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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, August 1, 2010

Tennis star Maria Sharapova gets August off to a sunny start.

1280x1024, 303KB.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, July 30, 2010

Emma Watson with 340KB worth of high-def 1920x1080 pretty.

The original can be found at the "I (heart) Watson" fansite.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, July 28, 2010

Now this is what I'm getting at. 1280x1024, 211KB.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 27, 2010

Model Elsa Benitez, and nothing else.

1280x1024, 247KB. The 981KB original:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our stupid descendants

(An xkcd production)

Reminds me of the line from the Isaac Asimov story "The Feeling of Power," about "primitive man, with his stone axes and railroads."

And, presumably, terrorists will be depicted like pirates are today, roguish but honorable Disney heroes. Women will wear cheerleading uniforms to funerals. Astronauts will carry pistols designed in 1911 -- oh wait, that already happened in the original "Planet of the Apes." Gas guzzler cars will have voice-interactive -- oh wait, that already happened in the original "Knight Rider." Doctors serving in the Korean War will express attitudes entirely -- oh, wait --

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, July 26, 2010

Page 3 girl Gemma Atkinson. 1600x1200, 291KB.

All those books

The Sunday Book Thread post at Ace of Spades is about the flood of American Civil War and WWII books. My comment:

I once caught a panel discussion on the Civil War on C-SPAN. At the beginning, the moderator said that since the end of the Civil War, more than one book a day has been published with Civil War-related material. This is also true of the Napoleonic Wars.  Undoubtedly true of WWII.

So I avoid any book about the Civil War or Napoleon, and concentrate on falling behind with WWII.
I think it's also true of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.

I like Mongolian history. You can read a book every 3 or 4 years and stay current.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, July 25, 2010

Actress Michelle Trachtenberg.

1280x1024, 218KB.

Click on the "Wallpaper" tag below for all of my wallpapers.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Die Monster Cable die

Ace of Spades links to a Make: Online video about audio myths. The subject of copper wire supposedly introducing distortions is a bit of a sore spot with me.

I hate Monster Cable and all their ilk, and yes, it's personal.

I did my PhD work on the high resolution Fourier Transform Spectrometer at Ohio State. This instrument took the infrared radiation off a gas-dryer lighter, bouncing it back and forth off mirrors a hundred times or so, causing the light to pass through the equivalent of a kilometer of absorbing gas, then focusing the picowatts that were left on a liquid nitrogen cooled detector. The signal from the detector went first to a liquid nitrogen cooled FET pre-preamp, then over copper cable to a preamp, then was amplified and digitized.

My professor read some of the Monster Cable propaganda and freaked. If copper wire could reduce Aerosmith to unlistenable distortion -- well, to noticeably more unlistenable distortion -- what was it doing to our delicate picowatt signals? And our method of analysis was particularly susceptible to distortion. His whole career flashed before his eyes.

SO I had to stop work, stop making progress toward a degree and gainful employment, tear down the experiment, and spend a week building a new setup to determine what grotesque nameless horrors the PLAIN OLD COPPER WIRES had wreaked on our helplessly whimpering signal, played by Lillian Gish.

And the answer was nothing. Zero, zip, nada, 0.00E00, 1/(infinity squared), the set of all sets containing no members, bupkis, the Schneid, the integrity of John Edwards multiplied by the simple human decency of Drew Rosenhaus.

AUDIOPHILES ARE HIPPIES. Plain copper wire is great. I just got a new receiver and I wired it completely with plain copper wire and banana plugs AND I LIKE IT and I'm going to turn it on and listen to Andresjz Panufnik and I won't hear any distortion. I hope your Monster Cable strangles you.

I mean that metaphorically of course. If it happened literally, well, you never know how you will react in a tragic situation like that. I feel like I would laugh, though.
 Except for the reference to Lillian Gish, the above is all true. As God is my witness, if an audiophile got tangled in his Monster Cable and inadvertently strangled himself to death, I think I would laugh.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 24, 2010

 Another 1080x1920 sideways high-def Saturday wallpaper, and no one deserves the poster treatment better than the incomparable Holly Marie Combs.

