March 30, 2004

I Ran with a Zombie

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:13 PM

Last week Slate ran this piece on the recent appearance of fast-moving zombies in movies. Not until the end does the author consider what the two different portayals might represent:

George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, more than any other creature feature, hammered home the slow zombie's metaphorical possibilities. In the first Dawn, scores of shopping-mall-bound corpses ride escalators in an endless loop and wobble listlessly to Muzak. This new Dawn, though one of the best scare movies of the last few years, is far more concerned with zombie style than zombie substance: While Snyder's zombies may be mindless, they're less a consumerist mob than a bunch of high-strung car chasers.

Indeed, the slow zombie represents the loss of humanity through the loss of the drive to acheive and to better oneself, reduced to shuffling among the crowd with an occasional swipe at living flesh whenever it comes into arms' reach. The slow zombie is a person who surrounds himself with the comfortable, material satisfaction of what he has and never thinks about what he might become. But the fast zombie is a loss of humanity at the other end of the spectrum: the hypercompetitive, single-minded dash driven by the basest of instincts. If the slow zombies are the lines at Wal-mart on a Saturday afternoon, the fast are the ones rushing in the door at 8 am, trampling each other to get the $20 DVD player. And so as society becomes more efficient and profit-driven, productivity rising while employment remains stagnant, the fast zombie becomes the metaphor of the day.

March 29, 2004

More or less on-time quote post

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:51 PM

Difficulty: Easy, 1 point.

Last week's was from last season's South Park finale, in a song about French Canada.

Apparently I'm an expert on this subject.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:50 AM

While checking out my referrer logs, I discovered something astonishing: I am the number one search result on Google for the query "tall humans".

I'm not sure why, but this somehow seemed noteworthy.

March 28, 2004

I didn't think zombies were known for their speaking ability.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:25 PM

The various Dawn of the Dead-related news has had a negative impact on the signal/noise ratio for my Google News zombie searches. How will I know if there's a real outbreak? Besides the mindless hordes trying to eat my flesh, I mean. I did find this article about unconscious behaviors.

When you're talking, do you construct each sentence first in your mind, piecing the words together? Or do you simply talk, the words tumbling out in proper sequence and syntax?

For the most part, it's probably the latter. You don't think about each word before you speak it. "Your brain," says Koch, "takes care of that quite well without any conscious effort on your part."

Speaking is, in profound ways, a "nonconscious" behavior. It is a mental operation not directly associated with conscious feelings, sensations or memories. It just sort of happens, seemingly, on its own.


But I do consciously compose what I say before I say it. Is speech really an unconscious act for most people? Could this be part of my conversational difficulties? (If so, I arrive at the conclusion that I will get better at conversation if I practice a lot, which I more or less already knew. The problem, as usual, is that practicing something I'm really, really bad at is quite unpleasant.)

March 27, 2004

When there's no more room in hell, the obnoxious will go to the movies.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:54 PM

That was absolutely the worst audience in the entire history of mankind. Why do I keep going back there? I'm so dumb. I'm going to ritually geas myself never to return to Century 16 Hilltop theater, lest I instantly die.

But the new Dawn of the Dead was excellent. I overestimated my soda intake and consequently missed a scene near the end, so I may go for another viewing. In Emeryville.

I guess it's Zombie Month here.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:11 PM

What can I say? I love loathe the undead.

I'm off to see the new Dawn of the Dead over at Cinema of the Damned. I could see The Passion instead, but I hear there's only one reanimated corpse in that one and it only shows up at the very end. Maybe Mel Gibson will make a sequel involving the dead rising from their graves -- apparently that was in the book.

While I'm out, enjoy this in-depth report on the activities of California's elected officials.

A few centuries ago, he'd be tortured and burned at the stake. Progress!

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:25 PM

Via Atrios, news that Kerry supporters are not welcome in the Catholic church:

Message to church employees who support John Kerry's presidential bid: public endorsement of the pro-choice Catholic senator could cost you your job.

Just ask Ono Ekeh, founder and moderator of the Catholics for Kerry e-mail discussion list and, until March 9, program coordinator at the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for African-American Catholics. The 33-year-old father of two is now looking for work.


