Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back to the normal tone.

Thanks to all of you who sent me messages about the cake experience (just about everyone went to Twitter to do so, which was very cool). I do not intend to turn this into a recipe blog, nor will it become a celebration of postmenopausal visceral fat...uhhhh, I mean, a website validating the experience of women of a certain age. Besides, I'm not there yet.

Today is our first anniversary of wedded bliss. I anticipate having a good bit of blogging time starting tomorrow and through next Friday.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


The finished cake.

Bûche de Noël 2008

This year's baking adventure was a Bûche de Noël, also known as a Yule log cake. It's an old French tradition. Some elements are constants: meringue mushrooms, knots made from the ends of the rolled and filled cake. I suspect that whether one rolls the cake from the short end or the long end is a matter of cake religion.

@kellysue (Kelly Sue DeConnick) and I decided to make this a joint adventure. We exchanged recipe and tip links this past week, then yesterday morning I made my plan:

Cake: chocolate jelly roll
Filling: chocolate mousse
Icing: vanilla buttercream
Syrup: simple syrup flavored with rum extract
Other: marzipan mushrooms, white chocolate shavings, sparkling sugar, a dusting of cocoa powder

Tip link: Jean Francois Houdre

A Bûche de Noël is traditionally made from a génoise, but my lack of skills with that was amply demonstrated during my husband's birthday. Instead, I used the King Arthur Flour jelly roll recipe:

Jelly Roll

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mise en place:

Measure all ingredients plus 1/4 cup of cocoa to go along with the dry ingredients.

If the eggs aren't at room temperature, and I recommend that they are, then put them in a bowl of warm, not hot, water for 10 minutes or so.

Lay out a non-terry towel and sprinkle it with confectioners' sugar. It is essential that this be a non-terry towel; the more texture the towel has, the worse the cake will stick to it. A tea towel is a good choice. The amount of confectioners' sugar that you use is up to you; the more sugar, the more the cake will absorb, which has its bad points in terms of structural integrity. This is a cake that needs to hold its shape, so keep that in mind.

Making the jelly roll...

Preheat oven to 400F. Line the bottom of a 10x15-inch jelly roll pan with waxed paper or parchment.

This is essential. You will not get the jelly roll out of the pan if you don't use parchment. It's that simple.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

I added the cocoa powder to the flour at this point.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Sprinkle in the sugar gradually, beating all the while, and continue beating until the batter is very thick and light lemon in color, 3 to 8 minutes. The batter will have doubled in volume. When the batter is sufficiently aerated, it should fall from the beaters in a thick ribbon and mound on top of the remaining batter in the bowl temporarily before being reabsorbed. Just before you stop beating the batter, add the vanilla.

This is also known as "making the ribbon" and is an essential element of knowing when a given cake batter is ready for the next step. Note that it is not, NOT the case with all types of cake batter. (The less we say about that birthday génoise, the better.) I ended up beating the mixture for the full 8 minutes, likely because my eggs were not at room temperature.

Gently fold in the flour mixture, using a rubber spatula or whisk. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

This is where I usually screw up through undermixing. (Again with the ill-fated génoise.) On the advice of my husband, who is a much better baker than I, I ended up using a whisk to mix it and stirred far more than I thought was prudent. Shows you what I know about prudence.

Bake the cake for 12 to 14 minutes, until it's golden brown and springy to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and invert it onto the sugary dish towel. Peel off the paper. Starting with one edge, roll the cake and towel together into a log and cool completely on a wire rack.

My cake took 14 minutes exactly. I ran a sharp knife down the long edges of the cake to loosen it, then inverted it onto the towel. I had a ton of sugar on the towel and rolled it from the long edge, not the short. I left it on the wire rack for 30 minutes. It's at this point that I remembered to take pictures. I am so not a camera person.

Mummy Noël

Unroll the cake, spread it with filling, and re-roll it. Place the roll on its serving plate, seam side down, and decorate.

All this sounds simple, right? Heh. It's Bûche de Noël time, bitches.

@kellysue and I tossed around several ideas about filling flavors. I think she went with hazelnut; I decided to go with chocolate so that there wouldn't be a lot of visual contrast with the cake. I also decided to use a flavored simple syrup to moisten the cake while filling and rolling it. Ahhh, the filling...I used the chocolate mousse recipe from Martha Stewart. Yes, all these recipes follow.

Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon extract of choice

Mix water and sugar and in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat just until sugar dissolves and mixture becomes clear. Let cool for a few minutes, then stir in the extract. Add more extract if needed. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Here's a pic of the pot of rum syrup.

Chocolate Mousse

The chocolate mousse was the second major mistake; the first one was the simple syrup.

I made the mousse first, before the cake (I'm telling you this now and not in its proper order, I know), so that it could cool for the required hour. As it turns out, that wasn't enough, and wasn't ever going to be enough; the mousse was liquid, not gelatinous, and even after I put it back in the mixer and added at least 3.5 more cups of sugar, it wasn't firm enough. But I didn't want a buttercream filling, so I stopped there and decided to just use less. We followed the recipe exactly. It might've benefited from the use of unflavored gelatin as a stabilizer, but we were past that point. The caravan moves on.

