Saturday, May 09, 2009

What I've Read - mysteries, thrillers, comics and philosophy.

The Godwulf Manuscript and God Save the Child by Robert B. Parker. The first two Spenser novels. I vaguely remember Spenser for Hire from when I was a kid, mostly for Avery Brooks' badass Hawk portrayal, but I always remembered liking it. Spenser was kind of a cultured, more smart-assed Philip Marlowe. The first couple novels' plots aren't the most intricate detective stories of all time, but the characterizations and background stuff is dead-on brilliant. I picked up the first 4-5 books in the series - [let me explain how the internet/life works... one of my favorite authors, Greg Rucka, has a new book coming out, which got a recommendation from Parker, which made me look into his work, and made me remember my fondness for the old TV show... hyperlinking the real world, so to speak... and my Amazon order] - and they're great, fun reads. Gonna tear through 'em.

Fault Line
- the first non-John Rain thriller by former CIA employee Barry Eisler. I really dig on the Rain series [half Japanese assassin] and Eisler writes taught, intelligent, international work. I liked this, maybe not as much as the Rain books, but still really, really well crafted. Good stuff.

Turn Coat (The Dresden Files, Book 11)
, latest in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. The tag line that runs on most of the books - Buffy the Vampire Slayer + Philip Marlowe - plays to two of my favorite genres. Mystery, magic, fantasy... a good and entertaining addition to the series, advancing the big picture conspiracy story with a self contained story and deft humor and characterization.

Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson. Re-read this entire series before passing it on to a friend on his birthday. Still my favorite Warren Ellis work. Just stunningly brilliant SF/political/comedy/genius. Highest recommendation.

Totally Fulfilled by Dean Graziozi. Don't even remember when I picked this up... maybe last year in one of my book buying binges. Apparently the author is best known for infomercial real estate stuff, so I was fully prepped to despise it. Can't speak to any of that, but as far as the book goes, honestly, it was pretty good. Fairly good, if a little generic, self-help stuff. A good reminder for some basic mindset/mentality concepts.

Backup by Jim Butcher and Mike Mignola. An illustrated short story for a supporting character from the Dresden Files series. Good read. Lotsa fun. Detectives, magic, humor and great characters.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The book based on the DVD. Whether or not you think your thoughts and ideas have some quantum, metaphysical, reality changing effect - or you think the Secret is Grade A hucksterism, the bottom line for me is that mindset, optimism and perspective - what you choose to focus on and the meaning you give events DEFINES your experiences and life. And this is a good reminder of that. Good for a kick in the ass to my pessimism.

Hitting the classics, one more time...

Watch for Sean Connery and Michael Dudikoff, in particular...

Geek win.

From 1:20 one of my favorite things on the internets, ever - "Vietnam plants the fear and marginalization of Asians in the US. Plus, we just kind of thought it was funny... 1973, we fake Bruce Lee's death... Jeff Speakman... a simple 75 year plan laid out by the 5 Golden Tigers and set into motion by Emperor Hirohito... and then strike with the white hot fury of 1,000 ninja warriors, riding on samurai, wrapped up in Shaolin monks..."

The Hangover - New Trailer.

Looks damn funny. Watch for Mike Tyson...

Facing Ali (2009) trailer - Damn, this looks good.

Ah, international politics.

Asher Roth - didn't even know who he was 24 hours ago...

Which just confirms I'm getting older, still caucasian, living in Japan, and my finger is far from the pulse from hip-hop/pop culture...

Dude's got skills though...

His Roc Boys remake was pretty clever too...

Lying to kids is fun.

Overheard in New York | That's What You Said About the Personified M&Ms on TV!:
"Jersey man, describing doughnuts to his daughter: And this one has so much much chocolate it will turn your skin brown!
Brown-skinned employee: Um, that's not true.
Jersey man: Look at this guy! He used to be Swedish!

