Thursday, October 30, 2008

Executed Today

Executed Today is a blog of history, sociology, biography, criminology, law, and kismet — an unrepresentative but arresting view of the human condition across time and circumstance from the parlous vantage of the scaffold. ...

The death penalty, as a subset within that vast category of “acts of violence homo sapiens do to their fellows,” blends insensibly into a dozen adjacent territories — murder, assassination, warfare, torture, low crime and high statecraft, even suicide.

If we know for certain that extinguishing life is an essential component of the death penalty, our everyday language nevertheless reflects ambiguity about how. We might speak of crime victims as being “killed execution-style” to evoke a sense of deliberation and even ceremony about the act; conversely, we might derogate the formal and official act of a state organ as a “summary execution” to underscore the absence of an appropriate juridical atmosphere. In situations of war and revolution where the legitimate authority of the state is contested, the water muddies still further.
and, just to be clear...
This blog is neither pro- nor anti-death penalty in general nor in any particular. Its interest is the perspective on humanity we gain through the window of this human institution.

From Cave Paintings to the Internet

Jeremy Norman's History of Science

When I completed the conversion in October 2008 there were more than 1550 annotated timeline entries, nearly all of which had one or more hyperlinks to online references. There were also sixty-four themes, by which the timeline could be searched. Individual timeline entries were indexed by up to six themes. You will find links to each theme at the end of each timeline entry. If you click on that theme after the entry you will see a timeline based on that theme alone. You can, of course, access the timeline by various different eras, and you can switch back and forth between eras and themes. Users should recognize that in order to trace the origins of concepts or technologies back in time I have sometimes defined themes loosely. In order to make some themes more accessible to historical treatment I have also combined related themes. For example, I combined Internet and Networking in order to trace this theme back to the first road networks in the ancient world, to railroads, to the telegraph lines that followed railroad lines, to telephone networks, up the network of networks that is the Internet.
Jesus H. Timesink. Get to reading!
via MetaFilter

Monday, October 27, 2008


Most language-related internet fads I'm not crazy about. I can't stand smileys and their relations; some of the abbreviations (e.g., WTF) are efficient and useful, even if they don't inspire enthusiasm; catchphrases (All Your Base) quickly wear out their welcome. But there's one recent innovation (at least, I think it's recent—see below) that I absolutely love. For, oh, the past year or so I've been noticing, and when appropriate using, a delightful... what to call it? It's not an exclamation, because it's determinedly low-key; it's not really an interjection, because it's not interjected, it's a standalone response. And I wasn't sure how to find an example, because it's impossible to search for (see below). But I trusted to serendipity, which rarely fails me, and sure enough fate provided one.
languagehat on what.

WHAT is always a worthwhile addition to any conversation, demonstrating one's superior intellect and mastery of the English language. ... It was created by the internets. Whenever you find yourself in a situation on the internets where your opinion really matters, WHAT is for you!
Encyclopedia Dramatica on what.

(I changed languagehat's link. Mainly I'm using the ED for all my reference needs anymore.)

Yay Broccoli!

"I just love Cascadian Farm Gourmet Boxed Frozen Broccoli! Whenever I open that freezer door and pluck a friendly box of broccoli out of the supermarket freezer case, elation, and joy, and jubilant consumerism bubble out from my soul."

WTF Broccoli? at Bread & Honey

Part Deux, the Cascadia Farms response

Something else bubbles out as well when broccoli's for dinner.

Strange Carafes

Glassworks by Etienne Meneau

Où est le vin ?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More animation, no penises.

Hear The Wind Sing by Ben Warren

Noteboek by Evelien Lohbeck

I just found out how to embed the high quality versions of YouTube videos. Slow am I, but effective.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cold War and Insurgency Propaganda Banknotes

Cold War and Insurgency Propaganda Banknotes
by SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
Propaganda leaflets may be avoided by patriotic or frightened citizens of a target country, but anyone will pick up a banknote on the street. That has always been the perfect way to pass insidious propaganda to an unwary reader. The Americans, British, Germans and Russians all used this technique in WWII. Half a decade later in the Korean War the United States once again prepared banknote leaflets.

