I was hoping to take Huck to see his first movie in a theater this summer, but alas and alack, I'm committed to taking him to a Pixar film, and Cars 2 seems pretty lame.  With the recent release of the trailer for 2012's "Brave," I'm guessing next year will be the one.  But wtf is up with the Scottish-ish accent of the voiceover artist?

Canadian Hay

Another great post at Unhappy Hipsters.  For kicks, I clicked through to the slideshow whence the photo came.  The term "over-wrought" comes to mind. Of course, when a magazine comes to photograph your "Origami House," you're gonna put on your game face, but that doesn't feel like an entirely legitimate excuse to me.

It was all I could do to keep reading after the opening caption:
Surrounded on all sides by a sweeping Canadian hayfield, the 23.2 House is an angular ode to rural life. Out of “respect for the beams and their history,” Designer Omer Arbel insisted that not a single reclaimed plank—still marked by nailheads and chipped paint—be cut nor altered during construction, which gave the home its striking geometric motif....
I'm sure general contractors just love that kind of architectural flourish.

The Oxford Comma [UPDATED]

Vampire Weekend predicted this years ago: the University of Oxford no longer cares about their own comma...
As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’. But when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used – especially where one of the items in the list is already joined by ‘and’...

UPDATE (via The text quoted above comes from Oxford's internal style guide, not their published for-public-consumption manual of style.  So, basically, they've stopped taking their own advice.  E.B. White, being dead, remains unmoved in all this:  "In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last."


Bon Iver's latest is already shaping up to be the soundtrack of my summer.  This cover of the opening track is as haunting and beautiful as the original.  Ironic twist:  the artist is from Melbourne.

via Paste.

Missing Persons

How's this for a measure of your blog's scope and power?
  1. You receive, but cannot open (for reasons not given), an e-mail from a correspondent
  2. You write a blog post, featuring that person's name and locale in the title, asking readers to please pass a message on to the sender of the e-mail
  3. The third commenter, writing less than a half an hour after the post went up, indicates that he knows said correspondent, and has sent her a note
At times like this, we're supposed to remark that it's a Small World.  The truth is, it's not a small world at all. Incidents like this, because of their sheer improbability (OK, maybe this one isn't so improbable), prompt us to acknowledge that it's a huge, huge world, and it's practically a miracle when we meet someone from Chagrin Falls who happens to know a friend of ours who grew up there.


I love this:  A guy attaches a disposable camera to a package and encourages postal workers to snap pictures of its trip from MA to HI.  Love it.

But how long before a million copycats prompt a new "no flash photography at work" policy at the USPS?

via BoingBoing.

An Inside Joke? A Joke Inside?

Robert Cringely has a theory about Apple's new data center in North Carolina that seems preposterous, unless you've read his observations and analysis leading up to it:
So here’s my guess: I think it’s a joke. The building is a near-empty facility built primarily to intimidate Apple competitors. And so far it seems to be working.

Coal Lobby Warns Wind Farms May Blow Earth Off Orbit

"Wind slips through your's dishonest."

In The Know: Coal Lobby Warns Wind Farms May Blow Earth Off Orbit

Weird Al Video

Someone just sent me a link to this video.  I don't think it was intended for me per se, so much as it was a way of gently mocking the mutual friends this someone and I have who would really benefit from seeing it.  And heeding its message.

Another People Group Ruined by Spoons

White Man visits a tribe in Papua New Guinea for the first time.  Spoons enter the scene around 9:15, and fascination ensues.

Watch on YouTube; embedding not allowed.

Videos Revisited

In the past couple days, three video series that I love have gained new entries (linked below, embedded after the jump):
Incidentally, Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen was recently profiled by, but reading the article leaves me with the sense that they're just trying to ride her wave to boost their own web traffic - I mean, look at all the embedded links between paragraphs that point to their own vaguely relevant I just being cynical?

The Ideological Turing Test

I would love to see this carried out.  I have no idea what the results would be, but I'm always interested when an intellectual puts his money where his mouth is.

The only immediate flaw I can see in his proposal is that there may be some way to use coded words or themes as a signal, although even that would be hard to coordinate.  Also, there would need to be a sort of simpler Turing Test for the readers in the proposed experiment in order to prove that they know what they're talking about.

Fair Use

If you're as un-hip and out-of-touch as me, then a guy you've probably never heard of was sued by another guy you've never heard of (but whose photography you'd recognize instantly) because the first guy (the one sued) produced a visual work that was not sufficiently distinct from the original (that of the sue-er) as to be considered "fair use." Click any link in this post for more info.

This post comes via DF (three times!), kottke, BoingBoing, and about a half dozen other feeds in my Google Reader.



Anteater Wants You to Untie His Paws

How have I never noticed this before?


Via BoingBoing.

Really Fast

From 1986, we get this video gem.

Bob Munden:  I'm listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the fastest man with a gun who ever lived.  There are 18 world records you can hold in this sport.  I hold all 18, and have since 1960.

Bob:  Fast-draw - it's the fastest thing a human being does.  Nobody does anything faster than what I do with a gun.
Interviewer:  Can you give any comparison to something that would come close, but is not as fast?
Bob [dead serious]:  Speed of light.  Which is far beyond it.

Watch the video, though, and you'll believe him.

