Strange Brouhaha

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Props (sort of) to homies, part two

Mrs. D. McP. sent along this questionnaire, some sort of Internet chain letter kind of thing. After thinking about it, I'm not really inclined to actually email it--but I am inclined to share my answers. (I've removed some of the questions.) If you feel like adding a response, leave a comment or send me email at strange dot brouhaha at gmail dot com, or whatever other email address I have that you know.

  1. WHAT TIME DID YOU GET UP THIS MORNING? Hmm...I woke up at 7:00 but I didn't get out of bed until 8:00.

  2. DIAMONDS OR PEARLS? I'd rather have the cash, but if I *had* to choose one of those two, I'd take diamonds.

  3. WHAT WAS THE LAST FILM YOU SAW AT THE CINEMA? "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"

  4. FAVORITE TV SHOW? Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Project Runway 2



  7. WHAT FOODS DO YOU DISLIKE? food from a can or a box

  8. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CHIP FLAVOR? Absolute favorite is Pringles Cheez-ums, but in general I like a good Sour Cream & Onion

  9. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CD AT THE MOMENT? Rob B and Thumper: Assorted Singles, John Coltrane Live at Birdland


  11. FAVORITE SANDWICH? My absolute specific favorite is a chicken salad on Honey Wheat with cheddar cheese and tomatoes from the late Urban Market here in Madison, my general favorite sandwich is a roast beef sub with tomatoes, mayo, swiss cheese and jalapenos.

  12. WHAT CHARACTERISTIC DO YOU DESPISE? stupidity and dishonesty

  13. WHAT CHARACTERISTIC DO YOU LOVE MOST? intelligence and kindness

  14. FAVORITE ITEM OF CLOTHING? The extremely comfortable zip-out liner-that-doubles-as-a-sweater from my winter coat.

  15. IF YOU COULD GO ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD ON VACATION, WHERE WOULD YOU GO? This is a really good question; it all depends on who's paying for it! If I'm paying for it, I'd say South Dakota (we went there on our honeymoon and it's unaccountably fascinating). If someone else is paying for it, I'd want to spend a six-month vacation in as remote a place in Ireland as it's possible to get, with a really good guitar, studying music. With no computer.

  16. WHAT COLOR IS YOUR BATHROOM? The upstairs one is predominantly cream with red and blue details, the downstairs one is dark blue and white.

  17. FAVORITE BRAND OF CLOTHING? Whatever fits.

  18. TO WHERE WOULD YOU RETIRE? This is another one that depends on various factors. Madison is nice. Hawaii. England.

  19. WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BIRTHDAY? I don't do birthdays.


  21. ARE YOU A MORNING PERSON OR A NIGHT PERSON? Both, laying in bed for an hour this morning notwithstanding.


  23. PETS: the late, mostly unlamented Dennis, a red betta.

  24. ANY NEW AND EXCITING NEWS YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH US? We're going to Chicago at the end of March to see the American Ballet Theater.

  25. WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE LITTLE? An astronaut or a secret agent like James Bond

  26. HOW ARE YOU TODAY? Pretty well. It's evening now, and I always perk up around this time. We just shipped our latest product at work, so it was a light day today anyway.


  28. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FLOWER? Hibiscus, I guess

  29. WHAT DATE ON THE CALENDAR YOU ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO? Sadly enough, I really don't have anything to look forward to. The ballet is more exciting for Savannah and Kulani than it is for me. This Friday is Lani's school music program, so I'll say that.

  30. 35. WHERE IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE EVER BEEN FROM HOME? Depends on the home, but probably New York City.

  31. A SMALL THING YOU REALLY ENJOY? Rewiring my home A/V setup (seriously). Rewiring my office A/V setup (seriously). Looking up at the sky and recognizing constellations. Looking at pictures from Spirit and Opportunity. Fresh mozzarella from the specialty foods store down the block (the owner makes it himself and it's excellent). Sitting in my easy chair and reading in absolute silence.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Props to homies, part one

Props to my homie (homette?) from way, way back in the day. Michelle had an opinion piece published in this weekend's Honolulu Advertiser, on the problems facing the middle class in Hawaii and across the nation. Way to kick ass and take names!

Wisconsin==stupid. Ohio==stupid.

Wisconsin's State Assembly votes on the 28th about a ridiculous gay marriage ban. (They're not actually voting on a ban--they're voting on whether it becomes a ballot issue in November; let's hope that smartitude prevails and they'll just tell lunatics to shut the fuck up.) One of the organizations involved in backing a ban is called "The Family Research Institute of Wisconsin," whose leader is quoted as saying "I think we've been extremely tolerant in allowing them to live wherever they choose."

