Wednesday, November 26, 2014


For local police driving tanks,
We give thanks.
For partisanship that’s hateful,
We are grateful.
For states solid red and blue,
Merci beaucoup.
For every ringing mobile phön,
Danke schön.
For greenhouse gases,
For all the tweets we follow,
For all the crap on the Internet,
We’re in debt.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Time Bums #40

“So why would Nostradamus be so interested in where humankind started,” Jackie wondered.

“Scientific curiosity?” Steve suggested.

One of the Lumbras spoke. “No, he wishes to prevent humankind from populating the planet. I believe he intends to kill the earliest humans.”

“Oh, my god!” cried Jackie. “Didn’t you try to stop him? Can he do that?”

Another Lumbra joined. “It might be possible, but obviously he did not succeed.”

“Not in this universe,” added a third.

“This universe … ?” Jackie was bewildered.

“I’ll explain it later,” said Steve. “Maybe we have to go stop him. Maybe that’s why he will not have succeeded.”

“Yes,” Jackie agreed. “We must definitely stop him from killing the first humans.”

“AMNOZ, are you ready? Can we load those coordinates?”

“I will set your coordinates.” AMNOZ spoke matter-of-factly. “But I will remain here. I have little to contribute to your encounter with Nostradamus, and there’s so much to learn here.”

“Really?” Jackie said. “We’ll miss you!”

Another Lumbra filled in. “You can return one yoctosecond from now.”

“That’s true!” Steve realized. “In fact, we can leave tomorrow. Or next week. Or in 10 years.”

Jackie was impatient. “Let’s get this over with.”

But Steve’s finger was already on the button. The next moment was two million years earlier.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The All-Weather Trike

After rhapsodizing about the joys of the recumbent trike last week, I thought I should at least show you the vehicle in question. Above is my current year-round commuter, complete with retractable fabric top (Veltop) and windshield for all-weather use. It may look hokey, but it does actually keep me dry. It's like driving a big umbrella around.

Beneath that top is a 2013 Catrike Villager with the 26" rear wheel upgrade from Utah Trikes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Top Ten Rationalizations for Copyright Infringement

10. Artists/creators are being ripped off by the middlemen (record companies, publishers) anyway.
So you’re Robin Hood, stealing from record companies and giving to …?
9. Downloading leads to purchasing. Studies show people who download a lot also buy a lot.
Hmm … maybe they just like having a lot of music?
8. Prices (for DVDs) are too high.
Seriously, how often are you going to watch the movie?
7. Copyrights and patents create artificial monopolies.
I have a monopoly on every object I own or make. Or is it just thinkers who have no value?
6. You can’t protect intellectual property in the digital age.
Well, not with people like you around, apparently.
5. The Millennium Copyright Act is overreaching (Disney is just trying to hold on to Mickey Mouse), so we’re justified in violating it.
Yeah, there’s no reason creators should have a say in how their work is used.
4. Information wants to be free.
The full quote, from Stewart Brand, also says “… information wants to be expensive,” not that information actually wants anything.
3. It’s just for personal use. I’m not going to make money on it.
Oh, then it’s ok. Why not help yourself to that Mercedes too … for personal use?
2. This will promote your business by giving you free exposure
and worth every penny!
1. Everyone does it.
Yeah, I’m not even going to bother with this one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

Time Bums #39

Jackie started. “So what makes this particular site interesting?”

The second Lumbra from the left was quick to respond. “As we explained to Nostradamus, this is the first place where cave painting and certain other evidence has been found. It’s roughly a million and a half years before anything remotely like it.”

“What other evidence?”

“Footwear.” This time it was another Lumbra, who had not previously spoken.

This got Steve’s attention. “Huh?”

“There are the usual indications of foot shuffling and movement at this site, but no sign of toes. It’s as if these … I think we must call them people … these people had fashioned some kind of footwear. Sandals, perhaps.”

“I like them already,” Jackie said.

“So what does this mean?” Steve was either asking about the site or the cave painting.

“This site has the oldest signs of what could unmistakably be called human. This is where it started.”

Friday, November 14, 2014

Limerick of the Day #128

With the CU decision they wrote
SCotUS unleashed campaign finance bloat.
All the influence peddling
And big money meddling
Nearly tempted us to go and vote!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Three Wheels Are Better Than Two

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a committed cyclist. It’s just that now, the cycle is as likely to be a trike as a bike. Trikes, the 3-wheeled human powered cycles, are an exciting alternative to bikes for a variety of reasons. Note that trikes come in two main varieties: tadpole (one drive wheel in back, two steerable wheels in front) and delta (two wheels in back, one or both of which may be drive wheels, and one steerable wheel in the front.) There may be variations on these, because let’s face it, cyclists tend to be crazy hackers, but most trikes fall into one or the other of these categories.

Regardless, there are a number of distinct advantages that trikes have over bikes. For example,

1. They can’t tip over. (Well, if you’re cornering at high speed, you might be able to, but it’s pretty easy to avoid.)
2. They’re amazingly comfortable, especially on long trips. Imagine sitting on a lawn chair, but being able to zoom around.
3. They’re great for winter. (Did I mention they can’t tip over?) It’s also easier to manage a trike while wearing multiple layers of down, Thinsulate, Merino wool, etc.
4. There’s no weight on your arms, so your wrists and hands don’t get cramps on long trips.
5. Your eyes are at jogger butt level. (Ok, that may or may not be an advantage.)
6. You get to attach cool flags to your vehicle so you can be seen by drivers. (Trikes are typically closer to the ground than bikes.)
7. Climbing hills is easy (though not fast) if you just drop down to a low gear and crawl your way up.
8. You can go without a helmet, especially if you’re away from traffic. (Did I mention they can’t tip over?)
9. You won’t look like a complete idiot. (Well, you can, but it’s not required.)
10. You can stop anywhere, and just sit and rest. You don’t even have to take your feet off the pedals.