Another Dog Story

Dogs score another major victory.
The hospice arranged for Yurt to visit McClain, and Erceg drove Yurt over in an ambulance.
"This dog, I swear to God she knew where she was going. She was just freaking out -- yipping and shrieking. We got to the hospice house, and she just made a beeline for the front door," Erceg said.
Yurt headed straight toward McClain's room.
"She made a right-hand turn and another right-hand turn, and that dog led me down the hall," Erceg recalled.
When they arrived, Garrett said, McClain was in what appeared to be a deep sleep. Yurt jumped on the bed, and Erceg said it was "like watching her pour herself over his body -- she laid completely on top of him."
Erceg said she took McClain's hand and put it on top of the dog's head, repeating the motion over and over again until McClain's fingers began to move.

Hotel Venezuela Update

I'm starting to think that Venezuelan prisons aren't the most relaxing places to visit.

Security Review

If you're a Dropbox user, you might want to check your recent events page and verify that no one accessed your account without authorization on Sunday.  According to the popular service's official blog, there was a 4-hour period that afternoon during which anyone could access any account using any password.  According to the same post, they've notified all users whose accounts were accessed (even by the authorized user) during that period.  Dropbox gets bonus points for being up-front about the nature and scope of the bug, and for being so proactive in alerting users who may have been affected.

If you're not a Dropox user, you probably should be. Even now.

No matter what, you should be encrypting your sensitive data on the client side (at your computer, or on your mobile device) before sharing it out on the cloud.  I recommend 1Password or TrueCrypt.

Blender Hack

If I ever own a blender and a Mason Jar, I'm totally gonna try this:

Did you know that many, if not most, blenders can be used with a standard mason jar, or wide-mouthed mason jar? This is a trick my mother taught me. Apparently 40 years ago or so, about the time this blender pictured was bought, manufacturers used to include a mason jar in the box with the blender. Mom recalls even a booklet that listed the many things one could make with the mason jar blender, including ground spices, whipped cream, and peanut butter. We use this trick most often to make whipped cream. The blender whips it right in the jar, so if we have extra, it's already in a jar for storage. And it is easier when it comes to making small quantities. 
I was complaining the other day that I needed a spice grinder. My mother reminded me of the mason jar trick and it worked perfectly. Here's how to do it. I'm using walnuts to demonstrate, but you could use this trick with just about anything you want to blend, chop, or grind.
via reddit.

My New Diet Book

In the tradition of Troy McClure's "Smoke Yourself Thin!" and "Get Confident, Stupid!" I'm tentatively calling it "Look at the #$%@ You're Putting Into Your Body!"

The entire basis of the book will be images from this site.  I don't think captions, or even a preface, would be necessary.  I could get away with this under "fair use," right?

Ben Greenman’s Graphs About Charts and Charts About Graphs: Graph #1 by Ben Greenman

Another graph I love.

Riot Round-up

Not much more needs to be said about the riots in Vancouver, but that never stopped me before. A few observations:
  • Yesterday, a friend of mine overheard a guy in a bar remark that the rioters were "acting like Americans." I suspect that this line of reasoning would've stopped even the drunkest Canadian in his tracks. Too bad no one thought of it at the time.
  • On the other hand, here in America (and especially in nearby College Park), it's considered bad etiquette to riot after a loss. Lawlessness, looting, and the burning of police cars are reserved for celebratory moments, like when you beat Duke or the last day of school.
  • The overnight sensation, we're lovers not fighters, street-kissing couple has been identified.  A friend of the man in the picture said "It is something he would do, that's our boy. He has always lived in his own world, he's special like that. He doesn’t always connect with what going on around him."  On the contrary, I'd say "our boy" was very connected with what was going on around him.  The kisser himself had this to say:  "The riot police ran on top of us... They ran us over... We were knocked over, and I was just trying to calm her down, because as I'm sure you can imagine, she was somewhat distraught."  Greatest pick-up artist ever?
  • This guy probably did more to slow the tide of rioting maniacs than half the RCMP on the scene.
  • It would hurt really, really bad to get punched out cold by a bare-fisted man (wait for's not the guy you think it's gonna be!):


There's no condescension like "tent full of sweaty post-ironic hipster parents" condescension.

Awww...look, honey - she's been to Ke$ha's makeup artist!

I know!  And he's totally playing bar chords on a Big Boy guitar!

Hipster Jesus

Somewhere on the list of things I'll never get around to doing (the list, paradoxically, contains itself since I've never actually written any of it down) is a book about the church signs of America.  The working title is From Sign to Shining Sign, although I've always thought I could do better than that.

The book would be 1/3 comedic take on the signs, 1/3 travelog, and 1/3 essays about the people behind the signs.  I wanted to interview the old lady or the fresh young pastor who thought posting things like "Welcome to our ch  rch.  The only thing missing is U!" or (in the peak summer heat) "Come on in, we're prayer conditioned!" on their message board to passing motorists would actually put butts in the pews.  Well, I may never write that book, but at least now I have a cover photo.

via reddit.

Phish in a Barrel

And speaking of police seizures, we get the following press release from my local PD:
County police made 24 arrests at two Phish concerts at Merriweather Post Pavilion [#4!] this weekend and seized three vehicles containing drugs, as well as more than $2,000 in cash. Police also issued 22 alcohol citations for underage drinking.
If anything, I was surprised those numbers were so low.  The press release goes on to list the arrestees, and the charges agains them.  I thought this one was particularly interesting because it reads like a highlight reel of three really bad minutes in this poor guy's life; you can just picture his drug-addled thought process as the list unfolds:
Pxxxx D. Hxxx, 28, of Cincinnati, Ohio (drug distribution, drug possession with intent to distribute, second-degree assault, resisting arrest, other charges)

Last Dance with Mary-Jub-Jub

If you were scanning headlines, and only caught this much:
Nearly 160 Pounds of...uana...Seized at Border...
What would you expect the story to be about?  Well, you're wrong.

