Saturday, December 31, 2005

You Know...

I received a number of DVDs for Christmas and Michaelmas (Thanks, Mom and Dad.), and I've also been borrowing some (Thanks, Tim.). As a result, I've watched many hours of TV-on-DVD recently. Here is just a sampling of what I've learned from the experience:
  • You know you've been watching too much Arrested Development when you find yourself humming Europe's 1986 single, "The Final Countdown". (Yes, this has actually happened to me.)
  • You know you've been watching too much Buffy when your girlfriend---I mean, fiancée---points out that your own dialog has become Whedonesque. (This one's happened, too.)
  • You know you've been watching too much Firefly when you exclaim "Gorrammit!" after being frustrated or angered. (This one's purely hypothetical. Yeah, hypothetical; that's it.)
  • You know you've been watching too much Red Dwarf when you suddenly realize that all your friends are entirely human, and you find that boringly disappointing. (Yep.)
  • You know you've been going to krav too frequently when you catch yourself thinking you can solve any problem by beating the snot out of somebody. OK, this isn't DVD-related. Unless...maybe it was all that Buffy. (Oh, and this one happens all the time.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Reviews Aplenty

I don't anticipate having the time to do full-length reviews for all of the products I've just recently first used or been reminded of. So, here are my conclusions in rapid-fire format.

Music on CD/DVD:

  • Anywhere but Home. This volume includes both CD and DVD recordings of an Evanescence concert in Paris. And no, Nick, they aren't a Christian band. 9.0 out of 10.

TV on DVD:

  • Arrested Development, entire series. This show is extremely original and creative, not to mention hilarious. I sometimes find it difficult to watch, though, since almost all the characters are jerks or fools or both. It probably has been or will be prematurely canceled by Fox. I give it 8.5 out of 10.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, entire series. This Joss-Whedon-created fantasy series has hilarious dialog and fascinating characters. Unfortunately, the supernatural elements are handled inconsistently, and there are significant plot holes. If you can pony up the dough for all 7 seasons, do it. 9.0 out of 10.
  • Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffon: The Untold Story. Enh. It's not as good as the first 3 seasons. 7.0 out of 10.
  • Firefly, entire series. This sci-fi/western/asian dramedy has more of that unique Whedonesque dialog and characterization, and it is one of my favorite series of all time. The premise is a bit silly, but I'm willing to overlook that. Guess what; it was prematurely cancelled by Fox. Go buy it. 9.5 out of 10.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion, series only. The show starts out as a more-or-less generic mecha anime; then it tries (and fails) to become philosophical. 5.0 out of 10.
  • Red Dwarf, entire series. No one does sci-fi comedy like the Brits. 8.0 out of 10.
  • Wonderfalls, entire series. This hilarious mild-fantasy dramedy was prematurely cancelled by Fox. (Are you noticing a pattern?) You should own this show. 8.5 out of 10.

Movies and Movies on DVD

  • Serenity. This is the film adaptation/sequel of/to Firefly, so of course I love it. Buy this one, too. 9.0 out of 10.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This film is a pretty faithful adaptation (as far as I can remember) of the C. S. Lewis novel, which was written as a Christian allegory. The realization of the animals on the screen was superb. 7.5 out of 10.

Toys, Hobbies, and Exercise Equipment

  • Seven Cycles Axiom. Seven offers very custom 3/2.5 titanium bicycle frames for prices not much higher than mid-line Litespeeds. In absolute terms, Sevens are pricey, but you get what you pay for. 9.0 out of 10.
  • Traxxas Revo. This nitromethane- and methanol-powered R/C monster truck has a very innovative and highly tunable suspension system. The model is mostly easy to wrench on, and many hop-up parts are available. Unfortunately, the differentials are prone to leaking and hard to get to. It's only available in RTR form, not as a kit. 8.0 out of 10.

Well, that's all for now. But never fear, gentle reader, I'm sure I'll have more unasked-for opinions soon.