--The Doughnut Plant"

"...there are plenty of other people who are simply comfortable not knowing the answers." - Matt Taibbi

Religion, agnostics, and the cure for baldness | The Smirking Chimp:
"You see this same phenomenon played out on a more crude level in Southern fundamentalism, where the megachurches are smart enough to send their missionaries to rehab centers and prisons and everywhere else you find people stumbling, confused, and vulnerable to a soul-snatching out of their various existential car wrecks — and now that 21st century capitalism has hit the wall and yuppies everywhere are flying through the windshield into debt and foreclosure, the God-hawkers will show up here, too, to argue that where materialism and science have let your postmodern liberal self down, religion comes ready with answers....As for the actual argument, it’s the same old stuff religious apologists have been croaking out since the days of Bertrand Russell — namely that because science is inadequate to explain the mysteries of existence, faith must be necessary. Life would be meaningless without religion, therefore we must have religion. But this sort of thinking is exactly what most agnostics find ridiculous about religion and religious people, who seem incapable of looking at the world unless it’s through the prism of some kind of belief system. They seem to think that if one doesn’t believe in God, one must believe in something else, because to live without answers would be intolerable. And maybe that’s true of the humorless Richard Dawkins, who does seem actually to have tried to turn atheism into a kind of religion unto itself. But there are plenty of other people who are simply comfortable not knowing the answers. It always seemed weird to me that this quality of not needing an explanation and just being cool with what few answers we have inspires such verbose indignation in people like Eagleton and Fish. They seem determined to prove that the quality of not believing in heaven and hell and burning bushes and saints is a rigid dogma all unto itself, as though it required a concerted intellectual effort to disbelieve in a God who thinks gays (Leviticus 20:13) or people who work on Sunday (Exodus 35:2) should be put to death. They’ll tie themselves into knots arguing this, and they’ll probably never stop. It’s really strange."

It's magic. And other stuff.

13 things that do not make sense - space - 19 March 2005 - New Scientist:
"Don't try this at home. Several times a day, for several days, you induce pain in someone. You control the pain with morphine until the final day of the experiment, when you replace the morphine with saline solution. Guess what? The saline takes the pain away.

This is the placebo effect: somehow, sometimes, a whole lot of nothing can be very powerful. Except it's not quite nothing. When Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin in Italy carried out the above experiment, he added a final twist by adding naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of morphine, to the saline. The shocking result? The pain-relieving power of saline solution disappeared.

So what is going on? Doctors have known about the placebo effect for decades, and the naloxone result seems to show that the placebo effect is somehow biochemical. But apart from that, we simply don't know."

Friday, May 08, 2009


Overheard Everywhere | I Demolished That Problem Set, Yo.:
"Thug #1: Yo, nigga! I will beat you up! You hear me? I will demolish your ass!
Thug #2: Nah man, nah. I'll beat your ass!
Thug #1: Fuck that, nigga, fuck that.
Thug #1: Yo, nigga, what was our physics homework for last night?
Thug #2: Section 4. It's on that Archimedes' principle shit.

University of Louisville
Louisville, Kentucky"

Thursday, May 07, 2009

"Did you know that the U.S. has a federal medical marijuana program...?"

Rife with irony and hypocrisy, this is...

"Fox reporter shows the world the incredibly large amount of high grade pot that the feds have been growing for years and years."

Via The Legendary Old Miss Pot Farm

"Did you know that the U.S. has a federal medical marijuana program, and that the University of Mississippi has been growing legal government pot for years?"

Boggles the damn mind, it does.

The Heart of the Matter: Gay Cooties vs Terrorist Mojo:
"Many Americans are willing -- even proud -- to break the law, to abandon our fundamental moral underpinnings, and to engage in practices pioneered by the Spanish Inquisition and refined by Stalin's secret police and the Gestapo, all in the name of keeping the nation Safe From The Terrorists. But we haven't lost all perspective. Some prices just aren't worth paying, not even for Safety. The price, of, say, allowing openly gay linguists fluent in Arabic to serve in the military. Better a city incinerated by a suitcase nuke than that.

...Two possible conclusions:

1. Some people hate gays more than they love life itself. More, even, than they value the lives of their own children.

2. Torture isn't really about safety. It's about something else. Because surely if we're willing to torture to be safe, we could manage to rub shoulders with a gay or two, as well?"

The new Trek flick opens this week, right?

Spock as Face is inspired.

Eddie Izzard is genius.

Via Best worst Star Trek parodies - Boing Boing Gadgets

Venture Bros rocks - "They want to mold the world into a specific shape... and if you don’t believe in that, it just seems crazy."

The Horrible Truth About Super-Science: Jackson Publick of The Venture Brothers on superheroes, satire, and the '60s - Reason Magazine:
"Reason: Like the Guild of Calamitous Intent.

Publick: With the Guild we’ve created a bureaucracy, a union of hate. Even the way they express that pointless anger is that it’s just their job. That’s the best explanation they could come up with. It’s their job, and they have to deal with the bureaucracy, the paperwork that comes with hating someone...

