Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Playing The Angles

Have you ever wondered why they measure TV screens and the such diagonally? It's to make them bigger. For example, my computer monitor measures 18.75 inches horizontally and 11.75" vertically. But if you measure it diagonally, it's 22", which is what it said on the box.

The same is true for TV screens: Manufacturers advertise the diagonal measurement simply because the TV seems "bigger" that way. All other things being equal, would you rather buy a 37" Sony or a 42" Toshiba? Well, guess what? They both have the exact same size screen! It's just that the Sony number is measured horizontally while the Toshiba's is measured diagonally.

The same holds true with GPS devices and cellphones: The screen size quoted in the description is always the diagonal measurement because it just seems bigger.

Well, that settles that. From now on, I'm measuring my dick diagonally.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Our Planet's Fever Continues To Worsen

A large chunk of an ice shelf has collapsed into the ocean along the coast of Antarctica. The collapsed portion is about seven times the size of Manhattan, and is part of the larger Wilkins ice shelf. It is--or more precisely, was--believed to be anywhere from 500 to 1500 years old.

The concern among scientists is that this collapse will now put more pressure on the rest of the Wilkins shelf, which is itself the size of Connecticut.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Space May Be More Crowded Than We Thought

There have been some exciting developments in the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

At last count, 277 planets have been found orbiting other stars. Considering that as little as 15 years ago that figure was a big fat zero, things are now moving along at a pretty good clip. In fact, such discoveries of "exoplanets" are pretty much routine now. But in what does qualify as stunning news, astronomers have now been able to detect methane in the atmosphere of one of those planets. Methane is considered an organic molecule. Though it may not confirm the existence of life on this other planet, it does strongly suggest the presence of Taco Bells.

In another surprise, German scientists have discovered a type of amino acid in a gas cloud surrounding a star near the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Amino acids combine to form proteins, which in turn are the very foundation of DNA.

Closer to home, the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn made a close pass over its moon Enceladus. In the process, Cassini was able to sample a plume that was erupting from the surface. And surprise, surprise, it also contained some organic compounds.

While all this news is a long way from encountering actual aliens who want to shove probes up your ass, it does indicate that the building blocks of life are far more common in our galaxy than previously thought.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nothing Worse Than Pissed Off Chinese

China is protesting the accidental shipment of nuclear fuses that the United States sent to Taiwan. The Chinese are demanding a thorough investigation of the incident, and saying that it carries "disastrous consequences."

Oh, puh-LEEZE!!! What are they going to do about it? Beat up some more unarmed Buddhist monks?

Why I'll Never Be Able To Watch Star Wars Again

Always Check Your Order Before Pulling Away

Few things in life are more frustrating than ordering, say, a Whopper with fries, then getting home and finding a double cheeseburger with onion rings. That's kind of of what happened to Taiwan a couple of years ago.

In an incident that only recently came to light, helicopter mechanics opened up what they expected would be a shipment of parts from the United States. But instead of finding replacement helicopter batteries, they found.... Nuclear bomb fuses!

Needless to say, this incident proved quite embarrassing for the United States. The Air Force prides itself on efficiency, and this is the type of thing that can really screw up the flow of the drive-thru lane. Even worse, this teeny-tiny little mistake comes to light less than a year after another mix-up in which the Air Force accidentally shipped nuclear warheads halfway across the country.

After demanding to speak to the manager, the Taiwanese mechanics were issued a refund.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Are You A Republican?

To be a Republican today you need to believe:
  • 1. Jesus loves you and shares your hatred of homosexuals.

  • 2. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's Daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we-can't-find-Bin-Laden" diversion.

  • 3. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

  • 4. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq .

  • 5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational drug corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

  • 6. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

  • 7. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

  • 8. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

  • 9. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism. HMO's and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

  • 10. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

  • 11. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

  • 12. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

  • 13. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

  • 14. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

  • 15. Supporting "Executive Privilege" in perpetuity for every Republican ever born, who will be born, or who might be born.

