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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mark Steyn: The misplaced reverence for judges in America is perplexing to me

Read the whole article at his site.  Excerpts:

As I said to Mother Jones:
The misplaced reverence for judges in America is perplexing to me. In my cultural tradition, a judge is just a bloke in a wig. He may be a smart bloke in a wig, or he may be an idiot in a wig. But the wig itself is not dispositive.
After many years in America, I have never felt so foreign as reading the pile-up of commentary from supposedly sophisticated persons tutting about how my "assailing" the judge will not be "helpful" to the case. This absurd prostration before the bench is one of the biggest structural defects in this country. Jim writes to Mark's Mailbox as follows:
I'm certainly on your side on this one but would recommend not criticizing the judiciary or previous judges ("incompetence of the previous judge", "an act of jurisprudential hygiene", "procedural bungling", etc.) while the case is pending. The judges all work together and don't like litigants to take potshots at their colleagues and procedures. For a judge to bristle against comments like that is human nature and while it may not overtly cause the judge to rule against you on motions, etc., it is likely to subconsciously influence the judge against you.
Focus on the actions/claims of the plaintiff, not on the judges. You've apparently been through litigation before so you might have a strategy for doing this, but from my vantage point it's a bad idea.
So it's "human nature" for a judge to go into a big queeny huff because one of his supplicants is doing insufficient robe-kissing? So much for judicial temperament. David Appel headlined his post on the case "Who Knew? Judges Don't Appreciate Insults From Defendants" - implying (without evidence) that Judge Weisberg's ruling is some sort of pique at my dismissing his colleague Combs-Greene as an incompetent. As Mr Appel's first commenter responds:
It's a far bigger insult to the judge for you to imply they are not impartial - letting some perceived insult influence the case - than anything Steyn has said.
Exactly. Or as Tyler Null tweets:
If that uppity-peasant theory is true, we're all f**ked.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday links

Not the SyFy Channel: Ghost ship full of ‘cannibal rats’ heading for Scotland.

Air Force Rescue Beacon Disguised As Dog Poop, plus lipstick guns and shoe transmitters.

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Movie Scenes.

Gallery: Macro Photos of Exotic Spiders Staring Directly into Your Mind.

Supercut: Archer`s Best One Liners.

When Quentin Tarantino appeared on The Golden Girls as an Elvis impersonator.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links, including the Emus vs. Humans War of 1932 and  Chinese translation fails are here.

Air Force Rescue Beacon Disguised As Dog Poop, plus lipstick guns and shoe transmitters

A Doo radio transmitter, officially known as a T-1151 radio transmitter, is a radio transmission device camouflaged as a pile of animal droppings or, in its most common form, a large single fecal dropping from an animal indigenous to the area of intended use. Regardless, the external form of the device was designed to discourage close examination and thus, detection or disruption.

Initially developed by United States military intelligence about 1970, the Doo transmitter was a homing device camouflaged as dog or monkey feces for use in Vietnam. At just over four inches long and three-quarters of an inch in height, this inconspicuous spy tool was small enough to be carried easily. It could send or receive radio messages, usually by Morse code. The effectively camouflaged beacon was positioned throughout the jungles of Vietnam, where it transmitted a radio signal that helped aircraft pinpoint key enemy ground sites for strikes or reconnaissance. The device often had a peat moss crusted shell.

Developed by the United States military intelligence in the 1970s, the poop transmitter was a homing beacon. Here's an x-ray view of its interior:

The museum's description:
Dropped along the Ho Chi Minh trail by air, this device transmitted a warning when supply movements occurred during the night. The signals were monitored by a variety of agencies, including the CIA.
Gale Encyclopedia of Espionage & Intelligence:
At just over four inches long and three-quarters of an inch in height, this inconspicuous spy tool was small enough to be carried easily. It could send or receive radio messages, usually by Morse code. (...) Because the Doo transmitter was often left undisturbed, operational life was often a function of the battery life of its nickel-cadmium battery array. This advantage was often essential when the transmitter was utilized as a homing device. Because the device gave the appearance of fecal matter, it was often left undisturbed and thus a retained high efficiency as a homing beacon even when planted days or weeks before a mission.

