July 30, 2004

Spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam and spam.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:23 PM

Some asshat is spamming the comment threads. Fortunately most of them are going to very old posts that no one is reading. Unfortunately deleting comments is a pain in the ass in MT, and I so don't have time to get rid of them. So if you see something unbelievably obscene in a comment thread, that's why.

Anyone know a good solution for this? The spammer seems to be hopping IP's, so I can't just block him outright.

Really brief Kerry speech post

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:38 AM

I was going to comment on Kerry's acceptance speech, but I was in the back of the room and could only hear about 10% of it. Well, the delivery looked good, anyway. Reading the transcript, I liked the way he tried to reclaim flag-waving and patriotism from the Republicans. (But will it work?)

I would have more detailed commentary, but I'm ridiculously busy today and this weekend. Maybe Monday, after I run the San Francisco Marathon with the well-known mystery writer James Hime on Sunday. Bay Area readers (if any) are welcome to come out and cheer us on.

July 28, 2004

His first words were "Go fuck yourself."

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:15 PM

I ran across this article about some guy in Kentucky who burned 30 pints of Ben and Jerry's ice cream to protest Ben Cohen's protest of George Bush. It's not really all that interesting, but I wanted to comment on this line: "Charlene Harris brought her two sons,-Cheney, 2, and Jay, 4, to the protest after learning about it from a Scott County Republican Party e-mail."

She named her kid Cheney? Now that's a serious Republican.

Life imitates Star Wars

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:51 PM

That's no moon:

This is all very cool, but now I'm concerned that the first alien life we encounter will resemble Jar-Jar.

July 27, 2004

Then he picked up Jon Fossoway's shield, gaining +2 defense.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:55 PM

Add George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire to the list of settings that demand a Dynasty Warriors-style video game adaptation from Koei.

Next came four of lesser birth who had distinguished themselves in the fighting... the freerider Lothor Brune, who'd cut his way through half a hundred Fossoway men-at-arms to capture Ser Jon of the green apple and kill Ser Bryan and Ser Edwyd of the red, thereby winning himself the name Lothor Apple-Eater...
A Clash of Kings, p.908

I think we all know how that went down:
Lothor Brune's unit is attacking Jon Fossoway!
Bodyguard: Are we not too far out?
Lothor Brune has defeated 50 enemies!
Loras Tyrell: I bow to your skills!
Lothor Brune has routed Bryan Fossoway's unit!
Lothor Brune: I've defeated an officer!
Tyrion Lannister has sealed an enemy stronghold!
Lothor Brune has routed Edwyd Fossoway's unit!
Lothor Brune: I've defeated an officer!
Baratheon forces' overall morale is dropping.
Lothor Brune has routed Jon Fossoway's unit!
Lothor Brune: I've defeated an officer!
Jon Fossoway's unit has been annihilated.
Tywin Lannister: We must not fall behind!

I am not at the Democratic National Convention.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:41 PM

But I will be at East Bay for Kerry's convention party on Thursday! It's a very exclusive event, we'll be turning people away at the door, but I was able to get on the guest list due to my RSVP'ing on time vast political clout.

There's a lot of blog coverage of the DNC, and I've only had a chance to sample a small part of it, but the convention blog at The American Prospect is entertaining. Also, the inimitable Fafnir and Giblets are supplying their own no-holds-barred commentary!

  • Jimmy Carter! History's greatest monster! With his Habitat for Humanity Jimmy Carter gives homes to the homeless - making the homeless cease to exist. That sounds like Homeless Genocide to Giblets! An do not Giblets started on the incompetence and horror of the Camp David Accords!

July 26, 2004

More old-school sports

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:38 PM

Via Fark, an interesting article describing the ancient Olympic games.

A few events have persisted over the millennia, like the discus, javelin, running, wrestling and boxing - although the ancient versions often had different rules. Other events vanished with the empire, like the full-armoured sprint and the pankration - which resembled a bar fight that allowed finger-breaking and genital punching.

They ought to bring back the pankration. Just imagine the TV ratings...


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:03 PM

I'm sorry. This is a serious issue, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it by saying Drink up, me hearties. Yo ho.

And yet, when they title the article "Pirates Increase Deadly Attacks on High Seas" I just can't help myself, especially with Talk Like A Pirate Day less than two months off.

(Zombies and pirates in one week! I just need to blog about ninjas to complete the trifecta.)


