December 28, 2005

Carnival of Tomorrow

In the absence of fresh material here, go check out the 16th edition of the Carnival of Tomorrow at The Ministry of Minor Perfidy.

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December 25, 2005

Peace -- Paz -- Shalom

Here is wishing you and yours the joy and peace of the season.

Merry Christmas... and Happy New Year!

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December 19, 2005

Musical Carnival Musings

This week's Carnival finds its emergency home this week here, where it all began on my blog. I hope this is not where it will end.

Structurally, I think I have done everything necessary to make the Carnival a success. We are listed on a couple of Blog Carnival referral pages, and for most of the carnivals I have notified the major bloggers.

I wonder what I am doing wrong. I certainly cannot blame the submitters and wonderful volunteer hosts, whose fine efforts have distinguished the Carnival of Music as one of the most interesting in the blogosphere.

Is the blogosphere just oversaturated with carnivals? Is the topic of "music" too broad? Does there need to be a Carnival of Jazz, or Composers, or Rock??

I have not been as engaged in the Carnival over the last few weeks as I should be, and I'm sure that hasn't helped much. Still, it seems like the Carnival hasn't ever reached that critical mass of readers to stimulate volunteers for hosting and posting.

I would be interested in any suggestions.

In the meantime, please spread the word and check out the many fine submissions we have received over the last 2 weeks in Carnival of Music #24.

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Carnival of Music #24

This week's carnival is a bit of a rushed affair, as I wasn't planning to host this week. Nevertheless, there were a good number of posts waiting in the drop box. Please check out these fine entries:

Elisa Camahort has been filling in the gaps in her music collection with iTunes. Elisa also has a post at The Browster Blog asking Who Will Deliver Me My Nirvana? As Google has introduced music search, Elisa explores what she wants from music search and compares Google, Yahoo, and the iTunes Music Store.

Andrew Ian Dodge at GoD: blog presents Now we have gone & done it. What is "it?" Go see.

Turns out that Coldplay is to Jon Pearce at Dodgeblogium like Kryptonite to Superman.

Doug Mataconis at Below The Beltway presents Happy Birthday Ol' Blue Eyes. Doug grew up listening to Frank Sinatra. It wasn't because his parents were particularly Sinatra fans. Instead, growing up in New Jersey he really couldn't help it. In big ways and small, Sinatra was everywhere. On the radio. Blaring over the speakers at Yankee Stadium at the end of a game. In Atlantic City. You get the idea.

Back in July, Starling David Hunter took note of an announcement by MTV that it had purchased Neopets, the parent company of popular website, for an undisclosed sum. Here's the strategic logic behind the acquisition: Virtual Pet Shop Boys

Adam at Sophistpundit examines intellectual property, and what the future might hold for artistic expression.

Prent Rodgers at Microtonal Music Podcasts invites you to listen to four different microtonal pieces by four different composers, all for solo piano. Each was done using a different set of techniques to retune the piano, with different intonation systems, and all showcase the world between the 1:1 and the 2:1. Check it out.

Please check out the archive page for previous Carnivals, to submit posts for inclusion in future carnivals, and to volunteer to host.

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New Extreme Sport?

If space tourism takes off (pun intended), I can foresee a market for extreme skydiving from the literal edge of space. Can you imagine that first step out of the cabin door?JoeKittengerJumping.gif

How about knowing that you will break the speed of sound? I would expect a video camera to be built into the helmet to record the jump for future viewing and showing off to friends.

Check out this video (found via BoingBoing) to get a taste.

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December 18, 2005

Best Texas Blog

Many thanks to Life Or Something Like It for naming me "Best Texas Blog" in the 2005 LOSLI Blog Awards.

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Holiday Recipe Blogging - The World's Best Chex Mix

I've spent most of this weekend in the kitchen, making a couple dozen tamales from scratch and preparing two batches of Jackie's Chex Mix (named after my best childhood friend's mom, who invented this variation of the recipe).

