Friday, December 31, 2010

Martha’s dubious pot advice

Yesterday I added an adorable 2.5-quart yellow dutch oven to my batterie de cuisine. The pot, produced in China by the minions of Martha Stewart Collection (a subsidiary of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia), appears to be of good quality. However, the accompanying instructions are… conflicted:

Duct Whisky’s top posts of 2010

It’s that time of year. Since Scotch Tape & Duct Whisky only began in September, there isn’t that much to draw from, but who cares? It’s not like all five of you were reading since day one. Bob, you have some catching up to do.

Top 10 posts, in my judgment:

  1. On the repeatability of NCAA football games
  2. Battle of the Christmas Tree Cluster
  3. On keeping people from dying
  4. Confessions of a market manipulator
  5. Foursquare’s SMS interface is a festering heap of targ manure
  6. The dumbest thing I read today
  7. Zeugmax
  8. God Hates Figs
  9. On imitating the masters
  10. Slide show: Wildwood/Cape May 2010

Top 5 posts by page views:

  1. Basic Instructions on Brian May, Ph.D.
  2. Audi’s Olde World Restaurant (Johnstown, PA)
  3. 10 Things I’ve Done That You Probably Have Not
  4. Salted water for boiling
  5. Cape May: Sunset walk at the Meadows

The review of Audi’s Olde World Restaurant deserves a special mention. The other four posts on the list got a lot of page views because I linked to them from places that get a lot of traffic. This was not the case for the Audi’s review. That page is widely read because… wait for it… people search for restaurant information on the Internet. As I mentioned in the review, Audi’s launched with no web presence. As of this writing, they actually have a web site, which has no menu, and which only lists their hours for Monday–Thursday. Maybe they can resolve to make it useful in 2011.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

50 years ago…

Via the LA Times, half a century ago, Caltech triumphed in a nationally-televised athletic contest:

Rarely had a Rose Bowl seen such flawless execution.

The preparation was inspired, the key players unwavering and a national television audience enthralled.

Fifty years ago this Sunday, an intrepid interloper made an uninvited, unprecedented and unforgettable appearance in the so-called Granddaddy of Them All.

Caltech made the Rose Bowl.

A small band of ingenious Caltech students made it happen, surreptitiously altering a University of Washington halftime flip-card routine so that it would spell out "CALTECH" in what became known as the Great Rose Bowl Hoax of 1961.

We have to take our victories however we can get them.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Battle of the Christmas Tree Cluster

ChristmasTreeClusterCaptain’s Log, Stardate 4712.25. Old Earth date December 25. Christmas Day. On a routine mission to resupply the mining outpost at 58 G. Monocerotis VI, near the Cone Nebula, our science officer, Mr. Spock, picked up an unusual reading. A magenta star, connected to a quantum filament. Such… objects… are of strategic importance to the Federation, as they can serve as a… portal… to another quadrant of the galaxy.

We set course for the Christmas Tree Cluster to investigate.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Word of the Day: Apodizing

Via PC Gaming Tips, “An apodizing phase plate coronagraph for VLT/NACO”:

Abstract: We describe a coronagraphic optic for use with CONICA at the VLT that provides suppression of diffraction from 1.8 to 7 lambda/D at 4.05 microns, an optimal wavelength for direct imaging of cool extrasolar planets. The optic is designed to provide 10 magnitudes of contrast at 0.2 arcseconds, over a D-shaped region in the image plane, without the need for any focal plane occulting mask.

Apodizing, of course, means “if you take cool extrasolar planet pictures with our coronagraph, they’re sure to end up on APOD.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Quote of the Day: Apps for Cats Edition

Via TUAW, a game for cats does what it says, but it isn't truly free:

The game does what it advertises, however it's extremely easy for your pet to accidentally make an in-game app purchase unless you've disabled that feature in your settings.

This actually relates to something I find pretty offensive about Apple’s app store.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The (priceless) sound of silence

By now you’ve all read the hilarious reviews for the $6,800 AudioQuest K2 terminated speaker cables. But it raises the question—what do people listen to with these fancy cables? The answer is in plain view.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

10 Things I’ve Done That You Probably Have Not

Based on John Scalzi's list, with the same caveats.

