Ingested, Not Stirred

In possibly one of the most bizarre stories I have ever read, Mind Hacks reports that the "British secret intelligence service MI6 dosed [soldiers] with LSD without their consent during the 1950s". Whoa. Even freakier - they filmed it, and it's on Google Video - complete with stuffy British narration.

Anyway, if you see 007 dancing on the roof in his underwear, now you know why.


Ghost Blogging

My co-worker "E" came up with an interesting point - how far off are we from blogs being important enough to be mandatory for big shots? And once that happens, are we going to see ghost bloggers (akin to ghost writers)? Is that going to become a new business model?


I Just Wrote Me a Letter...

...to the New York Times, that is. I added a hyperlink to the editorial in question for your convenience. It's about those cartoons again...

Regarding your editorial "Silenced by Islamist Rage", you write that moderate Moslems "must make it clear to [Islamists] that blowing up mosques, beheading hostages and strapping on belts of explosives are far, far greater evils than a few drawings in a distant paper." This statement reflects a common misunderstanding on the part of Western culture - to the Islamists, this distinction between violent crime and religious crime simply does not exist. Blasphemy and desecration are seen as no less evil than violence and murder. Meaningful dialogue cannot occur as long as there is such radical misunderstanding.


p.s. The headline is a take on the song "The Letter", by The Box Tops.


Bush Says

Fun with Google News:

  • "Bush says civilian N-deal will take time"

  • "Bush says ports deal should go through"

  • "Bush Says High Oil Prices Make Other Sources Viable"

  • "Bush says South Asia an 'important trip'"

  • "Bush says energy breakthrough will 'startle' citizens"

  • "Bush Says Cheney Handled Issue 'Just Fine'"

  • "Bush says more international troops needed for Darfur"

  • "Bush says Americans shouldn't be discouraged by Iraq setbacks"

  • "Bush says 'Touch Your Toes'"

  • --YY

    Trippin' Rooms

    This is seriously cool - rooms with optical illusions. Via MindHacks:

    They're painted so that from one particular angle the shapes line up and your visual system flips into thinking that it can see a flat, 2D, pattern when the reality is a disjoint 3D one. Awesome.

    And here's a first for this blog - I'm going to link in the images:


    Full Color Credit

    Here's a useful tool, via (I forgot! :-P), for seeing exactly how your credit card payments break down, how long it will take to pay off your debt, and how much you'll end up having paid by the time you're done. And it's nice to look at, too. The only trick is that it assumes you're done with your little shopping spree there.



    You Are So Getting Me This

    It's the Fake-Out Fedex T-Shirt! I don't know what it's really called, or where it came from, or how to get one, but I know I want it :-)



    And Who Wouldn't Love You?

    I have no idea how old BlackPeopleLoveUs.com is, but judging from the number of letters posted, it looks like it's been around for at least for a little while.

    Anyway, if you haven't seen it yet, enjoy and discuss! And if you have, let me know when that was...


    "The First Rule of Death Cheese Is That There Is No Death Cheese"

    (This post from Gawker is so good that I have absolutely nothing to contribute to it. Even the headline/title is lifted directly from them. I am simply quoting it in its entirety. I got nothin'. Enjoy.)

    As most of you already know, we are bad people. We lie, cheat, steal and revel in public urination. Our worth as human beings is unquestionably low, and we’ve always been OK with that. We never have a problem mocking that which secures our place in hell.
    But today is different, because we’re laughing at the expense of innocent children. We’re laughing so hard, honestly, that we can’t properly write this item. You see, a Staten Island bus driver allegedly organized a fight club amongst the middle school kids on his route, urging them to fight one another and use scissors as weapons. It may not seem funny, but:
    • The driver called himself The Emperor
    • The Emperor rallied kids with his “sick Jedi mind trick”
    • The bus was called The Death Cheese (a “mini Death Star on wheels”)
    • The toughest fighters were nicknamed Darth, Sith Warrior, and Jabba, according to “sources”
    What sources? Jar-Jar Binks? Amazing. We don’t even want to publish this post, just because we don’t want the Star Wars Fight Club to ever end.



