's never stopped me from wild speculation before, and I'm not about to start now.

It should also be noted that if you happen to be one of the three Bush supporters left in the country, you're not allowed to vote.

The rest of you: Please be gentle.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State of Disarray

President Bush delivered his annual State of the Union address to the Congress last night. The speech--or some other such summation--is actually required by the Constitution. Most political observers remain baffled as to why Bush continues to observe this one particular provision of the document while ignoring all the others.

Anyway, here's a brief analysis of what he had to say. Not so surprisingly, he exhibited a, er, "slight tendency" to fudge some of the facts.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Precautionary Measures

An asteroid called 2007 TU24 will be making a relatively close pass to the Earth tonight. There is no chance of impact, however, and the closest it will get to us is 300,000 miles (the moon is 240,000 miles away). Then tomorrow it's Mars' turn, as a different asteroid will be passing just over 18,000 miles of the red planet.

These close calls should serve as a reminder that our solar system is something of a cosmic shooting gallery, and sooner or later we're gonna get nailed. That's why I've decided to move my porn collection to the safety of my Y2K bunker. People laughed when I built that thing back in 1999, but it may yet come in handy.

So even if the rest of humanity perishes from the face of the Earth, at least I'll still have my dirty pictures to keep me company.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Blow Jobs

Much of Europe was pummeled by high winds earlier today. In Austria, gusts were clocked at 75mph. The storms have left 130,000 without power and stranded railroad passengers because of toppled trees. One person died in Poland.

Meteorologists say that hot air generated by the various American presidential candidates is disrupting worldwide weather patterns and contributing to the freak storms. And with 24 primaries scheduled to be held on February 5, the problem is expected to only get worse.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Snotty-Nosed Brat Update

Devraj "Dave" S. Kori, the high school senior who bravely stood up to his oppressors by asking for a snow day (January 24 post), has been sentenced to spend one Saturday afternoon in detention. It should be noted, however, that they nailed him on a technicality of sorts.

Since it wasn't entirely clear that Kori broke any laws by posting the school administrator's wife's message online, his punishment is for having used his cellphone while on school property to make the call. Using a cellphone while on campus is prohibited.

Can Bush Even Count That High?

A new report from The Center for Public Integrity documents 935 specific lies by Bush Administration officials during the runup to the Iraq War. Furthermore, says the report, an
"exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."
While there is nothing necessarily new in the report, it is noteworthy in that it has listed all the assorted falsehoods in one place.

Where's Lou Dobbs When You Really Need Him?

A was along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip was breached earlier this week. As a result, poverty stricken Palestinians from Gaza have begun pouring across the border and stealing valuable, highly sought after, prestigious lawn care jobs from legal Egyptian citizens.

Damn illegal aliens are everywhere.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Even They Don't Want Him

What Do You Mean "We," Paleface?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Another Inconvenient Truth

Canada has added the United States to a list of nations that torture and abuse foreign prisoners. The list, intended only for Canadian diplomats, was accidentally given to Amnesty International.

This is outrageous and shameful. We need to find out who has spreading these vicious lies by kidnapping a few Canadians and asking them. And if they refuse to tell us, then we should start yanking their fingernails out one by one.

2008 Candidate Guide

"Snotty-Nosed Little Brats"

Last Thursday the Washington area had a bit of a snowstorm. Nothing too serious, but it did leave anywhere from three to six inches on the ground during the course of the day. Since the snow wasn't forecast to begin until after 10 AM and was expected to change to rain a few hours later (which did NOT happen), most school systems went ahead and opened. And based on the expectation of rain, they opted not to close early.

Needless to say, many kids were somewhat perturbed by this. After all, what fun is winter if you don't get the occasional snow day or early closing? But as a student, what can you do? You're nothing more than a pawn of "The Man."

A 17 year old senior, Devraj "Dave" S. Kori, at Lake Braddock High School in Fairfax, VA, however, did not take this oppression lying down. Kori tried calling Dean Tistadt, a local school official, at his office. When that didn't work, he called Tistadt's home phone. No answer there, either, so Kori left a message asking why the schools weren't being closed early because of deteriorating road conditions.

Well, Mrs. Tistadt came home, found the message, and was none too happy about it Then Mrs. Tistadt did something really stupid: She called Kori back and left a message on his voicemail. Nowadays, that can be a dangerous thing to do.... Especially when at one point you tell the 17 year old "Get over it, kid, and go to school!" If that wasn't bad enough, she also uttered the immortal words, "snotty-nosed little brats."

