Friday, January 30, 2009

Worst Campaign Stunt Ever

So that idiot who campaigned for the RNC chair position by sending out comedy CDs containing the parody song "Barack the Magic Negro" managed to influence the outcome in ways he never intended. In an obvious attempt at damage control, the RNC elected as its new chair a moderate Republican who isn't even a committee member, just because he happens to be one of the few high-profile African American Republican politicians. Good luck with that rebranding, RNC. Stay classy, southern bigots.

This may actually be the best possible post-script to the November elections. Steele is a moderate, so he may save the Republican Party from becoming increasingly extremist and irrelevant. A viable opposition is important for a healthy democracy. Maybe we can all focus on the very real problems this country faces instead of phony culture-war battles. Steele can also be critical of President Obama (and the Democratic Congress) without accusations of racism from the media or the lunatic fringe (I'm looking at you, Al Sharpton).

Olfactory Memory

Weird. I just got off the phone with a friend who typically wears too much cologne, and as soon as I hung up, I could swear I smelled cologne. There is no cologne of any kind on my person or in my workplace. The olfactory hallucination went away after a few minutes. I've heard of aromas triggering memories, but I never realized it could work the other way.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Picks for the Razzies

The nominations for the 2008 Golden Raspberry Awards have been announced.
(h/t screenrant).

A lot of people are making Oscar predictions. For now, I'm going to stick with predicting the Razzies.

Worst Picture: The Love Guru (just based on the trailers I saw).

Worst Actor: Larry the Cable Guy (for Witless Protection). I think Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy will split the vote for once-respected-comic-actor-known-for-playing-multiple-roles-who-is-now-scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel, leaving the he-only-ever-plays-one-character vote in the lead.

Worst Actress: Paris Hilton (for the Hottie and the Nottie). Because no one can resist ridiculing Paris Hilton.

Worst Supporting Actor: Pierce Brosnan (for Mama Mia!). He never should have tried to sing.

Worst Supporting Actress: Kim Kardashian (for Disaster Movie). Unless Paris Hilton somehow doesn't "win" Worst Actress, in which case she will get this consolation Razzie (for Repo: the Genetic Opera).

Worst Screen Couple: Eddie Murphy IN Eddie Murphy (in Meet Dave). Because he must be stopped before he makes any more of these crappy multiple-roles movies.

Worse Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel: The Day the Earth Blowed Up Real Good. Because Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will have to compete with Star Wars: Clone Wars for the stop-George-Lucas-before-he-destroys-another-cherished-memory-of-my-youth vote.

Worst Director: M. Night Shyamalan (for The Happening). Because Uwe Boll (who made three crappy movies that were released in 2008) is being recognized with a special Razzie, this one should go to Shyamalan, who was once a respected director and still has delusions of greatness.

Worst Screenplay: Mike Myers & Graham Gordy (for The Love Guru).

Worst Career Achievement (Special Category): Uwe Boll ("Germany's answer to Ed Wood"). Because he's the only one nominated.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I Guess 2009 Isn't Their Year...

I was in the east side Borders earlier this week, perusing their leftover calendars. They were marked down to $4, and sometimes I can find a nice art calendar with frame-worthy prints. No such luck. However, I was amused to see some of the stuff that was left on the shelves.

Judging from the thickness of the leftover stacks, I concluded that the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers football teams are both less popular this year than either the Chicago Bears or the Milwaukee Bucks. Labrador retrievers are currently more beloved than cocker spaniels.

But the oddest calendar I saw, the only one that gave me a "WTF?" moment, was this "Link Larkin -- Heartthrob of Baltimore" calendar. Who thought it was a good idea to market a calendar of a character from a movie that came out two years ago? Even more surprising was the fact that there was only one left. I'm guessing a lot of teenage girls received them as Christmas gifts from clueless parents.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free At Last

Free at last, free at last, praise God almighty, we're free at last... from an administration that "kept us safe" by using our military as bait overseas, creating a target-rich environment where it was far easier for the terrorists to attack us than stateside. from an administration that arrested a United States citizen on American soil for what was essentially a thought crime and tried to keep him locked up in a military brig indefinitely without charges. from an administration that arrested an innocent Canadian citizen in a case of mistaken identity and had him rendered to a foreign nation, where he was tortured.

