Comics Friday: God works in mysterious ways edition

Dumb games Friday was too much effort, because we have to play a game for a while to know whether it's worth posting. So instead I'm trying out webcomics. 


A great article on "The Social Graph"

If you are at all interested in social networks, I strongly recommend reading this article over at the Pinboard developer blog. I'm just going to toss out some examples here. If any of these sound interesting, go read the whole thing.

First, there's a lot about the technical failures of Facebook and Google+ to get at the "graph" part of the Social Graph.
There's also the matter of things that XFN doesn't allow you to describe. There's no nemesisor rival, since the standards writers wanted to exclude negativity. The gender-dependent second e on fiancĂ©(e) panicked the spec writers, so they left that relationship out. Neither will they allow you to declare an ex-spouse or an ex-colleague.
And then there's the question of how to describe the more complicated relationships that human beings have. Maybe my friend Bill is a little abrasive if he starts drinking, but wonderful with kids - how do I mark that? Dawn and I go out sometimes to kvetch over coffee, but I can't really tell if she and I would stay friends if we didn't work together. I'd like to be better friends with Pat. Alex is my AA sponsor. Just how many kinds of edges are in this thing?
And speaking of booze, how come there's a field for declaring I'm an alcoholic (opensocial.Enum.Drinker.HEAVILY) but no way to tell people I smoke pot? Why are the only genders male and female? Have the people who designed this protocol really never made the twenty mile drive to San Francisco?
 Then there's some great stuff about how anti-social social networks really are:

You might almost think that the whole scheme had been cooked up by a bunch of hyperintelligent but hopelessly socially naive people, and you would not be wrong. Asking computer nerds to design social software is a little bit like hiring a Mormon bartender. Our industry abounds in people for whom social interaction has always been more of a puzzle to be reverse-engineered than a good time to be had, and the result is these vaguely Martian protocols.
Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway, or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook.


It's easy to rap about Berlusconi, because his name rhymes with a large percentage of the Italian language

I have a bunch of Italian rap cassettes from the mid 90s in which the (not yet then) Prime Minister's name gets dropped a lot. He's been dominating Italian politics for a very long time.

He's also a criminal and a joke, and Italy will be well rid of him, maybe soon:

Reporting from Rome— Italy's beleaguered prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has survived more than 50 no-confidence votes and multiple accusations of criminal and sexual impropriety, including charges he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl. But the 75-year-old billionaire may have finally met his match in the bond market. 
With dwindling confidence in Berlusconi's ability to manage Italy's affairs — and the Eurozone's debt crisis hanging in the balance — investors Monday pushed up Italian bond yields to a euro-era high of 6.63%. That means higher borrowing costs, and takes the yield ever closer to a point that tipped Greece, Ireland and Portugal over the edge and seeking financial rescue.
… Indeed, the reaction from financial markets adds to "strong pressure for Berlusconi to resign," said Sergio Fabbrini, political science professor at the LUISS Guido Carli university in Rome.

In once sense, this the ultimate referendum on his performance. The bond rates represent the utter failure of the country to right itself.

On the other hand, as much as I would like to see Berlusconi out, there's something unseemly about the bond market* having this much power over a sovereign, democratic country. It reminds me of the rating agencies trying to dictate the size of our own budget cuts during the summer.

Capitalism should be a tool in service of democracy, not the other way around.

* The bond market is people, my friend. 


It's the (plausibility of) equality, stupid

One assumes it's our old Doctor DR, posting at numskulduggery, who highlighted this quote:

"The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation’s history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high. In other words, in the never-ending tug-of-war between “labor” and “capital,” there has rarely—if ever—been a time when “capital” was so clearly winning."

I have to think we are reaching a tipping point, here, and that we will tip towards progress. And here's why.

During the formative years of the blogosphere, I spent many, many words here and in comments on other sites making the case that the middle class was losing under trickle-down and deregulatory policies. During this time, I could rarely get our conservative interlocutors to agree to the basic facts.

Now, however, these facts are widely reported and discussed. And conservatives have been forced from being "income inequality deniers" into a far less defensible position that this dramatic inequality is somehow OK. We shouldn't demonize success, after all.


Facebook finds European Privacy Laws more Stringent

An Austrian law student named Max Schrems has filed complaints against Facebook for violation of his privacy rights with the Irish Privacy Commissioner. He's also set up a website called Europe v. Facebook where you can read his 22 complaints. According to some news coverage, Facebook could be fined 100,000 Euros (nearly $140,000) for its violations of Irish law. Could this be the beginning of the end of Facebook as we know it?


I'm sorry, but The Simpsons is still funny

Discuss. They even made a funny World Trade Center joke in this episode.

Archer is still the best animated show on TV.


We could have just scooted over

Everybody is quoting Steve Jobs talking about how death is "…life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new." 

So, what has Steve's death made way for? I'd really like to know. 


"A five tonne, 20-year-old satellite has fallen out of orbit and is expected to crash somewhere on Earth"

"Nasa says the risk to life from the UARS - Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite - is just 1 in 3,200."

"The 1 in 3,200 risk to public safety is higher than the 1 in 10,000 limit that Nasa aims for."