And why, precisely, were those words "immortal?" Because today there is something called the internet, which is a vast series of tubes running between people's houses (as described by Alaska Senator Ted Stevens). And tech savvy kids often use those tubes to create things called Facebook pages.... Which is precisely what Kori did when he got home. He even posted the Tistadt's home phone number.

As could be expected, that evening the Tistadts got numerous phone calls. Dozens, in fact. One even came at 4 A.M. the next morning.

Many people are in a tizzy over this thing. Some are siding with the student, others with the administrator's wife. It's turned into a debate over free speech, and is threatening to erupt into civil war. With the United States military still in Iraq, it is unclear who will restore order. The republic may yet fall and freedom perish from the face of the Earth.

I just wish those internet tubes had been around when I was still in school.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Throwing Windows Out The Window

Are you considering a new computer? If so, here's some helpful information on Windows Vista to guide you in your decision making:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron: A War Crime?

Among the various issues that the Virginia General Assembly is tackling in its annual session is dogfighting. The topic became a national story last year following the arrest and eventual conviction of Micheal Vick. It also brought unwanted attention to Virginia since that's where Vick dog breeding operation was taking place. Now legislators are considering various crackdowns on dogfighting, and debating the best way to outlaw the practice.

This is an unfortunate and dangerous overreaction. Maintaining the legality of dogfighting is essential to the national security of the United States.

What are we supposed to do if President Bush turns out to be right? Suppose the terrorists really do end up following us home if an unpatriotic Democrat President withdraws our troops from Iraq? And suppose the terrorists decide to follow us in vintage World War I biplanes? The only way to defeat them will be to utilize the very same dogfighting techniques we used against the German air force 90 years ago.

If we outlaw dogfighting, what's next? Banning waterboarding? Prohibitting CIA interrogators from yanking out prisoner's fingernails with pliers? Eliminating naked human pyramids? Where do we draw the line? When does it become too much?

For the sake of America, let's keep dogfighting legal. Do it for our children. Do it for Snoopy.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Home Stretch

Well, we have now officially entered the final year of the Bush presidency. Now if he can just keep from invading anyone else for the next 365 days, maybe we can all get through it without further embarrassing ourselves.

Trek Trailer

Paramount has posted the trailer for the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie on its website. This is the same preview that appears at the beginning of Cloverfield. It's also of much better quality than the one that's been floating around YouTube.

Yes, after ten movies and five TV series, the Trek was getting a little old. But if anyone can breath new life into the storylines, it's Abrams. In addition to Cloverfield, he's the guy who gave us Alias, Lost, and Mission Impossible III.

Visit this and other selectors:
Star Trek character selector
by C.J.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Singing Soprano

The Green Bay Packers and New York Giants are set to face off for the NFC championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.

Since much of New York city was recently destroyed by the mysterious Cloverfield monster, the game is being played in Wisconsin, which can be a truly brutal place to be in wintertime. It will be two degrees below zero (-20 Celsius) at kickoff, with windchills of 40-50 below. At temperatures like that, the average pair of human testicles can freeze solid in less than ten minutes and shatter like glass on impact.

That means that regardless of which team emerges victorious from the contest, at least both sides will be ending the season on a high note.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Cloverfield: WOW!!!

When I first heard that Cloverfield was going to be about some creature that emerges from the ocean to terrorize lower Manhattan, I thought it was going to turn out to be just another cheesy monster movie.

Well, yes, it's true that it's a monster movie. But there ain't a damn thing that's cheesy about it.

First, some particulars. The film is relatively short. From the opening shots to the start of the closing credits, it's only an hour and fifteen minutes long. And while there's no musical score during the film itself, stay in your seat for the closing credits (which run about ten minutes). There's a truly fantastic orchestral piece called "Roar: The Cloverfield Overture" that rivals anything John Williams has ever come up with. So far there doesn't seem to be a download of it available anywhere, and there's no movie soundtrack, either.

(Update posted 4-23-08: I now have a clean version of Roar that I lifted from the DVD. However, I wasn't uploaded onto the site because it's over 1 meg in size. If you'd like it, email me and I will gladly send you the MP3 file.)

