Monday, October 30, 2006

"Scratch marks on the lid of a coffin"

For Halloween, I dug deep into the ancient cobwebbed temples of the first epoch of hypertext.

In the mid-1990s, the prescient creators of saw the potential of the Internet to allow ninnies and rogues to misinform the entire world. They quickly set themselves to setting the record straight. (Nonetheless, Americans elected the Bush/Cheney ticket twice.) Back in the days when people readily believed Bill Gates was going to send them $1000 or that a vacation to New Orleans would end in their waking up in a tub full of ice with their kidneys removed, the Snopes crew assembled a giant trove of research and analysis on urban legends, each tale signed off with a bad pun. (After debunking the legend that rhythmically coughing during a heart attack increases your chances for survival, the author signed off as "Barbara 'from coughing to coffin' Mikkelson").

The stories were outrageously entertaining and mostly false. Some, however, were true, like this chilling entry from 1999, "People have been buried alive by mistake." Here is just one of several cases from that entry:

In the early 17th century, Marjorie Elphinstone died and was buried in Ardtannies, Scotland. When grave robbers attempted to steal the jewelry interred with her, the deceased surprised the heck out of them by groaning. The robbers fled for their lives, and Elphinstone revived, walked home, and outlived her husband by six years.

This used to be comparatively common. In the 19th century, many people specified in their wills special tests to establish beyond all doubt that they had truly bought the farm. Snopes says embalming makes premature burial nearly impossible today. But what if the embalmer is...


Happy Halloween! Sleep tight, and don't let the bedbugs (which are more plentiful than ever in New York City these days) bite...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Pandering to Philistines

George Allen put out a press release with a passage from a Jim Webb novel that depicts an adult placing a boy’s penis in his mouth. It’s not a sexual scene, though. Rather, it’s something that Webb says he saw in Bangkok when he was a journalist.

Would Allen, with his delicate sensibilities, object to a major newspaper reporting on a baby dying of herpes because a rabbi, practicing a 5,000-year-old tradition, did the same thing?

Make aspersions” much?

Useless Numbers

Why do reporters insist on using statistics like this?

If the midterm elections were held today, 53 percent of those likely to go to the polls would vote for the Democratic candidate in their Congressional district versus just 39 percent who would vote for the Republican.

Why report the results of a national poll for state races? Why would you even ask the question when you can ask, "Are you voting for candidate X or candidate Y?"

Hats off to the 8 percent of people who didn't answer.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Paging Sen. Santorum

A BBC reporter in China finds that a few minutes of broiling makes man-dog relations respectable...and delicious!

Andrew Harding visits a Beijing restaurant that specializes in penis: ox, seal, dog, deer, imported Manchurian reindeer, and the ultimate status symbol, the Cristal of the Chinese businessmen set: tiger penis ($5,700).

They are draped awkwardly across a huge platter, with a crocodile carved out of a carrot as the centrepiece.

Nestling beside the dog's penis are its clammy testicles, and beside that a giant salami-shaped object.

"Donkey," says Nancy. "Good for the skin..."

She guides me round the penis platter.

"Snake. Very potent. They have two penises each."

I did not know that.

Puns, please.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Secure Your Vote

I don't think we need any more reason to ditch Diebold as our computerized voting provider, but there's one more anyway (link via our own Dave G). It doesn't matter if Diebold does or doesn't have nefarious intentions. They can't even secure their own source-code against real world theft, and we already know that making secure boxes is not something they know how to do. As much as I hate to say so, Ehrlich is exactly right. We can't trust these machines.

On a more general level, I think computerized voting is a terrible idea. Making such systems secure is incredibly complex task and very few people are up to it (Microsoft isn't, for example). Given that, it seems unlikely that computerized voting will solve the problems it purports to solve. You can't guarantee transparency and you can't guarantee an accurate count. You supposedly can guarantee a fast count, but I'm personally willing to trade speed for accuracy. Do we really need to know the results of an election 5 hours after the polls close?

If one wants an accurate count with full transparency, paper counted by people is unfortunately the way to go.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Schuman Rights

Via Boing Boing, an article about Chinese soldiers casually picking off Tibetan refugees on their way to India. There's a link to video of the shootings if you care to see it.

Don't count on the administration to say anything to the Chinese government. We need them for North Korea, and, anyway, it was probably just the work of a few bad apples, right?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Bad News for George Allen's America

As we know, early next week it is believed that the population of the United States will surpass the 300 million mark. According to estimates, 1 in 3 persons will be a minority. God bless America George! But watch out, there may be a macaca coming to a bus stop near you.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

2 3L1T3 4 U

My personal response to this is "Qhqr, lbhe zbz".

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Even Less Foleymania...

In lieu of having anything interesting to say, I present this and this for your amusement.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Break From Foleymania...

For all kinds of reasons this is somewhat nerve-wracking. However, it does contain a mention of Air Force Space Commander Gen. Kevin Chilton. I find this reassuring, if only because I find the idea of us having an Air Force Space Commander - something I didn't know existed until now - reassuring.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ok, creepy!

It's October, it's gray and cold outside and there's a bust-ass, rusty, old ice cream truck driving slowly down my street BLARING the first few measures of Fur Elise. WTF is up with that!