Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Movin' on up

Here it is, my new domain: ToTryANewSword.com. Everything -- all posts and comments -- should have made the trip. Automatic redirecting will start in a couple days.

It'll be better than ever! Change your links! Tell your friends! Dance in the streets! Panic in the streets! Call out the National Guard! Hide the women and children!

Update: For some reason, my entire blogroll disappeared when I switched over. I think I've replaced everything now (and even added a couple of new links), but if you used to be in my blogroll but aren't anymore, let me know. If you're missing, it's not intentional!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good reads/Random Cool Sites (9/22/2009)

Glass Microbiology (h/t: Freakonomics)

If health insurance companies ran the mail service

Save the insurance companies!




I think this is hilarious:

Going after ACORN may be like shooting fish in a barrel lately -- but jumpy lawmakers used a bazooka to do it last week and may have blown up some of their longtime allies in the process.

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to "any organization" that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops.

I want my old mail carrier back


I want my old mail carrier back. The new one never comes until 4:30. The old one used to bring the mail before noon every day -- usually before 11:00.

And she was really cute. It was always a pleasure to see her with her blond ponytail and her long, pretty, suntanned legs.

Sometimes you never realize how lucky you are to have something until it's gone. Sigh.

Master of my domain

I'm pretty sure I want to move this blog to its own domain (.com). Nobody can remember "kurinboism" or knows what it means anyway, and it doesn't really have anything to do with the blog's actual title.

I want something easy to remember, something people can just type in if they want. Kuri.com and kuri.net are already taken (being squatted on, actually), or I'd use one of them. I have my "real" name already registered as a .com, but I use that for work (just the e-mail address, actually) and I'd like to keep my blogging separate from my work.

So, any suggestions? Something relatively easy to remember? I have a couple things in mind, but I'd love to hear from actual readers as well.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/21/2009)

Great moments in the understanding of human sexuality: If you're a dude and you like pictures of nekkid women, you're teh gay!

A review of The Healing of America, and also a quick "World Health Care Systems 101"

The world's coolest bus stops

My team lose! Me mad and sad!

Science quiz!

From the Pew Research Center:

To test your knowledge of scientific concepts and recent scientific findings and events, we invite you to take this 12-question science knowledge quiz. Then see how you did in comparison with the 1,005 randomly sampled adults asked the same questions. You'll also be able to compare your Science IQ with the average scores of men and women; with college graduates as well as those who didn't attend college; with people who are your age as well as with younger and older Americans.

I got 100%. (Can I say "Of course"? Or "It was really easy"? Or does that make me an elitist snob?) Take the quiz here. (h/t: Bad Astronomy)


'80s Monday: Billy Idol

I was never a punk, not even a wannabe punk (with the very large exception of my church, I've never been much of a joiner or follower), but I loved the music and I was interested in the surrounding culture. One idea that always fascinated me was the concept of the "poseur" or "poser" in punk rock and how it illustrated two conflicting values in the punk movement.

One value was acceptance and belonging, as perhaps best exemplified in the lyrics of the Ramones song "Pinhead": "Gabba-gabba, we accept you, we accept you, one of us." Being an outsider -- one of the "uncool" kids -- and immersing yourself the music was enough to make you a punk.

But another part of the punk ethos was authenticity. Loving the music wasn't enough. One had to take the movement's values to heart. One had to live as a punk and think as a punk, or be labeled a "poser."

Maybe this was especially strong in in Southern California. At least that's what a punker friend of mine who moved to San Diego from Arizona told me. He -- and he was about as authentic a punk as I've ever met; there was nothing posed about him -- he said he couldn't believe "all this poser bullshit," as he called it, in California.

In Arizona, he said, they accepted everyone. That's what punk was about there: accepting people who weren't accepted in the mainstream of society. In California, he said, it was exactly the opposite. People acted as if the whole point was to exclude people who weren't cool enough. He hated that.