  1. Skipped an art history lecture to have ice cream with Whit Diffie.
  2. Been run off the sidewalk by Stephen Hawking. I have no idea how he got a license to drive that chair.
  3. Seen the aurora borealis and Omega Centauri from the same place.
  4. Helped a town clean up after a tornado.
  5. Put an endangered Whooping Crane in a headlock.
  6. Attended the U.S. Space Academy (“Space Camp”).
  7. Appeared on the Discovery Channel.
  8. Been administered Immunoglobulin G.
  9. Watched a SpaceShipOne launch from the back yard. On my birthday.
  10. Drove my car stupid fast on an abandoned WW2 airstrip, with grass growing through the pavement and cattle wandering across the course.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Tale of Two Almae Matres

Congratulations to the Penn State women's volleyball team, who defeated Texas in straight sets in the NCAA semifinals, and will try for their fourth consecutive national championship on Saturday.

And then there's Caltech men's basketball.

Conference play in the N.C.A.A. Division III Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference begins after the holiday break. Caltech’s losing streak sits at 297, according to the athletic department.


A basketball in [Coach] Eslinger’s office is covered in autographs—not from players, but from the five Nobel laureates currently on the faculty. Pointing to a photograph of the team he inherited, Eslinger counted 5 among the 17 players who had played high school basketball. There were more valedictorians than starters.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is offering FREE KITTEHS. But…

Yet for every cat that’s adopted, two more come in, according to a staffer.

THEN WHY THE HELL ARE YOU TRYING TO ACCELERATE THE RATE OF ADOPTIONS?! For the love of Ceiling Cat, their exponential rate of increase will soon result in an unfathomable outbreak of brain-eating kittehs, which we are ill-equipped to handle!


Friday, December 10, 2010

If we go by the book, hours could seem like days

Seen on


There’s an old joke: Guy walks up to a diner with an “Open 24 Hours” sign, late in the evening. The proprietor is turning off the lights and locking the door. The guy says, “Hey, I thought you were open 24 hours.” The owner says, “Yeah, but not in a row.”

Apparently that’s how they record weather records in Madison. Their 24-hour record snowfall was spread over 5 days.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

FAIL FAIL #7: Classic FAIL!

I love the FAIL Blog. But sometimes they FAIL to realize that the subject of their derision is in on the joke. This is the seventh in an investigative series exploring FAIL Blog FAILs. This is the first installment to examine a so-called "Classic" FAIL!

epic fail photos - CLASSIC: Spice Rub Name FAIL

Look, I’ll be the first to make fun of Paula Deen when she deserves it, but this is clearly a double entendre. Do you really think that she and her minions came up with a dry spice rub for pork, and somebody came up with “Butt Massage” without giggling?

Newsflash for my friends at FAIL Blog: You know that sports bar, Hooters? The name doesn’t just refer to owls! Srsly! “Hooters” is another word for boobies!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A very special episode of Hoarders…

or: The article that didn’t bark

The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat reported a fire at the home of Chandan Vora yesterday:

A Johnstown firefighter was injured battling a fire Monday that caused heavy damage to the basement of a home on the 500 block of Robb Avenue in Kernville.

Firefox is in dis array

Downloadsquad reports that Mozilla has adopted two real, live baby firefoxen:

However, I take exception to this claim from the article:

Right now, in true soulless coder fashion, they're only known as "cub #1" and "cub #2"

If they were named by proper soulless coders, they'd be cub[0] and cub[1].

Monday, December 6, 2010

Word of the Day: Wurstmeister

From an excellent New York Times article titled “If Only Laws Were Like Sausages”:

“With legislation, you can have hundreds of cooks — members of Congress, lobbyists, federal agency officials, state officials,” Mr. Feder said. “In sausage making, you generally have one person, the wurstmeister, who runs the business and makes the decisions.”

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Occasional WTF #10: Now with organic chemical-free mineral resources!

Seen on an enameled cast iron dutch oven:


(Click to embiggen, but it’s not very legible.)

The green tag reads:

Enamel is Organic – No Chemicals!

Enamel manufacturing uses pure natural mineral resources such as iron, quartz, clay, feldspar, borax, soda ash and potash – making enamel 100% recyclable.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On bookmarks

I was reading a book before bed, and when I was done I put my bookmark in the book.

But the bookmark didn’t stick out. I flipped back to the bookmark and pulled it out slightly, so it was visible.

I realized that I view a bookmark as the progress bar for the book.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I love the FAIL Blog. But sometimes they FAIL to understand the thing they’re making fun of. This is the sixth in an investigative series exploring FAIL Blog FAILs.

white trash repairs - Did You Chain Up the Lock?