And what's the significance of the title Cloverfield? No explanation is ever given, except for a cryptic message at the very beginning. It states that the following video is from "case Designate 'Cloverfield' retrieved at incident site... Area formerly known as Central Park." That is the only mention of the name Cloverfield in the entire movie. However, if you've read some of the internet chatter over the last seven months, it turns out that director J.J. Abrams has offices on some street called "Cloverfield."

If you've seen some of the reviews, a lot is being made of the shaky camera work. However, it should be kept in mind that the entire film is in the form of an amateur video that was recorded over the course of one night. This also brings up an obvious comparison to The Blair Witch Project, a movie I've avoided specifically because of the constantly shaking picture. However, after seeing the sense of immediacy it provides in Cloverfield, I may go back and rent Blair Witch after all.

Personally, I'm not usually a fan of such handheld camera work. I tend to find it annoying and distracting. But in this case, it works wonderfully. In most films, you generally end up feeling like a spectator watching the action unfold. But with Cloverfield, that handheld camera puts you right in the middle of several very intense scenes that will have you barfing into your popcorn bucket.

At least that's what happened in my case. And I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to those who were sitting near me in the theater.

While it's never explained in what year the movie's events are taking place, the government's swift response to the crisis makes it obvious that President Bush has left office. Within the first hour or so, the military is on hand organizing the evacuation of the city. However, that comes to a grinding halt as the Brooklyn Bridge is destroyed with thousands of fleeing pedestrians on it.

That particular sequence does have one part that seems to be an error: The crowd on the bridge can see the headless remains of the Statue of Liberty maybe a mile or so away. To the best of my knowledge, however, that's not possible. The bridge is on one side of Manhattan while Liberty Island is on the opposite.

Aside from that apparent lapse, the movie is quite realistic. One of the most authentic looking scenes occurs when Lady Liberty's comes hurtling out of the sky and rolls to a stop in the middle of the street. A crowd quickly gathers, and people start pulling out their cellphones to snap pictures of it. I had to laugh.

As far as the creature itself is concerned, you only see some quick shots of its legs for most of the movie. Finally, towards the end, you finally do get to see the critter up close and personal in a scene that ends badly for the guy who's been carrying the camera. There are also some encounters with some smaller spider-like creatures that apparently "shed" themselves from the larger animal.

And if you're a Star Trek fan, there's a brief trailer for the next movie. That's not surprising, since Abrams is directing it as well. There's not a whole lot to it, however; mostly the trailer consists of some exterior shot of the Enterprise under construction.

Bottom line: Cloverfield is definitely worth the price of admission, but bring your Dramamine.... And stay through the closing credits.


Some people may be upset by Cloverfield's rather abrupt ending. Again, remember that the movie consists of a video recovered from a disaster site. Consequently there's never any explanation as to the origins of the monster, or how it is eventually killed. As with the final episode of The Sopranos, don't expect a clean and tidy resolution to the story.

The tape that is used to "document" the creature's attack on Manhattan was originally used to record some stuff between one of the characters and his girlfriend (No, not THAT kind of stuff.... Unfortunately). Consequently, as the guy with the camera occasionally stops recording the attack, snippets of the original recording show up during the playback. Those peaceful and serene scenes of fun times provide a stark contrast to the terror unfolding on the rest of the tape.

At the very end of Cloverfield you see a few seconds of the couple's visit to Coney Island. According to some people, in the background you can see an unknown object fall out of the sky and hit the water. This would strongly suggest that the Cloverfield creature is extraterrestrial in origin. If true, that would also mean that Bill O'Reilly is right: Aliens are destroying America!!

Finally, here's the Bad Astronomy review of Cloverfield. Overall he liked the movie but does list several "nitpicks," mostly dealing with physics and science. On the other hand, the Bush administration has never paid any attention to science, so why should anyone else?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

One Way To Bond With Your Kid

A Wisconsin man, eager to demonstrate his loyalty to the Green Bay Packers, attached a team jersey to his seven year old son by wrapping him in tape. Some people are condemning Mathew Kowald's actions as being borderline crazy, but it should be noted that his son did refuse to wear the shirt.

Further proving that women just don't get football, the mother has taken out a restraining order against the father.

The Power Of Advertising

Who's Unpatriotic Now?

Former Michigan congressman Mark Deli Siljander has been arrested for aiding a so-called Muslim charity that was secretly funneling money to Al Qaeda. He was paid $ 50,000 by the group to lobby on their behalf.

Siljander served in Congress from 1981 to 1987. He was also appointed by then President Ronald Reagan to serve as a delegate to the United Nations. But what really makes this case bizarre is the fact that Siljander is a REPUBLICAN!!!