I'll write about the (successful) tamales some other time. This post is devoted to the best Chex Mix you will ever taste:

Dry Ingredients

1 box Wheat Chex cereal
1 box Rice Chex
1 box Corn Chex
4 C. Cheerios
1 bag pretzels
1 - 2 lbs mixed nuts

Sauce Ingredients:

1 lb. butter
1 - 1.25 C. Oil
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. Tabasco sauce
0.5 tsp. celery salt
1.5 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. red (cayenne) pepper
1 tsp. allspice
Accent (MSG) to taste

Optional (my variations in addition to the above, never more than 2 at a time extra):

1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin

Preheat oven to 200 degrees (F).

Ready_to_Pour.jpgMake sure you have plenty of room to work. Set out four 9 x 13 (or larger, if your oven will accommodate them) deep lasagna pans on a counter. I like to use disposable ones - you can get a package of 2 at Target for less than $2. Distribute the dry ingredients among the pans evenly (see picture at left).

In a 2-quart batter bowl, melt the butter; 60-90 seconds in the microwave should do the trick. Combine the remaining sauce ingredients. Add enough vegetable oil to make the sauce an even quart, usually just a bit more than one cup. After you've made this a couple times, you may experiment with the spice mix. However, the essential ingredients are Worcestershire sauce, garlic, tabasco, and allspice.

ChexMix.jpgUsing a 1/4-cup scoop, spoon out 1/4 cup of the sauce into each of the four pans. Using two spoons, fold and stir the cereal mix until the sauce is evenly distributed. Repeat until all sauce has been evenly spread among the four pans and has coated the cereal mixture. When you're all done, each of the pieces should be glistening slightly. This is the most important step! You don't want some pieces unseasoned and others to be mushy and oily. See the picture at right for how the mix should look after stirring (click for larger).

Into_the_Oven.jpgPut the trays into the oven and roast for 4 hours. Stir every 20 minutes during the first hour, and every 30 minutes thereafter. Sprinkle Accent liberally before each stirring.

Let cool before serving. Enjoy!

Sentimental aside in the extended entry:

I have known Jackie since before I can remember. We moved across the street from her family when I was just a few months old. Her son and I are only 2 weeks apart in age, and except for eighth grade, two years of college, and grad school, we went to the same schools our entire lives.

Every Christmas, Jackie made batches of her party mix for family friends, but would only deliver a one-gallon ziploc to each family. Knowing how much I loved it, she started giving me my own bag in high school and college.

Shortly before my wife and I got married, we had a "recipe for a happy marriage" shower. Each of the invitees were to bring some words of advice for us to have a happy marriage. Jackie brought some great advice, along with the above recipe.

I hope it brings you much happiness in this joyous season.

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December 15, 2005

Monkey See, Monkey Don't

Before it disappears behind their archive firewall, be sure to check out this interesting article in the New York Times by Carl Zimmer. He reports on a new study that builds on an earlier study contrasting the learning styles of young humans with chimpanzees.

The earlier study indicated that young humans are much more likely to "ape" (sorry!) their teacher than are chimpanzees. Both children and chimps were shown different boxes that they had to get something out of:

The [first] box was painted black and had a door on one side and a bolt running across the top. The food was hidden in a tube behind the door. When they showed the chimpanzees how to retrieve the food, the researchers added some unnecessary steps. Before they opened the door, they pulled back the bolt and tapped the top of the box with a stick. Only after they had pushed the bolt back in place did they finally open the door and fish out the food.

Because the chimps could not see inside, they could not tell that the extra steps were unnecessary. As a result, when the chimps were given the box, two-thirds faithfully imitated the scientists to retrieve the food.

The team then used a box with transparent walls and found a strikingly different result. Those chimps could see that the scientists were wasting their time sliding the bolt and tapping the top. None followed suit. They all went straight for the door.

When they turned to human children, however, 80% followed the unnecessary steps for the transparent box.

The more recent study built on these results, using new experiments designed to test the human child's tendency to "overimitate" versus a chimpanzee. Carl allowed his young daughter to participate in the study.

