Links o’ Interest

The fine art of Doctor slang. When I first heard that FLK (“Funny Looking Kid”) was an actual term used on charts, I couldn’t stop laughing.

The Who play Won’t Get Fooled Again, 27 years apart, in sync. This just reinforces how key John Entwistle and Keith Moon were, and that Pete is undisputably a better guitar player than ever. (And it’s more cool than amazing, they are playing along to the same pre-recorded backing track as ever.)

Whatever your politics, this KFC sign about Hillary is fantastic.

Vinyl sleeve-heads.
More entertaining than it should be.

Wait a minute…

Reviews of milk on Amazon. Legendary.

Truly inspired. Take a Garfield comic. Remove anything Garfield says or thinks. The result is a surreal comic, which appears to be commenting on life in a deep bizzare way. Also Jon is revealed as clearly psychopathic.

A manualist plays the Peanuts theme. I confess, I did not know what a manualist was. Now I wish I still didn’t. Here’s Stu Hamm doing it on bass. I saw him do this live in 1990, incredible.

An evil genius at work.

Cops with a sense of humor

New England, The Patriots & Me!!! At last! This video is so bad I can’t begin to fathom it. No wonder we were humilated by the Bears. It took New England 15 years to recover from this putridity.

The Order of the Stick.
Stick figures in Dungeons & Dragons world. Start from the beginning, it’s a long trip.

Cutting Off the DCCC

I’ve given a few hundred bucks here and there to the Democrats. I gave to John Kerry in the 2004 primaries when things looked hopeless. That money was well-used, since he became the front-runner just after cashing it. I should have given him a few hundred more after primary season, that undoubtedly would have been the turning point to beat Bush! I haven’t given this primary season (all the Democrats are good enough for me), but I’ll probably chip in again during the general election.

I’ve focused more on Congressional campaigns the last four years. I’ve given a bit each year to the DCCC, the clearing house for Democrat congressional races. But I’m done with that. Two particular incidents have sent me over the edge.

1) As part of the ongoing FISA madness, Congress is trying to give the telecoms retroactive immunity from any lawsuits. That’s bad. Chris Dodd has been taking the lead in trying to stop this. He placed a hold on the bill. Harry Reid ignored it. That is very bad. These holds are incredibly pernicious (one of my father’s favorite words), in which any senator can stop pretty much anything, just by asking. They are always honored. Harry Reid decided to make an exception. The exception was for a Democrat, his own party!, who was concerned about the President breaking the law and the Constitution. Harry Reid apparently was not. Glenn Greenwald has the definitive take on this, as well as many other posts about it.

2) Hedgefund managers found a loophole in the tax code that lets them treat their income as capital gains instead of normal income. This is a much better taxrate, it nets them hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions. This is a simple loophole, an understandable oversight in complicated tax law. Not a big deal, you just close the loophole and get back to business, right? Wrong. Once again, a prominent Democrat stepped in. Charles Shumer (D-NY/Wall Street) stopped the legislation. He didn’t even try to defend what he did — he knows it was craven pandering to his donors. That’s money lost that could be used to pay down the debt, pay for Iraq for a while, get ready for the growing “unfunded liabilities”, help with the subprime crisis, all kinds of useful things.

I’m not giving them any more money for a while.

Muttroxia: Best of 2007

I’m copying other bloggers by doing a best-of-2007 list. These are my picks for favorites posts, not necessarily the readers picks. I found out I really like a lot of my posts, I had a hard time keeping this post short. I tstill hink my political ones make good points, and my funny ones still make me laugh. I suppose it’s a good thing that I find my own blog worthy!

Must I Quantify Everything?
Analyzing Gillette’s new razor and my high school’s deathrate.

An .mp3 feature I want. The last line of this kills me, “I’m very easily bothered.”

How much money do you need to have before you’ll buy a pricey car? I was surprised to get no comments on this.

Humor:
This still makes me laugh. Seriously, how does Al Gore buy sextoys?

My one-note review of Harry Potter.

Funny quotes from my 4-year old: One, two, three, and four. Expect more in 2008.

The most embarrassing songs in my .mp3 library

Sports:
My beloved Pats lose to the Colts. It’s good to see that Kraft listened to me for the 2007 version. Losing… seems so long ago! There was a longer version also.

The first of many reactions to the 2007 Patriots. As we make history 15 games later, made history with the NFL’s first 16-win perfect regular season, my points for the year haven’t changed.

World Series of Poker commentary. I particularly like my economic analysis of the pro to amateur ratio.

