Apr 30, 2006

Coldstone auditions

A while ago I wrote two posts wherein I discussed my feelings about Coldstone's tip songs. Now, regarding a comment to the latter post--and apparently confusing me for the former Coldstone employee--a reader writes,
Just out of curiosity what happens at the audition? And when it comes to singing is it based on talent or more on your willingness to make a spectacle of yourself?
Without even looking into it, I would say "willingness to make a spectacle," because that's what Coldstone's tip songs are all about.

No surprise, then: that's what Coldstone managers are looking for, too.
"We wait until we have six or more (applicants), and then we invite them to an audition," Self said.

In these auditions, applicants must go through ice-breaker exercises.

"After they have become comfortable with each other, they break up into groups and either write a song or use one that we already have and perform a skit based on that," he said. "Mostly, we are looking for people who are willing to be personable, not necessarily good singers."
So there you have it. Research proves that Coldstone wants workers with a sprinkle of musical talent and a large scoop of self-esteem.

[eighty-first in a series]

search me

Update: Now that it's reached its fortieth sixtieth eightieth birthday, I'm reposting this. Be amazed at the crazy searches that lead people hither.

Originally posted May 22, 2005.

Randomness and creativity are twin strands in the double helix of art, linked by hydrogen bonds of fun and van der Waals forces of excitement.

In a new series of articles, I'm going to title each entry with search terms once used to land on this very blog, and create something original based on what I imagine the searcher was looking for.

Hopefully, this will help future Googlers find better answers, and spur me on to new heights of relevance.

But no more jabbering: on to the series.

1. Oliver! and consciousness raising
2. how to join the dark side
3. pro-neo-darwinism
4. a monster for kids in English
5. the snakes join
6. a list of Jesus's 12 disciples
7. white people love Ichiro
8. noun and verb twins
9. join the dark side and get a cookie
10. Thurston County slogans
11. Joshua Golding
12. meaning of the Puerto Rican flag
13. girls eating maggots
14. Jesus sends out the twelve
15. Coldstone songs tips
16. Who finances Ramtha?
17. aspartame aftertaste
18. artificial blue roses
19. jody folkedahl
20. spelling bee fainting
21. than me or than I?
22. human weirdness
23. astrology chart prediction on Michael Jackson, 2005
24. Jesus's cryptic parables
25. rag peddler Jesus
26. what's wrong with flowery prose?
27. historical views of children
28. Splenda Hippocampus
29. statistics on rage towards umpires
30. how to get liars to admit the truth
31. I like to contradict myself
32. quotable quotes on restaurant ambience
33. your baby can read critical analyses
34. is Achilles a hero?
35. utilitarianism and wet-nursing
36. statistical data on premarital sex in the Phil's.
37. the grinch that stole christmas anagrams
38. yes in difernt language
39. Almond Joy has nuts
40. quick thing on real elephants
41. practical exercise for light English teaching
42. what was Jesus's philosophy?
43. communicatin' with the dead
44. how to avoid temptation
45. spanking can lead to bad behavior
46. reasons to love teaching
47. mad cow jello risk
48. artificial ballywho
49. Jim Anderson, God
50. how to make sure sperms are alive
51. Barbies with stinky breath
52. what the 12 disciples' names mean
53. Tim Eyman is anti-gay
54. the truth behind The Exorcism of Emily Rose
55. super bowel commercials sprint
56. proper casket viewing attire
57. four reasons evolution isn't right
58. triskaidekaphobia statistics
59. Jesus's real name
60. mock diamonds
61. "beanie baby" chaps cowboy directions
62. who invented nose hair trimmers?
63. how to make your sperms stronger
64. Jesus's birth certificate
65. who predicted NCAA bracket correctly
66. what's gonna happen to me in the future?
67. what was the name of Mercutio's brother?
68. Mason rules. Gators drool.
69. Kentucky's Nostradamus
70. unnamed poem by Jim Anderson
71. magnetic laundry system
72. statistical data on Anna Nicole Smith
73. Dear Lord, can you clear up my acne?
74. Romeo and Juliet: condensed version
75. you should not do that
76. toxoplasmosis telepathy
77. twelve disciples anagrams
78. the moral teaching of butter
79. proper attire for teaching
80. how to do parallel parking in US
81. Coldstone auditions
82. logic question to ask random people
83. Romeo and Juliet internet version
84. why are you creating a monster?
85. best spot for drugs in Mexico
86. objects representing Benvolio
87. Tom Cruise in Aberdeen
88. 50 random questions people ask
89. quadrapalegic, Boston, monkey
90. Does Sugar Lead to Bad Behavior?
91. Oral Roberts predicts tsunami
92. 12 disciples' jobs before they joined Jesus
93. sins of the 12 disciples
94. Jimmy Anderson tsunami
95. Jim Anderson's day job
96. why did Jesus choose 12 disciples?
97. what does it mean to put a bug in your ear?
98. ontologically impossible
99. illegal immigration anagram
100. information on the 12 disciples

how to do parallel parking in US

1. Signal right.
2. When you see a spot you want, pull ahead of it until you are perfectly aligned with front seat of the car ahead of the spot you want--or so your back bumper is aligned with its back bumper.
3. Put your car into reverse. Wait for the driver in the vehicle behind you to acknowledge by cursing loudly.
4. As you begin to back up, cut the wheel sharply toward the curb so the back end swings around and into the desired spot.
5. Continue backing slowly, straightening the wheel when your front door aligns with the other car's front bumper, so your car runs parallel to the curb.
6. Scoot forward because you're a bit too close to the car behind you.
7. Stop the engine and get out.
8. Notice that you're nineteen inches from the curb, at least six inches too far.
9. Hop back in, embarrassed. Ignore your spouse's or friend's derision.
10. Go forward, turning toward the curb.
11. Turn the wheel the other way.
12. Back up.
13. Turn the wheel again and go forward.
14. Back up.
15. Go forward.
16. Slam fists into steering wheel.
17. Sob.

[eightieth in a series]

Apr 29, 2006

did you bake me a cake?

Thursday, a to-be-unnamed member of the English department told the sad, sad story of how his last birthday passed without cake, a crime against humanity. (Lest you suspect, it was not I.) Friday, we celebrated -----'s birthday in style when another kindly soul brought in a homemade cake. (Lest you suspect, it was not I.)

Today my blog turns two. Since my very first post I've written thousands of words, read thousands more, interacted daily with intelligent people (see that blogroll at right), shared triumphs and pain, learned much about myself and more about the world, and made my wife laugh many, many times. In fact, even if I blogged just for her, the way she smiles and says "you're so weird!" makes it all worthwhile.

I'm lucky, though, to have a good number of devoted readers, all sharp and witty and weird like me. Thanks for making this experience so fun.

Update: It's TRP's birthday. Go over and wish him a happy *cough* 24th *cough.*

Morton Brilliant still ain't

'Way back when I blogged about Mr. Brilliant, noting his grasp of golfing metaphors. Now he's back in the news for different reasons:
Links, have we got links - to the batch of repulsively sleazy, anonymous, blatantly partisan, transgressive Wikipedia edits traced back via his IP address to Morton (Not So) Brilliant, the ex-campaign spokesperson of Washington Governor Christine Gregoire. Brilliant was effectively fired yesterday by his current boss Cathy Cox, a Georgia Democrat running in the July 18 primary contest there for governor. Brilliant's just-uncovered November, 2005 Wikipedia skullduggery included some heavy sleaze added to the Wikipedia bio of Cox's primary opponent Mark Taylor (trying to capitalize on a family tragedy involving alcohol); and major partisan snark surreptitiously melded into Wikipedia bios of two other Brilliant client opponents, Dino Rossi in Washington, and current South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.
Lesson: you mess with Wikipedia, and Wikipedia messes with you.

closer inspection

Can you buy a decent used car? Tim Harford says no.
In 1966 an assistant economics professor, George Akerlof, tried to explain why this is so in a working paper called "The Market for 'Lemons.' " His basic insight was simple: If somebody who has plenty of experience driving a particular car is keen to sell it to you, why should you be so keen to buy it?

