Monday, March 31, 2008

Elephant Droppings

Like cornered komodo dragons reeking of carrion and desperation, conservative stalwarts have resorted to unleashing some of the most brazenly idiotic and transparently insincere utterances in the history of asinine horseshit.

I wish I could write like this ...

With that in mind, we’re proud to bring you the first installment of Elephant Droppings, a weekly (or perhaps bi-weekly) roundup of inane/insane/inflammatory remarks produced by straw-grabbing half-wits, professional bullshit-peddlers, and other such bipedal livestock.

(Disclaimer: You’ll probably at some point run across a quote and think to yourself, “Well, what’s so wrong with that?” You might even feel compelled to post a long-winded comment explaining why Ann Coulter is, like, sooooo right for calling John Edwards a faggot and, pffft, why can’t you P.C. thought police just, y’know, move to Russia or something? If you find yourself doing so, you are likely stupid, delusional, Sean Hannity, or some combination thereof.)

-- from the City Pages

Thursday, March 27, 2008

When in the Course of Human Events ...

One of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence is coming to Minnesota. This particular one is the only one that ever travels. It is one of 25 known to exist (these are the initial printed copies, so that people could see what looney thing the government had done for them that week). Holy shades of Antiques Roadshow -- this particular copy of the Declaration of Independence was found in a flea market in a $4 frame.

The note below mentions 2 copies of the original Minnesota constitution: they are both original. One has the democratic party's signatures, and one has the republicans'. Despite the fact that the texts are identical, neither party wanted to put their names on the same paper with the other party's.

Minnesota Public Radio's announcement of the event:

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one state to celebrate its 150th birthday and to assume among the powers of the earth, that that state's people should be allowed to view really really really old historical documents, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to bring to this state an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men, women, and children shall be able to view the document when it arrives in St. Paul on May 6 and stays for 12 days, that they be endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are the ability to go for free, and the ability to see other important documents, including two hand-written copies of the original Minnesota Constitution.

We, therefore, do solemnly publish and declare, that the copy of the Declaration that will be displayed in Minnesota is one of 25 so-called Broadsides that were prepared by the printer John Dunlap in the days following the document's signing on July 4th, 1776.

We also mutually pledge, along with our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor, that museum officials also plan to arrange extra showings aside from the normal display hours, so groups of veterans and school children can have their own time with the exhibition.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How many congressmen to change a lightbub?

The local lunatic, US Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), has introduced legislature - so help me, this is true - Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act.

"We are working on a light bulb bill. If the Democrats can hose up a light bulb, don't trust them with the country."

I have a long record

Yeah, unfortunately they have long memories

SPIEGEL Interview with John McCain:
'I Have a Long Record of Working Together with Our Allies'

Working with one's allies isn't hard... it's working with one's enemies that would impress me.

McCain: "I would announce that we are not ever going to torture anyone held in American custody." Strangely, he doesn't actually say we'll stop. And then there's the little bit about POWs being held by our "allies". Are they going to get extradited into American custody?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


So, this is a very joyous Easter for the Tobias Family:

Looking for a new place to rent.
Found a nice place in 1 week. Lowest price. They want to rent to us.

Need new daycare for Gregor.
Landlady nextdoor has in-home daycare.
Walk 6 feet to drop-off
Prospective daycare provider has totally clean record with the state licensing board.

Need daycare for Michael
German immersion daycare is close by.

Need an internship for the summer.
Got a callback from the top choice I've found so far.

Need to find $17,000 for tuition for the next school year.
NIOSH grant is going to cover it.

Just spilled a huge cup of scalding hot coffee. Missed me; missed the computer; mised the cellphone; missed my homework; missed my nice white scarf. It's not just the big-ticket items that are important in life.

I wish you all a joyous Easter season!

Monday, March 24, 2008

New Word(s)

extrinsic allergic alveolitis

The TV show "In the Actor's Studio" ends w/ a standard series of questions to the guest, from 'what's your favorite sound' to 'what's your favorite swear word'. I gave some thought - years ago when I saw it - about what I might consider a favorite word. Interstitial struck me as a really good word. It has a nice sound; it has an intriguing connotations - it isn't one thing, or the other, but some unspecified 'between'.

My occupational medicine professor mentioned extrinsic allergic alveolitis. I have no clue what the hell is means, but it sure sounds good.

