Delightfully Nerdy

SQL, 7.21.11

1

More of a true link drop today…

–It’s the case in any heathy democracy that a nation’s culture dictates social direction to its government–as the people change their priorities and worldview, government inevitably follows.

I say this because there are a rash of marijuana-related stories in the news lately.  Like, all over the place.

There’s this one on how marijuana supposedly helps with videogame performance.  There’s this one on a massive plantation found south of the border.  And this one, in which an ESPN football analyst makes a series of wildly illogical and mostly non-sensical arguments about the future of the Steelers (while not directly referencing marijuana in the piece, I have to think Mr. Walker was high to file that mess).

A Denver newspaper has even hired a professional marijuana critic (video in link), as medicinal marijuana dispensaries have sprung up all over the place in that part of the country.

But none of those stories will have nearly the cultural (and, eventually, governmental) impact as this next one:  ‘Weed Wars’ is coming to The Discovery Channel.

So yeah.  Lots and lots of weed stories out there these days.  And as the U.S. inches toward outright de-criminalization (if not legalization) of the plant, there are going to be lots and lots more.

–It’s now time for a series of links that follow a theme of ‘Oh my Gawd, I would totally shit my pants’.  To wit:

—–’Great White Shark Jumps from Sea into Research Boat

Next thing I know I hear a splash, and see a white shark breach out of the water from [the] side of the boat hovering, literally, over the crew member who was chumming [throwing food bait] on the port side.

–A woman who almost definitely shit her pants.

—–’Leopard Killed After Mauling Six in India‘.

Check out picture two.  Gallons upon gallon of feces would be evacuated from my insides with unnatural speed.  The villagers would be deeply affected by the rate at which my bowels emptied…much more so than by the leopard.

—–’Hikers Presumed Dead After Falling Over Yosemite Waterfall‘.

A 300+ foot drop to their death.

It’d be an interesting experiment to see if, falling headfirst, the shit coming from my pants would fall at the same rate as my body or, if by virtue of the sheer force of the bowel movement, it would fall more slowly.

SQL, 7.19.11

3

For a while there I’d been in a nice routine, posting SQL’s on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  But that all got blown to hell last week, as travel and the accompanying catching up around the homestead interrupted my routine.

I return to you today still lacking a ton of Quality Links, but armed with a few that I’ll scatter in and amongst some Pirates stuff and some videogame stuff.  Starting with the gaming…

–Given my current Life of Leisure, I’ve been forced to cut down on big-budget, full-priced videogames.  They’re usually about $60 before tax and that’s just a bridge too far when trying to make ends meet without a steady income.

I’ve actually talked about this on the Life of Leisure podcast, a show I hope you’ll check out if you’ve not yet done so.

On the show, I reviewed ‘Deathspank’, a pared down action RPG and ‘Defense Grid’, a true-to-form entry in the tower defense genre.  Each cost me less than $10 and were good performers in ‘Fun : Cost’, a key metric for anyone living a Life of Leisure.

In the weeks since the most recent RDsLol, I’ve made a few other buys on the cheap:  ’Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes‘ and ‘Radiant Historia‘.

Might & Magic is a downloadable available for X360 and PS3.  It’s a neat little genre-bender that combines ‘Puzzle Quest‘-esque puzzle matching gameplay with a passable story and some RPG elements.  It’s a little shallow and the story is an afterthought, but the gameplay is on-point.

Milady and I enjoyed it throughly and I recommend it, especially given the sub-$20 price point.

Historia is a bit of a different animal.

It’s a Nintendo DS game from Atlus that feels like a old-school RPG, but with more contemporary tweaks.  Expect a quality story, fun and engaging turn-based combat and an evolved RPG framework.

It’s an impressive, polished little game that I bought new for $30.  If you’re an RPG fan and you can tolerate the DS platform, ‘Historia’ is an excellent option.

(Here’s a link to a military laser the U.S. is working on).

–Through 95 games, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the story of the 2011 Major League Baseball season.

The Bucs find themselves in 1st place in a tight NL Central, at 50-44.  This is highly notable, of course, as the Pirates haven’t posted so much as a winning season since 1992, let alone a division title.

