Quote of the day

"It's like being invisible. I mean, if a white dude does something nobody acknowledges that it was a white dude. They'll just say that it was a person that did it."



[French, past participle of clicher, to stereotype (imitative of the sound made when the matrix is dropped into molten metal to make a stereotype plate).]


A trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse

The thing about cliches...

...is that sometimes they are true. For example: Strike while the iron is hot.

Update: A stitch in time saves nine.


A Memorial Day message for you

A wartime death isn't a noble sacrifice. It's a tragedy brought about by our collective stupidity.



Of or relating to or living or located on the bank of a watercourse (as a river or stream) or sometimes a lake.


[From Italian 'littorale', from Latin 'lītorālis', from 'lītus', shore]

Of, relating to, or being property abutting an ocean, sea, lake, or pond.



As in all things, let's start with the wikipedia:
The Killology Research Group is an advocacy group devoted to research into the idea that first-person shooter games can lead to violent behavior in people. Specifically, the founder (an ex-military man) believes that FPS games are "murder simulators" that desenstitize players to violent acts. |link|

Fair enough. Next, from the group's website:
KILLOLOGY, (n): The scholarly study of the destructive act, just as sexology is the scholarly study of the procreative act. In particular, killology focuses on the reactions of healthy people in killing circumstances (such as police and military in combat) and the factors that enable and restrain killing in these situations. This field of study was pioneered by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, in his Pulitzer-nominated book, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.

KILLOLOGY Research Group consultants are human behavior studies specialists with credentials in psychology, educational psychology, training, military history, and modern warfare. Each project is unique, and each project is customized to meet the needs of the client. Col. David Grossman, Director, personally contributes to and supervises all projects.

KILLOLOGY Research Group examines how culture and society change when one human being kills another. The lives of individuals and families in our society can be literally transformed and the world can become a safer place through education about the causes and impacts of violent behavior. |link|

Next up, let's see how the good Colonel puts this to work. Check out this passage from Blackwater:
At the conference, retired Army Lt. Col. David Grossman, author of the book On Killing and founder of the Killology Research Group, addressed participants in a hotel ballroom, pacing around with a microphone. He spoke of a "new Dark Age" full of Al Qaeda terrorism and school shootings. "The bad guys are coming with rifles and body armor!" he declared. "They will destroy our way of life in one day!" The world, Grossman said, is full of sheep and it was the duty of warriors -- the kind of men assembled at the Blackwater conference -- to protect them from the wolves. "Embrace the warrior spirit!" he shouted. "We need warriors who embrace the dirty, nasty four-letter word kill!" |p. 152|

And, lastly, a brief excerpt from the colonel's latest work of science fiction:
Private Jarvis had been mauled by an ape in the last battle. He'd recovered enough to be released for duty. Now here he was again, with musket balls bouncing around him and wood splinters flying into his exposed flesh. Sergeant (oops, Lieutenant) Broadax might enjoy this stuff, but he'd never been so miserable in his life. At least the apes didn't shoot at you. Once again his bladder control was failing and "leg sweat" was darkening his trousers. He felt his bowels loosen and it was all he could do to maintain control of his sphincter.

In training they'd been told about a survey of combat veterans in World War II, back on Old Earth in the twentieth century. About half the veterans who saw intense frontlineactionadmitted to wetting themselves in combat. In the same survey almost a quarter of these combat veterans admitted to messing themselves. Jarvis was one of many combatants since then whose cynical response to that data was, "Hell, all that proves is that the rest were liars." |link|

Usability complaint Thursday, not particularly veiled sarcasm edition

I've got an idea for an awesome computer virus. Here's what it will do. At irregular intervals (think weeks or months) it will cause a dialog box to appear reading something like:
Automatic Updates
Updating your computer is almost complete. Your computer needs to be restarted for the updates to take effect. Windows will restart your computer automatically in five minutes.

Do you want to restart your computer now?

