177 Articles


12 years Ago

Daily Show Full Episodes Complaint

Published by marco on

In early September, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report made a triumphant return after a hiatus of a few weeks. They unfortunately dragged some obnoxious commercials with them, so I wrote the following note to Comedy Central:

“I just checked out the first show for this fall and noted that the commercials are back. That’s cool, you guys gots to get paid; however, is there any reason you need to run the same pair/trio of commercials in four, two-minute blocks during about 20 minutes of content?... [More]”

Drawing from a Russian Soldier

Published by marco on

The web page, Ballpoint Afghanistan (EnglishRussia), includes images of artwork created during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. These are purportedly the work of a soldier and were done primarily with a ballpoint pen (and colored pencils, apparently). There’s some really cool stuff in there for fans of line-drawing and doodling. I particularly liked the drawing of a soldier gazing out over mountain ranges (reproduced below; click to enlarge).

13 years Ago

Old Growth Forests

Published by marco on

Stop wiping your ass with them.

According to this article, Mr. Whipple Left It Out: Soft Is Rough on Forests by Leslie Kaufman (NY Times), “[a]lthough toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel.”

Regrettably, America manages to stand pretty much alone in demanding super-soft toilet paper for home use, although even in European countries, recycled paper makes up only 20% of paper intended for home use. That’s still ten times... [More]

Geekamania: social networking so you don’t have to

Published by marco on

The article, I Twitter for you! by Mark Morford (SF Chronicle), is about a great new service called Geekamania. This site takes mechanical turking to a whole new level by providing a service unique to the new millenium: integrating you into the online world in a “cool” way.[1]

Here’s the sales pitch:

“We design, set up and maintain as many hip social networking pages as you want, spinning off the information you provided but also totally rearranging it and making it up at will, all to make you sound exactly as... [More]”

The Worst American Fast Food

Published by marco on

The 20 Worst Foods in America 2009 (Men's Health) catalogs exactly that. The listings are nearly unbelievable, especially the number one entry. It is the Baskin Robbins Large Chocolate Oreo Shake, which boasts the following characteristics:

  • 2,600 calories
  • 135 g fat (59 g saturated fat, 2.5 g trans fats)
  • 263 g sugars
  • 1,700 mg sodium
  • 73 ingredients (or more)

That’s a whole day’s worth of calories and three days’ worth of fat in a container that can be slurped empty in less than ten minutes. Not that 263g is... [More]

MLK Day, 2009

Published by marco on

The following radio address is the speech given by Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in 1967. The full transcript is available from the UC Berkeley archives. In it, he talks for twenty-three minutes—at times employing exacting historical detail—about the Vietnam War and its effects on the Vietnamese, Americans and the U.S. role from the very beginning. This was back in ‘67, when many Americans were barely aware of the conflict in the first place. Listen to the speech below and hear a... [More]

One Small Note About Shoes

Published by marco on

The following post was written about a month ago and never published. The context is that of the show-throwing furor that has ebbed somewhat lately.

For a solid week, at least half of the political cartoon output of the world has involved shoes. It is well-known that the media suffers from a severe dearth of imagination but there is no reason to display this deficiency with such pride.

As far as shoes go, this author had two immediate thoughts on seeing the video footage:

  1. Bush is pretty... [More]

Commonly Misspelled Words

Published by marco on

Check out the The 25 Most Commonly Misspelled Words quiz (for English, of course). I went in with an obnoxious braggadocio and walked out with a sobering 22 out of 25. Here are the words that I have newly learned how to spell:

  • consensus (I chose “con[c]ensus”)
  • perseverance (I chose “perse[r]verance”)
  • supersede (I chose “super[c]ede”)

The title of the quiz is a bit misleading, as it’s not clear to what the word “commonly” refers. While the words are not extremely rare, they also don’t come... [More]

Teaching Kids to Write

Published by marco on

826 Valencia is “dedicated to supporting students ages 6–18 with their writing skills, and to helping teachers get their students excited about the literary arts.” They’re in San Francisco and take advantage of the strange work hours and free time of the average freelance writer to provide afternoon tutoring to students who need more one-on-one time. The “store” that they run doesn’t look like a tutoring center; instead, it’s a pirate supply store. There are similar venues in Brooklyn... [More]

Going to America

Published by marco on

The years since 9–11 have seen U.S. border policy become increasingly hostile, with an entire new department of the U.S. government having been conjured out of thin air, complete with its own $50 billion budget. Various measures and overtly hostile attitudes as well as an egregiously cavalier attitude toward civil rights—for American and non-American alike—have prevented many people from even venturing into the veritable no-man’s land that is the modern American international airport.
... [More]

I’m a Postman, Not an Athlete!

