April 30, 2008


Whatever the Miley Cyrus hooplah is about (and it is about people being uncomfortable looking at a 15-year-old girl looking satisfied, seemingly forgetting what teenagers spend most of their time thinking-about-if-not-doing, that menarche hits at 12, etc.) it's not about sending kids to war but not letting them drink or fuck. The war is the war, and I don't think that the time people are wasting being offended that VF and AL conspired to purvey the photo is time that those people would otherwise be using to protest or otherwise denounce the war.

Continue reading "Sirens"
posted by sstrader at 4:47 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

April 28, 2008

Jeremiah Wright on music

OK, so I've finally found a subject to take issue with with Rev. Wright. On CSPAN today, he was denouncing the idea that the western music tradition is any more valid than the African music tradition. I'm all for inclusive education in the arts, but his examples were so poorly chosen as to--and I really hate to say this--invoke the specter of reverse discrimination.

His first example was harmless enough (although he phrased it inequitably as a value judgement), suggesting that western tradition emphasizes predominantly martial time with a notable absence of syncopation. In his fantasy world, African music freed the west from Sousa by offering up the off-beat clapping of gospel. I've often heard different forms of this argument, and it does injustice to both lineages. In the west, early sacred choral music took much from Eastern Europe and therefore took much of Eastern Europe's compound meter and shifting metric relationships. Similarly but different, Baroque virtuoso music stretched metric interest by committing to paper the technical flights of violin and keyboard masters. Beethoven also introduced great rhythmic color into his pieces, as did Brahms (although perhaps depending primarily on hemiolas). To say that Africa gave the west "syncopation" is like saying the west gave Africa "freedom."

Martial music is often simplistic in that it is meant simply to count to four and do little else. Conversely, folk music can be rhythmically surprising (for reasons I don't know) if a bit repetitive. Early Renaissance folk meter borrowed its irregularity from language (e.g. musique mesuree). Bartok and Kodaly transcribed much Eastern European folk music and came away absorbing and re-passing on its inventiveness to the western tradition. Gospel has similar characteristics but could only arrogantly declare itself as FIRST POST.

Rev. Wright is well-read, so I'm not sure why he would paint such a tainted picture. He does have a couple of nutty canards as Bill Moyers generously labels them, so maybe it's simply more of the same.

posted by sstrader at 11:23 PM in Music | permalink

April 27, 2008

Oh, will hitman monkey ever find happiness?

posted by sstrader at 12:54 PM in Misc | permalink

April 25, 2008

April 24, 2008

The internet hearts Helen Thomas

Send Helen Thomas some flowers. You know you want to.

[ update 10:51 PM ]

It's up to $3,248 now ...

posted by sstrader at 12:14 PM in Politics | permalink

April 22, 2008

Green it

Did anyone else throw up a little when they saw this?


Fox. Spin it. Dimwit.

Fox. Flip-flop it. Profit.

(OK, they obviously had a marketing team trying to make the rhyme difficult...)

posted by sstrader at 8:22 AM in Culture & Society | permalink

April 21, 2008

Google maps and traffic

Google maps added some nifty new stuff to its traffic view. Icons with popup infomation and traffic predictions by DOW and TOD. See the resulting niftiness:


Now you can see your commute go into the red for the day of the week of your choice!

See also Wikipedia, maps

posted by sstrader at 6:03 PM in Science & Technology | permalink

More Expelled fallout

I hoped it would die a lonely death. It's not. Dawkins wrote a letter to a Jew who was convinced by the movie that Atheists are evil. I am (sadly) not making this up. Dawkins reply is detailed and reasonsed. On the original letter-writer's unfortunate phrasing:

While, as for the Lutherans, Martin Luther himself wrote a book called On the Jews and their Lies from which Hitler quoted. And Luther publicly said that "All Jews should be driven from Germany." By the way, do you hear an echo of those words in your own letter to Michael Shermer, "We Jews will fight to keep people like you out of the United States." Don't you feel just a twinge of shame at those truly horrible words of yours? Don't you feel that, as a Jew, you should feel especially regretful that you used those words?