But the Battlin’ Bucs keep on winning.  They’re doing it with good pitching, good defense and good fortune.  And as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline approaches, they find themselves in the unfamiliar position of, potentially, being buyers instead of sellers in the league’s annual summer swap meet.

This is all very dangerous.

Given the relative weakness of the division, the resurgent popularity of the club (#buccofever) and the wins the club has already pocketed, the temptation for General Manager Neal Huntington will be to add a piece or two to the offense and/or bolster the pitching staff.  But I remain unconvinced the Pirates should be aggressive buyers in this market.

–The Pirates system is far from stacked…so parting with the few good-to-elite prospects they own hurts the team’s mid-long term prognosis, and literally, runs counter to the blueprint similar teams have followed to sustained success.

–The lack of strikeouts in the starting staff coupled with the lack of power from the offense means that truly ‘fixing’ what ails these 2011 Pirates would require a fairly large expenditure, as strikeout-heavy starters and power bats typically cost the most in the marketplace.

–The market isn’t playing along.

As things stand on 7.19.11, exactly half of MLB is in a position to be a buyer–eight of the 16 NL teams and seven of the 14 AL teams are within striking distance of the post-season.  This doesn’t make for a healthy buyers market and if the Pirates are even toying with the idea of sacrificing some future for the now, the environment in which to do so wouldn’t seem to be favorable.

It’s true that flags fly forever.  And no human on Planet Earth wants the Pirates to make a post-season run more than I do.  But if the cost of doing so means setting the club’s timetable back and damaging the chances for long-term, sustained success…it’s the wrong thing to do.

(Wanna be in the new Batman movie?  Bang it here.)

p.s.  A caveat:  As with any transaction. cost is everything.  If the Pirates find a true bargain, they should attack it.

But a bargain, in my mind, would equate to bringing in a power bat / arm and somehow parting with a B-level prospect or a pair of C-level guys and assuming lots of dollars.

The odds of that specific opportunity presenting itself between now and the 31st aren’t great.  But if the Bucs can add without mortgaging the future, it would represent the best of both worlds.

SQL, 7.9.11

0

–Why not start today’s SQL off with a bang?

The following is a fairly brilliant stop-motion video from Mr. John Huang.  And though I’ll admit to being a Final Fantasy X partisan, this work on the legendary FF VII is just about the most impressive thing I watched all week (save for the Pittsburgh Pirates continued resurgence).

Have at it:

 

–Another quality video bats second in today’s lineup, and for what it lacks in geek chic it’s makes up in societal relevance.  This is a very solid piece from CNN, explaining the life of the space shuttle and where NASA goes from here.

 

–There’s a new movie making waves in the arena of religion and critical thinking.  It’s called ‘The Ledge’ and it was nominated for Best Drama at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

“This suspicion about people whose only crime is not believing in things until they’re proven seems weird,” Chapman said. “To me, there is something much more terrifying about voting for someone who accepts things on faith without any evidence whatsoever.”

–Atheist, Writer / Director of ‘The Ledge’, Matthew Chapman

Religion is a funny thing.

As illogical as it can seem to any modern human curious enough to think the issue through, belief in some kind of Deity serves a vital purpose early in a culture’s evolutionary process.

Religion in nascent societies serves as a foundation for rules, order, morality…and ultimately as an incubator of sorts for entire civilizations.

And the funny thing seems to be that, regardless of the specific narrative that’s created, and regardless of the logical fallacies inherent to these very constructions, Religion seems to do it’s job of keeping people in line and reproducing quite well–as it turns out, a fear of something is preferable to a fear of nothing in an early world devoid of science.

So while I, myself, have a hard time coming to terms with pretty much anything that can’t be proven, I do have a profound respect for the power of Religion–it’s a crucial tool for societies in early, volatile times enabling them to eventually advance beyond it.

–Speaking of mothers rising from the dead

–Wrapping up today’s relatively light load of links:  a swift kick in the pants.

 

 

SQL, 7.7.11

2

–I’d like to start today’s post with a pair of links working in conjunction (note:  speakers on).

