Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Steve Jobs Legacy

I enjoyed this NYTimes retrospective of the impact of Steve Jobs and what he accomplished with Apple. Money quote:
Again and again, [Jobs] would step up to entrenched players in the media with calcified business models and explain their business to them in ways they did not recognize from the inside. ... In the case of music, many of us wanted the ease and portability of MP3 files, but didn’t want to become mouse-enabled criminals taking the music we wanted. From that perspective, 99 cents seemed like a small price to pay.

You Need a License to Dance

Some interesting thoughts by Connor Friedersdorf about why government requires permits for everything:
The normal mindset among U.S. officials is that prior permission should be required to sell legal goods to a willing buyer. Kids selling lemonade on the street are shut down. A Missouri man has been fined $90,000 for selling rabbits (he made about $200). ... If you read enough of these stories, you'll see the targeted entrepreneurs say the same thing again and again: I just had a good idea and started a business. It never occurred to me that I needed permission. And, of course, other would be entrepreneurs don't ever get started because they're too intimidated to assess and grapple with the bureaucratic hurdles. Or else the regulations are written in a way that excludes from commerce folks who are operating at a very small scale.

I've always wondered why you need permits to sell some things. Do you really need a barbers license to cut hair? Why is the government worrying about these things when there are so many, many other things to focus on? Is it that they are addicted to the money they make on permit fees?
Warren Zevon touches on this point during his downer of a song "Life'll Kill Ya": You need a permit to walk around downtown / You need a license to dance"

Mental Health Break

Cookie Monster singing Tom Waits' "Gods Out on Business."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

in my dreams when i am other men

in my dreams when i am other men
(i just can’t be held back by this small life)
i run shirtless with the sun on my back
across the field, down the hill and to the beach
salt water in my mouth and the wind in my hair
man, i’m full of fun clichés
other times i’m in tense claustrophobic situations
joking black humor with old-time black-ops colleagues
exercising hard-won skills at all hours of the night
then i’m watching a desert sunrise from a hot air balloon
a friendly stranger’s arm around me several thousand feet up
gliding silently in between mountain ranges
tough bumpy landing in the middle of nowhere, but it’s allright
‘cause the chase car’s coming with tequila to warm the blood
and we cook huevos rancheros over the campfire
watching the day unfold naturally
which is nice and all, but it doesn’t last and
I find my tattooed arms pounding out bonham fills to an ecstatic crowd
anger is an energy, dontya know
wiping down after the show, smirking at backstage starlets
my every whim their command
which is fun for a while, no doubt
but sometimes i just gotta hop on my bike and get riding
meditating on that ol’ white line for hours and hours
heading up to the green hills, man
with different small towns tucked into every valley
unique taverns where nobody knows my name
(oh, but they want to)
snow softly beating against single paned glass as
two lonely souls slow dance in the steamy heat next to the jukebox
man, i’d love to stay but
i’ve got miles to go before I sleep
if i sleep
the next day i’m at a county carnival
with sheep and goats and crafts and crowds
a boy on my shoulders screaming for more
eating french fries as we walk through the crowd
silly high-pitched laughter filling the air
it seems like all i’ve ever wanted but
i don't end up staying for long
'cause now i’m a young executive (really?)
effortlessly tying Windsor knots and wearing hundred dollar shoes
leading all day focus groups on initiative alignment
patent leather briefcases on walnut boardroom desks
i’ve got top-of-the-line this and best-in-class that
yea, everyone loves the smell of money
fish plates and single malts before hitting the town
but i'm just warming up
'cause you know i know the best after-hour parties
clothing optional in foggy clubs with deep house beats
spending my weekends away in mansions named after patrons
with pools and tennis and endless high end booze...
flirting with debutantes in pearls and pencil skirts
french kissing in an empty wing of the house
i can do this all night (and often do)
it's all in my head (isn't it?)
thoughts and fantasies buried away...
you don't know what i'm really like
'cause i'm living new lives every single night
in my dreams, i'm other men

Perrotta Novels

I've had mixed experiences with the novels of Tom Perrotta. I absolutely loved Little Children (you can find my review here), but The Wishbones, not so much - I found it to be too glib and with too many coincidences.