After the jelly roll cooled, I unrolled it and brushed it with the simple syrup. I spread a thickish layer of filling over the jelly roll, being careful to get it under the tighter edge, then removed about half of it when it started oozing onto the towel. Then I removed some more. I rolled the cake back up, brushing more syrup on the exterior, and with the assistance of my very kind mother-in-law, rolled it onto a foil-covered serving pan.

I watched as the filling continued to ooze. Martha, I don't know what alternative universe you live in, but the gravity on your planet must be lower. Way lower. Like all the people are made of air bubbles or polychromatic dodecahedrons.

I cut an angled piece off each end and laid them on the log at diagonally opposite ends. (This was about the only thing the filling was good for.) Meanwhile, the roll cracked along one long edge and bled filling. Awesome. Clearly, the syrup was a mistake for this kind of cake; it further weakened it instead of making it more pliable. Nevertheless, I was committed to finishing it, even if it turned out to be more like pudding than cake.

Decorating the Bûche de Noël: "Nymph, in thy orisons all my sins be remembered."

Frosting, like wallpaper and gaudy knit sweater vests, hides a multitude of sins. My vanilla buttercream frosting now had to hide what was rapidly becoming a puddle.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

I used the full 5 cups of sugar and almost the full 1/3 cup of milk. I made the frosting a good bit stiffer than I normally would have.

Frosting the cake wasn't difficult, though I layered it thick-thick around the knots and the bleeding edge. I ran the tines of a fork down the length of the icing to create texture, running it around the knots (I feel like I'm typing erotica now). I took the icing spatula and flattened the texture in a few places for a more varied texture. Traditionally, the knots have a swirled pattern on the end; I had to fill those with leftover whipped cream because the filling had drained out. No pattern for you.

Frosted Bûche de Noël

Mushroom Mushroom Badger Badger Badger Badger

Time for the easiest part of this recipe, the Marzipan Mushrooms. I sprinkled a little cocoa powder over them once I placed them around the cake.

Le sigh. This damn thing was finally done.

nearly done

The cake is done; finale pic tomorrow.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Metro ad.

This reads "Fertilizer: Life's main ingredient."

I've decided to believe that the wry tone is intentional. Somehow, that makes my day a little brighter.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Restoring science in government.

Back to Reality - Olivia Judson Blog -
The distortion and suppression of science is dangerous, and not just because it means that public money gets wasted on programs, like abstinence-only sex “education” schemes, that do not work. It is dangerous because it is an assault on science itself, a method of thought and inquiry on which our modern civilization is based and which has been hugely successful as a way of acquiring knowledge that lets us transform our lives and the world around us. In many respects science has been the dominant force — for good and ill — that has transformed human lives over the past two centuries.

Amen to that. Thank you for bringing the light of reason with you, Mr. Obama. And welcome to the conversation.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Louis CK

Louis CK on Conan O'Brien. My appreciation of GenY/Millennials changed after seeing a presentation on them in Denver this past summer, so I can't say that I agree with every single statement he makes. However, I agree with his call to a sense of wonder. And this is a very funny clip, so don't worry, you're not going to sit through hectoring.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

'Tis a silly place.

The link in the title goes to Wil Wheaton's blog, where I found the video below. His blog comes highly recommended; he's @wilw on Twitter.

This video is Star Trek/Monty Python mashup goodness. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Asking for comments without being a whore.

I do like the way @chrisbrogan et al on Twitter phrase their requests for comments:

Can you help with some thoughts about _____? Comments and new ideas greatly appreciated. (bloglink)

Your comments will help provide context for others reading the post. (bloglink)

That's how it's supposed to be done. Social media and social networking are supposed to create thoughtful connections with people. Otherwise, let's leave it for PR hacks as a complex yet useless link spam system.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Current topic: Core values, and some tenets.

After a three-day weekend of strategic planning for American Mensa, I've been spending today thinking about my core values, i.e., the values I hold that I would not give up, even in the face of severe or crippling penalty. What got me thinking about core values is Twitter.

I follow some amazing people on Twitter; I was blessed early on by finding @xenijardin and started following the people she followed. I built it from there.

Tenet 1: Cool, smart, and interesting people associate with the same.

The one person I would follow on Twitter, were I ever limited to only one, is @timoreilly. I don't know him, and he doesn't follow me. I don't care. His information is solid, interesting, reliable, concisely presented, clear. I value the way that he values information and communication. His respect for the meaning of information--the act of its conveyance as well as its value-as-thing--is consonant with one of my core values.

Tenet 2: Information is neither repetition nor drivel.

I am less patient than I should be with others; I do not secretly regard this as a virtue and preen myself with it. Most of my impatience comes from wasting not my time, but my attention. I waste my time extravagantly; I do not waste my attention so. One of my core values is that intellectual weight lifting is part of The Good, and as such, its goodness should be self-evident.

Tenet 3: Information is a force just as the truth is a force.