Our founding fathers understood the importance of habeus corpus. Without it, no one's constitutional rights are safe. Our law enforcement institutions do make mistakes (Steven Hatfill and Richard Jewell come to mind). Without due process, there is no opportunity to correct those mistakes.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thousands Volunteer to Help Bush Move

[Because I've always thought it would be cool to write for The Onion]

January 16, 2009
Thousands Volunteer to Help Bush Move

WASHINGTON, DC--President George W. Bush was pleasantly surprised on Saturday morning to find his Craigslist ad for moving help answered by over 4,000 patriotic D.C. residents.

"I thought we'd get maybe a hundred people," he explained. "This is great. It only took us an hour and a half to load up the trucks."

Due to security measures added after the September 11 terrorist attacks, moving vans are not allowed to park within two blocks of the White House. "I understand the need for caution, but that meant that all the big stuff needed to be rolled on luggage carts or appliance dollies. But with so many helping hands, they formed a sorta bucket brigade, with the younger kids running the empty carts back to the front of the line."

Schoolteacher Anthony Jefferson, a lifelong D.C. resident, was one of the many who heeded the call to service. He explained: "We're all eager to help the President and First Lady get back to Texas and private life. I think it's safe to say that every man, woman and child here is very excited to be a part of this moment in history. The promise of free Domino's pizza and sodas was just icing on the cake."

Asked if he placed a similar Craigslist ad in Dallas for help with the unloading, the President explained: "There was no need for that. My brother Jeb is between jobs right now, and he volunteered to round up a bunch of his hispanic in-laws and get us moved into our new place. Those people are very industrious, you know."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An Anthem for Our Times

Have you ever had an old song stuck in your head? Lately, I can't stop hearing this one by the great Arlo Guthrie. I first heard it decades ago, but if he didn't mention Lee Iacocca, you'd think it was brand new:

I'm Changing My Name To Chrysler
by Arlo Guthrie

Oh the price of gold is rising out of sight
And the dollar is in sorry shape tonight
What the dollar used to get us
Now won't buy a head of lettuce
No the economic forecast isn't right

But amidst the clouds I spot a shining ray
I can even glimpse a new and better way
And I've demised a plan of action
Worked it down to the last fraction
And I'm going into action here today

I am changing my name to Chrysler
I am going down to Washington D.C.
I will tell some power broker
What they did for Iacocca
Will be perfectly acceptable to me
I am changing my name to Chrysler
I am headed for that great receiving line
So when they hand a million grand out
I'll be standing with my hand out
Yes sire I'll get mine

When my creditors are screaming for their dough
I'll be proud to tell them all where they can all go
They won't have to scream and holler
They'll be paid to the last dollar
Where the endless streams of money seem to flow
I'll be glad to tell them what they can do
It's a matter of a simple form or two
It's not just renumeration it's a liberal education
Ain't you kind of glad that I'm in debt to you


Since the first amphibians crawled out of the slime
We've been struggling in an unrelenting climb
We were hardly up and walking before money started talking
And it's sad that failure is an awful crime
Well it's been that way for a millenium or two
But now it seems that there's a different point of view
If you're a corporate titanic and your failure is gigantic
Down to congress there's a safety net for you


Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Global Warming Paradox

I've seen some posts in the blogosphere lately stating that the colder temperatures of 2008 constitute proof that global warming is a myth. Of course, those same folks never believed that the record warm years in the 1990s consituted proof of anything. Nor did they pay any attention to the prediction by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute that global warming could trigger another little ice age in parts of North America and Europe.

How can global warming trigger an ice age, you ask? By interrupting the Great Ocean Conveyor -- a set of ocean currents that transfer heat from the equator to the arctic regions. Basically, warm and salty (from evaporation) ocean water makes its way north, where it becomes cooler and fresher (from river run-off and precipitation). As it cools, it sinks, although the desalination slows the sinking (since salt water is denser than fresh water).

It is the force of this cold water sinking below the warmer water that drives the conveyor belt of currents. If the freshening of the water is sufficient to counteract the cooling, it won't sink, and the current will shut down. The scientists at Woods Hole noted that the rapidly melting arctic glaciers would dump larger-than-usual amounts of fresh water into the north Atlantic, and this could interrupt the Great Ocean Conveyor.

