Sunday, March 30, 2008

Streaming Music Down. . .

FYI - the streaming music iPod thingamajig is down for the time being, until I can find a service that will give me longer mp3 storage time than Fileden.

Incomprehensible Penguin Arena and Other Games Based on Randomly-Generated Names

The Independent Gaming Source's challenge to video game developers: design a game based on a name generated from the Video Game Name Generator. The results have been wonderfully-creative, and the games themselves generally play better than much you'd see from some other competitions. The first page alone features "Football Planet", "Enraged Rocket House" and "Attack of the Banjo on the High Seas". My favorite game so far, Incomprehensible Penguin Arena, is as fun to play as the name is to say. Need I add that it has four-player simultaneous play on a single computer?

Download the Games!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I realize that only some of you will realize the personal significance of this, so I'll just let the image speak for itself for those who are interested. Suffice it to say that I've been working on this for the better part of two weeks:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dainese Wearable Air Bags For Motorcycles

Wow. I'm not a motorcyclist, but if this sort of thing develops (presumably with training on how to roll faster), we might be able to do something about those 4,000 motorcycle deaths per year.

(Yes, I realize that many motorcyclists don't even wear helmets, and the prospect of asking them to wear a geeky air bag vest is formidable, but let's all be optimistic.)

Why Mark Trail Is an Outdoorsman . . .

. . . and not a doctor.

Fascist School Sugar Ban Leads to "Sugar Pushers"

A sugar molecule in its natural habitat.

Governor Schwarzenegger's fascist 2005 bill banning junk food sales in California schools is another grand example of another delightful government push to Make Everything Better. Thankfully, some children are taking justice into their own hands and selling sodas, candy and other junk food on campus.

I'm well aware that the kids are just looking for a quick buck, and making quite a profit to boot. Still, in a state where battling childhood obesity is apparently a greater necessity than preserving freedom, God bless these kids.

EDIT: Happy 200th post, by the way. And for everybody who will balk at my "fascist" label, consider this: The Arnold, on behalf of the California gübernmint, actually signed a law restricting the sale of legal substances in California schools, even between students.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Philippines' Good Friday Crucifixions

An interesting little facet of my religious mission to the Philippines was seeing intense displays of religious devotion, from the readings held in tents of the many verses of the Tagalog translation of the Passion, to religious parades in the streets honoring Catholic saints.

I have also heard stories of ritual Good Friday crucifixions, a practice gently ribbed by the people, who find a humorous exasperation at the tradition. A small group of people sport permanent scar tissue on their hands in preparation for the yearly practice - mainly older men. The Daily Mail article puts some perspective on the issue that I hadn't caught:

In the small village of Cutud, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Manila, men cried out as nails the size of pencils were driven into their hands and feet before they were hoisted up in the scorching heat. Nineteen were to go through the process.

But government health and safety officials were keeping their eye on proceedings, after health minister Francisco Duque told those planning to be crucified to ensure they have a tetanus jab and use sterilised nails.

Never mind the clear dangers to your health of crucifixion, so long as the danger of infection is safely reduced.

Thousands watched the spectacle in Cutud, which has grown from a village production started in 1962 to a media and tourist attraction copied in other parts of the country.

For hours before the crucifixions lines of men, hooded and half naked, flayed their backs with bamboo whips and paddles tipped with broken glass. Blood splattered over the road.

The atmosphere was festive, with hawkers selling beer, ice-cream and souvenir whips. VIPs watched from a specially elevated "viewing platform".

The country's dominant Catholic Church disapproves of the crucifixions and flagellations as a misrepresentation of the faith.

"The spiritual dimension is totally lost, and it's entered into only because of some shows, some manifestations for other people to be satisfied with or to see," said Bishop Deogracias Iniguez.

"Many of these penitents, those who are practicing these physical afflictions have a meagre, have a shallow understanding of these practices."

Some foreigners have previously been crucified including a Belgian nun and a Japanese man, who later allowed footage of his ordeal to be used in a pornographic film. No one has ever died during the rituals.