Not long after that conversation, I read an article in the local newspaper about punks at one of the high schools in town, which included a few paragraphs about how they completely ostracized one poor girl for being a poser (God knows why) even as the rest of the school ostracized her for being a punk. Maybe I've never really fit in anywhere, but I've never been actively ostracized either. I couldn't imagine how much that must have hurt.

So I saw my 'Zoner punk friend's point, of course. But I also thought there was something to the "authenticity" side of the question too, at least when it came to the music. There were a lot of bands trying to look punk and sound a little bit punk, but they were just in it for the money/fame/drugs/whatever. I despised bands like that.

All of which made Billy Idol kind of a guilty pleasure for me during the '80s, because he had a reputation as a poseur. He started out as a guitarist with the band that became Siouxsie and the Banshees, then co-founded the band that became Generation X as its lead singer.

Gen X was an early English punk band, but even they had a bit of a poseur reputation. They were just a little too pretty and a little too interested in being rock stars to be accepted by some people as "true" punks. And Idol left them to go solo in America, where his good looks helped him become star on MTV.

Idol kept the punk look -- lots of leather and short, spiked hair -- but neither his music (more "power pop" than punk) nor his attitude had much at all to do with punk anymore, which made him a giant poseur in a lot of people's books. But I really liked some of his music (still do), even though I was a little embarrassed to admit it back in the day. Which I suppose made me kind of a poseur too.

So here's one from Generation X and three from Billy Idol.

Generation X, "Ready Steady Go" (c. 1978)



"White Wedding" (1982), of course

Not his most popular, but I like the sentiment: "If I should stumble, catch my fall." We all need someone to catch our falls now and then. "Catch My Fall" (1985)

My favorite Idol song: "Rebel Yell" (1984)

(Sorry for not embedding, but it's disabled on YouTube, and I can't get Dailymotion vids to play all the way through for some reason.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

CURSE YOU KANYE WEST!

Look what he's done now!

I'm reading Twilight, so you don't have to: the return

All right, I'm finally going to finish this, I promise. There's only about seven chapters left, so I plan to complete the whole thing by Halloween.

Now I have a question. Once I finish Twilight, what book should I read next so you don't have to? I could, of course, do New Moon, the second "Twilight" book. That would be the easiest book to do, at least in terms of continuity. But I've also been thinking of doing some other books.

The basic criteria for a book that I read so you don't have to are 1) it's famous, 2) it's quite badly written, 3) it's full of weird stuff, and 4) some people take it really, really, seriously. Given those criteria, here are the candidates I've been thinking about:

New Moon, by Stephenie [sic] Meyer
The Old Testament, by God
The Book of Mormon, also by God (and/or Joseph Smith)
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

Pros and cons for each:

New Moon
Pro: The movie's coming out soon, I know how to do it, I know it would be funny
Con: I would have to read another book by Stephenie [sic] Meyer

The Old Testament
Con: It might offend a lot of people
Pro: It might offend a lot of people

The Book of Mormon
Pro: I know it pretty well, and it certainly fits the criteria
Con: Not that many people have ever read it; a high percentage of my readers are Mormon, and I wouldn't like to hurt their feelings

Atlas Shrugged
Pro: I loathe the sophomoric philosophy that's sprung up around the book, and I'd love to take the piss out of it a little bit
Con: I haven't read it, so I only know it by reputation; it's about a thousand pages long; I don't have a copy lying around the house, so I'd actually have to buy one

So what do you think? I'd really like some input. I'm actually kind of leaning towards Atlas Shrugged right now, although doing New Moon would probably be more sensible. Or maybe I could do more than one book at a time, although that would slow me down even more, and curtail other kinds of posts. Or I could even start a separate blog where I do nothing but read books so you don't have to...

What do you think?

(Check the pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog for Twilight chapters.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How many circles?

A fascinating optical illusion:
How many circles do you see? Can you see them at all?
There's a discussion here. (h/t: Bad Astronomy)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/15/2009)

The internet is destroying literacy -- except that people today are writing more than ever before.

Meet your Conservative Movement: A slideshow

Joe Wilson's new reality show on MTV: "You Lie!"