So, of course, at this point in writing [I found the word in my notes this afternoon] I became curious about what it really is. I found:

Extrinsic allergic alveolitis is a lung disorder resulting from repeated inhalation of organic dust, usually in a specific occupational setting. In the acute form, respiratory symptoms and fever begin eighteen hours after exposure to the dust. The chronic form is characterized by gradual changes in the lung tissue associated with four years of exposure to the irritant. This may eventually lead to interstitial lung disease.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dead Hedgehogs

sounds like it could be the name of a music group.

More proof that fast-food is McHazardous: hedgehogs were starving to death from empty calorie-containers.

"... it took time to develop an alternative lid. ... Tests have been conducted considering the average size of hedgehogs -- we needed to find an opening that was big enough for a spoon but small enough that a hedgehog could not get inside, ... explained that the company considered several different lid sizes and even a cover with flaps that would allow hedgehogs to crawl in and out."

History? What history?

You knew there was a reason for No Child Left Behind - they were all being left behind in the Hollywood Screen Writers Guild. A significant reason behind American Children failing in History is the obsession Americans have with entertainment, rather than education.

While some of these movies were simply enjoyable, I would like to point out a few items not mentioned by the author:

1. The Battle of Sterling Bridge had a bridge. The Scots stopped painting themselves blue when they stopped being Picts (oh, maybe 700 AD). -braveheart

2. Oh, by the way, we were fighting over taxes and representative government. --the patriot

3. I find it annoying that Hollywood thinks that they need to have a woman wearing armor and beating on people for her to be seen as powerful. --the golden age

4. Roman women, no matter their class, did not wear clothing like that. --gladiator

5. Sparta was not a democracy. That was Athens. -300

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another reason for open borders with Canada

A bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush. And now we know what the bush is worth.
Apparently Spitzer didn't realize that prostitution is legal in Canada, and Montreal is much closer to Albany than D.C.

10 commandments for johns

1. Pay hookers in cash.
2. Think globally, act locally: don't cross state lines to get laid.
3. Don't use "George Fox" as a pseudonym.
4. If using a pseudonym, make up a phony address. Revealing the marital residence on Fifth Avenue is a bad idea.
5. Don't try to avoid using condoms with women named Kristin.
6. Never send cash by mail.
7. Be skeptical about institutions with sexist names like The Emperor's Club.
8. Don't yell at investment bankers on the phone.
9. If you are famous for closing prostitution "rings," don't frequent them.
10. While in public office, fuck your own wife -- unless you are in French politics.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

2nd post today on anarchists

on the RNC Welcoming Committee's website, there's a page for tourist information for St. Paul. The first document is a copy of the St. Paul Police Department policy for "first amendment activity". God, I love the First Amendment and the internet. The first paragraph of the police dept. policy states:

We [the police] will not initiate or participate in the investigation into groups or individuals based solely upon their lawful exercise of First Amendment Rights.

sounds grand, eh? Stop here and I would be thinking such grand thoughts of our state capitol's law enforcement, despite the whole Taser thing. But ...

2nd sentence:

Where [we] must initiate or participate in investigations involving First Amendment activity, [it will be in compliance with the state & federal constitution and fed. laws].

So, we aren't going to do it. Unless we have to do it. ???

That excuse didn't work when I was 6.

What's good for the anarchist is good for ...?

Anarchists order Tasers just in time for RNC
Filed under: Republican National Convention

The RNC Welcoming Committee, a self-described anarchist/anti-authoritarian organization, has ordered Tasers for each of its members. That is, if a press release circulated by the group earlier today is to be believed.

"Due to a unique corporate-anarchist confidentiality agreement, the exact number of tasers or documentable evidence of this new order will not be disclosed," reads the statement, going on to claim that the tasers' order "has absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming Republican convention... the timing is purely a coincidence."

The faux move lampoons the St. Paul Police department's purchase of 370 tasers--one for every patrolman--last month. Asked if it [the police order] had to do with the fast-approaching convention, police spokesman Tom Walsh told the AP that the purchase was "in no way related. It simply isn't."