Wait… what did you just say? I didn't, uh, hear you, I, uh, guess

"Once these population differences were corrected for, the long-term effects of marijuana use disappeared: The scientists found that “there were no significant between group differences.” In other words, the amount of pot consumed had no measurable impact on cognitive performance. The sole exception was performance on a test of short-term verbal memory, in which “current heavy users” performed slightly worse than former users. The researchers conclude that, contrary to earlier findings, the mind altering properties of marijuana are ephemeral and fleeting…" | via FC |

Unrelated: I'm getting smarter every day. 

what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break?

Mark Twain said,

"Why, it was like reading about France and the French, before the ever memorable and blessed Revolution, which swept a thousand years of such villany away in one swift tidal-wave of blood--one: a settlement of that hoary debt in the proportion of half a drop of blood for each hogshead of it that had been pressed by slow tortures out of that people in the weary stretch of ten centuries of wrong and shame and misery the like of which was not to be mated but in hell.

There were two 'Reigns of Terror,' if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the 'horrors' of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break?

What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror--that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves."

… in reference to the Civil War.


Who drops out of the GOP race next?

My money is on Santorum, as Cain is too crazy to realize he is beaten and Gingrich is just going for the payday anyway. What do you think?


Suggestion for more Apropos Cartoon Lyrics

Herman Cain quoted the theme song from 2000's Pokemon movie in yesterday's debate. I cannot wait from the Republican Primary season to hit full swing.

Here are some other cartoon lyrics I think he could maybe use:

"When in this world, the headlines read of those whose hearts are filled with greed, who rob and steal from those who need, [I'll] right this wrong with blinding speed... I'm an underdog..."

"You've got the touch, you've got the power."

"[I'll] fight for freedom wherever there's trouble."

"Come along with the Snorks. Swim along with the Snorks. Play along with the Snorks. Happy to be living under the sea."

Dr. Beardlove: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Prognostication

Bellmen: Ring your bells, load your muskets, ride your horses, and warn the British. The republican primaries are coming, and it is time to prognosticate.

Iowa had a little event at the state fair yesterday, and a few blowhards blew. Perhaps drawn by the lure of fried butter, or piqued by the shallowness of the republican pool, Perry is expected to officially throw his 10-gallon into the deep end a little later tonight.

I couldn't help but notice we're not talking about it.

My observations? A Texas candidate is nothing without Rove. I don't think Rick Perry's pray and wait strategy will play where it counts, mainly the important north-east and mid-west primary states. He should also be easily overcome if the actual Texas books are scrutinized. (And I don't mean our text books). The cooked books and fudged numbers that won him a few elections out here will definitely come to light (if not in the primaries then in the general election). As weird as it is, I just don't see how Romney should be worried about Perry's entry.

That said, I can't wait for Perry to enter the debates.


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Another Fond Look Back...

Six months and 105 Bearded Men. Thank you all.

1. Bertie Higgins - Key Largo
2. Dan Hill - Sometimes When We Touch
3. Orleans - Dance With Me
4. Loggins and Messina - The House at Pooh Corner
5. Michael Murphy - Wildfire
6. Dave Mason - We Just Disagree
7. Isaac Hayaes - Walk On By
8. Seals & Crofts - Summer Breeze
9. Christopher Cross - Sailing
10. Kenny Rogers - Lady

Special Week-end Edition - Jethro Tull - Thick As a Brick

11. Michael McDonald - What A Fool Believes
12. Ambrosia - Biggest Part of Me
13. Stephen Bishop - It Might Be You
14. ZZ Top - Rough Boy
15. Leon Russell - A Song For You
16. The Beatles - Let It Be
17. George Harrison - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
18. Ringo Starr - Photograph
19. John Lennon - Instant Karma
20. Billy Preston - Will It Go Round In Circles

Special Week-end Edition - The Allman Brothers Band - Whipping Post

21. The Band - I Shall Be Released
22. Joe Cocker - You Are So Beautiful
23. Bob Schneider - 40 Dogs (Romeo and Juliet)
24. Billy Joel - New York State of Mind
25. Little Feat - Fat Man in the Bathtub
26. ELO - Telephone Line
27. Fleetwood Mac - Oh Well
28. Gary P. Nunn - London Homesick Blues
29. Waylon Jennings - Luckenbach Texas
30. Willie Nelson - Good Hearted Woman
31. Split Lip Rayfield - Drink Lotsa Whiskey
32. Band Of Heathens - Hallelujah / I've Got a Feeling
33. Charley Daniels - Long Haired Country Boy
34. Merle Haggard - There's a Pair of Blue Eyes Down In Texas
35. The Black Crows - Soul Singing
36. Bob Marley - Exodus
37. Dr. John - Such a Night
38. Grateful Dead - Ripple
39. Blaze Foley - Oval Room
40. Darrell Scott - A Crooked Road

Special Week-end Edition - Free - Alright Now

41. Steve Goodman - You're the Girl I Love
42. William Elliott Whitmore - Old Devils
43. The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - Mama's Fried Potatoes
44. Luke Kelly - Dirty Old Town
45. Eric Clapton - It Hurts Me Too
46. Ray Lamontagne - Empty
47. Manfred Mann - Blinded By The Light