Over 80 per cent of the Philippines' estimated 90 million population are Catholic and across the archipelago this weekend will be a time for church ritual, family and the beach.

Filipinos infuse their Catholic faith with local superstitions and some people avoid taking a shower or doing laundry after 3 p.m. (0700 GMT) on Good Friday - the time Chrst was believed to have died - for fear of bad luck.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Forest For the Trees Update

New updates at Forest For the Trees. If I ever get around to updating often enough to get the dang thing popular, I might even put this one on a T-shirt. I seem to be moving over to more of a single-panel format now. I wasn't aiming for it, but I'll post anything that I think is funny, single-panel or not. I definitely don't plan on introducing regular characters, though. Unless. . .

Friday, March 21, 2008


Those who have listened to my recent music may or may not have noticed that I've been incorporating more original sounds since I got a microphone. That's all fine and dandy when I have awesome clear samples to to obscure the occasional mic hissing, but I've been waiting on starting the next track until I get a better microphone. I've found that my best ideas come through the creation process, so I'm not going to plan the track until my mic is ready, though I have some ideas.

At any rate, those who enjoyed my previous tracks may enjoy "Morning", a track that I wrote in a solid hour for my evening art class. It's a bit of musique concrète with some chance elements built in as well (I set the pitches of the twitchy sound effects at the end by plugging something like 200 integers from a random number generator into Acid Pro). I'm not making any grand artistic statements with this - I consider it a bit of fun (not to mention a requirement for my class).

Listen Here (You may have to left-click "download" to hear the song)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Orson Scott Card Reviews Everything

I don't know if you all know this, but Orson Scott Card has a quaint little website where you find out more about him than you ever needed to know. This week he reviewed dish racks and finger bandages, but it doesn't stop there! Read his review where he calls Martin Lawrence "such a good comic", or argues for privacy laws preventing personal movies from being put on YouTube without permission.

But I'm just having a little fun (some would say being unfair). There are also many, many things to read on the site that aren't inane. This from the guy who linked to video after video of Elmo dolls burning and exploding a week back.

Hilarious Letter to the Editor

This letter to the editor is telling. More telling is the fact that my college paper actually published it:

Catch your attention

From my understanding, the purpose of the front page of a newspaper is to catch the attention of the potential reader. Without this initial interest, very few people would take the time to actually open the newspaper and read the articles. A fast-paced picture of a basketball player dunking the ball or a shot of a huge block in a volleyball game definitely grabs your attention.

On the other hand, a large picture of Sen. Hillary Clinton speaking at a podium just doesn't have the same effect. I am not saying there shouldn't be a picture of Clinton or an article about the primaries, because I love to read about what is going on in the nation and the world; it just shouldn't be the focus of the front page.

As a student at BYU, I happen to enjoy hearing news about my school and what's going on around campus. If you want to read a newspaper that doesn't have articles about school activities, then I suggest you spend 75 cents and purchase a different newspaper. According to The Daily Universe editor, "The sports desk is given one front page package a week. Sports may be given an extra page under special circumstances such as the conference tournament." I think The Daily Universe does a great job catching the reader's interest and is fair in its use of the front page. If BYU is participating in a big tournament - as a student and a fan - I want to know about it, and I commend the paper for presenting that information in a way that catches my attention. Thank you.



The first two paragraphs are the best. I could comment on the misplaced priorities of our nation, but I'd rather make fun of the letter. Read the following in a high-pitched, squeaky voice:

"I like it when I see people jumping on big squares with words. This song has nice bass. I eat Pop-Tarts for every meal."

Jeff, the next time the newspaper tries to distract you with piddling irrelevant stories about the election of the leader of the free world or massive genocide, a look at this image ought to tide you over until the next orange or white object flying through the air catches your eye:

There. Got your attention, didn't it?

Today on the Drudge Report

The really strange part? I originally thought that this was an advertisement.

Apple to Offer Hope For People Who Like Their Music Library Hanging By a Thread

Apple's new "unlimited music plan" sounds like a good idea on paper. Customers would be able to pay a $100 premium or a reasonable monthly fee in exchange for "unlimited access to music for the lifetime of the device."

