January 30, 2011

Loaded with win

January 29, 2011

Why it's good to be a San Francisco Giants fan

It's a toss up between an underdog winning the World Series, and closer Brian Wilson (shown here in a recent appearance on the George Lopez Show). Video here.

Equal time for the girls

January 28, 2011

But Lolita was still immoral

Nabokov butterfly theory...confirmed.

I'll just leave this right here

Nice to know there is a kindred soul in the universe.

And, oh yeah...

And again, thank you Foo Fighters.

A little give-and-take from the Scottish renaissance

Adam Smith: People should be good to one another.

Hume: Why?

Smith: I'm a Christian - because God teaches us to.

Hume: There's no god. I won't accept any argument requiring the existence of an unverifiable Supreme Power.

Smith: Ok, how about this... A moral being is an accountable being who must give an account of its actions to some other, and that consequently must regulate them according to the good-liking of this other. You could call that God...but each of us must necessarily conceive himself as accountable to his fellow-creatures, before he can form any idea of the Deity.

Hume: There's no god.

Smith: So what are you going to call the idealized other that approves or disapproves of your actions?

Hume: I'll do what I like, bitch. Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.

I'm with Smith on this one.

January 27, 2011

Evening tune

Nicely done

There's badass, and then there's this guy

Lone Nepali Gorkha who subdued 40 train robbers

January 26, 2011

The New Literalism

Starts here.

Ride to the sound of the cannons, people

“I would like to cap the salary of any elected official in the state of Texas to what the average school teacher makes in the state," Larson told 1200 WOAI news.

A blog posting in which I put paid to religion

All living beings are adaptable, some more than others. There is no more adaptable species than homo sapiens.

What we call superstition or magical thinking is a psychological adaptations to uncertainty. It is a projection of the order of our thoughts onto the physical world in which our thoughts have no control.

Religion is the analogy of superstition of in the realm of cultural adaptation -- a commonly held and enforced belief system based on the idea of what we now call supernatural agency.

Psychological adaptations are useful to individuals. Cultural adaptations are useful to individuals, groups, and their leaders. One of the most successful cultural adaptations of the past 2000 years is prosthelytized monotheism (ie, Christianity and Islam).

Success as a cultural adaptation, however useful or successful, does not confer legitimacy to its underpinning assertions of cosmology or agency. The idea of a single Supreme Being who created the universe and monitors all human behavior is no more defensible than the idea of tree spirits or Santa Claus. Some will point out that it cannot be disproved; my point is that it is completely unnecessary to disprove a thesis that sets itself apart from natural philosophy and what can be proved with evidence.


The above argument is not made with the intention to disparage people of faith, or even of superstition. I am superstitious, myself (partly the result of my training in The Theater). I don't discount the possibility that I will not, at some point, turn to faith. I am human, with the same human needs as any person. But my human capacity for reason brings me to these conclusions.

Here is the guiding principle you requested

Nothing is above criticism. Not religion, not science. Not capitalism. No person, living or dead. No political point of view, whether you are dedicated to it or oppose it. Not criticism, itself. Nothing.

January 25, 2011

Das Angst-Jökens: Two Gentlemen of Nebraska

A Surfeit of Das Angst-Jökens

Omega 3s.

A beautiful redhead from Vancouver goes on a dating website and falls for an attractive guy who owns his own canned salmon factory.  After a little back-and-forth, they arrange to meet up at an exquisite contemporary bistro she has looked forward to going to for a couple of years, and she gets a nice  outfit and a salon treatment to get ready to meet the man of her dreams.  She arrives a little late, but no one comes to meet her. Eventually, instead of the  man, a ferocious-looking polar bear shows up, blood dripping from his mouth as he  flings an italian dress shoe around. Fearing the worst, she asks the bear if he's seen her date.

"Seen and eaten, lady!" says the bear.  "Can't go wandering around Canada smelling like salmon and not expect bear trouble."

After some reflection, she agrees with his observation, and asks the bear to join her for desert, slyly establishing with indirect questions what he does for a living and what his life goals are.

Two Gentlemen of Nebraska. 

Two Supercross motorcycle racers are competing in an loud and dangerous event in Lincoln in front of 20,000 fans in an arena, when the guy in the lead on a Yamaha wipes out at the bottom of a dirt hill, and one by one, with   the high-pitched buzzing of small engines, billows of blue smoke, and endless horrific crunches, a series of bikers crash one by one on top of the unfortunate leader.  In the air and unable to stop in time, one biker turns to the other, and nods his helmet in a way which means: "To the thrill of power, our will is surrendered. We have entirely created this oncoming rush of doom, and our role now is merely to play it out."