Published by marco on

The article, Union claims Royal Mail postmen are being told to walk faster, clears up the confusion surrounding the claim that the Royal Mail in England will be “requiring delivery staff to walk at four miles an hour”. It’s amusing that the claim is taken at all seriously. People are notoriously bad at judging numbers. They hear the claim and think nothing of it, thinking that the number—which a “new software system, Pegasus” calculated is anything but a complete fairy tale. It may also show that... [More]

Definition: To Beg the Question

Published by marco on

The phrase “to beg the question” has become much more popular outside of philosophical circles. In almost all cases, it is being used incorrectly. When you hear someone say the phrase, then follow it with a question, they are doing it wrong. Consider the following cartoon about Obama’s involvement in the Blagojevich scandal:

 Stuart Carlson − Obama, Republicans and Blagojevich

In this case, the reporter actually means, “which raises the question”. It is common practice for people to dress up their language to make what they’re saying sound more... [More]

Heath Ledger’s Joker

Published by marco on

Much has been said of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Many have drawn parallels between elements in the movie and the recent history of the United States, from the attacks of 9–11 to the ensuing war on terror and its effects, both foreign and domestic. The Joker is chosen as the terrorist and the only way to stop him is to be just as lawless, to forsake all that you are defending—if only for just a little while, until order is restored—before everything you hold... [More]

Chains and Acres

Published by marco on

You learn something every day. After years of wondering how the acre came about as a measurement of area, here comes the Chain (length) (Wikipedia) to explain everything. An acre is apparently not just an inscrutably long and decimal-place–laden number of square yards. It is, in fact, exactly 10 square chains. A chain is one tenth of a furlong and equal to 66 feet. That makes more sense than 4840 square yards or a box 208.71 feet on a side.

In addition to the chain, there’s also the rood, which is a... [More]

14 years Ago

June in Switzerland

Published by marco on

 Weather Forecast for 14th–18th of June

[1] Yeah, I know you can see some of my web page behind the picture, but it’s not exactly a security breach for people to find out that I’m reading about “Kucinich’s articles of impeachment”.

Hitchens Delivers Scathing Opprobrium

Published by marco on

The article Just one question (The Guardian) features a whole bunch of British people I’ve never heard of, half of them asking pithy questions, allowing the other half to offer equally pithy—and often, far lengthier—answers. “Julia Neuberger, rabbi and Lib Dem peer”, appearing about ¾ of the way down the list, though it a good idea to ask Christopher Hitchens an insipid question that he’d been asked dozens of times before. Whatever you may think of Hitchens either personally or professionally, this is the... [More]

Things You Didn’t Know About Elevators

Published by marco on

Up and Then Down by Nick Paumgarten (New Yorker) is a well-written look into the world of elevators and the companies that create them. It mixes research with the story of a man who was trapped in an elevator for 41 hours. Some interesting tidbits from the article:

  • The last time an elevator plummeted down a shaft was in 1945 in the US. It was called “the Empire State Building incident of 1945, in which a B-25 bomber pilot made a wrong turn in the fog and crashed into the seventy-ninth floor, snapping the hoist and safety... [More]”

Stock Exchange Hand Signals

Published by marco on

Op-Chart: Making Money Hand Over Fist (New York Times) is another in a long line of really slick, interactive, infographic presentations. Because of the extreme noise on the trading floor, traders use hand signals to indicate buy/sell interest, prices, amounts and status information.

“An oil trader demonstrates the hand signals used on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Text and graphics by Ben Schott, a contributing columnist.”

 Sample of Trading Floor Hand Signals

Required Reading (for Americans, at least)

Published by marco on

Though the article, What Every American Should Know About the Middle East (Daniel Miessler), has already done a decent job of summarizing Arabs, Islam and the Middle East[1], there’s still probably too much text[2], so here’s a summary of the summary[3].

  1. Arabs are an ethnic group.[4]
  2. Iraqis are mostly Arab.
  3. Iranians are mostly Persian (another ethnic group).
  4. Afghans are Pashtun, Hazira, Uzbek or Tajik (also ethnic groups).[5]
  5. Afghani is the unit of currency in Afghanistan.
  6. They speak Arabic[6] in Iraq.
  7. They speak Farsi[7] in Iran.[8]... [More]

Learning about America in the 21st Century

Published by marco on

Learning by example in Bush’s America leads to the list in Everything I Know I Learned Since Jan. 20, 2001 by Neal Starkman (Common Dreams). Some examples are cited below.

“Rich people hire everyone else to work for them, making our economy robust.

“Scientists’ opinions are neither better nor worse than anyone else’s.

“The fall of communism is the best evidence that providing everyone in this country with free health care is doomed.”