It was just a matter of time before they appeared again during Cold War psychological operations and in revolutionary conflicts where one side sought independence from another. The only difference was that the banknotes prepared during the shooting wars were government projects and it was understood that they were authorized by the military. The Cold War and insurgency notes for the most part were prepared by civilian organizations, though certainly in almost every case they were sponsored by some intelligence agency of a government. We could make a case for calling them "Political Banknotes," but there are legitimate banknotes prepared by real political parties in favor of candidates and policies.

SGM Friedman (Ret.) has written a veritable crapload of interesting psyop articles.

Parrot Sketch Not Included: 20 Years of Monty Python

Hosted with panache and a plum by the ever debonair Steve Martin.

Oh okay, fine—The Parrot Sketch.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bandstand Busking

Laura Groves - "Coast"

of Montreal - "Id Engager"

Jonesy's Jukebox Jury said pants, but I'm for mustard.

More hip London buskers at Bandstand Busking.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Animaniacs Cultural References Guide

Not getting those obscure jokes and references on Animaniacs? Then here's the place ta go!
The Home of the Animaniacs Cultural References Guides

via Looking for scenes with dialogue in G-rated movies, shows or cartoons that have hidden references for adults.

Engines of our Ingenuity

[home page]

The Engines of Our Ingenuity is a radio program that tells the story of how our culture is formed by human creativity. Written and hosted by John Lienhard, it is heard nationally on Public Radio and produced by KUHF-FM Houston. Among other features, this web site houses the transcripts for every episode heard since the show's inception in 1988.

I'm having fun CTRL+F-ing around the full episode titles with keywords page. Clicking the episode number gets you the transcript, supplementary media (photos, links, etc.), and a link to the Real Audio file of the episode. There are over 2,400 episodes, with topics ranging from Colonial America's amateur innovators to The Kronos Quartet to Mendel as the father of modern genetics. Sweet.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Pathetic Fallacy Needs Your Understanding

Wikipedia says:

When Xerxes was crossing the Hellespont in the midst of the first Greco-Persian War, he built two bridges that were quickly destroyed. Feeling personally offended, his paranoia led him to believe that the sea was consciously acting against him as though it were an enemy. As such Herodotus quotes him as saying "You salt and bitter stream, your master lays his punishment upon you for injuring him, who never injured you. Xerxes will cross you, with or without your permission."[2] He subsequently threw chains into the river, gave it three hundred lashes and "branded it with red-hot irons".[3]

The Pathetic Fallacy: Animism masquerading as science in education
The pathetic fallacy is the name given the specious attribution of emotions --- which is to say, pathos --- to the inanimate. Thus, when NASA tells children that, “the moving object, due to its mass, wants to keep going,” it misleads them with the pathetic fallacy. For, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, an inanimate mass doesn’t have any wants. Well, there is a belief system which posits that everything contains a spirit which motivates and directs its actions, and that system is called animism. But, animism is not science. So, apparently we have NASA promoting animism among our children under the guise of promoting science. This is scary. (One then wonders if NASA thinks this way, or it only wants children to do so).

Emphasis mine. Hilarious!
More literarity:

Symphony in Slang


The Andy Goldsworthy Digital Catalog

via naturalismo

Echo Park is a Great Neighborhood of America

Don't just take my word for it; the American Planning Association has gone a step beyond and actually declared it:

Great Places in America: Neighborhoods: Echo Park, Los Angeles

Where the Lotus cannot live

One of Los Angeles's first suburbs, the Echo Park neighborhood is a vibrant mix of cultures, incomes, architecture, commercial activity, and social activism that has retained its unique character and charm for more than a century.

Contributing to the neighborhood's eclecticism and unique sense of place — and reasons for its selection as one of 10 APA Great Neighborhoods for 2008 — are its varied topography, historic architecture, and engaged citizens who, over the years, have gone to great lengths to protect and preserve their historic arts community.

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Rig

Seymore, my new computer, is up and running, logged onto the internet, and blazing fast only 53 hours after placing the order for his bits and pieces. Cameraphone proof:

Not a moment too soon!