233KB. The 1 MB, 1625x2308 original:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Grandfather exclusion principle

Neatogeek links to an article about a solution to the well-known Grandfather Paradox of time travel. That's where you go back in time and kill your own grandfather, making it impossible for you to be born. And the paradox is, if you were never born, who killed your grandfather?

The proposed resolution to the paradox is that actions that would create paradoxes are excluded by quantum mechanics -- they have zero probability. Assuming that the proposal is valid, my comment was:

One advantage of this idea is that it is analogous to an established quantum mechanics principle, the Pauli exclusion principle.

The exclusion principle is the observation that, if you calculate the probability that two electrons will occupy the exact same quantum state, QM gives a zero probability. It doesn't matter what the state is, you always get zero.

This is why solid objects can't pass through each other, why, for example, you don't fall through the floor and keep going to the center of the earth. Solid objects are solid because almost all the available electron states are filled. If you try to push solid object A (the sole of your shoe) into the space occupied by solid object B (the floor), there are nowhere near enough empty states to accommodate all the electrons in object A. Therefore, you're trying to push many of the electrons in A into states already filled by electrons in B, and the probability of that happening is zero. So you stay above the floor.

Analogously, Lloyd et. al. propose that the probability of you preventing your own birth calculates to zero. You're trying to introduce an additional cause (a bullet in your grandfather's heart) into a sequence of events that already has 100% of the causes it needs. And like the way the floor is shoeproof, you'll find your grandfather is bulletproof.

Actually, I expect that the past is travelproof. Any travel into the past, however innocuous your intentions, will introduce paradoxes at the quantum level. And QM cares about those at least as much as it cares about you and your grandfather.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 23, 2010

1920x1080, 321KB.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, July 20, 2010

Hurrying to get this posted while my internet connection is momentarily up.

1280x1024, 208KB.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 19, 2010

For 1280x1024 desktops, 234KB.

I'm a little late posting this because my internet connection has been down most of the last three days.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, July 18, 2010

Model Nena Ristic, with a hockey stick as a decoy.

1280x1024, 224Kb. The 1MB original:

Friday, July 16, 2010

WWII? Who writes this stuff?

Squid314's LiveJournal (via Volokh Conspiracy with a hat tip to Instapundit, like he needs it) has an amusing rant about the implausibility of that World War II show on the History Channel. And both he and Volokh forget to mention the comic relief, the Barney Fife of the Axis, Benito Mussolini.

After you've read enough WWII history, you start to wonder why anyone bothers to make anything up.  Squid314 touches on only a few of the unlikely plot twists. You also have the most critical battle of the war, the Battle of the Atlantic, going the right way because of, not one, but two miracles. You have the Battle of Britain won, arguably, not in spite of the fact that the head of RAF Fighter Command was certifiably insane, but because he was. You have Thermopylae in the Pacific, in which the unarmored ships of Taffy 3 turned back a Japanese fleet including the two most powerful battleships ever built, battleships that were designed specifically as US Navy-killers, the Japanese admiral defending his decision to run by saying, "No one could be that brave." You have the Japanese War Cabinet voting to continue the war after the second atomic bomb, the Emperor overriding the War Cabinet, young officers staging a military coup against him, with the wax discs on which the Emperor's surrender speech had been recorded as the McGuffin. (They escaped the young officers by being hidden in the Empress's makeup cabinet.)

And that's just some of the big items off the top of my head.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 17, 2010

Kate Beckinsale, in 1080x1920 sideways HD. 407KB.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bacon and Buccaneers

Don Surber wonders why calling someone a "cracker" is considered offensive. I explain:

The original crackers were herding pigs, using whips to keep the pork moving. Another word derived from pigherding is “buccaneer,” a corruption of an old French word for pig farmer (i.e., “baconeer”).

So when you call someone a “cracker,” you’re accusing him of being a fan of the Tamp[a] Bay NFL team. Hence the term’s offensiveness.

