Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt, R.I.P.

So many times I thought about seeing her perform, but I never did...

Artist: Eartha Kitt
Song: Santa Baby

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Feynman: O-ring

The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 led a storm of finger pointing and obfuscation with regard to blame, responsibility and cause. Physicist Richard Feynman, who was on the investigative commission, became enormously frustrated with with the situaton and delivered one of the greatest smack downs in history, explaining the problem clearly and concisely in terms a child could understand on national television.

The following video includes both Feynman's explanation and a re-enactment added by an unknown third party.

In this day and age when people are so frequently baffled by b.s., such simplicity and clarity are sorely needed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A+B = 1, ergo B = 1-A

Here's a chart from Negligent Driving that would probably make Darrell Huff blush.

Guess what? When the percentage of fatal accidents involving alcohol goes down, the percentage of accidents not involving alcohol goes up!

The headline above the chart claims the overall quantity of traffic fatalities have increased. Not sure if that's true (and per capita would be more relevant), but the chart attempting to show the alleged skyrocketing problem with negligent driving doesn't appear to have anything to do with quantity.

Initially, I wondered why the red and black lines don't sum to a perfect 100%, but Fatalities involving BAC below the legal limit probably explains what appears to be the small missing percent.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fleet Foxes

NPR published its take on the best music of 2008 with Fleet Foxes coming out on top. Looks like the folks at Sub Pop Records were cool enough and smart enough to post the videos on YouTube with embedding allowed (thanks!), so please check them out, and if you like them, give them your support.

Artist: Fleet Foxes
Song: White Winter Hymnal
Disc: Fleet Foxes
Year: 2008

Deflation: No Comprende

File this under economic things I apparently do not understand.

If you search the news for deflation, you'll find a lot of people worrying about it, but from what I can tell the drop in consumer prices is largely due to the collapse of the oil price bubble (which I know a little bit about because I got burned by it, or at least singed).

When gasoline shot up to more than $4 per gallon people went crazy, legislators accosted allegedly greedy oil executives in the national forum, folks accused gas station owners of gouging, consumer prices shot up due to rising production costs, nations rioted, governments became unstable, etc. And this wasn't very long ago, months.

I can only imagine how absurd it would be if the time span were even more compressed:

Monday: Gas $1.50 per gallon. Life is good.
Tuesday: Gas $4.00 per gallon. Inflation! Horrors! The sky is falling!
Wednesday: Gas back down to $1.50 per gallon. Deflation! Horrors! The sky is falling!

There's something I'm apparently not getting.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Philosophy?

In spite of being a prodigious computer geek in my youth, I had trouble sticking to a major in college, and I still wonder what I'd do differently if were starting afresh. Years after graduation, I developed a great interest in and passion for studying philosophy, but since then I've gotten plenty of shrugs from friends in response to my advocacy of the possibility of majoring in philosophy.

Leiter Reports pointed me to a nice post by a personal finance blogger who recently gave his answer to the question Why Major in Philosophy?


Vincent Scordo writes:

"I came across some old philosophy books in my study this morning and it got me thinking about the value of an undergraduate degree in philosophy. And I can already hear the jokes, so please keep them to yourself! ; - ) At first glance, a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy provides no real practical application in the real world. After all, you will not receive any specific training that can lead to a job, are required to read esoteric texts, and will never arrive at a 'right answer' during a final exam or short quiz. So, why on earth are US colleges and universities struggling to keep up with the demand from students wanting to both take courses and major in philosophy?

As an ex-Philosophy major, I can tell you that my degree is invaluable and I would certainly study the same subject if I had to start all over again (I would maybe throw in a degree in Economics as well). If we cut to the chase, a degree in philosophy provides the following benefits..."

