Monday, December 31, 2012

Breaking News

The breaking news is that there are no new breakthroughs in the last minute negotiations to avoid the fiscal precipice. This fiscal escarpment was created by Congress when it failed to reach a compromise in the debt ceiling debacle last year. The fiscal bluff was designed to be objectionable to both parties, to force them to find a better solution. Of course, we know how well that worked.

Stay tuned for further late breaking reports about the lack of news about late breakthroughs in the fiscal crag crisis.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Zombie Apocalypse Now

A lot of popular folklore (and some that's not so popular) centers around the zombie apocalypse. The idea is that zombies ... living dead people ... attack and destroy civilization as we know it. I'm fairly certain that civilization, at least as I know it, has already gone to hell in a handbasket. Nevertheless, I think it's important that we all learn to recognize the warning signs of a zombie apocalypse, so we can take immediate action.

First of all, how do we recognize zombies? The important characteristics are:

1) They are dead, but continue to move around and screw things up.

2) They feed on the brains of their victims.

3) They refuse to raise taxes, even on the top 1% of earners.

If, hypothetically of course, a group lost in a national election, but continued to try to blackmail the country into submission, that would suggest zombitude.

Also, again hypothetically, if a group tried to deny basic scientific findings like, oh, for example, climate change or evolution, that would be an attack on victims' brains. If they also tried to cut education funding, or to interfere with the teaching of science, that's a zombie-esque indicator. A clincher would be if that group, for example, tried to dictate who can or can't marry, or whether women can make their own reproductive choices.

And I don't have to tell you about taxes.

The signs of the apocalypse are equally clear:

1) The disruption of normal operations, even in the face of critical deadlines.

2) The confusion resulting from the disappearance of responsible news sources.

3) The Kardashians.

Of course we know the zombie apocalypse is just a fictional idea that could never actually happen. But it can't hurt to be prepared. Remember: See something, say something!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Mayan Calendar Thing

  • Tue., Dec. 11 - Gunman shoots three shoppers, killing two, and himself in mall outside Portland, Oregon
  • Fri., Dec. 14 - Gunman kills 20 children, ages 6 and 7, plus 6 adults and himself at elementary school in Newtown, CT, after shooting and killing his mother at her home.
  • Mon., Dec. 24 - Gunman lights fire and shoots 4 of the responding firefighters, killing two, and then himself.
The Mayan Calendar didn't say how long it would take.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Resolutions for the New Year

One of my resolutions last year was to stop procrastinating. So here I am working on my this year’s resolutions.

Now I’m a far cry from perfect, but I’m having a hard time coming up with things to resolve. I don’t have a lot of what are traditionally considered vices … gambling, drinking, cavorting with expensive prostitutes (or even reasonably priced ones), hogging the remote … you know, the usual. My shortcomings all seem pretty boring in comparison:

1) I try out lots of bad jokes on my loved ones, and

2) I’m not very good at noticing people's haircuts.

Neither of those has the makings of an inspirational resolution. Real resolutions would be something dramatic. Finish that novel! Run a marathon! Learn to make cannoli.

But I’d have to start a novel. I get shin splints running for the bus. And I don’t even like cannoli. So I’m stuck with the boring resolutions. Watch more PBS. Eat plenty of roughage. Try not to use styrofoam containers.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll resolve to develop some vices this year, so I'll have something to work on.

Actually, the “stop procrastinating” resolution was from two years ago. I’m just working on ones for 2012 now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

And in other news ...

Now that we’ve survived the momentous election of 2012, in which a flood of money and hurricane force winds of hot air brought us more or less the same government we had before, it’s time we turned our attention to other pressing matters.

But I can’t. For one thing, it’s deeply gratifying to see that Mitt Romney has not let failure go to his head. Actually, it seems there’s not much he does let go to his head. He’s still the same lovable clueless doof he always was. Instead of railing against the now famous 47% of Americans who minimize their taxes almost as effectively as he does, Romney has accused Obama of buying votes by adopting policies that actually benefit millions of people. Egads!

Obama, meanwhile, has signaled that he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with during his second term. He’s not going to let the Republicans walk all over him as he has in the past. From now on, they’ll have to take their shoes off.

Of course, the shocking, earth-shattering news is that someone in a position of power committed adultery. Now there's nothing unusual about famous, powerful people engaging in hanky-panky. We’ve all seen stories ranging from Bill Clinton's receiving the head of state to the former bodybuilder turned actor turned California Governor impregnating his staff to the jealous, Depends-wearing astronaut trying to avoid bathroom stops as she drove furiously across country to assault her rival. But the remarkable thing about the David Petraeus story is ... there's nothing remarkable about it. Seriously. The guy was having an affair. Boring.