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:47 PM

Last week's quote is from Gloucester's opening soliloquy in Richard III:

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity

I was reminded of this play (one of my favorites) while reading George R. R. Martin's fantasy series based on the Wars of the Roses; it's pretty clear which character in these books is based on Richard III, but some of the other parallels are not so obvious.

The new quote is difficulty: Moderate; 2 points.

July 22, 2004

Tonight your dream will be directed by George Romero.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:08 PM

The dream I had last night:

I step out of the puddlejumper at a tiny airport somewhere in central California. There's a small car rental operation nearby, and I hitch a ride into town from there with one of my fellow passengers. He drops me off at a large house, where a middle-age woman answers the door. She is the only one who lives here, but she rents out the rooms to visitors such as myself. I've already made the arrangements, so she shows me to my room upstairs. It's late in the afternoon.

As the sun goes down I settle in, unpack. But once night has fallen I hear a crash downstairs. I run down to find that the door has been smashed in, and a horde of shuffling zombies is pouring in. I know it's no good to run back upstairs, so I try to push past them and escape, but they overwhelm me...

...and I'm standing in the late afternoon sun on the front lawn of the house. After a moment's disorientation I realize that I have been reloaded from a save file, as if in a video game, back to the moment of my arrival. My first impulse is to warn the proprietress about the impending zombie attack, but I know I will not be taken seriously. Instead I enter the house and begin to search for weapons.

I end up with an axe found in the garage (not a Buffy-style battle-axe, but an axe for cutting wood), and a chef's knife from the kitchen. After a few practice swings I decide the axe works best in my left hand with the knife wielded in the right. This settled, I go to the front door to wait.

The door bursts open and I launch myself at the lead zombie, aiming an axe-blow for the head. But the zombie sways in an unexpected direction, and I bury the blade in its right shoulder. I pull on the handle to dislodge it, but it only draws the zombie onto me, pinning my right arm. The rest of the horde pushes through the door, surrounding me...


I need fire. I recall Nick's photos of a Super Soaker converted into a flamethrower, a bright tongue of flame sweeping out into the night. But no waterguns are to be found in the house. I settle for a canister of kerosene (left hand) and a butane lighter (right). This time when the zombie comes through the door I fling some oil onto the shambling corpse, thrust my right arm forward, and flick the lighter. It catches and the zombie goes up like a torch. It occurs to me in this instant that I am likely to burn the house down with such tactics, but I am not too troubled by this thought.

The other undead mostly shy away from the flames, but a few push through, and I give them the same treatment. It's working...

...the kerosene runs out. I'm backed into a corner now, with three or four zombies approaching. In desperation I reach out for a head, hoping to snap its neck...

This time, instead of reloading, I wake up.

A. Null interpretation - it's meaningless.
B. At night my subconscious sets up a GameCube in the inner recesses of my brain and plays Resident Evil. Badly.
C. The zombies represent my various responsibilities, obligations, and tasks that must be completed in the near future, and the dream is a reflection of my fears that these things will overwhelm me, and I won't be able to develop a strategy to deal with them.
D. The dream is a manifestation of my fear that if I allow myself to become too isolated and solitary, my humanity will fade away and I will become zombie-like.
E. Since central California is the solidly conservative area of the state, the dream is about my fear of Republicans.

Or supply your own. I will add that the previous night I dreamed I was a vampire. Might be too much Buffy (if that's possible).

July 21, 2004

Krispy Kreme: geniuses, madmen, or both?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:17 PM

The latest advances in doughnut consumption:

Drinking those cool Krispy Kremes
Once the fried dough embodiment of hot and fresh, Krispy Kreme has transformed its original glazed doughnut into a new frozen beverage for summer.

The chain introduced a new line of frozen drinks Wednesday, including frozen original kreme -- a drinkable version of the company's signature doughnut -- raspberry, latte and double chocolate.

I'm about equal parts that's disgusting and I have to try it on this one. I will also point out that one of these drinks--in the "small" size--has as many calories as two doughnuts. But you can add coffee to it!

Encouraging trends

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:58 AM

I love the poll data, and this one caught my eye:

Survey: USA's Protestant majority might soon be no more
New statistics on religious diversity show the USA's historic Protestant majority has plummeted to 52%, and by the end of 2004 it may no longer be the nation's dominant religious group.