Akerlof showed that insight could have dramatic consequences. Buyers' perfectly sensible fears of being ripped off could, in principle, wipe out the entire used-car market: There would be no price that a rational seller would offer that was low enough to make the sale. The deeper the discount, the more the buyer would be sure that the car was a terrible lemon.
Consider, though, some factors that would make Akerlof's analysis useless.

1. Early in this century, in an attempt to spark sales, a spate of zero- or low-percent financing offers meant that consumers traded in perfectly good cars as down payments on shiny new ones. (I've bought two used cars that rolled in this way, and both have been just fine, thank you.)

2. People sell and buy used cars for a variety of reasons, some rational, some not. Sometimes old cars are boring, even if reliable. Sometimes life happens--grandma loses her license because of fading vision, junior heads to college in faraway Vermont. Sometimes tragedy strikes--a lost job means scaling back, late on payments means the repo man comes a-knockin'. People don't hang on to cars if they don't have to.

3. The Blue Book and its counterparts act as an informal market regulator. To be competitive, dealers have to sell "below book." Buyers "know" what a car "should" be worth.

4. The relatively recent "certified used" phenomenon takes away a lot of the guesswork and risk involved.

Don't assume that a rational analysis of rational facts is going to explain the way a market really works. And buy used if you want to. It's your money.

proper attire for teaching

I'm a guy, and these tips are for guys. I won't pretend to understand women's fashion.

1. Never wear sweatpants. Ever. Not even if you're a gym coach. Sweatpants went out with--forget that. Sweatpants were never in.
2. Never, never, never, never, never, never wear sweatpants. Not ever.
3. A suit is probably pushing it. Elbow patches? Who are you, Professor 'Enry 'Iggins?
4. Jeans once a week. Maybe twice.
5. If it has a collar, it'd better come matched with an undershirt, or that top button had better be buttoned. No one wants to see your chest flora.
6. Short sleeves and ties do not mix, unless you're a history teacher doing a unit on the dawn of the Information Age.
7. Speaking of ties, ashcan at least 50% of your collection immediately. If you're not sure which should stay and which should go, bring them all into class and let your students choose. Don't be offended if no ties make the cut.
8. Smell everything you wear before you wear it. Promise me you'll do this.
9. When wearing slacks, always wear a belt.
10. Never iron jeans with a crease. I shouldn't have to tell you this.
11. Zippercheck before you leave for school. (If you live in a wintery climate, this is tough to forget.)
12. Never wear sweatpants. You think I'm joking?

[seventy-ninth in a series]

eleventh, they came for the...

I declare an immediate and total ban on the phrase, "First they came for the..." The ban will exist in perpetuity. Violators will be shamed.

See also: previous calls for moratoria on "the last acceptable prejudice" and "The Passion of the..."

an Olympia Arts Walk tradition

Every time I visit the downtown for Arts Walk, I make sure to find the sidewalk chalk bucket and contribute my annual statement: It's something we can all agree on.

(And, as I discovered, probably violates a Pizza Time copyright.)

Apr 28, 2006

today's spam poem

halfhead bedstead oil-smelling bio-osmotic
sharp-featured title-bearing sulphur-bearing
axle sleeve mint julep strange-tongued
parting bead click-clack Servo-croatian
buzzard curlew self-impregnator dagger plank
purse silk steel glass frog spawn
tail shaft scrub juniper acid metaprotein

the moral teaching of butter

Jesus. Buddha. Gandhi.

Nice guys with good things to say.

All of them hacks.

All of their lessons trite.

Behold: Lucinda Butter. A prophet for our times.

Lucinda Butter has but one teaching, one pure and holy and good edict. It is simple, profound, wise. She dispenses it freely, to everyone who will hear. She offers it to all without reservation, without judgment. She urges you to accept it, but will never coerce you into believing it. And it is this:

[seventy-eighth in a series]

Apr 27, 2006

I'll take mine in plaid

There are at least two tartan cars in Olympia. This is one of them.

(Photo taken this evening by Josh as the two of us were mucking about downtown.)

Update: welcome, visitors from WorldMagBlog (and thanks for the link, Mark). Look at the sidebar for other hilariously absurd vehicles local to Western Washington.

credulity harms the brain

From a recently-published paper:


Complaints like "hurts my brain" and "blows my mind" as a result of exposure to incredible stories have recently been definitively tied to the neuronal cell death (apoptosis). Furthermore, the notion of the usefulness of the Baloney Detection Kit (BDK) in protection of brain cells against the negative effects of incredulity has recently garnered significant support. In this review, the authors gather the most notable examples in recent scientific and medical literature on the subject, evaluate the currently available data on the effectivness of BDK and propose new avenues for further research.

Apple's telescreen

Irony enough for anyone: Apple, the company that once rode to fame on a TV commercial showing how the Macintosh could liberate us from Orwellian dystopia, now holds a patent for a 1984-esque telescreen.

(Looks like I'm not the first to notice.)

Apr 26, 2006

twelve disciples anagrams

Twelve disciples, twelve clues. Click "read more" and then scroll down for the answers.

1. Internet romance works only for the inherently gregarious.
2. Fantastic new underarm hair pluckers on the market.
3. Recently homeless contrarian handy with a needle.
4. Hip sores glazed.
5. Proficient in clamp art.
6. Plans to perform another Cheney bypass.
7. Wealthy churchgoers irked by another sermon on tithing.
8. Theodore's snout beetle snaps.
9. Vacationed to Alaska to scrub seals.
10. Polite Scandinavian's hide.
11. Den of iniquity.
12. Swing voters usher in second Bush term.


Hooray for the Internet Anagram Server!

[seventy-seventh in a series]

it's important if I say it's important

As "Old Media" takes on "New Media" ways, what with comment sections and all, it's great to see editors interact with Joellen Public. Case in point: a maddeningly pointless "news" story that, by virtue of its utter banality, is now news in some meta-pseudo-philosophical way.
A dark-colored, four-door Chrysler pulled away from a Lacey gas station Tuesday afternoon with a gas pump nozzle in the passenger-side gas tank, Lacey police said, ripping the nozzle and hose from the pump.
After a couple commenters gripe about the obvious, back comes Christopher Dean Hopkins, online news editor:
For being unworthy of coverage, this certainly has received a lot of traffic and comments.

flail away, flail away, flail away

The Discovery Institute, which already broke from the ID movement by distancing itself from the Dover debacle, now presents a fractured front on the fallout.
"Dover is a disaster in a sense, as a public-relations matter," said Bruce Chapman, a former Seattle city councilman and founder of the Discovery Institute, the country's primary supporter of intelligent design. "It has given a rhetorical weapon to the Darwinists to say a judge has settled this," he said.
Never mind the Darwinists; how about conservative talking heads?
"Let's make no mistake," Limbaugh said on his radio show. "The people pushing intelligent design believe in the biblical version of creation. Intelligent design is a way, I think, to sneak it into the curriculum and make it less offensive to the liberals."
Stephen Meyer, though, searches for the positive spin:
"The ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] sued to keep a few students in Pennsylvania from hearing about intelligent design, and as a result, they made sure everyone in the world heard about it," Meyer said. "And that has not hurt us."
Disco's attempts to shy away from the aggressive tactics of the Thomas More Law Center, which waged the losing battle at Dover, won't succeed for a reason captured late in the article:
"It's a very narrow path," said Brian Ogilvie, who teaches the history of science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is writing a book on the history of various intelligent-design arguments.

When intelligent-design proponents speak to Christian audiences, "there's no question about who the designer is," Ogilvie said. "They've adopted the strategy of saying one thing to the faithful and another one to the scientific community."
Staying on message is hard enough when individuals in the organization are of different minds--and even tougher when the message mutates.

