miss usa shocker!

Well this has got to be the most unbelievable thing I've seen in quite a while.

Axl Rose is still alive????


our children will live in hot topic

This piece by Tim Cavanaugh has me wondering...in 20-30 years, will people be bemoaning the death of America's malls, while hipsters start rennovating abandoned shopping spaces into trendy housing?


the best pre-pubescent argentinian metal cover band you're likely to see this year

Being the late adopter that I am, I have made every effort to steer clear of YouTube. I mean, I already watch too much TV as it is. And I was definitely resolved to avoid posting YouTube videos on my blog.

Meh. Resitance is futile. This is just too awesome. Be sure to check out the little sister really starting to rock out around 2:46.

Their cover of Sepultura's Refuse/Resist is also pretty cool.



skipping out of work can lead to good things

...such as you happen to be listening to the radio at just the right time to find out that a living legend is going to be performing right down the street tonight.

It may be 20 degrees outside in Durham tonight, but the stage at Baldwin Auditorium is going to be hot...

UPDATE--So it was predictably great.

This was actually a Duke Jazz Ensemble concert, so the first half was just them (for a student group, they are quite good). There was an intermission, and Louie just came out on stage to re-set the drums to his liking. A few people--mostly kids--came up to the stage to take his picture while he was doing it. He would look up when they did and give them a big grin.

The thing is, he moves pretty much like you'd expect an 82 year old man to move. Not at all feeble, but a little bent over, and very slow and deliberate in his movements.

Until he starts playing. But what I found facsinating is that he doesn't play like he's 25--he plays like someone with 8 decades of experience. Effortless. Nothing to prove. Pure economy of motion, his hands just gliding from drum to cymbal to hi-hat and back again. And so smooth. Whenever he ended a solo, and started into his trademark hi-hat shuffle (doo-dicka-doo-dicka-doo) to bring the band back in, he had the exact same grin on his face that you see in pictures going way back. At one point he was using two sticks in his right hand, and he occasionally busted out some double bass chops that would give Dave Lombardo a run for his money.

Just amazing. And an absolute class act--he recognized every one of the student soloists by name before and after they played. See him if you ever get the chance.


repeal day

I have mentioned elsewhere that today is Repeal Day, the day (federal) Prohibition was ended in the United States. Which is kind of ironic in light of the story alluded to in the previous post, no?

Clearly, we have not shaken the legacy of Prohibition. Beyond its obvious reincarnation as the War on Drugs (a topic I'm known to say a thing or two about from time to time) the impulse to ban in the name of the "public health" runs strong in our culture. As a recent example, Maine banned a winter beer with Santa Claus on the label because it might appeal to--who else--children. An argument flawed on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to begin, especially considering that with regards to alcohol in this country, one is effectively a "child" until their 21st birthday. Forget about designing a beer label that doesn't appeal to an 8-year-old...how the hell do you design one that doesn't appeal to a 20-year old?

Contrast that to France, where they're concerned that kids might not be getting enough wine. Far be it from me to advocate the wholesale adoption of French social mores and values, but still...

I actually got started with this to make a very different point--that today marks an occasion that matters a lot more than booze. Today was a day in U.S. history where we actually took a step back from ceding power to the state. We took something back. We reclaimed something that was rightfully ours. FDR gets (and perhaps deserves) a lot of credit for pushing it through--but the fact remains that it took the people of 2/3 of the states to actually make it happen.

The system worked.


(Beer and wine stories via RW and the always entertaining Kerry Howley, respectively.)

Bloomberg to propose ban on untimely death in NYC

New York, NY (AP)--New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, no longer content with banning smoking and trans fats, said today that it is time “to just quit screwing around.”

His Honor is proposing a comprehensive ban on untimely death in the Big Apple, stating that it is the “logical conclusion” to his ongoing policy of promoting public health by policing anything and everything that isn’t good for you.