Reason: You regularly tweak patriotism as a motivation for these characters. You hark back to the patriotism of the 1960s, but the contemporary government actors, like the president, are generally gullible morons.

Publick: It’s a bit of a stereotype, and maybe not the most creative endeavor of our show. Anyway, patriotism is the wrong word to use. It’s the self-righteousness that pretends to be patriotism that we see today. I don’t think a lot of people are able to relate to genuine patriotism, a genuinely good feeling about our country and its meaning to the rest of the world. I think the bloom is off the rose. Any time you hear people who still talk with that mind-set, they come across, to me anyway, as just as ridiculous as our characters. You read books about their crazy experiments, like Jon Ronson’s The Men Who Stare at Goats.

Reason: About the military’s “psychic spies.”

Publick: Yes. You read stuff like that and realize that those people are crazy. Fundamentalists are crazy. They’re the real-world equivalent to the evil geniuses of our spy fiction and our superhero comics. They want to mold the world into a specific shape that they really believe in, and if you don’t believe in that, if you can’t relate to that, it just seems crazy. What is the difference between wanting to develop insane weapons so America can dominate the planet and being the guy with the cat on his lap who wants to take over the world?"

Less hope, no change.

Pretty profoundly disappointing.

Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » These Deaths Are On You, Obama:
"During the campaign, the wingnuts tried to smear Obama as hating the troops for some very sensible remarks he made about our situation in Afghanistan:
And that requires us to have enough troops that we’re not just air raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there.

That was a sensible point, and it was met with howls of outrage from the usual suspects who broke out their GI Joe action figures and pretended that this was some sort of grievous insult to the honor and dignity of our troops. When, in actuality, not having enough troops on the ground and having to rely on bombing runs in which innocents are killed is wholly unproductive, and not only that, immoral.

...candidate Obama is now President Obama, and we have elevated the number of troops on the ground and are allegedly pursuing a new strategery in Afghanisatan. Change and all that, you could say. Unfortunately for those on the ground in Afghanistan, it is just the same shit different day:

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday he had dispatched a joint U.S.-Afghan team to investigate U.S. airstrikes that killed more than two dozen people in the western part of the country and prompted an outcry from Afghan officials."

Perhaps the greatest cartoon of all time.

Part 4 of an electric skateboard race, featuring Nathan Fillion, suffering Captain Mal delusions, and more Whedonverse cast. Via the almighty

Asset forfeiture + the pretext of the 'war on some drugs' = some corrupt, evil nonsense.

Texas police accused of highway robberies - Boing Boing:
"CNN reports that police are accused of having robbed at least 150 drivers in Tenaha, Texas. The amount stolen is close to $3 million, says a lawyer who has filed a class action suit against the town and police department there.

Some of the victims (who are mostly African American) said that when they complained to the police about the police, the police threatened to take the victims' children away.

Why America has the right to bear arms.

Right on. Praise god and pass the ammunition.

College Student Shoots, Kills Home Invader - News Story - WSB Atlanta:
"A group of college students said they are lucky to be alive and they’re thanking the quick-thinking of one of their own. Police said a fellow student shot and killed one of two masked me who burst into an apartment.

Channel 2 Action News reporter Tom Jones met with one of the students to talk about the incident.“Apparently, his intent was to rape and murder us all,” said student Charles Bailey.

...They just came in and separated the men from the women and said, ‘Give me your wallets and cell phones,’” said George Williams of the College Park Police Department.

Bailey said the gunmen started counting bullets. “The other guy asked how many (bullets) he had. He said he had enough,” said Bailey.

That’s when one student grabbed a gun out of a backpack and shot at the invader who was watching the men. The gunman ran out of the apartment.The student then ran to the room where the second gunman, identified by police as 23-year-old Calvin Lavant, was holding the women.

“Apparently the guy was getting ready to rape his girlfriend. So he told the girls to get down and he started shooting..."
Via The Agitator » Blog Archive » Badass College Student Stops Would-Be Rapist-Murderers

Washington's drugstore cowboys:
"Armed robberies of Washington State's drugstores and pharmacies are on the rise. Now pharmacists are fighting back with heat of their own. Here is a clip from Seattle's local King-5 news, including video of a pharmacist pulling a Glock on a would-be oxycodone robber."