So here’s the deal:  Click here and wait 10 seconds, leaving the tab open…then click here.

Hopefully the setup had the desired effect.  As a bonus, that tune is pretty great on it’s own.

–In terms of generating raw happiness, though, this link wins the day.

I think I went to high school with this guy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–Unfortunately not all animals are as fun-loving or, perhaps, as forgiving as our friend the crested black macaque.  Specifically pigeons.  They remember and they (may) hold a grudge.

–Continuing with today’s theme of fun and frivolity, there’s a new game coming to Facebook.

If the port to the social networking site is half as good as the console and PC releases, expect productivity to slow to a crawl.

I’ve been a Civ player for over a decade now.  With each iteration, Sid Meier manages to refine the experience, jacking up the addiction-quotient.  With ‘Civilization Revolution’ he crafted, for my money, his best entry of the series and a game I’ve spent over 100 hours with since it dropped in 2008.

Personally, I’ve avoided gaming on Facebook for a variety of reasons, and despite Zynga’s success.  But Civ going social could bring an abrupt end to that policy.

–Has ‘The Office’ casted their next anchor?

I enjoyed Spader’s cameo in the finale, for what it’s worth.  Still not sure that show has a long-term future sans Michael Scott, though.

–Ending this post on a note of interest–this piece on the last days of Hemingway is compelling and well-done.

SQL, 7.5.11

4

Hope y’all enjoyed the Independence Day festivities.

I celebrated by standing in the rain and listening to fireworks, as nothing was visible through the miasma that descended upon Southwestern PA last night.

Miasma.

I’ve prepared a bit of a rapid-fire post for today, as the long weekend has produced lots of Quality Links.

–We’ll start with a rare callback from a previous edition.

Remember the 6’8″ perv who curled up inside porta-potties to spy on women?  Well he’s back in the news, ostensibly, as an excuse to run quotes like this:

“There’s bacteria in there, but to me it’s just normal … we all have bodily fluids.  I still would have done it even if it smelled a little weird, because where there is muck, there is gold.”

–The man himself

and this:

A security guard tried to stop the feces-covered man, but he got away.

–A delighted QMI Agency writer

He’s also claiming not to be a perv…an argument that loses some steam once you’ve contorted yourself in the tank of a porta-potty to watch women go to the bathroom.

–From a pervert, we’ll head on over to a story called ‘Perverse Incentives‘–a story at The Atlantic about the growing field of Aesthetic Vaginal Surgery.

–While we’re on the subject of human genitals, here we have a story that has me wondering how and why Natural Selection has abandoned us.

The clerk said she saw the man exit the store’s office about 15 minutes later with his pants on the floor and his penis inside a plastic money deposit bag. She said the man left after an argument and handed the bag to another clerk on his way out.

–I’m sure that was one hell of an argument.

–There’s this guy, who to his credit did NOT stick his penis in a gas tank, but

–I enjoyed this link, as it both science-y and beer-y.  Long story short–if you want some free alcohol, there’s plenty out there.  Bit of a road trip required, though.

Millar and his compatriots have estimated the size of this gas cloud at approximately 1,000 times the diameter of our own solar system; there’s enough alcohol out there, they say, to make 400 trillion trillion pints of beer.

–That’s a lot of pints. Written out, a trillion, trillion looks like this (I think): 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (48 zeros)

–That was an absurd number.  How about an absurd fad: Planking.

–A couple of health-related stories now…  Firstly, I very much enjoyed this story on doctors paying up for wasting their patient’s time.

Time is the most valuable commodity any of us will ever possess.  And wasting it sitting in an exam room or a waiting room after arriving on-time and with a scheduled appointment is, for me, torture.

IF I MAKE A 2:00 APPOINTMENT I EXPECT TO BE SEEN AT 2:00!  IT’S WHY WE AGREED ON A TIME!

Nice to see some smart docs paying up for their own lack of efficiency.

As for the second health-related story…  This may seem a little harsh, but I found this story to be deliciously ironic.  The headline: ‘Bareheaded Motorcyclist Dies in Helmet Protest’.