Blog: The Revenge

Regular readers of this blog, if any exist---Helloooooo, anybody out there?----may have noticed we haven't posted any new entries in quite some time. Well, between Alison's finals and her trip to Naperville, and my trips to Atlanta (which you might expect) and Pensicola (which you might not), blah blah blah, excuse excuse, et cetera. But now I'm back in town. That's right, back. In town. And my tiny little pinhead is stuffed full of blogfodder™. So, gentle reader, expect the blog to be jumping in the next week or two. Stay tuned.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute a legal contract. Any failure to deliver new entries entitles you to exactly bupkis.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Michael is an Idea Stealer

I navigated my way over to the blog today to post a "Yay!" post for the anti-ID ruling and look who stole my idea! Hmph!

Anyway, "Yay!". There, I said it.

Thank goodness people won't have to buy these for their kids now!

Take that, Creationists!

This story is all over the net (and even the non-net media) today, so I won't rehash all the details. Suffice it to say that the judge in the Dover intelligent design/creationism case has ruled that teaching ID in public schools is unconstitutional.

Monday, December 19, 2005

How the Grinch Stole the Nightmare Before Christmas

Alison and I also hosted a winter-holiday-movie-watching party this weekend. In attendance were Nick-and-Amy and Lisa-and-Greg. They are a lot of fun. I feel bad for them that they had to spend their evening with me. At least they got Alison out of the deal.

We watched the original, animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Tim Burton's first stop-motion feature, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Here are few things I noticed for the first time that night:

  • The Grinch's dog, Max, totally steals the show.
  • Cindy Lou Who seems to represent the larval stage of the Who. I mean, she has no legs; somehow she just hovers from place to place.
  • The Grinch's plan really isn't that nefarious. Lisa came up with a much more sadistic (and effective!) plan that revolved around cutting all the Who's hands off. I've said it before: she's an evil genius.
  • Chuck Jones' hand is quite obvious in HTGSC; the sight gags would all be at home in a Warner Brothers cartoon from the 1940s or 1950s.
  • Christmas Town in TNBC is clearly a visual quotation of Whoville.
  • It appears that Jack Skellington and I wear the same size suit jacket: 20 extra extra extra extra long.
  • The vampires who live in Halloween Town don't seem to be very sensitive to sunlight. They do carry those swanky parasols, though.
  • Greg does a creepily accurate impression of the elderly pedophilic newspaper subscriber from Family Guy.

By the way, it seems like almost all my friends are couples now, and most of them are married. (See the hyphenated guest list above.) I'm not sure how to feel about that. Should I feel old? I think I should feel old. And stuffy. Any minute now, I expect to become more politically conservative, start wearing my pants around my armpits, become unable to operate electronics, and begin going to bed around 7:00.


In less life-altering news, Brian Who Blogs at Breakfast recently posted an amusing entry on cookie-stealing. Bon appétit.

One Ring to Rule Them All

I'm confident that everyone who reads this blog already knows our latest news, but I feel that, for completeness, I should post it here as well: As of Friday, the 16th, Alison and I are engaged. So, for all the girly girls out there, here are some poorly lit photos of the hardware:

For all those who've asked since I posted the photos, yep, that's a ruby, and it's princess-cut. Oh, and the setting is platinum.

For the extra-girly girls in the audience, here's an entirely inaccurate recounting of the sincere and meaningful sentiment that accompanied the hardware at the time of its deployment:

Alison, do you accept this token of longstanding affection, and, by doing so, agree to enter into a socially and legally recognized state of cohabitation, optionally resulting in the production of offspring?

So, of course she answered in the affirmative. Who wouldn't, after being walloped with that much purple prose?

Lastly, I should mention that I am thankful to Lisa, Tom, and Shuaib for serving as sounding boards while I worked out my evil plan. I'd also like to thank Nick for his extremely amusing reaction to Alison's unveiling of the ring. It's like he just isn't programmed to see jewelry. Or maybe there's an SEP field that only affects him.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

My Greatest Fear

Speaking of Penny Arcade, I really enjoyed Monday's strip, partly because it addresses one of my major worries. I very concerned that, by the time I'm my mother's age, I'll be unable to understand or even operate the then-current technology. I'm already falling behind: I very seldom IM, text, or download MP3s; I don't own a DVR; and I've never podcasted anything. Furthermore, although I'm running Linux on my home computer, I still can't get it to talk to my printer. Right now, I'm just non-tech-savvy, but soon, I'll be a full-on Luddite.

