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March 2008

Laton on Daily Show, Amazing "On Notice Board," Dan Grobstein File

This is what the Internet was invented for: Create Your Own On Notice Board. Thank you, Dan Grobstein!

Check out Laton McCartney on the Daily Show. Teapot Dome never looked more interesting.

Dan Grobstein File

  • Quote from Nancy Nall Derringer:
    I’ve always wondered how the downturn in newspapers’ fortunes is playing out in Europe, particularly the U.K., which publishes the liveliest papers in the English-speaking world. Give a smart writer a simple assignment — a general piece on men’s underwear — and watch her run:

    Come the Renaissance, as the chausses became tight hose, the braies got shorter and were fitted with a convenient flap for urinating through. That buttoned or tied flap – the earliest codpiece – wasn’t actually covered by outer layers, so Henry VIII, never one for modesty, began to pad his. Historians have suggested that beneath Henry’s appendage may have been hidden the medication-soaked bandages needed to relieve the symptoms of his syphilis. Men free of venereal disease, meanwhile, used the tumescent codpieces as a handy pocket. ("New World cigarette?" "Ah, not for me, my lord, no.")

    Among the things I learned from that article, besides the disgusting one about Henry VIII’s syphilis: Brit slang for undies includes "smalls," "y-fronts" and just plain "pants" (distinguished from trousers). Also, "there is one delicate area of pant advancement where men are not yet ready to go – universal package sizing." Because no man wants to go into a department store and be spotted buying the masculine equivalent of a 32A.
  • Corn ethanol is just a big boondoggle and it turns out it's actually bad for the environment (besides raising food prices). though I guess the more you burn, the less is available to add corn syrup to everything we eat.
    One of the studies concluded that use of corn-based ethanol produces twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as regular gasoline over a 30-year period, and only becomes carbon neutral after 167 years.
  • quote:

    I'm not fully sold on Obama. But his skill as a rhetorician alone is not to be underestimated, particularly in the service of a good cause. Reagan simply went over the heads of Congress and the media.


Dems: Change? Conflicts?

Regular contributor Bob Nilsson

I want to like the candidates, but exactly what kind of change do they want to bring about? I don’t hear them talking much about campaign finance reform or gun control.

From Who is crying now? By Globe columnist Joan Vennochi:

Right before Super Tuesday The New York Times reported that Obama took up the cause of residents in Illinois who were outraged that Exelon Corp. did not disclose radioactive leaks at one of its nuclear plants. Obama, who introduced a bill requiring all plant owners to notify state and local authorities of small leaks, told voters on the campaign trail it was "the only nuclear legislation that I've passed."

However, as the Times reported, the bill ultimately died in the full Senate after Obama rewrote it to reflect changes sought by Exelon, Senate Republicans, and nuclear regulators. Meanwhile, Exelon contributed at least $227,000 to Obama's campaign and two top Exelon executives are among his largest fund-raisers. According to the Times, Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, also worked as a consultant for Exelon.

The New York Times also reported recently that Bill Clinton helped his friend Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining financier, win a big uranium deal in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic. In return, Clinton got a $31 million donation to his foundation. The deal undercut American foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan's poor human rights record by Hillary Clinton, among others. It rightly resurrects serious questions about the conflicts the former president would bring to a new Clinton administration.


by Craig Reynolds

Packets into the abyss: an unusual series of cut submarine cables lead to stories which swerved from "crazed terrorists are destroying the Internet" to "loony conspiracy theories about typical damage".  These are in chronological order: Damage to Fourth Undersea Cable Sparks Conspiracy Theories, Fourth Undersea Cable Cut, Stoking Suspicions of Intent, The newest Internet whodunnit? Who cut the cables?, Bad to Worse: Fifth Undersea Cable Cut in Middle East, Repairs under way; explanation elusive on cable failures and Abandoned Anchor Cut Gulf Internet Cable.