    Both Generous and Creepy

    As seen on CraigsList (via Consumerist):

    I have 3 bottles of humalog insulin exp date 2 06 im sure its fine i have used insulin way past the dates with no problems. I also have 2 bottles of the same insulin with exp dates of 2 07 take 1 or all. Got a transplant and no longer need.

    That's actually really nice, and I'm happy for the person, but it's also really really weird.


    Cartoons Revisited

    A coworker forwarded me this yesterday:

    Israeli group announces anti-Semitic cartoons contest!
    February 14th, 2006

    A Danish paper publishes a cartoon that mocks Muslims.
    An Iranian paper responds with a Holocaust cartoons contest -
    - Now a group of Israelis announce their own anti-Semitic cartoons contest!

    Amitai Sandy (29), graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing, from Tel-Aviv, Israel, has followed the unfolding of the “Muhammad cartoon-gate” events in amazement, until finally he came up with the right answer to all this insanity - and so he announced today the launch of a new anti-Semitic cartoons contest - this time drawn by Jews themselves!

    “We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!” said Sandy “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!”

    The contest has been announced today on the www.boomka.org website, and the initiator accept submissions of cartoons, caricatures and short comic strips from people all over the world. The deadline is Sunday March 5, and the best works will be displayed in an Exhibition in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

    Sandy is now in the process of arranging sponsorships of large organizations, and promises lucrative prizes for the winners, including of course the famous Matzo-bread baked with the blood of Christian children.

    Ummmm right. I happen to think it's a very funny concept/thought experiment/hypothetical. It would make a great Onion headline. But I'm not so crazy about the possibility of actually doing it. Not that I think it will make matters worse. A friend of mine told me that he thought it was bad timing. I doubt it - it's not like there would ever be good timing for something like this. As the jokesters behind this idea said:

    In the last two days we’ve received hundreds of emails from all over the world. About 98% percent of them are from Jews saying: You’ve made us proud to be Jews (Or from non-Jews saying you’ve made me wish I was a Jew).

    A few were concerened that real anti-semitists will use our cartoons to spread hate.

    I don’t think they need us for that, they have no trouble inventing excuses for hate. Perhaps, if their crouds would see that Jews are drawing the same ridiculous cartoons, they might doubt the truthfulnessof these stupid cartoons.

    Possibly - it's one those ideas that is so crazy that it just might work... but probably not.

    And I believe Mr. Sandy has one more thing to say:
    And finally, Arabs our are friends and hopefully one day we will all live in peace, and share our special Matzos with them.


    p.s. Mmmmmmmmmmm...... special Matzos....


    Warning: this post contains profanity (duh).

    William Safire writes about profanity in his On Language column in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine. It's a topic I always found fascinating. In particular, he focuses on President Bush's preference for the words "darn" and "heck" (he opens the article with the classic "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" quote. I personally would have gone with "My Darn Pet Goat").

    He points out that "darn" and "heck" were invented as softer alternatives to "damn" and "hell", back when "hell was Hell, the place where you burned throughout eternity". Not that it's not thought of that way today by many, but certainly people who take damnation and hell literally are going to be much more sensitive to the words. Since Bush tends to ally with the Religious Right, it's not surprising that he's going to use the softer, more "secular" words. On a side note, he mentions that "tarnation" comes from "eternal damnation". And they used that word in Looney Toons!

    All well and good, but profanity always interested me on a deeper level. What's it really all about? As far as I can see, there are two kinds - "curses"/insults (like "Go to hell" or "You bastard!") and bathroom/bedroom words (I'm sure you don't need me to come up with examples there) What I find interesting is that in the latter category, the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable seems to be mostly arbitrary. The kids' book "Everybody Poops" would probably not be as popular with young parents if it was called "Everybody S--ts". But why not? What is it about one term for excrement that makes it "OK" and another that makes it shocking? Your guess is as good as mine.

