Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Psychedlic Patriotism

This animated short by Vince Collins to commemorate the Bicentennial in 1976 is really odd, especially considering it was commissioned by the U.S. government. Hat tip to BoingBoing.

Harpsichord Recital at UCLA this Friday!

My brother-in-law Eric Wang will be performing a free harpsichord recital at UCLA this Friday, June 1. Here's the UCLA events listing for it (with parking directions), and here is an abridgement of Eric's invitation to the show:
Greetings, friends, family, and colleagues! I am pleased to announce, and invite you to, my second solo harpsichord recital. I will be presenting a program of 17th-18th century keyboard music, on two different harpsichords.
This is an especially exciting event for me because it is the public debut of my own instrument, a beautiful five-octave Italian harpsichord that I had built last year by Yves Beaupré in Montréal.

The recital will be held in the Rotunda at UCLA’s Powell Library, which is a wonderful environment for these casual concerts, and the acoustics are simply superb.

Admission is free, and the program will last approximately 90 minutes, including intermission. I will be offering commentary throughout.

Date: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 8:00pm.
Location: UCLA, Powell Library (also known as the College Library), Rotunda
(Powell Library is across the plaza from Royce Hall)

Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-67): Toccata in D Minor FbWV 102
Froberger: Partita in D Minor FbWV 602b
Froberger: Partita in G Minor FbWV 614
Froberger: Partita in A Major FbWV 608


Antonio Soler (1729-83): Sonata in C Major
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757): 3 Sonatas
i) Sonata in G Major K. 455
ii) Sonata in E Major K. 531
iii) Sonata in G Major K. 413
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759): Suite No. 5 in E Major HWV 430

Instruments featured:
Italian harpsichord by John Phillips (1979) after Carlo Grimaldi (ca. 1697)
Italian harpsichord by Yves Beaupré (2006) after an anonymous mid-18th-century instrument

This is pretty insane

The Bush Administration is fighting to prevent meatpackers from testing all of their cattle for Mad Cow Disease.
A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.
Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.
Hat tip to Daily Kos for pointing out this bizarre interference with the free market. I'm all for the government establishing minimum standards for these things (and yes, I know this is not what hard-core free-marketers want, one of many reasons I am not a libertarian), but preventing companies from establishing stronger standards stands contrary to reason.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic

Speaking of disagreeing with deniers of global warming, Matthew Yglesias points to a series called "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic." I haven't read the whole thing, but the parts I have read are all pretty good. Also, assuming Yglesias hasn't deleted the comment, check out the insane ramblings of post commenter #4, Mr. "Gods are Casting."

Interesting things pointed out by James Taranto

Disclaimer: Yes, I still disagree with James Taranto on Bush, Cheney, the Iraq War, global warming, etc.

Last Thursday he pointed out that Pat Buchanan has made explicit the racism that underlies his nativism:
According to the Census Bureau, from mid-2005 to mid-2006, the U.S. minority population rose 2.4 million, to exceed 100 million. Hispanics, 1 percent of the population in 1950, are now 14.4 percent. Their total number has soared 25 percent since 2000 alone.
The Asian population has also grown by 25 percent since 2000. The number of white kids of school age fell 4 percent, however. Half the children 5 and younger in the United States are now minorities.
What is happening to us?
The next day, Taranto printed some words from a reader who had some fun at Buchanan's expense:
While watching the movie "Gangs of New York," which gang did Pat root for? The gang of nativists--people just like Pat who hate new immigrants--or the gang of immigrant barbaric hordes, the recent Irish arrivals, people just like Pat? It must have been a tough moral dilemma for him. The point is that when Pat's ancestors arrived, they weren't welcomed as "fellow white people." They were spit on just like Pat spits on today's nonwhite immigrants.
As for Hispanic immigrants, for the most part they have a mixture of Native American ethnicity, which means they can make the claim of having more of a right of being here than Pat, and European ethnicity, which means that their ancestors happened to have gotten on the wrong boat when leaving the same places that Pat's ancestors left.
2. He noted approvingly of a Christopher Hitchens comment in which, like a stopped clock, he aimed some of his bile in the right direction for once (for, at least, the first half of the post):
May I be churlish and mention something that has been irritating me about the print version of the paper ever since I moved here twenty-five years ago? The fact is that the objective, detached, independent-minded Washington Post publishes horoscopes.
Moreover, Taranto points out, the Washington Post's searchable database of Congressional votes allows one to break down votes by party, region, gender, and... astrological sign. WTF? Is this section edited by Disco Stu or something?