  • 16. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960's is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80's is irrelevant.
----From an email

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Found this great video of the space shuttle Endeavour's recent launch at Bad Astronomy. Granted, it's maybe not quite as cool as the Paris Hilton sex video, but it's still worth watching.

The video (the one of the shuttle, NOT the one of Paris) was compiled from footage recorded by a series of video cameras located on both the outside of the shuttle as well as its solid rocket boosters. It gets really interesting at about the 2:30 mark as the SRB's separate from the rest of the shuttle.

That's Just Clucking Ridiculous

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Importance Of Credibility

During his appearance on Good Morning America on Wednesday, Dick Cheneywas told that two-thirds of Americans say the Iraq war is not worth the cost in lives, Cheney actually grinned and said, "So?"

It's a relief to know that after five years of war, the vice president is amused that almost 4000 Americans--and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis--have needlessly died because of the arrogance of the Bush administration.

It's important to note that Cheney is an expert on Iraq. He first established his credentials on the subject back in 1994 when he told an interviewer that if American troops continued on to Baghdad in 1991, Iraq would have become a quagmire. Then in 2003, two days before Bush launched the invasion, Cheney appeared on "Meet the Press" and delivered one of the greatest predictions since the days when Nostradamus walked the Earth:
"I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."
And if that wasn't enough, Cheney topped himself in 2005 when he confidently declared the Iraqi insurgency to be in its "last throes."

So by gosh, when Dick Cheney defends the Iraq war, I'm certainly going to listen. The man has obviously established his credibility.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

No Need For Panic

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan warns that military action against Iran by the U.S. would be "a real disaster" for the middle east.

Annan needs to relax. If there's one thing the Bush administration is good at, it's disasters.

Why Prayers Sometimes Go Unanswered

According to a newly released report from NASA, 32% of prayers are deflected by passing satellites, thereby keeping them from reaching God. Many of the falling stars we see at night may, in fact, be blocked prayers falling back into the Earth's atmosphere.

This may go a long way to explaining why the America's Bible belt seems to get hit so often by tornadoes and hurricanes: The lord simply doesn't hear the anguished cries of those God-faring folks as their mobile homes are swept away by nature's raw fury.

That's why when I pray, I always send a cc. By doing so, the odds are that at least one copy is likely to get through.

I used to pray in bcc, but then I decided that God didn't know who was sending the prayer.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Musical Interlude

Never let it be said I'm not cultured.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke: 1917-2008

One of my favorite authors, Arthur C. Clarke, has died at his home in Sri Lanka. His most famous work--thanks to the Stanley Kubrick movie--was "2001: A Space Odyssey."

It should be noted, however, that the book actually came out AFTER the movie and was adapted from the screenplay. The movie itself was based on a short story Clarke had written back in 1948 called "The Sentinel."

But of all of Clarke's fiction, my favorite was a book called "Rendezvous with Rama." It's the story of a mysterious 30 mile long spaceship that passes through our solar system. An Earth ship is sent to take a close look at it, and the humans are able to gain entry. What they find is essentially a world built on its cylindrical interior. Gravity is provided by the vessel's constant spin. There are no life forms, but this small world is hardly dead. As Rama draws closer to our sun, various robots begin to emerge to perform maintenance.

It's been perhaps 20 years since I read the book, so my memory on the rest of it is fuzzy. Clarke's passing serves as a reminder that maybe it's time to read it again.

But Clarke was also much more than a science fiction writer. During World War II he helped develop radars. And in 1945, he came up with the wacky idea that communications satellites could be launched and put into Geosynchronous orbits. To this day, they are also called Clarke orbits.

But Clarke's greatest achievement may have been in the timing of his death. By dying at 1:30 A.M. on Wednesday in Sri Lanka, most of the world actually learned of his death the day before he died. If that's not a grand exit for a science fiction writer, I don't know what is.

The fact that the news was able to travel around the globe so fast is largely due to those very same communications satellites he first proposed 63 years ago.

In Defense of Eliot Spitzer

At least when Democrats have a sex scandal, it's with a member of the opposite sex.