The commenters on the site did a good job of explaining this one. There are different parties who need access to the site. It could be forest rangers, emergency responders, utility companies, landowners, landscapers, lessees, etc. Each of them provides and maintains their own lock and key, and they don’t have to coordinate key exchanges with the other parties. I’ve seen setups like this on Palomar Mountain, albeit with somewhat fewer locks.

Even the caption gets it wrong:

Can you hold on for a fortnight? I need to find the right keys.

Well, no, the locks are “wired in series” and you only need one key. That’s the whole point.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Occasional WTF #9: Species confusion

Seen at my local Giant Eagle supermarket:


This USDA Choice beef roast is made of Natural Pork. At least it’s $3.00 off.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Eating Parker: Greek “pizza”

For more about our 4-H lamb, Parker, see the first installment of Eating Parker.

This is a quick one… no pictures or anything.

I was home for a night between Thanksgiving travel and work travel, so there wasn’t a lot to eat in the house. I decided to thaw a brick of ground Parker, and make some pita sandwiches. Brown the meat with onions, cinnamon, cumin, serve with some tzatziki and tomatoes. Basically a gyro with ground meat instead of gyro meat.

Giant Eagle had no pitas, so I bought some Pacifico’s pizza shells instead. Seriously, that was the closest thing I could come up with. Also, the only plain yogurt I could find for the tzatziki was nonfat, which is a far cry from Greek full-fat yogurt. I cooked the seasoned meat and onions. Then I put a little mozzarella cheese on a pizza shell so that the meat would stick, and added the meat/onion mixture and some feta. Baked until done, and topped with tzatziki and tomatoes. Not bad.

Tzatziki was the nonfat plain yogurt (bleh) with half a cucumber, diced, a splash of red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Side was a second baked pizza shell with COTS hummus.

Paired with 2005 Novelty Hill Syrah:

Dark blood red. Sweet, appealing nose of chocolate, wet stones, mixed berries, mint, blood. More austere on the palate, with sour cherry, mocha, iodine, talcum powder. (90 points)

The “Post-Thanksgiving Season”

In an email from D’Artagnan:


Around here, that season has a name: Deer

(No cheating!)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Decepticons: Vehicular longevity

Seen at a Subaru dealer:

95% of Subaru vehicles built in the last 10 years are still on the road.

Consider these similar-sounding statements:

  • 95% of 10-year-old Subaru vehicles are still on the road
  • If you buy a new Subaru, there’s a 95% chance it will still be on the road in 10 years

The marketers would love for you to misinterpret their statement as one of my two statements.

The “fleet” under consideration in Subaru’s claim is all the cars built in the last 10 years. Some are 1 year old, some are 7 years old, and some are 10 years old. The median age is somewhere around 5 years. Probably less, if Subaru’s sales are improving.

The percentage of 10-year-old cars that are still on the road is, therefore, less than 95%. Probably much less. If they wanted to make a clear statement about 10-year longevity, they could tell us what that number is. But it wouldn’t look as impressive.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

William Gay for Pittsburgh City Council!


The appointment of Cathleen Black as New York City school chancellor heralds a new era of offensive-sounding headlines. It takes me back to the halcyon days of Los Angeles politician Laura Chick.

fail owned pwned pictures


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mass hysteria!

Bill Clinton is a vegan!

The AtlanticWire:

"I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit"

Al Gore regrets ethanol subsidies!

Washington Post:

Former vice president Al Gore said Monday that he regrets supporting first-generation corn-based ethanol subsidies while he was in office.

Dogs and cats living together!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Decepticons: Auto insurance

This is the first in a series of posts about marketing claims that are true, but misleading.

You’ve heard the ads:

Drivers who switched [to Allstate] saved an average of $396 a year

Well, yeah. Why else would they switch?

The marketers want you to misunderstand the statement and think that if you call up Allstate and get a quote, you’ll save $396 a year, but that’s not the case. The statistic tells you nothing about the average savings (if any) of people who consider Allstate.

If you call an insurance company for a quote, and their quote is $200/year more, would you switch? Of course not. If it was $15/year less, would you switch? Probably not, unless you were already unhappy with your current company. The only people who switch are the people who are going to save a substantial amount of money by switching. That might be 90% of the people who call, or it might be 5% of the people who call. But those lucky people are the only people who make it into the statistic quoted in the ad.