Using new puzzles, the researchers showed that children (who could solve the puzzles on their own) would faithfully "overimitate" their teachers by following extra and unnecessary steps. Thus:

Mr. Lyons sees his results as evidence that humans are hard-wired to learn by imitation, even when that is clearly not the best way to learn. If he is right, this represents a big evolutionary change from our ape ancestors. Other primates are bad at imitation. When they watch another primate doing something, they seem to focus on what its goals are and ignore its actions.

As human ancestors began to make complicated tools, figuring out goals might not have been good enough anymore. Hominids needed a way to register automatically what other hominids did, even if they didn't understand the intentions behind them. They needed to imitate.

Not long ago, many psychologists thought that imitation was a simple, primitive action compared with figuring out the intentions of others. But that is changing. "Maybe imitation is a lot more sophisticated than people thought," Mr. Lyons said.

We don't appreciate just how automatically we rely on imitation, because usually it serves us so well. "It is so adaptive that it almost never sticks out this way," he added. "You have to create very artificial circumstances to see it."

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A Baby Present for Vodkapundit?

So, when Stephen Green's lovely wife delivers their firstborn in the near future, I say let's pitch in and get the new dad a present that will allow him to spend hours (and hours and hours) of quality time with the young one in just a few years (click the extended entry for more):


Why not? (Context here and here).

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December 14, 2005

Required Reading

Stephen Green. Now.

(And Margaret Friedenauer).

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Save the Anglosphere

Do you know about ITAR? The acronym means "International Traffic in Arms Regulations" and refers, essentially, to an area of US export control law intended to keep the United States from exporting critical military technologies without proper scrutiny.

Unfortunately, as currently applied, it is needlessly pushing away our closest allies in the world: the UK and Australia. In fact, it has gotten so bad that the UK may withdraw from the Joint Strike Fighter program(me).

Both Presidents Clinton and Bush have pushed for basically a blanket waiver to allow the UK and Australia to participate with the US in weapons development and other areas of military cooperation. Unfortunately, Republican Congressmen Henry Hyde [IL] and Duncan Hunter [CA] oppose what should be a no-brainer. Read the linked articles above, educate yourself, and send a letter to your congresscritter encouraging him or her to support waiving the ITAR restrictions on the UK and Australia.

(Via Instapundit).

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The End of Western Civilization

Is Humps by The Black Eyed Peas really that bad?

Oh yes, indeed. Pure dagnasty evil, it is.

From Hua Hsu's article in Slate:

As a piece of music, "My Humps" is a stunning assemblage of awful ideas. The song's playful pogo and coke-thin, ring-tone synth line interpolate Sexual Harassment's 1982 left-field electro hit, "I Need A Freak". But where the original trafficked in something icky, sinister, and darkly sexual, the Peas' call-and-response courtship fails to titillate—in fact, it's enough to convince one to never, ever ogle again. The "humps" in question belong to Fergie, who brandishes her "lovely lady lumps" for the purpose of procuring various gifts from men who, one would assume, find the prospect of "lumps" very exciting—one lump begetting another lump, if you will.

"What you gon' do with all that ass/ All that ass inside them jeans? … What you gon' do wit all that breast?/ All that breast inside that shirt?" rapper Will.I.Am teases in response, rendering literal what had heretofore been pretty much literal. It's a song that tries to evoke a coquettish nudge and wink, but head-butts and bloodies the target instead. It isolates sectors of the female anatomy that obsessive young men have been inventing language for since their skulls fused, and yet it emerges only with "humps" and "lumps"—at least "Milkshake" sounded delicious.


When we moved into the new house this summer, we finally got cable TV again, after an 11-year abstinence therefrom. I have since then caught brief snippets of truly bad videos on MTV, VH1, and BET while surfing channels. (Until I saw My Humps, I thought the worst music video I had ever seen was Missy Elliott's Lose Control. So bad, it almost forces you to watch. And what's up with slappy clappy happy slaves dancing in sexually suggestive ways in mid-1800s costumes? Must have some sort of "deep" meaning to it, but it went right past me).

Hat tip to Mediocre Fred for pointing me to these awful noises and images. (Gee, thanks).

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Happy Birthday, Dave Brubeck

I had no clue that jazz master Dave Brubeck was still alive, much less touring at his age.