Bats don't have feathers, but batshit crazies flock together: the influence of Cleon Skousen on Glenn Beck. (h/t: Self-Portrait as)

Mouse in me kitchen

I had a post planned for today, involving news about something -- how should I put it -- involving news about something I do especially for you, my readers (so you don't have to), but my spouse saw a mouse in our house last night, and yesterday was therefore taken up with various initiatives to repel rodent invaders. So no announcement today, but look for something later this week.

In the meantime, speaking of rodent invaders, here's one of my favorite posts from a couple of years ago: "Rat in Me Kitchen."

Monday, September 14, 2009

'80s Monday: Novelties and one-hit wonders

Nothing too deep today, just some fun songs.

"Video killed the Radio Star," The Buggles (1979). This was the first song played on MTV (back when it played videos).



"I Ran," A Flock of Seagulls (1982). They actually had a few more hits in the UK, but this is their only song that I heard more than once. Unfortunately, you can't really see the lead singer's famous hair very well in this video. (I tried combing mine like that a couple of times. but I never had the nerve to go out in public with it.)



"Turning Japanese," The Vapors (1980). It's probably not actually about what everyone says it's about. Although maybe it is.



"Valley Girl," Frank Zappa (1982). I knew girls who talked like this. Without irony.



"Love Plus One," Haircut 100 (1982)


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Precious

I don't think I've ever seen a trailer before that brought a lump to my throat. Just a trailer. Precious comes out in November.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/11/2009)

"So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better." The British Government apologizes to Alan Turing. Good on them. (h/t: Language Log)

How America is being reshaped in Wal-Mart's image:
As the unionized General Motors was big enough to set the pattern for the employment of nonprofessional Americans in the three decades following World War II, Wal-Mart is now so big it is setting the pattern today. Each created a distinct national buying public for its goods that was far larger than its immediate work force: in GM's case, workers who could afford to buy new cars; in Wal-Mart's, workers who could afford to shop nowhere except Wal-Mart.

Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Truth in advertising: the Wheel with Handles!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/10/2009)

The speech Obama should have given (watch out for "bad" language [and copious typos])

Joe Wilson (the Congress dude who heckled Obama with "You lie!" while Obama was saying something that is 100-percent verifiably true) is your pre-existing condition. The funniest part about all this is that his Democratic opponent in the 2010 election has raised over $400,000 in donations since last night from pissed-off Democrats. If you think Congress could use one less jerk, feel free to toss five or ten bucks Rob Miller's way.

The Comics Reporter has a list of the best comics of the 2000s.

Speaking of comics, "Tom the Dancing Bug" shows what happens when two corporations simultaneously come out with the same advertising slogan.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Laser Beam

I love this song.

"Laser Beam" by Low



I don't need a laser beam
I don't need the time
Leave me in the car tonight
Rest your drunken mind

I need your grace alone

Lesser things are on your mind
Don't you think I know?
Will this poison scar my eyes?
Mother, close the door

I need your grace alone

I don't need a laser beam
I don't need a laser beam

Swine!

I had the swine flu. (Unfortunately, that doesn't sound as good in English as it does in German.)

It was the genuine "novel H1N1." My son came down with it at the same time, two days after he got to Japan. In Japan, they're still pretty much in full freakout mode over the disease, so he got checked specifically for swine flu and tested positive. Since the odds that we would get sick with two different flu strains at the same time are minuscule, I'm assuming that's what I had too.

Here's what it was like to have the swine flu.

My main symptoms were fever (generally under 102), body aches, lethargy, lack of appetite, and a mild cough. The first day, I came down with chills/fever and body aches. The chills and fever seemed "normal," but the body aches were rather unusual. Generally, I'm kind of stoic about pain. Maybe it has something to do with my Aspergerishness; I don't really know, but usually I don't pay much attention to it. (Pain don't hurt, after all.) But I found the body aches quite painful and distracting.

On the second day, still with all the symptoms except for the chills, I managed to drag myself to the urgent care, where they charged me an extra $50 because I was contagious. Seriously. Once I got through triage, they put a "See as soon as possible" tag on my paperwork (so I got to skip ahead of three people -- it was a summer afternoon), they put me in a room with a door rather than behind a curtain, and the doctor wore one of those clear plastic shield thingies over his face. For that, they charged me an extra 50 bucks.