Discovery Institute blog here. "Orinoco Flow" lyrics here.

(added) PZ Myers strategizes.

Apr 25, 2006

refined observations

...from America's intellectual bellwether.
Read! And think!

toxoplasmosis telepathy



I give up.

What's the connection?

(This is simply no help.)

[seventy-sixth in a series]

the dead ends of the blogosphere

Maybe you've started a blog or two that went nowhere, so this doesn't seem so tragic to you.
Well... to jump right in, I'd say that life has been weird lately.

And that's funny seems how weird is such an ambiguous term.

I used to really like this one girl... now I just want to be her friend. She doesn't really care about me, in the sense that she doesn't really want to spend time with me. Now that I have graduated and the summer before college has started, you would think there would be at least a little more effort on her part. I have pretty much given up. Maybe things will change.
And that's it. Three spam comments and nothing more. A microcosmos of emo, every sentence dripping with angst and ambivalence. Jumping right in to blogging only to jump right back out. The snark in me itches to say, You'd think there would be at least a little more effort on his part. But maybe the story ends because she comes back, says she loves him. They run away to Antarctica to shoot penguins for National Geographic.

So, readers, what's your favorite dead-end blog?

transcending infinite loops: theodical musings

William Dembski, in the latest of a long line of theodicies, appeals to Newcomb's Paradox [pdf] to "justify the ways of God to men."
For beings like us embedded in the causal nexus of nature, the logic of cause and effect is inviolable. In contrast, God, as an omnipotent and omniscient being, transcends the physical world and therefore is not bound by this causal-temporal logic. This is not to say that in acting in the world God violates this logic. To violate it, he would need to be under its jurisdiction. But as the creator of nature’s causal nexus and therefore as the originator of its causal-temporal logic, God perforce acts in ways that this logic cannot circumscribe. Indeed, if this logic did circumscribe divine action, then God would be part of nature and creation would be other than ex nihilo.
Dembski is fond of (mis)using the "NFL theorems" to whack at evolution. But "transcendence," like "emergence," is its own form of ontological free lunch, raising far more questions than answers. How does a being "transcend?" If God so neatly avoids the pitfalls of causal-temporal logic by transcending the physical world, how can we refer to this sort of God as "good?" Why limit God's transcendence to only one domain--the causal? Why does not God "transcend" morality as well, eradicating the need for theodicy?

Dembski's explanation of the "infinite dialectic" (BS-ometer spiking) doesn't fare much better.
Think of the infinite dialectic in this way: Suppose God acts to anticipate certain events. So long as divine action is not a hollow concept, God’s actions make a difference in the world and therefore must induce novel events (all change in the physical world being mediated through events). But this requires that God act preemptively to anticipate the novel events induced by God’s prior actions (priority here being conceived not temporally or causally [chronos] but in terms of the teleological-semantic logic [kairos] by which God orders the creation). And yet, such actions by God now induce still further novel events. And so on. This up and back between divine action and creaturely causation proceeds indefinitely. It constitutes an infinite dialectic. Because of the fragility of the world’s causal nexus, the infinite dialectic is ever in danger of spinning out of control, degenerating into a positive feedback loop in which divine preemption needs to rectify difficulties raised by prior acts of divine preemption.
And the way out of the infinite loop?
Consequently, only an infinitely powerful and infinitely wise God can pull off the infinite dialectic. The infinite dialectic renders divine action at once real-time and eternal. It bridges the immanent with the transcendent. In the infinite dialectic, God acts on the whole of creation at all times and in all places, acting not as a cause among other causes (God does not moonlight as a physical cause) but as a cause of causes (God causes physical causes to fulfill his purposes). As a cause of causes, God’s action in the infinite dialectic is not merely ontological, in the sense of giving being to the world (cf. Paul Tillich’s “ground of being”). Nor is it merely providential in some general sense, as might be subsumed under the regularities of nature (cf. God maintaining seasonal weather patterns).
Again, more questions: how is a cause of a cause efficacious? Can causes cross ontological "levels?" Can a non-physical entity cause physical actions? Is Dembski backing away from his "expanded ontology," and subscribing to a more standard form of dualism?

Dembski closes with two poor analogies.
In the infinite dialectic, God acts providentially to guide the world in its particulars, taking an active interest in the details of this world and making a difference at all levels of the created order. This is not to say that God is a micromanager. Good managers know the precise details of the system they are managing but intervene sparingly, giving the system as much autonomy as it needs to flourish. God is a good manager. In particular, he has not created a world that is his prosthesis or puppet.
Ah, but the very question is a matter of degree: just how much "micromanagement" is enough? Let's analogize right back at Dembski. The floor is littered with wrappers and french fries. The toilet is backed up and the toilet paper nowhere to be found. A fire rages in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the staff are too busy fighting with ketchup packets to notice. The manager hasn't been seen or heard from in hours. Now what?
At the same time, even though God has granted the world a measure of autonomy, the world’s autonomy is not absolute. Just as an orchestra cannot make do without the conductor’s continual guidance, so too does the world require God’s continual guidance. That guidance is neither oppressive nor coercive. It is real and powerful, and it takes the form of an infinite dialectic. Because of the infinite dialectic, Jesus can say that God knows our name, numbers the hairs on our head, and monitors the sparrow that falls to the ground.
Minor quibble: perhaps Dembski has never heard of the "conductorless orchestra," the kind that used to dazzle Soviet audiences back in the heyday of early Communism. But the weakness of argument from analogy becomes apparent here. If the universe isn't an orchestra, but is more like a machine... or an organism... then all the talk of continuous guidance is rigmarole.

Any potential problem can be solved by omnipotence when omnipotence is defined as infinite power. Yet other Christian thinkers are a little uncomfortable purporting the existence of "actual infinities."

But then, they're not mathematicians.

Capitol Lake host to Myocastor coypus

I didn't see any last time I walked the circuit--but then, it was daytime.

tragedy averted

We debate at Rogers High School once a year. So the news that a Rogers student planned to shoot fifteen others--but was intercepted--is both relieving and distressing.
A search warrant was served Saturday morning at the boy's home and detectives recovered two rifles, two handguns, a homemade carbon dioxide bomb, and a copy of the "Anarchist Cookbook." Troyer said several computers were also confiscated.

The teen was booked into the Remann Hall juvenile custody facility and was believed to have been acting alone in the plot. He was charged Monday in juvenile court with first-degree attempted assault.

Detectives do not believe that the teen planned to target any specific victims, but rather intended to randomly kill 15 people who "did not deserve it" before taking his own life.
I try not to think of such things when I wake up in the morning and drive to school, but in these moments it's unavoidable.

fried sage leaves and a game-winning single

For my lovely wife's smerzhenerth birthday last night, we dined at Marco's Supperclub in Belltown, feasting on the weirdest and most strangely addictive appetizer ever invented, and then hopped over to Safeco to watch the Mariners win a game they really, really needed to win, even if it took extra innings, an unlikely hero, and phenomenal pinch-running by Willie Bloomquist. (Curse you, Seattle pseudofans, you late-inning leavers and sitter-downers. Stay. Stand up and cheer.)

This morning I am exhausted and hoarse. I love you, Melissa.

Apr 22, 2006

surprised by misery

"In a fallen world, the only currency of love is suffering. Indeed, the only way to gauge the extent to which someone loves us is by what that person is willing to suffer for us. Without the cost incurred by suffering, love among fallen creatures becomes cheap and self-indulgent. Suffering removes the suspicion that the good we do for one another is for ulterior motives, with strings attached, a quid pro quo."

--William A. Dembski [pdf]


prohibition in the news

Two related ongoing legal concerns hit the Seattle Times this morning.

First, according to a ruling by the state's pharmacy board, pharmacists who refuse to dispense "Plan B" will be allowed to follow their conscience "only if another pharmacist is on site to fill the prescription."