I am unsure whether some political and intellectual principles are resistible. Milton seems to believe, at least as he presents it in Paradise Lost, that grace is irresistible. I believe that the truth is irresistible; perhaps that is because I come from a culture steeped in proselytizing and teleology. I believe that one can have the truth, and that information (as defined above) erodes intellectual blocks of whatever the making. I understand that it is not tony to speak of the truth. I don't care about that, either.

Tenet 4: The truth, once presented, becomes permanent.

Satyagraha: The energizing force of the truth. Gandhi based action on this. I think this is what's behind the notion that information wants to be free. There's already a lot of free information available; what's desired is some kind of constant, some compass, that gives information significance. Truth values, perhaps expressed as trust, give information significance. Information paired with energy leads to change. Satyagraha.

Tenet 5: We can't be good skeptics without believing in the truth.

Some of my early blog posts were about the relationship between scientific research and parody. The common ground is the truth. Parody and research both ask us to compare one thing to another and evaluate them. In other words, we're asked to take the truth and compare it to either a joke or the results of an experiment, then assess the outcomes. Skepticism is a similar matter: We've got to have something as a basis of comparison, and whatever truths we have at a given moment are good enough.

Our understanding of the truth can be neither monolithic nor immutable, though the truth itself may well be. People like to claim relativity, wave away the value of those things that form the foundation of the truth, then dismiss the notion entirely. They'd better hope that scientists remain unconvinced.

What does any of this have to do with Twitter?

Trust and authenticity. So far, and with the caveat that Twitter is still in the early-adopter stage, trust and authenticity can't be faked on Twitter. It takes too much thought to limit a statement to 140 characters. This doesn't mean there aren't plenty of casual comments and posts of low significance; I would argue that those posts are as authentic as any. This also doesn't mean there aren't sociopaths and charlatans. So far, there's nothing to be gained, other than fleeting Internet celebrity, by such practices. There's plenty of room for information and, perhaps, some truth.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

More to come.

I've got a dozen things to blog about. Twitter is blowing me away with source material. And I follow only about 400 people.

Anyway, more blog posts (hopefully) later this week.

Obama's acceptance speech.

I haven't blogged in a while, I know. I've been living on Twitter.

Last night, the miracle occurred. (That's for those of you who're still under that rock.) Rejoice, bitches. It's a new day in America.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Medical slang, courtesy of the NHS.

By no small coincidence, I begin my new job with the American Society of Clinical Oncology today. This BMJ article from 2003 is about how younger doctors were being told not to use medical slang in patient progress reports and treatment notes.

Love "cheerioma."

Medical slang at a glance

Assmosis: Promotion by "kissing ass"

Bash cash: Money paid for completing accident forms in emergency departments

Betty: Someone with diabetes

Cheerioma: Patient with a highly aggressive, malignant tumour

CLL: Chronic low life

Coffin dodger: Elderly patient

Departure lounge: Geriatric ward

Digging for worms: Varicose vein surgery

Flower sign: Fresh flowers at the bedside, implying that the patient has a supportive family

Freud squad: Psychiatrists

Gassers: Anaesthetists

GPO: Good for parts only

Guessing tube: Stethoscope

House red: Blood

LOBNH: Lights on but nobody home

Oligoneuronal: Of low intellect

Pest control: Term applied to psychiatrists by casualty officers

PFO: Pissed, fell over

PRATFO: Patient reassured and told to "go away"

Removal men: Department of care of elderly people

Rose cottage: Mortuary

Rule of five: If more than five orifices are obscured by plastic tubing, the patient's condition is deemed critical

Slashers: General surgeons

Treat 'n' street: Emergency department's term for quick patient turnaround

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Oy vey.

This is about startups, but it strikes home:

Startup Disease 8: The Perfection Hallucination

All good product designers are perfectionists. The right kind of
graphic designer feels physically sick when the font is misaligned by
one pixel. The right kind of programmer will refactor the code even
when it’s working fine, because it’s just not right. However, if you
want to deliver a product of which you’re completely satisfied, then
perfection must be balanced with a good dose of pragmatism. Otherwise
you risk never launching your product at all.

This disease often hits later in the product development cycle, when
you’ve already built a startup that people have liked. The expectations
have been set, so you feel that every subsequent update must be perfect.


  • You plan to spend two months on a new feature before showing it to users.
  • Even though the basic functionality is there, you’re afraid that the new feature is going to fail if you release it now.
  • You’ve built a lot of new stuff recently, but none of it has been released to users because it’s not quite ready yet.


Users are more forgiving of progress in the wrong direction than of
a lack of progress. What you’ve built will never be perfect, but if
it’s close enough your users will tell you how to improve it. However,
they can only do that once they see the new changes and features.
Release early, release often. The only way to learn from your mistakes
is to accept that you will make them.

I hate it when people write about me. When they do it so openly. It doesn't matter that I'm not named, that the author doesn't know me and has never heard of me, and that I am not working on a startup. Somehow, they still do it.

Social networking and extraversion.

This article, while about how to use social networks for business, is also a guide to how to be extraverted online. What are the implications for Mensa, whose members supposedly identify themselves as introverts? Can Mensa join the social networking world?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

This may be one of the most brilliant adaptations ever.

World War II as played out in an MMORTS. Quit snickering and read it.