On that jackass, Ben Stein:

Mr J, you have been cruelly duped by Ben Stein and his unscrupulous colleagues. It is a wicked, evil thing they have done to you, and potentially to many others. I do not know whether they knowingly and wantonly perpetrated the falsehood that fooled you. Perhaps they genuinely and sincerely believed it, although other actions by them, which you can read about all over the Internet, persuade me that they are fully capable of deliberate and calculated deception. You are perhaps not to be blamed for swallowing the film's falsehoods, because you probably assumed that nobody would have the gall to make a whole film like that without checking their facts first. Perhaps even you will need a little more convincing that they were wrong, in which case I urge you to read it up and study the matter in detail -- something that Ben Stein and his crew manifestly and lamentably failed to do.

A Jewish person had asked me this weekend about Obama's anti-semitism. I (also sadly) didn't have an immediate answer because I honestly don't know any of the source material that made them think that. More research needed. I do, however, know how to shut down the lies being passed around about atheism and/or evolution.

posted by sstrader at 7:36 AM in Science & Technology | permalink

April 20, 2008

The most fucked-up things I've heard recently (short, enumerated rant)

  • Even if the debates don't ask important questions, I still watch them to judge the candidates on how they react. (co-worker) - Media corporations have a unique and potentially rich access to our presidential candidates. Joe Blow can't gather the candidates together at his home and compare their answers to (hopefully) pithy questions. Our country's fucked up if not only do media corps cheapen their access by asking what's-your-favorite-color questions but viewers actually appreciate that they get such little information and are happy to base their vote on the resulting banalities.
  • You people need to understand how completely biased Frontline is. (co-worker) - Ignoring the truism that any statement is biased, how the fuck does someone even come to this conclusion? The show's had a few questionable episodes. Considering they've been on since 1983, and considering you practically can't watch a single episode of a show on Fox News without running into deep factual and ethical infelicities, Frontline has an outstanding record. Again, what the fuck?!?
  • Schools should teach religion and ID in science classes because evolution can't explain the origins of life. (Bill O'Reilly interviewing Ben Stein) - Where to begin with this eyesore of logical thinking and basic intelligence? First fuck up: the misunderstanding that evolution has anything to say about abiogenesis. Second: the idea that the lack of complete success discredits a theory's partial success. Third: that religion and ID even qualify as a science and should be placed next to rigorous theories instead of next to philosophy. Why the fuck isn't architecture taught in English class?!? Fuckhead.
posted by sstrader at 5:02 PM in Personal | permalink

Uglies, Pretties, Specials (Boxed Set); Scott Westerfeld

I'd heard about this set from Boing Boing and was intrigued but wanted to avoid it for the idiot reason that it felt too much like buying an Oprah book: the heavy weight of a Boing Boing recommendation makes it more "marketing" than "recommending." Anyway, I picked up the boxed set during the recent Amazon sci-fi sale (along with complete Space: 1999 DVDs, complete Aeon Flux series, and two experimental films by Shozin Fukui) and just finished the first book, Uglies. It's teen fiction, but I've been completely engrossed with the characters, story, and ideas contained. Anti-future where everyone gets extreme plastic surgery at 16 to make them super-super-model beautiful. Our very much flawed female protagonist is drawn into a resistance group. Reluctantly, at first, then heroically. The clever concepts make up for the limited, teen-directed vocabulary and short (< 5-page) chapters. You'll burn through it quickly because of both this and it's compelling drama.

Continue reading "Uglies, Pretties, Specials (Boxed Set); Scott Westerfeld"
posted by sstrader at 4:06 PM in Current Interests , Language & Literature | tagged ya fiction | permalink

April 18, 2008

Cam nom nom nom

up here silly
posted by sstrader at 6:04 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

April 17, 2008


First I heard discussions on NPR with priests mincing about how the pope shouldn't be expected to apologize (for the endemic corruption of the clergy regarding the sex abuse scandal) because the issue is about Christian forgiveness and is not about blame. A more repulsive hypocrisy I can't imagine. Then, they go on to discuss the prevalence of homosexuality in the priesthood. Oh, no you didn't. I hope you didn't just try to equate the two, 'cause shit like that just doesn't hold up. Ultimately, this is from only one representative of the church and not the leadership, so maybe the church as a whole has a different position. But then, that jackassed pope tries to blame the abuse on everything but the church's leadership. I'm at somewhat of a loss.