The first paragraph is all true, as far as I know. "Buccaneer" came to mean a pirate because pirates, like other sailors of the time, ate a lot of pork. Pirates who got too old to pirate any more (not a large percentage, I would guess) would settle down on some Caribbean isle and raise pigs, which they would smoke and trade to pirate ships for whatever they needed. So old pirates became baconeers, and eventually all pirates became buccaneers.

The second paragraph is admittedly a stretch. But really, naming a team after murderous, thieving pirates is offensive. If someone was stealing your FedEx shipments and selling them on eBay, would you cheer for a team named after him? What next, the Toledo Taliban? The San Jose SS? The Wisconsin McCarthyites? The University of Phoenix Concern Trolls?

Wallpaper of the Day, July 16, 2010

Charlize Theron in 1920x1080 HD.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Undocumented matriculators

James Joyner at Outside the Beltway wonders why Harvard would rescind the degree it gave to one of the Russian spies who was recently exposed. I agree, he should keep his Harvard sheepskin.

Aren’t we past this kind of prejudice against undocumented matriculators? If someone wants to come to Harvard to improve their lives, I for one don’t want petty rules or vindictive enforcement to get in their way. I support open borders at Harvard!

Besides, he just did the homework that legacies won’t do.
I'm sure selfish Harvard grads will whine about devaluing their degrees, and the destruction of a great university by a flood of border-crossers from UMass-Amherst. But isn't it a palpable violation of human rights, to force a degree from UMass-Amherst on an unwilling graduate?

Wallpaper of the Day, July 13, 2010

Model Cintia Dicker, inappropriately dressed for her environment.

1280x1020, 261KB. The original is not much bigger:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Strategy vs Tactics

The Cosmic Conservative notes the confusion that many people have between strategy and tactics. My comment was brief:

Tactics is how you win battles. Strategy is how you use battles to achieve national objectives.

Every battle should be for a militarily achievable objective. A better way to say it would be: "Tactics is how you achieve the militarily achievable. Strategy is how you use sub-objectives, including militarily achievable ones, to reach objectives that are not militarily achievable." But not as snappy.

"That government of the people, for the people, and by the people, shall not perish" is not something that can be accomplished by pure force of arms. Force of arms can surely contribute to it, when combined with malice toward none in the peace terms.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 11, 2010

Katy Perry cleans up real good.

1280x1024, 300KB.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, July 10, 2010

1080x1920, 366KB. The 2200x2800, 814KB original:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Future of Man in Space: A Modest Proposal

Greg Gutfeld at Big Hollywood proposes weaponizing space to make it more fun. My proposal is more specific:

Turn self-replicating robots loose on the moon and sell robot hunting licenses.

I'm sure the many advantages of this simple idea raced through your mind the instant you read the above sentence. But you may have been too dazzled by the sheer brilliance to recognize them. So:

An earth-to-moon transportation system and moon-base facilities will be built by private enterprise, funded by Colonel Blimps with .375 H&H Magnums, and good ol' boys with lever-action .30-30s. Cape buffalo and whitetail deer will be able to relax a little with those guys offworld, not to mention the occasional Maine housewife hanging up clothes in the backyard in a deerlike way. The license fees can go to support Homeland Security personnel surfing porn in their offices. Robot evolution will progress rapidly.

I call on the 111th Congress to act immediately. Don't read the bill, just pass it. I'll settle for 1% of the license fees in perpetuity.

Alvin Greene (D-CAND SC)

Transterrestrial Musings links to Democratic Senate candidate's Al Greene's economic plan. One proposal is for South Carolina to manufacture action figures of... Al Greene. He thinks they would be real money-spinners. My comment:

People questioned the plausibility of this guy putting up the filing fee to run. It looks like his (craziness)x(egotism) product is sufficient, however.
Hey, the Libertarians had Stan Jones the Human Smurf, the Senate candidate who took so much colloidal silver for his health that his skin turned blue. The Republicans have... well, I don't want to list their names for fear of attracting the wrong sort of Google searches. On the other hand, the Democrats already have... well, I can't risk listing those names either. Having Alvin Greene and Stan Jones in the same post is bad enough.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 9, 2010

1920x1080, 397KB.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, July 8, 2010

Sienna Miller knows how to deal with the heat wave. Dress skimpily and eat cool, juicy watermelon.

