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February 21, 2007

Quick links for Wednesday

Children's literature is full of scrotums! (Via Neil Gaiman)

Matt Taibbi: Maybe We Deserve to Be Ripped Off By Bush's Billionaires:

While America obsessed about Brittany's shaved head, Bush offered a budget that offers $32.7 billion in tax cuts to the Wal-Mart family alone, while cutting $28 billion from Medicaid.

MediaFork is a new media-ripper derived from HandBrake, whose development had stalled recently. Works on OSX and linux (linux version Command Line only). I couldn't get the source code to build, but the binary version worked swimmingly. So far, I've done all my DVD ripping with MPlayer, but you can never have enough tools... and this one seems to be a little smarter than MPlayer at finding the correct audio channels automagically.

Teen 'sport killings' of homeless on the rise. Reminded me of this Majikthise post from a month or so ago. Remind me to be nice to a homeless person some time.

The man responsible for putting my old band's music on Sellaband and adding old photos showing me in the band also regularly sends me interesting music links, so I can almost forgive him. Today, he sent me a link to Dalek I, an obscure early synth duo. I didn't care much for this sort of thing when I was actually living through the synth pop era, but a lot of it sounds rather good to me now.

March 5, 2007

Quick links for monday

Chris Lightfoot is dead. I liked his weblog. He dropped off my radar a bit when he stopped posting frequently, but had he returned, I would have found out from many other bloggers linking to him enthusiastically. He only wrote when he had something to say, and when he did it was almost always good. I wasn't aware of his many other online roles (he was involved in Pledgebank and mySociety. I can only second mySociety's recommendation to

sift through his blog and marvel at the quantity of primary research and original coding that went into it. Documenting and exploring his work would provide material for many years of research, and yet all this was accomplished by the age of 28.

Chicken Yoghurt finds Britain’s bookworms misanthropic and death-fixated.

Digby on the latest round of bullshit claims that "Teh Left" is uncivil and hateful because, oh my stars and garters, Teh Left uses swears:

I have to admit that I'm even more surprised, however, that the manly warriors of the rightwing blogosphere are so genteel and restrained, which they seem inordinately proud of, as if they've won first prize from the Boston spinsters crochet society or something. There has always been a particular type of prissy conservative male who shares certain characteristics with fluttery Victorian ladies who get all breathless (and aroused) in the presence of muscular, earthy language. I didn't realize that the alleged he-men of the rightwing blogosphere were like this but I suppose I should have. It certainly explains why they haven't joined the military.

Me-ow!

And The Poor Man, a few days ago, ran a blogger's style guide to civility and seriousness.

Speaking of civility, read The Greatest Cliché: The Unexamined Propaganda of "Political Correctness" (via)

March 15, 2007

Quick links for Thursday

Noteworthy things I've read today:
Digby on religious literacy in the US.
Amanda Marcotte on guns, bad faith arguments and pleasure as a positive good.

May 1, 2007

An honest obituary of Boris Yeltsin

I found this more than a week late, but Yeltsin: An Obit of a Drunken, Bloblike Train Wreck of a Revolutionary Leader by Matt Taibbi is still worth a read because it's well-written and gives a better insight into why the Russians didn't care much about ole' Boris than the "they prefer an authoritarian over a buffoon" line that was common in the conventional obits. (Via Majikthise)

May 3, 2007

Lolbees

HUGS
(Photo macro by LJ User Tiny_Monster)

A Lolbees community Exists On The Internet. I repeat: a Lolbees community Exists On The Internet.

... It's started by a Webcartoonist by the way.

August 29, 2007

Starship Stormtroopers

Starship Stormtroopers, an eminently readable essay, or perhaps a transcripted speech, by Michael Moorcock from 1977, about authoritarianism in Science Fiction and Fantasy literature:


There are still a few things which bring a naive sense of shocked astonishment to me whenever I experience them -- a church service in which the rituals of Dark Age superstition are performed without any apparent sense of incongruity in the participants -- a fat Soviet bureaucrat pontificating about bourgeois decadence -- a radical singing the praises of Robert Heinlein. If I were sitting in a tube train and all the people opposite me were reading Mein Kampf with obvious enjoyment and approval it probably wouldn't disturb me much more than if they were reading Heinlein, Tolkien or Richard Adams. All this visionary fiction seems to me to have a great deal in common. Utopian fiction has been predominantly reactionary in one form or another (as well as being predominantly dull) since it began. Most of it warns the world of 'decadence' in its contemporaries and the alternatives are usually authoritarian and sweeping -- not to say simple-minded. A look at the books on sale to Cienfuegos customers shows the same old list of Lovecraft and Rand, Heinlein and Niven, beloved of so many people who would be horrified to be accused of subscribing to the Daily Telegraph or belonging to the Monday Club and yet are reading with every sign of satisfaction views by writers who would make Telegraph editorials look like the work of Bakunin and Monday Club members sound like spokesmen for the Paris Commune.

