Saturday, February 27, 2010

Things Which Shouldn't Exist

Trust me: Tofu Wrestling should not exist.

Morning in Hawaii

Residents of Hawaii are waking up to tsunami warning in the wake of an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile. People in the coastal regions are evacuating to higher ground. Wow. I'm an early riser myself, but it's hard to imagine starting a Saturday morning by running for the hills. At least the early warning system appears to be working effectively (those damn taxes) so far.
Too early to tell the extent of the damage and the loss of life in Chile, but it's certainly going to be huge. At least, in comparison to Haiti, Chile has a working infrastructure and a disaster response system in place.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fun Friday Statistics

OK, everyone's seen the E-trade commercial with the talking baby who chastizes his friend Frank for playing the lottery for his financial security and gives him the "shocked face" when he doesn't win. But the baby also poses the question about his odds as: "You realize the odds of winning are the same as being mauled by a polar bear and a regular bear in the same day?"

For some reason, this probability statement strikes me as particularly hilarious, but also one that could possibly be calculated, so I decided to give it a try, although estimates are hard to come by in this arena.

From what I could claw up on the web, there have been 3 polar bear attacks in Alaska in the last 115 years. Given the current (rough) tourist rate of 2.5 million visitors a year and extrapolating backwards, your odds of a polar bear attack (in Alaska) is roughly 0.000000012, which is small. Note that I didn't try to accurately map the tourism increase in AK over the past 115 years; I'm just roughing the calculations here.

According to some web-based Yellowstone statistic, your odds of being mauled by a grizzly (the regular bear, which leaves out blacks and browns, I know) is 1 in 1.9 million (or 0.00000053).

Thus the odds of being mauled by both - not on the same day, just in your lifetime - is the product of those two, which leads to an extremely low probability of 6.36 x 10^-15 (or 0.00000000000000636). I skipped trying to extrapolate to mauling on the same day, because I'm assuming the first mauling results in fatality, so you'd never have to face that second mauling within 24 hours.

How low is that? Well, according to several sites on the web, the total number of humans (homo sapiens) that have ever lived/been born is roughly 106 billion (106,456,367,669 if you want accuracy). You can look at these sites if you're more interested in human population history:

But the reality of it is that the total population is 1.06 x 10^11, so being mauled by a polar bear and a regular bear probably hasn't yet happened to a human being.

I nominate Dick Cheney or Henry Kissinger to be the first.

The Coffee Party


You knew that there had to be an alternative to the Tea Party insanity; now, behold the "Coffee Party":

Our message to Congress: You work for us, not for corporations. We hired you and we get to fire you. We pay you and give you great health insurance. Now get to work serving the interests of the American people, or get out.

Anyone who wants our government to function in the interest of ordinary Americans, not corporations, is welcome to join this movement.

It's not about coffee or tea. It's about this simple question: are we as Americans getting the leadership and representation we need from our elected officials? If we can all agree we have, increasingly, not been well represented, how do we change this?
Many Americans reject the idea of working with the federal government or participating responsibly in the democratic process. For whatever reason, they have declared war on our government, and on our President. This is a destructive path.

Our focus is on the democratic process. We want to encourage everyone--no matter their positions on issues--to participate in the process in a civil and responsible way.

We want the political process broken down into three steps:
1) open and respectful dialogue
2) thoughtful and informed deliberation
3) competent and decisive execution.

While I somehow doubt that logic can have an impact on our current political circus, I do wish that this could work. We'll see if this has any legs, but I'll keep taking a look at them. After all, I much prefer coffee to tea.

Curling Medal Rounds

Today we get the women's medal rounds, with Switzerland facing China for the bronze this morning. Sweden will battle Canada for the gold this afternoon (guess who the bird will be cheering for).

And the men's medal round tomorrow pairs Sweden and Switzerland for the bronze, while Canada and Norway will compete for the gold.

Were I a betting man (oh wait, I am) I'd be betting on a Canadian sweep. And after that, I'll have to wait four long years for the next episode of the excitement that is curling on my TV.

Added: Sweaterman just sent me another "Savage Chickens" curling cartoon. We could get away with doing this at the pub:

Update: China takes bronze, 12-6, with 4 in the eighth end. The Swiss concede.

A Guide to Boobies

It's Friday, so here's a guide to Boobies. It's important to know what you're looking at.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Summit Analysis