To which I say, good! Not that I have anything against Protestants, but with any luck this will reduce the influence of bible-thumping puritans in politics.
If the fraction of Protestants declined, some other groups must have increased their membership. As it turns out, we godless secularists gained the most converts, and we sure are effective at subverting the youth:
A steep rise in the number of people who said they currently have no religion: 14% in 2002, up from 9% in 1992. It's even higher for younger people: Among those born in 1980 or later, 27% said they have no religion. "Each succeeding group is less religious than the preceding," Smith says.

It'll be nice when we're a large enough group that politicians can't get away with statements like this...

July 19, 2004

Old school marathoning

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:05 PM

Nothing like a marathon in August:

U.S. Astronomers Question Date of Original Marathon

The first marathon -- a grueling run by a battlefield messenger from the plains of Marathon to Athens -- may have occurred in August heat instead of the comparative cool of September in Greece, astronomers reported on Monday.

This finding would offer one explanation for the fabled quick demise of the original marathon runner, Pheidippides, who allegedly managed to gasp out the words, "Rejoice, we conquer," before dropping down dead on his arrival at Athens in 490 BC.

Many accounts date the battle of Marathon, against invading Persians, at Sept. 12 of that year, based on calculations made by 19th century German scholar August Boeckh.

Like the current astronomers, Boeckh reckoned the date of the battle of Marathon based on the writings of Herodotus, who provided precise descriptions of the phase of the moon around the time of the battle of Marathon.


The misfit between the two calendars is important because of communications between Athens and Sparta over the Marathon battle. When Athenians first learned the Persians had landed at Marathon, a messenger was sent to Sparta to ask for aid. The Spartans replied that they could not march before the next full moon, because of a religious festival.

What this article doesn't completely explain is that this calibration is based on a rather more impressive run, described in Herodotus' account, than in the usual legend. In Herodotus, Pheidippides is the name of the runner who went to Sparta from Athens to request assistance, and covered the distance of about 150 miles in two days. He then ran back to Athens over another two days to relay the Spartan response. I don't want to be too much of a stickler for accuracy, though; the 26-mile version of the race is long enough already.

Arnold turns on the charm

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:47 PM

I used to say that I could at least respect Governor Schwarzenegger for his ability to work with Democrats in the legislature.

Guess that's out:

Governor tells voters Democrats have to go

Through lowbrow name-calling and more subtle hints at reshaping the California Legislature, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has shifted focus in the state budget fight toward actions that could profoundly change Sacramento both in November and in the long term.

Schwarzenegger concluded a three-day tour in Stockton on Sunday by continuing to bad-mouth Democratic lawmakers, asking hundreds of people packed into a mall's food court to act as "terminators'' against those who stand in the way of a budget compromise.

Now there's a brilliant political maneuver: calling the majority party in the legislature "girlie-men". Good luck getting your agenda passed now, Arnold.


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:38 PM

Last week's quote was from The Simpsons, episode 9F01 ("Homer the Heretic"):

Lisa: Why are you dedicating your life to blasphemy?
Homer: Don't worry, sweetheart. If I'm wrong, I'll recant on my deathbed.

The new quote is difficulty: Formidable, 4 points.

July 16, 2004

Grad students of the world, unite?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:57 PM

A setback for unionization of graduate student labor:

Board Overturns TAs Union Membership
Graduate teaching assistants at private universities can't form unions because they are students, not employees, a Republican-controlled federal labor board ruled, reversing a Clinton-era decision.

The National Labor Relations Board, led by three Republicans appointed by President Bush, ruled that about 450 graduate teaching and research assistants at Brown University in Providence, R.I., could not be represented by the United Auto Workers.


"Because they are first and foremost students, and their status as a graduate student assistant is contingent on their continued enrollment as students, we find that they are primarily students," the ruling said.

Let me first say that I don't understand the reasoning. "Primarily" a student is not the same as only a student, and it doesn't make sense to me that a TA's status as a student overrides his status as an employee. Furthermore, a graduate student's TA position is (typically, in the sciences) his primary source of income, and so issues like wages, working conditions, and benefits matter just as much to him as they do to (for example) a factory worker. In some cases the entanglement between a grad student's academic status and his employment gives the university additional power to institute exploitative conditions, such as pressuring the student to work 60 hours a week while only paying him for 20. The power of the university over the student's academic advancement gives it additional leverage to do this sort of thing, and allowing the students to organize would help prevent this.