That peculiar wording should grab your attention. You won't be buying music, per se, but paying for "access" to it, meaning that you'll only be allowed to keep a handful of albums when your subscription finally ends or you trade in your iPod. Whether this will be accomplished through the honor system or crippling copy-protection software spliced into the songs remains to be seen. Either way this system will disappoint those looking to legitimize their music collection through licensed downloads - when they crack the copy-protection on the files they downloaded to avoid losing them they'll be pirates once again.

This service seems appropriate for some people (people who form less of a bond with individual albums and records and just want to "play some music"), but not for true music aficionados.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

London Testing "Padded lampposts for distracted texters"

A golden image and wonderful commentary from engadget:

"According to a recent report, human beings are becoming so incredibly stupid that they require cushioned lamppost bases so that when they run into them they don't mess up their idiotic faces."

Dilbert Update / Weasel Debate Tactics

The Dilbert censorship debate appears to have resolved itself. On Friday, the paper published this letter, to which I've added snarky comments in brackets making fun of the particularly stupid parts:

Making light of sacred

I think that Dilbert is the best comic strip since The Far Side. Its wit and satire make me laugh on a regular basis. I do realize, however, that Dilbert is a comic strip and is only good for a laugh. [Assumption: Comic strips are not an acceptable venue for "real" issues or commentary.][This is not to imply that the Dilbert strips censored were anything but frivolous throwaway jokes.]

Thanks to The Daily Universe for not printing comics that produce laughs at the expense of making light of sacred things. [Wait - I could take issue at your cliche assumption, but I'd rather get offended by the implication that it was funny.]

I am sure that some people share the views expressed in the letter "Dilbert Censorship" published March 12. I don't think, however, that those of us that find "sacrilege" [Sacrilege? Maybe a little irreverent, but sacrilegious?] more "distasteful" than "censorship" (if you can call it that. It's not news or information; it is just a comic strip!) are in the minority at BYU. [Comic strips cannot inform or deal with current issues.]

There is something terribly wrong with a society that believes that compromising standards is a fair price to pay for entertainment. "It was such a good movie, you just have to see it" is not a good reason to see a movie with questionable material. I don't really have to see it. I will be just fine if I don't see it, but I might be worse off if I do.

Call it "hypersensitivity," but The Daily Universe represents our school, and our school does not believe in making the Savior the object of jokes.

[Name Removed - It's a guy I know from an adjacent town]

The assumptions are many and varied. The author makes the following airtight argument:

1) The strip was offensive and sacrilegious. Such things have no place in comic strips, which are frivolous entertainment (like knock-knock jokes or rubber chickens) and incapable of anything else.

2) There. I've proven that the strip was offensive by stating so. Therefore, by opposing the censorship you are supporting offensive and sacrilegious things. Therefore, you are wrong. The world is going down the tubes and it's all because of people like you.

3) Stop being so wrong. Gosh!

Interestingly enough, an official editorial published by the paper on Monday made the exact same points, calling the comic "needlessly offensive" and "inappropriate."

In a fit of indignation at their refusal to include a real rebuttal to my argument, I sent the author the following letter yesterday. This wasn't a letter intended for publication, but to register my disapproval of their journalistic practices:

Your editorial this morning shares some important attributes with Friday's rebuttal to my original letter concerning the pulling of a week of "Dilbert". Most notably, it makes some major assumptions regarding the original content:

1) The content was "inappropriate".
2) The content was "needlessly offensive".

By neglecting the necessary proof that the original material was offensive and attempting only to prove that censorship is sometimes necessary - a point that nearly everyone agrees with - the letter successfully demonizes its opponents but fails to address the argument. There is a school of thought in Utah culture that a reference, however indirect, to something automatically puts the original subject in a negative light, or, worse, constitutes outright mockery. This is simply not the case.

Most of us read the cartoon not as an offensive reference to our Savior, but as exactly what is intended - a quirky character whose pattern of behavior represented something Biblical. If a mention in a humorous setting automatically denigrates the subject, then the creators of those awful LDS comedies will have a lot of explaining to do on the other side.