It'll be a great day in America when every newspaper drops their horoscope and replaces it with Zippy the Pinhead.

Reggie Caught

Man, I go off to Virginia for 10 days and return to discover that Reggie the Alligator has been caught... or has he?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Brief Update

As mentioned previously, I'm in the DC area right now, in Fairfax County, just outside the Alexandria City limits. I'd never before been to Washington, and I like it a lot. Yesterday I went on a tour of the Capitol, and Jen and I also have checked out the Natural History Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Archives, and even the House Where Lincoln Died. Lots of good food; we've been pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality of the restaurants both in Alexandria and Washington.

I've done some driving around, too; I went out to Harpers Ferry WVa few days ago, and today I drove all the way out to Ocean City MD and then up into Delaware. I saw the first stone marker of the Mason-Dixon Line. The countryside around here is very bucolic and pretty. I'll have a bunch of photos when I come back.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bugliosi on JFK

Famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi has published what is intended to be the last word on the John F. Kennedy assassination, a massive, 1,612-page tome refuting conspiracy theorists and defending the central finding of the Warren Commission, that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the President. Of course, the conspiracy industry is way too well-developed to be put to rest with one book, no matter how comprehensive. Bugliosi says that any reasonable person who reads his book should be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of his case.

Personally you know how I generally feel about conspiracy theories if you read this post last week. I must admit, though, that as it stands right now --- not having read the Warren Commission report or done any other research on the subject --- that while I think Oswald probably did it, I'm not 100% convinced of the official version of events. I think I would say that I feel that Oswald acting alone is probably the most likely scenario. At most, maybe he worked with a few other people. A broad-based conspiracy by LBJ or the CIA to assassinate the President, though, I definitely do not believe.

Like I said, though, I haven't done any kind of thorough research and it wouldn't be prudent for me to say anything for sure either way until I've read the evidence myself. I don't know if I'll do that; the book sounds quite daunting.

Incidentally, I spent a day in Dallas once and found that the Sixth Floor Museum, located in the Texas School Book Depository building where Oswald fired his shots, was utterly fascinating. I would say that this is the best small, single-focus museum I've ever been to. There was a lot of information, and they put the whole thing in context well, and with an appropriate amount of respect. Standing there at the window was quite chilling, too, imagining JFK's motorcade passing below. That's basically where I formed my opinion on the assassination; the official version makes more sense than any of the alternatives, but from what I saw, I would not say that I'm cleared of all doubt. But it's good to know that if I ever put the time in to read Bugliosi's book, I might have all my doubts removed.

UPDATE: This site is a bit flip but locates all the significant assassination-related sites in Dallas.

Mr. Villani Goes to Washington

This Friday I'll be flying out to Washington, DC for a week, my first trip to our nation's capital. What up is that my wife will be attending the ISPOR conference in Arlington, and I'm tagging along. She's already been to Washington several times, so the way it works out is that I'll be able to check out things she's already seen or isn't interested in during the day, and then we can go out for dinner and such during the evening. After the conference, we'll have another couple of days in Washington before heading down to Williamsburg, VA for Memorial Day weekend.

Now, I've done my research looking into guidebooks and such, but I was wondering if any of you have any particular gems in Washington or elsewhere in Virginia (I'll be doing some exploring of the greater area, too) you'd recommend I visit. Of course, I plan to see the Smithsonian and the various other things along the Mall, and I've contacted my Congresswoman's office to try to get tickets to see Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. We also plan to see the zoo.

But we really don't know much about where to eat in Washington. I've heard some say that Dupont Circle is the place to go, and others say Dupont Circle is lame. I've heard there's good Ethiopian food in town; any recommendations? And if you have any other favorite spots in the city, that would be good to hear about, too.

How about through the rest of the state? We'll definitely be heading through Richmond and into W'msburg. We'll be visiting Busch Gardens and possibly Kings Dominion amusement parks. Other possibilities include Norfolk, Shenandoah National Park, Harpers Ferry, WV, and a day trip through Annapolis and the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay to Ocean City, Maryland, and maybe some of Delaware.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

New Order Breaks Up

Peter Hook says that New Order has broken up for good. Dang.