Readers are encouraged to consider how this situation might be similar or different to the following:

1. A librarian who refuses to check out the Bible to a child, noting its "adult themes, sex, and violence."
2. A judge who automatically commutes any death sentence.
3. A police officer who refuses to arrest minor drug offenders.
4. A pharmacist who won't dispense AIDS medication because AIDS is God's punishment for licentiousness.

Is there a proper remedy in each case? Should there be?

Incidentally, something I didn't know:
Under state law, a pharmacy must maintain a representative assortment of drugs to meet the pharmaceutical needs of its patients — but the only drug pharmacies are required to stock is Ipecac syrup, to treat accidental poisoning.
And even more incidentally, we ought to bring back the designation "apothecary." No reason.

Second, laws requiring artificial markups in wine and beer prices have gotten the federal kibosh.
A federal judge on Friday all but dismantled the state's three-tier system that governs the sale and distribution of wine and beer and artificially inflates prices — ruling that state interests do not trump federal law.

U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman ordered the state Liquor Control Board to stop enforcing key parts of its regulatory system, such as requiring distributors to mark up prices 10 percent. But Pechman stayed her ruling for 30 days to give defendants time for appeal.
The state can still take measures to promote teetotaling, though--the ostensible purpose of the markup rules.

Apr 21, 2006

it's not grunge. not even close.

"It's a Grunge Thing," blares ESPN, displaying this rowdy shot of Dirk Nowitzki. Greasy locks! Greasy goatee! It's grunge!

No it isn't.

Look closely and you'll see what's missing. What no self-respecting grunger would ever go without.

you should not do that

an homage to Obscure Store

"I get so angry sometimes... so angry I could drown my girlfriend with a removable showerhead."
You should not do that.

"The Lord seems to be urging my to share my beauty with the world. All of it."
You should not do that.

"I want to donate sperm to my girlfriend. It's the least I can do, given that there's no way in hell I'm going to marry her."
You should not do that.

"My teacher told me I'd get thirty points extra credit if I brought a gigantic homemade burrito to class for show and tell."
You should not do that.

"I'd bet if we offer a Veggie Burger, profits will skyrocket. After all, people are looking for healthier fast food."
You should not do that.

"C'mon, Mom, I need help parallel parking. My driver's test is this weekend. You can just watch. Pleeeeease?"
You should not do that.

"A stamp honoring Jerry Garcia? Ingenious!"
You should not do that.

"Honey, getting hitched at the Mickey-D's drivethrough is not only romantic, but economical!"
You should not do that.

"PVC pipe: check. Pliers and crowbar: check. Available entry through vent: check. It's burglary time."
You should not do that.

[seventy-fifth in a series]

Apr 20, 2006

zen and the art of wasting time

Today's daily zen ponderance:
Sitting on this frosty seat,
No further dream of fame.
The forest, the mountain follow their ancient ways,
And through the long spring day,
Not even the shadow of a bird.

- Reizan (-1411)
We are free to speculate how the meditation might have changed if Reizan had the joyful experience of a toasty toilet. Speculate, indeed...

Sitting on this toasty seat,
A daydream of physics.
The water courses clockwise, following the path of fate,
Immune to the long reach
Of Coriolis.

Incidentally, for a cheap and easy form of meditation, watch a baseball game on ESPN's Gamecast (now in a fresh Beta version!). The plodding pace teaches patience. The soothing colors reunite the soul with nature. Concentrate on the twinkling yellow baserunners.


Romeo and Juliet: condensed version

Boy ignores feud to marry girl.
Boy kills girl's cousin and flees.
Girl fakes death to avoid marrying other boy.
Boy returns to kill self upon seeing "dead" girl.
Girl wakes to kill self upon seeing dead boy.
Feud ended.
Statue raised.

[seventy-fourth in a series]

sniffing out a story

Lots of action, locally speaking. First, the state government is trying to buy out its lease on the Ugly Building, and if that option fails, threatening to reduce its rent payment because of lackadaisical maintenance. Problem: they're offering less than half the total rent, some $528,474. I doubt the landlord will budge, and smell eminent domain afar off.

Next, thieves hit a Lacey development, absconding with appliances. I smell microwaved pizza afar off.

Last, Elma cops tried to sting a meth-head in the Everybodys parking lot. (Everyone from Elma knows exactly how appropriate that is.)
Once the purchase was complete, the suspect and a second man did not surrender and instead acclerated their vehicle towards the detectives, who then fired three rounds to stop the car, he said.

No one was hurt. The passenger was arrested, but the driver escaped.
I smell cat urine afar off.

Apr 19, 2006

Dear Lord, can you clear up my acne?

an inspirational parable

I dreamed I was walking along a beautiful beach bathed in the glorious hues of a glorious sunset. Behind me stretched footprints, far back through all the stages of my life. Two sets, mine and the Lord's.

Except in a few places.

Jesus, ambling beside me, stopped to skip a stone on the placid, tranquil sea. He sidled on over when he saw a frown cross my face.

"What's up?"


"No, really. Someone pour salt in your coffee?"

I couldn't help but laugh. I sighed, and reluctantly told him what I had figured out. As far as I could tell, at whatever point in my life I had broken out in zits, the two sets of footprints became one.

"Oh," said Jesus. "I was hoping you wouldn't notice that."

"You mean...."

"Yeah," Jesus said, digging a little trench in the sand with His left foot.

My eyes welled up with tears. "I prayed and prayed for you to eradicate every pimple that plagued me from middle school to high school," I said. "'Dear Lord, can you clear up my acne?' Every night for six years!"

"I know," said Jesus.

"And you left me just like that, to wallow in my adolescent misery and shame?"

"You've got it all wrong," Jesus replied, kicking sand back into the trench. "That was when I threw you out into the water. You needed a bath, is all."

[seventy-third in a series]

Rumsfeld Resigned

April 19, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- America's beleaguered Secretary of Defense is resigned to the inevitability of riding out the rest of George W. Bush's second term.

"Am I resigning? Hell no," said Rumsfeld, irritated by recent criticism from a cadre of retired generals. "Resigned, not resigning. I'm here to the bitter, bitter end. Fate has determined it. Who am I to argue with fate?"

Rumsfeld made a statement at a special conference called just hours after Scott McClellan announced his resignation as White House Press Secretary, to quench speculation that Rumsfeld might take the opportunity to wave adios to partisan bickering and backstabbing.

Rumsfeld maintained that he accepts the judgment of history with resignation. "A statue, somewhere on the Mall, maybe next to Lincoln," he said, predicting a resurgence in popularity within a century. "The ways of God are mysterious. Who would have guessed?"

Rumsfeld responded directly to claims that the Iraq campaign has been riddled with strategic mistakes. "Have I made mistakes? Sure. Nobody's perfect."

Asked to name one, Rumsfeld hesitated for fifteen seconds, then answered, "Glibberbabblefibblefab," raising his hands, lifting his eyebrows and puckering his lips in an expression of bemused astonishment.

"Flabadoobadab," Rumsfeld added.

Apr 18, 2006

Tacoma sword trivia

The remarkable illuminations contained in an early candidate for next year's Pulitzer:

1. Being upset by something is reason enough to make it illegal.
2. Collectible swords are somehow more dangerous than big-ass hunting knives or weaponizable cutlery.
3. Warring implements should never be readily available, according to Fred Brookshire, who obviously has never been attacked by a rabid customer.
4. After centuries of neglect, swords are popular again.
5. Convenience store swords are cheap and easily broken.
6. Cane swords aren't just for querulous gerontocrats.
7. There is a school in Seattle that teaches "civilian dueling."
8. The real shocker: "A sword has never been the best weapon to kill someone.... You have to be pretty dead-set on what you're doing."

Apr 17, 2006

I built it myself!