All of the insurers could make a claim like the one quoted above, and they’d all be right. But that doesn’t mean they’re all cheaper than everyone else.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On the repeatability of NCAA football games

Nate Silver has a new column in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. In the inaugural edition, he writes of the difficulty of ranking college football teams.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Things the Germans probably have a word for, Volume 1

The feeling that you have squandered a dream, because you didn't realize it was a dream, and you behaved as morally as you would in real life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On keeping people from dying

Over the past several years, the TSA has steadily increased the scrutiny that airline passengers face. There was the liquids thing, the ziploc thing, the shoes thing, the laptop thing, and now the backscatter/scrotum-mashing thing. The purported objective of all these things is to prevent terrorists from blowing up planes, which would result in passengers dying. Which would be bad.

However, as the burden of air travel increases, would-be passengers are likely to shift some of their air travel to other forms of transportation, such as driving. Megan McArdle and Stephen Bainbridge have already announced their intention to do so.

I drive about 15,000 miles a year. If I, and everyone like me, decided just once every 13 years that we'd rather drive 500 miles and back, instead of flying, we'd be driving 0.5% more than we do now. About 45,000 people die each year in the United States in motor vehicle accidents. Americans driving 0.5% more will kill about 200 more people each year in the US. That's as many deaths as a Boeing 757-200 being blown out of the sky every year. And 12,000 more people will be injured.

Flying is, by far, the safest means of transportation for covering a given distance. Making flying less attractive, relative to driving, has deadly consequences.

Is the TSA really trying to keep people from dying, or just push the blame outside their agency?

Update: Shortly after I wrote this post, Nate Silver covered the topic in both greater depth and breadth. (The nerve!) Here’s a particularly interesting excerpt:

Other passengers may substitute car travel for air travel. But this too has its consequences, since car travel is much more dangerous than air travel over all. According to the Cornell study, roughly 130 inconvenienced travelers died every three months as a result of additional traffic fatalities brought on by substituting ground transit for air transit. That’s the equivalent of four fully-loaded Boeing 737s crashing each year.

It’s nice to see that my back-of-the-blog estimates are in line with reality. Thanks, Sterl!

Here’s a related Fermi problem: How many people are aboard airline flights over the United States right now?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Arnold Zwicky quotes a classic example of zeugma:

… he hastened to put out the cat, the wine, his cigar, and the lamps.

I note, however, that put out, without an object, has its own idiomatic meaning. I therefore propose a new construction, Extreme ZeugmaTM:

I want to date a girl who puts out the wine, the lamps, and .

If I can’t use it on water taxis, what good is it?

The web site for an AmEx rebate card:


(Click to embiggen)

The Card cannot be used for revolving payments, or with water taxis, limousines, and ATMs.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


After writing yesterday’s post about Sparrow Songs’ film about Trona, I checked out their earlier films and realized they’re following me around, at least in some time-reversed Merlinesque sense.

After I finished grad school, the Spousal Unit and I moved from Ridgecrest to Lancaster, California, in the Antelope Valley. It’s an aerospace town, home of the Lockheed Skunk Works, and not far from Edwards AFB. The street names reflect the engineering sensibilities of the area: We lived on Avenue J-7, which was the seventh of fifteen streets between Avenue J and Avenue K. The town was an interesting mélange of engineers and recently-released prisoners and their (often quite extended) families.

This Sparrow Songs documentary concerns the local California League (A) baseball team, the Lancaster Jethawks. The Jethawks gave away the best free gift I’ve ever received for attending a sporting event: A Burt Rutan bobblehead.

Sparrow Songs - Episode 10 - The Farm from Sparrow Songs on Vimeo.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Years ago, the Future Spousal Unit lived in Ridgecrest, California, best known as the home of NAWS China Lake. The fighter planes took off over her double wide, shaking her awake in the morning. It was 117 °F the day we unloaded her moving truck. A hot wind constantly blew sand in our faces. The town shut down before 9:00 PM, even the fast food places. The coyotes and roadrunners were three dimensional, and didn’t order from Acme.

But whenever we felt like we were at the end of the earth, we remembered the nearby town of Trona. Now filmmaking duo Sparrow Songs has produced an excellent short documentary on the town:

Sparrow Songs - Episode 12 - Fall Begins in Trona, CA from Sparrow Songs on Vimeo.

What the film fails to capture is the smell. Trona reeks with a disgusting sulfurous odor from the chemical plant. When driving through the town, to Death Valley or the Pinnacles, we were glad that we had no reason to stop.