Well, I'm certainly confused as hell. Haven't Bush and Cheney spent the last seven years telling us that it's the Democrats who are supposedly unpatriotic?!?!?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oh, What A Relief!

So I'm over at the Bad Astronomy blog last night and there's a post about the MESSENGER space craft which has begun returning photos of Mercury (Related subject: A recent NASA probe recently returned this gem of an image from Uranus). Well, there's nothing I enjoy more than surfing the internets and making intellectually stimulating comments on other people's sites. So that's why I left this little gem behind:
"I heard a rumor that Messenger was actually supposed to probe Venus but ended up at Mercury because of an English to metric conversion mistake by NASA."
I was quite proud of it, and I'm glad to report that the comment did not go unappreciated. Someone named Gary F. even took the time to straighten me out:
"That sounds pretty unlikely, it would be more likely to just fly off into space and be lost. MESSENGER (the acronym refers to Hermes/Mercury, the messenger of the gods) was designed to go to Mercury. You may be thinking of the Mars Climate Orbiter, which was lost because a Lockheed Martin engineering team used English units of measurement while NASA used metric."
It's a relief to know that someone is FINALLY taking me seriously!!

Head For The Hills...

...provided they're at least 20 feet above sea level.

A couple of disturbing developments have occurred in recent days in the exciting and expanding field of global warming.

First, new data shows that 2007 was the second warmest year on record (for those of you keeping score, another group of scientists says it was only the fifth warmest. WHOOPIE!). Both groups, however, are in agreement that seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.

The second item concerns Antarctica. For years, it has been assumed that the continent and its massive ice sheet were largely immune from global warming. New satellite mapping data, however, now suggests otherwise. And since Antarctica holds 90% of the world's ice, large scale melting there would have dire consequences for sea levels around the world.

There are skeptics out there who will continue to argue that global warming is not occurring. Or, IF it is occurring, it has not yet been linked to mankind's activities.

To be blunt, those people are retards.

What more proof do they need? The data is there, staring us in the face. The mechanism behind global warming is very well understood. To simply deny its existence doesn't cut it. Provide us with some compelling proof that the consensus of the world's scientific community is wrong! But to just say "I don't buy it" without looking at the facts is not a legitimate argument. It's just plain stupid.

On the other hand, there may actually be a scientific basis for the skeptics' denials. Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere could be displacing the oxygen in their brains, thereby causing a massive die-off of neurons.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Importance Of Saying Grace

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Another Icon Falls

Teen singing sensation Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana has been caught using a body double during her current sellout tour. The fake Hanna was only on stage for a minute or so, and tour officials say the double is only used during costume changes. Still, considering that tickets are being scalped for hundreds--even thousands--of dollars, it raises serious questions. Even worse, this comes after allegations of lip-syncing.

Hell, if we can't trust Hannah Montana, WHO can we trust?!?!

Terminate This, Pal

Despite the Hollywood writers' strike, a few new shows continue to trickle onto the networks' schedules. These are mainly series for which the scripts were written last summer and fall. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which had been intended as a mid-season replacement all along, is one example.

If you're not familiar with it, the show is based on the Terminator series of movies, which starred the Governor of California. The TV series takes place between the second and third movies, though it apparently takes some liberties with the timelines already established by the films.

When I first heard last fall that this show was coming, I pretty much dismissed it as being worthless trash that wouldn't be worth watching. So imagine my surprise when I saw that USA Today gave Sarah three and a half stars out of four. And considering how picky TV critics can be, that sounds pretty good.

Chief among the cast is Summer Glau as a "good" terminator sent back in time to protect Sarah and her obnoxious teenage savior of mankind, John. If you remember a short lived science fiction series called Firefly, you may also recall that Glau played the psychotic psychic, River.

And while Joss Whedon is not associated with this new show, the writer does compare it to Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer because while it features intense action, it can also witty and funny at times.

Assuming I'm still sober enough after watching the Dallas Cowboys get their asses kicked by the Giants, I certainly plan to watch.

Part one of the premier airs tonight on Fox at 8 PM and concludes tomorrow night.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Endangered Species

Friday, January 11, 2008

America's Electile Dysfunction Explained

In case you're wondering how the American electoral system works, here's a quick primer: It doesn't.

What? You want more detail? Okay, here goes....