Until midway through my senior year of college (when I met my now-wife), I had had a girlfriend for all of about two months during my sophomore year. New Order was pretty much my soundtrack to that. Not the "having a girlfriend" part, but the "not having a girlfriend" part.

New Order had the ability to create songs of such sublime beauty that I never wanted them to end. They were always kind of a weird bunch, though, and were never very consistent. Aside from Hooky, they were all unaccomplished musicians who seemed to have to try really, really, hard to sound the way they wanted to. I think they only tried that hard on special occasions. The one time I saw them live was in 1993 at the Hollywood Bowl, on tour in support of one of their weakest albums, Republic, and they were merely OK. Sumner's vocals were adequate at best, but he could express a longing that few others could.

And of course, their album covers, all designed by Peter Saville, were beautiful.

The place to start has long been their 1987 two-disc singles compilation Substance, which has all the best 12" versions of the songs that provided the soundtrack to many a party I attended through high school and college. For proper albums I'm a bit torn between Power, Corruption and Lies and Technique as their best. Their 2001 comeback album Get Ready was surprisingly solid, but its followup Waiting for the Siren's Call was a bit uninspired by comparison.

A couple years ago, for a music poll, I came up with a New Order top ten songs list. Here it is:
  1. Blue Monday - Overplayed, sure, but still pretty awesome.
  2. Temptation
  3. Age of Consent
  4. The Perfect Kiss - It's got that part with frogs.
  5. Bizarre Love Triangle - I've got something like five different N.O. versions of this song, and I find something different to like about each one.
  6. Fine Time
  7. Vanishing Point
  8. True Faith
  9. 586 - I like the version from their second Peel Sessions EP best.
  10. Love Vigilantes
Honorable mention: Your Silent Face, Crystal, Regret, Subculture, Here to Stay.

UPDATE: Blogger seems to have screwed up the comments for this post. Stay tuned to see if it gets fixed.
UPDATE 2: Okay, I fixed it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Obnoxious Shirt Update

As an update to the post a couple days ago about ironic/jokey t-shirts, the company that used the entirely-too-pleased-with-herself girl with the "I Love Lamp" shirt has apparently retained her services for a whole series of stupid-looking ads and other promo shots where she wears an obnoxious grin and an obnoxious shirt:They also have an entire page full of morons so proud of their pop-culture-referential t-shirts that they've sent in photos of themselves wearing them. Saddest are the ones who had to take their photos themselves, suggesting that the only persons amused by their shirts are themselves. OK, the people demonstrating their love for lamps are probably sadder.
Enough with the hating, I'm off this subject now. But I had to get that off of my chest.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Five Blogs That Make Me Think

Last week Donna Bowman was so kind as to tag me for a "Thinking Blogger" award. Thanks! Even on something as inconsequential as this blog it is nice to receive some recognition for my efforts. I guess the nice thing about the Thinking Blogger award is that it doesn't necessarily mean, "I proclaim that this blogger thinks," which is kind of insulting to all the bloggers you don't tag, but, according to the original "Thinking Blogger" site, is supposed to be "this blog makes me think." Which I think is maybe less smug. Or maybe not.

Here's Donna's citation:
Adam Villani, Gentleman, has more going on at his little blogspot than anyone has a right to. Left-wing politics, consultantating, game shows, DIY rock and roll, and freaks of nature. If Adam's got a post up, prepare to lose twenty minutes following links to fascinating stuff.
Kind of an interesting collection of things to mention there. First, I sort of bristle at the term "Left-wing." I prefer to describe myself as a "liberal," though in certain aspects I'm fairly conservative, too; to me, those terms actually describe (in shorthand) political beliefs, whereas "left-wing" just kind of exists as an opposite to "right-wing," somebody for whom politics is about taking sides rather than trying to work towards some good. Perhaps it's splitting hairs, but characterizing people that way makes me think of the ugly side of politics.

Also, I think my views on specific issues are varied enough that I don't think the standard-bearers of the left wing would claim me. I'm against abortion, favor only a minimal amount of gun control, oppose economic protectionism, oppose affirmative action, oppose socialism, don't buy organic food, and think fighting against islamofascism is important. On the other hand, I favor the legalization of drugs, consider the protection of the environment very important, support gay marriage, support a good number of economic regulations within a capitalist framework, oppose limits on economic immigration, don't mind taxes if they're being spent well, favor free speech and other civil rights, and think George W. Bush's Presidency has, for several reasons, been an absolute travesty. But I'm interested less in taking sides than I am in hearing the reasoning behind people's positions.