His new novel The Leftovers has a fascinating premise: "a rapturelike event has whisked millions of people off the face of the earth." What makes this conceit really interesting is that the people that were taken away have nothing in common. As Stephen King puts it in his great NYTimes review, "Nor do all (or even most) of the missing qualify as Camping-style Christians; those raptured away include Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and the odd alcoholic… [and] the rapture’s failure to conform to biblical prophecy has driven some people plumb over the edge."

I heard Perrotta talking about the novel on NPR the other day and was intrigued by his thinking about the premise. He was thoughtful and respectful about the implications of the rapture but didn't seem too serious. I enjoy the idea of taking a seemingly absurd idea and making it come true but with a twist. Plus, if the book is anything like Little Children, it will be written well in what SK describes as "beautifully modulated narration... His lines have a calm and unshowy clarity."

(As an aside, I hesitated to link to that review of Little Children, because it's a good example of my writing when I don't take the time to edit myself - it's unclear, stream of consciousness writing that's more thinking out loud than thoughtful conclusions. Still, it is what it is, but take it with a grain of salt.)

Cross posted at Reading, Running and Red Sox

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Brave Little State of Vermont

The ending of President Calvin Coolidge's speech after seeing Vermont's recovery efforts following the epic flood of 1927:
Vermont is a state I love. I could not look upon the peaks of Ascutney, Killington, Mansfield, and Equinox, without being moved in a way that no other scene could move me. It was here that I first saw the light of day; here I received my bride, here my dead lie pillowed on the loving breast of our eternal hills.

I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union, and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.

Mental Health Break

For those of you - like me! - who need a break from work, kids, hurricanes, and all the other crap of daily existence, sit back and enjoy some classic William Shatner performances. The songs in particular are amazing: covers of Harry Chapin's "Taxi" and Elton John's "Rocket Man" that kill me everytime I come across them.

Irene's Aftermath

Here in Massachusetts, we mainly escaped any damage from hurricane Irene. We lost power for six hours, had to watch our basement very carefully, and clean up some downed tree limbs, but for us it was mainly just a really bad storm.

Pity those in Vermont who are dealing with something much, much worse. All of the major rivers in the state are flooding, leading to horrible conditions that everyone's comparing to the huge floods of 1927. Matt Sutkoski gives us some of the gory details, including the stunning fact that "...many places had well over five inches of rain in 18 hours. I saw a report of 7.15 inches in Randolph Center." Just an awful situation.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Meditating and the "I"

The Dish points out that: "Mark Vernon questions the merits of Buddhism as interpreted by the West:
[I]n meditation, Buddhism offers a therapy that tackles the hyper-individualism of today by stressing the instability and dissolution of the self. Only, it seems to me that is not true. Whilst it may be very hard to say what an ‘I’ is – and it is surely multiple and porous – it is foolish to rush to concluding there’s no ‘I’ at all. It is less reactionary, surely, to rest with the notion that we are something of a mystery to ourselves – a mystery deepened in meditative analysis, not dissolved in it."
As a novice meditator, this rings true to me. I haven't been able to wrap my mind around many Buddhist concepts, and the idea that the self doesn't exist is top among them. I like and appreciate that everyone is simply a mystery to themselves, with lots of unquestioned assumptions and cultural conditionings that meditation can help point out to you, but as soon as you accept this, the mystery deepens as you start to question what comes after you strip away your assumptions. There's no easy answer and I suspect that what answer there is is different for each one of us.

