Archive for the ‘Finds’ Category

October 24, 2008
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Filed Under (Finds, Politics) by justin

“When someone tells you something defies description, you can be pretty sure he’s going to have a go at it anyway.” – Clyde Aster

I think of this every time someone says, “I don’t really know a lot about economics, but it seems to me….” You’ll notice I haven’t commented much on the economic downturn. Fortunately, some people who actually know what is happening have commented. And he has commented in a way that makes sense to all of us. Like Dr. Saxon explaining Platonic forms to Cowboy Dave, it’s beautiful and beneficial to all of us.



August 13, 2008
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Filed Under (Finds) by justin

I think I have a new hero.



July 04, 2008
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Filed Under (Experimental Writing, Finds) by justin

If I need a break from an desk-bound activity (say, grading exams), I sometimes hop on over to Youtube’s homepage just to see what they have featured. Within a minute or two I can usually find a video that is interesting enough to feel satisfied that I’ve relaxed and can go back to work. The feature tonight was Rube Goldberg machines:

Rube Goldberg was a genius, if only for the simple reason that he was clever enough to get his name attached to machines that would appear so clever as to forever link their designers with Rube Goldberg, in that the machine is genius enough to be associated with those genius machines Rube Goldberg created, or at least was clever enough to get his name forever attached to machines that would appear so clever as to forever… Feel free to repeat ad nauseam. Especially to friends who will think you clever for being able to rattle off such a gordian logic knot. Though I should warn you that if you try such a trick you very well might lose your friends unless a) your friends are actually amused, which would make them just the sort of person who would befriend a person who would read such a riddle and consider it something worth memorizing despite a rather snarky adjudication against the types of people who would memorize such a thing.

Of course, in that you ignore the warning, you exonerate its rather impolite perspective. A perspective which depends heavily on specification and generalization, to name a few, of the types of people who do certain things like read this blog. Or blogs in general, as a blog in specific is little more than a noted blog in general, as are its readers. Much like a reader of a book. An author, of course, certainly considers and crafts his creation to suit his audience, which is rather odd if you are writing a transformative self-help book. Forgive me—all books are intended to help selves, though which self is not necessarily publicly proclaimed and probably privately self referential and absurd. Which is a second reference in recent posts to such terminology (shameless self-promotion [pulled that out of the trite bloggy bag {like that? |yet another overused bloggerism—the direct appeal for comments ~though some of the blogging greats use such tactics ^shoutout!^~|}]). I think I just created a new emoticon.

…in a Rube Goldberg machine knockoff.



June 04, 2008
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Filed Under (Finds, Politics) by justin

One of my more recently-discovered daily joys is reading BBC’s Magazine Monitor. Basically, they read the news and then give you the non-newsy highlights. I like it for a few reasons, namely, 1) it’s really well done and 2) it’s the kind of thing I do when I read the news.

I’m going to try something similar. Don’t worry, I don’t want to make this a regular feature. Unless, of course, it’s demanded by thousands of fans threatening violence to kittens. So, enjoy this single instance of the day’s news in review.

Let’s start small. This story gets notice simply because it is quite possibly the most fascinating political event I’ve witnessed in my brief tread on the life wheel. The king got fired. So he’s leaving. End of story. Except that his mother doesn’t really want to move out of the royally-sponsored home she’s lived in for years. Oh, and that there are rumors that he destroyed important documents and pilfered royal assets, but he’s letting us know not to bother following up on those. And really, I believe him. What kind of important documents are accessible to a king who can get voted out of office?