"Stop Whining About Populist Anger!" - Matt Taibbi

Stop Whining About Populist Anger! | The Smirking Chimp:
"I'm tired of hearing about how dangerous it is when the public gets angry about this stuff. You know what? Let's let it be dangerous, and see what happens. It'd be a nice change."

I'd give him a dollar... that's pretty funny.

Overheard in New York | Our Site Wouldn't Be the Same Without the Wednesday One-Liners:
"Hobo: ...Why does Michael Jackson like twenty-seven year olds? Because there's twenty of them!

--1 Train"

Ruining it for everybody.

Overheard in New York | The Audacity Of Wednesday One-Liners:
"Black guy, cutting in front of line at movie theater: Excuse me, Barack Obama is President now. Thank you.

--AMC Movie Theater

Overheard by: Emmy"

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Good Yoga.

Overheard in New York | Wednesday Om-Liners:
"Yoga teacher: Not being able to do something can teach you a lot about yourself. Like how you're a fucking loser.


Living in a comic book.

More at the link.

How to map the multiverse - space - 04 May 2009 - New Scientist:
"...the fly in the ointment was that string theory allowed for, in principle, many universes,' says Greene, who is a theoretical physicist at Columbia University in New York. In other words, string theory seems equally capable of describing universes very different from ours. Greene hoped that something in the theory would eventually rule out most of the possibilities and single out one of these universes as the real one: ours.

So far, it hasn't - though not for any lack of trying. As a result, string theorists are beginning to accept that their ambitions for the theory may have been misguided. Perhaps our universe is not the only one after all. Maybe string theory has been right all along..."

Multiverse (DC Comics) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"The DC Multiverse is a fictional continuity construct that exists in stories published by comic book company DC Comics.

The DC Multiverse consists of numerous worlds, most of them outside DC's main continuity allowing writers the creative freedom to explore alternate versions of characters and their histories without contradicting and/or permanently altering the official continuity."

Via Warren Ellis » Links for 2009-05-04

Breathalyzer Win.

Breathalyzer Fail « FAIL Blog: Pictures and Videos of Owned, Pwnd and Fail Moments

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Math of War.

Slightly more complex than the "people are assholes" theorem.

About this talk

By pulling raw data from the news and plotting it onto a graph, Sean Gourley and his team have come up with a stunning conclusion about the nature of modern war -- and perhaps a model for resolving conflicts.
About Sean Gourley

Sean Gourley, trained as a physicist, has turned his scientific mind to analyzing data about a messier topic: modern war and conflict

"Who Created God?"

Us, the obvious answer. The clearest historical breakdown of early Christianity I've read in a while... more at the link.

Who Created God? - Auburn Journal:
"All three Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - testify there is but one god, so the Hebrew god YHWH is often referred to simply as "God," or "Allah" (Arabic for god).

The Hebrew Tanakh (old testament) is not so clear on this point and refers to several gods and their female consorts - most notably in the versions of the Commandments given at either Mount Sinai or Mount Horeb, and detailed in Exodus 20,2 and Deuteronomy 5,6, both of which refer to plural Hebrew gods.

The Hebrew god YHWH is actually an amalgam of gods and goddesses; deities of the Mesopotamians and Hittites, the Syrians and Phoenicians, the Egyptians, and most notably, the Canaanites. Titles, powers and attributes of these deities were eventually conferred on the sky-god, YHWH-Elohim when he became the one god of the Hebrews.

...The early Hebrews were polytheists. They worshiped many powers, with Baal (Baalzebub) and Astaroth (Astarte, Ishtar) as their major male/female deity. Baal-zebub and Astaroth were effectively demonized, as you may have read in the Bible.

But not before Baal and his "hieros gamos" Astarte were praised by Hebrews from Samaria to Judah, even after the Babylonian captivity of 605 BCE.

Eventually, Baal was renamed YHWH Elohim, with Asherah remaining as his consort. This is why Genesis sometimes uses the divine plural "We."

When the Hebrews first settled in Canaan, the local gods and goddesses' powers and titles were absorbed by the Hebrew's god Baal, who was renamed YHWH Elohim or simply El. The Bible lists numerous YHWH-Elohim titles, such as El Shaddai, El Ohim, El HaNe'eman, El Yisrael, El HaShamayim, El De'ot, El El-yon and dozens of others, all of which were originally Canaanite titles. In the Canaanite and Hebrew religion, El became the supreme god, Son of God , Father of Mankind, and loving companion of Asherah.