Cell phone: the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will feature pre-production mobile devices built on Google's open Android platform: Several companies to demo Google's Android and ARM plans Android demonstration at MWC. Last week I said "Google got its way!" because bidding for the 700MHz spectrum had exceeded the reserve price and so triggered the open access stipulation proposed by Google. This asks if they really intended to win the auction: Google Wins Wireless Spectrum Auction by Losing.

Green: damn! just after I planted sawgrass in the lower 40: Biofuels Deemed a Greenhouse Threat. Hot stuff: New Super-Efficient Chip Could Run on Body Heat and speaking of people power, a knee jerk reaction: Scientists make unique knee-brace power generator and (sorry couldn't resist this headline) The Power Plant In Your Pants. Some have dismissed the knee-brace generator as a ludicrous perpetual motion machine, instead think of it like a hybrid car, recapturing energy that would otherwise be wasted as heat. On the other hand, this definitely strays in to perpetual motion territory: Turning physics on its ear. Cool if he is onto something new but more likely he is fooling himself, like Steorn mentioned here in .

Psych: in email to a friend a few months ago I said my one well-known discovery (boids) was largely a matter of luck. His replied saying luck was a factor in much success and remarked on my modesty.  This week I saw Imposter Syndrome - Feeling Like a Fraud which mentions a key symptom (agreeing with statements like "At times, I feel my success has been due to some kind of luck.") and then goes on to say: "...many self-styled impostors are phony phonies: they adopt self-deprecation as a social strategy, consciously or not, and are secretly more confident than they let on." Great! Which is worse, being a pathetic self-doubter, or being a crass manipulator?! Or maybe this is my problem: Marriage may tame genius.

Technobits: last week I mentioned in passing the bio-inspired algorithm called PSO then saw this interesting application: Swarm approach to photography --- Pirated by iTunes, Artist Turns to BitTorrent --- MIT vs. scriptwriters: Quantum Teleporting, Yes; the Rest Is Movie Magic --- The Beta Male’s Charms (cf Quarterlife mentioned earlier) --- 50 Great Gadgets That No Geek or Nerd Should Live Without --- commentary on the proposed takeover: Yahoos Say Microsoft Is "The Frosting On a Double-Layer Suck Cake" --- I'd call it "lilac" but cool nonetheless: Roses are Blue, world's first genetically modified blue roses.

Letters: Gusher of Trouble plug, Angry letter--not, Goggle Maps and Twitter, Dan Grobstein File, Lasusa Links

I didn't have time to format my Lasusa Links, so they are at the bottom of this item…

My personal friend and former editor (as well as a fellow Jeopardy contestant) Laton McCartney made the WSJ this week:

  • Wall Street Journal BOOKS
    A Gusher of Trouble
    Reviewed By BILL KAUFFMAN
    February 5, 2008; Page D5
    The Teapot Dome Scandal
    By Laton McCartney
    Random House, 351 pages, $27

I predict this book is going places. Preferably off the shelves. See my previous plug.

  • One of those perennial Internet chestnuts landed in my inbox this week; the angry letter from a customer to a bank (from a guy? An 86-year-old woman? A 96-year-old woman? To the New York Times? To the bank?). In any case, no matter which version you see, the original came from an Australian journalist.

Election results from Google Maps and Twitter.

Dan Grobstein File


Tom Lasusa surfs the web so you don't have to:

Today's Links are brought to you (don't ask me why) by Bombastic British Actor Brian Blessed

Brian Blessed does "Snooker" Commentary

Brian Blessed Saviour of the Universe

Brian has trouble with a Palm Pilot

Another possible ending for Lord of the Rings -- roleplayer edition

They're gonna need a bigger sub

Grab your 21 foot scarves and Jellybabies

"And wait'll you see all the closet space!"

Children as young as FIVE get philosophy lessons

Huge rise in British UFO sightings

build your own compu-beaver

Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Tom, these have been interesting links this week, but what I was really hoping for was a video of what appears to be a cross-dressing, latino dwarf doing some sort of naughty dance routine." If only I had a magic lamp my friend -- oh wait. POOF!