Awesome, AWESOME blogger on surveillance.

Here's just a tidbit from the beginning:

This clock got me thinking about what series of plausible events might
lead up to total surveillance. Unfortunately, such an exercise turned
out to be spooky because I quickly concluded that a total surveillance
society is not only possible but a certainty. It will happen through a
series of fairly quick small steps, it will be irreversible, and the
real shocker is that I suspect consumers will find it "irresistible!"

The comments are most excellent, too. Some commenters point out other aspects, while others talk about aggregate vs. individual data points.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

Obama on science and research.

From a post by Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomy guy, and so awesome. The following is a response given by Obama to one of a number of questions posed to both candidates by Science Debate 2008.

"Scientific and technological information is of growing importance to a range of issues. I believe such information must be expert and uncolored by ideology.

"I will restore the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best- available, scientifically-valid evidence and not on the ideological predispositions of agency officials or political appointees."

I never, ever thought I would use the word "awesome" to describe Obama, to be honest. Sufficient things about him have me feeling uncertain. If he's this much behind scientific research, though, then that means the Enlightenment has him in its grip. Good.

Apparently McCain has yet to respond to the questions posed by the group.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Interesting Lacanian idea.

This is from Slavoj Zizek's faculty page at Ljubljana.

"Primarily the goal appears to be to demolish the coordinates of the liberal hegemony that permit excess and aberration insofar as it does not threaten the true coordinates. He suggests as well that the true coordinates are much better hidden than we realize. The production of cultural difference is to Zizek the production of the inoperative dream — a dream that recalls perhaps Orwell's 1984 or even Terry Gilliam's Brazil where a kind of generic pastoralism or a sexualized nature substitutes for authentic freedom — the flip side of this is film noir. Zizek has determined that late-modern capitalism has engendered a whole range of alternative seductions to keep the eye and brain off of the Real. The Real only exists as a fragment, fast receding on the horizon as fantasy and often phantasm intercede. These dreams and nightmares are systemic, structural neuroses, and they are part of the coordinates of the hegemonic. The hegemony — the prevailing set of coordinates — always seeks to 'take over' the Real, and, therefore, this contaminated Real must be periodically purged."

Someone I'm following on Twitter has started writing about film. This quote from Zizek reminded me of what that person was at least initially starting to address, i.e., how the dominant metaphor in a given film genre occludes the real issue, and how one finds that real issue.

YES, IT WAS ABOUT ZOMBIE FILMS. Aren't you in the least bit curious about why we have these horrors chasing our coeds?

Anyway, more about this as I mull it over.

Friday, September 05, 2008

House of Pancakes

A most excellent xkcd, as usual.

If I have to explain why I love this comic, especially this one strip, then please go read someone else's blog.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Purposeful retro.

Thinking about this. The linked article does not make sport of these women, which it easily could. It does a nice job of presenting their reasons for their choices and doesn't conclude with snark. Refreshing. Not sure I could do it myself, but I see the appeal.

Interesting that they're GenXers.

So much about their choices seems anathema to me; I'd feel as though I were giving up something essential in myself. I wonder how much of that would be the case, though. They each refer to "clearly defined roles" in their relationships. From what I can tell in reading articles about men that were written *by* men, it's not that men want to feel dominant so much as they want to feel important, consulted, and heard. Seems like that's too easily misread by women, and yes, I am a longtime misreader of it myself. Ick. Anyway, I don't think it's as simple as some people will dismiss it for being.

Trinidad has calypso, we've got YouTube.

Retweet: Conversation starter.

@robotchampion@sengseng the seven dwarfs and the seven sins are the best conversation starters (angel v devil)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Becks and Posh: My Omnivore's 100.

How the Omnivore's 100 Works:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional: Post a comment at Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

68/100 My Omnivore’s Hundred

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile [only alligator]
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari

12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted Cream Tea
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang Souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom Yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Friday, August 22, 2008

History's greatest journeys.

Very cool interactive map detailing some of history's greatest journeys, from both real life (Livingstone's travels in Africa, for instance) and fiction (the Pequod from Moby-Dick). Lots of stuff could be added to this, but as it is, it's largely uncluttered and makes for a nice visual.

No zombies. I can't believe it, either.

What to do in a zombie attack.

Oh, go ahead and chortle. Just remember that George Romero didn't stop at one zombie film.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Claymation zombie film.

So it's zombie day. Whatever. Enjoy. This is from BoingBoing.

George Will and paternalism.

First, let me point out that I cannot link to a George Will column without breaking into hives. However, his article in today's Washington Post contains an interesting definition:

"Paternalism is the restriction of freedom for the good of the person restricted."

I'm trying to figure out what my response is to this. The context is the classroom and improving schools, which is the favorite saw of everyone. I approve of paternalism in that context. However, does Will intend the definition to go farther? I believe he does. That's what I'm mulling over.

Watchmen trailer.

For some reason, DashBlog will not post videos to Dilettante's Diary, but is happy to post them to my H.P. Lovecraft blog, where I do critical analysis of HPL's texts. Clearly apropos.