Can one of the legal types in the audience explain why the federal government is allowed to prohibit unionization at all? Doesn't the right to free assembly apply? Or is it that technically speaking, the ruling is that private universities are allowed to prohibit unionization (and this is why it doesn't apply to public universities)?

Because the ruling only covers private schools, it doesn't directly affect me, and in any case graduate student researchers aren't unionized at Berkeley (graduate student instructors are, under the UAW). It's unsurprising to me that research students aren't organized; there's no shortage of people who are willing to work 20 or 40 unpaid hours for a prestigious professor in order to get his name on their theses, and so those of us who feel that the compensation is a bit unfair could easily be replaced if we tried to take a stand. This kind of prisoner's dilemma creates a barrier to organizing. (But isn't that the case for all unions? I guess that's why there are labor laws... that unfortunately don't apply to graduate students.)

Arguably having this sort of free labor market is a good thing under capitalistic principles (interesting in the otherwise socialist world of government-funded research), and certainly if grad student researchers were to unionize and demand overtime pay, science productivity would sharply decline. I suppose this concern must be balanced against the fact that many talented people leave academia for vocations that have better working conditions, better compensation, or both (viz. the finance industry).

The new Iraq

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:21 PM

I thought I was getting pretty jaded about Iraq, but I was wrong. Via Eschaton:

Allawi shot prisoners in cold blood: witnesses
Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.

What the fuck? This is our model for a democratic Middle East? This is the guy who inspired Bush to write "Let freedom reign"?
Maybe it's just a hoax to promote an upcoming Dirty Harry-style action movie. [movie trailer voice] "He's not just the prime minister -- he's judge, jury, and executioner! Bruce Willis is Iyad Allawi, coming soon to a theater near you."

July 14, 2004

Childish, I know.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:46 PM

As I watch Bush's attempt to write discrimination into the Constitution go down in flames, my sentiments can best be expressed in the words of that great American statesman, Nelson Muntz:

Ha ha!

This must mean I'm fair and balanced.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:19 PM

I got a "right in the middle" score on Slate's Red state vs. Blue state quiz. I suppose that's fair; while I've mostly lived in "blue state" environments, I have a lot of "red state" family. On the other hand, I have a very "blue state" mentality so one might argue that the quiz should capture that rather than just my background. Part of the problem is that the quiz asks a lot of knowledge-based questions, and because I consume a lot of news media I know who Dale Earnhardt and Jim Caviezel are even though I don't care about NASCAR and haven't seen The Passion. There are a handful of experience-based questions (yes, I have fired a gun), and even better for ascertaining mentality, preference questions (the last set about movies). Now that I think about it, an interesting variant would be a quiz that uses purely the contents of your DVD collection to assign red/blue status.

July 13, 2004

Spider-man's car chasing

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:20 AM

I saw Spider-Man 2 yesterday, and one thing I noticed (apart from the interest of Wolfram & Hart in the research of Dr. Octavius) was that Spider-man spends a lot of time chasing police cars (and possibly other emergency vehicles). This struck me as a bit strange, because it seems like the last place Spider-man is needed is someplace that is already being covered by the police (unless a supervillain is involved). Sure, it's a more efficient way of finding crimes in progress than swinging randomly through the city, but there's no way he can arrive at the scene before the police--he doesn't, after all, know where the police cars are going--and so he ends up just being glorified NYPD backup. This could allow the department to spread their force more evenly, since officers can travel in smaller groups, but it could also allow the city to cut back on police instead. Cuts in police funding would of course cancel out Spider-man's contribution to crime-fighting, and he might as well just stay at home.

July 11, 2004

A familiar ring

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:30 PM

Last week's quote (If he must be alone, he would make solitude his armor.) was from A Game of Thrones, describing Jon Snow's early days as a Night's Watch trainee. I imagine many of us have been in similar situations--I knew immediately the feeling that this line was referring to.

This week's quote is difficulty: Moderate, 2 points.

Also, check the sidebar for the cover to the next Jeremiah Spur novel. Then, pre-order it.

Hmm, so that's not my problem.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:27 PM

Interesting article in the NYTimes; here's an excerpt (but the whole thing is worth reading):

Sex May Be Happiness, but Wealth Isn't Sexiness
Furthermore, the economists compared the levels of happiness produced by a vigorous sex life with other activities whose economic values had been calculated in prior research, allowing them to impute, in dollars, how much happiness sex was worth. They also estimated that increasing the frequency of sexual intercourse from once a month to at least once a week provided as much happiness as putting $50,000 in the bank.