Why are we even still talking about it?

Friday, November 16, 2012

For a good time, call ...

Gary Hart
Clarence Thomas
Bill Clinton
Mark Foley
John Edwards
Eliot Spitzer
Larry Craig
John Ensign
Mark Sanford
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Anthony Weiner
David Petraeus

And so on, and so on. The same story over and over again.

That's what wrong with this country. We've lost our innovativeness.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lincoln, Lincoln, I've Been Thinkin' ...

In the heat of our recent political season, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that this kind of chicanery has been going on throughout the history of our nation. Earlier this year, a startling movie revealed the little known fact that before entering politics, Abraham Lincoln had an early career as a vampire hunter. Inexplicably, that movie has been suppressed. It has disappeared from theaters, and is now only available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and via download.

Why? Could it be that the Republican Party is trying to conceal Lincoln's past in order not to alienate the vampire voters?

Now another Lincoln movie is being released. Note that both of these films were released exactly a few months after the 150th anniversary of 3 years before Lincoln's assassination! Coincidence? I think not! (I mean, "I don't think it's a coincidence," not "I don't think.") This is clearly an attempt to re-write history ... to cover up Lincoln's vampire vanquishing record.

The American people deserve better.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Battle Hymn of the Republicans

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the GOP campaign.
We have nominated Romney. (All the others were insane.)
We don’t have to have a plan ‘cause all we have to do’s complain.
The campaign marches on.

Grand Old Party, Hallelujah!
Grand Old Party, Hallelujah!
Grand Old Party, Hallelujah!
The campaign marches on.

Oh, the rich will solve our problems. They could do it all today
But they’re feeling so inhibited by taxes they must pay.
They’re against anything Keynesian. After all the man was gay.
The campaign marches on.


Republicans deny that man-made climate change is true.
They just want to keep on drilling, mining and keep fracking too,
‘Cause the sea waters are rising and the coastal states are blue.
The campaign marches on.


We would not have bailed Detroit out. Then again maybe we would.
Both FEMA and the EPA are bad, except when good.
For whatever is my stance is not near anyplace I’ve stood.
Mitt Romney marches … uh, whatever.


I can’t wait until election night to finally get some sleep
When our country has a President and very hopeful Veep.
The voters will deserve it. As you sow, so shall you reap.
The campaign marches on.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Seriously. The Election.

There are now only 8 shopping days until Election Day, and holiday spirit is in the air. Friend turns against friend, and fan page against fan page. As always, people seem to think their side is the only remotely reasonable one, and people supporting the other side must be crazy.

But all this rancor is counter-productive (except for some really funny videos), so, as a public service, I’d like to remind everyone of the following:

  1. Both parties are full of it. Really. No matter what they say, they are both basically in the business of hustling for contributions, and that means sucking up to the organizations that can really pour it on. And now, thanks to the Supreme Court, that means every corporation, with no limits. A corporation’s priority is to make as much money as it can, and now the political parties’ priority is to help them do it.
  2. All candidates are full of it. But I’m not that cynical. I’m sure some of them actually believe what they’re saying, that they’re fundamentally virtuous people who just have to make a few compromises, like building a pipeline to move environmentally disastrous oil sands oil across the U. S. because hey, Exxon Mobile can really heap the simoleons on our campaign. See item #1.
  3. Nobody knows how to fix the economy. It’s true. Nobody. The Democrats obviously don’t, and the Republicans don’t even think it’s broken. This is what they’ve been trying to achieve for over 30 years. It’s called “starving the beast.” Google it.
  4. Campaign ads, and especially quotes taken out of context by the other side, are always meaningless. Everybody’s looking for ways to make the other side look bad. Of course they’re going to slice and dice every random comment a candidate ever made to try to make it sound damning. It doesn’t matter what these guys say because a) their jobs are not about talking, and b) they’re all lying anyway. (See item #2.) When a campaign ad starts, hit the Mute button.
  5. Yes, the welfare state is expensive, but so are cars. You don’t hear anyone talking about dismantling roads. 
So, if all this is true, does it really make a difference which side wins? In a word, YES. Yes, it absolutely does, for one very important reason.

There’s one big distinction between these parties. The Republican Party embraces ignorance! That’s the deal breaker. This party actively condones and encourages the denial of biology and meteorology. They welcome the evolution deniers and climate change deniers and rape deniers as if these were equally valid opinions. They’re not! Plain and simple. Ignorance is not just a different opinion. And it’s not something to be proud of.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Debate Highlights

For those of you who missed the recent presidential debates, or simply want to enjoy them again, we present selected highlights.