Holy. Shit. Can we make these people read a history book? (I know, I know, Jonathan Swift via Mr. F. Crisp: "You can't reason a man out of a position he didn't reason his way into in the first place.") These lunatics want to turn us into Soviet frickin' Russia, and we're halfway there already. In a way, it's almost more sinister than lunatics like Phelps and Ovadal who "just" want homosexuals to get AIDS and die. Julaine Appling and her gang of lunatics want to ghettoize them (presumably with miscegenators, Catholics, Freemasons and Jews) and take away their rights before killing them. It's all in how you boil the frog.

I offer the groups fighting against Ovadal and Appling my free debate tool for taking on religion with religion, again always keeping that Swift quote in mind.

On a somewhat lighter note, here is The Nation's John Nichols on an Ohio legislator's proposal to ban Republicans from adopting. His tongue-in-cheek legislation offers exactly the same kind of scientific evidence against Republican adoption that the sadly-real Ohio legislation against gay adoption has--i.e. none, just a pile of gratuitous assertions (which may be equally as gratuitously denied). The most egregious part of the real legislation, not that it isn't ALL egregious, is that they'd like to prevent adoption by people who LIVE IN THE SAME HOUSE as an LGB and/or T. I mean, what the fuck? Just looking at homosexuals is bad now? What planet are these people from? And can we start a collection to send them back?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Breaking News Update: UT CBW stockpile same size as Iraq's

That is to say, nonexistent. Quick, your Lordship, call off the invasion of Te...wait, we can use the oil, invade anyway!

Help Win The War! Loose Lips Sink Ships!

There's a neat distributed computing effort underway to crack the last remaining Enigma ciphers from WWII. If you've got a few spare cycles on your computer, maybe you can help smash the Nazis once and for all. Very cool project.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Breaking news: Saddam's WMDs discovered!

Apparently the (surprise!) University of Texas has a bigger stockpile than Iraq did. Maybe Rumsfeld brought it back with him in 1983 and dropped it off at UT. Maybe the Taliban left it when they visited Bush's friends at Unocal in the 90s.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Now who's the flip-flopper, pendejo?

"I will never turn over our national-security decisions to leaders of other countries." Bush has said it several times. For example, here's a White House press release.

Say, did you know that Dubai Ports World is an arm of the government of Dubai? "Never" is apparently not quite as long a time as a person would otherwise believe. (Yes, I quite deliberately linked to the conservative WorldNetDaily there. You'd think that Bush would get the message if even his most loyal sycophants pause in their adulation.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Holy. Crap.

Government surveillance cameras at private homes? "Sure!" says the Chief of Police in Houston (what a surprise...the heart of Bush country).

Note how the article sneaks in the word "reasonable," which is a direct stab at the Fourth Amendment.

Here's some reading from 1984:

The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely....

The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The unasked question

In this whole brouhaha (you should pardon the expression) over a company from the UAE owning U.S. ports, there's one important question that I believe has gone unanswered.

Cui bono?

More specifically, how does the sale of a British company to a firm from Abu Dhabi make Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and/or Halliburton richer? Once we know the answer to this question, we'll know why Republicans are playing the race card so hard in defending this sale.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

This is the best they could come up with?

I'm no historian, but doesn't it seem slightly ridiculous that the University of Lousiville's list of top 10 Presidential blunders includes Monica Lewinsky? They couldn't come up with anything better than that?

None of Bush's fuckups--a long, long list which includes deliberately lying the nation into a war effort that has cost hundreds of billions of dollars--are worse than adultery? (And just so we're clear, I'm not exactly impressed with Clinton's behavior, but there's no way it's "top-10 of all time" bad.) The series of bad economic decisions that led to the Great Depression weren't worse than bald-faced lying about a BJ? I'm sure many other things would present themselves if I didn't have to get up and go to work right now. Perhaps some of you can think of others.

I can't really argue with the rest of the list, although my impression of the Embargo Act is that it wasn't that bad either.

Friday, February 17, 2006

We need a new phrase

"Now I've seen everything" really doesn't work anymore. To be fair, it probably hasn't worked properly in a long time. Every time you think you've seen it all, something else comes along, and something else, and something else.

We're never going to run out of something else.