By the way, "savvy" is great fun to read, don't you think?.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I'm just posting to say that the Browncoats out there might enjoy this now-classic Penny Arcade comic strip. (I should point out, for the wee Browncoats, that the strip does contain Penny Arcade's typical profanity and violence.)

TV Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Like I said in a post or two ago, I've recently completed watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer in its entirety, so it's time for a review. I originally began watching this series for 2 reasons:
  • Nick recommended it to me. Nick has also suggested other series I've enjoyed, including Wonderfalls , Arrested Development, and, possibly my favorite science-fiction series of all time, Firefly. (By the way, the big-screen adaptation/sequel, Serenity, comes out on DVD December 20. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.)
  • It was created, executive produced, frequently written, and frequently directed by Joss
  • Whedon. Whedon was also responsible for the aforementioned Firefly and Serenity.
I must say that the show met my expectations. The first season is a little rough, but the series really takes in the second season and remains solid through the early part of Season 6. On the whole, Buffy is one of the best series I've seen, regardless of genre:
  • There are significant inconstancies, plot holes, and plain-silly plots.
  • Some periods of the show are better than others.
  • The characters are both well developed and dynamic.
  • The Whedonesque dialog alone makes the series worth watching.
Overall, Buffy is not on the same level as Firefly, but it's still very good. I give it 8.5 out of 10.

'Pedia vs. 'Paedia

Nature has just posted the first peer-review-based comparison of the science coverage of the Wikipedia and the Encyclopaedia Britannica. (I thought that last link was entertainingly ironic. How 'bout you?) Nature had experts in various fields examine 42 articles in each encyclopedia for errors. (The reason they chose 42 articles is, of course, obvious.) The numbers of inaccuracies in the two texts were similar: about 4 per article in the 'Pedia and about 3 per article in the Britannica. For more info on which articles were compared and how the two reference texts came out, check out the Nature study.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Mikies, Buffy Ed

Last weekend, Alison and I did remarkably little other than watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so we managed to finish off Season 7 late Sunday night. Having seen the entire series, I feel reedy to pronounce judgment on the characters. So, here are the Michael Awards for Excellence in Whatever He Darn Well Feels Like, Buffy Edition. (Note: this list contains spoilers.)

Update: I've added a few more categories because, well, I feel like it.

  • Favorite vampire: Spike.
  • Scariest vampire: Angelus.
  • Scariest creatures: Bunnies.
  • Favorite big bad: the Mayor.
  • Least favorite big bad: the Geek Trio.
  • Favorite principal: Quark...I mean Snyder.
  • Least favorite Scooby Gang member: Cordelia.
  • Favorite couple, heterosexual: Willow and Oz.
  • Favorite couple, homosexual: Willow and Tara.
  • Couple that made the least sense: Xander and Cordelia. (Lots of competition here.)
  • Best-introduced character: Dawn.
  • Most touching death: Joyce.
  • Actor with the best singing voice: Amber Benson. (Honorable mention to Anthony Stewart Head.*)
  • Actor who does the best job of playing multiple characters: Allyson Hannigan.
  • Funniest character, early seasons: Xander.
  • Funniest character, late seasons: Willow.
  • Funniest character, normalized to word count: Oz.
  • Most attractive character: Vampire Willow.

And, the moment you've all been waiting for...

  • Favorite character: Willow

I'd like to read your comments on this topic.

* Perhaps that should be "honourable" in his case.

Thar She Blows!

Cetologists have long struggled to understand the function of the narwhal's tusk. (Narwhals are artic toothed whales that grow to body lengths of about 5 m. Most males and some females have an unusual tusk that grows from the left side of the upper jaw, has a clockwise-helical shape, and reaches lengths up to 3 m.) The mystery has finally been solved---and by a dentist. Martin Nweeia, a practicing dentist and a lecturer at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, has found that the tusk is densely innervated and is used to detect temperature, pressure, salinity, and other parameters, in both water and air. Nweeia also has one of the most fun-to-read names I've ever encountered. I mean, it starts with "Nw" and then ends with 4 consecutive vowels. Hunh?