Romney: We’re opposed to abortion except in cases of rape, incest or the health of the mother.
Moderator: Let’s move on.
Romney: Wait. I have to respond to my last statement.
Moderator: Governor Romney, you agreed to these rules.
Romney: Why are you attacking me instead of focussing on the issues?

Romney: Of course corporations are people. When I was at Bain, we bought and sold them just like congressmen.

Obama: Earlier, you took a position to the far right. Now we see you’re moving back to center.
Romney: This is where the TV people told me to stand.
Obama: I’m talking about your policies.
Romney: So am I.

Moderator: Gentlemen, we've seen a number of mass shootings in schools, in movie theaters. Don't you think it's finally time to take some serious action to control guns?
Romney: You see, we don't need more teachers. We just need to ensure that our existing teachers are better armed.
Moderator: Mr. President?  Mr. President?
Obama: I'm sorry. Could you repeat the question?

Romney: As I've said repeatedly, the President's biggest strategic mistake is revealing his timetable for withdrawing from Afghanistan.
Moderator: So you would not commit to a deadline?
Romney: Oh, we'll be out of there by 2014. Absolutely. I'm just not going to announce that.

Obama: Governor Romney, you said that we should just let Detroit go bankrupt.
Romney: No I didn't.
Obama: Governon Romney, we have copies of the New York Times op-ed piece in which you said that.
Romney: Why are you attacking me, instead of focussing on the issues?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


In an earlier post, I compared some of the magic in the Harry Potter stories with technology that's available today. It occurred to me that the best use of this overlap would be to implement a computer programming language whose built-in operators are spells from the Harry Potter books. We will call this, naturally, HPL (Harry Potter Language). As I first step, I'm proposing the following:

AccioDownload file
AlohomoraEnable access
Avada KadavraCtrl-Alt-Del
ConfundusDisplay engineer-written help message
EngorgioFill available memory.
Expecto PatronumLaunch a new process
ExpelliarmusEject CD
LegilimensShow stack trace
LumosBrighten screen
Patrificus TotalisFreeze computer1
Prior IncantatoUndo
RiddikulusCan be substituted for any program written in HPL
Wingardium LeviosaUpload file

1Redundant on Windows systems.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pre-Game Show

Just as thrill-seekers take up extreme sports for the excitement of putting their lives at risk, Mitt Romney, a serious contender for Most Boring Candidate of the Year, has found a way to relieve the monotony by committing near fatal gaffes. Of course, neither he nor the President are up for any charisma awards. They both lack the winking wit of Bill Clinton, or even the Gomer Pyle gosh-iness of George W. Bush. So how will they manage to entertain us during the debates?

Perhaps they will resort to discussing issues. In that event, we want you to be prepared. So here is a sneak peek at likely topics for the upcoming debates.

The Economy - We’re all familiar with this one. Obama wants to improve the economy by investing in our future. Romney, like any good corporate executive, would deal with it like a corporate executive.

The Middle East - Given the turmoil in the Middle East, and the association with terrorism, this is a very hot topic. Obama will stabilize the Middle East by investing in our future. Romney, in contrast, would deal with it like a corporate executive.

The Environment - This issue has remained on the front burner, despite the fact that most Americans have forgotten what it means. Obama will address our environmental concerns by investing in our future. Romney will solve our environmental issues like a corporate executive.

Wealth Distribution - We’re waiting to see if this actually comes up, given the lingering vestiges of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Obama will, of course, invest in our future. Romney … well, you know the drill.

Hmmm. Maybe they could learn to juggle.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fitting In

In this time of political turmoil, I need to speak to you about a matter of pressing importance. I'm referring, of course, to the subject of underwear. Specifically, men's underwear. Despite years of research, I'm not sufficiently qualified to address the topic of women's undergarments, except to note that nobody calls them undergarments anymore.

For historical reasons, men's underwear is divided into two camps, both modelled after professional sports. Specifically, there are jockey shorts and boxer shorts. Apparently the movers and shakers of the underwear world think we should be suitably attired for either horseback riding or punching the crap out of each other. I never see packages of hang gliding shorts or bungee-jumping shorts, though I think these would be a welcome addition to the underwear repertoire.

I have observed lately a kind of hybrid underwear known as boxer briefs. By hybrid, I don't mean that they're more fuel efficient, though that may also be true. Hybrid here means they're like a combination of jockeys and boxers. I'm not sure what athletic performance is the goal of boxer briefs. Perhaps very short boxing matches ... say, for example, five rounds.