Politics and Government:
These two posts on Social Security are about the best work I’ve done. Very few people understand what Social Security is or how it works, and thus their opinions are worthless. I lay out how it all works and some of the implications of it. Here’s Part One and Part Two. I may do a Part Three someday.

I officially support John Edwards, and the commenters go crazy, setting a Muttroxia record.

How the media frames the Democrats. The comments went down a different angle, I thought my original point was more interesting.

The connection between Baseball and voting policy. (This can go under politics, sports, and humor – I hit the trifecta!)

And don’t forget! You can always search for the many posts called “Links o’ Interest”.

Picking Your Childrens’ Sex

With our third kid coming, a lot of conversation revolves around gender. Since we have two boys already, we researched sex-picking. There are a lot of crazy theories out there. Really dumb ones. Unless they involve modern scientific techniques, I dismiss them. I don’t need to listen to the details to know they’re wrong.

Consider: This is a special time and place. In modern day America, there is no right of succession. There is no primogeniture (one of my favorite words). There are no dowries. Girls can succeed in life just as easily as boys. There is no societal reason to prefer boys over girls.

But throughout most of human history, the opposite has been true. For tens of thousands of years males were preferred. The fate of kings and empires rested on the ability to produce healthy male children. Even today, it is common in much of the world to kill female infants. The incentives are enormous to find a way to influence the baby’s sex.

Across the globe, over tens of thousands of years and billions of births, I am confident that if any method existed, it would have been discovered. If it was as simple as using a certain position, or nutrition, or the right mate, or the time of month, we would already know about it. The fact that we don’t tells me that none of that is true.

So if you want to talk about DNA, or sorting sperm in a centrifuge, or anything modern, I’ll listen. Anything else, I’ll give you a polite smile, but I’m not really paying attention. It just ain’t so!

(On a tangent, there is some weak evidence that some species, possibly including us, can change the male/female birth ratio in response to environmental pressures.)

Muttroxia Updates

1) The randomized tagline at the top. Suggestions are welcome. It’s alarming how many hours of programming* it took me to make this happen.
2) The header image is just a color block, but I can control it now. Submissions for header images are welcome also. Note that the text and search box has to show up clearly though.
3) Down at the sidebar, there’s a count of spam deleted. This is since mid-February 2007. Mostly it’s there because it’s easy to put in, but I also wanted to show how much crap comes along with even a pissant blog like this. I automate as much as I can, but I have to do a lot of manual maintenance also.

The next thing I would like to tackle is comments, making them more readable, maybe easier to enter also. What would y’all like to see? You’ve surfed around enough to know how blogs can be formatted, what features should I work on?

* Muttroxia is built from a combination of HTML, PHP, and databases. I know HTML. I know databases, but don’t know how to access the Muttroxia one. I don’t know PHP, but it’s like HTML. So when I say programming, I mean trying things and seeing what happens. Going to other blogs themes, seeing how they’re coded, copying key bits over, realizing it doesn’t work, trying to cut and paste other things that seemed to be called, or referenced or something, why isn’t header.description left-aligned like I told it!, does changing the color work?, no, so I’m not controlling what I’m controlling I’d better do a text search on all the files for anything about color, nothing has color that doesn’t even make sense, oh I get it, my version will be headerimg.description, I think I get it now, allrighty then… This is what I mean by programming.

At this point, the Muttroxia theme has been heavily customized, so I’m not sure I can switch to another theme without losing all the work I’ve done.

Our Do-Nothing Congress

Congress is widely viewed as having accomplished nothing. That’s half perception and half truth. Guess why they haven’t accomplished much?
GOP sux

The chart is hard to read, so here’s the gist. The reason why Congress can’t get a lot going is because the GOP won’t let it. It filibusters, or threatens to filibuster virtually everything. They are very open about their obstructionism.

In fact, the Senate Republicans are so accustomed to blocking measures that when the Democrats finally agreed last week to their demands on a bill to repair the alternative minimum tax, the Republicans still objected, briefly blocking the version of the bill that they wanted before scrambling to approve it later.

More on Paper Towels

One of my many pet peeves is advanced paper towel dispensers that make it harder to dry your hands.

At a recent lunch outing, the dispenser had a big push button to get the paper towel. I pressed the button. I am right now looking at this piece of paper towel. It has a length of an inch and half. It fits in my wallet! How can anyone dry themselves with 10 square inches of paper towel?

Going After Borrowers

From a NYT editorial today:

It turns out the library can do more than just shush you. If you accumulate enough unpaid late fees, some New York libraries are ready to hit you where it really hurts: your credit score. They have reported millions of dollars in such bad debts. Most people make good before their creditworthiness is damaged. But there is something chilling in this kind of threat from a library.