Groundhog Day (The Movie) and Buddhism

Welcome to another perennial item. I run this one every year in conjunction with Groundhog Day, (the 34th funniest American film of all time, according to the American Film Institute) since the Bill Murray movie of the same name is my favorite movie of all times. This is the fifth time I've run this item!

I went to a showing of Groundhog Day sponsored by the San Francisco Zen Center on Friday, Aug. 10, 2001, held in the Trustees' Auditorium of the Asian Art Museum in Golden Gate Park (relocating in October 2002 to the old SF Main library in the civic center).

I have so much to say about this exciting, exhilarating, eye-opening experience that it is now a subsite titled Groundhog Day The Movie, Buddhism and Me, which includes a description of that seminal showing, commentary, and links to other sites that deal with the connection. While noticing the connection between this movie and Buddhism is not particularly profound, it was news to me, and the nuances were explored in a particularly exciting fashion during the Zen Center presentation. My set of pages are rapidly gaining ground as the authoritative center for GHD/Buddhism commentary on the web. I brush it up and add new material regularly, so if you haven't been there in a while, take a look.

If you love the work of GHD writer Danny Rubin as much as I do, check out his web site which includes a bio, a list of his works in progress (exciting) and a list of his sold films (also exciting).

I can't wait for his next released film. Go Danny!

In the meantime, note that the University of California has published a Groundhog Day book, by Ryan Gilbey.

New for 2008:

This just in…

I just wanted to introduce myself as a fellow Groundhog Day devotee

I am a good friend of Danny Rubin and I have just published a book all about the movie. Danny wrote the foreword

Please have a look at my website where I have posted a video about why I think Groundhog Day is the greatest movie ever made

I recently did a book group on my book and several readers said that they could not believe how great the movie was after learning about its profound spiritual and psychological meaning. Even at Oxford 90% of the students thought it was just a Bill Murray comedy!

Paul Hannam

I haven't bought the book yet, but I will…

Meanwhile, this just in:

Revisiting 'Groundhog Day's' spiritual side 15 years later
Bill Murray and philosophical fodder mean there's still plenty to mine in the 1993 film.
By Dennis Lim, Special to The Times
February 3, 2008
Fifteen years after its release, "Groundhog Day" (Sony, $19.94) seems as strange and singular as ever: a Hollywood romantic comedy that could double as a Zen koan or an existential nightmare, depending on how you look at it. Harold Ramis' high-concept classic, reissued in an anniversary edition last week, is a movie premised on relentless repetition and is itself surprisingly well-suited to multiple viewings.

The Facts About Voter Fraud

Between Oct. 2002 and September 2005 about 330,000,000 votes were cast in federal elections.

In that time, with Karl Rove pushing as hard as possible, 24 federal convictions (at the trial court level) were obtained for voter fraud. Think Progress » STUDY: Feds Prosecuted Only 38 Cases Of Voter Fraud Between 2002-05, 14 Were Thrown Out

Given that appeals may still be pending, this record establishes that at most 24 votes (or 1 of about every 14,000,000 federal votes cast) were illegally cast. Compare this with the tens of thousands of voters disenfranchised by Rove's and George W. Bush's minions in Ohio alone in 2004. One can see that federal attention to alleged voter fraud is merely part and parcel of Rove's and the Republicans' continuing vicious and unAmerican effort to engage in race baiting and advance blatantly unconstitutional racial discrimination. Rove's idea was and remains to scare minority voters away from registering or voting. Former President Jimmy Carter (who had a fine record on race relations) and Bush family consigliere James Baker have bought into the alleged need for a voter id. This is a sad blemish on Carter's record and what is to be expected from a thug like Baker who got his official federal power as a result of Republican race baiting.


by Craig Reynolds

Open Access at 700 MHZ: Google got its way! It is not yet known who won the bidding for the C block in the FCC's auction of 700 MHZ radio spectrum, but it is known that the bidding has exceeded the $4.6 billion reserve price. As a result of Google's proposal, this means that this key wireless band will be subject to open access rules, and will be usable by anyone using any device. Think iPhone, think novel Linux based phones from tiny players, think freedom to innovate in the wireless world: Bidding reaches $18.55 bln in U.S. wireless auction, FCC Auction Opens Door to Open Access and Open Wireless Access Assured On 700 MHz Spectrum. (Speaking of iPhone and open access: Quarter of US iPhones 'unlocked'.)