Check out the Live Science article for more crazy narwhal facts and the NPR story for the pronunciation of Nweeia's name.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Who is the Geekiest of them All?

Do you fancy yourself the coolest coder, PC gamer, or screenwriter in the land? Then Das Keyboard has your name all over it. But only metaphorically. You see, Das Keyboard's keys are completely unlabeled, so you can really impress your friends and coworkers while you type. Of course, once they begin receieving indecipherable e-mails from you, your coolness factor may dip a bit. But seriously, Wired's tester greatly improved his touch-typing when using this keyboard, especially when entering the special characters. (He'd have to.) So, if you're a masochist, Das Keyboard is the text-entry device for you. If, on the other hand, you are a sadist, then it makes a great gift.

Oh, and Das Keyboard has another neato feature, the key-return springs do not all have the same spring constant. The springs are have 5 different weights corresponding to the strength of the finger used to type. Nifty, eh?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Did Knot! Did Too!

I'm sure you've always been fascinated by knots and knot theory. Quit looking at me that way; I'm certain you have. Certain, get me? Well, if you can't tell a clove hitch from a sheepshank, but have always wanted to learn how to tie knots, I Will Knot! is the site for you. It has short videos demonstrating the tying of various knots. So go forth and knotify.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

And You Thought Trekkies Were Bad

A few days ago, NPR ran a story on Sherlockians in general and a Boston group of them in particular. Sherlockians, not surprisingly, are fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories. What is surprising is just how fanatical some Sherlockians are. For example, they like to play a game---"The Great Game"---in which they treat Holmes and Watson as real, historical people (Conan Doyle was just their "literary agent".) and try to determine exactly what town, train station, street, or what have you the duo visited in a particular story. One Sherlockian boldly claimed "at least we're not Trekkies" (or something to that effect.) Sure, Trekkies can be pretty bad, as the movie of the same name shows. But, I submit, Sherlockians would hold their own in a geek-on-geek cage match with the Trek fans.

She Blinded Me with Science

Good news, everyone! Alison's analysis of menopause and all-cause mortality (which was published in AJE) was covered by the mainstream press a few days ago. Reutors has an article on the study, and Carmen is quoted therein. So, check it out.

Monday, December 05, 2005

"Lemur" is Just a Fun Word to Read

Those of you interested in cryptozoology may be excited to hear that New Scientist is reporting the possible discovery of a new species of mammal in the forests of Borneo. It looks to be a marten, civet, or lemur.

For the record, though, I'm still voting against Sasquatch.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Battlefield Earth

I just noticed that Alison and I somehow wrote consecutive entries with titles that are also the names of John Travolta movies. (Well, except for that question mark. What's a little punctuation between friends?) Weird, eh? I thought I would extend that coincidental trend by mentioning that I recently read the 'Pedia's article on Scientology, the religion founded by science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. Man alive, this stuff is crazy! The Xeenu Incident, in particular, is completely ridiculous. Hubbard must have been on some serious dope when he came up with this insanity. More to the point, his followers must have been on some extreme, heavy-duty super-dope when they believed it. I mean, it's not even good science fiction, let alone a reasonable basis for a belief system! It's no wonder most of the details are not reveled to the rank-and-file Scientologists; they only learn about this clap-trap after an extensive and expensive series of courses.

You may ask, "What's Travolta got to do with all this?" Well, he is a Scientologist, as are a number of Hollywood freaks...I mean stars. (Tom Cruise is another well-known example.) Travolta headlined and produced the universally panned Battlefield Earth because of his affinity for Hubbard, who authored book (of the same name) on which the film is based.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Remember that movie Face/Off with John Travolta and Nicholas Cage? Well, they have actually perforned the first face transplant in France (although I imagine the methods are probably very different from those in the movie!). I think this is pretty amazing scientifically, but apparently there are some ethical concerns over the patient's ability to give informed consent. It's a pretty interesting dilemma. Anyway, just thought I'd share.

