Sunday, September 28, 2008

Geographic Survey

There are three prominent colleges in the country known by the initials OSU. When you hear "OSU," what is the first school that comes to mind for you, and what part of the country do you live in (or, alternately, did you grow up in)?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Palin's Lies

Andrew Sullivan has a handy wrap-up of twelve bald-faced lies Sarah Palin has told in public.
Cartoon by Tom Toles.

Bonus Factoid:
Since Sarah Palin was selected for the vice-presidential nomination, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has given more press conferences than she has. That's the country John McCain believes in.

Los Angeles, Now Available in Convenient Video-Game Form

TVG has a set of screenshots from a new game, Midnight Club: Los Angeles, compared with photos of the actual locations represented in the game. They're awfully good replicas; the top is from the video game, and the bottom is reality.

The Whisky a Go Go:
Santa Monica Pier:
(Yes, I know, neither one of those is actually in the City of Los Angeles.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

One-Day Casinos

Here's an odd article about casinos in Nevada that open for eight hours every two years in order to keep their gambling licenses.

Monday, September 15, 2008

R.I.P., Richard Wright

Aww man... now Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright has died at 65 after a bout with cancer. They'd been pretty inactive lately, but at least the band got back together (sans Syd Barrett) for Live 8 in 2005. People have a tendency to forget about Rick's contributions, as the bigger egos had shoved him aside by the time The Wall was recorded, but he was a lot more active earlier, writing a couple of songs per album for a while and even singing lead or co-lead on songs like "Echoes" and "Astronomy Domine."

I do like this anecdote, as told in Wikipedia:

Battling both personal problems and an increasingly rocky relationship with Roger Waters, he was forced to resign from Pink Floyd during The Wall sessions by Roger Waters, who threatened to pull the plug on the album's tapes if Wright did not leave the band. However, he was retained as a salaried session musician during the subsequent live concerts to promote that album in 1980 and 1981. Ironically, Wright became the only member of Pink Floyd to profit from those hugely spectacular shows, since the net financial loss had to be borne by the three remaining "full-time" members.

Amazingly enough, that Wikipedia article actually uses the term "ironically" properly.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


With all due respect to Frankie Rodriguez for breaking the single-season saves record, something that requires sustained excellence with a very good team, ESPN's Jim Caple lays out the best case I've yet seen for why closer is the most overrated position in sports.

R.I.P., David Foster Wallace

Aww crap... David Foster Wallace committed suicide. DFW was my favorite contemporary author, somebody whose intelligence and wit screamed off of every page he wrote. His essays are a pure joy to read, but tackling Infinite Jest was like tackling a big intellectual project --- it took me three months to do, I had to use two bookmarks (one for the main text and one for the footnotes), and figuring out the chronology was a task in itself, but it was so rewarding.

Why do so many bright people choose to end it all? After reading Consider the Lobster a couple months ago, I remember perusing the "also by David Foster Wallace" list, noting that I'd read about half of the books there, and thinking forward to wonder what else he might take on. What a waste that there will be nothing more.

MORE: Michiko Kakutani has more to say on Wallace.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hero Couches

This abandoned couch and its buddy gently cushioned a car that flipped onto its side in North Hollywood. Hurrah, couches!The LAFD has a Flickr Photoset of this incident.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sound + Vision

1. This Diet Coke commercial that played a lot during the Olympics is one of my favorites. It's pretty much a perfect expression of an ideal summer day.

The song is "Starry Eyed Surprise" by Paul Oakenfold. The singer, surprisingly enough, is Seth Binzer from Crazy Town, whom you may have recognized from Celebrity Rehab.

Another nice thing about that commercial, like a lot of Coca-Cola commercials, is that the underlying concept is "associate your product with something good" rather than "flatter your customer's sense of being too cool for commercials," which has unfortunately gained prominence in the last decade or so.

2. A lot of music videos are good because they have a clever idea, or mind-boggling special effects, or pretty ladies, cool dancing, colorful sets, etc. Other videos are just cool because the visuals match the mood of the music so well. This one for The Prodigy's "Poison" is one of those:

I'm sure the budget for that was pretty low, but it works. The song has a great beat and sounds menacing, and the video fits that simply and perfectly.