Special Zimmerman birthday Edition - Bob Dylan - Baby Let Me Follow you Down

48. Bruce Springsteen - Spirit in the Night
49. The Avett Brothers - St. Joseph's
50. Cat Stevens - Peace Train
51. The Black Keys - Your Touch
52. Dave Van Ronk - Candy Man
53. Matisyahu - King Without a Crown
54. Bloc Party - Banquet
55. The Flaming Lips - Do You Realize
56. The Police - Every Breath You Take
57. OutKast - Ms. Jackson
58. Jason Webley with Sxip Shirley - Days With You
59. Shooter Jennings - Walk Of Life
60. Luther Allison - Living in the House of the Blues
61. Valient Thorr - Man Behind The Curtain
62. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
63. Bob Neuwirth - Rock Salt and Nails
64. Unity featuring Stic.Man - Let's Ride
65. Phish - Waste
66. Daryl Hall - Kiss On My List
67. Bob Seger - Still the Same
68. Foo Fighters - Best of You
69. Planxty - The Blacksmith
70. The Parlor Mob - Hard TImes
71. Gentle Giant - Free Hand
72. Queen - Headlong
73. John Legend - Ordinary People
74. Lionel Richie featuring Lyfe Jennings - Easy
75. Parliament Funkadelic - Do That Stuff
76. Paper Lace - Billy Don't Be A Hero
77. James Blunt - Carry You Home
78. Glen Campbell - So Lonesome I Could Cry / Southern Nights
79. Jimmy Webb - P.F. Sloan
80. Bobby Bare Jr. - The Monk at the Disco
81. Prince - 7
82. James Ingram - Just Once
83. Teddy Pendergrass - Turn Off The Lights
84. Barry White - Can't Get Enough of Your Love
85. Al Green - Let's Stay Together
86. George Michael - Faith
87. Toots Hibbert - 54-46 (That's My Number)
88. Marshall Tucker Band - Can't You See
89. Earth Wind and Fire - Boogie Wonderland
90. The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
91. War - The Cisco Kid
92. Curtis Mayfield - Pusherman
93. Biffy Clyro - Bubbles
94. Ice Cube - It Was a Good Day
95. The Magic Numbers - Forever Lost
96. System Of A Down - Chop Suey!
97. Guns n Roses - Knocking On Heavens Door
98. Richie Havens - Freedom
99. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - I Should Have Known It
100. The Eagles - Hotel California


Welcome to the world

Kevin Drum says:

This is pretty much the reason I'm no longer a neoliberal, but a recovering neoliberal. The neos believed that liberals should devote a lot of energy to getting public policy right, even if it meant gutting a few sacred cows along the way. The idea was that the public would never support an activist government unless they were convinced that it was being run as leanly and efficiently as possible. The problem is that this only works if the other side plays ball. After all, what's the point of agreeing to abolish a poorly working program if conservatives refuse to meet halfway and try to build a better program in its place? For most liberals, even a poorly working program is better than no program at all. 
Politically, then, technocratic neoliberalism just doesn't work given the true-believer obduracy of the contemporary Republican Party. So we're left with trench warfare instead and no one's happy. Conservatives are unhappy because liberals keep defending programs that have poor track records, while those of us who suffer from the neoliberal temperament are unhappy because we're too busy fending off knife attacks to have a real chance reforming the delivery of government services. Welcome to the modern world.
I'm all for technocratic idealism, but I think it's naive to think that American politics has ever been anything but trench warfare. It just hurts more when the liberals are losing. And a lot of us think that liberals are losing because we stopped making the "a bad program is better than no program" argument. It's a hard argument to make, but it worked when people clearly saw what "no program" looked like. I was hoping we wouldn't have to go all the way back to robber baronies to find out why we need liberalism.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 100!

Warm smell of beard




Running on the foot-in-mouth platform

Has anyone seen my keys?

Putting the extra D and G to work, Judd Gregg says:

"My gut tells me that we'll need a weekend of drama — maybe a weekend of the government not paying its bills — politicians need drama to make something happen. As soon as social security checks don't go out, the politics will change. I suspect it'll take artificial drama to get closure past the house."
A missing social security check won't feel very "artificial"to a lot of people, Senator.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 88

Spartanburg beard


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 87

That's my beard

"I see the Reid-McConnell bill as the only practical way forward."

      But GOP aides say the leaders are already looking past those votes to a potential deal with Democrats to raise the debt limit before an Aug. 2 deadline and spare Republican lawmakers from a political backlash.
     "McConnell is going to let cut, cap, and balance have its vote and then immediately move to plan B," said a GOP aide in reference to the fallback debt plan McConnell is negotiating with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
      Another Republican aide said McConnell’s contingency plan "has become plan A." 
| The Hill via MoJo |
But can Plan A pass the house? When it debuted last week, the plan was described by all as an epic cave, and described by Democrats as a repudiation of the Club for Growth tax policies. Many words were written.

But can it pass the House? I've seen zero analysis of this. Won't the Tea Party Caucus block it, just like every other proposed compromise?


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 86

Panayiotou beard

Stay classy, Heritage Foundation.