    Of course, when it comes to s-e-x, every word there is taboo, and elicits some sort of emotional reaction, even the word s-e-x itself. The number of euphemisms for that as well as the distance from the original are through the roof - again, you don't need me to elaborate. I'm sure most of you could come up with at least ten synonyms off the top of your head. Again, why are some better or worse than others? Obviously "making love" is a much healthier, more positive, and more agreeable term than "doing the nasty", but for the most part, it again seems arbitrary.

    For the record, I'm not saying that there's nothing wrong with profanity, and that you should take your kids to see the next Quentin Tarantino movie. Far from it. There's definitely something wrong with having your brain focused constantly on what's between your waist and your thighs (or in my case, shins). But it's important to approach this soberly, instead of just having a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that one collection of phonemes were used to refer to something instead of another.


    p.s. I learned a great new word while writing this - "dysphemism". It's the exact opposite of a euphemism. A good example would be "Pass the processed cow lips" instead of "Pass the hot dog".


    So Much to Blog, So Little Brain Cells With Which To Blog Them...

    Lots to talk about today. First, and most important (actually, so important that the word "important" itself loses some of its meaning when compared to other things), it's my birthday! In honor of this momentous occasion, in which the earth has made yet another revolution around the sun, ending up in the same relative position that it was when I was born, I am going to post a hypothetical conversation between myself (YY) and myself ten years from now (YY+X). Enjoy!

    YY: Hey, great to meet you.
    YY+X: I can't say likewise, since I met you like ten years ago.
    YY: Good point. So, world peace, huh?
    YY+X: Yeah - it was surprisingly simple, actually.
    YY: Interesting. Nice work!
    YY+X: Thanks :-) I really couldn't have done it without you.
    YY: Yes. Kudos to myself as well.
    YY+X: But you didn't do anything yet!
    YY: Obviously *something* I'm doing now is helping... I assume this blog helped?
    YY+X: Actually, the next three posts are going to be surprisingly crucial, considering the subject matter...
    YY: Profanity, Anti-Semitism, and Prostitution?
    YY+X: Oh, you're doing those next? Never mind...
    YY: Oh. Well I'm going to post them anyway.
    YY+X: You know, I don't really remember being such a jerk ten years ago. Are you sure you're YY+X-X?
    YY: Quite sure. Are you sure you're YY+X?
    YY+X: Oh my, yes. Anyway, I have to go back to cleaning up my "Space Trailer". You know, in ten years, you're going to be living in a trailer park in outer space.
    YY: Well, that sucks.
    YY+X: Save it for your profanity post, dude.
    YY: Yeah, take care yourself.
    (YY+X has left the... spacetime instance)

    Well, that was singularly unpleasant, wasn't it? But not particularly surprising. Anyway, here's looking forward to many more years of YodaYid!



    Ummm... Go For It!

    Saddam Hussein is on a hunger strike. Does that tactic work when no one gives a s--t? Take your time, dude... no rush.



    Keep Away From Children

    More fun with Boing Boing and kids: Ill-Advised Kids' Toys. If you have kids (and even if you don't), you may find the link, ummmm, disturbing...


    Don't Sell Candy To Strangers

    Just saw on Boing Boing:

    Kids refuse to sell candy after completing health unit
    Kids at a Florida elementary school refused to sell candy to raise money for a field trip, having just completed an educational unit on health and well-being. The widow of Dr Atkins was so moved by their commonsense that she donated $16,000 to their school so they could afford the trip without selling junk-food.

    Awesome! :-) Go kids!



    Are You a Crackpot?

    Based on my last post, we all know I am. But are you? Click here to find out for sure...


    p.s. Yes, I'm aware that it's from 1998, shortly after Duke Nukem Forever was announced.

    p.p.s. Linkwise, I think this is my most incestuous posting thus far...