Last week, on December 6, he turned 85.

Read more here about his life and influences. (You know you're getting old when your birthday wishes start to read like obituaries - in fact, I bet this author took out his canned obit and put a different intro and conclusion to it for the birthday piece).

Keith Emerson cites Dave Brubeck as one of his influences, and Brubeck is thus indirectly one of my influences.

Here's wishing him continued health and long(er) life.

(Via Rand Simberg)

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December 12, 2005

A Great Winter Beer

I am currently sipping a new (to me) beer, from one of my favorite breweries in my second-favorite state, The New Belgium Brewing Company of Fort Collins, Colorado.

The brew is called "Abbey" and is a double ale. It has all kinds of wintery overtones (spices and coffee in particular). Still, it has a light bouquet and is much easier to drink than other dark beers (of which I am fond).

I have only ever had the excellent Fat Tire from New Belgium. I think next time, I'll try a Trippel.

Highly recommended.

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More Religion

Jeff Goldstein style.

I liked mojo's comment, which seems to indicate some consistency from A (A is A for Aristotle) to Z (as in Zen):

“If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.”
-- Zen Proverb

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Persistent Paper 2

Glenn Reynolds bets that books will be around for at least another ten years.

I think that's a pretty safe bet.

In fact, I'll go out on a limb and bet that "actual books" (including new books, not just archives and collections) will survive for at least another hundred years.

Update: I've changed the name of this post; I should have searched my archives before naming it. I did a post on this theme with an identical title more than two years ago, inspired by James Lileks and Neal Stephenson. Go read it.

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December 08, 2005

Strange Theology

Stream of consciousness, folks, feel free to criticize in the comments:

During my adult life, I have not felt much of a personal or emotional link to the Deity, so I'm a bit at a loss when I encounter people or churches that really wear their faith on their sleeve. I grew up in a somewhat traditional Methodist church, with appropriate religious and classical music and a fairly academic, scholarly approach to matters of faith and scriptural interpretation. Everyone wore their Sunday best, and the service was a set liturgy.

I first began to notice as a teen and have continued to notice since then a rough correlation between the informality of the church and the fundamentalism of the theology. In other words, the more casual and loose the liturgy, the more fundamentalist the theology. This isn't an axiom, and I can think of the Eastern Orthodox churches as a specific counterexample, but among Protestant Christians, it seems to hold true.

One trait shared by the more fundamentalist Christian sects is active evangelism. The message of their evangelism is usually pretty simple: get baptized and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior (remember the capital letters!) There's not much room in that message to explore possible contradictions in the text of the bible, to analyze the synoptic gospels or the four-source hypothesis of Old Testament authorship and redacting, or the doubtful historicity of many of the bible stories. Really, your best sales line is not to raise questions but to offer simple answers.

What's interesting to me is to observe how modern evangelism uses current technology to spread decidedly pre-modern ideas. I actually like Veggie Tales (and still have a soft spot in my heart for Davey and Goliath from my childhood), but am otherwise cold on specifically "Christian" videos. I'm definitely offended by televangelists (who I think are among the worst violators of Matthew 6:5-13). I also don't much like when church leaders get involved in politics.

Another area of "modern" evangelism that makes me uncomfortable is contemporary Christian music, mainly because the [substandard] music is made subservient to the [banal] lyrics.

So this is all a long-winded way to express my profound discomfort with Contemporary Christian Porn (as my wife dubbed it) exemplified in JC's GirlsGirlsGirls. I looked through this site and I am pretty sure that they are actually serious. There is a definite amount of earnestness here, not the easy-to-spot smart-assery of a Landover Baptist type of parody.

Sure, these ambassadors for JC are likely to get some attention:


But doesn't this somehow seem to cheapen the message? I would be interested in feedback.

(Hat tip to the Commissar).

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Impenetrable Dreams

Should I be afraid that I ken the subconscious mind of LDH, proprietor of Impenetrable Prose and Poesy? Grok this:

Had a dream a few nights back where I was about seven years old and Johnny Cash's son. He and I were in a 50's-style diner; he was still kinda young looking, but with obvious signs of premature aging from his amphetamine addiction showing in his face. After we'd gotten our food, he shyly whispered to me that he didn't have any money on him. I pulled out my current-real-life-adult wallet and showed him I had three $20 bills, asking him if he wanted to borrow any. He shook his head no and said, "I got a better idea."