Getting back to Donna's nomination of me, while they're definitely big parts of my life, I don't think I've written much here on the blog about my consulting work, game shows, or my semi-rock band. So here goes:
  • Consulting: I work as an urban and environmental planner for EDAW. I'm particularly excited about writing elements of the General Plan for the city I grew up in, Long Beach. We're really early in the process right now, and you can follow the process at this website; I'll be helping run several public meetings next month.
  • Game Shows: I beat Ben Stein on Win Ben Stein's Money and came close to defeating the mighty Ken Jennings on Jeopardy! I enjoy game shows and enjoy analyzing what makes them work or not work; I wrote some fairly extensive comments on the subject here and here.
  • DIY Rock: Yes, I am a percussionist/vocalist/songwriter in Stale Urine. We were most active while we were undergraduates at Caltech, but since then we've gotten together to record music every now and then; the impediment to music-making mostly being that the members live all across the country now. You can preview some tracks from our upcoming album here. That's me singing on "The Whiteness of the Whale" and playing the role of the innkeeper in "Horsell Common and the Heat Ray." I wrote the lyrics (well, adapted, in Horsell Common's case) for those two. Matches Made of Human Fingers is our most recent album.
Now, for my tagging of five bloggers who make me think. Some of these are public figures whom I don't know personally, and have a lot more readers than I do, so I'm just going to link to and notify them and hope they don't think I'm harassing them.
  1. How about sending one back to Donna herself? From small-town Conway, Arkansas, almost-daily poster Donna Bowman writes about theology, being a mom, and pop culture with equal deftness.
  2. He may hide behind a veneer of bizarre metaphors and have an indifferent relationship with the rules of spelling and grammar, but the incomparable Vern has some of the most insightful, entertaining reviews of movies on the web. His site isn't technically a blog, but it's close enough.
  3. I just recently started reading Matthew Yglesias's blog regularly. He's smart, posts several times a day, and is the rare political blogger who doesn't come off as an asshole.
  4. Mark Evanier writes in depth about comics and the entertainment industry from a personal perspective, and even owns up to being partially responsible for the creation of Scrappy-Doo.
  5. Victor Morton is a friend of mine who hasn't updated his blog in months, but when he does write, he writes at length with exceptional clarity. I disagree with a lot of Vic's politics, but he frequently presents arguments I haven't heard elsewhere and often develops his arguments better than the people I do agree with.
Read the above, all great bloggers who make me think!

His New Pitching Technique is Unstoppable

Mike Marshall, Ph.D., the Dodger pitcher whose 1974 record of 106 appearances still stands today (not to be confused with Mike Marshall, the Dodger outfielder from the 1980s) has a pitching academy/ laboratory in Florida where he teaches an unconventional pitching technique that the organized baseball world scoffs at but which he claims will eliminate pitching-related injuries. I have no knowledge of pitching mechanics and no knowledge of the world of freelance pitching coaches beyond what I've read in this article, so I can't judge the merits of Marshall's program. But it does make for an interesting story.

UPDATE: Dave Pinto at Baseball Musings has some comments on this.

ALSO: For a guy who didn't look anything like Nolan Ryan in the '70s, he sure looks a lot like Nolan Ryan now.

Japanese Nihilist Candidate Video

I'm not sure what the deal is; I went to embed this video through YouTube and it took like 24 hours to post. So, here is a strangely mesmerizing video of a nihilist/anarchist (sorry if I got the exact sub-genre of politics wrong) candidate for governor of Tokyo. Only the Japanese can make speeches like this. Also, yes, this is yet another post from my big backlog of things I thought about posting last week.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