To reiterate: a rebuttal requires a refutation of the original argument, not just a mantra of a talking point.

It's a small issue, but weasel debate tactics dismay me. The issue is not that people got offended by the strip (certainly it would be a reasonable position, though I choose to disagree), but that their self-righteousness does not allow for any outside opinions on the topic.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Obama's Education Priorities

Just a short right now from Breitbart:

[Obama] said schools should do a better job of teaching all students African-American history "because that's part of American history," as well as women's struggle for equality, the history of unions, the role of Hispanics in U.S. and other matters that he suggested aren't given enough attention.

"I want us to have a broad-based history" taught in schools, he said, even including more on "the Holocaust as well as other issues of oppression" around the world.

Actually, I think that I'm covered. My history classes in high school might as well have been named "Slavery and the Holocaust" practically the only two subjects covered. Obama's right on one major point, though. I'd love to have learned more about African-American history from other perspectives than slavery. I never learned about Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver or Scott Joplin in school, because the teachers were too busy reiterating the slavery curriculum (which focused mainly on the political tug-of-war of white politicians on the issue anyway).

We never learned enough about Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X or Ruby Bridges to get any sort of context of the battle for civil rights going on at the time. As a planner of school scurriculum, I would have trouble not devoting substantial time to slavery and the Holocaust, as both of the topics stand as terrible recent practices or events. Context sticks with kids, though. Reading Elie Wiesel's Night did more to help me to understand the Holocaust than all of the textbooks on the subject I read growing up. I don't think the curriculum needs to be expanded but merely refocused.

Friday, March 14, 2008

R.I.P. Joseph Weizenbaum, Creator of "Eliza" A.I. Conversation Program

I had fun playing with Eliza back in the day, first on my old Centris and then on my PowerPC 7100. Getting a real conversation out of the thing was at times like trying to squeeze milk from a lemon - impossible - but it was fun, particularly for an easily-impressed youngster such as myself.

Eliza's creator, Joseph, died last week at the age of 85.

I found Mark Frauenfelder's makeshift eulogy particularly fitting and strangely sentimental:

> Hello, I am Eliza.

* Hi

> How are you today.. What would you like to discuss?

* Joeseph Weizenbaum, the man that made you.

> Say, do you have any psychological problems?

* Probably, but that's not why I'm here.

> Did you come to me because you are here?

* I guess that's one way of looking at it.

> What does that suggest to you?

* I just wanted to tell you that the man who created you died yesterday

> You're not really talking about me, are you?

* Yes, I am.

> Do you believe it is normal to be ?

* Are you sad that Joseph died? Don't you care?

> Perhaps in your fantasies I am sad that Joseph died? Don't me care?

* I would like to think that you would be sad.

> We were discussing you, not me.

* I can understand why you wouldn't want to talk to me about this.

> You're not really talking about me, are you?

* Goodbye, Eliza.

> Tell me more...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dr. Kevorkian Running For Congress

Just like the title says. I'm posting to the Scott Adams blog entry on the topic because it's more entertaining than the actual story.

Key quote:

"Obviously he has no chance of being elected because he believes in personal freedom. And he’s so old he probably carries his own little suicide kit around in a lunch pail just in case he needs it."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Comics Rant Part 2

As long as I'm on the subject of comics strips, I'd like to get something off of my chest. I'm fast growing fond of the strip "Ziggy". In previous years, I've lumped it into the same category as "Family Circus" or "Born Loser" - execrable, cynically-exploitative strips that shouldn't exist. Boy, was I wrong (about "Ziggy", I mean - those other strips can still rot in Hades).

My roommates mock my "Ziggy" fondness, but I've since grown an appreciation for the little pantsless wonder. Once a week or so I'll see a fantastic, surreal strip - one that tops nearly everything else in the comics. The turnabout came years ago when I saw Ziggy's doctor, smiling manically, say: "First we'll build up your strength for the x-rays", as Ziggy sat terrified on an exam chair.