Infinity and God

The Dish continues it's examination of infinity with Mark Goldblatt observation about Nicholas of Cusa's geometric metaphor of adding sides to a square inside a circle until they match:
The act of adding sides to a plane figure brings you closer to both an infinite number of sides and to zero sides. Infinity, therefore, is the unachievable, inconceivable moment at which contradictory extremes are unified. The moment at which the greatest number and the least number become one and the same. That’s also, according to Cusa, how the finite human mind glimpses, but does not grasp, the infinite nature of God. Rational thought and language fail at infinity because contradictories become identities.
In my mind, the biggest problem with all conversations about God or the divine is the lack of terms you have for the discussion.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Infinity Squared

I've always had a passing interest in mathmatics, and to this date enjoy thinking about some of the paradoxes that arise when you talk about math theory. Just don't ask me to do any of the math!

One of the questions that arises is infinity. Now infinity is a difficult enough topic to grasp, but - as detailed in DFW's Everything and More (a summary of the infinity) - there are even different sizes of infinity. It's a huge mind-fuck of a concept, but a hell of a lot of fun to ponder.

Or to get a cliff notes version, you can check out The Dish's ongoing conversation on infinity here and here.

Pandora Profit

So Pandora is more popular than ever - "Pandora users listened to 1.8 million hours worth of audio over the [second quarter], up to 3.6 percent of the total U.S. listening audience" - but has yet to turn a profit.

Sounds like the culprit are the compensation agreements that they negotiated with the music labels back when the didn't have the audience that they have now. Money quote:
The hope is that in 2014, when Pandora will begin renegotiating its contract with the labels, it will be able to parlay its increased listeners to strike a better deal. The company currently has to pay for every minute of music streamed, not a flat rate for each song licensed.
The danger here is, of course, that if these negotiations do not go well for Pandora, the company may no longer be viable. Here's hoping that the company can parley its large listening base into a royalty agreement that enables to be with us for years to come.

Biggest. Diamond. Ever.

Astronomists have found a planet about 4,000 light years away that appears to be a gigantic, solid diamond.

Reminds me of that great moment in 2010 when the star child takes that incredible journey to the center of Jupiter only to find out that the core of the planet is a giant diamond, out of the grasp of humanity forever.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Deep Thought

Why do all of the horrible hurricanes I remember have female names?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's Playing?

The shimmering, addictive Young Blood by the New Zealand band The Naked and the Famous. It's an incredibly catchy musing on what starts as youthful possibility and joy and moves into maturity:

We're only young and naive still
We require certain skills
The mood it changes like the wind
Hard to control when it begins

The bittersweet between my teeth
Trying to find the in-betweens
Fall back in love eventually
Yeah yeah yeah yeah

Can't help myself but count the flaws
Claw my way out through these walls
One temporary escape
Feel it start to permeate

We lie beneath the stars at night
Our hands gripping each other tight
You keep my secrets hope to die
Promises, swear them to the sky

The bittersweet between my teeth
Trying to find the in-betweens
Fall back in love eventually
Yeah yeah yeah yeah

As it withers
Brittle it shakes
Can you whisper
As it crumbles and breaks
As you shiver
Count up all your mistakes
Pair of forgivers
Let go before it's too late
Can you whisper
Can you whisper
Can you whisper
Can you whisper

The bittersweet between my teeth
Trying to find the in-betweens
Fall back in love eventually
Yeah yeah yeah yeah

Reality in Latex

There really are people who dress up like superheros and try to fight crime.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quote of the Day

"A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world."

- Oscar Wilde

Monday, August 22, 2011

Quote of the Day

"A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety."