Life Imitates the Onion

Quick, no peeking:  which of these stories comes from The Onion?

Young Billionaire's Age Not Reported For Sake Of Nation's Ego
NEW YORK—Major media outlets confirmed Friday their agreement to omit young billionaire Terry Gibson's age from all news reports as part of an effort to protect the fragile egos of Americans and prevent national morale from sinking to an all-time low. "With the economy lagging and millions of Americans still out of work, the last thing people need to hear is the age of some young billionaire inventor who's just rolling in it," said ABC News president Ben Sherwood, adding that the enormously wealthy young man was "under 30, and let's just leave it at that."... 
Seattle area 15-year-old sells startup to ActiveState
Some entrepreneurs wait a lifetime to experience the thrill of selling their startup companies. Daniil Kulchenko, a Seattle area high school student, accomplished that milestone at the age of 15. Kulchenko today announced that he’s sold his startup, a cloud-based computing company known as Phenona, to Vancouver, B.C.-based ActiveState in a deal of undisclosed size. 
Kulchenko plans to join ActiveState in a part-time role, since he’s still a student at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore. Phenona had not publicly launched at the time of the sale, but ActiveState CEO Bart Copeland said that the deal will help speed the company’s move into cloud computing.

Me Lover's Pizza

And, speaking of pizza humor, here's Jon Stewart at his best, from a week or so ago:

Via Chris Blattman.

Big Hitter, the Lama

I don't speak Lama, but I believe the Dalai's response to this hilariously failed joke was bemused laughter, followed by the words "theoretically possible."


While checking the usage examples of "learning" at, I noticed this section towards the bottom of the page:

Is this going to be the driving force that keeps the online dictionary relevant?  Facebook fans and comments? Is there a flame war raging somewhere on the site over the idiots who use "affect" when they mean "effect," or the tragic "their/there/they're" conflagration of aught-nine?

Learnings II

Never pick a fight with a poet-lawyer.  But if you do, finish it.

I am revealing my inner Grammar Nanny here, but my objection to the increased noun-use of "learning" in the business vernacular is that there is always a better word available.  99% of the time, the word "lesson" would cause much less offense to the ear.  And even in situations when rewriting a sentence to avoid using "learning" as a noun violates Rule 13, it's totally worth it.  Two examples:

  • Which is more elegant? "My economics learning of the day was..." or "My economics lesson today was..." 
  • Which is less awkward? "Despite this week's learnings about the dangers of urban living, I took a back-alley shortcut home from work tonight." or "Despite learning this week about..." or, OR! "Even though I learned this week..." OK, I'll stop. 

I was also surprised (and embarrassed) to learn(!) that there are defensible uses of "learning" as a noun/gerund. I recognize them as such, of course, but they hadn't occurred to me before. From

  • a computer program that makes learning fun 
  • different methods of foreign language learning 
  • The first year of college was a learning experience. 
  • They were people of good education and considerable learning. 

I just don't see how any of those four examples can justify the way we've come to abuse the word in the workplace today.

And let's not get started on "ask." The next time I hear someone say "what's the ask here?" I'm going to punch him in the throat.

Not a Gay Girl, Not in Damascus

The Atlantic has a nice wrap-up of the "Gay Girl in Damascus" hoax and ensuing fallout, including some commentary on the damage done by the self-proclaimed champion of human rights who started it all. 

There's one thing missing from the list, though: The loss of credibility suffered by so many credulous members of the mainstream and alternative media. Will these people and institutions overcome the damage? I suspect in many cases they will barely miss a beat. This won't be the first time a "fake but accurate" story fails to sink someone's career.

Along the same lines, another man has been outed as having blogged using the persona of a lesbian.  This man's rationale, according to The Atlantic, was that he wanted "to demand the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and advocate for other gay issues--and assumed the identity of a lesbian woman because he didn't think people would take him seriously as a straight man."

What, if anything, do these two stories tell us about a power shift in American culture?

The Whole Foods Parking Lot

The Whole Foods parking lot can be crazy, y'all.  I've never been so glad to live so far from that dystopian nightmare of cataclysmic capitalism.

Favorite lines:

Now I'm on this inside, looking at my list
Organic chicken, Kale Salad and a Lemon Twist.
Some girl in yoga pants is lookin' at me funny
I'm just tryin' to find a decent Pinot Noir for under twenty.


You're the most annoying dude I've ever seen, brah
Could you please move? You're right in front of the quinoa
I'm 'bout to check out
Pay my eighty bucks for six things
and get the heck out

Go The $#%& To Sleep [UPDATE]

You downloaded a bootleg of the book a couple months ago.  You pre-ordered seven copies for baby shower gifts, and they arrived today.  Now, you can download the free audio book and listen in hilarious horror as Samuel L. Jackson offers his own dramatic rendition of the soon-to-be-classic [parents of] children's book.

UPDATE:  If you don't feel like creating an account just so you can download an audiobook you'll listen to once, maybe twice, then check out the youtube version:

Problem Solved

This is the kind of creative problem solving that separates good programmers from great ones.  When I was in corporate IT, I had a similar trick for comparing contract versions (which seem to proliferate as execution dates approach): I'd just overlay them and hold them up to my office window.  Does that make me great?  No need to answer that question...I get a little uncomfortable with boundless and enthusiastic praise.