I should have taken the screenshot when I had the chance, because now that the headline's gone, I can't show it to you. Maybe I could Google it. I just don't have the heart. This headline was a summary of everything that's wrong with the world: "Cheney's victim apologizes."


The man Dick Cheney shot in the face last weekend is sorry for what Cheney and his family have gone through. Sure, sure, he's taking the high road and saying "accidents happen, Dick, it's okay you shot me in the face." be sorry?

Screw that. I hope Cheney has nightmares about shooting that guy in the face every night for the rest of a long and unnatural life. I hope they're so bad that he can't get more than an hour's sleep without waking up screaming. If he's not going to feel bad about raping the country (and several other countries, for that matter), maybe he'll have the decency to feel bad about shooting a 78-year-old man in the face.

That presupposes, of course, that Cheney has any decency at all. And that he's not going to sleep every night doped up on heart medicine and booze.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


I do not believe them when they say that assassin spiders pose no threat to humans. They can leave the new species in Madagascar where they found them.

I had thought it was gross when Terry sent around an article from a Tampa Bay TV station about a student science project that showed that fast-food restaurant toilets are cleaner than the ice the restaurants serve, but then Terry pointed out that the toilets get cleaned, and the ice machines never do. They should pump water from the toilets into the ice machines, that'll take care of the problem.

Finally, an article from The Nation by John Nichols on Dick Cheney shooting that guy in the face while illegally hunting on a game ranch. Mr. Cheney, orange means DON'T shoot. Also, a brief summation of the rules of gun safety is as follows: 1) treat every gun as though it is loaded until you have verified that it is not; 2) never point a gun (loaded or not) at something you do not intend to destroy; 3) always be sure of what is beyond your target. (Oh, and DUH, the reason they covered up the shooting for the whole weekend was so that nobody would be talking about it on the Sunday shows.)

Deputy Ferrigno sworn in

In case you missed it, Lou Ferrigno was sworn in as an L.A. County Sheriff's deputy. Pretty neat.

Whenever I hear about Lou Ferrigno, I think of the scene in "Pumping Iron" where Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to psyche him out. Schwarzenegger keeps asking Ferrigno if he's feeling alright. I can't remember if it's before or after Schwarzenegger lights up that huge joint.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


I have invented a game. It's called "Couchball." It is well-suited to those times when your child wants to play but you're not feeling particularly energetic.

As a bonus, it also teaches counting skills, hand-eye coordination and adherence to rules.

Equipment needed to play the game: 1 couch, 1 soft baseball-sized ball.

Starting position: lie down on your couch, sort of halfway on your right side, with your right elbow resting comfortably on the couch. You need to be able to move your right forearm along its full range of motion. Your child can stand or sit any comfortable distance away from the couch.

Rules: Your child needs to throw the ball to you so that you can catch it without lifting your elbow from the couch. Final decision on whether you have lifted your arm rests with you. The child retrieves any drops or misthrows.

Scoring: If you catch the ball without lifting your elbow, your child gets a point. If you have to lift your elbow, you get a point. If the catcher drops the ball, the thrower loses a point--the scoring rules assume that any failure to catch is the result of a bad throw. Scores cannot drop below zero. A game ends at 21 points, but the winner must win by at least two points.

Obviously, the scoring is heavily juiced towards the kid winning, but that's okay: it's fun.

The Only Winter Olympics News You'll Hear From Me

Michelle Kwan has dropped out of the Olympics after another injury. Although I wasn't impressed that she got a medical exemption to attend without having to compete for a spot, I was hoping that this would be her year. (Intellectually, I knew it wouldn't be, just because of the injuries she already had, but still.)

Other than that, I find the Winter Olympics to be a total nonstarter. They're preempting SNL and Law & Order to bring...what, exactly? Frozen waterslides? Skiing? Yawn. (The Summer Games are not that much better; volleyball is good, obviously, but otherwise, meh.)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Yes: good reality TV

I love Project Runway. Somebody somewhere said that it's amazing what a bunch of people with actual brains will do for the quality of a reality TV show, and it is SO true. The designers on "Runway" are articulate, snappy, creative, *skilled*--I love to watch them cutting and pinning and sewing--and I personally think they stalk the runway WAY better than those awkward stick figures they use for models. (In the Nicky Hilton episode, the designers staged a "walk-off" among themselves that was the epitome of Attitude-with-a-capital-A.) Of course, most of the designers are dancing with anorexia themselves. The hollows in Daniel Vosovic's cheeks are big enough to house small animals.