Oh, and P.S.: Pulp sucks, Michael! If you ate cookies you would probably dip them in your milk and get it all crummy! (Crumby? How do you spell that in this sense?) Blech!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pulp Fiction

I think Alison and I need to break up. I've recently discovered that she likes her orange juice with no pulp. I, more correctly, prefer pulp-laden OJ. This could be a deal-breaker.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Mythbusters Would be Proud

I'm sure that you've heard that bees are physically incapable of flight, but that they don't know that, so they fly anyway. You may have enjoyed the romantic, little-engine-that-could moral of the story, but I've always firmly believed that it was a bunch of nonsense. Now, some aeronautical engineers at Caltech are reporting experiments that don't just prove that bees can fly---the simple fact that bees do fly proves they can---but also shows how they do. (The short explanation is that they produce more lift than previously realized.) So, all you romantics and irrational optimists out there can stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sir Mix-a-Lot May Want to Reconsider

More fallout from the obesity epidemic hit the news sites today. A group from the Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Dublin recently presented the results of a study which found that 2/3 of their patients receiving intramuscular injections in the buttocks did not receive the full dosage. The reason? "The amount of fat tissue overlying the muscles exceed[ed] the length of the needles commonly used for these injections," leaving the drug logged in the adipose tissue. In other words, the patients butts were too fat. So, it appears that, if one develops a condition caused or exacerbated by obesity, that very obesity may inhibit one's treatment. Of course, longer needles could be used. Everyone enjoys longer needles, right?

By the way, has anyone else noticed that, ever since avian influenza (bird flu) became the next big public-health crisis (as far as the news media are concerned, at least), no one in the media uses the word "epidemic" anymore? They shoot right past it and go for the more intimidating and spectacular "pandemic".

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Alison and I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time this year. Here's the low-down:

Shuaib came to town for the entire weekend. He's still as soft-spokenly sarcastic as always. Alison and I decided it would be funny to wear the matching Simpsons pajama pants Sharon and Ashley gave us, during his visit. (Awww, we're so cute you could vomit.) Shuaib was suitably horrified.

Attending the feast itself were 7 people: Nick and Amy, Lisa and Greg, Shuaib, and lastly Alison and me. Thus, we had a very geeky Thanksgiving.

Here are a few nuggests of wisdom that we acquired while preparing the meal:
  • Sometimes, the bag of giblets can be surprizingly well hidden. Extensive searching my be required.
  • You should never give your guests an exact time at which they should arrive and expect to eat. You should just have them show up in the morning, still in their pajamas, and be there.
  • Alton Brown knows his turkey.
  • Brining is good.
  • "Halaal" must be Arabic for "tasty".
  • A 21-pound turkey is significantly more than enough to feed 7 people and have a reasonable supply of leftovers.
  • A single pumpkin pie suffices to feed 7. Two pies is overkill.
We also played Cranium, which is, of course, the board game traditional for this holiday. I believe the Pilgrams challenged the Native Americans to a round of Cranium on the first Thanksgiving. The natives must have lost and, as a result, were wiped out and had their land stolen via both biology and technology.

Monday, November 21, 2005


You may be familiar with NPR's This I Believe series of audio essays by people both famous and ordinary. Penn Jillette, the larger, more vocal (and funnier-looking, if you ask me) half of Penn and Teller, recently made his own contribution, entitled "There is No God". In his essay, Jillette rightly points out that the statement "I believe there is no God" is much stronger than "I don't believe in God". More importantly, though, Jillette explains also why he feels that believing in the nonexistence of a supernatural creator being allows him to be a better person. His argument is very well reasoned and well written. Check it out.

This Cromulent List Will Embiggen Your Vocabulary

You may be interested to know that Wikipedia has a very amusing list of neologisms, "intentional mutations, mispronunciations, amplifications, [and] portmanteaus" used in The Simpsons.

By the way, I should point out that I yoinked the title for this entry from Nick. I've been going through a process of dumbening for about the last dozen years, so I couldn't come up with one on my own.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Michael often jokes with me that our relationship is atypical because I am the one who likes to play "computer games" and he doesn't. I think he is using a rather loose definition of "computer games" when he says this, since I don't play the type of games that most people think of when someone says "computer games". (Ooo! Using quotation marks is fun!) Mostly I like puzzles. I am completely addicted to crossword puzzles and Tetris. So, here are a few of my favorite games that can be played online and, in some cases, offline!