I present the world's doofiest Ford Escort, captured in Elma on a Monday evening. Hideously ill-contrived customizations include, but are not limited to:

1. Ridiculously undersized scoop
2. Spoilers, front and rear in varying tones
3. Gigantic organ pipes
4. Internal crash bar
5. Milk crate / pickup bed
6. Mismatched wheels
7. Extraneous hood ornamentation
8. Six-foot CB antenna
9. Off-kilter license plate

If I hadna seen it, I never woulda believed it.

Other area ugly cars:
* faux viper
* my aching eyes
* de gustibus non est disputandum
* even more eyesores

this sucks

My wife and her friends, who've frequented the U-District's Taste of India for years, will be saddened to know that it caught fire last night. No word on the extent of the damage, yet.

pearls of wisdom

We're finishing our final drafts of children's stories in my sophomore classes. Today, a breathless student rushed in at 7:36 bearing this comic. Seems about right.

Apr 16, 2006

Maddux hagiography

Yes, Greg Maddux is the greatest pitcher of his generation. Crafty, hardworking, and competitive beyond belief. Says Leo Mazzone, Atlanta's pitching coach:
"I've had him tell me, 'In the third inning, I'm going to get that guy to pop out to third base,' and then he does it,'' Mazzone said. "I've seen us score five or six runs in the fifth inning to put the game away, and he'll come up to me and say, 'How far do you want me to go? Do you want nine? Or does the bullpen need the work, and I'll go seven?' His game plan is going to be different if he's going nine or seven. I've never seen a pitcher think the way he does.''
I want to see Maddux vs. Jamie Moyer in a geezer matchup for the ages.

statistical data on Anna Nicole Smith

Real name: Vickie Lynn Marshall

Age: 39

Age when first wedded to 89-year-old J. Howard Marshall: 26

Net worth: in the millions

Shoe size: 11

IQ: 117

Average bowling score: 108

Tabloid appearances to date: 45,262

Weight: fluctuates

Kidneys: 3 (before donation, 1998)

Projected life expectancy: 67, give or take

Percent silicone: 5

[seventy-second in a series]

magnetic laundry system

The magnetic laundry system threatens to destroy the world of laundry as we know it. No more water. No more soap. No more wrinkles, spots, stains, smudges, marks, blemishes, blots, spatters or specks. No more hassle.

No more pain.

The system is elegant in its simplicity (see illustration at right). Stains form in clothing when positively-charged filth particles, or fions, bond to negatively-charged fabric particles. The magnetic laundry system involves two components: an electromagnetic bar, passed over clothing to attract fions, and the Jiggolator®, a gentle shaking device that helps loosen fions from fabric.

The system, invented by electrical engineers at the University of Massachussetts, has several patents pending. Expect to see magnetic laundry systems at all major retailers by October 2006.

[seventy-first in a series]

Apr 15, 2006

the more wretched one

Apologies to WH Auden. None to the Dean of Students at Coral Academy, who thinks Auden's too racy for a poetry recital.

Watching the bumbling Dean, I know quite well
That, for all I care, she can go to hell.
No blinkered horse is half so blind
As a prude with a bridled, harnessed mind.

"Turn off the world outside, the unpristine.
When all is darkness, all equally clean."
If equal cleanliness, though, cannot be,
Let the more wretched one be me.

A Dean that won't endure "hell" or "damn"
Has the moral vigor of a jellied ham.
(Especially if the ham's a butt;
How's that for inappropriate?)

If jellied hams were all to rot away
Would they be mourned, even for a day?
Or would we jeer them, damn them all to hell?
Only time and poetry will tell.

drive the Honda Dork Canal

One of my favorite Car and Driver "Ten Best" issue lists was a collection of "Dull Cars Named After Exciting Places," in the January 1994 issue. (I'm trying to track down a copy.) Now, as a perfect complement to my list of Washington state shibboleths, Trey of The Rambling Taoist asks us
to consider place names that name automobiles.
Anyhow, I got to thinking about which towns will never, ever have a vehicle model named after them; the kind of towns with a weird name that doesn't conjure up the kind of imagery that, say, Malibu or Seville does.

Though certainly not an exhaustive list, here's what I came up with. Please feel free to add to the list.

Toad Suck (AR)
Humptulips (WA)
Tittybong (Australia)
Bumpass (VA)
Dogpatch (AR)
Knob Noster (MO)
Chugwater (WY)
Head over to Trey's blog and add to the list.

[link thanks to Emmett O'Connell]

[and yes, Dork Canal is a real place, located near, of course, White Settlement]

Antenna of the Universe

I subscribe to Harper's for two English teacher reasons: some of the best short prose in print, and some of the best writing prompts around. (I can do without Lewis Lapham.)

This month's memoir, "Antenna of the Universe" by Don Wallace, is a sterling example of the former. Wallace remembers his grandfather of the same name.
Good reception was Grandpa Wallace's governing obsession. He had spent his entire life seeking it, ever since 1909, when as a boy of eleven he'd wrapped a Quaker Oats box with wire, filled a test tube with iron filings, slung an antenna out the window to the neighbor's roof, and begun intercepting pulses of short waves.
Young Don is invited out to Grandpa's to file QSL cards, notices sent by ham operators to confirm transmission, for 35 cents an hour plus meals. (See here for a sample QSL card, here for an aerial shot of Wallace's massive rhombic antenna, and here for a photo of the man himself.) Baffled by the operation, he makes a mess of Grandpa's efforts.
"What did you think you were doing?" "You haven't been filing." "You ruined my system." "Don't you care?" "Years and years--wasted--never be able to find some of those cards." "What's wrong with you?"
In the end, though, young Don finds a strange sort of redemption when his Grandfather discovers him "singing in code."

I'm ruining the piece by even attempting to condense it. You really ought to find a copy at the library and read it all. (You'll get the pleasure of Nathanael Johnson's "Swine of the Times" as well, more than you need to know about where your Easter ham comes from.)

Apr 14, 2006

flogged into cliché

I hereby declare a two-year moratorium on all parodic use of "The passion of..." and "The passion of the...," excepting direct references to "The Passion of Joan of Arc" or "The Passion of the Christ." Violators will be subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.

annual anti-American rally escapes attention of liberal media

Dutch insurgents parade through Lynden
Through negligence, an immigrant enclave that waves its ethnic identitysymbolizing takeover, Dutch flag leads the way in the face of all good Americans has flown under the radar of the liberal media. But here in bloggerland, we provide access to all the facts, exposing the underbelly of fractious ethnocentrism masked as ethnic pride. The source: little-visited Lynden, Washington, home to thousands of ethnic Dutch, a subversive minority that has spent years building up a dike of lies, conning right-thinking Americans into believing they represent only the innocent and pure love of all things Netherlandic. But the dike is full of holes. From the insidious website of an upcoming celebration of anti-Americanism:

symbol of oppression
If you're looking for a glimpse of Holland, but only have a day to explore, a trip to Lynden may be in order... Lynden Washington's Dutch heritage adds a unique touch to one of the jewels of Western Washington, ideally located between Mt. Baker and Puget Sound. The community of 10,000 will celebrate Holland Days on May 5, 2006, featuring costumed shopkeepers and Dutch Klompen Dancers, plus authentic Dutch delicacies. A standard feature is a 72 foot high windmill featuring moving blades....
Great evil lurks in Lynden. Consider these photographs, evidence of Netherlandic fervor and malicious intent. British allies support Dutch insurgency

Lynden, allied with our old enemy England and neighboring, untrustworthy Canada, flaunts its military might in our faces, while we cower, weak-kneed and wishy-washy in fear and ignorance. That's all we need, a British-backed takeover by a Dutch fifth column, an ironic conclusion to over two hundred years of freedom from King George. amphibious vehicle in military parade

Taking a page from the commie playbook, Lynden's Dutch insurgents attempt to confound the world with their strength of arms. Here, some sort of submarine amphibious device wheels through the streets of Lynden, part of a bold and provocative military demonstration.