A dear friend, who I don't talk to as much now as I once did, has used the word "learnings" twice in the past week. (As in, "what are the three key learnings we can take away from this morning's presentation?") This is one of the smartest, most urbane, yet down-to-earth people I know.  A poet-lawyer.  More to the point:  this is exactly the kind of offense against the English language that I would expect to raise her ire and set off a scathing but elegant rant on her secret public blog.

What is my responsibility to this friend? An intervention? A stern e-mail? Silent judgement? Some sort of online petition?


The Sartorialist posted this picture recently.  A nice look, that a massive dictionary slung over her shoulder with a leather strap?!  If it's not hollowed out to hold her iPad, wallet, and lipstick, then someone should issue a citation for Excessive Public Hipsterism.  I mean: irony, retro, meta, et cetera are all well and good; but that kind of preening devotion to the craft can lead to severe spinal damage.

Perhaps she's part of a comic troupe, and there's a guy riding behind her on a fixed-gear bike, shouting out obscure words for her to look up.

Also, was she visiting the site of a recent paintball drive-by shooting?  Or did Banksy kick over a bucket of ochre and flee the scene before he could put up his latest masterwork?

Brooklyn Thieves

Since it was Brooklyn, I'm sure they used a hipster ax.

I can't help thinking about an old story from The Onion, which was apparently deemed so offensive that they pulled it down.

via Althouse


Our local concert venue was named #4 on Paste's list of Nine Favorite Outdoor Concert Venues. We live about half a mile away, which is very convenient every seven years or so, when we go see a concert. It's actually most convenient for eavesdropping on shows that you don't feel like going to, but want to hear in a vague, muffled, distant way.

My memories of the place: in middle school, I was the seventh caller to Q-107 (remember radio stations?) and won tickets to see Kool & the Gang there; saw Whitney Houston two summers in a row, back when that was something you'd be proud to admit; saw Howie Mandel on the tour following his HBO special, at much too young an age; saw Huey Lewis AND the News and am still proud to admit that; also, James Taylor, Jimmy Buffet (thanks, Bill!), and Counting Crows on Adam Duritz's birthday. Also, a month or so ago, we got to meet up with Lori's cousin (the kindest rock star in the world), whose band played a festival there, and hang out with him backstage like a couple of aging suburban groupies. Good times. With the passes he gave us, I brought a friend back that night to see the Strokes.

That'll probably be the last show I see there, because our house is for sale. If you're looking for a 3BR 2.5Ba townhouse within walking distance of a gigantic mall and an amphitheater, let me know!

Three-Way Street

This is a fantastic visualization of the dangers that lurk at every busy intersection in New York.  What lesson are we to take away from this?  The key question seems to be:  are bikes more like cars or pedestrians?  The answer to this would go a long way towards making everybody safer.


It's not just Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The IMF itself should be on trial...
Sometimes, the most revealing aspect of the shrieking babble of the 24/7 news agenda is the silence. Often the most important facts are hiding beneath the noise, unmentioned and undiscussed. 
So the fact that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is facing trial for allegedly raping a maid in a New York hotel room is – rightly – big news. But imagine a prominent figure was charged not with raping a maid, but starving her to death, along with her children, her parents, and thousands of other people. That is what the IMF has done to innocent people in the recent past. That is what it will do again, unless we transform it beyond all recognition. But that is left in the silence.
So, is it too soon to pronounce Bruce Cockburn prophet?

Flying Man

This video doesn't make my hands and feet sweat at all!

Revenge from Beyond the Grave

I love this.  Elizabeth Edwards secretly recorded video testimony helps nail John:
In a final act of revenge, Elizabeth Edwards secretly recorded a testimony in her dying days that helped prosecutors indict husband John last week, it was claimed today. 
John Edwards is due to stand trial on charges that could lead to a 30-year jail sentence after he pleaded not guilty on Friday to using $925,000 in campaign funds to cover up an affair and love child. 
The estranged wife of the former presidential candidate is alleged to have filmed a damning testimony that was central to the prosecution's case for charges.

Friends said the cancer victim, who died in December, wanted to 'haunt' her estranged husband and his mistress Rielle Hunter, with whom he fathered a child and made a sex tape.
Incidentally, as a successful trial lawyer, John Edwards is in a bit of a Catch-22.  He could've represented himself, but that would leave him with a fool for a client.  Instead, he hired an attorney, which implies that he's not good enough to do the job himself.  The real situation is a bit more complicated, and thankfully, smarter people than me have already thought it through.

Amazon MP3 Deal of the Day

The Book of Mormon soundtrack is $1.99 today.

It kills me that I paid full price for this a couple weeks ago, but now I have an excuse to offer my thoughts on the matter.

This show is offensive, vulgar, and blasphemous; but it's also hilarious, thought-provoking, and toe-tappingly catchy.  In short, it's everything you'd expect from its creators.  I might make a trip to NYC just to see it.

Here's an easy way to decide whether you should buy this album or not: if you can't imagine ever laughing at a song that makes light of female genital mutilation; then this might not be for you.  On the other hand, if you're intrigued by the fact that someone even tried to find the humor in such an offensive practice; then it will be worth every bit of your $2.


This girl looks like a famous male pop star who looks like a girl.  So: instant fan-base!

It's Not About You...'s about ME!