What's wrong with the news

Sorry for the return to negativity. I'll try to stop soon.

1. This post from Matthew Yglesias illustrates how the trend in political reporting is to treat matters of fact vs. falsehood as simply differences of opinion. This is emblematic of what's wrong with the myth of the liberal media. A couple weeks ago Gallup found that more than half of Americans think that Obama will raise their income tax. This is utterly false, unless somehow they polled a bunch of people making more than $250,000 a year. Ideas like this persist because far too often political news is presented as "Democrat Smith says X and Republican Jones says Y" rather than "I have done some research and discovered that reality is Z." (And yes, obviously, it's not like everything Democrats say is true, but the fact that so many public misperceptions skew Republican is strong evidence that Republicans have used the media's laziness to their advantage.)

2. Here's how I see the public debate going these days:
Democrat: Hey, John McCain has a lousy policy X, lied about policy Y, and doesn't know anything about policy Z.

Republican: How dare you impugn the honor of war hero John McCain, who doesn't like talking about his time as a POW?

Democrat: Hey, Sarah Palin has a lousy policy X, lied about policy Y, and doesn't know anything about policy Z.

Republican: How dare you apply that sexist double standard to a wonderful mother like Sarah Palin? And her kids are off-limits!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

Enough negativity; yesterday was my birthday!

I turned 35, and this actually seemed like the first big milestone I've hit that actually kinda made me feel old. I'm in a new demographic category now. I talked to my mom on the phone and she said 35 kinda made her feel the same way.

Anyway, I must not be that old, because to celebrate, I drove over the mountains to Malibu (that's one nice thing about living in Woodland Hills) to go to the beach. Just like going to the beach with my mom when I was a little kid, my wife sat on a blanket on the sand to keep an eye on me while I played in the waves. Some pretty strong waves, too... bodysurfing is like wrestling the ocean.

So one thing I'll need to do now that I'm 35 is start using a new color to indicate the new counties I visit. I've got things set up right now to use a different color every five years of age, so anything I first visited between birth and the age of 4 is red, anything first visited between 5 and 9 is magenta, etc.
The problem is that getting new counties is getting harder and harder. Since I finished collecting all the California counties last year, the nearest county I haven't been to is Lander County, Nevada, 460 miles away. It's a lot tougher to rack up counties here in the West, since the counties are so large. To put things in perspective, if I were living in New York City and had visited everything within 460 miles, it would have meant I'd been everywhere as far north as Bangor, Maine, as far west as Cleveland, and as far south as the North Carolina state line. There are about 400 counties within 460 miles of New York vs. about 65 counties within the same radius of Los Angeles.


McCain-Palin's convention bounce now gives them a five-point lead in the Gallup poll. This saddens me deeply. What does it say about the American public that you can shovel manure for a week on TV, but people eat it up like candy if you wrap it up in a nice package? What is wrong with people?

ALSO: Hey, Democrats, if they attack you with lies, attack them with the truth. You can't sit on your rear taking the high road and expecting the press to suss out the Republicans' lies. They'll make the election all about war hero McCain and supermom Palin. You need to change the narrative and focus the country's attention on their awful policies and their flagrant disregard for the truth.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Fact-checking McCain/Palin

So, Sarah Palin confidently, yet smarmily, delivered a speech written by George W. Bush speechwriter Mike Scully. Good for her. Bad for the country. Democrats, and anybody else who cares about the future of America need to fight back, and fight back hard.

One good way to do so is with the truth. Here is the Associated Press's quick fact-check on yesterday's speeches, and here is, a great resource for checking politicians of every stripe. They don't yet have a report up on the yesterday's speeches, but I assume they will soon... they've already gone after some lies by Joe Lieberman and Fred Thompson the previous day.

UPDATE: Their check of last night's speeches is up now. Not surprisingly, they found Palin & Scully's rhetoric factually challenged.

MORE: Slate has a Sarah Palin FAQ.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Remarkable, shocking videos

These were on or were referenced on BoingBoing:

both videos are moderately violent.

1. Man shocked by grapes (39 seconds):

2. Lions attack water buffalo, water buffalo attack lions (8:24):