The Welcoming Committee assures the public they will not seek out any "machine guns, rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, concussion grenades, batons, water cannons or helicopters."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

National Archives

The National Archives in downtown D.C. is a political shrine. The holy of holies sits there: The Constitution of the United States of America. Some of the most glorious words, We the People ... ordain and establish. {did you notice the absence of God in the preable...?}**

Amidst the glories and shames of our nation under (or vaguely in the shadow of) god are other documents on which History has pivoted:
One of the original copies of the Magna Carta.
The original copy of the Declaration of Independence.
The Bill of Rights.

Walking around the rotunda, one sees the true scope of our history. Letters from wives; memoranda from Congress; notices of the government; photographs you’ve certainly seen before. It's not really big, but the seal of the President on a letter to the Head of State of some other gov’t is pretty psychologically impressive. I was enjoying my visit, glancing at these items and being amazed.

I stopped at a little piece of paper, about the same size as an ordinary photograph, maybe 4x7 or so. It was a printed form, obviously old. Interestingly it was a form from Congress to submit bills or motions (or whatever it’s called when someone says “Hey, I want to do something”). A small space to give the form an official number. A larger line for the person’s name. And several lines to state the purpose of the motion. I stood in awe, as I read the motion to introduce the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (the one banning slavery).

This little 4 x 7” piece of paper changed the world. If I could, I would keep a copy of it. The greatest actions are truly so small.

** As anyone old enough to have watched School House Rock can sing:
We the People, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice and ensure Domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the General Welfare, and secure the blessings of Libery, to ourselves and our Posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America. -- we do the ordaining, not the Almighty.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

My cell phone's melting my brain!

"The only established health hazard cited by the independent group comes from the use of mobile phones while driving. The risk of an accident increases with age and is equivalent (when braking times are measured) to a blood alcohol level of 0.05%. The risk is the same when the phone is used "hands free" (via a loudspeaker), implying that it is due to the distraction caused by the conversation." [emphasis mine]

British Medical Journal: 320(7245) 1288

p.s. the legal limit here is 0.08

Monday, March 3, 2008

Architechtual Autopsy

Forgot to check the time before I got on the bus. So, instead of 5 of minutes wait out doors in the cold at the transfer point, I got to wait 20+. I remember moving here and I could still count the number of times I had crossed the Mississippi. I not only can’t remember what that number was, I can certainly no longer count. The bus to University of Minnesota’s campus goes across everyday, and back (my classes are on the east bank). The first week or so of classes, I paid obsessive attention to where we were, since the bus schedule doesn’t actually list all of the stops, just the highlights. This morning, I took advantage of the morning ride and went to sleep.

After the first week or so, I relaxed enough to start paying attention to the surrounds, especially the last leg to campus. It’s hard to not notice the change from business to academic architecture. The point where this bridge - there are several - crosses The River is the only point in the middle of the city where there is actually a noticeable amount of riverbank. The whole river has a sheer drop from ground down to the water. The drop is on the west side, from quite high. I noticed, once I started paying attention, that the upstream west bank was collecting an amazing amount of junk. Then, one day I actually took the bus home in the daylight. Looking upstream, I realized the debris wasn’t simply the flotsam of environmental idiots.

It was the I-35 bridge.

Over the past 5 months (I wrote this in Jan.), the pile of girders and trusses and whatever else goes in a bridge grew and grew. Then began to coalesce. The investigation crew has been reassembling the bridge.

This evening, the shore now has about a dozen re-assembled trusses lying on the ground, with the pieces laid neatly to each other like a macabre jigsaw puzzle. A $250,000,000.00 jigsaw. There are dozens upon dozens of pieces remaining. Every month it grows more complete. The twisted, strained, and broken steel bits tell a different story than the stunning photos on CNN, BBC, or Peter’s camera. The bridge there looked like a broken bridge. The lonely flotsam collection lying tonight on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi looks simply ... lost. misplaced. tiny.

I see the structural support without the road, without the paving, and suddenly I wonder how that little pile could possibly have held a 4-lane interstate highway.

I wonder how long the corpse of the bridge will remain there, pending its autopsy.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

[movie review] Commanding my Attention

The epitome of Procrastination, I sit watching 'Master and Commander'. Peter Weir is amazing. Utterly and absolutely amazing.

In the first 2 or 3 minutes of the movie, the only sound is the ocean. No music. No dialogue. Nothing loud. Simply the gentle susurration of the water. And yet, such an amazing amount of information is conveyed in that short period of time.