Next thing I know, we're running out of the diner and down the street, busting up every sign along the way that has any kind of neon tubes or light bulbs attached. We somehow wind up in the Batcave, where Johnny changes into the Joker [stop and picture that for a minute -- Johnny Cash wearing the makeup and clothes of the 60's TV series Joker -- small wonder I still remember this one...], Jessica Simpson shows up in the Yvonne Craig Batgirl suit, and we all pile into the Batmobile with still-seven-year-old me behind the wheel, where I realize I'm now wearing a cowboy hat and boots and a Darth Vader mask [yes, my subconscious stole a punchline from an old copy of Reader's Digest and dressed me up as -- wait for it -- "Darth Brooks"...]

I wish I could remember more of my dreams. The ones I have are weird, but I haven't had any like that since my college days.

Posted by JohnL at 09:36 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack

December 07, 2005

SF Babes Brainstorming

OK. It's been more than four months since the last poll.

I'm not sure where to take this thing. I am planning to do the definitive Ardala better than Deering post (complete with dialogue excerpts and vidcaps from the movie/TV pilot) sometime during my Christmas vacation (I'm taking a couple of well-deserved weeks off at the end of the year). I'm also trying to figure out how to score an email interview with Pamela Hensley (i.e., "Ardala"), who put out a cookbook recently (Jewish-Sicilian cuisine? Cool).

Leave me a comment on what you would like to see, if anything. Some thoughts for discussion:

  1. Should I have some sort of "Hall of Fame?"

  2. Should I run less frequent contests (weekly was pretty challenging).

  3. Are there any egregious omissions from prior polls (be sure to check the category listing and the gallery before answering).

  4. Any other thoughts?


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The Officer's Club

Upon Stephen Green's recommendation, I'm happy to add The Officers' Club MilBlog to my sidebar.

If I had written something appropriate to commemorate today's historical significance, I would hope it would have looked like this piece on the USS Arizona.

As Steve says, start at the top and just scroll to the end. Good stuff.

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Dueling Disco Playlists

Bookish Gardener Chan provides an exquisitely economical review of Camille Paglia's latest on Madonna.

Be sure to compare and contrast Paglia's essential disco playlist with Chan's.

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The Weather Outside is Frightful

We're currently experiencing temps in the low 20s, and suffered through a few hours of freezing rain and sleet this evening. I may be going into work a little late tomorrow.

(Am I really blogging about the weather? Might as well just quit).

Posted by JohnL at 10:36 PM | Comments (3) | | TrackBack

A Smart Aggie

This Aggie seems to find a correlation between the hotness of the coeds at college games and their teams' success (namely, as a recruiting selling point). He also reveals the secret to catch the attention of "perverted camera men" to get on TV. It involves tanning, treadmills, and tight t-shirts.

Mildly NSFW pictures.

(Via BadJocks, who pass along this related site).

Posted by JohnL at 10:31 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

December 05, 2005

Carnival of Music #23

This week's edition of the Carnival of Music is taking place over at Starling Hunter's The Business of America is Business (great name for a blog!)

Drop by and check it out.

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December 01, 2005

But That's Not a Bad Book


take the WHAT BAD BOOK ARE YOU test.

and go to not as good as reading a good book, but way better than a bad one.

(Via The Maximum Leader)

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Heinlein Quote of the Month (December 2005)

The way to live a long time--oh, a thousand years or more--is something between the way a child does it and the way a mature man does it. Give the future enough thought to be ready for it--but don't worry about it. Live each day as if you were to die next sunrise. Then face each sunrise as a fresh creation and live for it, joyously. And never think about the past. No regrets, ever.

- Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love.

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Nice Crab Nebula Picture

Enjoy this beautiful picture of the Crab Nebula, made up of 24 different images taken by the Hubble in 1999 and 2000. (Click the pic for full size).


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