The Heritage Foundation pushes back on the idea that poverty in America is really that bad. For example, of the 30 million Americans living below the poverty line, did you know that 99.6 percent have a refrigerator?

It's astounding to me that we're going to hold it against poor people if they shell out 50 bucks, once a year, for a used video game system. Some conservatives won't be happy until the poor are reduced to 1930's level of poverty.



Debt talks continue?

"That's when Obama got visibly angry, telling Cantor that he could reach major savings if Republicans would agree to revenue increases, according to the GOP aide. He then upped the stakes by telling the group that he isn't afraid to veto a bill Congress produces and take the message and defend it to the American people.

Obama also let it be known that he had enough, noting that if U.S. defaults, it would amount to a tax increase on every American.

"I have reached the point where I say enough," Obama told the leaders, according to the account. "Would Ronald Reagan be sitting here? I've reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this."

Both sides are scheduled to return to the White House Thursday. On the table are: talks on cuts in discretionary vs. mandatory spending; enforcement mechanisms to ensure the spending cuts continue beyond the first year; and whether to extend a payroll-tax break for workers and create another for employers aimed at spurring job growth and the economy."

via tpm

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 83



Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 75

Ain't nuthin' but a party beard


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 74

Easy beard

I hate Facebook

I really do. But I have to play there to appease all my Facebook lovin' friends. Here's hoping Google+ can actually take over. Two reasons why it might:

First, it's not Facebook, and I'm not the only Facebook hater. 

Second, it's a second chance at your online persona. Ezra Klein explains:

At this point, most of us have Facebook friends dating back to three or four distinct eras in the evolution of social networking. That’s made it very hard to know how to use your Facebook account. I, for one, have mostly stopped using mine. I don’t want to annoy my acquaintances with the content I want to send my closer friends, nor do I want to annoy my closer friends with the content suitable for my acquaintances. 
Facebook has tools for managing all this, but they’re hard and awkward to use. Will people notice that they suddenly can’t see your photographs anymore? If you defriend them, will they take it personally? Do I have time to defriend 400 people? What I need, and what I think a lot of other people need, is an opportunity to start over. But you can’t start over on Facebook. That’s awkward. And no other social network has sufficient density to make joining worthwhile. 
That’s where I could imagine Google+ coming in. It’s not that any of its features are so revolutionary. It’s not that it’s better at doing social networking than Facebook. It’s that it’s an opportunity to start over, to build your social network with years of Facebook experience in mind, rather than having to face the accretion of mistakes and miscalculations you made over almost a decade of trial-and-error with a new technology. It’s not Facebook’s fault that “what it means” to have a Facebook account has changed four or five times over the last few years, even as most of us have only had one profile over that period. But it is an opportunity for Google.
But mostly it's because I hate Facebook.


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 71

Prog-rock jumpsuit beard

What you need to know about Lulzsec

"Everyone at LulzSec is either an angsty teen or a manchild who kept too much interest in Anonymous without going into Scientology protests. Their 1337 hacking kit most likely involves Tor, LOIC and a green-on-black reskin for command line." … via this nsfw and offensive site.


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 69

The Beardsmith

Project Kleinrock: Harnessing the crazy

I've been thinking about Kleinrock Routers. The reasons are crazy: The President is not going to shut down the internet.

But the method to the madness is pretty awesome. We've flooded our urban centers with IP-routing radio boards, owned and operated by regular folks. So if we (the people) wanted to, we could just set up our own internet!

Ironically, in more forward thinking nations the wi-fi is free and controlled by the government. If everything goes to hell and we actually need a Kleinrock network, it will work a lot better in places where the free market was the only law. 


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 68

Foo beard

Just parking this to refer to at a later point

If we do nothing, on the other hand, the budget deficit shrinks a lot. As Annie Lowrey recently explained, “[D]oing nothing allows all kinds of fiscal changes that politicians generally abhor to take effect automatically.” David Leonhardt added, “As federal law currently stands, some significant tax increases are set to take effect in coming years.” 
This isn’t popular to say, but if policymakers simply leave the status quo in place, and let nature take its course, taxes will return to Clinton-era rates, the Affordable Care Act will save us a lot of money, and the deficit will shrink considerably. | Benen |



There was another Republican debate

Some thoughts:

Romneybot 9000 did a bang up job. My favorite bit was where he calmly explained that Sharia law was not going to take over any courtroom in America, because we have our own Constitution. This is a huge insult to the Tea Party crazies, but delivered in such a way that they are unlikely to understand it as an insult. Essentially, it was a signal to the rest of the Republican party that he could reign in the crazies.

Rick Santorum did a pretty good job. He is definitely trying to ride Paul Ryan's plan all the way to the moon.

Bachmann was way more polished than I thought she would be. She's a contender. Like Rick Perry, she's like a Sarah Palin who can tell you what magazines she reads.

Ron Paul and Newt were supposed to bring the fun, but they both seemed old and tired.

My boy H-Bomb didn't do so well. I was hoping he'd eke it out a bit longer, but it's plausible that this was his last debate.

Final thought: Republicans have lots of kids! Bachmann took first prize by having five kids and having fostered twenty-three. Ron Paul gets honorary mention for having delivered 4000 babies.