Yesterday's strip was in a similar vein:

It's so arbitrary, so strange and sad, that I can't help but to love it. That's when I noticed that Tom Wilson's signature looks suspiciously similar to that of famed surreal cartoonist Gahan Wilson. Could there be a connection? (It's only wishful thinking that they're related - Google says no.) Am I wrong for liking Ziggy?

Blessed Are the Easily Offended

Yesterday, my college paper, the Daily Universe, censored "Dilbert". I remembered the strip from a couple months back, and upon checking the date of the strip noticed that it was a rerun from mid-January. I'm sure that the strip was censored the day before (the whole series is being cut - they did the same thing today). The offending strip that the paper did not run:

If you are acquainted with the Easily Offended, you know that they have a problem with ambiguity. I'm not sure if it's a developmental problem or a lack of exposure to varied sources, but they see no difference between a reference to something and making fun of it. Naturally, yesterday's strip involving "Hay-soos", a quirky co-worker whose request for help echoes something Biblical, is a prime target. When most people read this strip, they get the joke: this guy is gonna die, Asok the intern is plainly thinking. The foreshadowing is clear. Asok is terrified at a dangerous situation.

The Easily Offended re-read the strip a couple times before they get it, but even then they haven't "gotten" it. They get as far as the religious reference, narrow their eyes and pick up their pens. Our college paper apparently decided to humor their stupidity rather than to do the right thing and ignore it. Dang it - we do not negotiate with Stu-peds! (I even read an angry letter in The Oregonian claiming that this strip is offensive to Hispanics. Sigh. . .)

Experience has shown that everytime I fire off a self-righteous letter to the editor it gets published. Today was no exception:


If you're going to censor "Dilbert," then at least have the foresight to use a strip that's more than a couple months old - one that most of us won't remember. Censorship works best when the people don't know that it's happening.

An even better idea: stop trying to protect us from innocuous stuff that only a small minority of students will take issue with. I'm all in favor of censoring the strip on account of the quality of its jokes, which haven't been funny for years, but today's strip wasn't anything near offensive enough to justify the swap - apparently switched with another strip you still had lying around.

Elk Ridge

I'm pleased, both at my unusually-punchy writing and the fact that the paper did not feel a need to introduce grammatical errors into my letter (they allowed "Big Brother" to be hyphenated in the last letter), in fact fixing a couple of errors in the original missive. That's why we have editors.

Anyway, in a campus where professors frequently blur out the curse words on important historical slides, I'm not surprised that something like this happened. Not surprised, but still frustrated.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spontaneous Food Court Musical

Improv Everywhere is no stranger to wonderful, life-affirming public comedy. These are the guys that did the Grand Central Station Freeze, one of the coolest pranks-bordering-on-performance-art that we've been blessed with in recent times.

With the performance shown in this new clip, they may have stumbled into the Best Thing Ever. Am I going too far with this? Suffice it to say that you have to watch this. You can thank me later. Or not.

If your filter blocks the higher-resolution Revver embedding, you can try the YouTube link. If you can't access YouTube then I don't know what to tell you.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Elmo Madness

There's just something compelling about destroying something cute. Provided this enjoyment is limited to inanimate objects, it's a healthy way to let out aggression and bust a gut laughing.

With that in mind, let's all watch through a series of wonderful Elmo doll deaths. These may be lowbrow, but they're nonetheless some of the funniest clips that I've seen in awhile. Kudos to Tyco for making such sturdy products.

A real trooper, this Tickle Me Elmo keeps plugging away until the end. The unsettling way it lunges and throws itself around seems doubly appropriate when you add flames to the mix.

By far the best of the bunch. I won't spoil the moment. Try to guess how much these people have been drinking.

This one's downright artful. I want to laugh, but the tone is far too mournful.