Related (sort of) spy gear:

Lipstick gun (wiki) This 4.5mm single shot weapon disguised as a tube of lipstick was referred to as The Kiss of Death. Used by KGB operatives during the Cold War, the existence of the weapon was first detected at a border crossing into West Berlin. Apparently the KGB also had a single shot Rectal Pistol which was encased in rubber and hidden exactly where the name suggests. I was unable to find a picture of it.

Paging Maxwell Smart - here's a shoe with a heel transmitter: In 1960s and 1970s , this spy gear gadget was invented by Romanian Secret Service.The shoe contained with a hidden microphone and transmitter, thus enabling Romanian Secret Service to monitor the conversations of the unsuspecting target.

Not sure if James Bond ever used these particular gadgets, but here's a wiki of everything he did use, and here are some books about spy gadgets.

More on spy gadgets here and here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Making the Rounds: Barry Soetoro’s "Foreign Student" Columbia University School ID

In case you've forgotten here's his author bio (which he wrote himself) from 1991 by Barack Obama’s then-literary agency, Acton & Dystel, which touts him as “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”:

via Gateway Pundit.

Video compilation of dogs who play dead after being shot with a finger

Dog and cats, actually, in two separate videos:

The dogs react more quickly than the cats, some of which have to think about it for a bit:

Supercut: Archer`s Best One Liners

If you're an Archer fan, this'll crack you up.  If you're not a fan, this will make you want to become one.

via I Am Bored.

Excellent way to spend 2 minutes of your life: Flight of the starlings video

Reminded me of Winged Migration, so I bought a copy (used, because I'm cheap) for the grandkids.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New research from the Ministry of Silly Walks.

From Discover:
In lieu of an introduction to today’s featured research article, we give you one of our all-time favorite Monty Python sketches:

Sideways walking: preferred is slow, slow is optimal, and optimal is expensive.

“When humans wish to move sideways, they almost never walk sideways, except for a step or two; they usually turn and walk facing forward. Here, we show that the experimental metabolic cost of walking sideways, per unit distance, is over three times that of forward walking. We explain this high metabolic cost with a simple mathematical model; sideways walking is expensive because it involves repeated starting and stopping. When walking sideways, our subjects preferred a low natural speed, averaging 0.575 m s(-1) (0.123 s.d.). Even with no prior practice, this preferred sideways walking speed is close to the metabolically optimal speed, averaging 0.610 m s(-1) (0.064 s.d.). Subjects were within 2.4% of their optimal metabolic cost per distance. Thus, we argue that sideways walking is avoided because it is expensive and slow, and it is slow because the optimal speed is low, not because humans cannot move sideways fast.”

Wednesday links

Emus vs. Humans: The Great Emu War of 1932.

Infographic: The Flowchart of Medieval Penitent Sexual Decision-Making.

Gallery: Goats on Cliffs.

What would it cost to outfit my own pirate ship?

Hilarious Chinese Translation Fails (safe for work).

Ben Franklin’s Top 15 Items to Take on a Cruise and 200+ synonyms for “drunk”.

ICYMI, Monday's links, including some Far Side's Gary Larson links plus flying cars and jetpacks are here.

Super Bowl Commercial Reunites ‘Full House’ Cast

The male cast of Full House (wiki), anyway — Danny, Uncle Jesse, and Uncle Joey. The video below is a teaser; the full commercial airs on Groundhog Day, AKA Super Bowl Sunday.  Question - has someone done a Groundhog Day/Super Bowl mashup or anything similar?

via HuffPo, which has a "where are they now" post at the link.

This Guy Animated Several Classic Paintings: the Results Are Weird and Beautiful (may be NSFW due to artistic nudity)

Warning - may be NSFW due to artistic nudity.

Watch full screen.