Added bits about Romney's true status as a robot:

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 62

Soul beard

War is not the answer


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 59

Cover beard

BMSFTH Special Note: First father and son to appear in the series. Shooter Jennings is the son of Bearded Man #29 Waylon Jennings.

BMSFTH Trivia: This is not the first cover song to appear in the series. Can you name the first?


Herman Cain explains it all. Sort of.

H-Bomb makes a quite sensible point:
Asked why more African Americans haven't joined him at tea party rallies and conservative conventions like the Faith And Family Conference in DC this weekend, the millionaire ex-CEO has a different explanation. African Americans, Cain told TPM, are too poor to tea party.
"They can't afford to," Cain said. "So I think the first reason is economics. If you just look at the sheer economics of it."
"If you look at the typical income of a black family of four it's going to be lower than a non-black or white family of four," he explained. "Generally speaking on average, white families are much more economically prosperous than black families. So, many black families don't have the economic flexibility to go to a CPAC conference."
Most tea partiers, Cain said, "own their own business, or they have the type of job where they have the flexibility where they can go to the rally."
"Or they're retired," he added.
That's just not the kind of job African Americans have, he said.
Very sensible. African Americans could never take the time off from work to gather for rallies like this. But the Tea Partiers can make a real party of it!

So there you have it, straight from Herman Cain: The Tea Party is a party of dilettantes! 

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 57

Southern beards


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 54

Bloc beard

There's not yet an app for that

My friend Suzie called me up yesterday and asked me if I wanted to try kerdazzler with her.

What's a kerdazzler, I asked.

"It's the latest synthetic from Germany," she told me. "It's a blend of smart drugs plus a new ecstasy variant. It's supposed to be really fun."

I'm a father now, and so I shouldn't be taking experimental brain frying chemicals, even if they are from Germany. But I didn't think Suzie had that kind of hook up these days, so I was curious where she'd gotten it.

"I got 10 of them from some guy on the Silk Road," she told me.

I may not have heard of kerdazzler, but I have indeed heard of the Silk Road. It's a deep-ish web anarcho-marketplace where you can get just about anything, using a "peer to peer" currency called BitCoin.

The Silk Road has a cool name, but it's pretty meh. Even when I was into that kind of thing, those sorts of forums are dead by the time I find out about them. Bitcoins, on the other hand, are pretty intriguing. It's a blue-sky attempt to create a currency that has no governmental controlling authority, which if it worked, would be a major step towards the techno-uptopia I keep hearing about.

This guy makes a pretty good case that Bitcoin won't last (he calls it a "scam," but really it's more of a collective gamble). And it's true that bitcoin doesn't have the advantages of currency that's backed by the full faith and credit of a sovereign nation. But that doesn't mean it couldn't be--at least--version dot.1 of a new way doing things.

I asked Suzie how much the kerdazzler had cost.

"About 30 bitcoin," she said. Wow, I said, that's about 300 bucks!

"Not for me, I mined those bitcoins myself. I've got an array of six Mac Pros, churning away at it day and night."

Uh, okay, I said. How much did those Macs cost?

"Lots and lots!"


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 51

Your beard

Another Lying Liar

The utterly corrupt world of big-time college football is currently in full spasm over the resignation of one of it's high priests. Jim Tressel has resigned as head football coach at Ohio State University. Tressel was found to have lied to virtually everyone he spoke to since the story of his players receiving discounts on tattoos broke last December. Turns out, like every single big-time college athletics department in the country, some of Tressel's players had received a range of discounts, cars, and cash in violation of the rules of the NCAA.

It may come as a surprise that there are people out there, monied adult people, who enjoy college athletics so much, and enjoy being in the presence of athletes so much, that they are willing to offer discount tattoos and the like in order to feel that they are somehow part of the game. That a coddled teenaged athlete would succumb to the temptation to accept $100 handshakes and loaner cars and anything else is no surprise. Those arrangements are as old as college athletics. The only thing that surprises me now is the outrage over the whole thing.

Are college football fans so deluded that they think it can't possibly happen at their school? That since the Tressels of the world claim to 'mold young men into adults' while wearing a sweater vest and at the same time winning football games that they couldn't possibly be bald-faced liars and cheats? Have the Jim Bakkers and Jimmy Swaggarts, not to mention the John Caliparis and Bobby Bowdens of the world taught us nothing? Surely we're aware by now that the men who most loudly preach such platitudes are the ones most likely to lie.

Or perhaps the ones most likely to lie are each and every college athletics fan, to themselves. We have bought the myth of intercollegiate athletics so willingly, so completely that we must elevate these people to heroic stature no matter what evidence we see to the contrary. No matter how many times one of them is caught we must instantly believe that the next one will be the one that will never cheat. To do otherwise would render the whole thing nothing more than a bloated, tawdry display of money and hubris wrapped in the thin veneer of education.

Or maybe we all just show up to see the marching band.