A lasting marriage, by comparison, offers about $100,000 worth of happiness a year - that is, on average, a single person would need to receive $100,000 annually to be as happy as a married person with the same education, job status and other characteristics. Divorce, on the other hand, imposes an emotional toll of about $66,000 a year, though there may be a short-term economic gain from the immediate relief provided by leaving your spouse.

Possibly the least expected finding of the paper, said Mr. Oswald, was that in general, "Greater income does not buy more sex, nor sexual partners."

Wait, it doesn't? Crap, there goes that plan. (But given that the metric used is dollars, it seems that a greater income is its own reward...)

One for the Bad Ideas file

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:14 PM

The Bush administration is so worried that Al Qaeda will try to affect the November election that... they're going to give Al Qaeda an actual, concrete way to affect the election.

U.S. Mulling How to Delay Nov Vote in Case of Attack

Newsweek cited unnamed sources who told it that the Department of Homeland Security asked the Justice Department last week to review what legal steps would be needed to delay the vote if an attack occurred on the day before or on election day.

Does anyone really think that Al Qaeda cares about the outcome of the election--that murderous religious fundamentalists really see a difference between Bush and Kerry? Meanwhile, the potential for abuse in giving the executive branch power to delay elections is immense.

The aforementioned wedding photo post

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:51 AM

In which I continue my innovative photographic techniques of unintentional soft-focus, and red-eye in like every single shot.

Continue reading "The aforementioned wedding photo post"

July 9, 2004

Autofocus, my ass.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:29 PM

I got a couple pictures at Jessica's rehearsal dinner. Click below if you're interested.

Continue reading "Autofocus, my ass."

July 8, 2004

From that other coast

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:09 PM

I have spent most of the day inside various moving vehicles, and so have fallen out of sync with the news (although I gather from the CNN feed in IAH that Tom Ridge is scaring people again with vague warnings about how Al Qaeda wants Kerry to win the election). Also, I am too tired at the moment to offer any smart-ass comments on the efficiency (or lack thereof) of said forms of transportation, other than to mutter indistinctly about understaffing of Houston jetway operators.

I am now in New Canaan, where I may be equally likely to post political remarks or wedding* pictures. Consider yourself warned.

*Not mine. (I don't want my legions of adoring women** to become alarmed.)

**Stop laughing.

July 7, 2004

Better late than never

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:36 AM

Last (ahem) week's quote was from Angel episode 2x06, "Guise Will Be Guise":

Cordelia: Gonna be a pretty short ride. They have vampire detectors!
Gunn: We know. It's cool. He's got a plan.
Wesley: A plan?
Angel: Yes. I get to the offices before they stop me.
Gunn: See? What? Thatís the plan? Walking real quick was the plan?

The whole "getting a week's worth of work done in two days so I can leave" thing meant I didn't have much time to go looking for quotes, but I did find one eventually. Difficulty: Severe, 5 points.

July 6, 2004

It's the federal courts, stupid

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:00 PM

They actually confirmed this guy?

The Senate voted 51 to 46 to put J. Leon Holmes on the federal bench in Arkansas after a fierce debate in which some Republican women voted against the president while Democrats from Mr. Holmes's home state, Arkansas, spoke of him in glowing terms.

Mr. Holmes has a record of saying startling things, like his statement that rape victims become pregnant as often as it snows in Miami. He also wrote in 1997 that in a marriage "the woman is to place herself under the authority of the man."

Maybe I'll carry around a copy of this article to brandish at Nader voters. Say what you will about Kerry, he's not going to be nominating judges whose views on women's rights appear to be drawn from the most progressive texts of the 13th century. I know the Middle Ages are all the rage these days, but isn't this taking it a bit too far?


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:37 AM

I'm happy with Kerry's choice, but you knew that.

July 2, 2004

GBU and the Civil War

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:41 PM

Since The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly came up in comments (and is also one of my favorite films), I thought I'd link to today's Altercation entry, which contains an interesting commentary on GBU as Civil War movie by Eric Rauchway (scroll down).

July 1, 2004

Revealing search requests

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:28 PM

I've been away from the blog the last couple days on account of a busy period in lab. This continues, so I have no deep thoughts or long rants to offer at the moment. I would, however, like to note that my referrer log today showed that I am one of two search results for excessive worrying ruminating thoughts overanalyzing. Damn, it's not that bad, is it?