Using the 2.5D effect, Rino Stefano Tagliafierro brought these paintings to life, from Caravaggio to Rubens.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Polygamous mice evolve thicker penis bones

Via Discover:

Most male mammals have a penis bone, called a baculum. In fact, humans are the odd ones out for not having one. It’s well known that different mouse populations vary in average baculum size, and it has previously been shown that when a female mouse breeds with multiple males in the same fertile phase (mouse polygamy), the males with thicker baculae sire more offspring. This correlation suggests that penis, and baculum, morphology is under sexual selection. By this we mean that because mice with thicker baculae have more offspring, copies of genes that give rise to larger baculae would become more frequent in the population, and average baculum girth would increase. But, correlation is not causation, and so to test this hypothesis, scientists bred two mouse populations for 27 generations. One population they forced to remain monogamous, and in the other they forced polygamy by breeding the same female mouse to four males in rapid succession during each fertility phase. Only in the second population did they see the average baculum thickness increase, indicating that polygamy does select for thicker penis bones. So why do males with thicker penis bones sire more offspring? Nobody knows… yet!

Here's the study:

How To Fossilize Yourself

To ensure being found by a future paleontologist, you'll need to die in a highly specific way and nature takes care of the rest. Phoebe Cohen details the steps your body must take to find future fame as a fossil.

From TED Ed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday links

Behind-The-Scenes Photos From The Filming of Ghostbusters in 1984.

Videos of trip down Market Street in San Fran in 1906, before and after the earthquake and fire.

Inside Monopoly's secret war against the Third Reich.

An Illustrated Account of the Great Maple Syrup Heist.

Far Side's Gary Larson predicted the future in this cartoon, plus bonus animated Far Side 1994 & 1997 TV specials.

Flying cars and jetpacks. Weren’t we all supposed to have those by now?

ICYMI, Friday's links, including the Amazon product review du jour and the fourth Rice Krispies elf, are here.

Company called American Apparel debuts pubic hair on mannequins (Safe for work? Maybe)

Huffpo: The always controversial retailer got people talking yet again, this time with store window mannequins adorned with pubic hair in New York City at the East Houston Street location of American Apparel, which has been stopping people in their tracks. (But did they then go into the store to buy the brand's panties??)

The American Apparel store on Houston St. added pubic hair under its plastic models' briefs, which they say is intended to express 'the rawness and realness of sexuality.'

Important to remember/consider: it didn't always suck to be a woman in Afghanistan

Dangerous Minds: Women in Afghanistan were not always under house arrest and forbidden by law to leave their homes unchaperoned by a male relative. Once upon a time in pre-Taliban days Afghan women had access to professional careers, university-level education, shops selling non-traditional clothing, public transportation, and public spaces, all of which they happily navigated freely and without supervision.

According to a State Department report from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from 2001:
Prior to the rise of the Taliban, women in Afghanistan were protected under law and increasingly afforded rights in Afghan society. Women received the right to vote in the 1920s; and as early as the 1960s, the Afghan constitution provided for equality for women. There was a mood of tolerance and openness as the country began moving toward democracy. Women were making important contributions to national development. In 1977, women comprised over 15% of Afghanistan’s highest legislative body. It is estimated that by the early 1990s, 70% of schoolteachers, 50% of government workers and university students, and 40% of doctors in Kabul were women. Afghan women had been active in humanitarian relief organizations until the Taliban imposed severe restrictions on their ability to work. These professional women provide a pool of talent and expertise that will be needed in the reconstruction of post-Taliban Afghanistan.
Even under Hamid Karzai’s government, with the recently approved Code of Conduct for women, all of the women shown in these photographs, taken in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s, could still can be faulted with improper behavior, according to clerics and government officials. 

Mark Steyn writes (emphasis mine):