There goes the coveted vampire vote

In a failed attempt to seem more like regular folks, Mitt Romney says:

“I mean, I like the Twilight series. I thought it was fun,” Romney said. 
That would normally be a sufficient occasion to stop and ponder on the candidacy of our man Mitt. But he kept going:
“I don’t like vampires personally, I don’t know any, but you know my granddaughter was reading it and I thought, ‘Well this looks like fun,’ so I read that.”
Holeee crap. There are several possible explanations here, and Steve Benen delivers the conventional wisdom:
One can almost see the gears shifting in Romney’s mind, as if he’s thinking, “Wait, will social conservatitves throw a fit if I like tween vampire fiction? Maybe I should mention that I don’t like vampires. But will that make it sound as if I know vampires? Maybe I should mention I don’t know any.”
But if we take the statement at face value, Mitt Romney believes that vampires are real enough that he could know and/or like one. 

This is actually scary. If Mitt Romney believes in vampires, maybe we should too!


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart - A Fond Look Back at Our First 50 Installments

1. Bertie Higgins - Key Largo
2. Dan Hill - Sometimes When We Touch
3. Orleans - Dance With Me
4. Loggins and Messina - The House at Pooh Corner
5. Michael Murphy - Wildfire
6. Dave Mason - We Just Disagree
7. Isaac Hayaes - Walk On By
8. Seals & Crofts - Summer Breeze
9. Christopher Cross - Sailing
10. Kenny Rogers - Lady

Special Week-end Edition - Jethro Tull - Thick As a Brick

11. Michael McDonald - What A Fool Believes
12. Ambrosia - Biggest Part of Me
13. Stephen Bishop - It Might Be You
14. ZZ Top - Rough Boy
15. Leon Russell - A Song For You
16. The Beatles - Let It Be
17. George Harrison - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
18. Ringo Starr - Photograph
19. John Lennon - Instant Karma
20. Billy Preston - Will It Go Round In Circles

Special Week-end Edition - The Allman Brothers Band - Whipping Post

21. The Band - I Shall Be Released
22. Joe Cocker - You Are So Beautiful
23. Bob Schneider - 40 Dogs (Romeo and Juliet)
24. Billy Joel - New York State of Mind
25. Little Feat - Fat Man in the Bathtub
26. ELO - Telephone Line
27. Fleetwood Mac - Oh Well
28. Gary P. Nunn - London Homesick Blues
29. Waylon Jennings - Luckenbach Texas
30. Willie Nelson - Good Hearted Woman
31. Split Lip Rayfield - Drink Lotsa Whiskey
32. Band Of Heathens - Hallelujah / I've Got a Feeling
33. Charley Daniels - Long Haired Country Boy
34. Merle Haggard - There's a Pair of Blue Eyes Down In Texas
35. The Black Crows - Soul Singing
36. Bob Marley - Exodus
37. Dr. John - Such a Night
38. Grateful Dead - Ripple
39. Blaze Foley - Oval Room
40. Darrell Scott - A Crooked Road

Special Week-end Edition - Free - Alright Now

41. Steve Goodman - You're the Girl I Love
42. William Elliott Whitmore - Old Devils
43. The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - Mama's Fried Potatoes
44. Luke Kelly - Dirty Old Town
45. Eric Clapton - It Hurts Me Too
46. Ray Lamontagne - Empty
47. Manfred Mann - Blinded By The Light

Special Zimmerman Birthday Edition - Bob Dylan - Baby Let Me Follow you Down

48. Bruce Springsteen - Spirit in the Night
49. The Avett Brothers - St. Joseph's
50. Cat Stevens - Peace Train

More to come...




The fact that videos such as this are circulating already makes me think there isn't much of a shot for old Jon in 2012:

The maker of this video thinks that Huntsman should get in the race, though, saying:
Like many others, I strongly believe that traditional conservative ideals can and should prevail in 2012. But the path will not be laid for us, and conservative policy ideas, around entitlements and budget reform especially, still need to be tested with the electorate. So consider the primary campaign a warm-up for the main event, and Huntsman a proxy for what we might face in the general election.
Reasonable. I also think this might all work out very well for Huntsman, in 2016. In fact, I think this is actually Huntsman's grand plan. He'll walk into 2016 as the "you should have picked me" candidate and be facing a non-Osama-catching-incumbent-President.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 48

New Jersey beard


Who ya got?

"The GOP field is now officially so weak that Rick Santorum is going to announce he's entering the race."
Zing! But seriously, it seems like all the real candidates are keeping their powder dry for 2016, when they won't be facing the second coming of Bill Clinton. Which means it's time for the second string, and it looks like it's going to be a party!

Who will enter, who will win?

For my part, my money is on the money, and the money is with my man Mitt. But I think Rick Perry is just dumb enough to run. And except for the scary possibility of him actually becoming president, I think a Perry run would be totally awesome. A failed bid that drags on long enough for the national machines to totally tar him in ways that his regional foes (for example, me) just can't manage might be the only thing that derails him from being our Governor for Life. 

What do you think, dear reader? Gary Johnson? Herman Cain? With Huck out, will Palin actually come in?

* Edited to fix Cain's name. It ain't Herbert, stupid. -Jason

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart - Special Zimmerman Birthday Edition

Dylan beard

Happy 70th Bob

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 47

But mama, that's where the beard is


The Quick and the Undead

Survival in the zombiepocalypse will require more than just luck. Of utmost importance is the survival mindset and a working knowledge of zombies.