I don’t see the problem here. You take a book from the library, you get fined. If you don’t pay the fines, you are a collection issue. Debt is debt, and the library deserves its money back just like any other debtor.

This editorial says that debt from libraries is different, that is is distateful for such a good and pure institution to come after a borrower with something as low and tawdry as a collection agency.

But exactly what is so special about libraries? If I run up credit card debt and don’t pay it, I suffer all sorts of financial penalties, including a ding to my credit score. It doesn’t matter if that debt was incurred by paying for prostitutes or Proust, debt is debt. Nor does it matter that the debt is from the government. If I don’t pay my parking tickets or property taxes, I suffer the consequences.

Xmas Thoughts from a 4-year old

We did presents this morning, since we’ll be traveling on Christmas day.

* He can ruin your faith with his casual lies:
Me: Kids, come on down! Look who came?
Him: Who?
Me: Look at the tree!
Him: Presents! Santa! Presents!
Me: That’s right! Santa came by last night to bring presents early.
Him: I saw him too!

* A future lawyer at work:
Later, at dinner, he tried to figure it out.

Him: Today isn’t Christmas? Why did Santa come today?
Me: Because he’s very nice. He knew we weren’t going to be here on Christmas, so he came early.
Him: Did we get the first presents in the whole world?
Me: Um… so anyhow, he knew this was the best time to come.
Him: He knew we were flying tomorrow? Really?
Me: Yep!
Him: But Daddy, I thought Santa only knew if you’re awake or sleeping, and good or bad!

Happy Holidays!

Challenge Accepted!

You want some action (see comments 6,8,10)!? Consider it laid! I hereby bet Sid $100 that in the 2008 presidential election, the national popular vote difference will be 5% or greater. That is, it must be 52.5% to 47.5% or greater.

I’ll put in one weasel term – the bets off if Ron Paul runs as an independent.

Did you know John Mayer Rocks?

You might not know that John Mayer rocks. After all, he made his reputation from a solid string of wishy washy nothing songs. On his breakthrough album, Songs for Pussies, every song sounded the exact same. True story: For our first child’s birth, I bought this album so we’d have music to play during the delivery that my wife liked. When it first went on, she gave a big grin and squealed at how thoughtful I was. Five songs in, she suddenly sat up in bed and yelled, “Turn this crap off! Find me something that rocks to distract me from this pain!” I gratefully put on some Aerosmith.

Yet, John Mayer is an absolute monster. If you get a chance to see him live, do it. We saw him a couple months back. The first two songs were exactly what I dreaded, mid-range acoustic ballads. But when those were over, he threw away the acoustic, picked up an electric and went nuts. For the next 90 minutes, he shredded and shredded. The songs are so-so. His voice is boring. His patter is annoying. But boy can he play. Every song featured extended solos that he ripped to pieces. It’s the closest thing to Stevie Ray Vaughn I’ll ever see, with a healthy dose of Clapton thrown in. If he would release those songs, he’d be a rock star instead of a pop star.

Here’s some good acoustic stuff.

The NPR Postulate

Mrs. Muttrox had a conversation with a high school teacher friend of hers that confirmed a pet theory of ours.

Mrs. Muttrox: Do the kids still say “bling”?
Teacher: Not really.
Mrs. Muttrox: I heard something about it on NPR.
Teacher: If they use the word on NPR, the kids aren’t saying it anymore.

To put it another way, any piece of urban slang that I know isn’t actual current urban slang.

Yo, Peace out.

Framing the Story

In the New York Times today, there’s fairly prominent links to a video discussion entitled, “Who Can Beat the G.O.P.?: Mark Schmitt of the New America Foundation and Matthew Continetti, above, of the Weekly Standard debate who is more electable, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.” Once again, we see framing in action.

You only see questions about electability for Democrats. Why is this? There are occasional articles about how weak the field of Republicans are, but they are framed a different way, that the GOP hasn’t yet found a candidate they’re in love with. Electability is assumed. This is very odd, since the country is tilting more and more towards the Democrats every month. Every poll for years has shown every important issue going towards the Democrats, and indeed pretty much all the major Democrats beat all the major Republicans in every poll.

Yep, all the Democrats beat all the Republicans. But one name stands out. John Edwards absoultely creams the GOP, and is far and away the best of the Democrats for head to head matchups. So why is there no mention of him? He’s obviously the most electable.

Edwards in Charge

The Best Movie of 2007?