Our research suggests the rising (or low rising) popularity of boxer briefs may be due to the appearance of the models on the packages. Regular boxer shorts packages feature models who, despite their carefully cultivated physiques, can not help but look like your grandfather. Models for jockey shorts, on the other hand, look like the men who didn't make the cut for Buns of Steel magazine. Boxer briefs provide the perfect wardrobe ... neither too modest nor too showy.

Unfortunately, the briefs only look like that for the duration of the photo session, if that. The problem arises once you try to put on pants. The short, snug-fitting legs of the boxer briefs get rolled up from the action of donning trousers, and consequently cease to be snug-fitting. In fact, when you take off the pants, the underwear look like mini bell-bottoms. (For those of you born after 1973, check Wikipedia.)

This stretching, and the attendant containment issues, make these underwear unsuitable for any sport except the one in which I happen to excel ... synchronized TV-athlon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Net Worth

So as far as we can tell, Mitt Romney is worth roughly 200 of you, and Bill Gates is worth about 200 Mitt Romneys, or 40,000 yous. Have a nice life.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Living Proof

By the way, all the equations in the first panel are from the paper The Mathematics of M-Theory, by Robbert Dijkgraaf, available at

Friday, September 7, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Bad Week for Armstrongs

This week, in addition to the dethroning of Lance Armstrong, erstwhile seven-time Tour de France winner, we mark the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the moon. Well, not foot exactly. Boot. Which gets into the whole question of what “on the moon” means. He could have stayed inside the ship and still have been “on the moon” about as much as he was in his space suit.

But the more important question is: Why is Neil Armstrong important? There were a bunch of astronauts in the program. Neil just got lucky.

And the astronauts were just there for show anyway. Really, the Apollo program involved thousands of scientists, engineers and normal people. And the Apollo program followed on the heels of Projects Mercury and Gemini, which in turn followed all kinds of other rocketry and space research going back to the first kid to fire a spitball.

Seriously, Neil Armstrong had about as much to do with the moon landing as Harrison Ford did with the creation of Indiana Jones. He got to play the part, but other people came up with the story and did all the planning, engineering and design.

But putting astronauts in made the whole thing sexy. That’s why Kennedy committed us to putting a man on the moon. It could have been a dog or a monkey. In fact, we did put several dogs and monkeys in space, but NASA didn’t really want the moon landing immortalized by the image of the flight crew peeing on the flag pole.

And having people in the space program meant all kinds of research into human survival in hostile conditions, remotely monitoring vital signs, and the invention of Tang and freeze-dried ice cream. So all in all, it was worth it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Greatest Inventions

Apple has now become the most valuable public company in history. No doubt this is largely due to their seemingly endless stream of life-altering, or at least culture-altering, gadgets. Think about it ... the Macintosh, the Newton (ok, low blow), the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, the iDon'tKnowWhatButThereMustBeSomethingElse.

But in all this, it's easy to lose sight of what are really the most significant inventions of all time. Therefore, as a public service, we provide this reminder.

5)computersIn addition to letting us expose every aspect of our personal lives to friends and advertisers alike1, the computer has revolutionized just about every other product on earth. It is also responsible for getting millions of indigent nerds off the streets and into productive jobs.
4)hair coloringI don't know, but my wife insists this is essential.
3)Girl Scout Thin MintsHey, when you make a list, you can pick.
2)mute buttonsEver watch commercial TV? Indispensible!

And the number one most signifiicant invention of all time ...
1)toilet paperSeriously, would you trade this for any of the others?

1On the information superhighway, Facebook is the bumper stickers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Ultimate Lawyer Show


Interior, tastefully furnished law office with glass-walled conference rooms, private offices and desks in the open area. Plants and muted artworks adorn the walls. A well dressed bloated gentleman, who vaguely resembles Captain Kirk from "Star Trek", is talking with a somewhat younger bloated gentleman who vaguely resembles the young guy from "Sex, Lies and Videotape."

KIRK-LIKE GUY: We'll have to go outside the firm for this one.


KIRK: We need all the best legal minds in the country. Money is no object.

SLV: Seriously?

KIRK: Well, ok we'll try Priceline first.

SLV: Ok. I just hope this is going to be worth it.

KIRK: Are you kidding? It's a gold mine.


Interior, glass-walled conference room. The walls are completely hidden by stacks of bankers boxes. More boxes are stacked on the conference table, amid piles of papers.


Every so often, one of them flips a page, or turns a document sideways as if to examine a diagram, or clears his or her throat.








KIRK and SEX-LIES-VIDEOTAPES GUY are sitting on a balcony, smoking big, fat stogies.

KIRK: Well, I guess we're ready for that Apple v Samsung case now!

SLV-GUY: Are we?

KIRK: Who the hell knows? Let's just chuckle and enjoy our stogies like we always do.