Parts ordered from noon, 10/15
Total out of pocket: $315
Mail-in rebate: -$40
Trips to Radio Shack: 2
Radio Shack cost: ~$5
Trips to Fry's Electronics: 3
Fry's cost: ~$5
Packages delivered 5:30pm, 10/16
Computer operational 2:47pm 10/17
Computer online 5:13pm 10/17

Grand Total $ Amt: $285
Time from order to online: ~53 hours

  • Case was a 'retail' purchase, but still arrived very barebones. It had a little baggie of screws tied up inside, and that was about it. The motherboard was also 'retail' and came with a manual. No indication of how to mount a mobo in the case, though. Solution - Reference existing device, note spacers in screw bag, line up mobo and mark appropriate mounting holes.
  • Power supply has one SATA cable and I have 2 SATA devices (hard disk and optical drive). Solution - Fry's is the nearest store with Molex (4-pin power connector) to SATA converter. The one I saw online was Molex to dual-SATA (Y-split), and I looked for one in-store in case RAID arrays catch my interest in the near future, but no luck. Dolla-fifty for the cable, $3.50 for chips and soda from the queue.
  • Fans and disk drives spin up, but no signal to monitor. Solution - This one stumped me, and apparently I'm lucky not to have produced the Magic Smoke. But I asked about it and followed the suggestion that my mobo was underpowered. Flipped the 110/220 switch on the power supply, and shazam!
  • Salvaged wireless card detected, network information provided, but still no WWW. Solution - Call service provider. They reset the WEP key on my router, then again to a pass of our choice. The Ubuntu documentation for wireless is fairly sparse, which was frustrating if understandable; it's set up to 'just work.' Eventually, it did.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dragons Having Sex With Cars (NSFW!)

Dragons Having Sex With Cars NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR HUMANS

thanks loquacious!

New Computer

I bought some components today. As you can tell from this list, I am obviously not a gamer. Maybe someday, but for now my PC doesn't have to seamlessly render 3D graphics at lightning blue-LED speed or anything. All it has to do is get me on the internet, show me my pictures and movies, and play my music. This I can do. (And for cheap!)

AMD Athlon X2 BE-2400 Brisbane 2.3GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM2 Dual-Core Processor
Wow, speaking of cheap. I was expecting my budget would only allow for a single core processor until this baby came along.

GIGABYTE GA-M61PME-S2 AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 6100 / nForce 430 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard
I can plug everything else into this one, and it came "retail" so all the cords are included.

Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600AAJS 160GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
On the small side, but the case (below) has plenty of space for expansion and I'm already rockin' a 500GB network storage drive.

LITE-ON Black 2MB Cache SATA 20X DVD±R DVD Burner
48X CD-R
I've never owned a DVD burner, and it may turn out I never use it—somehow I'm gonna get that network drive married to my big ol' TV one of these days.

Rosewill R103A Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 350W Power Supply with 20+4 pin connector
Nothing flashy. Plenty of room and power. Cheap!

Plus 2x1GB DDR2 RAM and a heatsink/fan for the X2. A coupla parts I'm salvaging from my 'classic' eMachines T2862, and I mighta even reused the case and PS. Maybe for a future project. Keeping the screen, mouse, and keyboard—though I might go in for a wireless ergo puncher if I come across the right price. I'm going with whatever the latest Ubuntu Linux release is for the OS; I have no idea what I'm getting into with this, but I have three days to figure it out.

Total out of pocket today: $314.55
RAM mail-in rebate: $40.00

Grand Total: $274.55

Not bad, eh?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Flash Game: Merge

Refer to 'the solution' in the top left corner, then choose the triangle at the intersection of the correct combination of elements. Finish each level before 'the solution' hits the bottom of the play area.

[click image to play game]

I've made it as far as the 9 dots stage, with a top score (so far) of 803. I'm heartened by the fact that the top score right now is just over 1,000 points. I like this game a lot—it's already eaten up a ton of my day—but I don't appreciate having to start over at the beginning each time I fail. After a while the earliest stages become rote, and it makes me think the real difficulty of this game is memorizing the location of each element for each stage.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Getting the Hang of It

Interesting question today:

What did it mean, originally, to "get the hang" of something?
katillathehun's answer, from the bulletin board, is delightfully gruesome:
Public executions by hanging were quite a spectacle in the good old days. When a person is hung, the moment after the drop where the rope snaps tight either breaks the person's neck or it doesn't. The humanitarian thing was to let the person's neck break; this caused a quick death. However, for a better show, if the neck didn't break, the person would twitch and struggle and suffer death by strangulation, although this was considered sloppy work. An experienced executioner who had mastered the difference and could do either was said to have "gotten the hang of it."