ONCE DVD Cover
I’ll come out and say it, ONCE might be the best movie of the year. A little movie from Ireland that nobody saw, including myself, when it first opened in selected theaters this summer. I kept hearing that it got rave reviews from every critic that saw it, but the poster was so non-descript that I never got the motivation to actually get into a theater and see it. Here we are, many months later, and it’s what I call “free movie season” in Los Angeles – meaning that if you’re a member of certain unions or associations, the studios invite you to free screenings of the movies they want nominated for year-end awards like Golden Globes and Oscars in the hopes that they’ll get your votes. Seeing as how your correspondent is a member of the Editors Guild, and also unemployed due to the Writer’s Strike, this is proving to be a particularly packed free movie season.

But back to the story – I see a lot of movies and I’m a harsh critic. Working inside the machine of Hollywood makes me very aware of the tired tricks and regurgitated stories that so often stain our country’s movie screens. I’m not just a harsh critic – I’m a brutal critic. Just ask my fiancée, who suffers through my heavy sighs when movies take a wrong turn. Well, in this weekend’s screening on the 20th Century Fox lot, the only sounds coming from me were sniffles after profoundly emotional moments. ONCE is simply a magnificent little movie. No huge drama, no robots crashing through cityscapes, no murders, rapes, or revenge, just a simple story of a few very real human beings, one of whom makes his living as a street musician on a busy commercial street in Dublin, and the girl he meets one night on the job. Anyone who loves music will love this movie. The acting feels completely real and natural; the story feels completely real; and the music is tremendous. Right after seeing the movie, I went out and got the CD and it’s been playing in my car ever since. Anyone who loves playing the guitar will love this movie. Anyone with a heart in their chest should love this movie. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m just going to say, go see it. If it’s not playing in your area anymore (which is very likely), don’t worry. The DVD is out December 18th.

And if anyone’s interested…
My favorite popcorn movies of 2007 were probably PLANET TERROR and TRANSFORMERS. Yeah, I know TRANSFORMERS was really dumb, but it was also a lot of fun. And SURF’S UP was wicked good too!

Another Crazy NFL Rule Saves the Pats

Well, we pulled it out somehow. Baltimore outplayed us on offense and defense and special teams, and somehow we got the W. We were lucky, and luck favors a disciplined low-error team like the Patriots.

The worst point in the game was the Ravens stuffing Brady on 4th-and-1, only to have it called back because a Ravens coach had called a timeout just before the snap. Why are coaches allowed to call timeout? This is a dumb rule. Only players on the field should be allowed to call a timeout. The coach is not on the field, he is not a player, he shouldn’t be allowed to have direct effects on gameplay. Referees should only be looking at the field. It’s hard enough to call the game correctly, and now they are expected to be looking at the coaches to see if they are calling timeout? Even worse, it’s not just the head coach, apparently any old coach can call a “T”. This is a dumb rule, and I hope it’s changed in the offseason.

In the meantime, 12-0 baby!

The Pope and Atheism

Yesterday, the pope issued a encyclical which came down pretty hard on atheism.

Atheism may be “understandable” when mankind is confronted with evil and suffering, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his second encyclical, issued on Friday. But the attempt to banish God, he wrote, “has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice,” whether through Marxist revolution or the science that produced the atomic bomb.

I imagine the original document is much more subtle and sophisticated than the summaries I’ve read. And the article also shows the Pope Benedict has opened up Christianity for self-critique. Nevertheless, his reasoning is way off. The line of thinking seems to be composed of several false dilemnas.

The choice is not simply between belief/goodness and unbelief/evil. I am atheist. As far as I can tell, I’m as moral as the next guy. This is often hard for believers to understand and accept; that atheists can have a code of beliefs that guides them just as strongly as a Bible.

The Pope has failed to distinguish between different kinds of atheists. One kind of atheism actively rejects that God exists. Another kind, more relevant to scientific understanding, merely proclaims it irrelevant to the topic. Science does not actively reject God, it just isn’t part of the field.

The Pope’s example of the atomic bomb is interesting. How is it linked to atheism? Many prominent scientists, including physicists and mathematicians are believers in God. Robert Oppenheimer (“father of the atomic bomb”) quoted Shiva when the bomb was tested, he was aware of the impact of this invention.

And where are all the other inventions that godless science has produced? Where are the mentions of eyeglasses, sanitation, hot water, increased food production, artificial limbs, quality fabrics and weaving, the internet, guitars, recording equipment, vitamins, natal care, automobiles, plastics, satellites, windmills, telecommunications, airplanes, kevlar, velcro, etc. Atomic power fuels most of Europe – the world supports billions more people in relative health and happiness than it could have without all the things that science has given us. If atheism is to be held responsible for all the bad things that science produces, it should be held responsible for the good also.