Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kate Brings the Entmoot to Westminster Abbey

It seemed odd to see 20-foot-tall English Field Maples and a few Hornbeams lining the nave in Westminster Abbey Friday morning.  It was as though Wills and Kate had invited the Knights Who Say "Ni!!" to their nuptials in the old royal peculiar.

Maybe they did.  According to BBC et al., the shrubbery was Kate Middleton's idea.  Seems a little Tolkien-esque (or at least pagan) to me, but a nice bit of dottily eccentric British tradition if it catches on.

One wonders whether J. K. Rowling was among the behatted duchesses of MOE, AINWN. (Apparently not. And yes, I've heard the nonsense about Harry Potter showing up to cleanse the event of Slytherins. The Slurm-meisters will say nothing nice about a franchise that signed with Universal Orlando instead of Disneyland, evidently.)


Friday, April 29, 2011

Portal 2

Portal 2 for the PS3 rawks!  Like, actually, dude.  I may not get my tv back for the duration, at least during non-homework hours.

Lots of shooting. No one gets killed (except by accident, frustration or intolerance for sarcasm). Unless GLaDOS is serious about that "android hell" thing....

Did I mention droll? Lots of games start out this way. I'm upbeat to believe Portal 2 ends as well as it started, considering the original Portal's track record and that viral video about being still alive.

Favorite Portal 2 quotes so far

[Aperture Science Sentry Turrets] have all been given a copy of The Three Laws of Robotics to share. (N.b., gotta love it! Any game that can devote a few precious nanoseconds to set phasers on KRILL and twig off the biggest horse's ass in last century science fiction has my gratitude.)

You seem to have packed on a few pounds ... Waddle over to the elevator and we'll continue the self test.

Just remember what I said just now [speeded wa-a-a-a-y up] in slow motion.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Aftershocks diminishing?

The Japanese megaquake seems to be simmering down, to my untrained eye. There has only been one Mag. 5 aftershock per day off the coast of Honshu for the last few days. A week or so ago, that number ranged from about 4 to about 9 a day, with some quakes at Mag. 6 or a bit higher.

USGS M 5+ Earthquakes


Sunday, April 24, 2011


Roger Ebert has his own take on this film, "a first-rate thriller about the drawbacks of home schooling," which is somewhat bunk and somewhat tongue-in-cheek. We both like it, but maybe Ebert likes it just that little bit more.

One consistent theme throughout the entire film (and from now on, I presume you've seen it) is the way all the beautiful people are evil. That includes Hanna, whose murders can justifiably be considered innocent self-defense, because the child, a Wunderkind product of extreme genetic engineering, is not responsible for her own uncanny reflexes, superior endurance, inhuman strength, quick uptake or underdeveloped sense of empathy.

By contrast, the plain to ugly to broken normal people she meets on her journeys are beautiful only by culture and inclination; they rise above their disappointingly weed-like DNA. They are musicians like a Spanish flamenco troupe, plain, fat and accomplished, who sing with flamboyant bravura, loud, trained and traditional. Or they are mezzuins calling the faithful of Morocco to evening prayer, or simple hotel owners whose only demonstrable talents are kindness and safe haven.

Hanna loves music, hates noise — because she has hypersensitive hearing, she recoils from the cacaphony of random noises produced by simultaneous teakettles, ceiling fans, plinking fluorescent lights and Moroccan television game shows.

Everyone challenged in the comeliness department in Hanna's world is trustworthy, friendly and helpful, especially the unlikely Berlin magician, a good man as hairy, unshaven and perverse-looking as 40 years of American trope, meme and formula can lead one to expect. It's a subtle message — commonplace people are a young girl's safe companions and the salt of the earth.

Anyone nice to look at in this flick is ready to kill, and will soon make the attempt. Hanna, played by the gorgeous young Saoirse Ronan, is the sweetly deadliest of them all. She wants out of the life she was born to, either intensely aware of its limitations or stupidly comic about failing to get a grip on tritely ordinary situations — like a first kiss with a first, expendable, boy.

Her adversary, while beautiful, is a pitiless harridan whose gums bleed from obsessive dental (or is that mental?) hygiene, and whose death, when it comes, is mourned by no one. Only Hanna feels regret. She is sorry she spoiled the heart shot yet again, and now must waste a bullet on the head.

One peculiar aspect of this flick was the audience, which seemed to be composed almost exclusively of middle aged men who laughed at odd moments and seemed to miss the show's best points entirely, assuming the story is not just "as we are."


