Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dinosaurs had tiger stripes!

Recent analysis of the microstructure of dinosaur feathers reveals that some dinosaurs had orange and white stripes!

This is awesome. Not only do we have some fossilized dinosaur skin so we know what their texture was, we now have the technology to figure out what color they were. Go science!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Corporations aren't people

I'm depressed about the Supreme Court's ruling that corporations have free speech rights. It seems blindingly obvious to me that corporations have a disproportionate amount of power in this country, and that when they are allowed free reign in the political arena their voice drowns out reasonable, factual discourse. We've seen it in Oregon where there's no limits on campaign contributions, and tobacco companies and other interests win battles through lies. (The fact that you can't ban lying in political speech is another thing that frustrates me, but I can accept that.)

But the fact is that "one person, one vote" isn't the way things are. It's "one dollar, one vote". And huge multinational corporations have most of the dollars. It was unethical that rich people had more say than other people. It's a crime that their companies are being allowed to vote now.

I hope Congress can do something to fix this - some sort of law or even a constitutional amendment limiting the freedom of corporations. Because the free market does a crappy job of keeping poop out of our food, lead out of our toys, and lies out of our politics. We need some reasonable amount of regulation, and if the Supreme Court says the current Constitution doesn't allow that, then the Constitution needs to change.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Medical reform?

I think the house should pass the senate bill. Because it's the best option. I guess. If we can't get anything better out of the Senate. Which is a whole other complaint that I made yesterday.

But apparently that's not going to happen. Dammit.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Stupid Democrats

Another thing that pisses me off is that the Democrats are wusses. I'd been disappointed that a massive Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, plus the White House, wasn't resulting in as sweeping change as I might have wished. (To be fair, progress is being made in such areas as not torturing, keeping our food poop-free, and ending the Iraq war.) But Jon Stewart said something (7 minutes into the video below) that crystallized in my mind, and now I can't let it go.

The Democratic majority now is larger than Bush ever had. And he did whatever the hell he wanted.

Sure, the filibuster means you need 60 votes to pass stuff. But Bush didn't have 60 Republican seats in the Senate. Why weren't democrats filibustering his crap?!?

I still think that the filibuster should be reformed. Maybe lower the votes required to override to 55. Definitely require senators to ACTUALLY filibuster instead of just signing a piece of paper. Make filibusters visible, inconvenient protests instead of opaque, easy paperwork.

But most of all, LEAD already. LBJ and FDR were not nice men. And that's why they got stuff done.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Conan Doyle's descendants are bastards

I'm not saying that the great grandchildren of Arthur Conan Doyle's parents weren't married. What I am saying is that it's ridiculous that a character 123 years old is still copyrighted.

What the hell? If I can't legally make my own books, plays or TV shows featuring stories written over 120 years ago, the system is broken. I already thought it was broken, but it's totally screwed up.

Thanks, Disney (and the fat, lazy grandchildren of Edgar Rice Burroughs). Thanks for not creating anything new and making lots of money by turning the Founders' ideas of copyright inside out.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Good Design

I knew the iPhone had lots of good design in it so we could use it intuitively.

I didn't realize it was so intuitive that a baby could use it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gamer Cake

There's a post on Cake Wrecks featuring video game cakes. I think the cakes shown are awesome, especially the Mario Cake. (Although I wouldn't have wanted one at my wedding.)

And then I learned of the 100 Games Cupcake Game. There are some pretty amazing cupcake decorations. And board games as well as computer games. Wow. It's most of my favorite things: games and pastry.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yes on 66 and 67

I'm sure that both of you who read this are probably already voting for these measures (at least the one of you who's an Oregon voter - I don't want to encourage voter fraud,) but on the off chance that you're on the fence, please do vote for them.

Besides the fact that my employer would likely be royally screwed if they fail, it's really not much to ask. The Oregon corporate minimum tax right now is $10. It was created in 1931. $10 in 1931, adjusted for inflation, is about $140 now. The measure would raise it to $150. It's time to catch up. The revenue tax would be 0.1%. Small potatoes. I'm surprised how insanely negative the opponents are about this.

Rich people who make over $250,000 would also pay more. A little more. Which is ok: they can afford it. A flat tax on everyone would hurt people who can't afford it.

But most of all, I want these to pass because the counterarguments that are out there are lies. The business groups opposing these taxes say that state employees got raises last year. They did not. Last year state employees got furloughs. That means they got paid less. And their pay rates were frozen.
And complaints that state spending is up this year? Lies. State spending is down $200 million this budget from last budget, and state spending was down $700 million last budget from the budget before that. Government has "tightened its belt" and anyone who says otherwise is wearing pants of flame.
Oregon is writing more checks this year because the federal government gave Oregon stimulus money to distribute. But that money isn't in the budget. We didn't increase spending, we cut it. So to say we aren't cutting is bullshit.