Scale: nice "infographic": All (known) Bodies in the Solar System Larger than 200 Miles in Diameter which reminded me of an item I linked to last December which included a video that began by showing sizes of bodies in our solar system then proceeded to do an amazing cosmic zoom (ala Powers of 10): Keep the World in Perspective (see also).

Robots: steps toward claytronic robots: Shape-shifting robot forms from magnetic swarm. Computer scientists debate what socially responsible researchers should do in an era of high-tech warfare: If it only had a heart: Can robots behave humanely?

Space: Pictures Reveal Mercury’s Tumultuous Past - New York Times (see the pictures) and NASA does the "Across the Universe" thing: Beatles for aliens.

Technobits: it seems ironic to me, since the Internet is often seen as the replacement for the printed word: Books 'most popular online buy' --- A tour of Google's new Experimental Search. Verdict: awesome totally, dood! --- Smile! You've Been Averaged (see more about the research) ---Honour for Colossus code-cracker --- Engineer unlocks Wii's hidden potential --- nature inspires algorithm (as in GA, ACO, PSO, etc.): Bee Strategy Helps Servers Run More Sweetly and Scientists abuzz over more efficient Web servers --- ZAP Says its $30K Electric Sports Car Is Coming in 2009 --- carbon sequestration: How to handle carbon dioxide? Lock it in rock --- In diatom, scientists find genes that may level engineering hurdle --- Helium-8 study gives insight into nuclear theory, neutron stars --- One Pill Makes You Autistic -- And One Pill Changes You Back --- lovely fractal imagery: winners of the Benoit Mandelbrot Fractal Art Contest 2007 (see related POVRay Fractal Raytracing Contest) --- Its a cat! Its a wi-fi web cam! No, its Catcam Fritz --- this is a great flashmob hack: Frozen Grand Central, I love the baggage cart driver toward the end of this video.

Neal Vitale Reviews: The Best Music of 2007

Not an outstanding year, but any measure, but not without its moments. A few of the notable releases, grouped into some rather arbitrary clusters (outstanding efforts marked with *):

Best - New or Emerging
Ana Egg - Lazy Days
*Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
 Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
British Sea Power - Krankenhaus?
Cold War Kids - Robbers & Cowards
*Feist - The Reminder
*Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
Kaiser Chiefs - Yours Truly, Angry Mob
Kings of Leon - Because Of The Times
*Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
*Tegan & Sara - The Con

Best - Established/Old Timers

Annie Lennox - Songs Of Mass Destruction
Crowded House - Time On  Earth
*Herbie Hancock - River - The Joni Letters
Richard Thompson - Sweet Warrior
*Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
Wilco - Sky Blue Sky

Best - Soundtracks

*I'm Not There

Strange Weirdos (aka soundtrack to Knocked Up)

Best - Rereleases/Archival

David Crosby - If I Could Only Remember My Name...
Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels On a Gravel Road
Neil Young - Live At Massey Hall 1971

Best - Songs

"Clumsy" - Fergie
"No Hidden Path" - Neil Young
"Rehab" - Amy Winehouse
"Radio Nowhere" - Bruce Springsteen
"Icky Thump" - The White Stripes
"Direct Hit" - Art Brut
"Smile" - Lily Allen
"This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms War" - Fall Out Boy
"She Can Do What She Wants" - Field Music
"City Of Angels" - Ozomatli