Friday, April 22, 2011

The Prometheus Plague

I'm not extremely familiar with the origin and spread of savannahs, except that they are vast expanses of grasslands and were once found in a contiguous belt from Africa to Southeast Asia. The theory goes that climatic cooling causes them. The great savannah most relevant to humans appeared 2.5 million years ago, as did, perhaps not coincidentally, Homo erectus, the hominid famous for lack of ancestor or antecedents, the unimaginative conservative who used the same Acheulean-style hand axe for two million years... and fire.

Is this story correct? Modern humans deforested Europe in 2000 years, and northern India in approximately the same time, mostly for firewood.

Once Europeans reached the "new world" they denuded the great forests of North American from the Atlantic to the Mississippi in about 500 years. (True! Every tree in Missouri was RE-forested, or descended from reforestation. To this day, many of them Baja Iowegians hate trees with a passion difficult to understand.)

The human species arrives in established, stable ecosystems like a plague, lacking any native check or balance on our population.

Nor was that plague in North America exclusively Eurocentric. Modern humans came here 20,000 years ago over the Bering Land Bridge, too. We all practice slash-and-burn, not always for agriculture, but also to make hunting easier and just to plain stay warm on a cold Dakota night.

My question is, are the Great Plains of North America (or the Pampas of South America) more than just sort of similar to the great Afro-Asian savannah of the Pleistocene? Are these grasslands the scar left in established ecologies by the arrival of a plague, a plague of humans? Look at the damage we can do in 2,000 years; then multiply that a thousand times over...

How do humans make a grassland? With, I submit, ordinary arson. Fire has been a bolt in the promethean quiver for two million years across at least four subspecies of the human plague (H. erectus, habilus, neanderthalensis and sapiens, and possibly other, older, species as well.)

I grew up in Kansas. It's like Original Sin. We moved to New York, where trees line rural roads up to the shoulders. Thought I'd gone to Heaven.

BTW, the White Rabbit is late for Easter. Just the kind of dumb movable feast joke Charles Lutwidge Dodgson would tell a kid.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who is this Mrs. Sippy Twain is talking about?

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. Therefore ... in the Old Silurian Period the Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long ... seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long. ... There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesome returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
            — Mark Twain

("Mrs. Sippy" is a trite wordbird entitlement for any number of coffee dripperies and beangrinders in Middle Girth, as it turns out. Google on your own dime.)


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Clever Bit of Self-reverential Ragtime

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
            — Anaïs Nin

Sure, you can have a universe filled with clever authoresses. You can also have a universe moderately jam-packed with kittehs. I prefer kittehs.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Backwards Beekeepers

Check out the CNN video on their website! Good karma!

Almost forgot: Skynet went live at 8:11pm this evening.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Dragon Haul ZzzzZZZAP!

The Nintendo DS version of this mission was enough to tie your dodger dog in knots but the PSP edition shall we say...(caff caff)...suffers from excessively mediocre knurly button clotpoll glombongle raving stickleback saxifrage garglebark, or, iow, goes north when you shoulda gone south fuming loon buckle... AAAAAAARRRGGGGHHH!


Sunday, April 17, 2011

梅沢由香里のやさしい囲碁 (PSP), in Hong Kong, was apparently running a closeout sale last month.  I was able to buy Yukari Umezawa's Easy Go (for PSP) for $34.90, including shipping.  The box is labelled ¥2,940, or about $35.36 not including the currency exchange rate. In other words, I bought it at less than Japanese retail. A couple of years ago, the same game was selling for about $64, plus shipping.

The game is entirely in (middle school level) Japanese. No English, but no region encoding either. There's a Nintendo DS version of this same game, but the graphics are much smaller. The PSP edition is nice to look at. This is the MyCom BEST edition of 2011. An earlier version, also by Mainichi Communications, came out in 2008.

There's an iApp version, too, apparently. (9-13-19 refers to available board sizes.)

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine

These are probably NSFW if productivity matters in your cube, Ickle.

Boop-oop-adoop fer shure, man :-)

Yeah, I know ... I know ... but Dorothy Dandridge was something else, man — although maybe Betty Hutton was a spark off the same ball of fire.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Saharan Pump

Somewhere along the line I learned that early hominins (this word used to be hominids) lived in "Savannahstan," grasslands in other words, of vast extent across Africa and southern Asia, more or less. Using little more than fire, hand axes and (presumably) some kind of "primitive language" which allowed them to live in groups of up to 100 individuals, these ill-equipped pre-modern humans survived the big cats of the savannah.

How big? Pleistocene lions stood five feet tall at the shoulder.  Really big.