Some years ago I remember reading an article by John Pilgrim in Anarchy in which he claimed Robert Heinlein as a revolutionary leftist writer. As a result of this article I could not for years bring myself to buy another issue. I'd been confused in the past by listening to hardline Communists offering views that were somewhat at odds with their anti-authoritarian claims, but I'd never expected to hear similar things from anarchists. My experience of science fiction fans at the conventions which are held annually in a number of countries (mainly the US and England) had taught me that those who attended were reactionary (claiming to be 'apolitical' but somehow always happy to vote Tory and believe Colin Jordan to 'have a point'). I always assumed these were for one reason or another the exceptions among sf enthusiasts. Then the underground papers began to emerge and I found myself in sympathy with most of their attitudes -- but once again I saw the old arguments aired: Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov and the rest, bourgeois reactionaries to a man, Christian apologists, crypto-Stalinists, were being praised in IT, Frendz and Oz and everywhere else by people whose general political ideals I thought I shared. I started writing about what I thought was the implicit authoritarianism of these authors and as often as not found myself accused of being reactionary, elitist or at very best a spoilsport who couldn't enjoy good sf for its own sake. But here I am again at Stuart Christie's request, to present arguments which I have presented more than once before.


Read on and take notes. And get yerself some John Brunner novels. They're good. (via)

Note: misspelling of "Tolkien" in the quoted section corrected because I'll have no part in spreading it around.

October 12, 2007

I hadn't seen some of those before

Still working a lot, exercising a lot and trying to get comics done. Battling computer problems in two places at the same time (again), though in the case of the studio PC, I've asked Calvin to do the battling in my place. Still not a lot of energy left to write in this here blog, though I could think of a few things to write about.

Quickly then: Have some cartoons attacking creationism, some of which I hadn't seen before. (Via)

The Stupidfilter. Mith says this won't work as you can't apply Bayesian probability to non-stochastic variables, and anyway, it doesn't even work all that well for spam because spammers defeat filters like this using precisely the sort of thing that this filter is going to check for (i.e. egregious violations of grammar, spelling and punctuation rules). (Via)

This is a load of bloggocks. You're not going to save journalism by buying an iPod or letting the comments on YouTube turn your brain to pea soup. Fuck off. (Via)

When I have a bit more time, I'd like to do a longish post about the state of exercise writing - er, that is, writing about exercise. It seems to be that there are a number of common tropes and linguistic markers (including the I Hit A Plateau And This Proves That Conventional Thinking About Exercise Is Wrong Trope, the The Fact That I had Painful Illnesses At An Early Age Proves That Conventional Thinking About Exercise Is Wrong Trope and the Caveman Ancestor Trope With Added Biology) that readers could use to easily identify quackitude (see The Case Against Cardio which contains all three tropes mentioned). But I'd need to study on it, and long-time readers know what happens to those ideas I have for posts to write in the indeterminate future, so don't wait up for that post. In the mean time, I'm tossing this out just to get the notion into public view. Maybe someone else will pick up this ball and run with it. (Via)


November 2, 2007

For future reference: Amanda Marcotte: Fewer pieces of plastic crap may indeed not kill you

Fewer pieces of plastic crap may indeed not kill you:

Reader and frequent commenter MAJeff sent me a copy of Born to Buy by Juliet Schor, and I finally had a chance to read it this week. The book came out a few years ago, but all the trends she details in it are still going strong, namely the hyper-commercialization of childhood by marketers hungry to have a non-jaded audience that constantly replenishes itself. I found the book to mostly be fascinating, especially the second part where Schor conducts a research study on two populations of children, one in the city of Boston and one in a suburb, to see what kind of effect this increasingly commercialization had on the well-being of children, and found strong evidence that kids who watch excessive amounts of TV and otherwise engage in excessive amounts of participation in marketing to children suffered strongly for it both physically and mentally, and more to the point, that the engagement with the commercial culture caused the depression, anti-social behavior, excessive weight gain, lowered grades and other ill effects on children.

It’s an important book for this research, and I felt bad for parents because it seems that there’s really only one choice when faced with the hard evidence—limit TV-watching, exposure to fast food, toy collecting and other engagements with the mass media that markets to children. Which will cause fights and could cause your child to be unpopular and the target of bullies—seems like a real dilemma in a lot of ways.

Posted so I'll remember to read it again when I need to.

November 22, 2007

Weekly groceries around the world

Update: The original photo-essay this was from is here
(Hat tip Sara Robinson via Amanda Marcotte).
Families from around the world, posing in or around their homes, surrounded by their weekly groceries. Prices of the weekly food intakes mentions under the pictures.

Quite a contrast. Perhaps surprisingly, the German family spends the most, though a lot of what they spend their budget on is beer, which is perhaps not so surprising.

This seems to have been going around in an email, but I missed it. I recall there having been a book of family homes around the world, that I kind of regret not buying at the time. In any case, these pics are likely to be part of a much larger series.

On a semi-related note, this year I'm thankful I don't have to celebrate Thanksgiving, which frankly sounds like a bit of a drag for me, not to mention a stressfest if you're the one stuck with having to prepare that dinner everyone's going to be stuffing themselves with.

February 24, 2008

Essential reading for aspiring freelancers: John Scalzi's unasked-for advice about money

John Scalzi has a great post up in which he gives Unasked-For Advice to New Writers about Money. Read it if you're in any free-lance profession, and read the comments and the Follow-up post as well (via). You'll thank him, and his commenters, later.

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