I don't know where this show has been all my life. How did I live without it? The brilliant designers! The (IMHO) incredibly stupid and baffling judges! (I haven't agreed with them yet, except when Diane and Marla were out.) TIM GUNN!! ("Make it work. Carry on.") Santino *imitating* Tim Gunn!! ("'Make it work. Carry on.'") Tim Gunn busting Santino for imitating him!!! It does Not. Get. Better. Than this.

So, since Robert Parry has convincingly demonstrated that the United States has, in practice, become an autocracy (see #2 of the Maureen Farrell articles Rob linked to below, and click on the last of the links), and the battle is therefore lost, I say we should all relax and watch "Project Runway," secure in the knowledge that, though fascists come and go, fabulous and intelligent men have always been with us to make our lives beautiful. (Speaking of which, I've got a whole essay in my head about the largely unsung artistic partnerships between gay men and their women--Ashton and Fonteyn, Minnelli and Garland, etc--that have made such a mark on the 20th century.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Franklin was a genius, maybe he did it.

I really have nothing to add to Bob Cesca's mockery of Alberto "It's Not Torture Unless You Almost Die" Gonzales' claim that George Washington used electronic surveillance.

(On another subject entirely, read Part 1 and Part 2 of Maureen Farrell's utterly depressing look at George W. Bush conspiracy theories.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Prince on SNL

This is a song from Prince's upcoming album 3121. The video is a cap from his performance on Saturday Night Live. Great guitar work--the cap isn't that great, unfortunately, but I think it gets the message across.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Math Problem

Postulate a list of 50 million or so prime numbers--all of the prime numbers between 1 and 1000000000. (That's one billion.) This list, all 500+ MB of it, was generated by a program you believe to be accurate.

Postulate a second list of 50 million or so prime numbers, the same ones. This second list, all 500+ MB of it, was generated by a program that you wrote. Your code is not nearly as efficient, but it gets the job done, and a diff shows that your list matches the third-party program's list EXACTLY.

Imagine now that you are attempting to solve a problem that requires you to display a very large number of primes in a very short amount of time. Your code returns "Wrong Answer." How is this possible? I do not understand, and there is no feedback other than "This answer is wrong." It's not that the program took too's that it doesn't match the expected output.

I have no explanation. I suppose I just have to live with the knowledge that whatever mistake I made, someone a lot smarter than me made the same one.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Bitching About Stuff

I find it amazing and kind of sad that every single time we go to the boondoggle, I come out with something new to complain about. Granted, last time it was that I smelled like an onion, but it was still something. It probably says more about me than it does about the Overture Center itself.

One of the exhibits at the galleries was called "Miss Annie Mae's Hats," a fascinating exploration of the black church hat tradition. There are some really nice hats in this collection, all of them owned by one woman, who wore them to her church in Milwaukee over 70 years. It was really neat, and I don't even like hats. The exhibit is arranged in a big wave in the middle of the gallery, with each hat on its own roughly-human-high stand.

The thing that I want to complain about was the part of the exhibit created by a textile specialist at the University of Wisconsin. She selected eight of the hats to research and write about, and each of those hats was given a plaque on the wall, with a writeup and photograph. Now, I'm not smart about this kind of thing, but in each case, the photograph was basically not color-matched AT ALL to the actual hat. They were some of the worst photographs I've ever seen: I couldn't find the hats in the exhibit until Savannah pointed them out to me. I wish there were examples on the net somewhere, but there aren't. I offer two: one of the photos was of a dark brown and light tan appliqued felt hat...except the actual hat was black and khaki! The way the exhibit was arranged, I was able to get very, very close to the hat, and it was definitely black, not a dark brown. The other one I remember was a photo of a garishly ugly pink hat, and the original was a very nice muted burnt orange. Perhaps our more photographically-inclined friends can explain this--how does this happen? In the modern age of digital photography, isn't something like this pretty much deliberate? It was kind of shocking. If I was the milliner I'd be upset. Heck, I'm not the milliner and I'm upset.

The other complaint I have is about the show we saw. Actually, as I said to Savannah, it wasn't actually a show, it was a bunch of performances. This was a dance concert, and each piece was separated by dead time for costume changes--in one case, the costume change was longer than the piece itself! Can you imagine Shakespeare with three to five minutes separating each scene? Or a symphony with three to five minutes separating each movement? The company that we saw really needs to plan a coherent concert, not throw together a loose collection of performances.

Oh wait...there is one other thing. There were three performances at the boondoggle tonight, and each one of them had intermission AT THE SAME TIME. Who schedules this?