I wholeheartedly agree with Atrios that if the Church is going to do this, it doesn't deserve its tax-exempt status. I suppose the Catholic leadership must look back fondly on times past when they had actual political power. I myself look forward to the day when the Church is completely irrelevant, even if I won't live to see it.

(Disclaimer: I don't think there's anything wrong with Catholics as individuals. I just think that the organization is a blight upon humanity.)

March 25, 2004

In-flight Movie Horror

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:25 PM

I'm back from the icy wastes of the north, having risked major neck pain on the return flight by attempting to sleep. Still, unconsciousness was clearly the preferable alternative to the in-flight movie, Cheaper by the Dozen (2003). Every time I opened my eyes, what I saw on the screen was Steve Martin surrounded by a whirlwind of hyperactive, feral super-brats. I thought The Passion was the movie to beat in terms of watching someone being tortured, but I was clearly wrong -- what I saw of this movie resembles what I imagine, in my darkest nightmares, as my personal hell.

Anyway, I wish I'd had time to see Montreal, but it's good to be back where water falls from the sky in its liquid phase. Tomorrow I hope to catch up on the news so I can return to posting about stuff that matters.

March 24, 2004

Final Montreal Update

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:46 PM

Got to sleep in a bit on my final day at the March Meeting; this didn't erase the cumulative effects of the past few days so I still found myself nodding off in some of the less relevant talks. I attended the session for Physics Careers Outside the University, and found the science policy talks especially interesting. Then Mason's talk, and some more qubit talks, and then I left a few minutes early to go running.

At the gym they had Lou Dobbs on (or at least his show; someone else was subbing for Lou himself). The topic for part of it was the Pledge case, which was argued before the Supremes today. From what I gathered by squinting at the captions from a distance, the justices were not particularly sympathetic to Newdow. Unfortunate, but at least Bush won't have one more culture-war campaign issue. I should probably wait for an actual ruling before I say things like this, though.

I still fail to understand the mentality that regards "under God" in the Pledge as something less than a state endorsement of religion. On the other hand, I also fail to understand the mentality that regards millions of American children robotically and uncomprehendingly reciting a loyalty oath every day as a good thing. Unfortunately, a failure to understand my fellow Americans is a common affliction for me.

Tomorrow: 5 am wake-up call! Referred to California time, this is 2 am, so I am now fully phase-shifted to the point that I am waking up when I used to go to bed (at least on weekends). Well, if we weren't meant to sleep on planes, they wouldn't have such comfortable seats. Wait a minute...

March 23, 2004

Late quote post

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:02 PM

I've been too busy to post the new quote, but it's up now. Difficulty: Slightly Obscure; 2 points.

Last week's quote was from Chapter 26 of Dracula by Bram Stoker, recorded by Jonathan Harker in his journal as he pursues Dracula on a river to Transylvania.

March Meeting: day 2

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:23 AM

This morning: more qubit talks, mostly less relevant than yesterday's. Then, the Nobel session. Unfortunately I couldn't see or hear the Nobel talks very well, the floor not being sloped and the mike not turned up enough. Still, I got some of it. Abrikosov noted that something like half of all physics Nobelists had their initial work on the subject rejected. Don't follow the fashion, he said; if you do, your career will blossom, but you can forget about a Nobel Prize. Right now I'm not thinking much about prizes and more about taking a nap. Sadly, there aren't many good places to lie down here, and there's another quantum computing session in a few minutes. Maybe I'll get out of it early enough to go running before dinner. (On a treadmill; I'm not equipped to go running in this Hoth-like weather.)

March 22, 2004

Live from the March Meeting

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:21 AM

I was so proud of myself for mastering the predictive text function, and then I lost the post I had painstakingly composed. Anyway, I'm updating by phone from the March Meeting, having recently given my talk. The good part: I finished on time. However, I delivered it as if language were a new concept to me. During the question period I contemplated hiding under the table. Afterwards I got the adrenaline crash and fought to stay awake for two and a half hours, with mixed results. At least it's done. On to the next screen.