I highly recommend reading the article for the opportunity to revel in the queerness of an expelled king:

  • “[T]he ex-king did express concern about his future security and where he would live.”
  • “I don’t see any complications in the former king’s departure from the palace.”
  • “But he said it was time to move on rather than regret what had happened – and that the authorities had promised to find jobs for everyone.”
  • “He said that Gyanendra did however ask the government for help in finding alternative accommodation for him and his mother. ‘Once the issue is resolved he will immediately move.’ “

In another power grab—but with some sort of struggle this time—Bolivia owns a new gas company. Because it wants it. It runs something like this: the Bolivian government decided it wants to control its own industries, so it started negotiating with the company that currently controls things. After Bolivia “waited patiently all month,” they realized the company wasn’t going to give them everything they wanted, so they just seized control. My favorite part is the justification: “They wanted to be bosses, and have us be the employees. We’re a small country – sometimes they call us underdeveloped – but we have lots of dignity.” Read: We’re big people. Stop treating us like children, or we’re taking our ball and going home. OK, so it’s actually your ball, but we want it, so we think it should be ours. Dignity.

I blamed them until I realized Bolivia was just following the leaders. With no reported misgivings, the UN has decided they’re going to allow member nations to attack pirates in Somali waters. Hey US, UK, France, China, Libya or basically anyone else, it’s OK to invade a sovereign nation’s territory with hostile intent—you said so. I think I just found a new meaning for self-referentially absurd. China, Vietnam and Libya were quick to point out they were cool with this resolution because it didn’t violate the sovereignty of any other countries. Except the one they decided to blatantly ignore.

And while we’re talking about ignoring, I was happily perusing this story about the latest space shuttle trip’s purpose when I stumbled across its placement of an astronaut in a six-month stint on the space station. He was mentioned in passing after the new laboratory and toilet parts threads had been developed nearly to their limits. Adding to the insult was the quick progress to the other astronaut aboard: Buzz Lightyear. Yes, the action figure garnered exactly one paragraph and eight words more attention than the human. I assume that was because Buzz was on an exciting “educational programme,” and the stupid human was just keeping the space station running for the next six months.

The last story is from space as well—both the inky expanse around us and that vast mental void we call scientific prediction. Scientists found a planet outside our solar system that is not vastly different in size from the earth. It could very well be habitable if not inhabited. OK, well, that’s a surmise, but it makes sense. Follow it: they discovered the planet’s existence and approximate size by noting a warp in light rays from a distant star. The light measurements aren’t solid enough to even know much about the star, but science doesn’t care so much about the star as about the vastly smaller planet that seems to be orbiting it. They like it so much they named it. MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb. I’m a little upset because they stole my (or Brian Regan’s) preferred name for my first child. Now if I use it, people will naturally assume my progeny was named after that planet that warped the light rays so they think it’s there and is probably the home to a human-like race of people smart enough to avoid building Chicago.

But I’m getting distracted from telling you why this has so excited them.

They took the the solid data from the mangled electromagnetic waves and plugged them into their vast knowledge (“best ideas”) of planet formation. Remember all those planets they built? And of course we’ve all watched countless planets’ genesis. From there, they speculate that this planet might have an atmosphere—a thick one even. Which is good, because the only data they can gather seems to indicate the surface temperature would naturally be lower than that of Pluto (an odd measuring stick since that thing got demoted from planethood). But since there might be an atmosphere, it’s possible that the surface temperature would be higher than colder than anything that has ever been measured or imagined before. And obviously, if the temperature is high enough, there might be liquid on the surface. And we could totally imagine that liquid being water. Which is what we think would make a nice surface of an inhabitable planet.

And that’s really not me making them sound ridiculous. My science disclaimer (recently and appropriately joined by the history/law/politics disclaimer) is further justified.

I dare you to pronounce my sardonicism unwarranted. Now if it could do something constructive. Or at least earn me money.



April 23, 2008
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Filed Under (Finds, Politics) by justin

If my day weren’t full enough after finding Colbert Report episodes to download, I stumbled across an article to provide the packing peanuts. Adding to the joy is the BBC’s characteristically British coverage. Read the short version to slam your funny bone against the story’s ludicrous details as frequently as possible. Read the full version to find out one of the men involved is named Barney Jones.

I’m tempted to think this article is actually a work of fiction, because it hits so many humor points. I don’t really care if it is. It wouldn’t be any less funny if I read it in the Onion.