There's also something called the "Saharan Pump," which is alternating wet (savannah) and dry (extremely arid deserts) periods in what is now (temporarily) the Saharan Desert. The idea is, wet periods are inviting and allow humans to expand out of Africa, while dry periods turn huge rivers into wadis, slam the door shut on the way out and force people south and west in Africa, or into Europe and Asia. Vast time scales. About two million years ago, humans appeared in Africa, and got pumped out into the wider world. Actual modern humans appeared about 100,000 years ago, and got pumped out of Africa the same way.

The Saharan Pump is still active.

What happened to the big cats during this same period? Are tigers a kind of lion? What about leopards, which seem pretty much the same everywhere? How in the world did humans "adapt" to big cats?  They're not wolves.  You can't adopt lion puppies...  I'm puzzled. Actually, there's a story (I think told by natural historian Raymond L. Ditmars, or possibly Gerald Durrell) that men stink, so far as lions are concerned; they find us disgusting and unpalatable, like human females. Thank gosh for Old Spice.

"Primitive"...? This supposition is based on comparison between a modern 2-year-old's larynx, and that of Homo erectus. The argument may be specious. Mothers can understand their 2-year-olds quite well, thank you, and everyone can understand R2D2.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Say what...?

Two words: Ruffalo Cody.

Several more: "Developing, installing and supporting software products with integrity and value for nonprofit organizations nationwide, is a promise we keep, every day."

I am not a member of that alternate universe. Excuse me while I rush out and buy a noesis upchuck receptacle.


Monday, April 11, 2011


What a mixed bag. On one hand, the guy who came in fifth could find no fault with himself or his game decrepitating on the back nine. On the other, some kid from South Africa won the green jacket this year. On the third hand, the young turk so calm and Ferris Buehler-like those first three days got paired with the strictly business grownup Angel Cabrera and started playing like Long Duk Dong. Only the Aussies (Jason Day and Adam Scott, T2; and Geoff Ogilvy, T5 with He Who Must Not Be Named) got through the day with their aplomb intact, if not their leads. It was fun watching the naddering nabobs paging frantically back and forth through the blankest pages of their talking points notebooks.

Maybe not what Bobby Jones had in mind.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Congersman Frog Does The Math

Congersman Frog (sic)

The guvmint dint shut down after all; Congers chickened out. I don't know how big the budget is, but it's probably three or four trillion dollars. The big giant enormous compromise that allowed the damfoolidjit Republicans to save face, pass the (ahem) "compromise" budget and avoid shutting down the guvmint was a ginormous $38.2 million bucks.

Got that? $38.2 million bucks were cut out of the $4 trillion budget. Gosh. If we divide $38,200,000 by $4,000,000,000,000 dollars, that's a gigantic whopping 0.000955% saved! No egg on those bowties!  

"A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money." — U. S. Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen (Republican, Illinois, 1951-1969)

Note: Walt Kelly's Congersman Frog (sic) is from Okeefeenokee Swamp,  courtesy Pogo.

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Mel Bytes The Fuss

GTA CW on the PSP gives you two extra Chan Jaoming missions, bookends for three extra Melanie Mallard missions.  The final cutscene is a bit moody, as though it weren't all sound and fury, nothing signifying, after all.  Nice touch, R*.  A bit like class, almost.

Melanie, Marcy and Cherie could be sisters.  Hmmm...  Same voice actress playing three different roles? My guess is either Meg Ryan or Theda Bara.

I found a curious glitch in the second Wade Heston mission. If you fail to stay on the tail of the Korean car, and take your time restarting the mission, Wade demands his "2 bags of coke" ... which you've got, and brought with you twice now. The game founders, Titanic-like, on a floating impasse. A message comes up saying you still need 64491 bags of coke. (Bear in mind, 50 is your carry limit!) O-kaaay....

You get two more bags from the usual sources, to no avail. Wade still thinks you're stiffing him, the game remains stymied, and the message rather snidely comments that you still need 0 more bags of coke. Yes, zero more bags! Wow, simultaneous Tea and No Tea, anyone? I guess the lesson is, always use more than one Save slot, so you have a way to Restore.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Damn All Republicans and Their Ferenghi Ilk

Rabid dogs, all of 'em. What the hell happened to my Grandfather's Republicans? The ones like Dwight Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller, or even Barry Goldwater who was at least civil. These days, all we get are diseased spawn of Satan, masquerading behind Mephistophelean good looks, the pussbuckets.

When they take away your VA benefits and Social Security checks today, fellow geezers, just remember all you need to know is, REPUBLICANS DID THIS TO YOU! The gorge will rise, the ire will rancor, but no matter the provocation WE will NEVER throw widowed Liberty on the same bonfire which burns away the last vestige of Republican decency.