    To Rant, Press Three Now

    Is it me, or are cellphone voicemail messages these days waaaay too long, through no fault of the phone owner? "To leave a callback number, press 5. To page this person, press 6. To whisper sweet nothings into the person's ear, press #." What happened to "It's YodaYid - you know what to do. (beep)". To me, that's more than enough. People know how to leave a message, and if they don't, they have no frickin' clue what any of those other options mean anyway. I don't need to hear a ten point plan for solving fiscal problems in developing countries. Just play the damn tone already! By the way, if you see me walking down the street yelling "BEEP" into my phone, now you know why...



    Creepy Toothpaste Ad

    (Warning: Link is not work safe)...

    Below is the text from a creepy British toothpaste ad, via Stay Free Daily (it's "James", an eight year old boy, talking to his mother):

    Mum, Did You Know...?
    "Dirty teeth can kill you!" PREVENTDISEASE.com
    "Bad diseases can start in your mouth?" abcNEWS.com
    "Gum diseases can be an early pointer to Alzheimer's?"

    Ja-a-ames, don't worry...
    we use Beverly Hills Formula
    active10 the new ultimate toothpaste
    with ten health-promoting agents!

    Now, so far this is just stupid and over-the-top, not creepy. But the picture accompanying the text has the boy walking in on his mother, who is completely naked in the shower (and the picture leaves very little to the imagination).

    To quote Stay Free: "It is important to remember... that even if your mother is beautiful, there is nothing sexy about her. Then remember that it isn't actually her son. And his smile is really creepy."

    And the point of this ad was what, exactly? Yeesh.


    p.s. Mmmmmm... toothpaste.


    Forever Whenever

    Duke Nukem Forever, the longest-running joke in the video game business, just won Vaporware of the Year award from Wired Magazine, again.

    How vaporware is it? Consider this quote from the developer's president, George Broussard:

    What can I say? We're undeniably late and we know it. We've switched engines a couple of times, and we've started over a couple of times. We've made some mistakes, and we've learned from them. I'm just glad we're in a position to do those things, and to be able to make the game we want to make, instead of being rushed out the door to meet stock projections.

    In the end all that matters is the quality of the game, so, lessons have been learned, and progress is being made, and we're working as quickly and quietly as we can. You're completely justified in calling us 'turtleware,' at the very least, but the release date is still 'when it's done.'

    The source for that quote just happens to be from the 2002 Vaporware Awards.

    A more recent quote, from the official site:
    Things are together; we're in full production. We're basically just pulling all the pieces together and making the game out of it. There's a lot that's finished. All the guns are finished. Most of the creatures are finished. And as I said, we're just basically pulling it all together and trying to make it fun. We've kind of got all these disassociated elements that make up a game, and you put them together and things happen. And then you just tweak it and polish it until it's fun, and that's kind of the phase we're in now, just trying to make something that is really fun to play and interesting.

    Ummm... "Most of the creatures are finished"?

    Another take - all three Star Wars prequels were created and released since this game was announced.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to it. But I'm not holding my breath.


    Them Cartoons

    There's a huuuuge brou-ha-ha over several political cartoons containing caricatures of Prophet Mohammed (the depiction of whom is explicitly forbidden in Islam), which were originally published in Denmark. Now there are riots all over the place, especially in Afghanistan (oh, great - there again), where (as of this posting) five Afghans have been killed and eighteen wounded.

    On one hand, the cartoons are clearly offensive (as President Bush has pointed out), and should not have been published in the first place. Not just offensive - in Islam, it's blasphemy. Not that I even got them - I looked through them to see what the fuss was about, but, not speaking European, I had no idea what they were trying to say. But I'll take on faith that they're really insulting to Moslems. And just like any any other cartoons that target a particular group (ethnic/religious/hat size/whatever), they (by which I specifically mean the originals) were inappropriate to publish.

    But. The violent reaction across the world has been overreaction ad absurdum. It's even being called a "Cartoon Crisis". And I understand the decisions by newspapers in Europe to publish the cartoons. They are now an essential part of the story (a story that now involves people getting hurt and killed), and the public needs to know the full story.