- Aesop (620-560 BC)

Distractions - More Annoying Than You Think

The Dish points me towards an explanation of why we're dissatisfied at work, quoting Casey Schwartz writing about Cathy Davidson's Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn:
We've been trained to assume that working hard means focusing on a single task to completion, then doing it again. But, says Davidson, "the new workplace requires different forms of attention than the workplace we were trained for."
The result is that we feel anxious and guilty, convinced we’re not getting enough done, not achieving an honest day’s work... As Davidson puts it, "We’ve inherited a sense of efficiency modeled on attention that is never pulled off track."
But these days, according to research, "the contemporary worker switches tasks an average of once every three minutes."
I know that after a typical day, in addition to feeling exhausted, sympathize with this view. It's probably what leads people in my generation or younger to start screening their phone calls, waiting to answer emails, etc.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where are the Beefcake Comix

As much as I like comics, since I've gotten older and become more "mature," I've become more and more uncomfortable with the blatent sexism in most of the mainstream comix, mainly superhero fare from the big two of Marvel and DC. Now, I haven't seen the issue in question, but a recent issue of Justice League had Wonder Woman in a hypersexualized pose on the cover, and Alyssa Rosenberg points us to a series of pictures that shows how absurd it would be if all superheros were depicted in this manner. (Think Batman without pants.)

The great think about this article is Rosenberg's analysis: not content to point out sexism, she also makes the good point that there just aren't the opportunities to be sexist about men, to wit, these pictures "... don’t communicate to men what it’s like to see another man held up as an object of pure sexual desire for women’s consumption."

The whole article is good. Give it a read!

New "New Worlds"

Looks like Michael Moorcock is bringing back the most famous of SciFi literary magazines: New Worlds. Details and a synopsis of the magazine's history here. I'm skeptical that the magazine will be a return to glory -- I believe that you can never really go back -- but perhaps they can get a newer, different groove on. We'll see. But it's always a good thing when there are more outlets for good writing, and I'll be checking it out to see how it fares.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Farming with Dynamite

A primer for those anarchist farmers amongst us.

The Science of Coffee Rings

NPR explains it. In short, coffee particles are spherical in shape, and thus they don't "deform the surface" of a coffee drop/spill, and Peter Yunker at the University of Pennsylvania reports that "Without the deformation, the particles travel to the edge of the drop and form a ring."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Electronica Nostalga

NPR recounts the history of the electronia craze of the 90s. I remember very distincly catching the Crystal Method in Albuquerque and having them blow me away. The super DJ trance mix was the bomb in those days too - the first Northern Exposure compilation by Sasha & Digweed changed my life for a while.

I still have a weakness for this type of music, although I never got into Fatboy Slim and Prodigy; I was more of an Orbital, Orb, Moby, Trance Europe Express ambient house kinda guy. But the Block Rockin' Beats era was a hellofa lot of fun.

For more of this kind of electronica nostalga, check out Simon Reynolds' Generation Ecstasy.

Now Playing

Lotus! Pandora's mainly serving up "Flower Sermon" off of their 2003 live Germination CD.

Jazz guitar! Electronica effects! Funky bass! Who knew a vibraphone solo could be so groovy and exciting?

In short, it sounds like St. Germain's Tourist on coke. Highly recommended!

Quote of the Day

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

Mark Twain

Picture of the Day

A shot of an asteroid hitting the earth's atmosphere from above.

The entire slideshow has amazing pictures, mainly taken from the International Space Station.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Poem of the Day

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is more mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky

- e.e. cummings, [love is more thicker than forget] from Complete Poems 1904-1962

August Tab Dump

What i've been reading, thinking, and not writing about recently:

- Catch 22. Richard King writes:
When Nixon’s attorney told the Supreme Court that you cannot impeach a president without evidence, and that collecting such evidence is a Federal crime, one knew where to look for the appropriate analogues... Catch-22 is a tool to think with, to press into service whenever the cause of political perspicuity demands it. Heller has given us a concept, and a language, with which to lampoon obfuscation.
Andrew Sullivan points out that the entire book might be rant against God. Side note: read the book. One of the best.

- The Dish points to questions about Sexual Compatibility being a myth. Money quote:
Both structural equation and group comparison analyses demonstrated that sexual restraint was associated with better relationship outcomes, even when controlling for education, the number of sexual partners, religiosity, and relationship length.