“People have said that the next logical step would be alcohol prohibition,” said the Mayor at a press conference today. “While I think prohibition is an excellent idea—I mean, what harm could possibly come of it?—the fact remains that even in a smoke/alcohol/potato chip-free society, people will continue to die of heart attacks and cancer for no apparent reason.

“And that,” says Bloomberg, “is simply not acceptable in New York City.”

The Mayor was circumspect when asked how he intended to enforce his ban on untimely death. “I can’t say too much about our implementation strategy at this time. However, some of you,” he said, indicating a few portly members of the press corps, “might want to get used to the idea of being banished to New Jersey.”

Anonymous sources in city hall have indicated that the plan is likely to include banishing of all automobiles from Manhattan, including taxis and buses, and replacement of seats on subway cars with stationary bikes that will actually power the trains, which are expected to both eliminate death by auto accident and promote exercise. All windows above the ground floor will be hermetically sealed, and access to balconies and rooftops will be restricted to an army of maintenance robots, all to eliminate death from falling. Elevators will be sealed, for obvious health and safety reasons. Stairwells will be coated in playground foam rubber throughout the city, and helmets will be mandatory to ascend or descend a stairwell. A giant UV light filter will be erected over the city to block out the sun’s harmful rays and prevent skin cancer. All sharp and blunt objects will be confiscated city-wide, which won’t be a problem for the city’s restaurants as only food reduced to portions which are too small to choke on will be permitted within the city anyway. As a final resort, draconian fines are likely to be assessed on anyone determined to have died “before their time.”

When asked why he had not decided to just ban death altogether, the Mayor replied, “Because that would just be silly.”


modest proposals

This is basically a core dump of stuff I've been thinking about lately, but have lacked the time/inclination to flesh them out:

1. Immigration, which is apparently a big deal to some people these days. An idea I have heard exactly no one address is the US putting some pressure on Mexico to privatize their petroleum industry and/or allow for foreign investment in the oil infrastructure of Mexico. It seems to me that the US has more than enough economic leverage to convince them to do pretty much whatever we want. Especially since they just elected and another (relatively) free market-friendly president. If Pemex wasn't the only game in town, I find it hard to envision that this wouldn't create at least a few decent jobs south of the border, and maybe reduce the insurmountably powerful incentives many Mexicans have to immigrate to the US, legally or otherwise.

To me this seems so obvious that there must be a flaw in it. I'd love to know what that is.

2. Currency for the blind. The Treasury Department lost a lawsuit this week which basically means they have to make US currency more friendly to the blind (i.e., not have all bill denominations be the same size and texture). Those that have traveled even a little will likely note that the US is waaaay behind the curve on this. Now, the reasons for doing away with the current uniform standard are not trivial: namely, that every cash register, wallet, ATM, and vending machine in the US is based on it. But if we went to different sized bills, wouldn't the cash registers and wallets at least be OK as long as none of the new bills were any longer or taller than the old ones? So what if some of our bills end up the size of Monopoly money? It might be problematic for machines that have to read bills electronically (i.e., vending machines) but isn't that no different than dealing with recent changes to 20's 10's and 5's?

(By the way, this would be even easier if we just got rid of the $1 bill and replaced it with a coin. And my current wallet has accommodated Euros, Pesos, and Canuck Bucks without a hitch.)

Again, this seems so obvious to me that there must be something wrong with it.

3. Iraq--isn't it obvious that all we really have to do is...I'm just kidding. I haven't got a clue how to deal with that mess...

get drunk friday lazy blogging

As it happens, I have the house to myself and am having a beer to celebrate the blessed arrival of Friday evening. I realized I have not written much here lately, and thought that I could perhaps steal RW's idea of "Get Drunk Friday". Or something. Then I started looking back through his blog and realized he hasn't done GDF in a while. And before I could find his most recent GDF entry, I came upon this one in which he presents a lovely little meme (read: an excuse to indulge in blogging endlessly about yourself) that I had made a note to go back and grab once I had forgotten about it. I know that doesn't make much sense, but hopefully it will, once you get into it...