David Brooks, a second-cohort Baby Boomer, doesn't seem to see the irony in lecturing current college graduates about being too self-centered. Actually, that's not fair...the column is full of good observations that grads and their parents would do well to consider. And it's not a lecture at all. Highlights:
College grads are often sent out into the world amid rapturous talk of limitless possibilities. But this talk is of no help to the central business of adulthood, finding serious things to tie yourself down to. The successful young adult is beginning to make sacred commitments — to a spouse, a community and calling — yet mostly hears about freedom and autonomy.
Today's graduates are also told to find their passion and then pursue their dreams. The implication is that they should find themselves first and then go off and live their quest. But, of course, very few people at age 22 or 24 can take an inward journey and come out having discovered a developed self. 

Gas Tax

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one fed up with GM's CEO.

Sitting v. Smoking

So, smoking at your desk is probably a really, really bad idea? It's a wonder anyone from the Greatest Generation® is still alive to tell their tale.

Bonus points to the article's author, for finding the most articulate cardiologist in America:
“The fact of being sedentary causes factors to happen in the body that are very detrimental,” said Dr. Coven.
And the fact of being called a "Doctor" causes this Coven character to be held in high esteem by HealthWatch readers.  Factors happen!

How long will it be before hoards of office workers start petitioning their employers for mandatory "stand around breaks," and how long after that before they lobby their local governments for laws that would protect them from all the second-hand smoke they're exposed to while taking said breaks?  And, will all this end with every office job being staffed by two employees - one who smokes for half an hour at a time, and another who stands outside for the other half?

Riding a Bike in NYC

Great little public service announcement.

Headline of the Day

Seen on reddit:

and the obituary can be found here.


I don't even know where to begin with this:
She made the headlines last year when she confessed to teaching her then six-year-old daughter Poppy to pole dance. And now Sarah Burge is back in the spotlight again - for all the wrong reasons.

The 50-year-old mother - a self-confessed plastic surgery addict known as The Human Barbie - has boasted that she gave a £6,000 breast enlargement voucher to her daughter for her seventh birthday. 
Miss Burge, who has spent more than £500,000 on her own surgical enhancements and wants to make her daughter into a glamour model, said Poppy 'squealed with delight' when she was given the voucher.
Surely, somewhere between gender neutrality and this, there's an in-between world where mature, emotionally healthy, and reasonable parents are nurturing their sons and daughters through adolescence and into well-adjusted adulthood.  Sometimes, though, it seems like the walls are closing in.

Another Letter of Note

This comes from, and it's a bit of a twist on the premise of the last letter I posted.

This time, imagine you're an (apparently insufferable) author of some acclaim and you receive a letter like this one from your editor/publisher:
Your threat to leave Knopf after this current contract is fulfilled leaves us far from intimidated. Harrison, Bernstein and I will be sorry to see you depart, for business reasons, but these are not strong enough to make us put up with your manner to us any longer. I've worked hard for you editorially but had already decided to stop doing so; indeed, you've managed to make the entire experience of publishing you unappealing for all of us - counterproductive behavior, I would have thought. 
To be perfectly clear, let me reverse your threat: unless you start acting civilly to us, there is no possibility of our agreeing to continue to publish you. Nor will I - or any of us - answer any future letter that we consider to be as rude as those we've been receiving.
Take that, Roald Dahl!

Evidently, they loved him in France, though.

This is Better

Steve Jobs would like to build, essentially, a 4-story spaceship on the site of HP's old corporate campus in Cupertino, CA.  In addressing the Cupertino City Council recently, the following exchange took place:
Kris Wang (Council Member): Do we get a free WiFi, or something like that? [laughter]
Jobs:  Well...see, I'm a simpleton.  I've always had this view that we pay taxes, and the city should do those things.  [laughter] That's why we pay taxes.  Now, if we can get out of paying taxes, I'll be glad to put up a WiFi network! [roaring laughter]
While the CEO of a collapsing behemoth was busy lecturing the federal government on the subject of fiscal responsibility, the CEO of the world's second-largest company - a company that is still in its ascendancy - visited his local City Council to make a personal case for a massive construction project he wants to undertake.  This latter leader kept things very simple:  here's what we'd like to do, with your approval; and anything else you think the people of Cupertino might like should be done at your discretion, based on your knowledge of your constituency.  The contrast is remarkable.

Incidentally, Jobs' presentation to the council (linked in the first paragraph) is worth watching in its entirety.  It reveals a pragmatic, toned-down side of a man who's often faulted for being too much of a dreamer and a pied piper.  Also, it's always nice to see a panel of elected officials fawning over a businessman during testimony, instead of using their opportunity on the stage to jab him in the eye because of perceived evil excess profits or the like.

Nice little "giving back to the community" moment towards the end too, but with a twist:  a government official asking a business not to build a new wing for the hospital or pay a special tax to fund the new minor-league baseball stadium, but to "build a a store here so we don't have to travel to nearby towns to buy your stuff."


My immediate thought was "from where?"

Superintendent Brings Home $500,000

Turns out the answer is "from work!"


Bill Simmons' new site is live today.  Should be interesting, if nothing else.

This is a Joke, Right?