March 21, 2004

Is there hope for Georgia, Part IV

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:29 PM

Even with our talk in less than 8 hours, we here at Arcane Gazebo are dedicated to pursuing our continuing series, Is there hope for Georgia? Today's installment:

Christians Try To Censor Georgia School's Reading List

Among the books the Crusaders for Christ want banned are "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury and "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee.

Subversive titles, those. It puts me in the mind of a letter written by Mark Twain on the subject of the removal of Huckleberry Finn from the children's section of a public library:
21 Fifth Avenue,
November 21, 1905

I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady -- she will tell you so.

Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defence of Huck's character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion it is no better than those of Solomon, David, Satan, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood.

If there is an unexpurgated in the Children's Department, won't you please help that young woman remove Huck and Tom from that questionable companionship?

Sincerely yours,
(Signed) S. L. Clemens


And now, my noble Georgia-bashing work completed, I shall go to bed.

March 20, 2004

Montreal: Day 0.5

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:18 PM

A plane full of physicists, and I get the seat directly in front of the single passenger below the age of 10. Have I mentioned that I despise children with the intensity of a thousand burning suns? Just checking. (Also, the movie was Love Actually, but I ignored it in favor of the exploits of Takeshi Kovacs. Okay, I looked up occasionally when Keira Knightley was on the screen.)

Anyway, I got here and the city is indeed covered with a strange white powder. The citizens don't seem too alarmed, so I assume it's neither ash from wildfires nor an anthrax attack. Fortunately, the hotel has internet access so I can research this bizarre substance.

"Snow"... I'll have to look that word up later.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:15 AM

What I should have been asking in last night's post is whether frozen humans can be brought back to life.

22 degrees? Is that even possible? Maybe it's a mistake.
Anyway, I'm off, and will attempt to continue blogging by whatever means available, even if it's just posting "Damn, it's cold" by cell phone. On Thursday, I shall return to my usual lair.

March 19, 2004

Unholy Army of the Undead Update

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:41 PM
Frozen Lobsters Brought Back To Life
BOSTON -- Call it cryonics for crustaceans. A Connecticut company says its frozen lobsters sometimes come back to life when thawed. [...] The company was scheduled to attend the International Boston Seafood Show, which began Sunday, armed with video showing two undead lobsters squirming around after being frozen stiff in a minus-40 degree chemical brine for several minutes.
It strikes me as highly negligent that the reported failed to ask whether the reanimated lobsters had a newfound taste for human flesh. Fortunately, the company is taking some precautions.
For instance, the company plans to ship the lobsters with rubber bands on the claws, as a consumer protection measure.

"I wouldn't remove the rubber bands," Liberman said. "It's not worth the risk."


Famous last words. I for one intend to flee to Canada ahead of the impending zombie lobster attack.

March 18, 2004

Mutant power or monkey's paw?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:19 PM

I seem to have developed some kind of time-delayed wish fulfillment power lately. "I wish there were a sequel to Altered Carbon" is perhaps the most benevolent example. In most of the cases I've noticed, though, the fulfillment of the wish has arrived too late to allow me to derive the expected utility from it. I am now hesitant to wish for, say, a million dollars, because the most likely outcome would be the collapse of the U.S. economy, followed by hyper-inflation, followed by my acquiring a million dollars in time to spend it in the Coke machine (which will be out of everything but Diet Coke). I should nevertheless try to find a way to harness this power for good, or at least my own personal benefit.

(Am I being deliberately vague about the actual events that inspired this post? Yes!)

Phoneblogging!

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:13 PM

If you can read this, I have successfully updated the page using my cell phone. This is of course a vital part of my March Meeting preparations.

Attention, Tall Humans:

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:51 AM

Duck.

Asteroid heads for close call with Earth

SAN DIEGO - Earth is in for its closest brush with an asteroid in recorded history Thursday, when a chunk of rock passes about 43,000 kilometres above the planet's surface.

Great Scott! Look how close we came to annihilation! And astronomers didn't notice the asteroid until Monday... that's not enough time to send Bruce Willis and a deep-core drilling team! Civilization itself could have been destroyed... oh, wait:
If there was a collision, the asteroid would likely burn up in the atmosphere, NASA said.