Religion didn't invent hypocrisy, it just made it a whole lot easier.

posted by sstrader at 1:27 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

April 16, 2008

GitS. Prepare to die.

Live-action Ghost in the Shell. From Dreamworks. In 3-D. Gah. Expect Hanna Montana as Kusanagi and The Rock as Batou with the Tachikomas sounding even more kawaii than they do in the TV series.

A more reasoned analysis over at io9. Best comment from the thread: Will he replace all the guns with walkie-talkies?
posted by sstrader at 8:59 AM in Cinema | tagged ghost in the shell, io9 | permalink

April 15, 2008

Where was I?

Last week was festive: Wednesday with the bloggers at P'cheen; Thursday with friends at Stats where, upon leaving, Lisa and I got lost in the Omni hotel until I braved a trail through its secret, authorized-personnel-only passageways to exit right in front of our parking garage. I rule. The parking garage itself had a strange, om-nom-nom-nom creature guarding access.

Friday, fun night at Cuerno with co-workers and spouses. Lisa had the monk fish, I had the lamb, the paella looked awesome but that'll be for another trip. A little bit noisy and we had some too-long delays with the waiter, but overall good.

Saturday, fourth year going to the Atlanta Steeplechase with friends (third year attending). I was the 2nd-place winner this year (by a nose!) and brought home a cool ten-bucks, four of which was used as tip for our Sunday pizza guy. Made it back in town after getting lost in north Georgia (yipes!), then hung out at Alicia and Dan's.

Sunday was lazy morning on the couch until I somehow twisted my back simply getting up for a snack. Lean forward, twist, stand up, and then a loud POP POP POP at the vertebrae of my lower back. I'm barely mobile the rest of the day, but got 50% back on Monday and and almost completely restored today. There's no way I'm going to miss Climb Atlanta this Saturday...

posted by sstrader at 5:05 PM in Where was I? | permalink

April 13, 2008

Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Aack!

posted by sstrader at 10:14 PM in Misc | permalink

April 12, 2008

Om nom nom nom

Found on a gate in a parking deck near the Omni...

posted by sstrader at 8:33 AM in Personal | permalink

April 9, 2008

LOLcats are dead, long live om nom nom nom

Main page for wasting time ... Thread for wasting time.

And they're down. Digg effect (or maybe Ether effect...?).
posted by sstrader at 6:01 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

HP UMPC 2133

Pretty sexy new mini-laptop coming up from HP. I'm seeing predicted prices from $500-$650 and up, but it has an 8.5-inch, 1366x766 screen (vs. the Eee's 7-inches) and built-in Bluetooth (vs. none). Plus, anodized aluminum case (vs. plastic). Pics stolen:

posted by sstrader at 1:01 PM in Science & Technology | permalink


Good for Time et al. for finally saying what every expert had been for a while: ethanol is not the answer (and not even "an" answer) to alternative energy. On the other hand, people have known this for years (see, for example, the second comment in this RealClimate thread from almost three years ago), so the media once again sucks on science coverage: parroting political opinion over scientific concensus and correcting only after the meme had already penetrated the masses. Sigh.

posted by sstrader at 8:02 AM in Science & Technology | permalink

April 8, 2008


Listening to the quality of content on the public radio media studies shows (On the Media, etc.) reminds me that it isn't the hateful patriotism of conservative talk radio that returns some power to citizens (no matter how much they crow that they are), nor is it PBS as a whole who almost without exception fell down on the job with the Iraq war, nor that idiotic Air America Radio with its reverse vitriol, and of course no more hatred needs to be heaped on the MSM. It's the media shows and media sites (FactCheck, etc.) that begin to allow the people to decide that a quality truth will get reported. Optimistically, we're on the first steps to fewer repeated lies becoming true.