Contos hit his brakes, began fishtailing and lost control of his 1983 Harley Davidson. He shot over the handlebars, hit his head on the pavement and was taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, New York, where he was pronounced dead.

State police say evidence at the scene plus information from the attending medical expert indicated Contos would have survived had he been wearing a helmet as required by state law.

–There’s the Natural Selection I’ve come to know and love.  Missed you, buddy.

This whole issue  of ‘wearing a helmet is a matter of choice’ is a red herring.  It’s not a matter of choice when myriad motorcycle head injuries lead to higher health care and insurance costs for the rest of us.

–Finally, a brief story about July 5, 1943–the day of the largest Tank battle in human history.

The Jerry’s were coming off a crushing defeat at Stalingrad, but sought to stem the tide of Russian momentum by taking Kursk.

I’ll leave the rest to the story, but for a much more comprehensive look at this pivotal battle on Hitler’s eastern front, check out the Military Channel’s ‘Commanders At War’ series.  There’s are entire episodes on both Stalingrad and Kursk, each excellent.

p.s.  Thankfully  Hitler was an inflexible strategist.  I’m not sure he could’ve ever taken the Allies once the Americans got involved, but his blunders in Stalingrad and Kursk did much to torpedo any chance he had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SQL, 6.30.11

0

 

–I’d like to start today’s Post of Pairs with a brief examination of truly clever headlines vs. cheesy headlines.

A truly clever headline makes a metaphorical play on words that loosely alludes to a similar, if unconnected, meme.  Like this one.  That’s clever.  And great.

A cheesy headline, on the other hand, tries to do the same but ends up beating us over the head with the obviousness of the allusion. Take this one, for example.

Cheesy (ahem) and awful.

–Continuing the theme of diametric opposition…here we have cool science

My God...it's full of stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and terrible science.

Third, the women themselves, rather than an independent party, judged their own tubercle characteristics based on eyeballing their own lips.

–Oh, ok. We wouldn’t want independent, reliable data anyway. Just go ahead and publish.

–Now for a pair of drug-relates stories:

Firstly–did The Bard partake?

A South African anthropologist has asked permission to open the graves of William Shakespeare and his family to determine, among other things, what killed the Bard and whether his poems and plays may have been composed under the influence of marijuana.

–Cry Havoc  !  And let slip the dogs of…of…something.

Secondly–yet another reason not to do cocaine.

According to an April 2011 report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, 82 percent of street cocaine is laced with the veterinary drug levamisole, which is used to deworm cattle, pigs and sheep.

Levamisole can also rot the skin off noses, ears and cheeks, doctors says. Multiple cases of rotted flesh have already been reported.

–And a final pair for today, a duo of links on pro football performance analysis:

There’s this one, which I don’t fully understand nor endorse just yet, but seems pretty reliable…

Passer Rating Differential is the most important stat in football. It’s the one indicator virtually guaranteed to separate winners from losers and champs from chumps.

If your team dominates this indicator, it dominates on the field. If your team’s bad in this indicator, it’s bad on the field.

–Apparently the forward pass is pretty important.

And this one from Football Outsiders, which I understand and would endorse…if the piece were properly finished.  Still a solid effort, though.

There were 754 second-and-short plays that met our criteria last year. Of those plays, 501 were runs, not counting scrambles. That means teams ran 67 percent of the time, and that’s without factoring in the more conservative strategies you find in the red zone. Forget gambling — teams play it safer on second-and-short than they do in almost any other down-distance situation.

–Author Mike Tanier, who never explained the impact of being aggressive on 2nd & short in an otherwise solid piece.

 

SQL, 6.28.11

0

–We’ll start today’s SQL with a series of unfortunate events from this past weekend’s BET Awards.  Chris Brown, taking fashion cues from this man, won then lost then lost then won the Viewers Choice Award.

If that last sentence doesn’t make much sense to you, it’s because of two things–an intentional lack of punctuation for comedic effect and an complete lack of preparedness from the people at the BET Awards.  Here’s some proof on the latter:

 

–From one snafu to another, things in Greece are getting out of hand.