Intelligence sources suggest that the amphibious vehicle's bright hue signals radar-absorbing paint to match its blocky, angular "stealth" shape. The windpowered engine, capable of great speeds and limitless distance, threatens our way of life.

A strange cult of red-hatted matrons, red-topped matrons meet to discuss propaganda strategiesled by an elderly demagogue called Saint Nicholas, fills Lynden's cafes and schoolhouses, brainwashing young and old alike.

Preaching intolerance and fomenting sectarian strife, they tear apart the fabric of freedom, replacing it with their own quilt of repression.

cult leader, clad in bizarre cultish costume

America, we cannot stand idly by as subversive elements mock our freedoms and flood our streets with hate. America, WAKE UP to the threat of the Lynden Dutch! Tomorrow may be TOO LATE!

heads up / head over

Just added phronesisaical to the blogroll: neologism with impossible pronunciation, trenchant commentary and fruit-blogging, a spiffy combination. And check out this week's Skeptics' Circle, creatively done.

unnamed poem by Jim Anderson


isms that aren't ideologies
but could be

[seventieth in a series]

Apr 13, 2006


If you can readily identify the object above, you have spent far too much time tampering in God's domain.

Need a hint? Scroll down.

Give up? It's the heating element (and below it, the fan) to a kaput ConAir hair dryer.

Washington state shibboleths

These are the toughest of the tough, since most of them are anglicized spellings of Salishan place names.

1. Sequim
2. Puyallup
3. Geoduck
4. Dosewallips
5. Steilacoom
6. Kalalock
7. Hoquiam
8. Wynooche
9. Pend Oreille
10. Mukilteo
11. Naches

1. Skwim
2. Pyoo-AL-up
3. GOO-ee-duck
4. Doe-see-WALL-ups
5. STILL-a-kuhm
6. KLAY-lock
7. HOE-kwee-uhm
8. Why-NOO-chee
9. Pawn-duh-RAY
10. Muh-kil-TEE-oh
11. Na-CHEEZ

Impress the locals! More place name shibboleths for your study.

go bite your bum

Tiger Woods has apologized for referring to himself as a "spaz" after getting smacked down by Australian and British dailies. (Etymology rears its head again.)

Who knows what might have erupted if he'd mentioned that he enjoys a nice date every now and then, or that he likes to doodle in his spare time, or that he needs a moment to open his lunch.

having a blogger around would have helped

School wants Jon Stewart for gala; gets Jon A. Stewart instead. Although as a "a 39-year-old former motivational speaker, businessmen and part-time professional wrestler," he still sounds pretty entertaining. And did I mention he once ran for Congress as a Republican?

A little fact-checking goes a long way.

[via Obscure Store]

Apr 12, 2006

what you should and should not do while in Vancouver, British Columbia

Do buy lunch at Hon's in Chinatown. Split an entree, though. The portions are huge (unless you spring for soup). There are 300-odd items on the menu. Give yourself time.

Do not smoke where it is forbidden. In Olympia, you'll get dinged with a piddly $100 fine for lighting up in a public establishment. In Vancouver, you'll be set back as much as $1500. Canadian money, yes, but still painful.

Do not visit Granville Island, home of a cutesy public market, especially if you've already experienced Pike Place. You will be disappointed. Unless you really, really, reeeeallly like to shop.

Do stay at the Days Inn Vancouver Metro, if pinching pennies is your supreme concern. Upsides: room entrances face the inner courtyard (it's a motel, after all), free muffin and OJ at McDonald's next door, free parking, free cable, and low, low prices. Proof: while we were waiting to order our free fast food, some nice-but-nosy fellow, noticing our coupons, somehow wheedled out the fact that we spent less than $200 for three nights. "Amazing!" he said, wiping fog off his spectacles in disbelief. (We are cheap. When we picked up our order, the young woman behind the counter smiled and said, "See you tomorrow!" We didn't have the heart to tell her that three days was our limit.)

Do not patronize The White Spot. You've had better burgers at better prices. $3.99 for a "Happy Hour" beer is an outrage in any economy.

Do eat at the Afghan Horseman--and make reservations beforehand, since dinner will take a while. Doff your shoes and plop down on a cushion at a low table. Mary had a little lamb, and so should you. Kebabs or karahi.

Do not buy gasoline if you can avoid it. $1.06 per litre. (Liter?) Caramba.

Apr 7, 2006

dimmer switch

We're headed to Lynden for a wedding, and then to Vancouver for a couple days of I know not what, followed by a day or two in Abbotsford with relatives. Blogging will be nonexistent, in all likelihood, until Thursday of next week. Enjoy the hiatus.

Update: Back. (Oh, there'll be more.)

where to dine in Olympia: Ranch House BBQ

Update 2/17/09: Ranch House is back! They're open again at their original location. I'll write up a fresh review the next time I visit.

Update 3/16/08: The new location, in the Governor Hotel, although lacking some of atmosphere of the original, is still worth a visit. Went there this afternoon, enjoying the fantastic pulled pork, baked beans, potato salad and prompt, friendly service. Left with a happy heart and a full belly.

Update 12/10/07: Out of sadness, joy. The Governor Hotel is stepping up, offering the pair a rent-free kitchen until they can get back on their feet. Ranch House BBQ lives!

Update 12/3/07: Sad news. The Ranch House is no more, done in by an ill-fated mudslide. Condolences to Amy Anderson and Melanie Tapie, co-owners who must be just devastated right now.

We dined tonight thanks to a generous gift from my speech and debate squad. (They hate to see me go hungry.) It's not technically "in" Olympia, perched alongside Highway 8 near milepost 14, ten minutes outside of town. But ten minutes is a short wait for good food--and there's plenty at Ranch House BBQ.

Plenty of awards, too, which are displayed a bit obsessively. Commendations fill the menu, plaques line the walls, trophies cover the counters. If a pork sandwich (and its chicken equivalent), potato salad and baked beans were any indication, the obsession is warranted. It's been a while--six years, the last time I was in Texas--since I've had pork that melted in my mouth. The beans were sweet and tangy. The potato salad featured celery and, surprisingly, olives (a first in my experience).

Service was pleasant and prompt. We were ushered over to a booth with a view of a "babbling brook," or, in the other direction, the informal parking lot. (More spaces, please!) We didn't stop chowing down until our bellies burst with shortcake drenched in butter and fresh strawberries, big enough to split.

Did I mention the pork?

Drive west on 101, bear left on Hwy 8 to 10841 Kennedy Creek Road SW, about six miles from the split. Call 360-866-8704 for reservations (strongly recommended due to a small setup). Affordable, ranging from $5 for appetizers and desserts to $20something for steak or sample platters.

Mariners return to form, blanked by Blanton

If you're gonna get beat, might as well get beat by a guy who makes $375,000 per annum. (So much for our phenom.)

citizens of Olympia, unite...

... to convince the state to demolish the ugliest building in Olympia.

Not only is it ugly, but it scars an otherwise aesthetically pleasing skyline. (Looking from the capitol, you've got the solitary crane, the snow-capped Olympics, the verdant hills, and this beast.)

On top of that, it happens to be unoccupied at a cost of $118,000 per month.

There's gotta be something we can do.

Update: An anonymous Olympian commenter has the solution:
Washington needs a militia to roam the eastside at night and clean this town-up. The militia could over-take that super-ugly super-tall hunk of junk state building that's blocking my view of the capitol and they could jail their captures there until the police find enough time to arrest all the criminals. Forget the borders, there's plenty of crime to go around right here in Oly. LETS UNITE WITH THE OLYMPIA MILITIA!!! OVER-TAKE THAT UGLY BROWN BUILDING AND SET-UP HEADQUARTERS THERE. FROM THERE THE MILITIA COULD KEEP WATCH AND THERE THEY COULD LOCK-UP CRIMINALS UNTIL THE POLICE FIND ENOUGH TIME TO MAKE AN ARREST.
I won't join up until they call it a "posse."

insufficient funds

The Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture is intellectually bankrupt. Still, Nick Matzke, PZ Myers, and Ed Brayton try to make a withdrawal.

diabetes, passive smoking, and fuzzy math

Shame, NewScientist, for publishing results of a passive smoking study without even a whiff of skepticism.
US researchers examined more than 4500 men and women in Birmingham, Alabama, Chicago and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Oakland, California.