The opening volley - in the quite literal sense - was shocking. Completely shocking in its violence, its comprehensiveness. Even watching it tonight, for the n-th time, I am jolted from the mild, placid tension to a breathtaking, gut-clenching cringe from the screen. Yes, a feat of CGI; but the actual choice of imagery is the wonder. [sure, STFU&GBTW no doubt has a completely different opinion... don’t rain on my parade]

People can drone on about the ‘accuracy’ or ‘authenticity’ of the visual presentation (sure, I can be one of them). But the more amazing feat is the astonishing amount of the story which is told without words. Either in a simple visual manner, such as the initial minutes of the film, or as a miscellaneous background, a subliminal presentation, such as the dinner with the captain in the middle of the film where he announces the Galapagos Is. as their destination. It isn’t the dialogue here, but the simple manner in which the dinner occurs, with singing and drinking and drinking with everyone having a crewman behind his chair, with the absolute absence of any women (there are 2 on screen for about 30 seconds while they’re picking up stuff in Brazil).

It is the manner in which Weir frames the dialogue, with images and motion, and music which make the film so powerful.

I’ve read all of O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin novels, and several of his others. (Did you know he wrote Bedknobs and Broomsticks??) When I realized “Far Side of the World” was being made into a movie, I swore in delight. I then swore in frustration. If I decide to see an adapted screenplay, I avoid reading the book, if possible. It lets me take the film on its own merits. I was only on no. 8; Far Side of the World is no. 10. I had to put off reading the rest of the novels for a year and a half. Argh!

Quite a bit is missing; several bits are from other novels in the series. E.g., Ensign Hollum doesn’t commit suicide, he jumps ship with the gunner’s wife, whom he’s gotten pregnant. Dr. Maturin does name some huge tortoise after Capt. Aubrey, but it’s a few novels earlier when they’re somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

With the whole concept of framing the story, the entire story is on ship, with a brief respite on the Galapagos Is. There is no world outside of the crew. And yet, with such a small, enclosed space, it is presented as just that, a world within itself. This will assuredly remain one of my favorite movies of all time. The judgment of which is whether or not I’ll buy the next-generation of video medium (blue-ray HD DVD whatever).

Elizabeth’s rating:
Definitely go see it on the big screen at full price (if you ever get a chance)

1 - Go see it on the big screen at full price.
2 - Go see it on the big screen, at matinee prices.
3 - Buy your own on video.
4 - Definitely see it on video.
5 - Well, if someone else it paying for it ...
6 - Go get your teeth cleaned.

I’ve had to reconsider my movie-rating scale. I decided to add “buy it on video”, but I’m not sure where “buy your own” should be. Is this the highest accolade or not? There is just that certain ability to completely engulf you, when seen on the big screen. Not even the monster-HD can match it. I think “see it in the theater” will remain my highest recommendation. The full-price vs. matinee was simply how important I thought it was to see that way. Full-price isn’t simply a matter of “it’s the only way to see it” (some things come here at the indy-theaters, and simply will never get to the $2.5 discount place in Hopkins). Is the film so completely visually astonishing that you just have to see it on the big screen, even if it means paying $9? Then go pay $9. Whereas, “at matinee” means I’ll wait to see it in Hopkins at $2.5, but I still think the visual experience will be better there than on TV. I had previously had the list in order of importance to you, the viewer, in getting the optimal experience. E.g Star Wars on my 13” B&W TV just doesn’t match the front-row seat I had in 1977. Whereas “Pride & Prejudice” (A&E, of course) is okay on my (now 21” flat screen) TV.

A friend once asked me for examples on this scale. It was far easier to provide the extremes. Picking between must-see and ought to buy was harder, and perhaps far more dependent on personal tastes. I think most films I would otherwise give a 5 get weeded out before I see them. So, sticking to relatively recent films*:

1 - Master & Commander; Terminator; Alien **

2 - L.A. Confidential; American Beauty; O Brother, Where Art Thou; 7 Samurai

3 - Dogma, Better Off Dead, Blues Brothers (Ride of the Valkyries/giant police-chase scene definitely gets a “see it on the big screen” commendation)

4 - Four Brothers, 8-Mile, Painted Veil, Fargo
5 - Becoming Jane; Indiana Jones #2; Home Alone; Signs
6 - Boogie Nights; Charlie's Angels

* sure, you don't agree. go write your own blog.
**come on, everyone's going to put LotR there, be original