Anyway, I am violently enthusiastic about this film. If Fox in its greed screws things up, I may release the zombies myself.

Tiger Woods 09 - Walk on Water

This is so awesome:

I was a fan of his already, but watching him play through the pain during the 2008 U.S. Open was a huge inspiration for me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Zombie Survival and Defense Wiki.

This is a pretty cool site. Lots of work has been put into it by what seems to be a fair number of users. (Halloween is still two months away. What is it with the zombie streak lately?) I especially recommend the links to Zombie Defense Posters.

"Remember! When you're killing zombies, always yell: 'DIE YOU GODLESS SONS-OF-BITCHES!' It won't slow them down but it's great for morale!"

Instructional Video: Zombies in Plain English

Most excellent video on surviving the zombiepocalypse.

The passage below gave me ideas for a zombie game:

Let's have a survey - what would your strategy be for surviving the onslaught of the undead in Silver Spring? Here's a few rules & guidelines for this exercise:

* The Zombies you’d be running from are the archetypical slow, plodding undead made famous in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. You wouldn’t have to worry about any of these newfangled sprinting zombies à la 28 Days Later. Sure, it’s easier to avoid the slow ones, but what they lack in speed they make up for in numbers and persistence.

* You would have a brief window of time--let’s say thirty minutes--to gather supplies and reinforce your preferred hideout before downtown is completely overrun by the living dead.

* Your hideout must be located in an area of Silver Spring inside the Beltway, preferably in downtown. In this scenario, the roads are already jammed and you won’t have the ability to reach any SSINO areas.

* The National Guard won’t be coming to the rescue anytime soon, if ever. Be sure you are prepared for the long haul.

Finally, a candidate I can get behind.

I found this in the comments on Wired about what kind of D&D character John McCain would be. The opinions varied, were generally negative, and included a number of liches.

For the people, indeed.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Zombie preparedness.

Its creators intend it to be a shopping list for Burning Man. Fine, whatever. Anyway, below is what the survival team will need. Ignore most of what's listed in the "Suggested Gifts" column on the website.

cots, folding chairs
blankets, sleeping pad, inflatable mattress and pump
cooking equipment (little burners, pots, utensils - reusable ones so don't have to deal with trash)
MREs (meals ready to eat)
canteens (again, no trash)
reusable coffee cup with lid
Leatherman / swiss army knife
collapsable shovel
flashlight and batteries
parachutes (to help shade you from sun)
duffle bags
small shoulder bags with straps
pouches to attach to belt
First Aid Kit
lip balm
dust mask (for bad dust storms)
gas mask
goggles/ sunglasses
cargo pants B DUS(lots of pockets)
t shirts
scrubs (light and comfortable)
bathing suits
tank tops
mosquito net vests
"booty camp" shorts
hiking boots/extra laces
flip flops

We roll out at daybreak. No straggling. Mercy kills cheerfully provided.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

UK citizens tracked by public bodies: Jaxtraw's comments.

The title makes sense if you know what Sensible Erection is. Here's the direct link to the SE commentary on the article, which is located here.

Jaxtraw is a frequent, insightful contributor. I especially appreciate this:

"You see, the key thing to understand here is that the people doing this are not evil. Evil people are a known quantity. They amass power and money, and gloat over it. That's a nasty thing, but it's comprehensible and to some degree predictable. When they ride over the horizon you know they're going to kill your women and rape your livestock.

"The people doing this believe they are doing good. That's what makes them so dangerous. They have no specific goal except to do more good, except the good is evil, so there is no respite from them. This is what "progressivism" is, in a nutshell; a burning, unquenchable desire to do more of the same, more effectively, without end. They will never stop.

"There's that famous quote "Evil people do evil, good people do good, but it takes religion to make good people do evil". That's a great quote, but it's wrong, or at least tragically incomplete. What it takes for good people to do evil is belief; passionate belief, and belief in anything will do if it's sufficiently strong. Religion, conservatism, vegetarianism, socialism, racial purity. Whatever.

"These people are a coalition of many cranky beliefs, but the unifying one is a belief in planning. They believe that they can make the world a better place by planning it. They believe that everything wrong with the world is due to a lack of planning. The more planning there is, the better the world will be. One day, everything will to the tiniest detail will be planned, and then the world will be perfect.

"To plan, they need information. Data. And thus, they have a religious belief in the inherent goodness of collecting data. And the more data they collect, the better everything will be, and if something isn't good now, it's because there isn't enough data on it, so it isn't well planned enough. So they can't comprehend why anyone would object to data collection; to object to data collection is to object to making the world a better place, which thus seems to them to be irrational and positively evil. They don't understand arguments about freedom, because freedom doesn't come into plans anywhere. It's not that they're evil people actively trying to destroy freedom; they don't even comprehend what it is because it's in a conceptual hinterland beyond their mental model of the world.

"'Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do', as a famous fictional character once said.

"The thing to remember about good people doing evil is that they are entirely implacable and merciless. You can beg an evil person for mercy; he probably won't grant it, but will at least understand why you're begging. But the good evil doer cannot comprehend why any mercy would be required- how can a person need merciful deliverance from good? So mercy there will never be."