In other words:
Lisa: I can't believe that extra-thick layer of pollution that I've actually picketed against burned up the comet.
Bart: But what's really amazing, is that this is exactly what Dad said would happen.
Lisa: Yeah, Dad was right.
Homer: I know, kids. I'm scared too!

(Apparently, it's Reference Day here at Arcane Gazebo.)

Is this the end of zombie Shakespeare?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:28 AM
Experts downplay Phatbot danger
Security experts downplayed the danger of a Trojan horse program named Phatbot that uses peer to peer (P-to-P) technology to create a network of infected zombies for carrying out attacks or spreading malicious code.
I'd rather not ever read an article reporting, in any context, that experts are downplaying the danger of something that creates a network of infected zombies. We all know where that leads.

That said, it is very hard to take seriously something named "Phatbot".

March 17, 2004

Why censure?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:36 PM

MoveOn is mounting a campaign to urge Congress to censure Bush over the deceptions leading up to the Iraq war. I think it's a noble effort, and Bush certainly deserves censure, but I question whether this is the best use of MoveOn's resources.

For one thing, it looks to me like a lost cause. House Republicans are too disciplined to let a censure motion go through -- it'll never happen. Odds are better in the Senate, where there is less party unity and one could imagine the more independent-minded Republicans defecting (and you'd need several to offset Bush supporter Zell Miller and possibly other pro-war Dems). But even in the Senate it looks very, very unlikely.

Is even a failed censure motion valuable as a symbolic gesture? I doubt it. The vote will be almost completely along party lines, and consequently the public will just see it as more partisan bickering. MoveOn should concentrate on getting the message out about the administration's deceptions (and this ad is a good start) without the Congressional censure angle.

Advances in the Field of Science: Negative Planet Discovered

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:49 PM

On Pi Day I linked to news of the discovery of a planet planetoid object orbiting the Sun. It seems that the problem of classifying Sedna has reignited the debate over whether Pluto should be classified a planet.

My question: Suppose the discovery of Sedna results in Pluto's planetary status being revoked. Is it then correct to say that we have discovered negative one planet?

(I'd also like to note that the article quotes astronomers from both Caltech and UC Berkeley, thereby allowing me to feel a deep but illusory connection with the story.)

Shameless Plug #83

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:32 PM

Discovered on Amazon: Mass market paperback version of The Night of the Dance, coming August 31. If you missed the hardcover edition, now's your chance! If you have the hardback edition, get the paperback for portability and the spiffy new cover, with its prominently displayed tagline advertising "sex, secrets, and murder," [not necessarily in that order] as well as the Texas two-step.

Crazed Techer Update

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:00 PM

That Caltech physics student accused of firebombing SUVs has now been indicted.

If his goal in rendering SUVs inoperable is to reduce air pollution, isn't setting them on fire a counterproductive method? Molotov cocktails don't seem very environmentally friendly to me. Surely he's smart enough to come up with a clever and efficient solution that wrecks SUVs in a pollutant-free manner while embodying the principles of, uh, environmental protection through property damage or whatever the hell ELF advocates.

I guess I just expect more from a Techer.

March 15, 2004

Alas, poor Nupraptor. I knew him well...

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:28 AM

Last week's quote was from Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, spoken by Kain shortly before he is assassinated.

This week's quote is Difficulty: Extremely Obscure; 6 points.

Also, it's the Ides of March, so beware.

March 14, 2004

Eating pie is an appropriate mode of celebration.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:26 PM

Happy Pi Day! Also, happy birthday to Albert Einstein.

Here's the traditional Pi Day science link: Astronomers discover 'new planet' Yes, those are scare quotes. Still, it's cool.

March 13, 2004

A case of good timing

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:18 PM

Since I finished Altered Carbon last week, my desire to run a tabletop RPG based in that setting has been growing. The difficulty is in finding an appropriate set of mechanics to adapt to the task; the ability of characters to move from one body to another requires that mental and physical abilities be easily and cleanly separable. Inspired by my earlier revelation that the optimal onscreen adaptation of the novel would be an anime series under the direction of Shinichiro Watanabe, I looked into the classic anime-based RPG, Big Eyes, Small Mouth.