A Hooker Would Have Been Cheaper

By the way.... It should be noted that while we Americans are whining about the price of gas, it's still less than half of what most Europeans are paying. On the other hand, those dumb Europeans aren't driving 5000 pound behemoths like Suburbans and Hummers.

Monday, March 17, 2008

It's Good To Be Governor

By now, the whole world knows that Eliot Spitzer resigned as governor of New York last week after his liaison with a high-priced prostitute became public. Some people may wonder what the big deal is, and under most circumstances, I would agree that this was no one's business except his and his wife's.

However, Spitzer was a former prosecutor. One of his favorite targets was Wall Street and the various financial shenanigans that financial firms occasionally try. Ironically, it was Spitzer who pressed banks to tighten their reporting of suspicious financial activity to the IRS. The rules were designed to help authorities crackdown on money laundering schemes. It was precisely such a series of transactions that led government investigators to the mysterious "Client Number Nine" that eventually turned out to be Spitzer.

So if nothing else, Spitzer is guilty of profound arrogance and stupidity.

Now comes word that former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey and his wife engaged in three way sex with another man on several occasions. His now ex-wife is denying the allegations, and this of course has led to a number of accusations between the former couple as to which one is lying.

Hope He Remembers To Pack His Male Enhancement Pills

Robert Soloway, the so-called King of Spam, has pleaded guilty on charges of fraud and tax evasion. He will be sentenced June 20 and is facing a possible 26 year jail term. He had previously lost a number of civil suits, but this is his first actual criminal prosecution. It is hoped that his case will serve as an example to deter other spammers.

No word if Soloway plans to repeatedly tell the other inmates that their penises are too small.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nothing Worse Than Broken China

To many people, China appears to be a big monolithic country filled with a billion people who, well, look pretty much all look alike. Despite occasional rumblings from pro democracy movements in the nation, we've always thought of the Beijing government as being firmly in control. Cracks, however, are starting to form.

Last week the world learned of a plot by a separatist group to hijack an airliner and crash it into the Chinese capital. This comes less than two months after police in one province raided a suspected terrorist hideout, killing two and arresting 15. The group was apparently seeking to somehow disrupt the Olympics.

What's most surprising about all this: The people involved in all this were Muslims.

Then this past weekend, unrest in Tibet spread to neighboring provinces. In response, Chinese security forces have been flooding the region.

In response to the escalating unrest, the price of kung pao has soared to $110 a barrel on world markets.

Turning Coffee into Wine

This past week's Dilbert featured a new character named Jesus (pronounced Hay-Soos). Some of his feats included making Wally's hair grow and turning coffee into wine. Well, needless to say, it pissed some people off.

So why are they getting so worked up over the storyline? Are they worried that Jesus isn't capable of defending himself?

Grandma Rambo

An 83 year old Santa Fe woman successfully fought off a would-be attacker at a gas station. No, the robber was NOT the gas station itself (though some may argue otherwise).

Bernie Garcia was pumping gas for her car when a man approached and asked for money. Then he grabbed her purse and tried to run, except that Garcia wouldn't let go. She even sprayed the guy with gasoline from the nozzle. He dragged her with the purse for a short distance until a bystander intervened. At that point he let go and fled with two other men in what turned out to be a stolen car. Oddly enough, it was the men who ended up being arrested.

And Garcia? She remains free, roaming the streets of Santa Fe. This is an absolute outrage! First of all, don't police always recommend that you NOT struggle with robbers? Don't they also tell you to just give muggers whatever it is they want? And let's not even talk about the precious gas she wasted on the man.

In that regard, Ms. Garcia broke the law and should be held accountable by society. Otherwise, how are criminals supposed to make an honest living in the current economic climate?

More importantly, the woman's last name is "Garcia." Did anyone bother to check if she was here legally?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Gospel According To Father George

At Least She's Well Lubricated

Friday, March 14, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Graceful Exit

I finally got around to watching the series finale of The Wire. All I can say is, The Sopranos should have ended so gracefully.