A few weeks back, I wrote:
At this point, Americans sigh wearily and shrug, "Afghanistan, the graveyard of empire," or sneer, "If they want to live in a seventh-century s***hole, f*** 'em." But neither assertion is true. Do five minutes' googling, and you'll find images from the Sixties and early Seventies of women in skirts above the knee listening to the latest Beatles releases in Kabul record stores.
Dangerous Minds has now assembled a collection of these photographs - not just Kabul coeds and teenyboppers but scientific researchers, too - from the Seventies, Sixties and Fifties, and they're well worth taking a look at, if only to understand the totality of our failure there. There's also a portrait of King Amanullah's consort, Queen Soraya, in the Twenties wearing a sleeveless gown that would get her stoned in 21st century Afghanistan. Amanullah was the emir who regained control of his country's foreign policy from the British, but he and his wife were more westernized than any of the would-be heirs to his throne today. Queen Soraya, a practising Muslim, nevertheless went around riding on horseback - which no unaccompanied woman can do in her country after 12 years as an American protectorate. As I said:
If it's too much to undo the barbarism of centuries, why could the supposed superpower not even return the country to the fitful civilization of the disco era? The American imperium has lasted over twice as long as the Taliban's rule — and yet, unlike them, we left no trace.
America and its allies have the best tanks, planes, and guns ...but no will and no strategy. And so the tanks, planes and guns count for naught. Our enemies have nothing but will. The consequences of this distinction extend well beyond Afghanistan.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Reason to homeschool #n (where n is some large number...): this poster

So, middle school students are either in the 11-13 age range or 12-14, right?

SHAWNEE, Kan. – A father said if his 13-year-old daughter hadn’t taken a picture of a questionable public poster and shown him, he’d never have known the content. Now that he knows, he’s not happy.

Mark Ellis says his daughter goes to Hocker Grove Middle School in the Shawnee Mission School District. She was so shocked by what she recently saw on a poster at school, that she took a picture of it home and showed her parents.
Her dad initially assumed it was a student prank, until he called the school and found  it was part of the curriculum.
“Why would you put it in front of 13-year-old students?” he asked.
He thought the poster, which lists things like “oral sex” and “grinding,” might’ve been a prank until he contacted the school principal. He was told it was a teaching material. But Ellis is now concerned that what’s on this poster is being taught to his daughter in school
“It upsets me. And again, it goes back to who approved this? You know this had to pass through enough hands that someone should have said, ‘Wait a minute, these are 13-year-old kids, we do not need to be this in-depth with this sexual education type of program,’” he said.
District spokeswoman, Leigh Anne Neal, says the poster needs to be viewed in the context of a bigger curriculum, which she calls abstinence-based for students in middle school.
“The poster that you reference is actually part of our middle school health and science materials, and so it is a part of our district approved curriculum,” Neal said. “However the item is meant to be part of a lesson, and so certainly as a standalone poster without the context of a teacher-led discussion, I could see that there might be some cause for concern.”
She said that the approved curriculum is in line with what other schools around the country do as well.
“The curriculum it is a part of, it aligns with national standards around those topics, and it’s part of our curriculum in the school district,” she said.
But Ellis thinks if that’s the case, the curriculum needs to change.
“This has nothing to do with abstinence or sexual reproduction,” he said. “I would like to see that this particular portion of the curriculum is removed from the school.”
And if the curriculum doesn’t change, Ellis plans to remove his daughter from the sexual education classes.

Check out this rather extraordinary custom made leather suit of medieval Joker armor

For Batfans, the ultimate in Joker costumes:

From Neatorama:

By Prince Armory, check out this incredible creation- a suit of medieval style leather Joker armor, colorful and creepy and sure to be a perfect fit for the Clown Prince of Crime. The details are amazing, from the articulated and clawed gauntlets to the almost snakelike texturing on the helmet, and it's is made up of seven hardened leather pieces: 

Jester's Helmet with Joker Mask, Breastplate, Drama Face Pauldrons, Breastplate, Jester's War Skirt, Cuisses/Knees/Greaves, Articulated Jester Shoe Sabatons.

See the Prince Armory website for more.

Absolute must read article by immigrant from Soviet Union re socialism vs capitalism

Upon migrating to the United States many years ago, I embraced my new home and left the past behind. Never could I imagine that, at some point, that past would become relevant.

But now, I am compelled to talk about it again.

In the USSR, we had state-controlled media which shaped the narrative entirely.

Our founder, Vladimir Lenin, was portrayed as a noble, charismatic, and smart man -- the champion of the underdog (the working class), the seeker of equality, defeater of the rich. The humble man with common ideas who was destined for greatness.

Lenin peered at us intently from textbooks and walls. His was the face behind the good intentions that shaped our everyday life.