- Chillwave. Sounds like an intriguing musical genre. Reminds me a bit of downtempo craze a few years ago, but with more of an emphasis on keyboard washes. Pitchfork muses on the phenomon here.

- Biosphere. Their 2001 LP Microgravity was on heavy rotation back in the day. First heard of them by the great "The Third Planet" off the third volume of the seminal Trance Europe Express compilations. Didn't realize they were still around! Their new album N-Plants sounds like it's worth a listen...

- Chia Seeds! Here's a good website for chia seed recipes. Haven't actually tried any of them yet, but I plan to! Interesting fact: according to this website, you can put 1 tsp. chia seed in 3 Tbsp. water as an egg replacement.

American Infrastructure

The term "Ponzi Scheme" has been in the news a lot lately. I've seen it in a number of contexts, but the most suprising has been when talking about the infrastructure of cities and towns in the US. To wit:
What we have found is that the underlying financing mechanisms of the suburban era -- our post-World War II pattern of development -- operates like a classic Ponzi scheme, with ever-increasing rates of growth necessary to sustain long-term liabilities. ... The local unit of government benefits from the enhanced revenues associated with new growth. But it also typically assumes the long-term liability for maintaining the new infrastructure. This exchange -- a near-term cash advantage for a long-term financial obligation -- is one element of a Ponzi scheme.
The other is the realization that the revenue collected does not come near to covering the costs of maintaining the infrastructure. In America, we have a ticking time bomb of unfunded liability for infrastructure maintenance. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates the cost at $5 trillion -- but that's just for just major infrastructure, not the minor streets, curbs, walks, and pipes that serve our homes.
It certainly goes a long way towards describing why there's always construction but yet the roads just never seem to get any better.
More here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I don't give grades, Daniel. But yes, clearly, you have potential. Most everyone does. But you see, it's like this: The brain processes information, and information can be an endless ride. With the addition of the heart, some information becomes knowledge. The spirit, or soul, transforms it into understanding. But that's the problem with abstraction--it misleads by separation."

- Jim Dodge, p. 95 Stone Junction

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Top SciFi and Fantasy Novels?

So NPR recently polled its readers for the 100 best scifi/fantasy novels, and published the results here. These types of exercises are pretty meaningless in that they are highly dependant on the people that respond (have internet access at home, have time to kill, are fans of the genre and poll host, etc.) but I’ll bite and offer some reactions:

- There’s no way that you should combine SciFi and Fantasy together. While there are sometimes some blury lines between the two, most often books fall hard to one side or another of this line. The survey would have been MUCH more relevant if the had been sepearated – even if to the top 50 in both.

- Nice to see that enough other people like Neil Stephenson that four of his books made the cut. Having said that, as pure SciFi, The Diamond Age (#75) is 1000% better than Snow Crash (#26). The Diamond Age is a trip because it combines stunning ideas, excellent writing, and believeable words together while continually pulling the rug out from underneath you, so that the world at the end of the novel is completely transformed from the world at the beginning. It's a hell of a lot of fun! Snow Crash feels like Neuromancer-lite and is probably is more popular because it’s less complex and was his first book that propelled Stephenson into the mainstream. Cryptonomicon(#53) is an excellent, amazing read (have to read it again sometime) but it’s not strictly scifi (in this case, the book is lumped in with the genre because of his past work). Anathem (#86) was unreadably dense.

- Only one PKD (at #21)? Really? The problem here is that some of his best writing and ideas are in short stories, and he doesn’t have any truly excellent collections like Ray Bradbury (both The Martian Chronicles at #27 and The Illustrated Man at #91 helped flesh out my dreams). I would have voted for UBIK, one of the best mind-fucks of a book i've ever encountered.

- Again, suffering for being a novella rather than a novel, but Arthur C. Clarke’s
"A Meeting with Medusa" is one of the best SciFi writings I’ve come across.

- To have left Solaris off this list completely is an inexcusable oversight. To be recognized as being even remotely credible, this book really has to be in the top 20.

