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February 29, 2008

link pruning

Do links even matter these days?  I remember the old days when we would spend our waking hours finding a new site, and click-mining the links for newer, better, faster, more content.  But also, these memories feel about as old as those I have of listening to Talk Talk, wondering if I should see "Ghostbusters" for a third time.

But credits are more about giving credit where credit is due, I been pruning at them, ditching the dead links and the ubiquitous (must I really link Google?).  And amongst the additions (made mostly to make my links more resemble the sites I regularly visit), there are three to bring to your attention.

First, Lloyd Mintern is a loquacious fella who reminds me of someone I used to know back in the Flour City.  Second, io9 is a sci fi/general interest blog which is so good -- try this post on twenty sci novels that you will feel bad not having read -- that I link it even though it is a member of the Gawker Media family.  And finally, this young man is an artist, animator and collaborator, whose link should've been up here months ago.

Over, out.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:31 PM

bil keane gots the good stuff

While all the others are leering at the latest iteration of vandalized "Garfield" strips, follow the advice of Griz and try to parse you some "Family Circus".

I thought maybe Griz was exaggerating, as I'm somewhat fond of the head-scratchingly bad comic strips (like, say, "Mallard Fillmore") -- but he's not.  I have no earthly idea what the premise is supposed to be of this week's strips (set up by last Sunday's strip), or in what way it's supposed to be "funny".  Personally, I find them trippy (like this smirking, exiled parishoner and this, my nose is also my hat), but trippy in a really insidious way, like the panels are visual triggers for some black-budget mind control program.

Niagara Falls...   Slowly I turned...

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM

February 28, 2008

unfortunately, your children can't eat a tax cut

Another fine Yes He Said That from the President of your United States, from this morning's presser:
President Bush, saying he was unaware of predictions of $4-a-gallon gasoline in the coming months, told reporters Thursday that the best way to help Americans fend off high prices is for Congress to make his first-term tax cuts permanent.

I get the feeling that most people are somewhat shocked that the president is unaware of soaring fuel prices.  But generally the Secret Service doesn't let the president pump his own gas.  Plus also, it took him three or four days to realize that a hurricane had wiped out a city in the country of which he is president, so, there you go.

Me, I'm more galled of the audacity of the president's blind-spotted-ness -- insert the usual disclaimer about how economic policy is not my strong spot, but I cannot conceive of any reasonably intelligent American asserting that making the tax cuts (primarily for income brackets still able to buy meals during downturns) permanent would make a hush puppy's difference in the coming economic whatever-they're-calling-it-now.

I know that everybody all thinks that the president is not a very intelligent man, but you hear something like that out of his mouth and you're all like, damn that is one very not intelligent man.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:32 PM

stop screwing around, journalists

Yet another example of a journalisto confessing to trying to sneak funny words into articles:
Back when I was a cub reporter at a newspaper bureau in Easthampton, Mass., my colleague and I would play this game: First, come up with an obscure 10-dollar word, then see which one of us could get it past our editors and into the paper.

I thought that this little drink-free drinking game was an isolated incident, a couple of nerds with a little too much time on their hands.  But now it's looking to be endemic.  Is this something taught in J-school?  Are these 10-dollar words even words -- has anyone checked into this?

Also, should we maybe start taking the first word of every sentence of a news story and see if it spells something funny, like "BLOW ME"?

BTW, the context of the linked post is an appreciation of the NYTimes obit for William Buckley, which included the word "sesquipedalian" in the headline.  I second the appreciation, and am on the way to buy a dictionary, right nows.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:50 AM

let us agree on a spellling for "al qaeda"

What follows is a paragraph that I wank to yank out of context from a NYTimes story on the Obama/McCain slapfight over Iraq:
An insurgent group operating in Iraq, called Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, is actually a homegrown Sunni Arab extremist group that American intelligence agencies have concluded is foreign led.  The extent of its links to Osama bin Laden’s network is not clear.  Some leaders of the group have sworn allegiance to Mr. bin Laden, but the precise links and extent of affiliation are unknown, and it was created after the American invasion.

