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:

My favorite non-existent birds

  1. Violent Green Swallow
  2. Four-winged Plover (I’ve overlooked them before)
  3. Black-winged Redbird
  4. Medium-billed Dowitcher
  5. Southern Cardinal
  6. Indiglo Bunting (by Timex™)
  7. Most Tern
  8. Roseate Sporkbill
  9. Pufted Tuffin
  10. Spotless Towhee
  11. Bewick’s Skylark

Also: Xantus has the best name, and should get one of everything. (Xantus’ Prairie-Chicken, anyone?)

Monday, October 11, 2010

On the effort of high-earners

Greg Mankiw is the latest to claim that an increase in the high-income tax rate will induce high-earners to withhold their labor from the market, because it’s not “worth it” to work so hard. I don’t buy it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Eating Parker: Feta lamburgers

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

Tonight I made use of our first package of ground lamb, to make grilled lamburgers with integral feta cheese. Into a pound of ground lamb, I incorporated some red wine vinegar, dried oregano, cinnamon, cumin, hot red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and feta cheese.

The Occasional WTF #6

As soon as Office 2010 was released, I purchased Office and Visio through my employer’s participation in Microsoft’s Home Use Program. The Visio installation DVD exhibited… less-than-professional spelling.

Microsoft Visio Professionel 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Occasional WTF #5

This is Amazon’s product photo for the Optima 34 RedTop car battery:
Optima makes a similar battery, the Optima 34R. It’s the same size and shape as the Optima 34, but the polarity is reversed; that is, the red and black terminals are switched. Here’s Amazon’s product photo for the 34R:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Batter Blaster: A video review

I previously alluded to the Spousal Unit's modest skills in the kitchen. An exciting discovery at Walmart gave us an opportunity to expand her repertoire and review the product:

Update: The Google screenshot below could be the basis of a fascinating Venn diagram.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Pickin' Chicken Race Riots of 1968 (or: Happy Birthday, Dad!)

Today's my dad's birthday. I'm on the road and can't be with him today, but Happy birthday, Dad! Check out his Mail Pouch Tobacco "barn," and when you're done, watch the video below, of the Pickin' Chicken Race Riots of 1968.

(If you've heard him tell this story before, watch it again anyway. Part of the charm is hearing it frequently. Or so I was told growing up.)

The SACS Report, Episode 5

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.

Episode 5 aired February 3, 1993. In this episode, we have another specimen from my awesome sweater collection: a white V-neck item, paired once again with aggressively patterned socks. My guests in this episode are Jery Allison and Geoff Ford, fellow SACS officers who discuss the organization's plans for the new year.

Jery, who was the sysop of a local BBS, provided an overview of the local BBS scene, while Geoff announced an upcoming BBS demo day at the Galleria Mall. We also discuss "the next biggest thing in computers," the CD-ROM and multimedia. Jery opines that CD-ROM drives have become so inexpensive that anyone can afford one... watch the episode to find out how cheap Geoff's new drive was!

The panelists also discuss the sizes (physical and capacity) of the latest hard drives, and compare these modern marvels with the primitive disks of yesteryear. I lament dealers who try to sell customers "more computer than they need." What home user could possibly make good use of those new Pentium chips?

On a more touching note, Jery recalls participating in the SaudiNet email system during the 1990–91 Gulf War, relaying messages from home to the troops, and back. This email system was technologically similar to FidoNet, which Jery also discusses. Imagine sending email to someone around the world, and having them read it in just a few hours or days!

                  /  \
                 /|oo \
                (_|  /_)
                 _`@/_ \    _
                |     | \   \\
                | (*) |  \   )) 
   ______       |__U__| /  \//
  / FIDO \       _//|| _\   /
 (________)     (_/(_|(____/

Sunday, October 3, 2010

On imitating the masters

Colman Andrews, in a dialog with Ruth Reichl on her blog, said:

I do think it’s interesting, though, that people (“our” people, the serious food folk) tend to think that they should be able to—that they have the right to be able to—reproduce the most elaborate and labor-intensive of restaurant dishes, when they would never think themselves capable of playing serious music or painting museum-quality art or imagine themselves capable of leaping into Scorcese or Coppola territory with their Flips.

I realized that, to some extent, I do have that belief, and I’d never thought about why.

The Occasional WTF #4

This is another one from the archives.  It looks like it’s been fixed on Google Maps.  Click to embiggen.smith

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Eating Parker: Grilled loin chops

It was time for the annual question:  What should I cook* for my birthday? I had a bottle of a birth-year wine, a 1976 Burgess Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that I wanted to drink this year, figuring that it wouldn’t get any better at this point, so I needed something that would pair with the wine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

US fights “rogue MILF elements”

Via @slonkak:

It’s been touted as a rare U.S. military success against Islamic extremists in the so-called global war on terror.

Those efforts further paid off when the country’s largest Islamic insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – some of whose members are believed to be closely allied with both Jemaah Islamiyah  and Abu Sayyaf – officially disavowed terrorism and re-engaged in on-again, off-again peace talks with the Philippines government.

Full story at MSNBC.