The volunteers' health and smoking habits were first assessed in 1985, and again 15 years later. The investigators found that during this time, 22% of smokers developed glucose intolerance. This is the precursor to diabetes, when the body can no longer produce enough of the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar.

Those who had never smoked, but who were frequently exposed to second-hand smoke came next, with 17% developing glucose intolerance. This was higher than the 14% risk rate in the group of people who had previously smoked and then given up the habit.

Those least at risk were non-smokers who were not exposed to other people's smoke. In this group, 11.5% of people developed glucose intolerance.
Compare that to the unmentioned qualification in the paper [pdf]:
The hazard ratio for passive smoking exposure was significant only for white men, although the decreases in sample size that accompany these stratified analyses need to be considered in the interpretation of these results.
Angst is premature for other reasons. In a "rapid response" to the article, Alastair G. Browne notes, among other problems,
Moving on the results of the experiment, and specifically table four which details glucose intolerance by category. Looking particularly at the incidence precentages, in one case the incidence percentage works out higher for "never" smokers with passive smoke exposure than it does for current smokers. It would be reasonable to expect that current smokers are subject to greater levels of tobacco smoke than non-smokers of whatever category. The results do not reflect this and there is no attempt at explaining this within the text. Additionally, the majority of the figures do not show a deviation of greater than 10% between smoker categories. Such a deviation is considered the minimum acceptable in order to give meaning to experimental results. Accordingly, this paper appears to be inconclusive.
Table 4 is reproduced to the right.

Policymakers and concerned citizens are only too eager to dispense with caution and care when interpreting initial and inconclusive results. How long before this study is used to usher in further antismoking legislation?

random English teacherly observations on the Friday before Spring Break

1. Break dancing and rockin' guitar and drum solos will liven up any assembly. (The less academic an assembly, the better.)

2. We've been crafting original children's stories in my sophomore classes. Between that and afterschool improv comedy practice, I've begun thinking in very strange ways. Example: last night, at a birthday party for a friend, I hung out for a while with the five-to-seven-year-olds. At the onset of the conversation, while looking out the window, about to remark on a forever unknown topic, one kid said, "I was expecting..." and paused.

I completed. "A flying giraffe?" Laughter. Then we spent the next six minutes discussing the ins-and-outs of constructing a flying giraffe. Aluminum and wood, hollow so people could hide in it, piloted rather than remote-controlled. Another kid piped up, "Are you guys really gonna do this?"

"If we can get federal funding," I replied.

3. This list of items is the best writing prompt ever. First, display the list without explanation. Ask students to theorize: what do all these items have in common? (Other than the obvious, "They're all on a list.") Then reveal the answer. The immediate questions will all be versions of "How in the world did ______________ get there? A pit bull chained to a tree? A bag of dead goats?"

Instant curiosity means instant imagination. Have students pick one item and tell the story of its arrival on the California coastline. Their creativity will astound you.

Matthew 14:22-32--the Recently Revised Version

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 He then went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a long way from land, tossed about by waves in the wind. The temperature dropped significantly. Jesus shivered and checked his watch.

25 Late that night Jesus figured he should rejoin the disciples by walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him, they freaked out. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried like babies.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: "Jeez! It's just me, and it's just ice. Quit bawling like that. It's embarrassing."

28 "Lord, if it's ice," Peter replied, "I'll come and walk out to you."

29 "I double dare you," Jesus said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the ice floes and came toward Jesus. 30 But when the wind picked up, he chickened out, began to sink, and shouted, "Lord, save me!"

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You should have worn sandals with some traction," he said, "not these flimsy flip-flops."

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat laughed at Peter, who clowned around for a bit until Jesus settled them down for the next lesson.

Apr 6, 2006

have you seen this felon?

This lug's knocked off a bank in Monroe
, and maybe a coupla other places. A $5,000 reward's being offered.

(I don't suppose KOMO minds if I borrow the photo.)

I hear that guy Judas wasn't so bad after all

According to the Gospel of Judas, at least.
The newly translated document's text begins: "The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot."

In a key passage Jesus tells Judas, "You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me."
Nothing's as fascinating as heresy.

on the etymology of a dirty word

The word? Scumbag.

I, too, had no idea it was vulgar, or why.

So, philosophers and linguists, if no one knows a word is vulgar, is it still vulgar?

Crazed Prophet Says Apocalypse is Upon Us

April 6, 2006

PATMOS - A local seer says the Earth would be better off with 90 percent of the human population dead.

"Every one of you who gets to survive has to bury nine," John the Apostle cautioned students and guests at his creepy cave on Thursday. John's words are part of what he calls his "doomsday talk" - a nine-hour presentation outlining humanity's theological misdeeds and John's predictions about how God, working through disease, famine, and war, will exterminate all but a fraction of civilization.

Though his statements are admittedly bold, he's not without abundant advocates. But what may set this revered thinker apart from other doomsday soothsayers is this: Humanity's collapse is a notion he embraces.

Indeed, his words deal, very literally, on a life-and-death scale, yet he smiles and jokes candidly throughout the diatribe. Disseminating a message many would call morbid, John's warnings are centered upon awareness rather than fear.

"This is really an exciting time," he said Thursday amid warnings of apocalypse, destruction and disease. Only minutes earlier he declared, "Death. This is what awaits us all. Death." Reflecting on the so-called Ancient Chinese Curse, "May you live in interesting times," he wore, surprisingly, a smile.

So what's at the heart of John's claim?

6.5 billion sinful humans is too many.

In his estimation, "We've grown fat, selfish and miserable by straying from God's path."

The solution?

A 90 percent reduction.

That's 5.8 billion lives - lives he says are only here by God's grace. He insists civilization is on the brink of its downfall.

"[God's wrath] will control the scourge of humanity," John said. "We're looking forward to a huge collapse. God will send plagues of boils, locust-beasties, hailstorms, ultimately reaching the breaking point at the battle of Armageddon."

But don't tell local "citizen scientist" Anticles the Skeptic to quietly swallow John's call to awareness. Anticles says it's an "abhorrent death wish" and contends he has "no choice but to take a stand."

Anticles attended the prophet's doomsday presentation at the Greek Academy of Theologians annual meeting March 2-4. There, the organization honored John as its 2006 Distinguished Seer - another issue Anticles vocally opposes.

"This guy is a loose cannon to believe that worldwide genocide is the only answer," said Anticles, who filed two formal petitions with the academy following the meeting.

Joining the crusade, Thrasymachus the Elderly, who received a Ph.D. in divination from UG-Sparta, became the second to publicly chastise John when he filed a complaint Saturday with the UG board of regents. He insists a state university is no place to disseminate such views.

He writes:

"John's message does not fall within the realm of his professional competence as a prognosticator, because it is a normative claim, not a descriptive one. John is encouraged to use his theological expertise to predict the likely consequences of certain moral behaviors, but to evaluate some as worthy of prevention by genocide is abominable."

But John, a retired 38-year UG educator, maintains he's not campaigning for genocide. He likens mankind's story to an unbridled party on a luxury cruise liner. The fun's going strong on the upper deck, he says. But as crowds blindly absorb the festivities, many fail to notice the ship is sinking.

"The biggest enemy we face is humanism," he said, describing the belief system in which humans are the central element of the universe. "This is that common attitude that everything humans do, humans should decide, ignoring the will of God."