My brain is throbbing with expletive-laden incredulity at this:
Politicians should not "play chicken" with the country's credit rating, but need to focus urgently on finding ways to reduce the rising budget deficit, according to the head of General Motors Co.
The battle between President Barack Obama's Democratic Party and the opposition Republicans over whether to raise the limit on government borrowing from its current $14.3 trillion level plays a dangerous game with default, Daniel Akerson, chief executive of the largest U.S. automaker said on Tuesday. 
"We shouldn't underestimate that and play chicken with our national credit rating, our national honor," Akerson said at GM's first annual shareholder meeting since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009. 
If the government does not raise the nation's borrowing limit by August 2, the nation runs the risk of defaulting.
Daniel Akerson is a like recent college graduate whose parents just paid off the credit card debt he'd amassed after four years of binge drinking.  As an undergrad, he'd even promised a few of his closest friends he'd "take care of them for life" and his parents now carry those obligations as well.  OK, some of the obligations got eliminated, but not all of them. Now, as the parents contemplate taking out a second mortgage in part to offset the massive costs they incurred by bailing their son out, petulant little Daniel is lecturing them on how to operate a fiscally responsible household.  Shameless.

Maybe Daniel's parents should take out that mortgage, maybe they shouldn't.  But Daniel had damn well better shut his mouth and get busy cleaning his room, paying his new credit card bills, and making something people want to buy.  And it's no good saying he's earning a living now when all he's really doing is selling his old junk at a garage sale.  Eventually, he's going to run out of junk.

Livin' It Up at the Hotel Venezuela

The US Supreme court recently ordered California to release tens of thousands of prisoners. I guess overcrowding is unconstitutional. There are alternatives to just turning convicted criminals loose, though, one of which is the "Venezuelan Solution." The NYTimes has the story:

Where Prisoners Can Do Anything, Except Leave

An excerpt, which will give you a pretty good sense of the situation:
Luis Gutiérrez, the warden at San Antonio, refused to discuss the prison he nominally oversees. On weekends, the ambience inside, bursting with spouses, romantic partners and some who simply show up looking for diversion, almost resembles the island's beach resorts. 
Prisoners barbecue meat while sipping whisky poolside. In some cells, equipped with air-conditioning and DirecTV satellite dishes, inmates relax with wives or girlfriends. (Venezuela, like other Latin American countries, allows conjugal visits.) The children of some inmates swim in one of the prison's four pools. 
Prisoners boast that they built these perks themselves, with their own money. They say escapes are rare (inmates, if they try, still face the threat of being shot by soldiers outside). And while San Antonio can hardly be considered safe — a grenade attack in the infirmary killed several men last year — inmates argue that compared with other jails, peace often prevails. 
"Our prison is a model institution," said Iván Peñalver, 33, a convicted murderer who preaches at the prison's evangelical Christian church.
Also, I'd say that this man has one of the loneliest, most thankless job in South America:
"The state has lost control of the prisons in Venezuela," said Carlos Nieto, director of Window to Freedom, which documents rights violations in Venezuelan prisons.


The real magic here is that he performs these tricks (illuuusions, Michael!) without coming off as a total d-bag.  Now I have to re-draw the "Magician / D-Bag" venn diagram in my mind.

Via @gruber.

The Right to Remain Silent

The law is complicated.

On the one hand, I think it should be OK if a couple wants to dance quietly at a national monument.  On the other hand, I think there's a legitimate case to be made for designating quiet areas in a park - places free from the ambient sounds and noises that are otherwise inescapable in a big city.
Several musicians who work in the 840-acre park and do not use electronic sound systems said parks enforcement officers had recently ordered them to cease playing or leave certain areas, including Bethesda Fountain, Strawberry Fields and the Boathouse. John Boyd, a singer, said he had refused and received six summonses. 
On Sunday afternoon, the civil liberties lawyer Norman Siegel and Geoffrey Croft, the founder of NYC Park Advocates, a nonpartisan group that supports city parks, joined some of those musicians in a passageway next to Bethesda Fountain. 
Mr. Siegel called the establishment and expansion of the Quiet Zones “antithetical to the principles, values and spirit of the First Amendment.” 

On iCloud

Exciting news from northern California yesterday.  The "iTunes Match" service and OS X Lion pricing were a real surprise, as was iMessaging and various other features of the upcoming iOS 5.  Lion pricing had been suggested recently, but I think "$29 for all the computers that use your iTunes account" is even more aggressive than anyone expected.

Some questions and observations:
  • The MobileMe suite should've been free for a long time.  I started paying for it a few years ago, when Gmail and Google Apps couldn't handle contact and calendar syncing very well; but for awhile now it's been hard for me to convince home users and sole proprietors that they should pay $100/year for something that could be accomplished for free (and very easily) with a Google account and Xmarks. 
  • Which brings me to my first question:  whither bookmark syncing in iCloud?  There's no mention of it anywhere, as far as I can tell, in any of the iCloud press materials.  I haven't viewed the 2-hour keynote stream yet, and maybe there was a passing reference to it there...I realize this was a very minor feature of MobileMe, and I assume it's not getting dropped, but I'd love to know for sure.

Triple Threat

When Tyler Cowen gives a TED talk in Wes Anderson's living room, you can be sure I'll spend 18 minutes of my lunch break watching the video.

A Letter of Note

Imagine writing a letter to a literary legend, and getting a response that begins:
I really am most grateful for your splendid letter of May 23rd. 
You have entirely convinced me and I propose, perhaps not in the next volume of James Bond's memoirs but, in the subsequent one, to change his weapons in accordance with your instructions. 
Since I am not in the habit of stealing another man's expertise, I shall ask you in due course to accept remuneration for your most valuable technical aid...[this goes on for two pages]
[Signed, Ian Fleming]

First World Problems, French Edition

I made a casual observation about "Asian Culture" recently, and a friend laughed at my simplistic lumping of an entire continent into one big hot pot. Obviously, there is no monolithic "Asian Culture" any more than there is a "European" or "North American" culture. Antarctica is the exception to this - everybody down there is crazy in exactly the same way.