But even the most determined individual will need some supplies. The Centers for Disease Control recently released suggested survival supplies and they are great, insofar as they go.

But they left out one important item: a machete.

Man chopping watermelon with a machete
Image courtesy of sgoralnick.
Luckily we at the Bellman have been prepping for this eventuality since before 2008.

The Zombie Research Society is another great resource for learning more about the coming undead pandemic.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 45

Clapton is beard


Laughing last, laughing best

Eternal Earth-Bound Pets is an atheist-operated business that will rescue and adopt ("save") the pets of those who are called to heaven during the Rapture. They charge $135 for the first pet and $20 for each additional pet. And the best part is, all sales are final and no refunds honored, for any reason. From their web site:
"If subscriber loses his/her faith and/or the Rapture occurs and subscriber is not Raptured (aka is 'left behind') EE-BP disclaims any liability; no refund will be tendered."
Wait, I was wrong. The best part is, they already have 259 clients, which means they've made at least $35,000. I'm sure they'll sucker--I mean, comfort--plenty more between now and Saturday May 21st, the latest alleged Doomsday.

From the AFP article via Yahoo News:

When judgment day happens, Eternal Earth-Bound Pets co-founder Bart Centre "will notify all of our rescuers to go into action and they will drive to the homes of anyone who's signed a contract with us, pick up their pets and take them home and adopt them as their own, keeping them happy and healthy for the rest of their lives.

"This will happen only if and when the Rapture happens. So we do not expect to have to do anything on Saturday," Centre told AFP.

I can't stop laughing about this.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 43

big damn beard

Newt Gingrich is…

img by DonkeyHotey
 "… probably one of the most dangerous people for the future of this country that you can possibly imagine. He's Richard Nixon, glib. It doesn't matter how much good I do the rest of my life, I can't ever outweigh the evil that I've caused by helping him be elected to Congress."

quote of the week via MoJo


So did any of you see my blog post about Pink Floyd and the Neural Lace?

If so, don't admit it! 

I find that when posting certain items related to futurism and transhumanism, the blog always implodes. In this case, the whole of Blogspot ate itself soon after I posted. They have restored "almost all" posts, but not mine.

It's just a damn shame that--for cover, I guess--they had to take one of Bill's beard-pop posts with it into the void.

Here is a totally unrelated item to distract the sheeple and/or the bots in black.

The head of the IMF, and former about-to-be-leader-of-France, was arrested yesterday for allegedly raping a member of the cleaning staff at his hotel in New York.

If true, that's Kobe/Tiger stupid.


Okay, who broke America?

Kevin Drum asks,
Who's to blame for our fiscal problems of the past decade? Paul Krugman says elites deserve a lot more of the blame than the general public, but Dan Drezner disagrees: the public, he says, was in favor of tax cuts and in favor of the Iraq war, so they deserve a big chunk of the blame too.
Drum then presents Drezner's data, and concludes:
But guess what? Despite this broad support, nobody was crying out for either huge tax cuts or invading Iraq until George Bush and the rest of the GOP started talking them up. Without that, the public would have continued to vaguely think that taxes were too high and Saddam Hussein was a bad guy before switching the TV to Monday Night Football and forgetting about it.
It's true that public support was probably necessary in order to pass the Bush tax cuts and invade Iraq. But the polling evidence is pretty clear that it was far from sufficient. Nothing about public opinion changed in 2001. The only thing that changed was the occupant of the Oval Office. The public isn't blameless in all this, but the polling evidence makes it pretty clear that it was a minor player.
I'd say that there's plenty of blame to go around. It's easy (and right) to assign a lot of blame to the so-called "elites." As Stan Lee continues to teach us, with great power comes great responsibility. Drum and Krugman are indicting not only the Bush administration, but also the elite institutions (the New York Times, etc.) that didn't forcefully present the opposing view. No pun intended, but that's a drum worth banging. Success in the public sphere often hinges on how well the referees have been coached.

However, I'm really uncomfortable with Drum's assertion that the public is a "minor player" because, he basically says, they are always willing to go along with certain dumb ideas. His sentiment is, well, elitist.
The public is made up of all of us (elites and not so elite), and we ought to expect more from ourselves, one and all. And we should take the blame when policies we support turn out to be stupid.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 36

Rasta beard


So there was a republican debate tonight

I'm so high right now
And like an idiot, I watched it.

 Lessons learned:

  • By applause, Ron "We Buy Gold" Paul was the clear victor. Who (other than the powerful) doesn't love Ron Paul? He articulates a clear, consistent philosophy. Even though the philosophy is pretty dumb, it's still super refreshing. 
  • Luntz and his focus group were absolutely crazy for Herman "The Godfather" Cain. I've never even heard of this guy, but now I can say: You, sir, are no Ross Perot. That he did so well in Luntzville is just further proof that Republicans are crazy.
  • Santorum was a delightfully frothy mix. Luntz's focus group gave him second place. 
  • T-Paw was smooth, and he really could be a contender. And I love that he embraces the appellation. It's fratty, but still pretty cool… for a presidential candidate. I'm hoping Obama embraces "B-Rock."
  • Luntz's group thought, to a person, that Barack Obama is a socialist, even when challenged by Luntz. 
  • Luntz's group was heavily populated with mouth-breathers (there's video evidence). 
Did you watch? Who is your guy or gal in the republican field? My pick is clearly Gary "Smokey" Johnson.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 34

Haggard beard



Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 32

Heathen beard

(Austin Beard IV)


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 31

Split Lip beard

RIP Kirk Rundstrom

One Hit Wonder

I'll leave the announcement to the incomparable John Cena:


The King is the Land and the Land is the King

Geeze o flip, do we love the royalty or what?

