battle of the bands--80's thrash metal

Earlier rounds at Gino's here and here.

First, the one everyone expects:


Then, in the spirit of the Ron Paul Revolution, the underdog with a smaller, but much more passionate fan base:


Place your votes/complaints in the comments.


"We are so concerned to flatter the majority that we lose sight of how very often it is necessary, in order to preserve freedom for the minority, let alone for the individual, to face that majority down."

William F. Buckley, Jr.


i'm bored with this

Are you?

Seriously, I'm asking.

I have another project in the works, but it will have a much, much more limited appeal...basically I am thinking about getting a science blog going that is more or less focused on the stuff I work on and closely related issues. It would be non-anonymous (as opposed to the quasi-anonymity I enjoy here), and since it would be closely tied to my professional life I would be minding my P's and Q's much more so than I do around here.

In other words, it would be a lot less entertaining. But then again, I don't think my future is in entertainment, ya' know?

History suggests that I don't manage multiple online personalities particularly well over the long haul.

So I don't know what would happen here, if I really threw myself into it. More to the point I'm not sure that I care. But maybe that's just the rain talking.

I'm not fishing for you to tell me how much you love reading my blog and hang on every word that I post. Really. I'm just talking here.



Matt Welch:

"...but for my money the best thing by far about the coming McCain-Obama cage-match is that it will present a stark choice on the one issue I care about most -- the war, and U.S. foreign policy."

Yup. That is the beginning, middle, and end of the conversation as far as I'm concerned. If we don't reverse the course of empire (or at least slow it down), nothing else a president can do matters.


so...when do we get to break out the cigars?

Well, it looks like America's steadfast opposition to the Castro regime has finally driven him from power.


happy endings

They do happen from time to time.


black mountain

[m] and I went over to Chapel Hill last night to catch Black Mountain at Local 506.

Let me cut to the chase here...I know I have a few readers up the east coast and into eastern Canada. If this is you, go look at their tour calender and make some plans. Seriously, just do it.

This was the best live concert I've seen in any genre or venue in a long, long time. From the sludgy 7/4 opening of Stormy High to the thundering climax of Tyrants, and all the dreamy psychedelia in between, Black Mountain put on a flawless performance of some really, really great music.

Reading up on them, they are often classified as "stoner rock" which I suppose is a decent first approximation, but the term really doesn't do their music justice. While it is mostly down-tempo and bass-heavy, it lacks the repetitive-to-monotonous riffing that (I think) limits the appeal of bands like Queens of the Stone Age and Wolfmother. Black Mountain navigates between a downtuned early metal heaviness (think Black Sabbath), psychadelic synth work, well-executed interplay between male and female voices, and blistering arena rock guitar solos, all with a seamless musicianship that makes their sound much more than the sum of its constituents.

Or perhaps--70's prog rock without all the obnoxious noodling.

I don't know--I don't really feel like I'm doing it justice here either, so just check 'em out.

I guess the best endorsement I can give is this: typically, I go home from a show and want to quietly decompress with a book or a little TV before going to sleep. Last night, after a 20 minute drive home and with ears still ringing at 1AM, we cranked up the stereo and cracked a couple of beers. They left us wanting more.

(Thank goodness for federal holidays.)


hydrazine...sure why not?

In all fairness to President Bush, shooting down a spy satellite with a guided missile is definitely one of the things I'd do just because I could if I were President.

quick ones (turn, turn, turn)

--Thoreau turns a blind eye to peer review

--The Agitator turns six

--RW turns French


sweet thoughts on valentine's day

My first job was at a fast-food restaurant in a mall (a certain chain specializing in chicken that is only open 6 days/week). There was a phenomenon that I first noticed on that job that, though I did not appreciate its significance at the time, I have since come to believe is instructive.

It goes something like this: a customer of some—shall we say, considerable carriage--comes up to the counter. He or she orders a fried chicken sandwich or two, often with cheese, a large order of fries, a cup of cole slaw (~30% mayonnaise by volume), and a 32-oz—wait for it--diet soda.

Now, far be it from me to extol the virtues of high-fructose corn syrup, the consumption of which (in quantity) has been linked to elevated levels of ureic acid in the blood which definitely leads to kidney stones and may (there is mounting evidence) be linked to cardiovascular disease. (All of this is in addition to the problems associated with consuming such concentrated calories in the form of simple carbohydrates; i.e., elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance, and weight gain.) However, even if you assume that our corpulent customer is making a one-to-one substitution of diet soda for leaded—and I’m not sure we should assume that; more on that below--the caloric savings is clearly not enough of an offset to make a difference. S/he’s still fat.

Now I realize I’ve given you an anecdote here, and that you have to trust me (and my memory some 14 years out) when I say that this customer was not exceptional but in fact typical—an overweight customer eating a large amount of food and washing it down with diet soda. And even if I had hard data to support my more general assertion that the habitual consumer of diet soda is, on average, overweight to obese, you could still argue that this is a matter of which comes first: the (deep-fried) chicken or the (4-)egg (Denver omelet)? More to the point, do people drink diet soda because they’re fat (and don’t want to be), or is the diet soda making/keeping them fat?