Plushie: Kali, Goddess of Death

I am one sick fuck for loving this. The fact that the seamstress's last name is "Butcher" is not lost on me, either.

I started following @SFZombieMob on Twitter this morning. I am all about lowbrow, burlesque, Disney's Haunted Mansion, tiki culture, the lot. Then again, I also started following @CassiniSaturn. I am all about careful, reasoned investigation, too, and the scientific method. How do these things go together? Beats the hell out of me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

ESL and Bloom's revised taxonomy.

I'm not teaching at the moment, but this is an especially good article from Hall, who writes fine articles in general.

• remembering
• understanding
• applying
• analysing
• evaluating
• creating

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

PDF on the mind-brain problem.

Still reading this; it's quite good so far. Clear, lucid description of this essential problem.

"The real war today is between dogmatic materialists and anybody else. Within the belief system of the former, all that exists is material and the relationships between it. Part of that belief system is also heavily vested in the descendant of Aristotelian logic - the logic of classes - and in the "hierarchy" implicit in it.

"Dogmatic materialism has an admittedly long and very successful history in science. In fact, it is a spectacularly successful history. It has actually produced the miracles that religion once promised. Democritus' descendants seem to have won the field. But there are gaps in their line. Most of modern physics -the part of physics which is modern - just doesn't fit."

Sunday, August 03, 2008

GDP: A Few Pictures Are Worth a Book

Interesting article in The Atlantic. Not sure how long it'll stay up. It's a set of GDP maps plus one growth map, plus some great observations by the blog author.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What 50's Pinup Girl Are You?

June Wilkinson

You are the girl who doesn't think she's sexy, she KNOWS. Gorgeous and outgoing, not to mention a voluptuous figure, men try to be with you...but good luck, as hot as you are, why should you just settle for just anyone? You only deserve the best and you know it!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thank You for Not Douching Out.

Here you go--the card you didn't know you needed. It's for those times when you want to "thank someone for having not done something not nice when being a jerk would have been an easy or popular option."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I may have found it.

People don't understand when I say that the Joker gets it.

Victor Hugo, "The Man Who Laughs."

I was just led to this by the Washington Post and two glasses of wine. This may be it.

And by "it," those who get it will know what I mean.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Phrase of the day, perhaps of the month, plus word of the day.

I found this on the blog Whatever:

So, on one hand, I suppose Lady de Rothschild might know what an elitist looks like. On the other hand, her saying she doesn’t like Obama because she thinks he is elitist is so full of rich and creamy clueless irony that I feel like every person in the country who makes less than a quarter million dollars a year ought to drop trou, face away from Lady de Rothschild, and tell her to kiss our base and common puckerguards.

What a fantabulous phrase, and the associated image with puckerguards is breathtaking.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

Most excellent article for the numbskulls amidst us.

"Below is a complete listing of the articles in "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic," a series by Coby Beck containing responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. There are four separate taxonomies; arguments are divided by:

My profoundest thanks to Beck for pulling all this together. Someone needed to do it. Taken from BoingBoing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Censorship in Canada, and some observations about the United States.

"Censorship has always had powerful patrons and not always benighted backers.

"In the Middle Ages, pious men sought to silence heretics because they believed the Faith led to Paradise, while its loss led to Hell for all eternity. The Christian censorship we mock today was born of men's deepest convictions about the most important thing in life: salvation.

"Devout Muslims believe heretics and apostates should be put to death. Islam is the most important thing in their lives, and its truths are valued more than any freedom to mock them."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quote of the day.

Cox: Thanks to your little gesture, she (Dr. Clock) actually believes that the Earth is full of people who are deep down filled with kindness and caring!

Kelso: Well that's absurd. People are bastard coated bastards with bastard filling.

Cox: Exactly!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sock it to me! Sock it to ME!

Dick Martin, half of the lead of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, has passed away. I grew up on that show...well, sort of. I was so young that I got few of the jokes and almost none of the political humor. Watching it today, I see how critical it was of social conventions.

This is a sample of what Laugh-In was about. Unfortunately, it doesn't have anything about the final bit with the doors, which was always my favorite part. But it does have Ruth Buzzi bludgeoning people with her purse, and I had totally forgotten how funny and creepy the dirty old man was.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Best ad blocker ever.

Download this right now. Seriously. It replaces ads, including banner ads, with classic works of art.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Personality test results.

The following is from the VisualDNA test on the linked site. What, they don't look official?

Mood: Sofisticat

You’re romantic in your outlook with a bit of a taste for the exotic. You love feeling the sea breeze in your hair, sun on your skin…You always take the first dip. When it comes to art, you tend to have a traditional approach. You are passionate about history and true classics. Truly great art stands the test of time. As for music, it’s the soundtrack to your world. You’re up to speed with downloading, and your mp3 is always close by. Music helps you focus and concentrate. You probably find it hard to ever switch it off.

Fun: Thriller

You love to be far away from your everyday life. There’s nothing like catching some rays and slowing down—you know how to take things nice and easy! For kicks, you like to indulge in your great passions. You are happy to live highs and lows; you are fiercely loyal and passionate. You like to be part of the big picture. When it comes to holidays, nothing beats the bright lights of one of the world’s biggest cities. With the metropolis as your playground, you’ll never run out of things to do.