By the way, here's a classic scene from the first season of the show. Due to its nature, I'm rather reluctant to embed the actual video here. Suffice it to say, however, that you will never find a show with crisper or more expressive dialogue on American TV.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

She Should Have Just Blamed Gilligan

Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island, has been sentenced to six months probation for possession of marijuana. The arrest occurred in Idaho last October. Wells was on her way home from her birthday party when she was stopped by police.

Who would ever have thought that sweet little Mary Ann was a pot head? Ginger maybe, and certainly Mrs. Howell, but Mary Ann?!?!?

What's the world coming to?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Have you ever had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself? I just had to do exactly that, and now there are Whopper and onion ring bits all over my monitor.

The reason I almost choked on my food was this story about a recent report released by the United States. It accuses China of--GASP!!!!--torturing prisoners!

Coincidentally, the report on China comes just days after President Bush vetoed a congressional bill that would have banned the CIA from using waterboarding against its own prisoners.

If irony were a dog, it would be biting Bush in the ass right about now.

Yabba Dabba Doo Update

Although I don't know of any studies that will back me up, I have become convinced that one of the principle reasons such a high percentage of Americans believe in intelligent design is because of home schooling. Parents who insist on "educating" their children themselves are usually religious nutjobs (again, that's my assertion).

So what? Well, educated in such an environment, kids don't learn science. They learn fairy tales about people riding dinosaurs 6,000 years ago. Of course, this completely ignores everything we know about evolution, the fossil record, continental drift, and the fact that The Flintstones was a fictitious cartoon show and NOT some sort of animated documentary about the early history of mankind. It's such mentalities that go around thinking that diseases are caused by evil spirits, and that the power of prayer will stop a volcano from erupting. It's also the type of thinking that accused early astronomers of heresy when they dared suggest that it was the Earth that revolved around the sun.

That is why a recent decision by a California court that challenges home schooling is such wonderful news. Unfortunately, Governor Schwarzenegger has called the ruling "outrageous" and vowed to fight for legislation to further legitimize home schooling.

Apparently The Governator is opposed to kids receiving a proper education from qualified teachers. Heaven forbid that such children might grow up to effectively compete in a 21st century global economy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Wired For The Last Time

Tonight The Wire wraps up what has probably been its finest season. Unfortunately the episode will also be the series finale as the show ends its five season run on HBO.

At first glance, The Wire may have appeared to be a gritty cop show set in Baltimore. But for people who stuck with it, the series was a work of art. Each season was essentially one big story arc; taken as a whole, the same can be said of the entire series.

This year especially has been nothing short of a masterpiece. Faced with massive budget shortfalls, the city of Baltimore subjects its police department to massive budget cutbacks. Desperate to finally put away the group of bad guys around which mush of the series has revolved, Detective Jimmy McNulty concocts an audacious plan to get the manpower he needs: He begins manipulating evidence and "creates" a serial killer. He then tips off the media that someone's preying on the city's homeless.

The resulting public pressure forces the mayor to give more money to the police. As the lead detective on the serial killer case, it's up to McNulty to decide who gets the sudden influx of overtime money. He's able to reconstitute his old team, but soon other detectives begin coming to him as well. He just tells them to bill the overtime to his case.

In a great scene, McNulty and another officer meet with some FBI profilers to try and get a better idea of just who this serial killer may be. The lead profiler proceeds to describe a white male in his '40s, with a string of failed relationships in his past, prone to fits of binge drinking, who has problems with authority figures, etc. McNulty gets a strange look on his face as it dawns on him that the FBI guy is doing a pretty decent job of describing him!

McNulty's downfall, however, may come tonight. He has gradually revealed to more and more of his coworkers that there is no actuall serial killer. At the end of last week's episode one of them went to her superiors with information on what McNulty had been doing.

Playing out against all this has been a story involving the Baltimore Sun. Like virtually every newspaper in the country, the Sun has been increasingly trying to do more with less as another round of buyouts eliminates many of the paper's most senior writers. Meanwhile, it's becoming increasingly obvious that one of their reporters has been embellishing his stories with fictitious characters and quotes. Further complicating matters, he happens to be the same reporter that McNulty has periodically talked to while posing as the serial killer.