The paragraph follows a passage describing the two senators debating "Al Qaeda in Iraq" -- i.e., "You want to hand Iraq over to Al Qaeda," then, "There was no Al Qeada in Iraq until you invaded it."  I like it very much because I think it might be the most concise (coming in at a scant 71 words) explanation of what is alleged vs. what is known about "Al Qaeda in Iraq" (a/k/a Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia).  So, in the same way that initial mention of Gordon Brown would be accompanied by the identifying phrase "UK Prime Minister", the NYTimes did the right thing by avoiding an inaccurate describtive phrase (such as "freedom-hating terrorists") and kicks in an entire paragraph describing AQIM

This may seem an unimportant aspect of the news to bring attention to, but for me there is a certain beauty in the fact that, no matter how smart your readership is, every time you run a story concerning (or even mentioning, you could argue) AQIM, then you have to run that paragraph.  Every time.  "Al Qaeda" as a phrase used to beat people with is now about as tainted as "Nazi", and the responsible journalist cannot let a mention of AQIM pass without contextualization.  Unless we all memorize those 71 words, arming ourselves with knowledge, mentally correcting the careless uses of AQIM.

Sure, dry stuff.  But it's a reminder that the world got really complex.  Or maybe that complexity of the world got really transparent.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:12 AM

February 27, 2008

please do not throw chairs at tim russert, candidates

Again I intended to watch the (last?) debate, but decided that it would be much more exciting to not pay attention to it and then post my excuses for the umpteenth time.  Excuse: I was eating a peach, and then I had to brush all the socks in my sock drawer.  I apologize to the democratic process for failing to pay full attention to its closest approximation (so lifelike!) of humans in realtime disagreement.  I will halve my vote in November as contrition.

What did I miss?  Well, principally I missed Tim Russert's very swanky "When did you stop beating your wife, Sen Obama?" moment, wherein Russert spun out some approximation of logic that reads kinda like, "Your wife's college roommate married a man whose best friend once made an inappropriate joke while watching "The Sound of Music" at his parents' home.  So then, Sen Obama, why you hate Jews so much?"

I wouldn't say that Russert's SwiftBoat check is in the mail, but I would say that someone discovered which color of kryponite interferes with Russert's moderating superpowers.

Also, how fun must it be to be a black politician, waiting for the obligatory Farrakhan question?  Must be about as much fun as being a tall person, waiting for the first of each day's endless litany of "You're so tall!"

"Yup, sure am."

Posted by mrbrent at 11:50 AM

community service now very popular

A little T-ball in the morning from the Yahoo! Box of Laffs Headlines:
• Bobby Brown agrees to community service for cocaine

That's some kind of deal, 'cause, where I come from, to get some coke you need cash money

But, hey, he's Bobby Brown.  It's his prerogative.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:55 AM

February 26, 2008

a long and not very funny post on infrastructure (only one curse word)

One of the more boring things I like to talk about is infrastructure.  Boy, I can really clear out a room with that -- highway this, water treatment that.  Sometimes someone will sit down next to me and ask, "Tell me more," but on closer inspection this person is invariably wearing a pair of eyeglasses with eyeballs painted on the lenses.  But I persist, because if people like me don't keep trying to sexify issues of infrastructure so that they may be acted upon by the public body -- well, then, things will get really inconvenient, plus also very bad in other more material ways.

See?  Not so sexy.  It is easy to take for granted these issues of infrastructure, as all but the oldest of us have never lived in a time where infrastructure was inadequate -- we've always had plumbing, safe roads and bridges, etc.  Our only annoyances were when these elements failed (blackouts, congestion), but this was never taken as a symptom of infrastructure failure, more bad luck or side-effects of our rampant prosperity.  Our roads, bridges, power, etc. has pretty much never let us down, so why would we worry about it?

Well, we should worry about it because, if we do leave it to itself as it slowly degrades, repairing it only when it breaks, then eventually it's going to start disrupting on a systemic basis, whereupon we will be right and truly fucked.  One bridge falling down is kind of a drag, but imagine a two-week blackout, or a major metropolitan area without a source of potable water.  I'm not saying that it's going to happen, but I am saying that the old saw about the ounce of prevention makes some sense, and eventually we're going to have to do more than raise tolls.

I write this because The NYTimes ran a story this morning of howa group of US governors is calling for renewed investment in public works projects.  The benefits of this would be two-fold -- first, it would shore up an infrastructure suffering from decades of neglect, and, two, it would stimulate employment, perhaps mitigating our current dare-we-call-it-a-recession.  Now, there's not a whole lot of precedent for the beneficial effects of investment in public works projects -- well, other than FDR's Great Depression-ending New Deal.

The Bush Administration's response:

President Bush rebuffed appeals from the nation’s governors on Monday to increase spending on roads, bridges and other public works as a way to revive the economy.

Governors said Mr. Bush had told them at a White House meeting that he wanted to see the effects of his economic stimulus package before supporting new measures.