Naturally, restarting will be the default option, and the dialog box will float on top of all other processes until you deal with it. Also, if you dismiss without restarting, the dialog box will reappear ten minutes later.

Man, that would be annoying. If only I could get somebody to write it...


Our next President of the United States

I can't find it in print, but yesterday I think I heard Bill Richardson say that instead of having a seperate health-care system for veterans, he'd give veterans a "Hero Card" that woud allow them to get premium health care from any provider they wanted.

Seriously, this guy is going to be president.


Internet ghosts

The USA Today recently gave a brief report concerning the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre: “Slain Students Pages to Stay on Facebook”. The social networking website’s administration decided that these students’ profiles will not be taken down; instead, they will be remain frozen in their last updated state. This decision goes against Facebook’s policy of removing profiles of the recently deceased out of respect for their privacy, but this is not a new phenomenon. There is simply no way for these websites to keep track of which of their users are dead or alive - the dead are all online now; they “live” on websites like Livejournal, Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, or Flickr, and they’re not going anywhere.

Yikes. I don't think they realize how many small traumas this is going to cause. I'm still a little leery of signing on to Myspace ever since I saw a recently deceased acquaintance being advertised in the "cool new people in your area" section. What's worse was clicking through to his page and reading the comment posts by friends of his that clearly didn't know he had died.

BoingBoing: Facebook profiles, dead or alive. No, seriously. Dead? Or alive?


Extremely odd quote for today

I have been a long time supporter of President Bush. Quite frankly, lately, I don't quite know what to make of the man. However, one thing about his legacy will go unchallenged. His term as President has been unparalled to serious coin collectors.



Dumb game blogging: "Anyway, remove a lot of sticks."

Stick Remover.

What I didn't get right away is that when you feel you have removed as many sticks as you can without collapsing the tower, you can click "next" to move to the next of the five stages.

My best score for all five stages is 51. TRP0 reports a 57. Can you beat it?


Untitled political post #4

If you haven't had a chance to watch James Comey's testimony before Congress on Tuesday, here it is:

Three observations:
  1. McNulty's testimony a few weeks ago was damaging enough, but this is on another level. I think a few years from now we'll look back on this episode as kind of a tipping point where medium level political appointees began deciding that throwing the Whitehouse under the bus is a better career move than loyalty to the Bush crowd.
  2. The villain of this story is clearly Alberto Gonzales. Please note that he's now leading the agency he tried to strongarm.
  3. Subpoena power is the bomb.


When doom comes calling, don't pick up

I didn't see the debate last night, so it's a slow-post day from Austin. Consider this an open thread to discuss anything we should be blogging about. In the meantime:
Mobile Phone Virus Scare Jumps from Pakistan to Afghanistan

Rumours last week were spread around Pakistan that a deadly virus was being sent through mobile phones, and that anyone answering phone calls from some certain numbers would contract a fatal illness. The rumours claimed that "as soon as you answer your phone blood comes out of your mouth, nose and ears and you die"

The cellular operators moved to calm down subscribers and said in a joint statement "These rumors are completely baseless. They do not make any sense in technological terms." Farah Hussain, a spokeswoman for Warid Telecom, told Reuters that their customer service centers had been inundated with panicky subscribers inquiring about the so-called virus. | link

Okay, so that's not too interesting. But consider that the only other thing I had to post was Maternacord.


Truly, we are as brothers unto one another

So there's this guy working in my building who lacks, shall we say, a sunny disposition. Gary, the carpenter I used to work with back when I was a garage door repairman, would have said, "That cocksucker's a mean old cuss."

Anyway, over the last eighteen months or so my interactions with this guy basically consisted of me passing him in the hallway, maybe saying good morning, and him glowering and maybe asking a pointed question along the lines of, "Do you know why that fucking couch is in the goddamn hallway?"