Help me out here, because I’m not sure I have this story right:

—–About 60% of Greeks didn’t pay their taxes for quite a while there, crippling their economy…which is problematic because…

—–Greece’s economy is tied into the European Union which, if not fixed, could potentially wreck the Euro…which is even more problematic because…

—–Significant damage to the The Euro would do significant damage to the global economy, which is still reeling from the Great Recession.

So, basically, Greece screwed up, didn’t have their s**t together, and they don’t want to deal with the fallout…even if it’s to the detriment of the global economy.

Is that the gist of it?

–Because humans like things in threes:  another trainwreck for your reading pleasure, completing the trio.

That the inane memoir of an imbecile’s 20-year-old daughter is deemed fit to publish to society at large is a depressing enough idea. That people will actually pay to read it is, somehow, more so.

–Slowly working from bad news to good, here’s a pair of valuable reads for those charged with the caretaking of small humans.

–Now onto some more lighthearted fare:  Watching this video of a sober Steve-O made me happy for some reason:

Good for him.  It’s the most cogent I’ve ever seen him.

–There are reports that Apple is preparing not one, but two iPhones for release this fall.

–Also of note in the realm of good tech news–the Supreme Court this week declared video games to be art, therefore granting the medium First Amendment protection.

That this issue was even in debate is kind of absurd to me, and it was reassuring to see the Court slam this decision home, 7-2.

My votes for most (and best) artistic games ever:  Ico/Shadow of the Colossus, Okami, The Zelda Franchise, Braid.

–And finally, an auspicious science story.  Unlimited energy?  Yes, please.

If it works, Science +100.

SQL, 6.25.11

0

–See, this ticks me off.

What’s particularly interesting about recent research is the revelation that sitting for extended periods of time does significant damage to human health that cannot be undone by exercising. Sitting for several hours each day is bad for you, like smoking is bad for you, regardless of whether you do healthful activities, too.

–Our cruel, cruel reality

How is anyone in my industry supposed to live a long and happy life when our practical means of earning an income dooms us?  It’s all very upsetting.

–Not THIS upsetting, mind you…

The Patch reports that on June 5 an employee at the Bed, Bath & Beyond in Radnor Township found a white trash bag containing an estimated 35 pounds of apparently human vomit near the store’s parking lot.

…but upsetting.

–I suppose a reasonable half-measure would be to start doing some down-time exercising…like yoga, perhaps.  Here’s a story about an extremely flexible man at a yoga festival who, in addition to his appreciation of yoga festivals, also has some other hobbies.

The suspect, who was not wearing a shirt or shoes when he came out of the toilet, was described as a white man in his 20s wearing gray sweatpants, around 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-8-inches tall with a skinny build and black hair.

Police are not sure how he was able to squeeze into the tank or what he was doing there.

Really?  The police aren’t sure?

I’m no detective, but it seems to me that the 6’8″ guy hiding in a porta-potty…at a yoga festival…might practice some yoga.  Just a hunch. (It turns out we have a follow up this gentleman, if you’re interested.  The phrase ‘New Age Porn’ is included in the story, which is always a plus.)

–So we’ve established that my industry will almost definitely shave years from my life and that yoga might be an option to help mitigate…so assuming the yoga works and I can make enough dough in the years I’ve got left, I’ve found another helpful timesaver for when I go abroad.

The aircraft, called ZEHST (Zero Emission High Supersonic Transport), would be targeted at long-haul routes – like Tokyo-Paris or Tokyo-Los Angeles where it could make the flight in less than 2 hrs 30 min, EADS said.

Sounds good to me.

p.s.  I still don’t quite understand how we, as a culture, abandoned the Concorde, which seemed to be a fairly large step forward in terms of time-efficiency.

–Anyway, assuming the tech for ZEHST can be upscaled eventually, I’ve found a pretty cool destination for the next vacation hotspot.  You think I’m joking, but I’m not.

Destination like that one may be out of our reach, but that’s just a function of time.  My guess is that in a few centuries jaunts to that place, and others like it, will be as unremarkable as a trip to the beach is for us today.