For you it might be the royal wedding. But for me it's the somewhat awesome notion that the fate of the world is bound up in the health and success of human individuals. Clearly I read a lot of messed up stuff as a kid, but here are some of my favorite permutations:

  • True and fictionalized traditions where an individual is picked to be "king" for a single year, or where kings must stay healthy to stay king.
  • True and fictionalized traditions where certain saints are believed to keep the world intact with their prayers.
  • Conspiracy theories and literature about secret kings and kingdoms that represent the true cause of our current world (for example, did you know that as soon as the cameras were turned off, astronauts raised the Union Jack on the moon!?! True story.)

There's just this huge undercurrent of regiphilia in our culture, and maybe in all cultures. It's fun to play with, but it's worth keeping in mind that this is probably just the memetic residue of millennia of propaganda and power politics.

It was really helpful to the kings if their subjects believed in divine right, of course. And if the kings actually seemed supernatural or genetically blessed, the reality is that they were probably just well fed compared to everyone else, as Doctor Science reminds us:

When only a few people are clean and wear nice clothes, always get enough to eat and never have to go without sleep or warmth, they *will* look comparatively gorgeous, and they are likely to be -- or seem to be -- stronger, smarter, and taller than the ordinary run of folk.
It twists my Tolkien-soaked brain to try to think of the families in Game of Thrones as being no more exceptional than the Windsors, but I think it's a useful exercise. When I think about people born into royalty in the past or in fiction, it's hard for me to get away from the habit, the mental rut, of thinking of them as naturally exceptional people -- when all they really were was well-nourished.
from the incomparable Married to the Sea

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 30

Austin Beard III

Happy Birthday Willie.


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 29

Back to the basics of beard


'EA Sports "won" by eating a bomb, and it's ticking.'

ah, the good old days
That's Bill Harris of Dubious Quality, talking about how desperate EA must be to "soak" it's fan base with this new subscription fee. His theory is that the exclusive licensing fees must be increasingly squeezing all the profit out of the EA Sports balloon.

I've got no idea whether he's right. EA is agressively monetizing what used to be stuff that was included in the $49 $60 price of each game across all of their properties, so I disagree that this new bullshit is (merely) a desperation move in response to increased licensing costs. The real question is whether fans will continue to pony up the monies for this shit (and I'm pretty sure Mr. Harris will be subscribing).

But I wanted to bring it up for a couple reasons.

1. God dammit, this blog has to be more than beard pop.

2. I absolutely adore the hostility coming off Harris's post. You can only have that kind of hate for something you love. For example:

There are multiple reasons why these things don't get fixed:
1) Zero leadership.
2) It's awkward, isn't it? Can you imagine a bullet point on the box that says "Players finally move at realistic speeds"? [Nope! -Jason] Far better to spend hundreds of hours getting the correct nipple size for all the FBS cheerleaders instead.
3) Why would they want to fix any of this? The EA Sports product line is relative mediocrity paired with exceptional, cutting-edge marketing. They're not about making the product more realistic--they're about selling more product.

EA has crushed their competition not by making their games better, or by adding value to their products, but by cornering the market on exclusive licensing. They've bought up every exclusive license they can. No competion. Big win.

And yet he'll play them all and discuss them in great depth. It's really a great blog, that you should probably check out.

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 28

Armadillo beard



You euthanized your faithful companion cube faster than any test subject on record. Congratulations!

img via blogtown
Man o man, did I love Portal. If you haven't played it, you really should just stop what you are doing and go play it. It's like being inside a Terry Gilliam movie.

I'll have a review of Portal 2 here in a bit once I finish it. Anybody else planning on playing it?

Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 24

New York beard


Bearded Men Singing from the Heart, Part 23

Austin beard II

Computers are better writers than a lot of people

I don't know if this is an indictment of journalism today or a small piece of support evidence for my least popular opinion ever:

Robot Sportswriter Outperforms Human (NPR)
The writer of that [terrible story that people assumed was written by a robot] — it turns out — was a living, breathing human being. But the creators of Narrative Science, a news-writing software program, took Deadspin's assumption as fighting words. They set out to prove that their system could produce a better story.
"We actually got hold of the information director of the school, we got the raw material, the numbers around the story," said Kris Hammond, chief technology officer of Narrative Science. "And we fed it to our system, which wrote the story, where the headline and the lead were focused on the fact that it was a no-hitter. Because how could you write a baseball story and not notice that it was a no hitter? I mean what kind of writer or machine would you be?"
I'll say it again (this is twice): Computers will be able to replicate every human creative activity within our lifetimes, and this is a good thing.

I've included the full text of the robot's article below the jump.

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