1280x1024, 227KB. The 872KB original:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Islam's self-esteem problem

Another minor glitch in the crude computer simulation we call "the Universe." NASA Administrator Charles Bolden describes his priorities, as given to him by the President: "[P]erhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering."

Yeah. Like "Gilligan's Island" becoming a cultural icon, that would never happen in a real universe or a properly debugged simulation. Obviously the "Head of the Space Program" routine mistakenly got a pointer to data intended for the "Deputy Assistant Undersecretary State Department drone" object.

Transterrestrial Musings has a brief post on Bolden's remark asking "What isn't wrong with Sharia law?" I commented:

Islam’s self-esteem problem is that Muslims have lots of phony self-esteem. The Koran tells them that they’re Masters of the Universe, and those other people designing computers and inventing vaccines should bow down to them. The dissonance between what they’re taught and what they see is extreme. It probably deters them from doing things that would create real self-esteem (patent offices in Islamic countries sometimes go a year or more without issuing any patents). Obama via Bolden’s contribution to the problem is very minor, but it is a contribution.

Of course the West has made phony self-esteem public policy. But it’s effects seem to have been limited. The relative ineffectiveness of public policy is widely seen as a problem, but to me it’s a safety feature.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 7, 2010

Your Wednesday kiss.

1280x1024, 151KB.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Glorious 4th

I left a comment about the Fourth of July in my neighborhood over at Clayton Cramer's blog:

I'm pleased to report that the citizens of my town committed massive civil disobedience on the night of the 4th. In Ohio, while it's legal to sell fireworks, it's illegal to use them, other than sparklers and "novelties."

Well, last night, many of my neighbors launched spectacular unlicensed rockets from their backyards. It was a pretty good, if uncoordinated, show, and I didn't have to move more than 40 feet from my refrigerator to see it. Scofflaws.

Made me proud to be an American and a Buckeye.

Other than some expended ordnance on my driveway, no damage.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 6, 2010

1280x1024, 157KB.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Battlefield mechs

Neatogeek quotes an analysis of "mechs," soldiers wearing armored powered suits, which concludes that they will never be cost-effective. I have no objection to the technical points that are raised, but the conclusion goes too far.

This is more an argument that mechs will never be dominant on the battlefield, not that they won't exist at all.

One of the painfully learned lessons of modern war is the necessity of "combined arms," of more than one type of warrior, working together. Even the most powerful, heavily armored tank has vulnerabilities -- e.g. poor vision and lack of fine-grained situational awareness -- that the humble foot soldier can cover. When you fight a combined arms team, one of the things you really really want to do is to separate their armor from their infantry, because defeating them separately is easier than defeating them together.

As long as there is some necessary task on the battlefield, for which mechs are better adapted, mechs will have a place. If history is a guide, there will be such a role.

Even in ancient times, armies combined infantry, cavalry, archers, etc. I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that it will be different in the future.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 5, 2010

A model named Anne Vyalitsyna to get your week started.

1280x1024, 298KB. The original 328KB file:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Universe is a computer simulation

Curmudgeonly & Skeptical has an astronomical photo of a "hole in space" and asks what is it? The answer is almost too obvious to require explanation, but I did anyway.

I'm sure all your readers are familiar with the idea that the universe is actually a computer simulation. Every simulation has its glitches. The hole in space is a minor one.