Yahoo! Games has tons of games that you can play for free online. A couple of my favorites are Alchemy and Cubis. Careful, though! These are both completely addictive and may compromise your productivity at work.

SET is a very cool card game that involves finding "sets" of 3 cards from a group of cards that are dealt face up that are either all the same or all different on four levels of comparison: color, shape, number, and pattern. Their website offers a free daily SET puzzle. Also, you can buy the card game at this site; I have found it hard to find in stores. The same company has a couple of other games called Quiddler and Xactica that I have not really gotten into, but they have free daily online puzzles for those games at their site as well.

My newest craze is Sudoku. If you have not yet heard of Sudoku you have been living under a rock somewhere. It is a kind of logic puzzle where you have to put the digits 1-9 in an arrangement of rows, columns, and boxes without repeating a digit. There are a bazillion books of Sudoku puzzles and most of them are now prominently displayed at both Borders and Barnes and Noble stores. I like playing Sudoku on paper, but you can play for free online at this site.

So, there you go. I've just given you several new ways to procrastinate and goof off using the internet. My work here is done!


OK, I am a total sucker for anything with an animal in it. I admit it.

Check out this short news story about a rare stork in Japan who recently got a prosthetic beak after his broke off. *sniff* It's so touching!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Fish-Dudes on Parade

A few days ago, two stories about moving-picture adaptations of comics featuring Atlantean nobility hit the net. That’s right, two.

  • First, Chris Columbus said that the feature film based on the Marvel comic The Sub-Mariner, which was announced last year, will not be going forward. Now, as I'm sure all of you know, the Sub-Mariner, also known as Prince Namor, is a human/Atlantean half-breed who has several Atlantean powers---principally breathing under water, super strength, and communicating with sea creatures--- and at least two non-Atlantean ones ---breathing air and flying. Yep, I said he can fly. The last time I checked, humans don't fly, so I'm not sure which parent he's supposed to have gotten that from. If I were his human "father", I'd be pretty suspicious.
  • Second, the people behind "Smallville" were apparently quite happy with the guest appearance, on that show, of a character called Arthur Curry, AKA Aquaman. Aquadude, as I like to call him, is a DC character whose powers include breathing underwater, swimming quickly, and---you have to see this coming---communicating with sea creatures. Yawn. I mean, how did this guy ever get into the Justice League of America? Anyway, the Smallville guys were so happy that they plan to produce a new series featuring the character. On the show, Aquaman will not be identified by that name, nor will he "be talking to fish or riding a seahorse". Whaaaa. I want to see them try to pull off the seahorse-riding thing. You know it'd be hilarious. Now the burning question in my mind is, will there be an Aqualad?

You have to admire the karmic symmetry of these two stories: one fish-man on the ascent, the other sinking. I'm there are some fanboys out there who could explain this in terms of the longstanding DC/Marvel rivalry. Ready...set...pontificate!

Now I'm going to go do whatever it takes to get the Super Friends theme music out of my head.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The 'Pedia

For all the fans of Wikipeida out there (And really, who isn't a fan?), you might be interested in this very thorough Wikipedia article on, well, Wikipedia.

Warning: This Post is a Downer

Last night, NPR broadcast an amazing story on Walter Freeman, the inventor and promoter of the neurosurgical procedure known as the transorbital lobotomy. The story is told by Howard Dully, whom Freeman lobotomized at the age of 12. Dully's step-mother requested the procedure because Dully was unruly and behaved, as far as I can tell, much like the typical 12-year-old boy.

In a transorbital lobotomy, an ice-pick-like instrument (The original instrument was actually an ice pick that Freeman had in the back of a drawer in his kitchen.) is inserted under the eye lid, over the eyeball, through the eye socket (or orbital) and into the frontal lobe of the brain. The instrument is then swished around, more-or-less at random, severing connections in the frontal lobe. This process is usually done through both eye sockets. Freeman sometimes performed the procedure through both eyes simultaneously. Since I can't imagine there being a good medical reason for the simultaneity, I can only believe Freeman was adding a bit of showmanship to the surgery. The NPR story's description of the procedure repeatedly made me say, aloud, things like "'uwah-lah" and "blwah-ah"---and not in a funny, Jerry Lewis kind of way. Here is a rather discomforting photo of Dully's lobotomy.