I first read about this several years ago. As Wisconsin's winters became milder and milder, forcing ski resorts to close early and cancelling the American Birkebeiner, I waited for the other shoe to drop. Last winter, as I was shovelling snow for what seemed like half my waking hours at home, I wondered if it was starting to happen. I searched for recent articles on the phenomenon.

Scientists at Great Britain's National Oceanography Centre detected in 2005 a significant reduction in warm currents from the Gulf Stream between 1992 and 1998. They were surprised by the findings, because they thought that such a reduction should result in cooler temperatures in Great Britain and Scandinavia. As of 2005, they hadn't seen it yet. They may be seeing it now.

Those wanting more information about this phenomenon should check out this 2002 research paper entitled "Abrupt Climate Change: Invevitable Surprises." And think of alternative modes of transportation.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Joe the Plumber, Action Hero

While working hard to make a living, mild-mannered unlicensed plumber Samuel J. Wurzelbacher was bitten by a radioactive snake that made its way into someone's toilet. He was instantly transformed into America's favorite political pundit, author and aspiring musician Joe the Plumber, possessing superhuman abilities to authoritatively spout misinformation on a wide range of topics, such as taxes, socialism and the security of Israel.

Now the bald man with many hats will put on Edward R. Murrow's fedora and become a foreign correspondent. Saving us from liberal bias in the mainstream media, visionary website Pajamas TV is giving Joe the Plumber his own forum from which to chronicle the death of Israel (put in motion by the election of Barack Obama, as written in the Book of Revelation).

This, of course, will give Joe the foreign policy experience he needs to be Sarah Palin's running mate in 2012.

Can we look forward to Archie McPhee producing a Joe the Plumber action figure in time for Hanukkah?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Obama Plays Hardball with NASA

It was reported on slow-news-Friday that President-elect Obama is considering combining the nation's separate civilian and military space programs as a way to save money and launch missions more quickly. Everyone seems to think it makes sense. It was presented as "a collaboration" or "tearing down barriers" to allow the Pentagon to support NASA rather than what it really is -- punishing NASA for stonewalling the Obama transition team.

When I came across this story, I was immediately reminded of this story that ran back in early December, detailing the friction between NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and Obama's transition team. How much do you want to bet that Griffin will soon be out, and most of NASA's programs (and possibly the entire agency) will end up under Pentagon jurisdiction?

NASA has a long history of covering up its own incompetence and shifting blame in order to defend its budget. Clearly, they are not used to being held accountable. But really, Griffin should have known better than to pick a fight with a man who cut his political teeth in Chicago.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Drunks Against MADD Mothers

I should confess that I am no fan of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. If they focused on legislation like the current proposal to make a third O.W.I. a felony, or other measures that target drunk driving, I would applaud their efforts.

However, they seem to feel that adults should not be able to legally have a glass of wine (by which I mean a standard wine glass, not a super-size Lautenschlager glass) before driving themselves home. There is no scientific evidence that a blood alcohol level of .08% or .09% results in significant impairment. Yet, due entirely to the lobbying efforts of MADD, states have rolled back the legal limit from .10%.

Now, they wish to impose sobriety checkpoints (a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars and law enforcement's time) and cumbersome ignition locks (a major expense and inconvenience for innocent family members who share a vehicle) as well. How long before they push for .05% as the legal limit? Or expand "not a drop" laws beyond minors to other demographic groups (like seniors, or those with speeding tickets)?

With that said, I am very surprised that Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker has publically gone on record defending repeat drunk drivers. He may think the Tavern League has his back, but they have enough to worry about fighting for exemptions from any statewide smoking ban. He should pick his battles and focus on stopping checkpoint legislation.

If he were really smart, he would introduce alternate legislation making three O.W.I. convictions within 10 years, or two within a year, a felony. Or some other measure that would get tough on repeat drunk drivers. How about a statewide registry, so those picked up in different counties don't slip through the cracks? His spokeswoman said he "would support" making a third offense a felony if it occurred within 10 years. But I doubt he will be eager to actively promote such legislation. Instead, it looks like he is campaigning for the leadership of DAMM (Drunks Against MADD Mothers).