Habits: Back to Basics

You love being a little bit naughty. Nothing beats getting up close and personal with the object of your affection! When it comes to drinking, you have a taste for the exotic. You’re always up for trying the local tipple when you’re on holiday—it’s all about fuelling the fun! As for the home, you have an expressive personality with contemporary tastes. You like to be surrounded by the precious possessions that define who you are.

Social: Socialite

You’re a really sociable animal at heart. Nothing beats being surrounded by all your favorite people. And if the tunes are pumping, that’s even better. You’re a pretty worldly wise and realistic person. When you think of freedom, you think of the hard cash that can buy it for you.

The People Who Agree with Me Institute.

What a great name for a blog entry! This one's from Joel Achenbach at the WaPo. It's about how bad information can exist when we are supposedly surrounded by sources to verify said information. It's also about how easy it is for people to believe in bad information.

My favorite passage:

"Part of the willingness to believe spurious "facts" comes from a distrust of science...Except what they believe isn't true. That's not a political observation, unless insisting on objective reality can be considered political. And if it can, I'd like to sign up for the political party that's in favor of truth."

Amen, brother.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Unintentional Mythos quotes.

Great quote from Jim Woodring's blog:

"...and then the day will dawn when the time for speculation has passed and the time for fleeing has commenced."

Mexico: A Failed State?

Today's Stratfor article on Mexico and its drug smuggling problems has some interesting ideas. I think the following makes a case for Mexico legalizing drugs in its southernmost states. Not in its northernmost states, thank you, America has enough problems resulting from the drug trade there.

Or else we should man up and start nuking or landmining the northern Mexican side.

"There are examples in American history as well. Chicago in the 1920s was overwhelmed by a similar process. Smuggling alcohol created huge pools of money on the U.S. side of the border, controlled by criminals both by definition (bootlegging was illegal) and by inclination (people who engage in one sort of illegality are prepared to be criminals, more broadly understood). The smuggling laws gave these criminals huge amounts of power, which they used to intimidate and effectively absorb the city government. Facing a choice between being killed or being enriched, city officials chose the latter. City government shifted from controlling the criminals to being an arm of criminal power. In the meantime, various criminal gangs competed with
each other for power.

"Chicago had a failed city government. The resources available to the Chicago gangs were limited, however, and it was not possible for them to carry out the same function in Washington. Ultimately, Washington deployed resources in Chicago and destroyed one of the main gangs. But if Al Capone had been able to carry out the same operation in Washington as he did in Chicago, the United States could have become a failed state."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The problem of IKEA.

This is a Click Opera post from 8 May 08:

"Without critical design, without this restless process of legitimation-distinction (and I'm invoking Max Weber and Pierre Bourdieu when I use those words), we'd be stuck in a wilting coffeetable world. It wouldn't really be such a bad world -- we'd have pretty colours and catchy shapes that we'd recognise instantly, the way we recognise the chords and arrangements in an Oasis song, the way it sounds familiar even on the first listen. But, like the creative world of Oasis, it would be a limited and lazy world."

This. It's why I find IKEA so annoying. It's why Fight Club works (the film, haven't read the novel yet).

Friday, May 02, 2008

Supernatural Horror in Literature.

H.P. Lovecraft's manifesto on weird fiction. Note that he uses horror, terror, and the like to describe what he means as weird fiction. He discusses what we now call horror because it was the source genre for what he and others later wrote within. S.T. Joshi maintains that Lovecraft thought mere horror writing was hack writing.

"Radiant with beauty, the Cup of the Ptolemies was carven of onyx."

I am putting that sentence over the archway of the gaming room, whenever I build it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Things for my to-read list.

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1962)
Miniature literary mindwarps from the world’s most famous blind librarian, a writer – like Kafka – whose work, once encountered, adds a new adjective to the mental lexicon. Unforgettable stuff, after which mazes and mirrors will never be the same again. Often beloved of the kind of person who agrees with its author that “there is a kind of lazy pleasure in useless and out-of-the-way erudition”, and none the worse for that.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino (1979)
A book composed of the first chapters from other invented books. Either a classic work of literary snakes and ladders or a tiresomely recursive bit of postmodern sterility depending on your interlocutor. Italo Calvino was arguably better elsewhere.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R Hofstadter (1979)
About what it means to think, and how that happens, this is written in the spirit of Lewis Carroll. Pattern recognition in the work of geniuses. Loved by maths geeks and anybody with Asperger’s syndrome and anyone with sense. But at root a chess textbook.

Taken from The Times, from a list of the top 50 cult books of all time.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.

Your question was:

Oh, most omnimpotent one:

What the heck is my boss talking about?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Like many senior managers, your boss has been immersed in management jargon for so long that he can no longer communicate normally. Here, let me provide you with a translation of what he said.

"We need to get the monkey off our back, get a heads-up on the benchmarks, hit the ground running and then belly up to the bar, while all swinging from the same branch on this one."