But then last week he came upon me while I was cussing at the newly repaired water fountain (which water fountain now produces chilled water, but directs it back away from its operator, meaning that you'd better bring a glass if you want a drink, or be willing to stand behind rather than in front of the water fountain, which would be a good trick if you could pull it off). Apparently we are now great friends. Now whenever I encounter him instead of giving me the hairy eyeball he lets me know who or what has pissed him off at the moment.

For the record, today it's the homeless guys who hang out in the alley behind the building.


Two quotes for today

First is this, from the Pink Lady:
Every time I see Obama speak, I remember why I like him. And then I feel guilty for cheating on Hillary. But she’s used to it.


For the second one, I'll let you pick your favorite quote from this:


This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption

First, if you haven't read it already, scoot on over to Crooked Timber and read this spirited defense of the claim that Budweiser is a good beer. For my part, I agree that beer snobs don't give mass produced American beers enough credit and endorse the observation from a commenter that it's important to taste American beers in the right sort of context. Writing about Budweiser, the commenter wrote:
...when chilled to refrigerated temperatures, which removes most of the flavor notes in all beverages, Bud has a pleasant hint of malt without the apparent weight that most so-called craft or micro brews have, making it a great accompaniment to a summer BBQ in the typically sweltering American summer.

Which is about right, although I would say that the best beer for a hot summer day isn't Budweiser but is rather Miller High Life. It has to be served extremely cold, though.


I give you the next president of the United States

There's a lot I don't know yet about Bill Richardson, but what I do know I like. So far, he's the only candidate in the entire field who I think would almost certainly make a very good president.

This ad campaign hasn't changed my mind about that:


Quote for today

Since Alberto Gonzales is now among the political undead -- not alive, but unvanquishable in his own liminal existence -- I guess it can't be called a death of a thousand cuts.


Some days, I like robots better than people

In an uncertain world, the only thing you can trust is the guy next to you in the foxhole, the Washington Post reports on what happends when the "guy" next to you is truly government issue.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become an unprecedented field study in human relationships with intelligent machines. These conflicts are the first in history to see widespread deployment of thousands of battle bots... Bots search caves for bad guys, clear roads of improvised explosive devices, scoot under cars to look for bombs, spy on the enemy and, sometimes, kill humans.

Even more startling than these machines' capabilities, however, are the effects they have on their friendly keepers who, for example, award their bots "battlefield promotions" and "purple hearts." "Ours was called Sgt. Talon," says Sgt. Michael Maxson of the 737th Ordnance Company (EOD). "We always wanted him as our main robot. Every time he was working, nothing bad ever happened. He always got the job done. He took a couple of detonations in front of his face and didn't stop working. One time, he actually did break down in a mission, and we sent another robot in and it got blown to pieces. It's like he shut down because he knew something bad would happen." The troops promoted the robot to staff sergeant -- a high honor, since that usually means a squad leader. They also awarded it three "purple hearts."

Humans have long displayed an uncanny ability to make emotional connections with their manufactured helpmates. Car owners for generations have named their vehicles. In "Cast Away," Tom Hanks risks his life to save a volleyball named Wilson, who has become his best friend and confidant. Now that our creations display elements of intelligence, however, the bonds humans forge with their machines are even more impressive. Especially when humans credit their bots with saving their lives.|Bots on The Ground - WaPo|
Part of me thinks that the human race is totally backwards and superstitious... while we may be superstitious, at least we have robots!


Each broken dream still lingers on

The bright side of Joel Zumaya's recent injury is that I belatedly learned about this:
According to the Detroit Free Press, Zumaya was hurt playing a PlayStation 2 video game called "Guitar Hero", in which the player simulates playing an electric guitar for popular rock bands. Zumaya, a 22-year-old rookie, suffered inflammation in his right (throwing) wrist and forearm from playing the game.