Bill Moyer's special, Buying the War, showed only two reporters who researched, read, and exposed the lies as they were happening. Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel did what everyone should have been doing but were too few to be heard. However, on corporate control of the media, Landay says:

I'm not sure that the failure of major news media to delve into the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq can be totally blamed on corporate consolidation and control of big media. Knight Ridder was (and The McClatchy Co.) is the second largest publisher of newspapers in the United States and one of the largest in the world. KR was and McClatchy is mainstream media, with more than 30 newspapers and multiple websites and many other publications. But there was never a point where Knight Ridder's corporate leadership tried to rein us in or interfere with our reporting. On the contrary, we received only the strongest encouragement and unwavering support from KR's top executives. This was all about journalism. We simply did our jobs. Our editors had faith that our work was accurate and so did their bosses. [emphasis mine]

Behind this observation is repeated what many of us believed: the public was more to blame for the war--whether from misguided vengeance, investigative laziness, racism, or simple 2+2=5, bootlicking ignorance. And when I listen to Brian Lehrer or Leonard Lopate on WNYC, I hear reasoned discussions without straw men or kowtowing to a liberal audience. They treat their listeners, to borrow Jon Stewart's quote, as though they're adults. Imagine, reasonable discussions of passionate beliefs taking over the media and kicking out the, to paraphrase an Obama quote I can't find, shallowness of the past decade.

OK, enough of this optimism...

posted by sstrader at 7:44 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

April 7, 2008


Swearing is the bodily functions of language. Though vulgar, it can confer a familiarity to the listener.

posted by sstrader at 8:58 AM in Language & Literature | permalink

April 6, 2008


Sci-fi is divided into stories of a future and an anti-future of societal control (think the optimistic Star Trek compared with the pessimistic 1984 or THX-1138) and stories of a future and anti-future of robotics (think pro-android Ghost in the Shell and uber-anti-android Terminator). In the cross-section of the two is Battlestar Galactica. I think these conflicts express the conflicted obsession of geeks. Technology is cool, but technology can also be a fucking hardcore bitch.

posted by sstrader at 11:10 PM in Science & Technology | permalink

April 5, 2008

Genius idea

Coworker went to Japan recently and got a local to guide and translate for free. The local did it so that they could practice their (already perfect) English. Coworker gets a free guide/translator, local gets exposure to idioms and accent. Win, meet win.

As soon as she told me about this, I had the genius idea to create a web site connecting travellers to language students. What a wonderful project! Imagine that you're going to Stockholm and all you have to do is browse for someone available in that time period to hang out with you a few hours a day and help you around the city.

More genius ideas...

posted by sstrader at 6:25 PM in Language & Literature | permalink


More "common sense" jackassery with the recent science news that you don't really need eight glasses of water a day. Many comments throughout the internets are along the lines of: of course you don't need that much, prescriptive rules of how to live ignore that you should primarily listen to what your body says.

Ahh, it's nice to know that those with high cholesterol can eat whatever they want since that's proof of what their body wants. No medical issues there. And the morbidly obese, they got that way by listening to their bodies and purposefully overeating. And diabetics certainly don't need to change their diet or take insulin.

This is another example of people who don't understand science and feel that it's followed to the detriment of common sense. Social history is filled with forgotten common sense (in it's less kind form called superstition) that until examined by facts was more common than sense. What we're calling common sense is intuition based on quick pattern matching. Sometimes the patterns are right for the right reasons, sometimes right for the wrong reasons, and sometimes we end up with fear of witches based on eccentric behavior, adherence to slavery based on racial prejudice, or the somewhat more innocuous belief in astrology and mysticism.

This rant is makin' me thirsty.

posted by sstrader at 11:44 AM in Science & Technology | permalink

April 4, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, the anti-evolution documentary Expelled, a project of intellect-wannabe Ben Stein, was previewed to anyone who would sign up. Science blogger extraordinaire PZ Myers signed up and took science writer extraordinaire Richard Dawkins as a guest. Myers was IDed (no pun) and ordered to leave the premises before he could enter the theater; Dawkins, in what is now science blogger legend, was unrecognized and allowed in. Science blogs were beside themselves with the duplicity of it all: Expelled posits that anti-evolution professors are being blackballed from teaching. Academia being too terrified of being proven wrong, they expel opposing viewpoints. Myers and Dawkins had a good laugh and mocked what sounds to be an eminently mockable film. Geesh, the subtitle is "No Intelligence Allowed," so it's like they're asking for it.

I read, laughed, and assumed that this deceitful concept would die a death of isolation, believed only by the insulated hyper-Christian clique. Alas, I listened to Marketplace today and fear that the venomous Christian self-martyrdom that took a feverish hold in the Left Behind series, moved to the Xtian torture-porn of The Passion of the Christ, will now manifest its mysteries in this anti-science documentary. The backers of the film have pocketed marketing firms to match the purchased indulgences of Gibson's Passion: cash awards for churches that have the greatest attendance at the screenings and for the best song that sings a joyful noise against the evil scientists. Have you no fucking shame?