And to complain about the loss of Oregon jobs in an ad shot in California is ridiculous bullshit.

Vote yes on 66 and 67. We aren't full of shit.

Friday, January 15, 2010

FDA finally looks into BPA

The FDA announced today that it's investigating possible medical effects from BPA, the plastic ingredient that made us all stop using Nalgene. They announced this on a Friday evening, the traditional time you announce stuff you don't want people to pay attention to.

Which is shocking, because it's about damn time. It's about time that the Food and Drug Administration made sure our food is safe to eat and doesn't have shit in it. And that our drugs are safe to take and do what they're supposed to do. We've had 8 years of cuts in government resulting in lead in our toys and poop in our peanut butter.

Shame on the American Chemical Council for opposing safety in household products. And shame on George W. Bush for deliberately making us less safe for 8 long years. If guys from Afghanistan want to kill us, that's unacceptable. But if guys from New Jersey want to kill us, that's not a problem. Up yours, capitalism!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Late Night battles

Why do I care more about late night TV show hosting choices than others? Is it because I'm a comedy aficionado? Or is there something intrinsically fascinating about how NBC spurned David Letterman and is now treating Conan O'Brien badly?

I haven't watched these shows since college. I need my sleep too badly now. But it seems like the network regularly passes over the charming and funny person for the bland, boring and safe. Why do they keep coming back to Jay Leno?

I grudgingly must admit that Jay Leno gets higher ratings. America prefers Leno's bland crap, apparently. Except his new show is a bomb. If Jay Leno gets the Tonight Show back, it'll be interesting to see if he gets its ratings back, too. Or if we've finally woken up to how much he sucks.

Of course, in this economic time of massive unemployment, Simon Dumenco of Advertising Age, has a point that Conan has “suddenly become an unlikely (Harvard-educated, multimillionaire) Everyman: the freckled face of American job insecurity, a well-meaning hard worker who spent years paying his dues but has now been declared redundant by the halfwit overlords driving his company into the ground.”

Yet is anyone surprised by NBC's behavior, given how it treated David Letterman? I guess maybe we're not surprised, but we're still mad.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Y Chromosome is not dead!

I was shocked to learn that the Y chromosome is evolving. Yes, even though you'd think I got an exact copy of my dad's, it turns out that somehow it is changing over time. So it turns out that you do grow new brain cells, the Y chromosome changes, and you don't need to drink 8 glasses of water a day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Inspiring Fair Use

Happy Fair Use Day!

In celebration of the fact that EVENTUALLY copyrighted material becomes public, here's a video that remixes clips from various movies in a way that comments on the technique of storytelling in movies.

I hope you'll find it as inspiring as I do.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Filibuster, I hardly know her!

Am I hypocritical for wanting to end the filibuster now, but thinking it was good when the Republicans controlled the Senate?

One columnist makes the argument that current filibuster rules clearly go against the intention of the Founders. I think going back to actual filibusters instead of ghost ones is a good idea. If senators had to speak for hours on end to block a vote instead of just file a piece of paper, they would only block important legislation and not every bill.

I think it's ok for Republicans to be allowed to filibuster the health care bill. I'm more concerned with the fact that since they lost the Senate, the number of filibusters has increased from 27% to 70%. Two of every three votes is filibustered by Republicans. That's pretty much every meaningful vote. One in three votes is barely room for National Scleroderma Awareness Week and all the other procedural stuff that gets through anonymously.

I hesitate to favor lowering the number of votes it takes to override a filibuster, because I know Republicans will have a majority again, someday. But it's way too easy to filibuster now. It should take some personal effort to block a bill.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Brother From Another Planet

I just saw a great science fiction movie. If you haven't seen Brother From Another Planet, you should. It has low budget effects, but fantastic writing and acting. And lots of clever things in the background as well.

It stars Joe Morton, who you've seen in lots of stuff. I most remember him as the scientist who invented Skynet and destroyed humanity. His character is mute, but his acting is so great in this, you're almost glad he can't talk. It also features David Straithairn and a VERY young Fisher Stevens, who do very good work in the movie.

It's a great allegory about immigration and being black in america, with a funny, charming alien who you just want to find a home.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Onion continues to be awesome

Along with Strong Bad, The Onion continues to be a vital internet comedy source well into its second decade of awesomeness.

Tiny Dog Has Been Barking Nonstop For 6 Years

Adults Go Wild Over Latest In Children's Picture Book Series

Friday, January 1, 2010

Paper Animation

This is frickin' amazing. I want to watch this 3 more times to see all the beauty that flies by in an instant.