Some people experienced good outcomes from the procedure, but many suffered significant brain damage. How did anyone ever think this surgery was a good treatment for everything from delusions to chronic headaches?

Anyway, you should check out the NPR story.

My Friends Call Me Scanner-Face

Bored? Friends easily impressed? I thought so. Now you can entertain yourself and astonish your friends by reading UPC bar codes by eye.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Maybe that Darned Dalai Lama is on to Something

New Scientist just summarized two recent and interesting studies involving meditation:

  • The first study found that meditation improves mental acuity, especially if the subject is sleep-deprived.
  • The second study found that meditation increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex in "areas involved in attention and sensory processing". The increased thickness is not due to addition of neurons but rather to increased venation and neural interconnection.

I guess I'd better quit writing this entry and do some meditating. And maybe I'll give Tenzin Gyatso a call.

R&B in the ATL

Atlanta (one of the cities cursed with having me live there) has decided to rebrand itself. This new marketing effort includes, but is not limited to, the introduction of a controversial and generally unatractive song called "The ATL".

To quote Murray Gell-Mann, "who ordered that?"

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Brians Aplenty

I realize that "Brian" is far from the most popular male name in the English-speaking world. Indeed, for my entire lifetime, it has been less popular, nationwide, than my own given name. Somehow, though, by way of some statistical anomaly, I can't seem to swing a long-tailed cat without hitting two guys named Brian and one named Bryan. In particular, there are six (Count 'em!) Brians or Bryans that Alison and I have reason to refer to on a semi-regular basis:

  • Brian Who Blogs at Breakfast is the author of a pretty dad-gum funny blog, and he's also a biostatistics professor. Given that he's my age, but already is a professor, is married (with pets!), and has a much cooler blog than I do, I can't help but feel inferior, or at least behind schedule.
  • Krav Bryan taught krav maga at my old school in Virginia and now teaches at my new school in Maryland. He's a much better kraver (Kravist? Kravster? Kravinater?) than I am, so I always feel like an uncoordinated pansy around him.
  • K-State Brian was in my research group in grad school is now a physics professor at Kansas State University. This Brian is also my age and already a professor. Plus, he knows far more about optics than I do. So, it's lather, rinse, repeat with my inferiority complex.
  • Piercing Brian owns the Piercing Experience in Atlanta. He's a remarkably intelligent and surprisingly soft-spoken guy, though he's sometimes almost frustrating to talk to, since he's so obsessed with the hygiene of the piercing process and the suitability of the jewelry material . However, it seems to me that that kind of obsession is exactly what one wants in a piercer, so carry on, Brian.
  • Quantum Bryan works in my current group. In addition to being a really smart and moderately funny guy, he has, sadly, been witness to every stupid thing I've done since I started my new gig. (Somehow, I've avoided doing obviously inane things in front of my other coworkers.) So blah blah blah inferiority issues yada yada yada. By the way, if you're reading this, Bryan (and if you've been able to sort yourself out from the other Brians and Bryans in this entry), I'm really not as inept as I seem. I'm thoroughly ept, I promise.
  • Family Guy Brian is, of course, a character on Family Guy. So yes, he's a dog. And I don't actually know him. And yes, he is fictional. But I still find the need to refer to him frequently. (Besides, he reminds me of Todd.) This Brian doesn't make me feel inferior, and that's a nice change. I mean, I have my problems, but at least I'm not an alcoholic who is infatuated with his best friend's wife and spends most of his time with an oddly British-accented infant bent on matricide and world domination. Oh, and I'm not a dog.

So please, if you are planning to have children, it would simplify my life if you would leave "Brian" and its alternate spellings off the list. In fact, if you're called Brian, I'd appreciate it if you'd look into changing it. Thanks.

Next post: Girls named Sara(h), and why they all have to go.