And, according to languagehat, ridiculous. He recommends the staid OED history, which references developing familiarity with a hand tool, adding that a part of that development is learning how the tool actually fits in the hand, it's weight and heft and shape; literally how it hangs from your hand.

I was going to go on to differentiate between getting the hang of something and having a knack, but a bolt of inspiration led me instead to the OED facts page. Fun!
First Edition
Proposed size: 4 volumes, 6,400 pages (with provision for ‘a larger dictionary containing not fewer than 10 volumes, each containing not less than 1,600 pages’)

Actual size: 10 volumes, 15,490 pages

Proposed time to complete: 10 years

Actual time to complete: 70 years (from approval date)

Fascicles: a bundle or a cluster.
Fascicle may also refer to:
  • Muscle fascicle, in anatomy, a bundle of skeletal muscle fibers surrounded by connective tissue
  • Nerve fascicle, in anatomy, a larger bundle of axons (nerve fibers) enclosed by the perineurium
  • a bundle of thin leaves of pines
  • A discrete section of a book issued or published separately.
  • Small clusters of flowers in the botanical description of flowering plants

Second Edition (1989)
Amount of ink used to print complete run: 2,830 kilos or 6,243 lbs.

Number of words in entire text: 59 million

Number of printed characters: 350 million

Equivalent person years used to ‘key in’ text to convert to machine-readable form: 120

Equivalent person years to proof-read text: 60

Number of megabytes of electronic storage required for text: 540


I think you have to buy the OED online, but their sitemap and search page has a bunch of cool stuff available for free. I'm reading about the sense section, which has been helpful in framing a question that's frustrated me lately.

Can you define common sense?

When I ask friends and folks for a definition they're usually vague and frustrated. That's just, you know, it's common sense! 'Shared understanding' gets them nodding in agreement, usually. The OED includes a chronological numbering to sense, recognizing that a word or phrase shifts and develops meaning over time, and different ones to different times in history. Does that make 'common sense', literally, the highest numbered sense record for any given OED entry?

Monday, October 06, 2008


by Marion Bataille


The Importance of Social Rhythmic Body Motion - Over 1,000 classic music videos from the 1980's.

Same site, Retro arcade games flashacized.

Classic post-punk music videos.

Another coupla sites from the Cool Shit archive, posted to MeFi a while back. Notable also for this little bit from MeFite humannaire:
My take on the 80s was fun and dancing. People danced all the time (from 1981 to 1989, roughly). Gay clubs were secret, underground places where the best music eva was played! The only thing that sucked about the 80s was left over from the everything that came before the 80s. This cannot be said about the 90s. For whatever reason, maybe because it was the end of the world and everything, the 90s really bit all on their own. For instance, once hardcore rap and hip-hop hit big, all of us stopped dancing. Dancing was considered soft.

Of course, the whole rave/post-rave thing went big in the 90s,

Now he we are, in a brand new millenium century decade and world, and as stupid as it is/has been, at least there's hope.....

And you know what? I went to a dance the other night, an 80s-themed dance party, and danced like it was NOT 1999 but 1983. And in case you forgot, or missed out completely, 1983 was better than rad: It was DEF!

Everything that "sucked" about the 80s sucked about the 20th Century. And a good number of us are in the process of sloughing off the last of that crap right now. In fact, vote for Obama, and lets get on with rededicating ourselves to a future which is as fun as the 80s without all the suck.

There's a little saying of mine which applies here. It is, "When the women are dancing, everyone is happy." I say that (and mean it) because when the women are dancing, women who like women are happy and dancing, and so men who like women are happy and dancing, and consequently men who like men are also happy and dancing. What's not like? Everybody wins!

And here's the thing. Chances are everyone's going to be dancing to 80s music! Which normally I abhor. I mean, I lived it, it was great, on to the next. HOWEVER, if everyone is dancing, who am I to argue? I mean, when everyone is dancing, I'm happy!

Submarine Cable

Hundreds of submarine communications cables have been laid since the early attempts of the 1840s and the first commercially successful cable, the England to France link of 1851.