While it doesn't count for much, I formed some opinions while watching the "health care summit" (yes, I have too much time on my hands) and they may not be in line with others. But that's why I have a blog.
Obama was who he is: smart, professorial, and coldly logical. He tried to have a fact based debate, assuming 'good faith', on where the plans were at. He offered concessions, again based on facts and logic. He was politely confrontational, which is a bit of a verbal art in its own right.
And he lost.
One of our largest problems is between 'government' and 'politics', where it becomes a game of "win/lose", rather than addressing problems. But that is the current situation. Talking points do now trump policy.
Obama lost because he's playing the wrong game. He's leading the debate club into a rugby scrum. He's assuming that an intelligent argument will actually persuade politicians who have bet their careers on not being persuaded. Intellectually he won, but emotionally he lost. Yeah, he had "facts" on his side, but reality doesn't matter to the right. He did try to use logic versus rhetoric; didn't work.
I do really wish that I lived in a world where logic and intelligence would lead policy. I also want a unicorn. And free dope for life.
The media will focus on the "Obama vs. McCain" confrontation, but I believe that was a sideshow. What I found exceptionally telling was at the end: Obama offered the repubs McConnell and Boehner a chance to make "closing statements" and both declined. Yes, Obama had already eviscerated there previous lies. But they mostly meant "we're against anything you're trying to do", but they don't intend to come right out and say it. I'm almost reminded of the line "you can't negotiate with...". Fill in the blank yourself, and you've probably named the current republican party.

Health Care Summit Theater

Will it accomplish anything? That's the real question. Can Obama make the debate move forward, or will it be theater and political grandstanding?

I will be watching, if for no other reason than that the summit is such an unusual political move. Given that health care reform has been up and down like a Kangaroo in the mating season, I have no prediction as to the outcome. I will be interested to see which rhetorical points each side chooses to focus on. Sadly, the whole process of health care reform has gotten stuck on "framing" rather than actually addressing the very real need to change our system.

We're a very strange country; we have no problem funding wars, but when it comes to taking care of our own people we talk about our deficit. It's a sick system.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Way Too Much Snow

Oh, my...I didn't even mention this weeks snow. It was only a few more inches, and I'm fucking sick of snow. But reading today's local news rag, I found out that we've gotten more snow than any other city in the continental U.S.:

Flagstaff is beating most U.S. cities large and small this year for snowfall, having already surpassed the average snowfall for an entire winter of 109 inches.

There has been 118 inches of snow -- nearly 10 feet -- here so far. The normal through Feb. 22 is 72 inches.

Among cities over 100,000 in population, Syracuse, N.Y., leads the list. But its 86 inches to date is nearly 3 feet less than Flagstaff, a city of about 60,000, has received.

Flagstaff -- 118

Syracuse, N.Y. -- 86

Baltimore -- 80

Burlington, Vt. -- 73.8

Philadelphia -- 73.1

Fort Collins, Colo. -- 68

Buffalo, N.Y. -- 67.5

Des Moines, Iowa -- 62.3

Washington, D.C. -- 56

Anchorage, Alaska -- 44.4

Minneapolis -- 40.6

Boston -- 35.4

Portland, Maine -- 35.4

Salt Lake City -- 25

We're 50 inches ahead of Fort Collins, CO. That is just not right. And we've got more coming.

March is typically Flagstaff's most snow-filled month, however, and national forecasters are giving better-than-average odds of more precipitation next month.

Can I scream now? Any wealthy readers want to by me a plane ticket to the Bahamas? Because I'm ready to run away from home.

Today in Curling

(thanks, Sweaterman, for sending me the cartoon)
Today we get a bonus, a tie breaker match in the men's division. Sweden will play Great Britain for the last spot in the finals. The lucky winner gets to play (undefeated) Canada in the semi-finals tomorrow. No tie breaker needed on the women's side.

Unclear on the Concept

There's 'dumb', there's 'really dumb', and the there's John Boehner, who's made quite a career of saying very stupid things. His latest whopper should when some kind of prize for "doublespeak":

President Obama is arranging a bipartisan health care summit Thursday to allow both parties to have a venue to discuss their “best ideas” for reform. Republicans have since been sending “mixed signals” about the President’s invitation, continuing to urge bipartisanship but decrying the President’s attempt at it, sometimes in the very same press release. House Minority Leader John Boehner suggested that the summit was “some kind of trap.” Rep. Tom Price called it a “Hollow PR Blitz.” Now that House GOP leaders have finally committed to attending, however, they’re facing a new PR problem: selling the decision to their own caucus. Minority Leader John Boehner took his best shot, telling his conference today that he has decided to attend in order to “crash the party:”

According to a House GOP leadership aide familiar with the top-ranking Republican’s remarks at the weekly closed-door conference meeting, Boehner appealed to skeptical Republican lawmakers, saying, “We shouldn’t let the White House have a six-hour taxpayer-funded infomercial on ObamaCare. We need to show up. We need to crash the party.”

Uhm, Mr. were invited. "Crashing" a party where you are a "guest of honor" sounds rather idiotic. I realize that you are a professional dickhead, and that you think your job is to say outlandish shit in opposition to the president, but couldn't you at least try to make sense?

Of course, this is the same John Boehner who criticized the health care bill for being "too long", then criticized the Obama proposal for being "too short"; complained that republican proposals weren't being considered and then refused to put forward any actual proposals. He demanded "details" and "starting from scratch, with a blank piece of paper" all within the same week.

And somehow he's taken seriously. Which is sad. I understand the use of political rhetoric in the debate, but idiotic rhetoric?