Despite our vast and subtle differences, I tend to think the relative political and economic freedom enjoyed by inhabitants of what I still like to call the "First World" mean that we all have a lot more in common than not. Until I see a story like this one:

French ban the words 'Twitter' and 'Facebook' from being used on TV and radio
President Nicolas Sarkozy's colleagues have agreed to uphold a 1992 decree which stipulates that commercial enterprises should not be promoted on news programs.
Broadcasting anchors from now on are forbidden to refer to the popular social networking site and the microblogging phenomenon, unless it is pivotal and relevant to a news item.
And I recall, from high school French class: France is a nation that, while freer than most on earth, still regulates its own language. With actual laws. When the government says a noun is feminine, then dammit that noun is feminine. (Can you imagine if this family were French Canadian, or - worse yet - French?!) And now, apparently, when France says that it's illegal to mention the names of certain "social networks" (nudge-nudge) over the airwaves, then that's the way le petit gâteau (or is it la petite gâteau?) crumbles.

Also, France evidently has a "Conseil Superieur de l'Audiovisuel," whose job, among other things (I assume), is to ask questions like this: "Why give preference to Facebook...when there are many other social networks that are struggling for recognition?" Bien sûr!

Noah's Ark

A giant recreation of Noah's Ark could be moored in the River Thames during the London 2012 Olympics.  I'll say this:  while there are a lot of more productive ways all that money could've been spent, at least the guy stuck with it.  Meanwhile, I've driven past this monstrosity in western Maryland for over 20 years and it has stood there all along as a monument to crazy ideas.  Notably, the steel frame represents only 1/3 of the total ark, and the Phase One goal is to enclose it entirely before moving on.  I suspect that in 20 more years, we'll see a rusting shell of a 1/3 ark and people will still be wondering how all the animals could fit in that thing.

On Baseball and Parenting

A dad chooses a foul ball over his daughter.  If this is the worst thing he ever does to her, I think she's gonna turn out OK.  Still, not something anyone wants splashed across the internet.


I don't think I'll ever get a tattoo. 

I hope I never lose one of my arms. 

If the latter happens, though, I am 99% certain I'll do the former; and this will be the result.

I Feel Happy of Myself

I usually don't go in for all the "believe in yourself and anything's possible!" crap that seems to be the core dogma of successful actors and musicians everywhere, but when this kid tells me to believe in myself I'm strangely tempted to do so.

Are You Drunk?

Somewhere towards the bottom of my list of reasons to name this blog "Grandiloquent Bloviator" was the idea that it would serve as a good sobriety test. My theory was, if you can still tell someone at a cocktail party that you loved the recent post at Grandiloquent Bloviator without getting your tongue tied in a knot, then there's a good chance you can afford to have another drink.

This theory proved to be flawed. It turns out that 7 times out of 10 even I can't pronounce it correctly at any time of day, even if it's been a week since I had a drink.  (Though, truth be told, I can't remember the last time I went a week without a drink.)

Also, I suspect it's very rare that anyone at a cocktail party is prompted to tell a friend about a recent post here, so pronunciation is really a second-order problem.

For the record, my current sobriety test word is: exacerbate.

First, They Came for the Dancers... [CORRECTED] and [Correction UPDATED]

At first, I thought this was the constitutional equivalent to calling for the jaws of life to free a trapped fawn.  There are so many bigger threats to our liberty today; and people around the world are physically fighting their governments for the barest of basic human rights.

Upon reflection, though, it seems to me that if abortion*, pornography, and every blog in existence are sheltered by the First Amendment, then "dancing quietly and unobtrusively in a Federal Monument" should be too.  But I'm no lawyer.

*CORRECTION:  according to an attorney friend, who reminds me every time I ask him a legal question that he is not my legal counsel and his answer should not be construed as legal advice, abortion is protected under the 5th** and 14th amendments.

**UPDATE:  the same friend now claims that, upon reflection, it may only be the 14th.  This is a guy who passed three different state bar exams in three different years.  On the other hand, he almost had to leave during one section of the LSATs because he had to go to the bathroom so bad he couldn't see straight.  I need to find a new person to not give me legal advice.

Dense Sentence

Former U.S. Presidential candidate John Edwards, the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice-President in 2004, has been indicted on felony charges stemming from illegal use of campaign contributions to hide his affair with film producer Rielle Hunter, with whom he belatedly admitted fathering a child while his wife suffered from an ultimately terminal recurrence of breast cancer.
A trilogy of best-selling novels could be extrapolated from that one sentence.

Greatest Lip Dub Ever + Greatest Single-Take Tracking Shot Ever

= Greatest Music Video Ever.  At least, according to amateur New Yorker cartoon caption writer Roger Ebert.

I was one of the few to miss this when it debuted last weekend.  Bonus points for the Daring Fireball t-shirt in the opening segment!

Thanks, Amy!

Elevator Economics

An alternate sub-title to this blog could be something like "just an average guy trying to figure everything out." It's no surprise, therefore, that I love stuff like this. Specifically, I love learning systematic methods for evaluating situations like the "single-floor elevator rider" and deciding whether I should be judgmental and agitated or not.