Access to Medical Care

A Sasquatch has a terrible toothache and goes to see a Dentist. The Dentist's receptionist stops the huge furry Bigfoot creature, demanding to see his insurance card or cash up front before treatment. The Sasquatch reflects that he could stomp her with his enormous foot like a grape, but that this would not get him the money he needs or help his toothache, and goes to sit down, the waiting room chair uncomfortable and far too small  The receptionist, regretting her confrontational approach borne of fear, and finding her empathy and trying to be helpful, calls the University's Department of Anthropology to see if they might cover the bill, while poking  through a website on low-cost dental services for ideas as she waits for someone to pick up. Meanwhile, photographers are lining up three deep on the street outside at the spectacle of the huge man-ape forced by the absurd circumstances to pretend to read a June 2007 copy of Glamour magazine with a heavily retouched photo of Britney Spears on the cover.  Sasquatch comes to feel that the situation is awkward and untenable.

Churchill didn't say that

Hitchens scores some body blows on The Kings Speech. (Which I still haven't seen.)

January 24, 2011

Watch this

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom

A three part BBC documentary series from 2007. A key part of its thesis is that the belief in the importance of game theory and quantitative measurements have led to a very narrow and problematic view of freedom in Western society.

Money quote:
A new discipline called behavioral economics has been studying whether people really do behave as the simplified models say they do. Their studies show that only two groups in society actually behave in a rational, self-interested way in all experimental situations. One is economists, themselves. The other is psychopaths.

They Are Not Tater-Tots. That's A Common Misconception.

"A man walks up to the President of Mexico, and asks for an extra large order of Mexi-Fries. The dignified President chastises the man for his cultural, culinary,  and political ignorance. Shocked, the man defends his stupidity with the small truth that his hunger is legitimate."

"Two robots are disputing the primary function of robots. The first robot builds Toyota Camrys. The second robot has been programmed with the best jokes from 100 years of vaudeville comic routines. Then a doctor, a lawyer and a priest walk in, needing to get to a conference on comedy and begin demanding reliable transportation advice from the robots.  The robots are forced to cooperate, but are constitutionally incapable of friendship."

January 23, 2011

Haters gonna hate

What's the over/under on word count?

Wonder if Peter King will mention Caleb Hanie... 

January 22, 2011

An odd premonition

I just have a strong sense that Caleb Hanie will be heard from in tomorrow's Bears-Packers game. Don't ask me how I know - but mark my words: watch Caleb Hanie.

I have a very odd premonition

My premonition is that The Front is going to have a premonition about some guy named Caleb Hanie... Watch this space.

Kindle: OMG I freaking love this thing!

I've downloaded 21 volumes so far, at a total cost of $3.98 (99 cents each for Innocents Abroad and Caesar's Commentaries, and $2 for Cellini's autobiography).

I can tell this is going to lead to acquiring more physical books. I'm already thinking I need to get hardbound copies of Benjamin Franklin's and Ulysses Grant's autobiographies (but that's what used book stores are for).

Is everything in Sleeper going to turn out to be true?

Fried breakfast is good for you.

January 20, 2011


According to the study, from AIS Media, 27% of people use Facebook in the bathroom.

I think the beard thing would work

Ebert's prosthesis.

As it happens

Football Outsiders:

In his dominant victory over the Falcons, Rodgers produced 287 DYAR on his 40 touches (36 passes, two sacks, and two runs). It's the second-best game of Rodgers' career, coming in just behind that game against the Giants. While Rodgers's raw performance in the Falcons game was better by our numbers, the opponent adjustments in DYAR boost up his Giants game just beyond this performance. That's because the Falcons had the league's tenth-ranked pass defense this year...

Rodgers's performance was better than any playoff game in the careers of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, or Ben Roethlisberger

January 19, 2011

(All Together Now)

America, Fuck Yeah!

January 18, 2011

Farewell Mr. Kirschner, you magnificent bastard

Dr. X posts this from the Hofstra Playhouse:

The Doctor Frankenstein of pop music passes today.  He created the Monkees and the Archies, and got the Rolling Stones to play for scale.   There was no end to his diabolical genius.