    And freedom of speech is very much an issue here. There is a world of difference between saying (as I did) that cartoons should not be published versus saying that the cartoons should not be allowed to be published. They are insulting, but they are not inciting, which I think is as good a criteria for free speech as it's going to get.

    And if you want a homegrown example of blasphemy, there's always Conan O'Brien with "Bungee-jumping Baby Jesus", "Gun-Toting, NASCAR Driving Jesus", and "Bar Bar Glinks". Have you heard of those? I didn't think so. Or at least not in the same context, by far.

    Then there's this (from the BBC):
    [A picture that] showed the Prophet with the face of a pig... has circulated in the Middle East (The BBC was caught out and for a time showed film of this in Gaza without realizing it was not one of the 12). This picture, a fuzzy grey photocopy, [which] can now be traced back (suspicion having been confirmed by an admission) to a delegation of Danish Muslim leaders who went to the Middle East in November to publicise the cartoons. The visit was organised by Abu Laban, a leading Muslim figure in Denmark.

    And NeanderNews reported that the picture is actually from some French "pig squealing" contest. Right. Anyway, to me, that's incitement - using fraud to deliberately fan the flames.

    And even worse, there's this (via an excellent column by Andrew Sullivan): "[D]emonstrators in London held up signs proclaiming EXTERMINATE THOSE WHO MOCK ISLAM and BE PREPARED FOR THE REAL HOLOCAUST." 'Nuff said (he also has this great line: "Freedom means learning to deal with being offended.")

    I just wanted to point out something interesting that I noticed - the Europeans, who are generally accused by Americans of pandering, are taking a much more aggressive stance on this issue than the Americans - to my knowledge, the cartoons haven't been published in the mainstream media, and the administration has come out strong against the cartoons, despite its "clash of civilizations" statements in the past.

    So that's basically it - obviously, this has gone well past the issue of political correctness. It's about intimidation and fascism now. As much as we don't want to admit it, it really is an example of a "clash of civilizations", and only ours has freedom of the press.



    Does This Sort of Thing Happen To Other People?

    So it's Friday night, I'm walking with my friend near Washington Square, and I see one of the "No Parking" posters on a lamppost, which they put up when they're filming something. So out of curiosity, I walk over to see what production it was (probably something stupid like "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" or "Third Watch", but hey). Just as I walk up to the lamppost, a guy walks to the other side of the lamppost, takes out a knife, and rips it off. Since the lamppost was large enough, neither of us saw each other while he was doing it, but it happened so fast that I didn't even see what had been filmed there (I assume he was taking it down because they were done filming).

    Does this sort of weirdness happen to other people?

    Also, last Friday, I was sitting on the PATH train waiting to get home when a blind man with a seeing eye dog started getting on the train. Just as he's going through the doors, a pigeon that had been in the train (something I didn't even notice beforehand) flew right by his head. He didn't even flinch. If it was me, I would jumped, at the very least. If I couldn't see, I would have probably freaked out. So I was really impressed. Anyway, everyone was staring at him, but I guess he didn't realize that... But that was just a surreal scene, to add to the weirdness of my day.

    Just wanted to share :-)



    Piano Roll Call

    In researching a little side project, I came upon a cool site that collects old-time piano rolls and uses software to scan them and convert them to MIDI. It's a very cool project since before recording equipment was invented, a player piano that used rolls was the only automated way (as far as I know) to play back a song. It makes sense to use MIDI since piano rolls were the precursor to MIDI. To quote Wikipedia, "Piano rolls have been in continuous mass production since around 1897. Though they are still being made today, MIDI files represent a modern way in which musical performance data can be stored. MIDI files accomplish digitally and electronically what piano rolls do mechanically. Software for editing a performance stored as MIDI data often has a feature to show the music in a piano roll representation." PianoDisc is a cool technology that combines the two.

    Good stuff!



    What Happened to Little Hearts With Arrows In Them?

    This is NOT work-safe, but very funny...


    p.s. How about "If you can read this, you are too close", instead.