Movie Review: Shaolin Soccer

Alison and I watched Shaolin Soccer (originally released in China as
Siu Lam Juk Kau) last night. It is possibly the zaniest film I've ever seen.

Here's the setup: Golden Leg (Yep, that's his name.), a former soccer (football to you Commonwealthers) star now broken-legged and jobless, meets Mighty Steel Leg (Again, that is his name.), a self-proclaimed kung-fu master who is on some crazy mission to get people to apply kung-fu to their everyday tasks, such as parallel parking and hedge-trimming (I kid you not.). So, Mighty Steel Leg gathers his kung-fu brothers (whose names are mostly combinations of metals and body parts), forming a soccer team, coached by Golden Leg, to take on Team Evil (Seriously. It actually says "EVIL" on the scoreboard.) in the Super Cup (as if anyone would actually put "Super" in the name of a serious sports event---spfff).

My previous paragraph doesn't begin to describe just how over-the-top this movie is. Everything in the film is cranked up to 11: The kung fu is supernatural, the soccer is beyond belief, the bad guys exclusively wear black, the ugly duckling is completely made over (Twice!), and the nonsensical dance numbers are really nonsensical.

Given all the above, I'll give you a little time to prepare yourself for what I'm about to say.


How 'bout now?

It's a really entertaining movie. It's so over-the-top, so beyond-the-maximum, that the viewer can't help being swept up in the film's enthusiasm. It's a silly, funny, good time.

I give it 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Apparently, God is a Pouty Preschooler

I'm sorry to make my first post such a negative rant, but I simply can't help myself. Pat Robertson is quite possibly the most irritating Christian fundamentalist I can think of. I thought he was crazy when he ran for President and now I know I was right. He has now told an entire town in Pennsylvania (he said this on TV!) that they have turned their backs on God because they voted their school board out of office for supporting teaching Intelligent Design in their schools. Apparently, they should not be surprised if a disaster strikes their town and they should not turn to God for help in the event that said disaster occurs because they turned their backs on him. Huh? Is God not going to invite Dover, PA to his birthday party either? Perhaps when this looming disaster occurs, it will be accompanied by a booming voice from the heavens saying, "I hate you, you're all poopyheads!". That's it, Dover! God is taking his ball and going home!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Too

One of the very few nonfiction books that I've ever read cover to cover is Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss. Since I consider myself a punctuation stickler and was known as the "Grammar Nazi" in my research group in grad school, I'd like to think that this book was written exclusively for me and a small set of like-minded, self-important grammar snobs. Surely, only a small, exclusive group of people would be amused by punctuation humor! In reality, the thing was a best-seller in both the UK and the US, leading me to question just how erudite my sense of humor really is. I guess the audience for the author's brand of self-mockingly self-righteous humor includes more than just those of us who know the glee that comes from a really good semicolon deployment. Besides, anything written as a defense of the King's English is inherently amusing when done in an English accent. Oh, and the book's quite short, which may help explain not only why it was so successful, but also why I managed to stay interested long enough to finish it.

I'm sure you're asking, "Why bring this up? What do I care?" Well, just a couple of days ago, Lynn Truss' new book, Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door, was released. Where ES&L was a tirade on punctuation, this little book promises to be tirade on manners. I must admit I'm intrigued, though I'm not as punctilious about my manners as about my punctuation. Sadly, the New York times has described it as "a thin and crabby diatribe" and also said Ms. Truss "may have been good for only one book-length conniption." Hmm. Those comments have me worried (though I always enjoy reading the word "conniption"). Side note: At a svelte 216 pages, this book likely has one of the highest ever ratios of title length to total length. I'm not sure that fact is important or significant in any way; I just thought you should know.

By the way, I believe the only other nonfiction book I've ever completed is the much, much longer The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. In writing this entry, I discovered that TMotAB also has a sequel, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, which was published in the mid 1990s. Where have I been? How did this escape my notice? I blame you. Anyway, I'll be adding Dark Sun to my wish list soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Bras on Parade

Two brassiere stories hit the news sites today. That's right: two.

On the grounds of equal opportunity, I expect there to be two stories on boxers or briefs in the news tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Let There be Blog

Set course for the blogosphere. Maximum warp. Engage.