This is well attested by the clay tablets which date from 1300 to 1200 BCE. The tablets were discovered by archaeologists in the ruined library of Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra, Syria).

Baal(im), is Canaanite for "Lord" or "Master", and together with Baal-zebub or Beelzebub ("Baal The Prince") they became major Semitic deities. Baal, Son of El, (sometimes married to his sister Anat) was an agricultural deity, responsible for sex, fertility and propitiating the sun (Shamash). When Baal was murdered and dismembered by the god Mot, Baal's sister/wife Anat killed and dismembered Mot (the Egyptian Isis, Osiris & Set) in revenge. Somehow, this magically resurrected Baal, who was "reborn" from the parts of his own dismembered body.

Baal was eventually dropped as a distinct god in a polytheistic pantheon and even as an honorific title for the Hebrew supreme god. The Tanach/Old Testament tells of YHWH-El informing his people of his desire for exclusivity:
"On that day", said Adonai, "you will call me ishi (My Husband) you will no longer call me Ba'ali (The Baal, the god). For I will remove the names of the ba'alim (plural for the Baal, the gods) from her mouth; they will never again be mentioned by name." [Hosea 2:16-17]
In this way the Hebrew priests prevented potential rivals to their "jealous god" YHWH by dismissing the title Baal and denying the consort Astheroth altogether. They were no longer "Baals" or gods. They were pronounced "heathen" idols of wood and stone. YHWH inherited their powers.

YHWH's primeval narrative is itself an example of myth-borrowing from earlier Mesopotamian scriptures, such as Atrahasis and Gilgamesh. This reveals that Hebrew priest-scribes were intimately familiar with the mythology and traditions of their neighbors, and probably even practiced them occasionally.

The Hebrews borrowed myths from others heavily but generally added elements of their own to create a unique Hebrew primeval myth. Elements of Genesis are obviously borrowed from the Gilgamesh Epic, which describes the primal human Enkidu, who is made aware of his humanity via a sex marathon with a "kedeshah," (sacred-sex female) Discovering his nakedness afterward, he covers himself. Gilgamesh also contains the earliest version known of the great flood myth, complete with the ark and the animals..."

Truth - "...cops aren’t soldiers."

The Agitator » Blog Archive » Part of the Problem:
"American cities aren’t battlefields.

And U.S. citizens aren’t potential combatants. This isn’t pedantry. It’s about the mentality with which police officers approach their job, and about what sort of relationship they’re going to have with the people whose rights they’re supposed to be protecting."

"Wolverine (in 30 Seconds)" - brilliant.

The Mrs pimps her new ride.

From 2009-05-01

From 2009-05-01

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Swine Flu.

Start of the year enkai...

#2 in my 3 round/week and a half social extravaganza explosion...
From 2009-05-01

From 2009-05-01

After 3 and a half years at the same two restaurants, we finally hit a new place. Gotta say I was glad for the change up... View from the new place...
From 2009-05-01

Now, I've eaten sashimi so fresh the fish they cut it from still had moving gills on the service table... but... when they serve the shrimp still snapping and moving? I'll have to pass. Here, my dining neighbor ends the life of the extremely fresh shrimp served...
From 2009-05-01

This was brilliant. I swear, it tasted just like southern style fried catfish or flounder. Pure awesomeness.
From 2009-05-01

I just finished eating their friends...
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Farewells and Hellos...
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Japanese version of the party bus...
From 2009-05-01

Biking back from a night of drinking and the bike throws a chain... fixing that in the dark and half in the bag is no joke...
From 2009-05-01

Sports Day Practice.

Reminds me, what with the marching and the cadences, of parades in the military...
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Judo team awesomeness.
From 2009-05-01

My completely kickass Vibram FiveFingers were a topic of much discussion and awe from both students and teachers.
From 2009-05-01

Totally appropriate Junior High School attire in Japan.

From 2009-05-01

These kids, I'd wager, haven't got clue one what this stuff means... One of these days I'm gonna figure out how a country with such extreme intolerance towards marijuana use has nevertheless become inundated with marijuana-related paraphernalia. Pencil cases, hats, bags, erasers... the ganja leaf and the red, black and green are everywhere. For the vast majority, it's nothing more than cool, weird looking English - I've even had to explain what they meant to English teachers, cause they didn't know - but somebody, somewhere had to know what they were doing when they put the stuff in play. Subversive mf'ers. [Right on.]
From 2009-05-01