-- I have something to tell you.

"For some time, I've been maximizing one-to-one interfaces to explore non-vertical relationships while implementing state of the art, bespoke metrics to productize both front and back-end client experiences."

-- I'm gay.

"It's a wake-up call to stop solutioneering in terms of selling the sizzle, not the sausage. We need to be cutting edge, reach for the low-hanging fruit and push the envelope around client focus, but synchronously we need to eat our own dog food and capture the learns. From where I sit, the downside is repositioning ourselves in the marketplace and taking ownership of our own legacy re-branding. So I have identified a number of mission-critical options to harness the synergistic parameters for a corporate ecosystem-wide re-engineering of the motivational hub, to incentivize the delivery of a win-win across the infrastructure and proactively empower our intellectual capital. In other words, it's time to start the hard yards. We've got to stop being vegans, get that mother duck plucked and give it a good basting. Our primary colours must stick to the Velcro."

-- Yes, I know I've got a wife and five kids, but I'm tired of living a lie.

"I actualized this bilateral face time to run this thought grenade past you, as the bottom line mandates that it isn't rocket science to think outside the box. Transparent success barometers impact on the ballpark and you don't have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to brigade the sheep dip, get your ducks in a line and keep everything in swimming lanes while taking a helicopter view of the situation going forward. I mean, can you make chocolate from that?"

-- I'm telling you this because you always struck me as a sensitive type of guy.

"In a thought shower, right-brain left-brain context, let's throw all the ideas into the knowledge base wok and see if we get ourselves a stir fry. Are you ready to step up to the plate, bring your deliverables to the table and take it to the next level so we can all play in the corporate waterfall?"

-- In fact, I love you, man! Will you go out with me?

"Okay, this is a paradigm shift and we'll have to assess the granularity of your core competencies, eyeball the big picture and touch base with reality. But there are no quick win, out-of-the-box turnkey solutions to make you best of breed when it comes to leveraging a cohesive, copper-bottomed level playing field."

-- Yes, I know this is very sudden.

"Let's diarize a hook-up to unpack and meld when we've got a window, to strategize around what to reiterate to the key players in regard to the concrete deliverables so we end up dominating, in a total way, all the marbles."

-- Take some time to think about this before you reply.

"In the transitional period, the go-live is put in the freezer."

-- Have a nice day.

So the Oracle's advice is, at the office Christmas party tonight, catch your boss under the mistletoe and French him good and proper. Believe me, you won't regret it.

You owe the Oracle a copy of the video of your office Christmas party.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hail Hellas!

A little more than eight minutes long, and well worth it. I had problems embedding it and couldn't figure out where the missing tag or bracket was.

On a related note, I bought the Fagles translation of The Odyssey yesterday while at Duke University for Omer's law school reuinion. I'm still in the introduction (written by Bernard Knox) and it's terrific. I can't wait to get into the poetry itself.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Links to articles on Islam and science.

A small trove of articles lacking in windblown rhetoric, instead substituting comments and ideas from Muslim thinkers.

A Beginner's Guide to Muslim Bioethics

Is Science Dead in the Muslim World?

Science and the Islamic World--the question for rapprochement

The interesting thing is, the writers don't have a clear, pinpoint sense of exactly what went wrong, and when it did. Not really. There's no Luther with nails and a sheaf of papers anywhere to be found.
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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Most excellent essay on postcolonialism, by a post-postcolonialist.

A nice analysis and critique of postcolonialism.

"Perhaps I'd better start by making clear that it has little to do with the caricature of 'third-worldism' projected by the chorus of penitents in France. In truth, it's a way of thinking that derives from a number of sources and that is far from constituting a system because it is in large part being constructed as it moves forward. That's why it would in my opinion be an exaggeration to call it a 'theory'."

" make a fetish of the fact of having been a victim in world history often makes the person who has been prey to such a misfortune wish to shed blood, any blood; unfortunately, all too frequently, never that of the torturers but almost always someone else's, no matter whose. Because, in order to be able to function, the fetish requires endless sacrifices and thus fresh victims killed to appease the sacrificer-god. Central to the victimary economy is the desire for expiation: it takes the form of the spirit of vengeance - an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth – in line with the ancient monotheistic religions. Indeed, insofar as the transcendent is never grounded in one's own death, it has to be through the sacrificial killing of someone else that the sacred is established."

The author being interviewed, Achille Mbembe, is a post-postcolonialist thinker. His analysis reminds me of much of the analysis of the current state of feminism, i.e., that it's not monolithic and that it's colored by the circumstances of the critic. However, postcolonialism has more of a basis (for me, anyway) than does feminism; for some reason, feminism always seems to be awash in itself. I say that having done my undergraduate work in feminist literary theory, so back off, all you Lacan fans.

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The Illustrated President.

An article for today's art lesson.

"Bush has consistently exhibited what psychologists call the 'Tolstoy syndrome.' That is, he is completely convinced he knows what things are, so he shuts down all avenues of inquiry about them and disregards the information that is offered to him. This is the hallmark of a tragically bad executive."

Sometimes, life is sweeter to us than we deserve. The title comes from the original source.

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