The first thing to keep in mind is that unlike Prime Ministers in other countries, the President is completely independent of Congress. He (or she) is elected separately, serves separately, and may or may not be of the same political party that controls Congress.

His term of office, as you probably already know, is four years. That's written into the Constitution itself. If it helps in remembering, presidential elections are held in leap years. That's purely by coincidence; the Constitution was adopted in--and George Washington first elected in--1788, which just happened to be a leap year.

The campaign season is another story, however. Especially when you don't have a President running for re-election (the 22nd amendment, ratified in 1951, limits Presidents to two terms), you get a lot of people jockeying for position. A big part of that involves getting your name out in front of the public. Consequently, the sooner you start, the more people will have time to get to know your name and face. The downside of that is if you look like Dennis Kucinich, the more people get to know your face, the LESS popular you become.

Unfortunately, a big part of this name recognition process also involves fundraising. That raises the very real possibility that a particular candidate will become beholden to some interest group or another that made huge donations. By law there are limits to how much individual donors can give, but there are also ways around that. For example, that Swift Boaters for Truth group that helped torpedo John Kerry's campaign in 2004 weren't actually part of the Bush campaign organization. Consequently, they were exempt from fundraising limits.

The two major parties--Democrats and Republicans--select their eventual presidential nominees based on how many delegates they're accumulated. This selection process is done either by caucuses in which citizens meet locally, or through primary elections in which people vote in regular polling places as in an election. In some states those primaries are restricted by parties. In other words, only registered Republicans can vote in the Republican primary, and only Democrats in the Democratic primary. In other states it's an "open" primary, which means you can vote in either party's primary.

The rules vary state to state, and are set by the two political parties. The number of delegates selected by each state is dependent on the state's population.

This brings up an interesting question: Why do Iowa and New Hampshire-two very small states--so damn important in the selection of presidential candidates? Quite frankly, it's just tradition. And while the number of delegates supplied by each of these two states is tiny, their outcomes carry a lot of weight simply because they very quickly establish a candidate's momentum.

In the past the Iowa and New Hampshire contests used to take place in late February. This year, however, a number of other states moved up their primaries (or caucuses) because they wanted to get more attention from the candidates. And since both Iowa and New Hampshire wanted to maintain their early status, they kept moving their contest up just to stay ahead of everyone else. For example, California used to have its primary in June. Well, by that time the nominees had pretty much already been decided. Consequently, candidates rarely bothered to campaign there. This year, however, California will vote on February 5.

A childish pissing contest? Well, yes.

At any rate, the jockeying for position got so bad this time around that both national parties eventually stepped in and put a stop to it. They actually threatened to deny some states their delegates if they didn't behave.

Finally there's what's called the Electoral College. No football team, but they don't need one. Technically, it's the group that actually elects the President.

When we mere mortals vote on the first Tuesday of November, we're not really voting for an individual. We're actually voting for a slate of electors pledged to a particular candidate, be it Democrat, Republican, or whatever. These people are generally party loyalists like state legislators or other officials. Each state is allocated a number of electors equal to their total of congressional representatives and Senators (every state has two Senators; the number of representatives is based on a state's population). For example, Virginia has 11 representatives and two Senators, which translates to 13 electoral votes.

In almost all cases (one or two small states allocate by congressional district), it's a winner take all for a state's electors. Which ever candidate wins the popular vote, wins ALL the electoral votes for that state. Theoretically electors could vote for a different candidate than for whom they were pledged. On very rare occasions an elector has actually done so. However, it's never been enough to throw an election to a different candidate.

So why do we have the electoral college? The founding fathers created it and wrote it into the Constitution as a way of getting smaller states to ratify the document. The idea is that it limits how much influence a big state can have in selecting Presidents. It's also how Bush managed to win the presidency in 2000 even though Gore had more popular votes.

So is this a f*cked up system compared to how other countries do it? Is it wildly inefficient? Does it reduce presidential candidates to the level of American Idol contestants? The answer is a big fat YES to all those questions.

But we're also the guys who keep rescuing the rest of you from the Germans, so we must be doing something right.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Good Time For A New Direction

The Check Is In The Mail

There are few things more embarrassing than having your phone disconnected because you haven't paid the bill.... Especially when you're the FBI.

Yes, it seems that the FBI hasn't been paying its phone bills. Consequently, a number of phone taps have been disconnected, resulting in lost evidence and blown cases. In some instances, the effected cases were active terror investigations.