While the first option is appealing in its simplicity, I think that the second bears careful consideration. So, too, do the authors of an upcoming paper in Behavioral Neuroscience discussed briefly by Art de Vany here.

The rats who ate artificially sweetened yogurt consumed more food overall and gained more weight. The body temperatures of those rats also didn’t rise as high as the others. “That might be a kind of measure of energy expenditure, suggesting not only are the animals eating more calories, they may be expending or burning up fewer calories,” Swithers said.

I haven’t been able to pull up the paper yet [Ed.--here it is], but as Dr. de Vany points out, this sounds like artificial sweetener may be tricking out the satiety centers of the hypothalamus, causing a release of insulin in advance of a blood glucose spike that doesn’t come…with the net effect of causing blood sugar to fall precipitously, stimulating hunger. Couple that to a change in thermoregulation (which may or may not be directly related, but in the rats certainly seems to be happening) and you are set up for weight gain.

My personal prejudice is that I am against “fake food” in all its forms. I won’t eat anything with artificial sweetener in it on purpose—not only because I think these are chemicals for which we have absolutely no metabolic adaptations, but because they taste awful. Reduced fat dairy is OK for cooking some things—even though I generally hate it—as long as there is nothing synthetic put in to “replace” the fat. Don’t even get me started on soy products—after trying out soy milk a few years ago, I found myself with an odd craving for the stuff and eventually developed what I am 90% certain is a mild allergy to it, and only “mild” because I quit drinking it the moment I made the connection.

But beyond all of that, I have generally found that “diet food” is tremendously unsatisfying, I think in no small part because it contains less of the natural components of food (protein, fat, sugar) that signal to your brain that you have eaten. My guess is that people tend to eat more of it, or just more of everything, as a result. However, if this study translates to humans at all, the situation might be much, much worse than that.

I also wonder the extent to which this may be related to the phenomenon that many people report upon reducing the amount of sugar and starch in their diet; namely, the less of it you consume, the more you lose your taste for it. I can definitely vouch for this—I almost never drink soda any more, and generally regret it if I do. I find orange and other fruit juices unbearably sweet. I’m pretty much done with pasta. The only candy I like is chocolate—the more bitter, the better. [m], who bakes all the time, is constantly cutting the sugar down (not replacing it) in her recipes, and we both tend to like the result much better than if she’d followed the recipe exactly. If instead of reducing sugar in your diet, you are replacing it with a hyper-sweet synthetic, you probably aren’t benefiting from losing your taste for sugar.

The take-home message here, as far as I am concerned, is ditch the fake food. Eat well…and less.


he got game

My highly unscientific polling (which consists of watching the reactions in the Downtown Durham YMCA's locker room as the VA primary was called for Barack Obama approximate 30 seconds after the polls closed) predicts that 99% of likely male Democrat primary voters* support Barack Obama.

This poll has a 2% margin of error.

Seriously, reactions ranged from "So he creamed her. Good," to "woo-hoo!"

This is as good a time as any to point out that I agree with basically everything RW has to say here. And while Balko's post on voting for Ron Paul resonates with me, and as much as an utterly futile protest vote is consistent with my history and essential contrary nature--I am so done with the GOP War Party at this point that I can't even bear the thought of a strategic party affiliation.

(Which reminds me I have a form to fill out...)

*There are more Laplanders than Republicans in central Durham, as far as I can tell, and they probably work out somewhere else anyway. (The Republicans, I mean.) Really, this is a pretty decent sample, since the peak hour crowd at the Y is mostly people of professional age (30ish-60ish) and evenly mixed among black and white to boot.


the tsa has a blog


You can comment and everything.

Comments are, surprisingly, moderated. Who wants to bet on how long it will take to crash the site?

UPDATE--Perhaps against my better judgment, I submitted the following (under a different handle, naturally):

Al Qaida never has to hijack another plane--ever--to have its impact felt.

Every time I pass thorough a metal detector shoeless, pants falling down, clutching my boarding pass in one hand, eyeballing my laptop as it comes down the belt while trying to respond politely to the orders being screamed at me by a surly agent; every time I reassemble myself into something publicly presentable in the middle of a busy concourse; every time I arrive at the hotel without contact solution; every time I do the mental calculation of whether driving 6 hours might actually be preferable to flying 1...I am intensely aware of Al Qaida's impact on the world.

And I cannot help but think that the "no risk is the only acceptable level of risk" mentality that seems to drive the TSA's policies and their implementation has a great deal more to do with this than any actual existential threat I face from Islamic extremists.

What is lacking is any serious consideration of the tradeoffs between marginal increases in security against statistically improbable (albeit newsworthy) events, and the significant costs imposed on an integral component of our economy and culture. After all, in a nation--indeed, in a world--as large, dynamic, and interconnected as this one is, mobility is fundamental.

You say we're on the same side. I know you believe this, and sincerely. But please take time to consider the possibility that such a disproportionate response to a remote threat may actually further the goals of those that have employed such morally reprehensible tactics.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to seeing whether this passes the comment moderation process.

Which--to their credit--has been posted.

funny cuz it's true

Yep, this is indeed how many cities work.