On Jokey/Ironic T-Shirts

The AVClub's "Hater" column has a post on the lameness of ironic t-shirts commemorating Paris Hilton's upcoming jail term. Just to flood my blog more, I've decided to post my own thoughts here on the jokey/ironic t-shirt, previously published in the comments to the Hater's post.
The thing I don't get about the jokey t-shirt, whether ironic or not, is that it's just one joke. What would you think if somebody you hung around with made the same joke all day, then a few weeks later made the same joke all day, then did the same a few weeks after that, etc.? You'd think that person was a moron. Yet that's what the jokey T-shirt is. At best, it's funny the first time. But then it's the same joke all day.
True Story: Two months before I graduated from college, in 1996, I was camping in Hawaii and all of my t-shirts got stolen. Since then I have replenished my t-shirt collection completely with shirts displaying logos and/or designs representing things I genuinely, unironically enjoy. National Parks, In-n-Out Burgers, the Dodgers, etc. Break free of the urge to be clever with your t-shirt! I have; you can too.
In the interest of full disclosure, as a youth I employed a substantial number of humorous shirts (think "Bill the Cat for President"), I think the only one that could really be considered somewhat "ironic" in the way that a hipster's "New Jersey is for Lovers" shirt is was one featuring this WPA poster:That one got stolen out of the laundry room at school, and I was really bummed, especially since I had helped make the shirt myself. It's quite a striking design, though I must confess that part of its appeal was the shock value from a shirt with a government-sponsored design warning about syphilis (and concentrating on the whole "loss of work" effect rather than the more direct health problems).

What's your take on the jokey t-shirt? Is it incurably lame? Upon further consideration, I'm thinking that it may be OK if used sparingly. Maybe there's just too much of it. And good graphic design helps. I mean, heck, I'm the guy whose band is named Stale Urine. Maybe there is a place for jokiness in this universe. But not a place for a girl this self-satisfied for her decision to wear an "I Love Lamp" shirt:UPDATE: See this post for an update.

Does Canada want you?

Our Neighbors to the North have a convenient self-assessment test you can take to see if you'd qualify to immigrate to Canada as a skilled worker. A passing score, currently, is 67/100. I took the test for shits and/or giggles and scored a 73, though it'd be 5 points higher if my maternal grandmother hadn't renounced her Canadian citizenship when she became a U.S. citizen. So I pass even without having any employment lined up, which I guess means they'd take me even if I do nothing but lounge about getting free health care.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Earlier today I finally finished reading Herman Melville's Moby-Dick*. I had started reading this copy in October of 2005 (shortly before beginning this blog, incidentally) and had been picking it up for a while and putting it down for a while since. This should not be taken as a sign that I didn't enjoy it; indeed, I believe I can confidently say that of all the novels I've read, this one is my favorite. I should note that I'm a notoriously slow reader; I only finish a handful of books a year and will set down a book for weeks at a time even when I find it fascinating. The only genre fiction I read, then, is comic books (mostly the straight-up superhero stuff). If I'm going to put in the effort it takes me to read a book of substantial length, I want it to be a real classic to be worth my time. I also read a lot of non-fiction for pleasure and, as you might have imagined, spend a lot of time looking at maps and atlases.

A few notes on Moby-Dick*:
1. What makes this book so great is the incredible richness of the text and the depth with which Melville explores his themes of single-minded obsession and restless wanderlust. He famously goes into lengthy digressions to explain the intricacies of the whaling profession and devotes entire chapters to musings on subjects like "the whiteness of the whale" or a description of the pulpit at a church. I'd hazard a guess and say that roughly half of the book is, to at least some extent, not really about the plot. That's OK, plot is overrated. The result is that when reading this book, I felt almost as if I was living the story, a wanderer in the crew of a ship led by a madman.

2. I also think that it's an extremely manly book. I'd like to read a woman's review or critique of the novel. Not only are all the characters men, but the single-minded pursuit of goals seems to me a very masculine theme. While there are several very colorfully-drawn characters, there is very little in the way of character development, and the narrator himself is a cipher who fades into the background about a quarter of the way through. Add to that the very milieu of the sea and whaling, and it seems to me the mentality of the book would be somewhat alien to women, speaking in very general terms. I could totally be wrong, though.

3. My first attempt to read this novel was a few years ago, reading a very strange edition of this book in which the entire text was printed in the Caltech student newspaper, the California Tech. While I was an undergraduate, the outgoing editors, in an elaborate act of spite against the paper's office manager, decided to print the entire novel in a special section of the paper; this strained the limits of legibility with about 4.5-point text across 12 pages. As a challenge I tried reading it in this fashion; I got all the way to the 4th page before giving up. This gave me a taste for the book which I later satisfied with the more conventional paperback version I read from cover to cover.

4. Wouldn't it be the most amazing spectacle ever created if someone were to capture an albino sperm whale, take it into captivity, train it like they do Orcas at Sea World, and present a live presentation of Moby-Dick* in a giant amphitheatre? Just imagine it! More stupendous than any show ever seen!