What makes this story somewhat ironic is that these same phone companies are the ones who were so eager to help the government that they allowed phone taps without warrants in the first place. But while they had no problem stretching the limits of the law, they're not so gracious when they don't get paid.

By The Bacon's Early Light

Chinese scientists have succeeded in implanting glow-in-the-dark genes into a female pig. Interesting, but not necessarily that impressive. Korean scientists recently did the same thing with fish. But what does make the Chinese accomplishment a major breakthrough is that the momma hog has successfully passed the genes on to her piglets which now also glow fluorescent green.

Well, that should certainly make it easier to prepare breakfast in the dark.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hillary Pulls It Out Of Her Pantsuit

What the heck happened in New Hampshire yesterday? Barrack "The Black Dude" Obama was positioned to win a double digit victory in the Democratic primary and effectively eliminate Hillary "The Woman Dude" Clinton from the race. At least that was the conventional wisdom, and it was backed up with the latest poll numbers. But the former First Lady managed to somehow pull out a narrow victory. That's like the New York Yankees winning the Super Bowl!!

Well, okay, maybe it's not like that at all. But it's still pretty darn amazing.

It also serves to extend the contest for the Democratic nomination for at least a few more weeks. This is also important for the American economy because it means all those pundits and pollsters on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC will have jobs for a little bit longer.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, John "The Really Old Dude" McCain managed to get one for his win column. Not a major surprise there, since the race was considered a toss up between him and Mitt "The Mormon Dude" Romney. Mike "Vote For Me Or God Will Condemn Your Soul Straight To Burn In The Eternal Flames Of Hell Dude" Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucus thingie last week, never seriously campaigned in New Hampshire and wasn't considered much of a contender in the state.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

End Of An Era

When Joe Gibbs returned in 2004 as coach of the Washington Redskins, it raised the hopes of longtime fans of the team. During his previous 12 year stint he led the team to four Super Bowl appearances, winning three of them. He amassed a winning record that was among the highest in the NFL and earned himself a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Still, there was some concern whether Gibbs could live up to expectations. After all, he was such a revered figure in Washington sports. And given the long famine of winning seasons the team endured after his departure, his legend had only grown. All this led to concerns in some quarters that if Gibbs didn't succeed in turning around the team's fortunes, he would end up tarnishing his image.

Unfortunately, that's pretty much where things stand at the moment. It's also where they will stay, for Gibbs resigned from the team earlier today.

Others will argue about why he couldn't fully repeat his past glories. They'll say that the NFL has passed him by, that the game had changed to such an extent that he couldn't adapt his own coaching style.

Whatever. In the end, football is just a game.

What IS important, and what hasn't changed, is that Gibbs is a good and decent man. He should know that whatever else may be said in the coming days, he still has a strong following of fans who appreciate him, and who wish him nothing but best in his future endeavors.

Copping Out

Steven B. Rivas of Fairfax, Virginia got a little bored this past weekend. So he decided that one o'clock in the morning would be a good time to test those new flashing blue lights he had installed in the grill of his Ford Explorer. But merely turning on the lights wasn't enough, so he took it a step further by playing cop and pulling over a car. Sounds pretty good so far, right?

Well, the motorist had the nerve to ask to see Rivas' badge. He said he had to go back to his car to retrieve it. He went back to his car, then drove off with his little blue lights still flashing.

Unfortunately for Mr. Rivas, that wasn't quite the end of the story. You see, he didn't pull over just any ol' motorist. He picked an off duty nine year veteran of the Fairfax County Police, and she had the nerve to make note of his license plate number.

Rivas would have been better off buying a lottery ticket. With odds like that, he could have retired on his winnings.

Instead Rivas is currently in the Fairfax county jail with no bond and no court date.

No word on who got custody of his little blue lights.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Up Your Asteroid, Pal

For anyone looking for something new to worry about it, here's a list of recent and upcoming close approaches by asteroids. You'll be glad to know that one just missed us by about half the distance to the moon on December 27. It was a fairly small one, measuring less than 42 meters in diameter.

Still, that's enough to leave a bit of a ding in your hood if it were to hit.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Hungary For Some Turkey

All too often blonds get a bum rap for being dumb. Miss Teen South Carolina certainly did her part to help dispel that baseless myth, and hopefully the following young lady will as well.

Wired One Last Time

Quality choices on American TV are drying up faster than Britney Spears in detox. That's what makes tonight's premier of the fifth and final season of HBO's The Wire all the more welcome. Filming actually wrapped up last summer, so that's why it's now available.