While I cogitate on Ely's post, I will just continue to follow the "walk up one, down two" rule and scowl behind the backs of those who don't.


The title and final sentence of this story are all you need to read; everything else is details:

Chinese boy sells kidney to buy an iPad 2

"The child now says he regrets his decision."

Greatest Data Visualization Ever?

Arab spring: an interactive timeline of Middle East protests

The perfect way to get caught up on the past six months of unrest in the Middle East.  If you have three days to spare.


I will literally be checking this site every day.  A catalog of comments from Facebook users who mistook Onion articles for real news.  Sample post:

Windows X

John Gruber has some interesting insights on the next-generation Windows OS, cleverly code-named "Windows 8."

I don't usually like making predictions, in writing, for all the world to see, but for some reason this morning I'm in the mood. Here are a few:
  • This will be the last Windows release with Steve Ballmer at the helm. The new product will be received by the tech press and the public with what can best be described as "mild curiousity." Most people, even by the time the product ships, will still fail to grasp what Gruber just pointed out on Introduction Day.
  • By the time Bill Gates regains control of Microsoft, development of Windows 9 will be so far underway that he will not be able to bring the process to a halt. There will be too many other opportunities and threats to deal with. 
  • Work on Windows X will begin in parallel, in a lab about twice the size of the one where Gates and Allen coded DOS. Gates will visit this lab daily, and will be obsessively engaged in the development process. This will re-kindle a passion in him that's been slowly dying for the past 30 years, and it will either cost him his marriage or Melinda's affection for Bill exceed anything either of them has seen before. 
  • In late 2013, we will start to hear about a revolutionary new Windows OS, built from the ground up on a completely different paradigm from every version that preceded it. The registry will be eliminated, among other things, and the OS will be as promising as anything Microsoft has ever produced. It will ship in mid-2015.
  • Meanwhile, as Apple continues to gain momentum (that's right, they're still just building up speed), Windows 8 will give every home user the last excuse they needed to finally switch to a Mac: it will be so fundamentally different from Win7 that they will feel like they're going to have to learn a new operating system entirely. And, as long as that's the case, why not just learn the Mac OS. I mean, they already have an iPhone and an iPad, right? Makes sense to get a Mac too. This is the logic that has already gotten a sizable chunk of the baby boomer cohort into the Mac universe. When combined with Windows 8, the rest of that generation and most of the subsequent ones will come cascading into Cupertino's control as well. (Over-wrought metaphor + alliteration = net zero gain).
  • Regardless of where oil prices go, AAPL will surpass XOM in market cap by Christmas 2012. Probably a quarter or two before that. I've talked to a lot of financial guys whose only argument against going long AAPL is, essentially, "it's gotta stop somewhere." Not that they're literally making this point, but it's as if they're looking at the big chart at the front of the boardroom and motioning to the top-right corner and pleading: "LOOK, gentlemen! This chart cuts off at $400/share! It's simply inconceivable that the price could go any higher!"

DISCLOSURE: if you're taking any of the above as financial advice, you need your head checked. I am a horrible investor with a solid track record of consistent losses and a couple of inexplicable yet sizable gains. So, while I've been long AAPL since about 2002, I do not recommend that you follow my lead. And even if I did, you'd be a fool to do so based on my opinion alone. Conversely, by not taking my advice, you are demonstrating yet again that GB readers are some of the wisest around.

Easy Money?

It seems that someone stands to make some easy money on Don Boudreaux's recent wager:
So confident am I that the number of deaths from violent storms will continue to decline that I challenge Mr. McKibben—or Al Gore, Paul Krugman, or any other climate-change doomsayer—to put his wealth where his words are. I'll bet $10,000 that the average annual number of Americans killed by tornadoes, floods and hurricanes will fall over the next 20 years. Specifically, I'll bet that the average annual number of Americans killed by these violent weather events from 2011 through 2030 will be lower than it was from 1991 through 2010. 
If environmentalists really are convinced that climate change inevitably makes life on Earth more lethal, this bet for them is a no-brainer. They can position themselves to earn a cool 10 grand while demonstrating to a still-skeptical American public the seriousness of their convictions.
To swap metaphors, I don't really have a dog in this race; however I do wonder if Don is pulling a subtle trick here.  On the one hand, it's hard to define (and therefore measure) the severity of a "violent storm" and therefore a proxy that's clear like "death" can be a useful substitute.  But I suspect that the number of deaths from these storms will have a lot more to do with quality of housing construction and building codes, as well as our storm detection and notification systems, than with the storms themselves.  These features are under the direct control of modern man, and will almost certainly continue to improve over the next 20 years.

Therefore, it seems possible that storms will become more numerous and severe and the resultant deaths will decrease.  It's also possible (although I dasn't posit this as an actual theory) that both of these things will happen and we'll discover within twenty years that the storm patterns aren't being exacerbated by carbon emissions.


Thank you, internet, for giving us this reminder:

And, is that pig wearing a crown of lettuce!?

On Not Having Daughters

In keeping with the parenting theme, I will point out Chris Blattman's recent post featuring Tina Fey's "Prayer for My Daughter," a piece so hilarious and heart-rending that I will not excerpt it. You simply must click over and read the whole thing.

This reminds me of the saying I learned around the time we found out we were having a boy, which I adapt here slightly in order to maintain the family-friendly feeling that GB is famous for:
When you have a son, you have to worry about one boy; when you have a daughter, you have to worry about every boy.