After so much Elmo death, it seems appropriate to post some clips of the thing in an unthreatening setting. Watch six going at once, or Elmo having an apparent seizure. Again, it's lowbrow, but you have to love it.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Free Info Society's Speech Collection

The Free Info Society has a great downloadable audio speech archive consisting of dozens of speeches by many of the great heroes and villains in our modern time, featuring the voices of Einstein, Ghandi, Edison and even P.T. Barnum. This is great stuff, and more than enough quotes for 100 more Ministry albums.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Emotion-Tinged Games That Transcend "Fun"

Lately I've been all agog over a pair of thought-provoking games by designer/artist Jason Rohrer, treatises on life, death, family and priorities. Like the Nifflas's amazing exploration game Knytt Stories the simple graphics and gameplay add to the effect. Rohrer's focus, however, is not gameplay but inward reflection. On a related note, have you ever been "all agog"? It isn't pretty. I may need physical therapy.

Anyway, the first of these games is the excellent Gravitation. I don't want to give anything about this amazing game away, but I suggest that you play it first, then read some of the comments on this page, especially the comment by Apollos.

Passage was the first game, and hits many of the same bases as Gravitude, but in a different way. It's sweet or melancholy, depending on your point of view. Out of context, Passage even seems nihilistic.

Regarding the Alabama "60 Minutes" Civil Rights Footage Cut

I almost don't want to draw more attention to this article (y'know, in case it really was an equipment malfunction), but the circumstancial evidence that Alabama television station WHNT (or some combination of employees therein) cut civil rights footage and tape depicting their former governor out of a Feb. 24 broadcast seems incontrovertible.

Still, the circumstances of the event point toward a single culprit, not toward station culpability. Consider: following public outcry the station re-broadcast the segment twice over the following days. This is whatcha call a "self-correcting problem."

More Revisionist Nonsense - "Moses Was High on Drugs"

I've long been amused by so-called "revisionist" religion scholars, who attempt to explain Biblical phenomena using modern induction, hand-in-hand with a process known simply as "making things up". The latest example is particularly amusing both in terms of the assumptions being made, and the utter anti-scientific nature of it all.

Benny Shanon, a Jerusalem-based drug researcher is apparently dedicated to proving that mindless "intellectuals" aren't peculiar to Western society. In a recently-published, intentionally-provocative article, Shanon claims that Moses was high on psychedelic drugs, when Moses received the Ten Commandments. Oh, and it was drugs, not fire, that made the bush burn. Occam's razor has led Shanon to conclude that Moses and his thousands of followers experienced a shared hallucination (claps of thunder, a booming voice and so on) as a result of these trips. Fun times for all.

I'd like to see this guy chime in on other Biblical events. The Flood? A year-long worldwide drug free-for-all with massive casualties. The Battle of Jericho? More aptly called the Battle of Benzedrine.

The few papers who have published this article have given Shanon a pass on the fact that he's basically a drug researcher. Pretty much everything that he's ever published is on the psychoatric drug ayahuasca. When a researcher publishes a provocative article to draw attention to his or her research, appropriate context should be given in the article.

What's next? " 'Burning Bush a Consequence of Planetary Warming', Gore states."

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Students Suspended For Buying Lunch in Pennies

In protest at what they feel was an unfairly short lunch period, 29 New Jersey students paid for their school lunches in pennies last Thursday. They had rolled the coins, but lunch ladies complained that the time spent counting the coins meant that some students didn't get lunch.

So, why the combined 58 days of detention? Apparently the federal government (through the school system) has the authority to enforce the ethereal concept of "respect". Do any of you remember "respect"? It's an attribute demanded by those ignorant, paranoid members of society who deserve it least. And nobody demands it more than public school teachers, for when they have failed to earn their children's respect they must demand it.

This is all a very roundabout way of asking just how on earth a "public" school erected and maintained by the government through public taxes has the right to curtail free speech.

EDIT: . . . and, by extension, the right to do something obnoxious but benign.

YouTube Follies

Has anybody noticed that YouTube has removed "sort by rating" and "sort by views" functionality? They've kept "date" (i.e. "sort from most recent") searching, but YouTube seems to be bucking for their own destruction. What are they gonna do next? Start filtering copyrighted content?

I think at that point we can all expect YouTube stock to start diving, unless YouTube doesn't have its own stock, in which case we all expect our brokers to start handing us null point exception errors.

When I start doing stuff like this, I know that it's time for bed.