When Zumaya went to the Tigers training staff about his injury, they noticed his pain was more consistent with a guitar player than a baseball pitcher, according to the Free Press. Since Zumaya was known to play the game, the team asked him to stop, and he pitched pain-free in the World Series. |source|

Not much of a bright side, I know. But I can tell you from experience that the Guitar Hero injury risk is real. Here are some tips that will allow even the most avid Hero to play injury free:
  • Warm up! Look, I know that the "Easy" songs are easy, and hardly worthy of a Hero, but the mode is there to help you out. Don't let pride be your downfall.
  • Know when to quit. We've all been there. Freebird was a breeze and it's got you thinking that you're finally ready to rip Message in a Bottle on "Expert". Don't believe it. And don't think that after you've failed seventeen times that the eighteenth is the charm. It isn't. It's when heroes get hurt and become, once and for all, zeroes.
  • For God's sake, steer clear of Psychobilly Freakout. Unless you happen to be eight years old playing that song puts you on the fast track for carpal tunnel. It's just not worth it.


Knowing what, though still not why

Awhile ago I deleted all of the factory loaded quick notes from my phone and replaced them with the various magic 8 ball answers. A great idea, obviously, but with the slight drawback that magic 8 ball replies are only relevant when someone has asked you a yes or no question.

Anyway, while looking for something to use as my designated quick note thank you message I came across this. I think you'll agree that it's pretty creepy.

Nobody knows what lives in his nose

What began as a faint popping in a 9-year-old boy's ear -- "like Rice Krispies" -- ended up as an earache, and the doctor's diagnosis was that a pair of spiders made a home in the ear.

"They were walking on my eardrums," Jesse Courtney said.

One of the spiders was still alive after the doctor flushed the fourth-grader's left ear canal. His mother, Diane Courtney, said her son insisted he kept hearing a faint popping in his ear -- "like Rice Krispies." |CNN|


Don't anger the bees, again

Married to the Sea does a comic about the bee problem, and you shoud read it if you like funny comics about bees. Most people tell me that Married to the Sea isn't actually funny, but most people are actually not that funny themselves, so... so there.

Oh yeah, the comic is here.


First they came for the mice

In a thread I can no longer find over at eripsa, I argued that it is foolish to think that we won't soon have true artificial intelligence because soon we'll be able to simulate all of the activity of the human brain, albeit a little slowly.

Now I see via egg that we are one step closer to this nightmare:
Cory Doctorow: IBM researchers have modelled a mouse's brain at 10 percent speed -- and what can be done at 10 percent speed today can be done at 1000 percent in a couple cycles of Moore's Law. Super-intelligent virtual mice ahoy!
Neurobiologically realistic, large-scale cortical and sub-cortical simulations are bound to play a key role in computational neuroscience and its applications to cognitive computing. One hemisphere of the mouse cortex has roughly 8,000,000 neurons and 8,000 synapses per neuron. Modeling at this scale imposes tremendous constraints on computation, communication, and memory capacity of any computing platform.

We have designed and implemented a massively parallel cortical simulator with (a) phenomenological spiking neuron models; (b) spike-timing dependent plasticity; and (c) axonal delays.

We deployed the simulator on a 4096-processor BlueGene/L supercomputer with 256 MB per CPU. We were able to represent 8,000,000 neurons (80% excitatory) and 6,300 synapses per neuron in the 1 TB main memory of the system. Using a synthetic pattern of neuronal interconnections, at a 1 ms resolution and an average firing rate of 1 Hz, we were able to run 1s of model time in 10s of real time!

Gonna need a lot of virtual cheese.

James Lipton would ask a question about 'choices'

Am I imagining things, or is this race baiting?


Why Gonzales won't be fired

To have any hope of Senate confirmation, the President would have to appoint someone with some credible level of independence; in other words, a real Attorney General who would let real investigations into the administration move forward. That’s a reality that President Bush simply cannot allow. |Josh Marshall|

It's over there, it's over there

Forgotten Detroit is a site dedicated to documenting Detroit's degraded collection of pre-depression architecture. It's really quite something.