Mike Nesmith supposedly put his fist through a hotel room wall when Kirshner asked the Monkees to record this song.  Kirshner got a couple of nobodies for the job, and it became the #1 hit in America, Canada, and the U.K. in 1969.  It is reportedly one of George W. Bush's favorite songs. 
Kirshner, what kind of monster were you?

Bob Marley and Tom Jones covered it competently in their respective styles, and Jonathan King ('Sakkarin') got a worldwide hit with his 1971 cover.  But Wilson Pickett, as was his custom, committed to the song and made it fresh:

Don't care for the song personally.  This one is in heavy rotation at our house...

January 16, 2011

Never forget

Ross Tucker thinks Peyton Manning is better than Joe Montana, or at least thought so 11 months ago.  Peter King disagrees:
I'm not among those who think you have to win four or five championships to be considered the best ever at the most important position in the game, but I can't put Manning, today, over Otto Graham, Joe Montana and Tom Brady.
Which suprised me a little, because I don't know that I'd put Brady or Graham anywhere near Montana.  Brady's one claim to parity has been - postponed...

But why would you even put those guys ahead of Marino, the man who held the career passing record until Favre broke it?  Well, apparently because Marino didn't win any championships.  But if winning a championship is the criterion, where are Favre and Elway?  And why are we focused on championships?  Guys like Fran Tarkenton and Jim Kelly had a great deal of success everywhere but the Super Bowl.  Not really fair to leave them out of the conversation just because there was one better team in the NFL.

I agree with the instinct to not put too much weight on regular season performance.  I don't think anyone seriously thinks Warren Moon is comparable to Tom Brady just because he passed for a lot of yards in the regular season.  So maybe we should be looking for something in-between the two extremes.  How about quarterback performance in the playoffs?  I ran a sort on Football Reference's Game Finder of quarterback playoff performances from 1960-2010, ranked by Passer Rating.

Well, there you go.  It turns out there have been 11 perfect passer ratings (158.3) in modern playoff history.  And only one man has done it twice.

Don't hate me because I'm perfect

Now haters and pedants might observe that one of Krieg's perfect games came on a 1-for-1 (1 TD, 0 interceptions) performance.  Others might argue that perhaps we should assign some weight to less-than-perfect performances, such as Kurt Warner's 33-attempt five-touchdown outing (passer rating 154.1) against Green Bay last year.

Well...I reluctantly acknowledge that these points might appear valid to some.  So I re-ran the screen to exclude games in which the quarterback had 15 or fewer attempts.  Since all of the names under discussion (except for Graham) are from the modern era, I shortened the time frame to 1975-2010.  I then took the top 100 games (cutoff passer rating: 112).

At this point you might ask why I did not employ my favored IAYPA technique.  The answer is that these games are too good for it to offer much discriminative value.  In 99 of these performances, the quarterback threw either zero or one interception.  The only exception was Kerry Collins' 1/14/2001 performance against the Vikings, in which he threw two.  But, since he also completed 72% of his passes, threw for five touchdowns, and the Giants scored 41 points, I have resisted the impulse to discard it as unworthy.

Now a third of these games were one-offs - that is, it was the only time his career that the quarterback performed this well in a playoff game.  I don't think there's much chance we're going to name one of those guys - say, Pat Ryan or Jeff George - as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

No, we're looking for consistently superior playoff performance.

Seventeen players had two exceptional playoff games.  The list is roll call of skilled performers on well-coached teams:  Elway...Plunkett, Theisman, Stabler, Roethlisberger, Marino, Brees, Gannon, Hasselbeck, Eli Manning.  And a few lesser lights who got hot - Culpepper, Pastorini, Woodley, Collins, Delhomme, even Pennington.  And my old favorite, Frank Reich - yes, he had two - he beat Pittsburg with a fine effort after the Houston comeback game. 

Even though these are superb performances, no one we've mentioned so far, except possibly Elway, really has a claim to be among the top quarterbacks of all time.

There are 43 games left - and 11 quarterbacks.