Bill Glover's ongoing project presents a comprehensive time line of all major cables and many of the minor ones, with links to cable sample images, company descriptions, and cableship histories.
A chronological record of every major submarine communications cable.
from History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Took the alley instead of Sunset down to Brite Spot this morning. This classic was up on the back of the building just west of Logan. Echo Park, Brite Spot, Shepard Fairey...Talk about a firestorm of hip bloggability ca. 2004, shazam!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Flash Friday

5 Differences
There are five differences between each side of the screen. Click on them.

6 Differences
Same deal, but with six differences. And music. And hints. It's remarkably similar to the first game despite the additional differences.

When there is no home for a long time...



What relationship do the following songs have with each other: Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown (1965) Refugee (1979) Stairway to Heaven (1971) Black Magic Woman (1970) Band on the Run (1973) Walk This Way (1975) Tequila Sunrise (1973)
A class-mate of mine gets invited to a party each year where the invitation gives a hidden clue as to who the musical guest will be. This year's is a stumper and so we're turning to Big Green for help.

While there may be a music-related link here (i.e. lyrical, writer, producer, etc), it could very well be something entirely non-musical. Any MeFi music buffs find any relationship at all with those songs?

As an example, two years ago the invitation included references (which you always have to figure out) to 7 songs. Different bands and with dates from roughly 1971 through 1998. It turned out that ALL of them had been covered at some time or another by Paul Simon. He was the guest. Another thing that made the invitation easy for my classmate was that the invitation came in a Kodak box. Anyway, Paul Simon was the guest musician.

Now, one other thing: don’t look for someone who has covered all of those songs. There is NO WAY that they would use the same type of “puzzle.”

If it helps, here's an explanation of this year's invitation:

There are 7 cards with photographs on them, and each one contains a year (presumably the year the song was written). Each one depicts a song and the letters of the song are written in “hangman” style, with the initial letters given (e.g. N_________ N______ B________ - but on the card you could tell how many letters were in each word). The picture also depicted the song. He is POSITIVE of 6 of the songs; the only one we are not certain of was from 1979, showed two kids with suitcases standing next to a railroad, and they were both dressed in white long sleeve shirts and dark pants. It started with an “R” and was seven letters. Pretty sure it is “Refugee” but if anyone else has an idea of something different, let me know (e.g. is there a “Runaway” from 1979?). Also, the dates given above are the release dates for the songs.

P.S. One more thing to add: the invitation reads “One Enchanted Evening . . .”. Don’t know if that adds anything.

The concert was on Sept. 27, so the answer is at the very bottom of the AskMe thread in question. There are a lot of good theories along the way, though.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Cue the one-note bugle, I've got a third post inspired by Harpo's hilarious face. My pal Nico wonders whatever happened to caricaturing Hollywood, especially compared to the glory days as represented by the animations Hollywood Steps Out,

Book Revue,

and a few others.

Nico rightly points out that these animations are the cream of the caricature crop, then goes on in lament,
Why doesn't anyone do this anymore? Is the world a more sensitive place? Or would something like this not even work with today's celebs? Are today's stars simply not as interesting, entertaining, or defined as those of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood? Did the stars of yesteryear simply have more of a core to them, every star having something unique about them that separated them from every other star?
I don't know what kind of trash he's watching, but I still manage to catch Celebrity Death Match every once in a while. Today's "classy" Hollywood, the Gwenyth Paltrows, George Clooneys, etc. have sloughed off the trend and allowed the constantly shifting youth pop culture and the long vicious political pundits to pick up the slack. Whether it's because they're paying their agents more or because reality television has widened the scope (and exposure) of celebrity or due to the homogenizing of haute Hollywood I just can't say.

Nico did a caricature of me once upon a long ago and it lived on the fridge for a long time. If I find it I'll scan it in. I think it's under the fridge. Maybe.

Gookie Face

Oh, ho! The post below reminded me of a relatively recent MetaFilter post by one of my all-time favorite posters, miss lynnster. Cribbed from that, here's

The story behind Harpo Marx' 'Gookie' face

Wakko's New Gookie

o silêncio dos livros

o silêncio dos livros, a blog of images of people with books.
via Gatochy's blog