Don’t Be That Guy

Published by marco on

A year ago, it was silly to be concerned about the elections in 2008. With the primaries finally underway and the election actually within three seasons’ reach, it’s time to get engaged again. That means shaking off the cobwebs instilled by the ubiquitous brainwashing of the mainstream media (the cloaca of ideas) and actually figuring out what you need to know for the elections, which include:

  • Figuring out what your problems are
  • Figuring out where your interests lie
  • Thinking long term, even... [More]

Kristol-Clear Typo

Published by marco on

In Braking Kristol: ‘NYT’ Public Editor Hits Hiring of Columnist (Editor & Publisher) has a typo; they wrote that:

“Clark Hoyt, has called the controversial hiring of William Kristol as an op-ed columnist a “mistake.” … He also wrote, in his column today, that of nearly 700 messages he has received about the selection, only one praised the pick (empasis added)”

It’s a sad day when even Editor and Publisher can’t proofread well enough to detect that they mis-spelled “prick”.

Rapturous Truth

Published by marco on

Werner Herzog has made many films and not one of them was boring, either to watch or to film (he famously “haul[ed] a boat up a mountainside in [his film] Fitzcarraldo … in the middle of the Amazonian rain forest, [because] audience will know if the shots are real”. His latest is Little Dieter Needs to Fly—a documentary about the only successful escape from a POW camp in Vietnam—with the unparalleled Christian Bale in the lead role. Roger Ebert wrote him a magnificent letter (linked below)... [More]

Improving the Pocket Calendar

Published by marco on

This guy kicked off a [a] better design to fit a year calendar comfortably within a business card. (ELZR) There are a lot of, shall we say, unique, entries. Many of them are interesting only in that they actually work, not that they would be more useful than the standard pocket calendar, which uses text too small to read. The winning entry is the Thumb Calendar by Adam Sporka, which is clean and clear:

Here’s how it works:

First half of the year is on one side of the card, the rest of the year is on the other.... [More]

How Low Can You Go?

Published by marco on

The International Photography Contest (National Geographic) selected the following picture as the winner in the Animals category of their annual competition. This is wrong on so many levels, not least of which is that a lot of people (yours truly included) tend to have much stronger reactions to the suffering of animals that fellow human beings. Why is that? Is it their helplessness? Their relative innocence? Are people not accorded a similar guilelessness, by default? Or do we just assume that they, while not... [More]

Exhaustive Fast Food Nutrition Information

Published by marco on

Fast Food Restaurants & Nutrition Facts Compared (A Calorie Counter) took the time to painstakingly combine the published nutrition (if you can call it that) information for the largest fast food chains in America.

A few tidbits:

  • In the french fries department, Dairy Queen at 1530mg delivers almost five times the sodium of McDonald’s fries and 730 kCal for their large size.
  • Carl’s Jr weighs in with a regular hamburger that has 470 kCal and 1060mg of sodium.
  • The unlimited weight class for sandwiches/burgers has... [More]

Writer’s Strike

Published by marco on

The Writer’s Guild started their strike this week, bringing all new television production out of Hollywood to a screeching halt. For those who haven’t followed it too closely, the Guild have put together a video covering the main points.

Why We Fight (YouTube)

Another member of the guild involved in the negotiation wrote Why We Want Our Words’ Worth by Michael Winship (Common Dreams), which noted that much of what is breathlessly reported by the media is vastly distorted or flat-out incorrect—pretty much par for the course for the new channels,... [More]

The Joys of Commuting

Published by marco on

As cities in America grow bigger and bigger, with suburbs being surrounded by exurbs and people travelling around, through and between city centers regularly, the question of public transportation arises. It’s only really in the States that large cities look at public transportation as a question rather than as a right. It’s only in the States that trains, subways, light rail and metro commuter lines are discussed in terms of profitability instead of usefulness, environmental friendliness and... [More]

15 years Ago

US Air Traffic

Published by marco on

The following 3-minute video shows US traffic patterns as they ebb and flow throughout the day. The data is from March of this year and is real, spiking from a low of about 4000 flights to over 16,000 flights in the air at peak travel periods. There are so many that the flight paths actually acurately delineate the shape of the continental United States.

Found on US Air Traffic by Brad DeLong (Grasping Reality with Both Hands).

Exoneration Compensation

Published by marco on

 The article, What Do States Owe The Exonerated? (Plastic), poses an interesting question. Almost everyone will have a knee-jerk reaction to it—evincing either a gut feeling that an exonerated prisoner is an innocent man and therefore has been treated unfairly by society or a kneejerk reaction that anyone who the courts saw fit to send to jail must be guilty in one way or another. There are those who view every exoneration as the result of a sly criminal’s—and a liberal lawyer’s—machinations of our... [More]