1. Flip to page 18, paragraph 4 - in the book closest to you right now, what does it say?

Scientists have a nasty habit of writing very long paragraphs--especially when they are freed from the constraints and conventions of primary literature--as a result, the nearest book at hand contains a mere portion of a single paragraph on page 18 that actually began on page 17. So I will pick up at a random spot ~3/4 down the page:

"Because the diameter of the Airy disc is governed by the objective NA and the [lambda] of the light, the higher th NA of the objective, the smaller d will be. A shorter wavelength is also beneficial for increasing objective resolving power. Table 2.1 shows that the values for the limit of resolution..."

(You get the idea. What's embarassing is that I'm actually at home.)

2. If you stretch out your left arm as far as possible, what are you touching?

The interior of the northern wall of my house.

3. What's the last program you watched on TV?

An episode of Battlestar Galactica on DVD last night.

4. Without looking, guess what time it is.


5. Aside from the computer, what can you hear right now?

The odd car passing on the street, and my dog occasionally sighing.

6. When was the last time you were outside and what did you do?

About an hour ago. I was walking said dog.

7. What are you wearing?

Army green Achewood Calling T-shirt, blue jeans, and black Doc Martens.

8. Did you dream last night? If you did, what about?

Yes. It was one of the ones where I'm trying to get to class in high school, but can't remember what classes I take at what time and where they are. I have this dream a lot, and occasionally it occurs to me in the dream that I don't need to go to class anymore because I've graduated. A few times. But last night it didn't and it really sucked.

9. When was the last time you laughed?

Just now, before deleting RW's answer to this question from the text I pasted into this window. His answer was "1965".

10. What's on the walls, in the room you're in right now?

My degrees, a nice arty collage of scenes from Georgia Tech, a several group photos from scientific meetings, a collage of photos from the lab where I did my grad work and first postdoc (a goodbye gift), a portrait of my parents and sister and I taken around 1998 or so, a multi-panel frame of pictures of my sister and I ranging from babyhood to adulthood, a picture of M and I taken before L and K's wedding, a bodhran I brought back from Ireland, and an African mask that my sister brought back from Uganda. Also, a mirror from Ikea and a great deal of paint.

11. Have you seen anything strange lately?


12. What do you think about this meme?

It's pretty good, but you have to either do it the minute you read it or wait like a month and then remember to do it and do it without getting up or cheating.

13. What's the last film you saw?

Intimate Strangers

14. If you became a multimillionaire, what would you do with the money?

I would pay off all of my debts as well as those of my family. I would buy new cars for my wife and I, but not terribly fancy ones. We would travel a bit, but not all at once. I would probably quit my job, and start working towards figuring out how to open and operate a small brewery/brewpub, and when I felt confident I was ready to do so, do so. Sock the rest away and live off the interest if the brewery doesn't work out. Give some money here, here, and here.

15. Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

My right leg is about one inch longer than the left. I'm not kidding. It's a miracle I don't just run around in circles.

16. If you could change ONE THING in this world, without regarding politics or bad guilt, what would it be?

I'm not sure I understand the caveats of the question exactly, but...I would just like people to rely less on their superstitions and more on their powers of reason.

17. Do you like dancing?

Only when I'm really, really drunk, and so is everybody else.

18. George Bush?

He would have been a decent caretaker president, with policies almost indistinguishable from Bill Clinton, but for 9/11 and the collective insanity into which it thrust us all (albeit to different extents and for different durations.)

But as things are, I think he's shit.

19. What do you want your children's names to be, girl/boy?

I do not plan to have children, but if I did I would probably afflict them with some horrid, convention-defying moniker that they would grow to hate me for. Which only reaffirms my decision.

20. Would you ever consider living abroad?

I would and I do. Often.

21. What do you want God to tell you, when you come to heaven?

"I know, I know. Just play along, OK?"

22. Who should do this meme?

All who read and blog must carry this meme forth. I command it!