If you've never watched the show before, it may be a little tough to get to know the back stories of the various characters. Still, make the effort and you will be rewarded. That's just how the show is. Any given episode doesn't do much on its own. But taken as a whole, each season individual is a remarkable feat of storytelling. What seems to work best for me is saving the first few episodes, then watching them on subsequent nights. That way, I never have a chance to forget who's who. (My season four writeup)

Alternatively, go to Netflix and add the DVD's to your queue starting with season one. It's better than watching American Gladiators and the rest of the reality crap the broadcast networks are resorting to.

Hi-Def Jam Up

Even as high definition televisions continue to increase in popularity, a bitter fight is taking place in the area of hi-def DVD's. The struggle is between HD DVD and Blu-Ray. In some ways, the competition is similar to the Beta/VHS battles of the 1980's. Two rival formats, completely incompatible, backed by different manufacturers.

One very important, however, difference has been 20 years ago, movies were always in BOTH Beta and VHS. For the most part, that has not been the case with the current DVD fight. Studios generally aligned themselves with only one of the two formats. For example, if you wanted the recent Simpsons Movie in hi-def, it was only available on Blu-Ray. That means if you have an HD DVD player, you were crap out of luck.

The only ways around this dilemma are to either buy TWO different DVD players, or purchase one of the few units that can handle both discs. Either alternative is expensive.

One of the few studios that had been an exception to this insanity was Warner Brothers. They had been releasing their movies in BOTH HD DVD and Blu-Ray.

That's now changing, however, with the announcement by Warner Brothers that in the future, their hi-def releases will only be available on Blu-Ray. It's the fifth disc producer to go exclusively with Sony's system. Only two are sticking with Toshiba's HD DVD. So while Sony's Beta system may have lost the earlier conflict, it now looks like they may win this one.

Personally, of the two rivals I've always preferred Blu-Ray. And the reason has nothing to do with the specs, or the lines of resolution, or that indecipherable 1080 crap, or the choice of movies. It's simply that the term "Blu-Ray" sounds w-a-a-a-y cooler than "HD DVD."

Nothing beats an educated consumer, eh?

Saturday, January 05, 2008


You know all those wonderful things I said about the Redskins this morning? I take them back. They suck.

Not that I'm a fair weather fan....

Hail To The Redskins

This season has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride for the Washington Redskins. After starting out with two straight wins, things were looking bright. By midseason, however, they found themselves on a sustained losing streak, including an embarrassing 52-7 loss to the (still) undefeated Patriots.

But the low point was yet to come. That was the violent death of Sean Taylor in a home invasion.

If nothing else, my perception of team owner Dan Snyder changed a great deal during that sad week. I had never particularly cared for him, and along with many other fans, thought he had driven the team into the ground. However, he--as much as head coach Joe Gibbs--became the public face of the Redskins during that week of mourning. Snyder took charge but never once overdid it, and seemed to handle everything with just the right amount of emotions. Though I hate to admit it, my respect for the man increased tenfold.

Just when it seemed things couldn't get worse, starting quarterback Jason Campbell was injured early in a game against the Bears. His replacement was backup quarterback Todd Collins, a 36 year old benchwarmer who hadn't started an NFL game in ten years and was on the cusp of retirement.

And what does Collins do? Leads the 'Skins from behind to beat the Bears, ending his team's four game losing streak. Collins went on to engineer three more impressive wins, including a 27-6 trouncing of the evil Dallas Cowboys.

The Redskins now improbably find themselves in the playoffs and will be facing the Seahawks in Seattle this afternoon. However that game turns out, the team deserves a lot of credit for what they've managed to accomplish this year.

American Gothic, 2008

Friday, January 04, 2008


Much of southern California was evacuated yesterday because of a catastrophic meltdown. No, this particular meltdown was NOT at a nuclear power plant. It was at Britney Spears' house, and it apparently wasn't pretty.

Police were called to the pop star's home yesterday when she refused to surrender her children after a visitation. The situation apparently deteriorated further and paramedics were summoned. They eventually carted Spears off to the hospital. It's unclear why, though some reports indicate she was on something. If that wasn't bad enough, today a judge granted full sole custody of her two children to their father, Kevin Federline.

Three years ago, when the couple first got married, only a lunatic would have predicted that Federline would turn out to be the responsible parent in this relationship.