His list of benefits and more: here


Back to me:

To many, philosophy sounds like the least practical thing one can do with one's college career, but even if career earning potential is a major consideration, a recent Wall Street Journal article indicates philosophy majors have even done pretty well financially:

"Your parents might have worried when you chose Philosophy or International Relations as a major. But a year-long survey of 1.2 million people with only a bachelor's degree by PayScale Inc. shows that graduates in these subjects earned 103.5% and 97.8% more, respectively, about 10 years post-commencement. Majors that didn't show as much salary growth include Nursing and Information Technology." (link)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Abandoning Your Family

Good, funny satirical writing is always too hard to find, but a piece titled Three Simple Ways to Abandon Your Family by Ralpha Gamelli brought some good whole-hearted laughs. Three different means of escape are offered, the first of which being the classic stogie run disappearance:

"1. Start smoking at least three months prior to attempting your deception. (Six months is actually preferable.) This will lend you the credibility that’s fundamental to success. For example, you wouldn’t claim to be going out to buy a newspaper if you’ve never before shown an interest in reading the paper. Each puff will cement in your family’s mind the notion that you’ll have to regularly go out to replenish your supply of cigarettes.

2. Don’t smoke inside the house. This will betray the hostile feelings that have been building up toward your family for many years. Smoke outside on the porch, so they’ll think you still care about them. This way, when the big day finally arrives, they’ll be far less suspicious that you’re leaving forever."

more here: Three Simple Ways to Abandon Your Family

Friday, December 12, 2008

Again & Again

"LQC has been tantalising physicists since 2003 with the idea that our universe could conceivably have emerged from the collapse of a previous universe. Now the theory is poised to make predictions we can actually test. If they are verified, the big bang will give way to a big bounce and we will finally know the quantum structure of space-time. Instead of a universe that emerged from a point of infinite density, we will have one that recycles, possibly through an eternal series of expansions and contractions, with no beginning and no end."

New Scientist

"And Nietzsche, with his theory of eternal recurrence. He said that the life we lived we're gonna live over again the exact same way for eternity. Great. That means I'll have to sit through the Ice Capades again. It's not worth it." - Woody Allan (Hannah and Her Sisters)

Moral Inversion

Jim Rogers:

"What is outrageous economically and is outrageous morally is that normally in times like this, people who are competent and who saw it coming and who kept their powder dry go and take over the assets from the incompetent," he said. "What's happening this time is that the government is taking the assets from the competent people and giving them to the incompetent people and saying, now you can compete with the competent people. It is horrible economics."



Only one was released in 2008, but these are films I saw in the past year that I most enjoyed:

Vicki Christina Barcelona (2008):
Pan's Labyrinth (2006):
Rocket Science (2007):
Hors de Prix (2006):
2 Days in Paris (2007):

Honorable Mention: Burn After Reading, Synecdoche, NY, Happy-Go-Lucky

Still hope to see: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Man on Wire, Slumdog Millionaire, Doubt

Monday, December 08, 2008

Battle of the Blister Pack

The award for my favorite humorous Amazon review of 2008 goes to the fellow who wrote this:

"I am slouched in my computer chair as I type this... bloody, winded, and defeated. A mere shadow of my former, confident self. I have long known that it is folly to wrestle with a blister pack without the benefit of scissors, but just as I always feared... they've finally built a better blister pack.

I cut the top edge. Thinking the fell packaging bested like so many that preceded it, I laid down my scissors, placed my fingers into its open wound, and pulled apart with great force, barely suppressing an animalistic victory cry..."


Thursday, December 04, 2008


Artist: Django Reinhardt
Song: Swing (1939)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Multicolr Search

Second time I've seen it, Make recently posted this multi-color image search for Flickr. It is pretty cool. In the example below, I did my best to select the three dominant colors in the Barack Obama poster. My picks must have been pretty good, since the poster itself showed up in the search results. It's amazingly fast too.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Armchair Apocrypha

Credit for turning me on to Andrew Bird goes to one of the Photoshop engineers. Maybe listing a 2007 release as my favorite disc in 2008 shows I'm behind the curve, but the multi-talented Andrew Bird's Armchair Apocrypha is my favorite of all the discs I discovered in 2008.

Recommended tracks: Fiery Crash, Heretics, Plasticities, Scythian Empires...

Artist: Andrew Bird
Song: Fiery Crash
Disc: Armchair Apocrypha
Year: 2007