From what I understand of the BESM mechanics, it will work quite well for this setting. The three character stats are Body, Mind, and Soul, so for an Altered Carbon setting one could associate the first (and related skills) with the sleeve and the other two with the stack. This definitely deserves some further investigation.

Since Games of Berkeley was closed by the time I returned from Santa Cruz today, I went over to the Barnes and Noble on the off-chance that they had a BESM rulebook. On the way over I was working up a plot for a possible one-shot in which the players are hired to investigate an alien relic. As I suspected, though, B&N didn't carry the book. Instead I found...

Broken Angels -- the sequel to Altered Carbon! I wasn't even aware of its existence. Needless to say, I bought it immediately and put it on top of The Pile. The back-cover synopsis explains that Takeshi Kovacs has been hired to investigate an alien relic...

March 12, 2004

Spoiler Warning

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:00 PM

You all remember Roy Moore, right? Obnoxious Alabama theocrat and graven-image worshipper? Harbors the delusional belief that American law is based on the Ten Commandments? Man, I hate that asshole.

Man, I hope he runs for president.

When Techers attack!

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:53 PM
Charges In Torching Of 125 SUVs

(CBS/AP) A California Institute of Technology graduate student has been arrested in connection with an August arson and vandalism spree targeting 125 sports utility vehicles at four car dealerships, the FBI said.


He was in the physics department, too. I know Techers like to set things on fire, but this is a bit much.

March 10, 2004

Blogging Irresponsibly: An Internal Dialogue in One Act

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:35 PM

I've added a list of Kerry-related links to the sidebar. Now as soon as their site puts up an attractive Kerry '04 image that fits in a 200 pixel band, I'll add that too. For some reason the ones they've got are all--

Hold on a second. This is our fourth post today.

Yeah?

Doesn't that seem like kind of a lot?

What can I say? I'm a blogging machine. I'm about to make another post about my discovery of a blog associated with The Annals of Improbable Research. There's a post up right now about control meat loaf.

Of course. This surge of activity certainly has nothing to do with our March Meeting talk, which we are supposed to be preparing so that we can practice it on Friday. No procrastination going on here!

Uh, yeah, well...

Might I suggest that we put all this creative energy to a more productive use?

Sigh. Please stand by, folks! Blogging will resume later, but for now I must attend to the almighty Powerpoint slides.

Why I love California

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:58 PM

High temperatures for Berkeley, CA, in degrees Fahrenheit:
Monday, March 8: 76
Tuesday, March 9: 78
Wednesday, March 10: 83

Not the best weather for running up hills, but it's excellent weather for observing those famous California girls in their warm-weather attire.

Luring out their prey

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:42 AM

Brilliant:

Dogging The Press
The next time Marine One lands on the South Lawn, watch to see if first dog barney bolts from President Bush to join the press corps. Pressies tell us that because Bush avoids them after landing, they sometimes call out Barney's name in hopes he'll run their way. When it works, the trick forces Bush to retrieve the pup and face some questions. "Yes, we know the trick," says a Bushie, happy it sometimes fails. "We just hope they don't start using treats."

via Wonkette.

Inclined Pain

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:07 AM

I've resolved to run Bay to Breakers in May and the San Francisco Marathon in August (and am now sorely tempted to sign up for Run Against Bush). Of course this means I have some training to do, and in particular I'd better find some hills to run -- my usual route is somewhere between a pancake and Kansas in flatness.

There's a nice big hill directly to the east of me, so I figured I'd just go run over there. I got out a map (foolishly, I did not select a contour map) and plotted a route of reasonable length up the hill and back down, that took me on a trail through a "Hillside Natural Area".

It turns out that where it says "Hillside" it means hillside, and where it indicates a trail it means cliff face. So, having left my rock climbing equipment at home, I was forced to abandon that particular route.

It was all worth it, though, when I came back down the hill, and could look out over the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge, with a view of San Francisco off to the left. I definitely need to include more of that in my training.