 

SQL, 6.23.11

0

I really hope this is a ‘real’ video:

 

–Sometime soon these rusty, dirty old ‘.com’s’ will go the way of VCR’s, dial-up and the RBI.

–Speaking of advances in tech, it seems the rumors of Apple getting into the display business are well-founded.  Potentially another game-changer for AAPL.

–I feel absolutely no sympathy for Ryan Dunn.  130+ mph and drunk.  What an ass.  That he only took one other person with him is a blessing.

–From high-speed insanity to low speed absurdity: An Amish dude got busted for sexting a 12-year-old girl.

In one text, Yoder told the girl that, “the proposed sex act would happen inside the buggy,” according to a Connersville Police Department report.

–A delighted Smoking Gun employee

What a text.  My man really spelled it out there, didn’t he?

As amusing as this whole thing is, The Amish need to get their M.O. straight–do they abhor electricity or not?!?!

I respected the Amish for their backward ways and rejection of our modern society.  On some impractical, emotional level it resonated. But now they’re using cell phones and texting and sexting?  It’s all very disappointing.

–So who would you cast as ‘Wonder Woman’?  Hollywood may have made its choice (a pick I highly endorse).

–A major Mexican cartel’s head honcho is caught.

Another excellent sentence in this story…

The message from the drug cartel was written on a piece of cardboard tossed onto the dance floor at a club in the city of Uruapan, along with five severed human heads.

–CNN’s Mariano Castillo

–In a battle between the three major fast-food players, which company do you think offers the “healthiest” fries?  Make your guess before checking out this chart I whipped up on a very handy website.

–PROGRAMING NOTE:  Season Two of the #RDsLoL podcast is being delayed as I finish up my latest round of job-searching.  If I should strike out, the podcast(s) will start rolling off the production line.

SQL, 6.21.11

1

We’ll start off today’s post with some science-y stuff I’ve been meaning to get to.

–First we have this, which describes, in detail, the latest research on the preponderance of black holes in our Universe and their impact on building the cosmos.  While this may not affect your day-to-day, I always enjoy learning about the reality of our situation and how we got here.

–Next, it’s some groundbreaking work on artificial memory…in mammals.

After reading stories that have us on a path to augmented hyper-humans, I can’t help but look forward to a time when a combination of genetic manipulation and hardware has humans as a similar but more efficient species.  We’re on a path that has us turbo-boosting Darwin, and I’m sure when (not if) that time comes, it’ll be a time filled with delicious controversy…be it moral, ethical, biological and even religious.

How exciting.

–As a kiddo, I despised bees.

They stung me often and I held a grudge.   I sought revenge by smushing as many as I could for a while there, and, for that, I’m pretty regretful these days.

Asshole +5.

As if their widespread struggles weren’t enough of a burden on my guilt-ridden psyche, now comes this (source: Current Biology).

Honeybees have become the first invertebrates to exhibit pessimism, a benchmark cognitive trait supposedly limited to “higher” animals.

If these honeybee blues are interpreted as they would be in dogs or horses or humans, then insects might have feelings.

–Brandon Keim, Wired.com

In the supremely underrated 1983 classic, ‘WarGames’ (it holds up phenomenally well), Dr. Falken guesses that, if humans were to go extinct, the bees would be the next species to rise to global dominance.

Here’s to hoping they survive the things we’re doing to them.

-A very cool, short video.  Thanks to Facebook friend Tim Coles for the link.

–Now a hit from friend of the podcast, Erik Malinowski of Wired.com.  ’Why You (probably) can’t Exercise Too Much‘.

–Season 1 of ‘Game of Thrones’ is in the books.  It’s a must-watch, as it contains the Holy Trinity:  Nudity, quality political intrigue and, now, Dragons:

An unfortunate cropping, but what can you do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–Ending on a disgusting note, the new warnings for cigarette packs are in.

I’m not typically one for government intrusion on matters of advertising, but this is a public health issue…the dollars cigs cost all of us in health care makes this a more-than-worthwhile act from the U.S. Government.

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