- Have Canticle for Libowitz (#35); haven’t read it yet. Should move it to my bedside table.

- The first Dune (#4) really is an excellent novel. It sticks with you. Haven’t read any of the sequels though.

- China Miéville should really be higher than #98.

- As much as I like William Gibson, they did him right by only including Neuromancer (#14), although I can’t imagine anyone would quibble with the Burning Chrome collection.

- A bit surprised that Stephen King’s It didn’t make the cut - I still think it's the best thing he's ever done. Can’t speak to The Stand (#25), as it’s the only major Stephen King novel I haven’t yet read. Enjoyed the Dark Tower series (#23) but it didn't blow me away.

- I’m not much of a fantasy reader, but I do enjoy some of the classics like Lord of the Rings (#1) and LeGuin’s Wizard of Earthsea. If you want a good fantasy read, pick up the old Years Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies (edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling) at your local used book stores; they were gold mines of good stories, and I still pick them up to this day to read a story or two.

Cross-posted at Reading, Running and Red Sox.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lee Evans to the Ravens

Take a first round pick and get a fourth round pick in return. ...and that's why they're the Bills.

You cant even say they were trying to save money 'cause they just paid Evans a roster bonus of 1.5 million at the start of the month.

Just doesn't make any sense. And Brian Galliford at Buffalo Rumblings explains why.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quote of the Day

Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature... Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.
– Helen Keller

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quote of the Day

More than any time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
- Woody Allen

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First Lines of Road Dogs

They put Foley and the Cuban together in the backseat of the van and took them from the Palm Beach County jail on Gun Club to Glades Correctional, the old redbrick prison at the south end of Lake Okeechobee. Neither one said a word during the ride that took most of an hour, both of them handcuffed and shackled.
- Elmore Leonard, Road Dogs.

Because not all reading needs to be so damned serious.

Quote of the Day

When you look over your shoulder
And you see the life that you've left behind
When you think it over, do you ever wonder?
What it is that holds your life so close to mine?

You love the thunder and you love the rain
What you see revealed within the anger is worth the pain
And before the lightning fades and you surrender
You’ve got a second to look at the dark side of the man

You love the thunder and you love the rain
You know your hunger like you know your name
And I know you wonder how you ever came
To be a woman in love with a man in search of the flame

Draw the shade and light the fire
For the night that holds you and calls your name
And just like your lover, knows your desire
And the crazy longing that time will never tame

You love the thunder and you love the rain
You know your hunger like you know your name
I got your number if it's still the same
You can dream - but you can never go back the way you came

- Jackson Browne, "You Love the Thunder" off of Running on Empty

Questionable Finance

I understand that yesterday's market crash wasn't all about Standard & Poors downgrade of the U.S. credit rating to AA from AAA. However, let me get my facts straight. None of the other bond raters downgraded U.S. debt. So all of this Sturm und Drang about our credit rating is based on S&P, a company that was so wrong and misguided about mortgage securities leading up to the U.S. housing boom that they might as well not have done any rating at all. (See Nate Silver's "Why S.&P.’s Ratings Are Substandard and Porous" for more detail on exactly how fucked up S&P is.) And because we as a country failed to really fix any of the problems leading up to the housing boom - including a lack of rating agency reform - this same company whose misjudgments helped spark the housing boom is now helping to spark what many folks are calling "the great recession." Oy.

If I have any misunderstandings about the situation, please let me know. But from where I sit, the whole situation smells rotten, and as usual, it's the normal folks who end up footing the bill for the misfeasance of these corporate fools.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pay with Your Face

And SciFi-ideas start to come true: This article ponders if the iPhone 5 will enable mobile payments for goods by "leveraging the user's face as a security token, unlike plastic cards which typically need receipt signatures." Fascinating, Captain.

What happens if you hurt your face? Cut yourself shaving?