I should also mention that, because of the seating angle, you’re looking up at the scenery instead of down at the road.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WTF: Do cats communicate with each other?

This week’s question comes from Donna C. of Massachusetts. Donna asks …

Question: Do cats communicate with each other?

Answer: There is some evidence that cats communicate based on the fact that they conspire together. Typically one cat creates a diversion by knocking something over, eating something inappropriate, being excessively cute or, when all else fails, vomiting. While the owners are distracted, another cat can get away with knocking something over, eating something inappropriate, being excessively cute or vomiting.

Beyond this, however, cats have been observed interacting with each other in various ways. The most common forms of intra-species communication are staring, hissing, playful wrestling and sniffing each other’s butts. The staring, hissing and wrestling behaviors are believed to be a kind of mock aggression as a rehearsal for actual combat. The butt sniffing is anyone’s guess.

Note that while cats exhibit a variety of behaviors for expressing themselves to humans and to each other, there is no evidence whatsoever that they understand any of the responses.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Time Bums #38

“So, this Frenchman …” Steve began.

“Nostradamus?” replied the nearest Lumbra.

“Yes, Nostradamus. Did he say where or when he was going next?”

“Not explicitly, but we inferred it from his great interest in the archaeological finds at Kenya and Tanzania.”

Another Lumbra spoke. “He did say he was coming from a big house where he landed on some furniture, fell over, and woke a man, who then died of fright on seeing him. He was pretty vague about the whole thing.”

“And you think he was going where?”

“Here,” replied the first Lumbra. “The site of the first humanoids … a woman and an overweight man. Look at the holoview. You can see the earliest cave painting.”

Steve gawked at the image. There, plainly on the wall, was simply a stack of horizontal lines, alternately long and short.

“The first abstract,” Jackie remarked.

“This reminds me of something,” muttered Steve.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Limerick of the Day #127

As the climate debacle just rages,
We’ll see more of diseases contagious.
While scarce food and water
Lead to rampant slaughter.
Welcome to the new global dark ages.

Post-Pre-Post Election Wrap-up 2014

It would be hard to retain my blogging license if I didn’t weigh in on the recent election in some fashion. But first, I’m going to ask you to cast your thoughts back … way back … to 2012. After Obama’s re-election, all the usual pundits took to the air waves (and Internet waves) to pass judgment on the defeated Republican party. The party was in shambles, they said, and was doomed to wander the desert for generations, since they clearly failed to embrace the new national demographics.

This week, the pundit-sphere is again hearkening to the sound of defeat, and near-permanent exile from political control. Only this time, it’s the Democrats who are condemned to wander in the wilderness.

The point is, neither party, and no 3rd party, is ever going to have a lock on power. Because really, there’s only ever one single question on the ballot: Am I satisfied?

That’s right. The only thing going through the mind of John Q. Voter or Jane Q. Voter when he or she enters that voting booth is “Can things be better?” It’s a simple yes-or-no question. There’s no nuance. No issues. No policies or ideologies.

All that comes during the campaign … the issues and policies and promises. And they’re really only intended to serve one purpose … to make you, the voter, feel happy or unhappy. Campaigns are built entirely on two kinds of messages (the insider term for commercials interrupting your favorite shows.) Message 1 is “So-and-so sucks! Just look at all the terrible things he/she/it has done!”

Message 2 is “So-and-so will bring you happiness!”

And they just keep bombarding you with these messages, relentlessly, until by election day, when John or Jane Q. walks into that booth, the only thoughts they’re capable of are “Things are bad. We need change,” or “Things are good. Let’s keep going.”

That said, I’ll be happy to accept huge consulting fees for campaign advice and guidance.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pre-Post-Election Wrap-Up 2014

Some of you may remember the 2014 mid-term elections. We planned to use this space to report and comment on the results, but frankly, we’re too sleepy to wait even for the West coast polls to close, let alone for all the recounts and challenges.

So let’s look at what we know already. Congress, which has accomplished next to nothing for the last several years, will uphold that proud tradition, regardless of which party controls the Senate. Democrats, who have bemoaned the stifling power of the filibuster, may discover a new love for that tactic. Or not.

Scott Brown, the only person to lose Senate races to two different women, Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), will find a new state to be from.

Venerable talking heads will be dusted off and put in front of cameras, to pontificate about the results in terms that can be redefined in the event that outcomes reverse themselves.

The biggest surprise is that, unlike a typical mid-term election in which half the voters are pissed off at the outcome, we predict that 100% [+/- 50%] of voters will be pissed off about at least some of the outcomes this year.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


This week’s WTF question was submitted by alert reader Ruth B. of Michigan. Ruth asks:

Question: Why does evil exist?

This was later refined to:

Question: Why do I like stripes?

Answer: Stripes and other cyclic patterns are a sort of graphic equivalent of rhythm. They reassure us by repeating the same sequence over and over again. Predictability gives us a sense of stability and safety. Interestingly, that also relates to evil, which is typically some completely shocking and disorienting behavior.

Or, maybe the stripes remind us of what the U.S. flag traditionally stood for … freedom from fear, freedom from want and all that Norman Rockwell stuff.

Or maybe the stripes suggest prison outfits … or bars … the desired comeuppance for evil-doers. (Actually, I think the experts in criminal justice fashion have settled on perp walk orange as the preferred look for convicts.)

Or … I don’t know. Sometimes a stripe is just a stripe. Geez, Ruth, couldn’t you have asked me something simple, like “How can we overcome political partisanship?” (To be answered in a future WTF post.)

Remember to submit questions to