Three playoff performances (1975-2010) with quarterback rating > 112
  • Bradshaw, T
  • Rodgers, A
  • Hostetler, J (one for the Giants, two for the Raiders for the big West Virginian)
  • Kelly, J
  • Theisman, J
  • Brady, T

Well, ok.   Most of these guys were very good quarterbacks on very good teams - guys who executed well but did not (or have not yet) reached the pantheon.  Bradshaw has the rings, but not the respect - but however I look at it, he clearly raised his game in the playoffs (IAYPA of 8.7 in 4 Super Bowls).  Rogers is off to an awesome start, and I'd be very surprised if he didn't move up into the next group...although I'd have said the same thing about Brady a few years ago.  What do you call a quarterback who leads the league in passer rating, then can't get it done in the playoffs?

That leaves five guys, and I would argue that these are the people who we have to put in the elite class.  They put up amazing numbers in four or more playoff games:
  • Name (games, TDs, INTs)
  • Peyton Manning (4, 15, 1)
  • Brett Favre (4, 11, 1)
  • Kurt Warner (4, 17, 2)
  • Troy Aikman (5, 12, 1)
Remember Troy Aikman?  You could say he benefited from having a great receiver in Irvin, but all of these guys had good receivers.  His career was shortened by the head injuries, but he did an awfully good job when he was on the field.

A few of the players on the top 100 list took advantage of the Passer Rating's tendency to reward short passes.  Stabler, for example, makes the top 100 list with two games where his IAYPA was under seven (average for the 100 games is 9.4).  Aikman doesn't have that problem, with an IAYPA of 9.2.  I wouldn't have much trouble saying Aikman was one of the top five or ten quarterbacks of the modern era, given his outstanding performances in meaningful games against the League's toughest defenses. 

But he's not #1.  There's only one guy who can be #1.

Joe Montana (6, 19, 0)
     Surely the short passing game helped his passer rating?  Nah, his IAYPA was 9.8, well above average even in this elite company.  And three of those games were Super Bowls.  Manning and Favre don't have any Super Bowls on this list - nor Brady, for that matter.  Aikman and Warner each have one.  Montana has three.

    I never rooted for him, not once in my life.  But in high stakes games - he was the best there ever was.  I don't think anyone else is even close.

    [UPDATE:  Rodgers moved up the list Sunday. 

    Through his first three playoff games, Rodgers has thrown 10 touchdown passes. That's a new NFL record, breaking one held by Daryle Lamonica, Dan Marino, and Jeff George...  Rodgers also became the first quarterback in NFL history to record a quarterback rating of more than 120 in his first three playoff starts — after becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to do that over his first two playoff starts last week. - SB Nation

    Brady stays where he is.]

    January 15, 2011

    Seahawks to lose

    The Onion has the story.

    Evil! Pure and Simple!

    Here is Nelly Furtado's Crocodile Rock (feat. Elton John).

    Here is the original.

    Autotune was invented at Exxon.

    "Auto-Tune was used to produce the prominent altered vocal effect on Cher's 'Believe', recorded in 1998, the first major hit song to employ the software for this purpose." 

    January 14, 2011

    Jay Cutler phones Drew Brees


    Hey, Drew, this is Jay Cutler. How you doin', man?


    This is Raheem. Cutler's dead --now I'm comin' for your ass!

    Man, I love youtube

    Music that's easy on the eyes

    On Austin tv last night...the Quebe Sisters Band.  Their website is here.

    January 11, 2011

    Unicorn Vengeance!

    A compelling claim for the worst published sentence in English.

    Other Gems From Unicorn Vengeance at "Studies in Crap":

    Step One: Find an old-timey synonym for pants:
    "Her tiny fingers caressed him there and he thought he might burst his chausses."
    That's from the first, not-quite-completed sex scene in Unicorn Vengeance, a goofy and ambitious Harlequin that at first seems most notable for its failure to include any unicorns or vengeance.

    And from the second sex scene:
    "The feel of her tongue in his ear was enough to send Wolfram bursting from his chausses."
    And just a page and a half later:
    "Her loose chemise followed suit with lighting speed, and the sight of her creamy flesh was enough to make him burst his chausses."
    From this we can conclude that if you ever go back in time to the France of 1307 -- the book's setting -- you certainly won't go broke in the field of chausses repair.

    January 09, 2011

    Tough call

    Greatest Seahawk man-moment - Marshawn or Largent?

    January 08, 2011

    Thank you Marshawn, that will be, um...adequate

    "Adequate this!"


    (A higher quality GIF is here...)

    One year and one week ago the world looked like this.

    It's official

    The Seattle Seahawks are now the worst team to win an NFL playoff game.

    Can Seahawks fans handle the shame?

