Monthly Archives: May 2012

Too Much Pizza

If you saw the ads for Taco Town on SNL, this won’t be anything new to you. But if you didn’t, you might enjoy this over-the-top pizza ad (via vanderleun).

(Sadly, the language in that ad is NSFW. It’s a shame that so many people lack the vocabulary, wit, and subtlety to express themselves without resorting to profanity. They do with their language what they accuse Pizza Hut of doing with food. There’s more to communicating than intensity.)

If those aren’t enough, you might also like the (slightly less vulgar) South Park Chipotle Away commercial.

Tab Sweep

Charles Murray talking to Reason Magazine about his book Coming Apart. (My link is to a point 20 minutes in that I found compelling.)

The Institute for Justice asks if you should need the government’s permission to work?

A dozen extremely disappointing facts about popular music.

There’s a vulgar expression about pulling one’s head out of someplace else. But the anatomy doesn’t really work. In fact, the brain began to grow 2.5M years ago, when our ancestors started walking upright. Scientists now think that we solved the problem with our flexible skulls.

Appropos the previous item, in The Lost World, Michael Crichton once likened humans to marsupials. What do you think?

This USGS illustration shows how much water there is on earth. (“How deep is it?” “Deep enough to drown in.”)

Reading is Probably Good

What’s with this poster?

Is it supposed to encourage kids to read? Then why talk to their parents (“your kids on books”)? Is there anything that would turn kids off quicker than telling them their parents want them to do it?

Is the poster supposed to encourage parents to allow their kids to read? But is that really a problem? Are there still a lot of parents out there who don’t want their kids reading?

Let’s assume there are such parents. Who are they?

From the poster, I’d guess they’re not conservatives. One of the children is shown with a witch’s hat and wand, a la Harry Potter.

Is that an outcome that would encourage conservatives to permit their kids to read? Not if the stereotypes are correct.

Also, note that while there are four children, the two girls are inspired to imagine more macho roles: an underwater explorer and a knight in armor. The boys become … well, I think it’s a pirate, but it might be a colonial American or possibly someone from the old west. The other is the aforementioned witch. Again, if the target of this ad is a stereotypical conservative, those are probably outcomes to be avoided.

I’m all for kids reading (Harry Potter and all). But this poster seems to be a plea for liberals to allow their kids to read, which makes me wonder if it’s a sort of Freudian slip.

Brain and Brain. What is Brain?

A new hypothesis says that humans are so clever because our brain cells are the result of a copying error, or, really two copying errors:

The second, more recent, duplication seems to be incomplete, with only part of the gene being duplicated. The researchers think this partially duplicated gene is able to interfere with the actions of the original, ancestral copy of SRGAP2. When the researchers added the partially duplicated gene copy to the mouse genome (mice don’t normally have it) it seemed to speed the migration of brain cells during development, which makes brain organization more efficient.

Do It to Julia

The Obama campaign introduced a new message showing how Obama policies—interestingly, they’re calling the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” now—have benefitted an everywoman they call “Julia.”

Good luck finding it on the website. Julia seems to have been disappeared, probably because it has drawn fire from both sides of the aisle. An example from the left is the Washington Post‘s “Fact Checker” explanation of its “misleading” “campaign trick” on Social Security. Still, it’s worthwhile to look at the campaign yourself.

Even more worth looking at, however, is Iowahawk’s send-up of the Julia messaging. My favorite line is the last one.

Out for a Jog

News reports say that even a little jogging can make your life longer. Except if you do it on a street in Saudi Arabia, as this bird found out:

I don’t know precisely where in Saudi Arabia this video was taken. Google Translate appears to say it was on King Fahd Street in Abha Abha(?). Since I’m not a Muslim, I guess I’ll never have the opportunity to check it out first hand, but actually it looks like a pretty squalid place. The streets are paved, but only just barely, and the buildings all look like they should say “Checks Cashed Here” or (ironically) “Liquor.”

(The video link comes from JWZ, who titles it “buzzard bait.” Judging from how careful the drivers are to avoid the ostrich, he may be right. But it’s fun to watch the bird just trotting along. Wikipedia says they can run up to 43 mph. Based on that, I’d guess the bird in the video isn’t even breaking a sweat.)

Useful Tools

Since I’ve been setting up a new computer, I’ve had the opportunity to think about the apps I use. I don’t have time or energy to put together a comprehensive list, but here are a few of my “can’t-live-with-them” apps.

Mac Mini at Work

Chrome (and the iReader extension), Safari, and Opera. Chrome is my main browser, but sometimes I need to work in two Google accounts at the same time. Then I fire up Safari. On very rare occasions I need a third online personality; when I do, I break out Opera. I also have Firefox, of course, but I hardly ever use it.

Xee and Skim. Macs come with, which is fine, so far as it goes. It will let you open pretty much any type of image file. But it won’t let you go through a folder full of them in a hurry. That’s where Xee comes in. A side benefit of Xee is that it won’t screw up the EXIF data in your image files. is fine for reading (and minor editing of) PDF files, too. But the user interface gets more bizarre with each release of Mac OS X. With Lion, I officially declare it a mess, and use Skim unless there’s a compelling reason to use

MacVim. Some people prefer Emacs or TextMate or BareBones BBEdit or TextEdit or whatever, but they’re wrong. Vi is right. MacVim is the best Mac implementation of VIM. Having said that, TextWrangler is a pretty awesome free-as-in-beer editor from BareBones software. It almost makes me want to try out BareBones’ BBEdit. I find TextWrangler especially helpful in converting text from one format to another.

NodeBox (and its derivatives, Nodebox 2 and Nodebox for OpenGL) are “generative design” applications. I’m not sure what that means, but whatever it is, it includes being able to write small programs to draw pictures. (Think of this as the modern equivalent of the venerable pic(1) and grap(1) programming languages. See also Graphviz.)

Handbrake and VLC. Handbrake is how I make backups of my DVDs. VLC is like the DVD Player application that comes with a Mac, except VLC works and it doesn’t crash all the time. How it does captioning isn’t the prettiest, I admit. On the other hand, it not only permits you to take screen captures, it provides a feature of its own to do it. I wish VLC remembered where you quit watching a DVD, but you can’t have everything.

MacPorts. Can’t live with them. Can’t imagine life without them. Therein lies the relevant conundrum. The HomeBrew project might ultimately supplant MacPorts, but I’m nervous about its install location. I’ve tried Fink, but not lately.