*or, The Whale

Interchange Collapse in Oakland

Lest you think I was lying when I said I had stuff to comment on from last week, I intended to point out a week ago how the collapse of a section of the Maze interchange in Oakland made Rosie O'Donnell's inane conspiracy-mongering about how "fire has never melted steel" look particularly foolish.It really bugs me how these conspiracy nuts pervert the healthy questioning of authority by ignoring actual answers to their questions and reasonable explanations in favor of elaborate schemes that don't make a lick of sense themselves. I'm not going to go into an extensive debunking of conspiracy theories here; Popular Mechanics does a great job of that.

The conspiracist mindset is one that operates under two different levels of burden of proof: to the conspiracist, the slightest gaps in information or inconsistencies in eyewitness accounts (anyone who follows breaking news stories knows that it takes a while to sort of what actually happens in a chaotic event) prove that the entire story is false. Meanwhile, their alternate versions of events are taken as gospel when backed only by conjecture and a couple of stray facts. The world of the conspiracy nut is one where failures of the government, military, or large corporations are never the result of miscommunication, incompetence, or human error. To them, nothing happens by accident, and instead there are thousands of people all managing to keep an elaborate tale of misinformation straight. And, oddly enough, they're imagining some big conspiracy willing to murder 3,000 civilians in the World Trade Center to start a war, and yet for some reason this conspiracy has allowed these nuts who claim to have uncovered the "truth" to go about their daily lives with impunity, posting their accusations all over the web without recrimination.

Is everything the government says true? Of course not. But there's a difference between skepticism and a willingness to believe bullshit just because it supports an alternative version of reality.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Spider-Man's Black Costume

Another quick note here: In case you're wondering about some of the backstory behind the third Spider-Man movie, Spider-Fan has a convenient summary of how Spidey's black costume came to be, and also primers on Venom, the Sandman, and the Harry Osborn Green Goblin.

I thought the movie was pretty good, but didn't have quite the vim of the first two. The stories in the comics can develop over years or even decades, and they can lose some of their richness when condensed into a 2-hour-plus movie. I think it would have been better with at least one fewer villain.

Drinks at Restaurants

So, I just made a little list of things that I'd thought about adding to the blog over the past week, and there were like ten different things to write up... I need to go to bed, so I'll just throw this rant out for you:

What's the deal with restaurants keeping the prices of their drinks secret? Wine lists show the prices, but when a restaurant has a list of specialty cocktails they make, most places just show the different drinks but neglect to tell you the price. Why is that? Why do they tell you how much the food costs before you order it but keep the price of their their apple martini with prickly pear syrup hidden? Do they figure that cost is no object when buying alcohol? This is why I hardly ever drink in bars. Why would I pay 6 bucks plus tip for a shot of whiskey when I can get 750 ml for 20 bucks at the supermarket? I don't get it.

Some places don't even list the prices of their soft drinks on the menu. Everything else gets a price, but they leave that one blank. You know what that tells me? That they're planning on ripping me off for $2.50 if I want a Coke. That's why more often than not I get water with my meals when I'm at a restaurant. The drinks are a total cash cow. A 20-oz. fountain drink only costs them a few cents. They'd be making money off of me even if they only charged 50 cents a drink. I understand there needs to be some kind of a markup, but I have my limits.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Aeroplane Swimming

From the amazing collection of old photos at Shorpy, here's an activity from 1910 way cooler than anything I had when I was in high school:
Girl Flies Through Air, Shakes “Wings” and Plunges Into Pool

PITTSBURG, Feb. 8 — The pupils of the Sixth Ward public school, North Side, are learning at one and the same time to imitate the bird and the fish — an art which they name “aeroplane swimming.” They have long enjoyed a fine swimming pool and their instructor, Professor Walter Shook, has adopted the use of small biplanes in the course.

Sara Harzberger, a 14-year-old pupil in the school, yesterday demonstrated the new game by gliding from a high balcony by means of the biplane, and as she reached the pool she shook her “wings,” turned a somersault and dived into the water. Professor Shook hopes next summer to take his human fish-birds out to the rivers and ponds to glide from high boats, bridges and banks.

The sport was suggested by a student at the Carnegie Technical school, and those who have tried it say it is a thousand times more thrilling than the ordinary dive and can be made safely at almost any reasonable height.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Shaenon K. Garrity rips conservative cartoonist Chris Muir a new one.
I find it faintly ironic that Muir would accuse Clinton of donning political blackface, when the main character in his strip is essentially a blackface version of Chris Muir.