March 8, 2004

Why I Am Single: A Decision Theory Perspective

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:15 PM

I've stated before (maybe not in this space) that I must be content with being single, because I do not make much of an effort to change the situation. Recently I have discovered that this line of reasoning is an application of something called revealed preference theory -- my preferences regarding being single are revealed by my actions. It seems that it's easy to mistakenly apply revealed preference, so maybe I should take a second look at this idea (which I usually take to be axiomatic).

The question one might ask is why I should feel the need to apply revealed preference theory to myself. Don't I know my own preferences? Certainly I have a set of preferences that I believe to be mine, and this set assigns a much higher utility value to having a girlfriend (under certain conditions) than to being single. Could I, under some Cartesian skepticism, worry that I am deceived about my own preferences?

The more I think about it the more I'm convinced that this is impossible. My preferences are by definition the ordering of outcomes that I believe to be my preferences, and if I act in a way that doesn't reflect them, it's not that I am actually working from some secret unconscious set of preferences, it's just that I'm acting irrationally. (It is occasionally argued, not by myself, that I am insufficiently irrational in matters of romance -- this is somehow considered a bad thing. In fact, the problem is that I am too irrational by acting against my preferences.)

Ok, so let's reject the idea that I am single because I prefer it this way. However, it is still true that I am single by choice; there aren't any forces beyond my control that absolutely prevent me from getting dates. (Unless I'm unknowingly under a gypsy curse or something. The gypsies usually tell you about it when they curse you, right?) I don't consider it a bad choice -- this, of course, is the rationale behind the Festival of Solitude -- but I still need to understand why I'm choosing this state over others that I would more prefer.

In a way I'm framing the problem improperly. Obviously I don't wake up every morning and say "I think I'll choose to remain single today." It's not (usually) that I'm making a conscious choice, but that being single is a consequence of an accumulation of choices which are not obviously related to the problem. Specifically, there are ways I could allocate my discretionary free time to increase vastly my probability of finding dates, but I tend not to think of my long-term utility gain when deciding what to do with any particular block of time at hand. Instead, I go for the short-term payoff of, say, playing video games (or blogging about why I am single, for that matter).

Further complicating the issue is the fact that meeting people is almost impossible for me, due to a devastating combination of shyness and poor conversational skills. Any effective strategy would first concentrate on these problems, for which potential solutions exist but aren't very much fun. It's no surprise that the video games win out all the time.

So, the conclusion seems to be that I should be more rational about allocating discretionary free time by taking into account potential long-term utility gains. When you put it that way, it sounds so easy...

Oh yeah, it's new quote day.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:16 AM

Last week's quote, and the previous week's, were from The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror II, the monkey's paw story.

Vendor: Sir, I must strongly advise you: Do not purchase this.
Behind every wish lurks grave misfortune.
I, myself, was once president of Algeria.
Homer: Come on, pal, I don't want to hear your life story. Paw me!

The new quote is Difficulty: Highly Obscure, 5 points.

March 5, 2004

Why you can't read this message

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:38 PM

We have been experiencing technical difficulties due to the physics department network being old and crotchety and possibly not administered by anyone. Perhaps, when (if?) we have funds again, it will be upgraded to some more efficient hardware like carrier pigeons or even bicycle courier. The important thing is, in the immortal words of Han Solo, "It's not my fault."

March 4, 2004

Oh good, more speed traps on the 17.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:04 PM

Attention fellow Californians: You might want to slow down.

I say the real problem is all those people who drive in the left lane at way below the speed limit. I would suggest that either the CHP focus on these offenders, or Gov. Schwarzenegger lead an effort to legalize hood-mounted rocket launchers.

Who gets the bin Laden endorsement?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:56 PM

The new line from Bush supporters seems to be that Osama bin Laden (and other unsavory characters) would prefer a Kerry victory in November. Thinking about the actions of Bush and his administration over the past three years, it's pretty astonishing that they would suggest this. Consider:

  • Despite the "Wanted: Dead or Alive" rhetoric, Bush quickly set the pursuit of bin Laden on the back burner, diverting troops for the impending Iraq war...

  • ...which was a convenient thing for bin Laden, who had railed against Iraq's secular government on multiple occasions. Fortunately for him, Bush got rid of said government and Iraq may now be moving down the path to the preferred government of Al Qaeda, Islamic theocracy.