Bread in the stores was the bread. Milk was the milk. Kolbasa was the kolbasa. Everything was manufactured by the state to provide the minimum required survivability, and minimum expected functionality. Improvements in design and the manufacturing process did not exist.

The very concept of "customer convenience" did not exist. We didn't have bottles sculpted to fit the shape of your hand, nor did we have polite cashiers, for they were under no obligation to please anyone -- they worked for the state. The abacus was still in common use in our stores while American stores had electric change machines, credit card readers, and sliding doors.

Like most things, clothes were in "deficit" and thus traveled from older to younger siblings in every family over time. Broken things weren't thrown away but repaired.

Our giant lamp television was carried in the family since about the time I was born. It received three channels -- all State-controlled. On our evening news program, the Chernobyl disaster announcement was calm and lasted fifteen seconds. Our state papers, such as Pravda and Izvestia, were not read but used as invaluable sources of free toilet paper. This is not a joke.

Our propaganda put the big focus on the noble working class and how there was no such thing as a "lower" profession. Much emphasis was made on the nobility of simple working man, and certainly there is something to that.

But when the janitor receives roughly the same salary as a teacher who is paid roughly the same as a surgeon who is paid roughly the same as a programmer, all of them surrounded by peers who get paid the same no matter how well or poorly they perform, some people start carrying the team, and then they just give up. Everyone performs poorly in the end.

It was painfully obvious to everyone just how low the desire of the average person is to produce goods for other people. Without competition or opportunity to get ahead, with the state controlling production and paying equal salaries to workers regardless of their contributions, we had no concept of abundance.

The first time I entered an American food market at the age of seventeen, I froze.

Older Soviets who visited American stores for the first time, got hit harder -- all the lies they were taught from childhood through the decades of their lives -- until that last moment, they expected them to be at least partially true.

Sure, they heard stories from overseas, but come on, those were just the Potemkin villages, mirages created to make the Soviets jealous. How can one imagine the unimaginable?

"They told us in Odessa, that in San Francisco it's hard to find milk."

This is the typical Soviet mentality, and they were used to it, and they bought into it, and then they entered that American supermarket and saw the rows upon rows of milk of different brands and kinds and fat percentages.

This is where some have been known to cry. It is the realization that their lives were stolen from them by the regime. A realization of what could've been, if they had been lucky enough to be born in this place which, from everything they knew, could not possibly exist.

I now live in Northern California, in the heart of the Bay Area, thousands of miles away from my homeland.

And yet the poison of Soviet propaganda seeps through college dorms just as it did in Soviet classrooms.

People of all ages, even acquaintances that I otherwise respect and admire, are like this. They support the "progressive" leader Barack Obama, worship the nanny state, and believe in equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity.

They badmouth capitalism and complain that only one percent of the American population has the "American dream." They buy into the class warfare rhetoric hook, line, and sinker. They want artificially raised minimum wage, government handouts, and believe that Obamacare is the greatest thing since the invention of pockets.

I look at them and the red ties materialize, familiarly, around their necks.

There are "academic" speakers now who advocate that having too many choices is "bad for you." Too stressful to choose, you see.

Living in the Soviet Union, being bombarded with similar nonsense, we had nothing to contradict it. When we walked outside the school, the everyday reality had no traces of the wealth afforded by capitalism. We lived in the grayness and that grayness was all there was.

Then they go home and write essays on their expensive iPads about how they don't have the American Dream.

Now, most American news sources are no different than Pravda and Izvestia. Now, the government used the IRS to stifle political opposition. Now, ObamaCare is a wealth redistribution platform disguised as a common good. Now, Obama is being portrayed in academia and the media alike as a charismatic, messianic, "progressive" figure, fighting for the "underdog." He would feel right at home as the General Secretary of the Communist Party. Now, Obama Youths are me, from decades ago. Leninist academia has had its way with them. Now, just like Soviet leaders, American leaders give lip-service to "social justice" while stocking up on personal wealth for their families.

There's nothing new under the sun. I'm hardly the only ex-Soviet to point out the parallels. But some things matter enough to bear repeating.

Dear beautiful America, please, stop moving Forward.