A Major Win For Ignorance And Stupidity

Congratulations are in order to the Republicans of Iowa. They gathered together and succeeded in handing victory to a man who is totally unelectable in a national election. It also amplifies the fatal disease which that has seized control of the former party of Ronald Reagan: Government by the Bible and for the Bible, under the Bible for which it stands.

Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, can thank the Evangelicals of Iowa for his big win. They turned out in vast numbers to back his candidacy. And a major subset of that group was the home-school movement. Yes, in America parents are allowed to teach their children at home. And you can rest assured that these folks are basing their children's entire education on their interpretation of the Bible. And you wonder where creationists come from? Well, let's just say it's a safe bet these kids aren't learning about silly scientifically proven ideas like evolution.

Is it any wonder why American children rank so low on international tests of math and science?

That said, Huckabee's win is a triumph of good organizational skills. Two months ago he was a virtual unknown; today--and at least until New Hampshire votes next week--he is the Republican front runner.

Oh, wait, sorry. My bad. His win is NOT due to organizational skills.

A couple of weeks ago, Huckabee was asked about his sudden surge in the polls. His explanation?
"There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000."
So there you have it. What people think no longer matters. A candidate's stands on taxes, or the Iraq war, or transportation issues, or national defense, or the erosion of the Bill of Rights no longer matter. It's God himself calling the shots. Plus, the big guy is somehow hacking into the computers of the various pollsters and doctoring the numbers.

Such attitudes are frightening because they absolve national leaders of any sense of personal responsibility. Case in point: A few years ago George W. Bush famously said that he had consulted God before deciding to invade Iraq.

Quite frankly, God's track record has been kind of spotty lately.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Great Idea For A Reality TV Show

A 25 year old Washington state woman was arrested for assault after she and her boyfriend got into a naked fight. The couple was preparing to take a shower together when the woman asked the man to keep his dog out of the bathroom. The man refused, remarked that maybe his next girlfriend would be more of a pet lover, and then called the woman some sort of name.

Now I'm just guessing here, but I'm going to say that it was a four letter term for a part of the female anatomy beginning with the letter "c" and rhyming with something football teams do a lot on fourth downs.

It's been my experience that women really, really, really, REALLY don't like that word, which would explain what happened next: The woman punched the man in the face "several times," dislocated his shoulder, and threw a picture frame at him. The glass shattered and cut the man. Again, all this is taking place while they're naked.

The woman was arrested and is being held on $50,000 bond.

The man, meanwhile, is no doubt enduring public humiliation for letting a girl kick his ass.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Oh, You Have A Plasma TV? How.... Quaint.

Did you recently buy the latest and greatest in high definition televisions? Are you proud of that 42" 1080i LCD? Or maybe you went all out with a 54" 1080p plasma? More importantly, do I have the foggiest notion what that 1080 crap even means? No, of course not. No one does. It's just a concerted effort by electronics sales people to make the rest of us feel stupid.

At any rate, if you did recently give in and buy a new HDTV, you may as well haul it out to the dumpster. It's about to become the 8-track player of tomorrow.

Mitsubishi is about to unveil a television that uses lasers to project television images. And apparently the picture quality will put to shame anything else that's currently on the market. Specifically, laser TV's will be capable of reproducing 90% of the colors visible to the human eye. That compares with about 40% for the current crop of plasma and LCD screens.

Two Minute Warning

My God Can Beat Up Your God

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Fontle This

It's a brand new year, and thus time for New Year's resolutions. I've considered any number of them: Diet & regular exercise; Improving my personal hygiene; Being nicer to my fellow man; Cease mocking those less fortunate than I; Flossing on a daily basis instead of only the day before a dental appointment; Stop leaving my trash in front of my neighbors' doors because I'm too lazy to carry it all the way to the dumpster; Keeping an open mind about George Bush; Being more tolerant of the Christian right; Admitting that Bill O'Reilly, Anne Coulter, and the rest of the lunatics at Fox News have views worth considering. These are all worthy goals, and taken together they would certainly have made me a better human being.

That's why I instead decided to change the font on the blog. I also increased the size of the main text slightly.

If you find that the new typeface is royally pissing you off, let me know so I can respectfully consider your opinion before totally dismissing it as the meaningless ravings of a lunatic mind.... Kind of like how I do with Bill O'Reilly.

The Ol' In & Out

For those of you that are into that in & out thing, the Washington Post has come out with their 30th annual list.