    January 07, 2011

    Drew Brees phones Sam Bradford


    Hey, Sam, this is Drew Brees. How you doin', man?


    This is Raheem. Bradford's dead -- now I'm comin' for your ass!

    January 06, 2011

    Hey Palin...

    Haiti's still there.  Thought of anything yet?  What's your next step? 

    How terribly unfortunate for them

    The Saints' official Twitter account passed along the news Wednesday that running back Pierre Thomas has been placed on injured reserve. He played two weeks ago, but was inactive on Sunday after battling an ankle injury. 

    This comes a day after they placed leading rusher Chris Ivory on injured reserve. The Saints are now left with Reggie Bush, who's also been banged up with a sore collarbone after missing eight games with a broken leg, and former Seahawk Julius Jones.

    January 05, 2011

    Mark Twain on James W. Paige

    Here's a passage from The Autobiography of Mark Twain on the topic of James W. Paige, inventor of a typesetting machine that Clemens invested in.
    I will remark, here, that James W. Paige, the little bright-eyed, alert, smartly dressed inventor of the machine, is a most extraordinary compound of business thrift and commercial insanity; of cold calculation and jejune sentimentality; of veracity and falsehood; of fidelity and treachery; of nobility and baseness; of pluck and cowardice; of wasteful liberality and pitiful stinginess; of solid sense and weltering moonshine; of towering genius and trivial ambitions; of merciful bowels and petrified heart; of colossal vanity and- But here the opposites stop.

    Need advice here

    I'm getting a bit tired of HOMM2...

    Should my next move be...  Fallout or Fallout 2?

    For The First Sea Lord

    Adorable kitten...

    ...plus Drama!

    January 03, 2011

    Common ground

    Hitchens on how to make tea.

    A poem at 50

    I'm actually 49 today, but under the Japanese kazoedoshi system, I am the same age as Issa when he wrote this birthday poem:

    From now on,
    It's all clear profit,
    every sky.

    January 02, 2011

    "Was that fun or what?"

    Seahawks.  Playoffs.

    New Orleans flies to Seattle, on a short week.

    It's supposed to be snowing in Seattle next Sunday.

    Who are you guys rooting for?


    Thank you, Mr. Krugman.

    Notes from yesterday's conversation

    Alaska Aviation Body Count

    According to this ADN graph, 255 people have died in plane accidents in Alaska since 2000 (whole article here).

    A note on the lamented John Eshleman, and the plane in question (which had starred in Con Air)...

    According to Wikipedia, the name of Destruction Bay comes from "the wind blowing down structures erected by the military during highway construction in 1942-43."

    Alaska Highway

    Couldn't find the Sea Lord's motorcycle, video, so here's a War Department film on the construction of the Alaska Highway.

    The Truth is Out There

    By the way, in this morning's Dominion Post (New Zealand):
    The truth is out there, and it's humiliating. There's a unifying theme emerging from the 2000-plus pages of top-secret reports into UFO sightings released by the Defence Force last week, and it is this: as far as extra- terrestrial life is concerned, we are a pit-stop on the road to nowhere. 

    Look at the evidence. Other countries get alien abductions by the truckload. But in the more than half a century of contact recorded in the Defence Force X-files, not a single alien has bothered to have any meaningful interaction with us. 

    Aliens do not want to introduce us to their leader, take us to new civilisations, grill us on the details of our daily lives, or entrust us with grave warnings about the future. They have never given us a ride in their spaceship. They can't even be arsed to mutilate our cattle. 
    Don't get me started on Flight 19 (the search plane blew up?)


    Perhaps the conversation can be advanced with a little economic analysis? 

    My problem with Hitchens is what comes afterward if everyone takes his point.  If I'd been debating him I'd have insisted that he present his views while flanked by life-sized cardboard cutouts of Mao and Stalin.  

    (That's odd, I ordered a free, humanistic, enlightened society, and I got this horrific dictatorship.)

    Which got me thinking - what was Napoleon's religion?  It turns out the answer is not straightforward.  Here is Metternich's take.

    Napoleon also said (and you'll like this):
    "I do not see in religion the mystery of the incarnation so much as the mystery of the social order. It introduces into the thought of heaven an idea of equalization, which saves the rich from being massacred by the poor."
    Anyway, everytime I scratch a militant atheist I find a logical positivist underneath.  And I hate logical postivists, because they're bad.