I came across it because I was looking for a picture of the building above, the abandoned Detroit Central Station. I first saw the building yesterday morning while on my way to this. Pictures really don't do justice to the scale of the building or the way its hulking ruin dominates the surrounding area. On seeing it, my first thought was that it was past time that somebody knocked the thing down.

But of course I was wrong.

One of the striking things about Detroit architecture -- and I've noticed this before mostly in residential areas -- is that beneath the decrepit surface, a lot of the buildings are really quite impressive. Detroit's buildings were built to last and, even without the most basic maintainance, many of them have. Another of the striking things, of course, is how much of the architecture is gone. There are blocks where vacant lots are the most common feature. I'm not sure which is more depressing, but one things for sure. Detroit already has enough vacant lots.


The lead writes itself

So why would the political geniuses at the White House set themselves up for this?
Four years to the day after standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier and declaring "major combat operations" in Iraq were over, President Bush on Tuesday vetoed a war-spending bill that calls for the start of a withdrawal of American combat troops from the conflict. |CNN|

Home-grown terrorism strikes Austin, TX

First, a little framing: One of the most annoying things about hawkish pundits and bloggers (and Presidents of the United States) in our country is their attempt to elevate terrorists (who are mostly powerless idiots) to Hitler-esque levels of threat. You know what I'm talking about: "The battle against Islamic terrorism is the calling of our generation." That sort of garbage.

The problem is simply that it's so intellectually dishonest that it actually undercuts the real threat of terrorism. If the threat were put in context and treated appropriately, we'd actually do a much better job of fighting terrorism... but probably a worse job of electing crazy warmongers.

Why is it intellectually dishonest? Well, for one thing, every single incident of violenc by muslims that hits the news is held up as evidence of a deep sickness in that religion. Other random acts of violence, such as the Virginia Tech shooting? Just tragedies, without any larger message. We all know that if that crazy gunman had turned out to be a muslim, we would still be enduring another round of fevered bloviating about how Islam is not a religion of peace.

Furthermore, and to get to the actual news of the current post, Christian terrorism is never used as evidence of issues with that religion. Incidents like this:
A 27-year-old man has been arrested on three charges related to a pipe-bomb that was found near an Austin, Texas abortion clinic last week. The Austin Police Department has announced that Paul Ross Evans has been charged with use of weapons of mass destruction, manufacture of explosive material, and violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, the Associated Press reports.

The bomb, which was found last Wednesday, consisted of explosive powder and two pounds of nails packed into an insulated container. Video surveillance cameras showed Evans buying a package of 9-volt batteries, electrical tape, and a copper tube, matching the items used in building the bomb. Also, investigators matched Evans' credit card with the purchase of the insulated container at an Austin Wal-Mart, The Daily Texan reports.

Evans is currently in federal custody without bond. He was previously convicted of breaking into cars and robbing a convenience store and fast-food restaurant with a pellet gun. Evans was paroled in 2005 after serving the first three years of a 15-year sentence.

I don't think this is evidence of a deep problem with Christianity as a religion. It may be that religion of any kind has a slight problem in that it can be too easily hijacked by violent extremists, but clearly I don't think that a few sociopathic freaks should be used to smear an entire population, as the warbloggers routinely do with Islam.

Anyway, now we've got another piple bomb incident here in Austin, that's even more curious. It seems to have been left in an alley, not near any understandable target:
A woman found an explosive device near her home on Guidepost Trail in South Austin (map) about 10 a.m. Monday.

But don't worry...
Austin police are stressing that the device found Monday and the one found last week are completely unrelated.

Yeah, I feel much better.

To close the post on a lighter note, this is from that photo's flickr page:
A band named "this bike is a pipe bomb" makes similar stickers, but some Keystone Kops saw one on a bike and had the bomb squad come destroy it. (I'd love to make "my other bike is a pipe bomb" stickers.)
eXTReMe Tracker