Paul the Apostle, an Antioch University theology professor and associate dean, agrees the inevitability of a crashing point is unarguable.

"The amount of sin in this world is growing," he said. "The whole of creation groans and labors for a radical solution."

But sin is more than just an immediate problem, John says. It's the horrifying God-sent plagues he deems most capable of wide scale decimation.

"Humans are so dense (in moral understanding) that they constitute a perfect substrate for divine wrath," he says.

"This is gonna happen in your lifetime," he told his Patmos audience. "Do you wanna go there? We've already gone there. We waited too long."

[The preceding was parody. But not by much.]

Apr 5, 2006

at last they'll be worthy of a highlight reel

The Mariners, that is. Whether they slide into mediocrity or win the division, they've got talent. Watching the afternoon game while grading papers, I get to see...
Richie Sexson blast another long ball

Jose Lopez barehand a grounder up the middle, narrowly missing the putout

Kenji Johjima nail Darren Erstad in a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play

Jose Lopez bang out a gap triple
Have faith, people. They're fun to watch again.

Update: Despite some shakiness in the bullpen (Sherrill looked mighty nervous as a closer), we did it. We beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to win our first series of the season. Sweet pine tar of hope.

Rabbi Laurence

Yesterday the freshfolks presented Act V of Romeo and Juliet. One class procured a marvelous "friar" costume, complete with brown robe, rope belt, and a wig with a bald spot built in.

One of my students blurted out, "I'm confused. Is that a bald spot or a yarmulke?"

I nearly collapsed from laughing.

the Monty Hall problem

The apparent winning strategy defies intuition. Jason Rosenhouse describes the game:
The Monty Hall problem goes like this: You are presented with three identical doors. Behind one of them is a car and behind the other two are goats. You want the car. Monty Hall tells you to choose one of the doors. Regardless of which door you choose, at least one of the two remaining doors will have a goat behind it. Monty Hall, who knows where the car is, then opens one of the doors that has a goat behind it. He then gives you the option of either sticking with the first door you chose, or switching your choice to the other unopened door.

Question: What should you do? Should you stay where you are? Switch? Does it make a difference? [emphasis added]
I first read about the classic probability conundrum in a Marilyn Vos Savant column. (Yes, that's her real name. Scroll down to read about the column. Some other time, visit the obsessive fact-checker, Marilyn is Wrong.)

People generally think that when Hall reveals a wrong answer, the odds then change to 1 out of 2; after all, there are two doors left, and te car has to be behind one of them. But they don't. In fact, 2 out of three times, the player should switch in order to win. Intuition says it shouldn't matter. Intuition is wrong.

The mathematician writes,
Try this computer simulation. Do it many times and keep track of your statistics.

Think the computer simulation is rigged? Fine. Get out a pad and a pencil. Make a list of every possible scenario. (For example: Car behind door number one, you choose door number one, Monty Hall opens door number two.) It's a little tedious, but there aren't that many possibilities. Then put a little mark next to all the scenarios in which you will win by switching. I think you will find that by switching you will win 2/3 of the time.
Since you're still skeptical but lazy, I'll take on Rosenhouse's challenge for you, listing every single possibility right here, right now.

It's in | You choose | Hall opens | You choose to... | OUTCOME
Door 1. Door 1. Door 2. Stay. WIN
Door 1. Door 1. Door 2. Switch. LOSE
Door 1. Door 1. Door 3. Stay. WIN
Door 1. Door 1. Door 3. Switch. LOSE
Door 1. Door 2. Door 3. Stay. LOSE
Door 1. Door 2. Door 3. Switch. WIN
Door 1. Door 3. Door 2. Stay. LOSE
Door 1. Door 3. Door 2. Switch. WIN
Door 2. Door 1. Door 3. Stay. LOSE
Door 2. Door 1. Door 3. Switch. WIN
Door 2. Door 2. Door 1. Stay. WIN
Door 2. Door 2. Door 1. Switch. LOSE
Door 2. Door 2. Door 3. Stay. WIN
Door 2. Door 2. Door 3. Switch. LOSE
Door 2. Door 3. Door 1. Stay. LOSE
Door 2. Door 3. Door 1. Switch. WIN
Door 3. Door 1. Door 2. Stay. LOSE
Door 3. Door 1. Door 2. Switch. WIN
Door 3. Door 2. Door 1. Stay. LOSE
Door 3. Door 2. Door 1. Switch. WIN
Door 3. Door 3. Door 1. Stay. WIN
Door 3. Door 3. Door 1. Switch. LOSE
Door 3. Door 3. Door 2. Stay. WIN
Door 3. Door 3. Door 2. Switch. LOSE

Count up your STAY wins and losses. 6-6
Count up your SWITCH wins and losses. 6-6.

Hence, the probability is 1/2, not 2/3, right?


What you might have forgotten when listing all the outcomes is that initially choosing the correct door is always a 1 out of 3 likelihood--so the probability that Hall will open Wrong1 or Wrong2 isn't 1/4, as the list would suggest, but 1/6 (1/2 * 1/3).

If you're not mathematically minded--and I'm not--it's easy to get confused.

Here's a better way to show the results for Door 1.

It's in | You choose | Hall opens | You choose to... | OUTCOME
Door 1. Door 1. Door 2 or 3. Stay. WIN
Door 1. Door 1. Door 2 or 3. Switch. LOSE
Door 1. Door 2. Door 3. Stay. LOSE
Door 1. Door 2. Door 3. Switch. WIN
Door 1. Door 3. Door 2. Stay. LOSE
Door 1. Door 3. Door 2. Switch. WIN

Now you can see that the numbers balance out properly, and that the odds are in your favor to switch.

Incidentally, a game that lets its contestants win 2/3 of the time is a pretty stupid game.

Apr 4, 2006

at least the laughs are intentional: Slither

The last time I sat through a mucosal invasion flick was when Morgan Freeman's eyebrows invaded Maine in a silly flick called Dreamcatcher, funny for all the wrong reasons. Slither's similar, but different. Scott Tobias explains so I don't have to.

Apr 2, 2006

day one of the Howard Stern pledge drive

Desperate for listeners, Howard Stern borrows from the PBS playbook, making a special appearance on public television, simulcast on public radio.

This is an excerpt, the conclusion of the official transcript. After six hours of successful pleading, Stern, Robin Quivers, and Artie Lange continue to cajole viewers to switch to Sirius.

STERN: I just got great f-----g news: that was our four millionth caller.

QUIVERS: Hot damn. That's amazing. Just listen to those phones, ringing nonstop. Special thanks to Jerry Desoto of Tucson, Arizona, who will receive a complimentary copy of Private Parts.

LANGE: I should add that callers who pledge an annual subscription also receive one year of free access to Howard Stern on Demand. Operators are standing by.

QUIVERS: Four million. Wow.

STERN: I'm angry. It should be 20 million. It's insulting to me that everyone hasn't come with me. I take it personally. The competitive thing is a sickness that eats at me.

LANGE: So call in, all you listeners and viewers out there, and help find a cure.

QUIVERS: All it takes is a simple phone call, a minute of your time.

LANGE: And after you get off that phone, you're gonna feel great knowing that you've helped support a media empire in its early days.

QUIVERS: That's right. We're number one, and with your help we'll be number zero.

LANGE: You know, the worst thing you can do is be a freeloader, listening on some pirated internet broadcast or in your buddy's BMW. Howie, whaddaya say to your fans who haven't made the switch?

STERN: F--- you! You haven't come with me yet? How dare you? We're up to wild, crazy stuff, the show has never sounded better. You cheap bastards!

QUIVERS: Uh, Howard, I don't think--

STERN: Shut up and let me finish. This is personal. I am pissed off about this whole sh---y situation. They don't wanna join? F--- 'em.

LANGE: There you have it, straight talk from the King of All Media.

STERN: That's emperor, dammit. I'm f-----g emperor.