  • But the benefits of the Iraq war to Islamic terrorism don't stop there. Osama can only be pleased at the continued increase of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East created by the invasion...

  • ...not to mention the skyrocketing recruitment by Al Qaeda and others.

  • And remember the international coalition against terrorism that emerged after 9/11? The Bush administration's unilateralism on Iraq squandered that goodwill. Osama can only be feeling safer now that America is isolated in the international community.

  • Meanwhile, actual state sponsors of terror like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan get a free pass from the United States. Sure is nice of President Bush. Would bin Laden want to risk a less friendly foreign policy under Kerry?

  • And finally, Bush's budget keeps homeland security efforts underfunded, making sure that America remains a nice big target.

So I have to wonder why bin Laden would want Kerry to win the election, after all Bush has done for him?

March 3, 2004

The Coveted Gazebo Endorsement

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:23 PM

By process of elimination, I am pleased to endorse John Kerry for president in 2004.

We here at Arcane Gazebo are of limited means, but we will do what we can to make a difference, however small. I am pledging the entire contents of my wallet to the Kerry campaign: a dollar bill, thirty-eight cents in change, a plastic card with the periodic table printed on it, and a receipt from Blondie's Pizza.

In a word, no. In two words, hell no.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:04 PM

What is this crap I keep seeing about Hillary Clinton as a possible Kerry running mate? Surely a move like this would mobilize so many hostile Republicans that it would far outweigh whatever advantages there are to having her on the ticket. On top of that we'd have to read Safire's new theories about how Kerry plans to step down after inauguration, handing the presidency to Hillary. Please, spare us.

At the risk of borderline obsessiveness...

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:00 PM

In our quest to become the one-stop shop for smart-ass remarks about Jesus Chainsaw Massacre, we offer the following link for your amusement: 40 Thoughts on The Passion

March 2, 2004

Could you wait until they count my vote, at least?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:50 PM

Edwards to Drop Out of Presidential Race

Hey! The polls haven't even closed yet in California! At least let us pretend like we matter! Sigh.

(I guess it's not that we don't matter, just that he's expecting to lose here along with everywhere else.)

Democracy: A spiritual experience

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:40 AM

Well, I'm off to church. That may sound unusual, but today they are performing a very sacred ritual indeed. And I get the nifty "I voted" sticker.

If you live in California, or another Super Tuesday state, go vote!

March 1, 2004

Mind reading for justice, or, Your thoughts betray you, young Skywalker.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:28 PM

via Google News:
New technology used in death row case

DALLAS, March 1 (UPI) -- Attorneys for an Oklahoma death row inmate may try to use a controversial new forensic tool called brain fingerprinting to overturn their client's conviction in a 1994 double murder.

Jimmy Ray Slaughter was sentenced to death for the slayings of his former girlfriend, Melody Wuertz, and her 11-month-old daughter, Jessica, in Edmond, an Oklahoma City suburb.

His defense team brought in Dr. Larry Farwell, the neuroscientist who pioneered the new technology that measures whether a person's brain has recorded certain information. Farwell said his tests found Slaughter's brain lacked essential facts about the crime that the killer would know.


First of all, this is very cyberpunk, and therefore I applaud it. Aesthetic considerations aside, I wonder how the fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination would apply to this technique, if it were used to as evidence to convict rather to exonerate. I assume the defendant would have to agree to have his brain scanned.
And then there was this quote:
Brain fingerprinting is based on the involuntary split-second blimp of electronic activity that fires in the brain when it recognizes information, the so-called P300 wave. Farwell has improved on that basic science with his own system that he says is 100 percent accurate in some cases.

What kind of statement is that? "100 percent accurate in some cases" isn't really 100 percent accurate, is it?

Thine is the medium Sprite.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:26 PM

A handy Aramaic phrasebook to use while viewing Mel Gibson's Jesus Chainsaw Massacre.

Double quote feature

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:48 AM

New quote is from the same source as last week's -- I actually like this one better but the previous one was more appropriate.

I thought about quoting the Alien: Resurrection draft script as found in the DVD extras, but decided to make a post out of it instead. I think it would have been worth about 9 points for a correct identification.