Ok, that's reaching, but I was going for Republicans in the hands of an angry God. Futile, of course. They'll never get the allusion.

Toning it down then, let us give up Republicans for Lent, devil take the sorry lot of 'em.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

What's that old Boss Tweedy word nobody remembers anymore...?

Incest? Necrophilia? Nepo... Nepo something... Nepotism? No, that's if you hire your own kin. Walker hired the college dropout offspring of a top donor. Cronyism?

Yeah, that's it! CRONYISM!! Neither ethical nor legal in most states, even in Wisconsin. To the victor belong the spoils; the kid gets $85.5 thousand a year.

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Update — IGS has been working on a quick-loading Java Webstart client called GoPanda which will replace gGo and glGo. It seems to be still in beta, might have a few community- and tournament-related features.

A few years ago, IGS, the Internet Go Server (PANDA-IGS) in Japan, published Peter Strempel's glGo program. This works fine on Windows or Macintosh, put needs to be finetuned for Ubuntu.

The issue is, glGo on Ubuntu requires Python, and while Ubuntu is up to version 2.6, glGo doesn't recognize the update. You'll have to fake it:

cd /usr/lib/ ; sudo ln -s

Then run glGo as normal; the fix generates a lot of warnings, put the program seems to run as it should. No guarantees.

Note, there is also a Java Web Start version called gGo, which takes forever to load. I no longer use it.

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Monday, April 04, 2011

It's 2012 already?

It's crepuscular dawn in America, and the horde of Tee Potty numbats is crawling back to their holes to snooze through another day. Avoid thought, gentlevermin. Avoid thought...

And my god, America, isn't anyone going to realize that finding missing pages from the crassest Wah Between Thah States propaganda novel since Birth of a Nation is, unlike Sherman's march to the sea, NOT a good thing?

Antebellum zombies, now. Yes, that would be good. "Ankly, eye near, Ah ohn'd ivva ganzschjj."

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Unseen Hand of Ling Shan

In GTA: Chinatown Wars, Ling Shan is the short-lived weapons master who trains the newbie (you) on a few killer moves.  It's a bit of a bummer that she gets rubbed out so soon.

Even so, the entire game feels her overfluttering presence.  Ling has stashed weapons in the red dumpsters scattered all over Liberty City, so everything you need in the manslaughter department comes, free like beer, out of Ling Shan's playfully filial foreviolence.

There's lots of dumpsters. It's a chore to find all the red ones&dagger — some GTA players consider dumpster diving a fun mini-game, but the unbalanced few who tumble early to the fact that dumpsters, if and only if they're red, always spawn the same kind of weapon make it a full-scale mission to classify the diversity of available mayhem in each location.

Green dumpsters by contrast have interesting or allegedly comic contents, no telling which; otherwise no connection to plot or Ling Shan. The green ones do sometimes contain small neatly-wrapped packages of incidental pharmacopoeia dumped there by panicked dealers on the lam, one supposes.

R* cell-shaded Ling Shan on tons of promotional advertising before CW was finally released to the North American market IRL...then, ungratefully, killed her off in Act One, Scene Two. She was, in other words, a virtual objectification of a purely fictional character in an alternate universe that exists only in the minds of fourteen-year-olds boys playing a game rated M. Magritte a un mal de tête...

GTA scholarship being what it is, the exact locations of all those red dumpsters is a matter of closely guarded handwaving — "Dude, they're in alleys everywhere!" — but so far, I've only found enough of them to fill my Favorites list with red stars (cf. the 110% perfectly accurate IGN map here).


Friday, April 01, 2011

Why Am I Not Surprised?!

I didn't know the Aristocrats' Gilbert Gottfried used to be the voice of the Aflac duck. I gather he was "let go" (imagine King Kong butterfingering Fay Wray on top of the Empire State Building — "Oopsie!") because he tweeted something brunesque about tsunamis and offended everyone in Japan...or something?

What about Earl Billings, the deadpan second banana in every Aflac duckvert who is the only one who can see and hear the duck? Is he still around? And if not, why not? Billings' bugeyed role is a classic reference to Old Hollywood's blackest screen stereotypes, especially those by Topper's Eddie "Rochester" Anderson — "Feets, don't fail me now!"

Speaking of not laughing all the way to the bank, tiny toy giraffes are the most in-demand unavailable product on The Cloud right now. For awhile there was even an Etsy toygiraffeshop (I kid u not!) Blame it on the nouveau riche Russian mafia.

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