Some of the other obvious glitches: half the events in Spanish history happened in 1492; the Japanese and Scandinavians morphed from Samurais and Vikings into inoffensive Saab jockeys and Hello Kitty consumers; a movie about a mathematician won an Oscar; a Kenyan became President of the US; the Red Sox won a World Series; John Travolta and Mickey Rourke won't stay dead; vuvuzelas; you don't even know who Renee Olstead is; the state of Massachusetts; and the Turing word for this post is "lasouna", which is ludicrous.
Not only is our "universe" a simulation, but it's running under limited resources. Take the way certain mathematical constants get reused in completely different contexts. There's an old joke about an actuary giving a presentation to the executives of an insurance company. He puts up a slide with the formula for the number of life insurance customers who will die in the next year. One of the executives interrupts. "What's that in the formula? That funny symbol?"

The actuary looks and says, "That's pi. You know, the ratio between a circle's circumference and its diameter."

The executive explodes. "What malarkey is this! What does a circle have to do with how many people are going to die!?"

But given that it takes an infinite number of bytes to store pi, you can see where using the same constant for both, really saves on the memory.

Two billion years ago, two galaxies were colliding

The World History Blog has an interesting post on how, shortly after WWII, the "Superman" radio show was used to knock the Ku Klux Klan down a peg. Reporter Stetson Kennedy gave the "Superman" writers inside information on how the Klan operated, to be used in scripts. The Klan attempted to pressure the show's sponsors but it wasn't enough to stop the scripts. I commented:

Also, the negative reaction was probably less than it would have been if the information had appeared in a more "serious" form. SF and fantasy have been useful to express ideas contrary to the zeitgeist for a long time, "1984" and "Animal Farm" being examples.

Back in the 1930s, when all "serious" writers were waving a sad farewell to weak democracy and making the best deal possible with their tough new fascist overlords, E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman stories subversively depicted the victory of a free, multispecies melting pot over the totalitarian Empire of Boskone.

When the original "Addams Family" TV series was on, with Carolyn Jones and John Astin, one critic noted that it was the only series with an intact family where everyone respected each other. And where but on "Smallville" do we get teenagers who are grateful to their parents.

No, I don't know if Stetson Kennedy was mild-mannered. The title of this post is a line from "Doc" Smith.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 4, 2010

Amber Heard is keeping an eye on you.

1280x1024, 183KB.

The 600KB original:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Redcoats vs Rebels in Northern Ireland

James Rummel, over at Hell in a Handbasket, has a post about... well, it's a little complicated.

It turns out that there is an Ulster American Folk Park, some kind of a theme park where the theme is the USA. For the 4th of July this year, they're going to re-enact the War of 1812. Apparently there are also American Revolutionary War re-enactors in Ireland. And they're importing American re-enactors to play the part of British Redcoats.

So Americans are going to Ireland to play British Redcoats so Irish playing American colonials can pretend to shoot them in the War of 1812. To quote Hermione Granger, "Please don't ask me to say it again."

[CORRECTION: The Redcoats are being played by British re-enactors (see James's comment below, thanks!) This explains why they're re-enacting the War of 1812, the British re-enactors probably like to burn the White House every chance they get.]

My only comment was:

I once ran across the website of Ukrainian Vietnam War re-enactors. They dress up in US Army uniforms.
That's all I could manage. Archaeologists are going to dig this stuff up 4000 years from now and I don't know what they'll do.

Wallpaper of the Day, July 3, 2010

1280x1024, 258KB. Yes, it's supposed to be black & white.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wallpaper of the Day, July 2, 2010

Leggy Anne Hathaway, so leggy that 1920x1080 High Definition is barely enough.

A mere 249KB.

The Russian sleeper agents

Coyote Blog notes that the recent arrest of Russian sleeper agents lends credibility to the old Charles Bronson/Lee Remick movie "Telefon" and the like.

A lot of people wonder what purpose the Russians could have to be establishing sleeper cells at this late date. I commented:

The Russians inherited a whole bureaucracy devoted to running sleeper agents. You can’t expect all those bureaucrats to stop what they were doing and get real jobs.
I think this really is a factor. Not that the FBI shouldn't be rounding up these S.O.B.s. Even if they have no practical effect, it's the principle of the thing.

BTW, the above link has the YouTube video of the "Telefon" trailer embedded. It sucks. I could cut a better trailer. It would have more Lee Remick, to start with.