(Via Mental Floss)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Food Books in My Pants

There was a recent Twitter hashtag meme#moviesinmypants” in which participants would append the phrase “in my pants” to film titles; for example “Stand and Deliver in My Pants.”

This led to a much more entertaining offshoot, “#foodbooksinmypants,” started by @amateurgourmet. Some of my favorites:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Audi’s Olde World Restaurant (Johnstown, PA)


Veteran’s Day left me with a $1,000 repair bill for the MINI’s passenger seat ass-sensor and a standalone Friday to end the workweek. On my way to work, there was an ad on the local radio station announcing that Audi’s Olde World Restaurant, located at the John Murtha Cambria County Airport, was open for business, with a Mediterranean menu and a wine list with 20 selections. Sounds like a date, I thought!

And you thought Stuxnet was bad

Roger C. Davidson walked into a computer services shop on Main Street in Mount Kisco, N.Y., seeking help with his virus-plagued computer.

The owner of the shop, Vickram Bedi, 36, confirmed that there was a virus on Mr. Davidson’s computer, a virus Mr. Bedi said was so troublesome that it had also damaged the shop’s computers, officials said.

This led, of course, to $6 million dollars in fees being paid to the computer shop, and a tale of intrigue involving the CIA and Opus Dei.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Run away!


It’s the Turkey That Ate My MINI!

Best operation since ACOUSTIC KITTY

If any official institution was in a position to celebrate the collection of Leninists, Trotskyites and heavy drinkers that made up the New York School, it was the CIA.

Modern art was CIA 'weapon'.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stupid Steve Jobs quote of the day

From David Pogue’s Samsung Galaxy Tab review in the New York Times:

When asked about the onslaught of Android tablets last month, Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, scoffed at their size (most are 7 inches diagonal instead of 10 inches, like the iPad). “This size is useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size,” he said.

Dude, you sell a 3.5-inch tablet.

Why, that looks delicious!

Via Food Network Humor, Paula Deen Flour™:

Jillian Madison rightly calls out Paula for charging $4 for two pounds of all-purpose flour. “This is Paula Deen using her persona to swindle her fans into paying more than they have to for an ingredient, y’all.”

But I think the best part is the caption at the bottom: “SERVING SUGGESTION.” Paula Deen recommends serving a bowl of flour? I hope I get the tablespoon!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Anal about quality

Language Log’s Arnold Zwicky, writing in his personal blog:

A final linguistic note, with a story about my colleague Paul Kiparsky, who long ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts, confronted an American supermarket while on a search for toilet paper. One after another, he inspected the choices, noting that they claimed to be “facial quality tissue”, eventually complaining forcefully, “I don’t want facial quality tissue, I want RECTAL quality tissue”. (You have to imagine the Finnish accent.)

The Occasional WTF #8


Math is hard.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I love the FAIL Blog. But sometimes they FAIL to realize that the subject of their derision is in on the joke. This is the fifth in an investigative series exploring FAIL Blog FAILs.

epic fail photos - Instructions FAIL

This is from a book. A joke book, called Safe Baby Handling Tips. Nobody actually thinks that you will wake up your baby with an air horn.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I'll take this almond love

An oldie but goodie.

Foursquare’s SMS interface is a festering heap of targ manure

Update: There's a new Foursquare SMS interface available, courtesy of DOTGO. The new interface addresses most of my complaints below; I've written up some intial impressions of the new service. Check it out!

I like the idea of Foursquare, but I don’t have a smartphone. That shouldn’t be a problem, because Foursquare supports checking in by SMS (text message). The idea is that you send a text message to 50500 in the following format:

@ location ! shout

Foursquare should check you into location. The optional shout is a message that's shown to your friends and included in tweets generated by foursquare.

Unfortunately, the SMS interface is a colossal failure. It’s as if they set out to develop the least useful interface that could be said to check the “SMS compatibility” box off the requirements list.

Reason Zero: The Mobile Site

Foursquare offers a mobile site,, which I should be able to access through the web browser in my phone. But it doesn't work, and Foursquare doesn’t care. It didn’t work on my last phone, a Verizon Samsung Alias, and it doesn’t work on my new phone, a Verizon LG Cosmos. The dysfunctional mobile website is the reason I have to use the SMS interface in the first place.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

To the guy sitting in front of me at the Penn State game yesterday

I share your enthusiasm for the skills of backup quarterback Matt McGloin, who beat Michigan last week while starter Rob Bolden was injured. And McGloin sure turned the game around yesterday, scoring 35 unanswered points to bring Penn State out of a 21-0 hole against Northwestern, and get career win #400 for Joe Paterno.