Anyway, chills, sudden-onset moderate fever, body aches, mild cough -- the doctor agreed with my diagnosis: influenza. (Since they don't test specifically for swine flu unless the patient is hospitalized, he was noncommittal on the "swine" part.) He prescribed Tamiflu, and I dragged myself over to the pharmacy near my house. The Tamiflu cost $105 for 10 pills (twice a day for five days).

The third day, I felt much better. No more aches, no more fever. "Tamiflu rocks!" I thought. But then on the morning of day four, Bam! everything came back. Chills, fever, body aches, cough. I decided that Tamiflu didn't rock nearly as much as I first thought. I wondered if I had a resistant strain or something.

But I started to feel a little better that night, and on day five I was actually much better. I ate some real food and everything. The weird thing about the Tamiflu was that I was taking it every 12 hours, but it seemed to start wearing off every 9 or 10 hours. A lot of medicines seem to do that kind of thing with me. I suspect it's because of my bigness, though of course I don't know for sure. I've only ever had one doctor try to adjust medication for my size. That was in Japan. I don't know why no one else does it. It seems logical that a bigger body requires more medicine than a smaller body, doesn't it?

Anyway, on day six I was pretty much well, although I took it easy and just laid around all day to be on the safe side. So that's what it was like to have the swine flu. Five or six days of illness, with three of them really sick. But except for the body aches, there was nothing unusual about it. In fact, the cough was actually milder than I expected.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/8/2009)

This week's This Modern World: "Then and Now with Goofus and Gallant"

The (socialist) Japanese health care system (Pure evil. Everybody gets health care. And dental care. And they only spend 35 percent as much per person as we do in the USA. But doctors and insurance companies make less money than they do here. Frakking socialists.)

Placebos are getting more effective.

A cool parlor trick: Senator Al Franken draws a map of the US from memory. I think I could do a creditable outline, but not with all the states drawn in.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/7/2009)

The text of Obama's horrible, communist, socialist, fascist, Nazi, Muslim, Kenyan, indoctrination speech to schoolchildren. Don't let your children listen to it! The "President" might trick them into working hard and excelling at something!

What the internet knows about you

My Religious Blog is hilarious, although you might need to be Mormon (or at least ex-Mormon) to get all the jokes.

How not to research an online community

'80s Monday: Ian Dury

It's probably a bit of a stretch to call the late Ian Dury an '80s artist, because he did a lot of his best work in the late '70s, but let's not be pedantic. Much of the "80s music" I listened to started in the late '70s. That's when punk and ska began, after all.

Dury was associated with the punk movement, but musically his sound -- especially live -- was more funk and R&B than punk.

He's most remembered now for "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll," and rightly so. It's a classic. Other people had made the link between sex, drugs, and rock and roll before Dury did, but his genius was sticking in an extra "and" and turning the phrase into a memorable hook. But it's not, as you might expect, a song about rock star excess. It's actually about non-conformity, about living life the way you want to, not the way other people tell you to.

And that was typical of Dury's lyrics: intelligent, but humorous and always down to earth. Ian Dury was an artist, but there was never anything artsy-fartsy about him. So here's four songs by Ian Dury. Enjoy.

"Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" (1977)



"There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards" (1978)



"Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (1978)



"Wake up and Make Love with Me" (1977)


Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day, Americans and resident aliens!
Happy Monday, everybody else!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/6/2009)

I'm probably going to do one of these little link-fests almost every day.

Probably the most important article you'll read for a while: Paul Krugman on the state of the science of economics

"Feral houses": Some cool pics of abandoned houses in Detroit being retaken by nature.

Working from home = WFH, which leads to WFA (working from airport), WF\_O__/ (working from a plane), WF===== (working at a linear accelerator), etc. (I work from here, BTW.)

If you ever decide to go back in time, be sure to take this cheat sheet with you.