Dealing with Criminals

These stats are incredible:
Between 1970 and 1990 the total prison population in the U.S. rose by a million, and crime rose, too. Since then we’ve locked up another million, and crime has gone down. Is there something special about that second million? Were they the only ones who were "real criminals"? Did we simply get it wrong with the first 1.3 million we locked up? If so, can we let them out? ...
We have more prisoners than soldiers, and more prison guards than U.S. Marines. We have more prisoners — by rate and number — than any other country in the history of the world: more than Stalin had at the height of the Soviet Gulag, and more than China has now. And China has a billion more people than we do! Something has gone terribly wrong.
Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore policeman who now serves as a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, argues that this is a serious problem and that the solution is to replace incarceration with flogging for minor offences. Sounds cruel and will probably never happen, but could be a good solution to a serious problem facing our country.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

We Gotta Hit!

Proof that people are still buying music, it's just that they're buying singles, not albums.

Friday, August 5, 2011

First Lines of Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs

No woman will ever satisfy me. I know that now, and I would never try to deny it. But this is actually okay, because I will never satisfy a woman, either."
- Chuck Klosterman, from "This is Emo" in the Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs collection

Space Art

Take a look at this!
A NASA satellite has caught a stunning, yet eerie, video of a huge plasma twister rising up from the surface of the sun. The video, taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows a plasma eruption that swirls up like a tornado to a dizzying height of up to 93,206 miles (150,000 kilometers) above the solar surface.
"Its height is roughly between 10 to 12 Earths," solar astrophysicist C. Alex Young of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., told
The whole thing reminded me of the amazing shapes described in Stanislaw Lem's Solaris. In that book, the ocean planet creates a number of different strange formations that are classified variously as "tree-mountains," "extensors," "fungoids, "symmetroids," "assymetroids," and "mimoids." These creepy yet seemingly intelligent extensions of the planet lend another dimension to the novel's overall theme of the impossibility of communication between races - and it's that bittersweet feeling, tinged with awe, that strikes me when I see incredible space art such as this.

Quote of the Day

When you pick up a pencil and sharpen it up
When you're kicking the fence and still nothing will budge
When the words are immobile until you sit down
Never feel they're worth keeping, they're not easily found
Then you know in some strange, unexplainable way
You must really have something -
Jumping, thumping, fighting, hiding away
Important to say

When you sing through the verse and you end in a scream
And you swear and you curse 'cause the rhyming ain't clean
But it suddenly comes after years of delay
You pick up your guitar, you can suddenly play
When your fingers are bleeding and the knuckles are white
Then you can be sure, you can open the door
Get off of the floor tonight:
You have something to write!
You can walk, you can talk, you can fight
But inside you've got something to write
In your hand you hold your only friend
Never spend your guitar or your pen
Your guitar or your pen
- Pete Townshend, "Guitar and Pen" off of Who Are You

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Song of the Day

Not a song, but the Sleepbot!

Because we all need a little calm in our lives...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quote of the Day

We do not, in fact step out of the movement of things, ask "What am I to do" and, having obtained an answer, step in again.
All our actions, all our questionings and answerings, are part of the movement of things, and if we can work on things, things can work on us...
- John Anderson

Monday, August 1, 2011

Debt Theatre

I've tried to tune out this debt ceiling theatre, but the sheer insanity of it all keeps pulling me back in. Explain to me why the situation is configured that Congress can vote to spend a certain amount of money, but then needs to turn around and approve that can borrow the money that it needs in order to spend the money it just voted to spend? Does any other country in the world work this way?

Speaking of the rest of the world, they seem pretty united in their aghast confusion on the situation.

At the end of the day, I have no idea if the deal that's currently being proposed is a good idea or a bad idea. It certainly seems like Obama lost big time, conceeding most of his main concerns at the start of the negotiation process and thus being forced ever-more rightward. But i've also read two articles stating that things might not be as bad as they seem. As always, time will tell. But man is the process ugly.