In other words, a $600 check is supposed to have more lasting effect than an employment initiative which would leave in its wake better roads, fewer collapsing bridges, etc.

At least there is a cabinet-level position devoted to these infrastructure issues:

Brian G. Turmail, a spokesman for the Transportation Department, said highway spending was not an effective way to stimulate the economy because “it takes too long to get the money into projects.”

Except that they are not only as steadfastly opposed to a new New Deal, they are also not even trying to come up with an excuse that would pass the laugh test.

I'm not sure if this opposition is based on a knee-jerk derangement syndrome concerning all things FDR, or if it's based on a deep-seeded paranoia of a government investment in anything but corporate welfare.  Either way, it's short-sighted and foolish, and keep it in mind the next time you make the eight-hour drive between DC and Richmond, or the next time you look at the glass of tap water and wonder if you should be drinking that.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:40 PM

the taliban is revolting

Deciding that their years of quiet, strong resistance in Afghanistan was effective yet boring, the Taliban has opted to conduct affairs as if they were Rufus T. Firefly in "Duck Soup":
The Taliban have demanded that all four cellphone companies in Afghanistan cease operating at night or face attacks on their offices and communication towers, according to a statement released to journalists on Monday.

Erm, okay.  But, uh, why is that, again?

United States counterterrorism forces have tracked insurgents and Taliban commanders in Afghanistan using satellite and cellphone signals, and have conducted airstrikes and raids based on such information.  [Snip]  So the Taliban council decided to demand that all companies shut off their signals across Afghanistan from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., the statement said.

Initially, the Taliban was going to just stop using cellphones, but then they figured, why not go for the funny?  Give the blogs something to make fun of other than Ann Coulter?

Next: airlines, with their terrible food -- can someone please explain that to the Taliban?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:52 AM

February 25, 2008

gracious that was really cold -- I mean cool

I keep meaning to throw this in as a surprise link over there (which would require actually updating links), but it is too good to just sneak in and wait for it to be stumbled upon.

This small audio-visual production has brought me much joy.  In fact, it just now brought me joy -- here at my desk, on a Monday.  So maybe someday when you are in need of some joy, you would give it a click.

Also, the repeated viewings help and not hurt.

[Via Griz.]

Posted by mrbrent at 4:20 PM

a convenient guide to why obama is a bad person

An article in this morning's NYT is chock full of haterizing on Sen Barack Obama by his putative competitors, which are important to keep track of, as the haterizing is the mirror in which we can see our own souls, or the souls of presidential candidates, or at the very least their speechwriters and their kids in the hall.  First, Sen Hillary Clinton, from a campaign stop in Ohio:
“Now I could stand up here and say, ‘Let’s get everybody together, let’s get unified, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing,’ ” she said to a smattering of giggles.  “And everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect.”

As presidential as sarcasm may be, I do like how she is countering Obama's rhetoric with lowered expectations -- that should really get out the Bush Republican vote, as they are unaware that expectations can actually rise.

Meanwhile, McCain decides that it's never too late in history to invoke Al Qaeda:

If either Democrat withdrew troops from Iraq as proposed, [McCain] said in a speech Saturday night before the Republican Governors Association in Washington, Al Qaeda would “celebrate to the world that they have defeated the United States of America.”

The bad news in that one is not for Obama (or the other Democrat), but for America, as Al Qaeda has now weaponized the verb "to celebrate" into the phrasal verb "to celebrate to".  And imagine if they get their hands on a subordinate clause -- it'll never be safe to talk again.  Unless we vote for John McCain.

And the weekend of hate for the candidate was not just limited to other politician types -- Nedra Pickler (whose name frequently comes up in these matters) of the Associated Press there's nothing whispered about that doesn't look better in a newspaper, and the estimable Bill Kristol writes from his glass house something vaguely dismissive about Obama, the Freudian slip of which is the phrase "preening self-regard".

I'd say that, based on the number of times his pigtail is getting dipped in the inkwell, it's safe to say that Sen Obama is now the front-runner.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:21 AM

February 24, 2008

the dhs exists mostly for our entertainment

Finally, Amtrak is getting serious about security in a post-9-11 world:
Amtrak passengers will have to submit to random screening of carry-on bags in a major new security push that will include officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling platforms and trains, the railroad planned to announce Tuesday.

It's about time that the authorities realized the damage that could be done if one of the freedom-haters were to hijack one of those trains and drive it into a building, or a nuclear reactor.  Or a shopping mall!  Maybe all the Midwestern shrieking paranoids haven't been shriekingly paranoid enough.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:46 AM