Wikipedia's entry on the brouhaha has more. PZ Myers' first post on being expelled. Video of Myers and Dawkins talking about their respective experiences at and not-at the screening. Google search on related articles.

posted by sstrader at 7:20 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

40 years

Listened to the American Radio Works documentary King's Last March on the way home on Sunday. Learned many facts about the last days of MLK. From the pillow fight with friends that occured just before his assassination (?!?), to the conspiracy-confirming lies that the American government tried to spread against him, King's latter-day move to bring attention to the economic inequality in our country, and the grisly cause of the Memphis sanitation workers' strike and his reason for being there. Worth a listen on this day.

posted by sstrader at 7:18 AM in Culture & Society | permalink

April 3, 2008

Wikipedia, maps

When did Wikipedia put coordinates and maps into its articles? The Lorraine Motel has a drop-down, Ajaxy map at the top right of the page. Clicking the coordinates goes to a page with external links to tens of external maps. Clicking the tiny globe opens a map of the location in the current page with credits as "WikiMiniAtlas." Map is draggable (in this day how could it not be?) and locations are links to their Wikipedia entry. Just. Wow.

posted by sstrader at 4:14 PM in Science & Technology | permalink

Power out in Peachtree Lofts

Let's see how long my UPSs are really rated for... 15 minutes?! What was I thinking when I bought that thing?!?

posted by sstrader at 8:12 AM in Personal | permalink

April 2, 2008

The social

A few weeks back, I got in a conversation trying to argue against people who insisted that mediated socializing isn't "real" socializing. A specific comment was made that people who look for friendship online must hate their lives and hate the people they know IRL. I know: where to begin? I took the approach that having a pen-pal 50 years ago wouldn't have been considered a slight to those who you associated with in person. Phone conversations, discussion groups, emails, IM, SMS--all are fair game for connecting to others. They were not convinced and stood by their belief that our social fiber is crumbling (mixed metaphor mine).

I got in yet another argument about it today, this time with someone insisting that intellectual geeks were isolated and un-social. The mistake was perhaps getting in a conversation with such sweeping generalizations. My approach today was to point out the prevalence of discussion groups, meetups, IRC, etc. (to keep the generalizations going, I guess). Those media were declared off limits because they might involve work as opposed to private life. Beyond bland truisms (people who isolate themselves don't socialize...), not much can be gleaned from such differences-of-worldview. And again, these are tech people, not grandparents or luddites.

[ 3 Apr 2008 ]

More kids-these-days-suck ideology that I couldn't resist commenting on.

Lisa's in Pittsburgh/Bethlehem this weekend to see Diane, Brad, and The Baby, so I'm considering going to a Sat nite piano recital at Spivey Hall. Gilles Vonsattel will be performing some distinct and modern pieces; the Liszt is from his more ascetic period so I'm not so sure about it, the contrapuntal Dallapiccola would be of interest.

Tomorrow night (her last night in town this week) is a date dinner at Amore. We had first stumbled in for late nite drinks a month ago, and I loved the interior. A couple of weekends back we had some afternoon drinks and chatted with the owner of the bar. Fun.

This past weekend was: charity auction at the Knoxville Theater where we lost out on a years worth of free AMC movie tickets and a collection of nice wines, Lisa won the bid for a spa certificate for her and her mom, afterwards attended the B.B. King concert, and on Sunday Lisa's first 5k with a triumphant ending on the 50-yard line of the football field.

posted by sstrader at 11:15 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

Marathon woman

Or, at least, 5k woman. Lisa finished 290th out of 1188 in the Knoxville 5k. w00t.

posted by sstrader at 3:10 PM in Personal | permalink

April 1, 2008

Irreligion; John Allen Paulos

I'd read his books on innumeracy and thought that this would be a nice, quick entry into the recent atheist-lit. He used to have a fun column on ABC's web site. Check out his (slightly ill-formatted) web site for more fun facts.

Continue reading "Irreligion; John Allen Paulos"
posted by sstrader at 10:31 PM in Current Interests , Language & Literature | permalink