However, your chant of “We want the white quarterback!” recalls Bill Maher’s 2008 comment:

A black president? Half of Pennsylvania isn't ready for black quarterbacks.

And your other chant of “WE ARE… PENNSYLTUCKY” pretty much nails down which half.

Stay classy, drunk rednecks. May no act of ours bring shame…

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My 15 minutes: Extreme Hawaii

Here's a special treat for the weekend... my 2001 Discovery Channel performance on Extreme Hawaii, filmed at W. M. Keck Observatory. Watch it before the lawyers find it.

Things to watch for:

  • Me yawning
  • My alarmingly low blood oxygen level
  • A computer display showing the telescope at "horizon stow" ostensibly in the middle of the observing session
  • Non-dairy creamer
  • My "Transitions" lenses that were never quite clear no matter how dark it was

All science reporting is required to have a substantial misrepresentation of what's going on. In this case, we visited the Mauna Kea summit during the day, but conducted the nighttime observations from Keck HQ in Waimea, at about 2,500 feet above sea level. BTW, the observations documented in the show resulted in New Observations of the Interstellar Medium in the Lyman Break Galaxy MS 1512-cB58.

The rest of the show included a guy who pokes a stick into molten lava and spins it around to make vases and another guy who surfs waves taller than my house, but I didn't think they were quite extreme enough to hang with the astronomers.

On GPS navigators, traffic, and load balancing

I previously expressed concern that, when faced with traffic on the main routes, GPS navigation units would divert all drivers to side streets in a correlated fashion, overwhelming their capacity.

It looks like TomTom is addressing my concern.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I love the FAIL Blog. But sometimes they FAIL to understand the subject of their derision. This is the fourth in an investigative series exploring FAIL Blog FAILs.

Halloween Costume FAILS

The 1890s were called the “Gay Nineties.” There’s no FAIL in calling them that. Mocking the name just because it contains the word “gay” is a FAIL of Microsoftian proportions.

On the other hand, dressing like this and calling it “Gay Nineties” would be an EPIC WIN.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

God Hates Figs

From the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear:

Go ahead, read it.

So, the main character, Jesus, is hungry and goes to a fig tree. Jesus' dad made the fig tree to have a certain natural preference, to reproduce in a certain way. As a side effect, there's no fruit for Jesus, and this totally pisses him off. He goes off the rails, and cusses out the fig tree. Jesus' pissy mood withers the fig tree, and nobody in the community gets to enjoy its fruit anymore. Jesus is the hero, since he showed showed that fruit who's boss.

Why does this sound familiar?

Trespassers will be sited


Monday, November 1, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I love the FAIL Blog. But sometimes they FAIL to realize that they’re mocking an intentional joke. This is the third in an investigative series exploring FAIL Blog FAILs.

Things That Are Doing It: Costume FAIL

The “attached hose” is what makes it funny, guys. The costume is even named “The Fire Extinguisher.”

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Confessions of a market manipulator

From RISKS 26.19, Financial market automated amplification of trades:

"The two men worked out how the computerized system would react to certain trading patterns—allowing them to influence the price of low-volume stocks." Although the article gives no indication of how they did it, the day traders “gave false and misleading signals about supply, demand and prices'', which caused the robots to take action—which the day traders then took advantage of.

Yeah, I did that once.

I may be lazy, but at least I’m not crazy

The Google Suggest Venn Diagram Creator is a fun waste of time. Here’s the best one I’ve come up with so far:

Why are (men, women, cats) so… ?


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My neutrons bring all the boys to the yard

Sometimes I miss Atherton Hall. Schreyer Honors College to auction off dates for charity:

Roommates Hannah Spece (freshman-nuclear engineering) and Uma Pattarkine (freshman-finance) will be auctioned off together.

“I like that all the proceeds are going to the Susan G. Komen foundation,” Spece said. “It’s also cool because we plan on walking in to the song ‘Milkshake’ by Kelis.”

That’s the most authentically Athertonian quote I’ve seen in the Daily Collegian since 1994, when Stan Briczinski (freshman-physics) said:

Longcat is shrt

Todd Combs has been hired to manage investments at Berkshire Hathaway. The news story reports:

Combs also made money before the financial crisis by shorting shares of mortgage giant Fannie Mae and reinsurer RenaissanceRe Holdings.