Added: Over at Rumproast, marindenver put up a similar, but much better post. Read it here:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The Senate achieved cloture on the "jobs" bill, by a vote of 62-30. Yay, I suppose. The newbie truck driving cosmo centerfold 'bravely' crossed party lines, causing multiple tantrums at tea parties.
In reality, the $15 billion bill won’t do much to create jobs. It's a weak effort in the face of near 10% unemployment, like taking an aspirin when you have a double compound fracture. Better than nothing, but no where near enough to address the problem.
Politically, it's somewhat perplexing that 30 senators would vote against "jobs" at a time like this. Opposing "jobs" should be political suicide. But that's our current situation. Gridlock and obstruction are seen by one party to be preferable to attempting to solve problems.
I suppose I should feel some happiness that the senate actually got a step closer to actually do something, but this bill is very weak tea.

Didn't Know That

Regardless of gender, J.D. is still ugly.
Or, to quote Cat in Red Dwarf:
"Are you telling me that he's a transvestite? With those hips?"
(Thanks Sweaterman for sending me the pic.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Curling Update

Well, yesterday was simply a disaster for the US curling teams. The men lost to Great Britain, 4-2, and the women...well, the women's team probably wants to just forget the whole day. Lost 9-2 to Canada in the morning and 9-3 to Sweden in the evening. At least the women have a 'bye' today. Both teams are effectively eliminated from medal contention, the men tied for eighth with 2 wins, 5 losses, and the women tied for last, also with 2 wins, 5 losses. Today the men play Canada in the morning (a likely blowout) and China in the evening.
On the men's side, Canada (7-0) and Norway (5-2) are the leaders, with Great Britain, Switzerland, and Sweden still in the hunt. For the women, Canada and Sweden are tied for the lead, both 5-1, and China is 4-2. Look for Canada to potentially sweep, as both teams are very strong.
Now for a story about the phenomenon that is curling fandom: At the start of the Olympic curling matches, Sweaterman and I (and a couple of other friends) would meet up at our local pub to watch the afternoon match and have a pint. Each day we end up explaining the strategy and skills of the game to a few folks around us. And many of them become interested, and have begun joining us each day. By yesterday, the bar was rather crowded with curling fans, cheering and shouting and groaning with each end. The place has become a semi-official curling bar. Needless to say, the pubs owners have become big fans of curling.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Canadian Bird

I have come to the conclusion that Grizelda, my bird, is actually Canadian. I base this on the fact that she boisterously sings along anytime "Oh, Canada" comes on as we watch the Olympics. She doesn't do this for any other songs, and completely ignores the "Star-Spangled Banner" (which I can sort of understand; it is rather un-singable). Her taste in music is different than mine; she likes avant-garde jazz, which I'm rarely in the mood for, and ignores jam rock, which I usually play. But because I'm a good people, I've downloaded several versions of "Oh, Canada" for her pleasure. She may not sing well, but she sure does sing loud when she hears any of them.

So I have a very rare type of bird, the Canadian Grey Cockatiel.

Laughing At CPAC

(typical CPAC reptile)

Ah, the CPAC convention, where conservatives and republicans unite to promote their message. Or at least make fun of liberals and progressives, like all "real Americans" do.
Except there seems to be a mix-up in the message. Everybody agreed that Obama's use of teleprompters is hilarious because they got great laughs when they read the jokes off of their teleprompters. And health care reform is bad, and will probably kill us all. Tim Pawlenty advocated taking a "nine-iron" to the government, and Human Events editor Jed Babbin Cracks Jokes About TX Suicide Attack, showing that conservative humor is alive and well, sick.
But after that, things got a little more divisive. One of the co-sponsors was the John Birch society, a group so extreme and toxic that almost no one at the convention admits that they exist. Another co-sponsor, GOProud, the gay republican group, was strongly condemned by the group California Young Americans for Freedom, whose main cause is opposing the "gay agenda" (yeah, they're for 'freedom' as long as it's not 'gay'; semantics is not a republican value). "Man on Dog" Rick Santorum lashed out at the military leaders who want to repeal DADT, which was somewhat in contrast with the usual reverence the right has for the military. They had panels discussing how to get rid of immigrants and how to recruit more minority support on the same day. Good luck with that pairing.
But the best part was the "straw poll" on who they would support for president in 2012. And the winner was...Ron Paul (Read the full poll here. PDF), who beat out Mitt Romney (winner of the last three CPAC polls), 31% to 22%. And judging from the boos from the crowd when the results were announced, the CPAC'ers don't agree with their own. In fairness, only 2,395 straw poll votes were cast by what organizers said was 10,000 attendees at this year's CPAC., which makes me wonder how much of a political force they expect to be. If you can only get a 24% turnout of attendees who are physically in the house, do you really think that you can motivate your "base" on election day? When it might be raining? Or 'American Idol' might be on TV?
If these wackos ever actually got organized, I would be frightened. But as long as they remain a circus of clowns, I do find them amusing.