The bad guys have also been a fascinating bunch. A fan favorite has been Omar Little. Though capable of being as ruthless and violent as any of them, Omar is also guided by a strange sense of morality: He targets only other dealers, stealing their money and drug stashes. His name had become legendary--and feared--among the corner dealers he often targeted. He would sometimes walk down the middle of the street in his black trenchcoat with a shotgun hidden under it while whistling some tune or another. It had gotten to the point where the dealers would just hand over the money without even bothering to put up a fight.

Alas, the reality of his dangerous lifestyle caught up to Omar two weeks ago. While in a store buying a pack of Newports (in a box) a little kid walks up behind him and shoots him in the back of the head.

Just goes to show that smoking really can kill you.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Timely Changes

Daylight Savings Time starts tonight at 2 A.M. in most of the United States. That means move your clocks ahead by one hour. If it seems earlier this year, it is. Congress decided a few years ago to move the time change up to the second Sunday of March, and last year was when the new rules took effect.

That's assuming, of course, that your clocks can be changed. One thing that was discovered last year was that some electronic devices simply can't be changed. They are permanently programmed to change time under the old rules, which were the LAST Sunday of March and the LAST Sunday of October.

Some people argue that changing the clocks is silly, but they're just ignorant. It magically gives farmers an "extra" hour of daylight, and that's important in an agrarian based society such as ours.

But here's a more important question: Why do we have Standard Time for only 18 weeks a year, while we have have Daylight Savings Time for 34 weeks? Doesn't "standard," by definition, mean that it is the norm and NOT the exception? So how can something that only exists approximately 35% of the time be the standard, while the exception is the rule the other 65% of the time? In other words, shouldn't the rule that is in effect almost two thirds of the year be the new Standard Time.

Of course, that raises the question of what to call the old Standard Time. Logically it should be the opposite of Daylight Savings Time, which would be Nighttime Splurging Time.

That's it. I'm writing my Congressman.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Your Choice: Cheap Airline Tickets Or Safety?

Southwest Airlines, long known for its low fares, has been fined $10.2 million for repeatedly flying several planes without the proper inspections for cracks in the fuselage. The required checks for metal fatigue were mandated after a 1988 incident in which part of the top of an Aloha Airlines 737 peeled off the plane and fell into the Pacific. One flight attendant was killed in the incident, and several passengers seriously injured. Generally speaking, the government considers such incidents as being bad.

For its part, Southwest says in a statement that "safety was never compromised."

Hmmmm.... I'm no aeronautical engineer, nor do I play one on TV, but wouldn't, say, a wing falling off a plane at 30,000 feet tend to somewhat possibly just maybe compromise the safety of the aircraft a wee bit?

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Next On 'Cops:'Arresting The Grim Reaper

The mayor of a small French village has banned anyone from dying without already having purchased a cemetery plot. He instituted the measure to protest a ruling that prevents him from enlarging the existing cemetery's size. Mayor Gerard Lalanne warns of "severe punishment" for offenders.

Huh? What's he gonna do? This is one crime for which capital punishment is unlikely to be a significant deterrent.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Maybe We'll See Them On 'Cops'

Two towns in Vermont have voted to indict George Bush and Dick Cheney for "crimes against our Constitution." The measures, which call for police to arrest the two should they ever set foot in either town, are mostly symbolic.

The petition drive to place the measure on the ballot in the town of Brattleboro was organized by Kurt Daims. Said Daims, "I hope the one thing that people take from this is, 'Hey, it can be done.'"

He probably would have said more, but Secret Service agents showed up and hauled his ass away for waterboarding.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


A spacecraft orbiting Mars has captured the first images of an actual avalanche on the surface of the the Red Planet. The event took place near the north pole of the planet and consisted mostly of ice and dirt tumbling down a cliff.

Rescue teams are now searching for any Martian skiers who may have been stupid enough to have ignored the posted avalanche danger signs.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Sunday, March 02, 2008

So Much For Wind Power

A lot of hot air is being generated by the American presidential campaign, and it's having ramifications around the world. Here's a video of a wind turbine in Denmark that fell victim to a recent debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Saturday, March 01, 2008