Short positions, or negative bets, returned 35.56% in 2007 and 36.68% in 2008 for the Castle Point Capital Master Fund, Combs’s hedge fund, according to investor letters and other documents obtained by MarketWatch.


The Financial Select Sector SPDR fund (XLF), an exchange-traded fund that tracks financial-services stocks in the S&P 500, slumped more than 46% in the same period. This is the benchmark Castle Point uses to judge performance.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

That’s just offal

A fellow in the UK found some organ meat (either a brain or a kidney) in his KFC:

"I had to take days off work because I was feeling so sick and I have lost money," he tells the Swindon Advertiser. "The company have only offered to give me the cost of the meal back and that is not acceptable."

Dude, whether it was brain or kidney, it’s still food. It’s not going to kill you. You’re not going to get Mad Poultry Disease. Maybe you don’t want to patronize that KFC again, but grow a pair of prairie oysters and get back to work.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The most interesting thing I read today

By Adam Ozimek at Modeled Behavior (link shortened to obscure the context; see if you can guess):

Our desire to have costs hidden from us is a very expensive preference.

Where else do we observe this preference?

In this context, what does the European preference for VAT-inclusive pricing tell us, compared to the US custom of ex-sales-tax pricing?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

“We’re not dividing matrices out there”

Oregon right tackle Mark Asper, quoted by Matt Hinton, on the bizarre signal posters on their sideline:

"It's not, 'OK, I have to add the top square and the bottom square.' We're not dividing matrices out there."

C’mon, Mark, inverting a 2x2 matrix isn’t that hard. For example, the inverse of the above matrix is simply:


“Dividing” another matrix, such as the one to the right, by this matrix is simply a matter of performing matrix multiplication of the new matrix and the inverse shown above.

This multiplication is left to the reader (or quarterback).

These guys have 45 seconds to get the play together. Frankly, I don’t see what would be so hard.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Music industry quote of the day

BMI spokescreature Jerry Bailey quoted in the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat:

Songwriters make a living a penny at a time, or a fraction of a penny at a time.

FAIL FAIL #2: Two wrongs don’t make a right

I love the FAIL Blog. But sometimes they FAIL to understand the topic being mocked. This is the second in an investigative series exploring FAIL Blog FAILs.

epic fail photos - Prescription Directions FAIL

“Per” in a prescription means “by” or “through” (cf. Per aspera ad astra). It does not mean “for each.”

epic fail photos - Directions Fail

Sunday, October 17, 2010

High voltage hyperbole


Look, I like extension cords as much as anyone. I even have a favorite extension cord. But there’s no such thing as “exciting savings on extension cords.”

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ke$ha, Star Trek, and Kesha

By now, you should have seen the Ke$ha Star Trek/TiK ToK mashup:

But did you know that “Kesha” was a character on Deep Space 9?


I love the FAIL Blog. But sometimes they FAIL to realize that whoever they’re making fun of is in on the joke. This is the first in an investigative series exploring FAIL Blog FAILs.

It’s a joke, son, a joke. And it’s an old one.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The dumbest thing I read today

…outside of the election coverage. Professor Rosalie David, via PhysOrg:

There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer.

Cosmic rays, radon, aflatoxin, radium, HPV, PAHs from forest fires, asbestos, tar, and the frakkin’ Class G2V Melanomablaster 5778™?

I fully agree that industrialization has greatly increased the amount and diversity of carcinogens we’re exposed to, and the effect is magnified by our success at reducing other causes of death (after all, everyone dies of something). But, seriously, I hope that was a misquote.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The SACS Report, Episode 6

The SACS Report was a public-access cable television show produced by the Southern Alleghenies Computer Society of Johnstown, PA, in the early 1990s. For more background, please see the entry for Episode 2.

In Episode 6, the last episode in my collection, I step up the wardrobe, and wear a dress shirt and necktie, along with the requisite patterned socks. The reason for the fancy duds? My guest, George Bradley, Area Manager for WordPerfect Corporation, who wore a suit.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Basic Instructions on Brian May, Ph.D.

One of my favorite web comics, Scott Meyer’s Basic Instructions, just covered a topic near and dear to my heart:


(Click through for the full comic.)

When I was in graduate school, around 2003, Wal Sargent came into our office, and the following dialog ensued: