Friday, June 26, 2009

Web Stuff Friday: Hard Times

Ze Frank has a series of short videos called Hard Times.
They aren't all hilarious, but there is some good stuff in there. My favorite is "Outsource."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Web Stuff Friday: Passive Aggressive Blogs

Passive Aggressive Notes is a site I have heard about for a while, but hadn't visited until a friend at work sent me the link. There are some really funny ones in there, but one of my favorite parts of finding a really good blog/site is exploring the blogs to which they link. Passive Aggressive Notes linked to several good sites such as:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Music Monday: The Pretenders

I was watching The Pretenders in concert at Cornbury Festival on HDNet this evening. It's a decent concert. No energy from the crowd, but the Pretenders are remarkably clean in concert. They never depended on slick production and have managed to keep their skills sharp. They really did a nice job.

Pretenders Cornbury Videos has links to each song in the concert.

Towards the end, they started playing Mystery Achievement, which has one of my favorite bass lines. When I looked up from my work to watch them perform, I saw that Chrissie has Michelle Obama arms! She is so buff! Chrissie is old enough to be a grandmother (she has daughters who are 26 and 24), but she is in absolutely amazing shape.

Anyway, the concert is worth listening to and watching. The Pretenders' energy and skill make up for the slothful British crowd.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Web Stuff Friday: Catching up with Remy

On Friday afternoon, a friend from work sent me a link to a video by Remy, about whom I have blogged before. The new video is called Arlington: The rap. When I saw the video, I laughed out loud, drafted this entry, and promised my friend that I would clean up the entry and post it this weekend.

What greeted me on the front page of the Post's Metro section on Saturday morning? This article about Remy's video. Good grief. If I were a little faster, I could have been ahead of the curve, but instead, I am posting about a video that is SO last week. Oh well. Here you go anyway:
His songs about food are fun:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No More Crunches; Do Push-ups for a Healthy Back

Newsweek had an article Stop Doing Sit-ups: Why Crunches Don't Work.

Now they tell me. I have been doing crunches for a while, with little effect on my gut. I feel stronger, but the gut is still there. On the other hand, push-ups rock. I need to increase the number of push-ups I do because they are better for my entire body. Leg lifts are also good, so I am starting to work more of them in to my routine.

Yes, I know that cutting back on cookies and pies and cakes is another strategy, but what can I say? I gotta be me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Random Observation: George Jetson, Time Tourist & Mailman

This is absolutely the most random comment I have ever typed.

I was watching Magilla Gorilla with Girl Kid recently and I noticed that the mailman delivering a package to the pet shop looked familiar. It was George Jetson! What the heck was he doing walking on a street in the 1960's? Was the mailman simply George's doppelganger, or did George travel through time? Actually, maybe the entire Magilla Gorilla series was actually on a holodeck in some futuristic amusement park. My mind was boggling. The scientific and even philosophical implications are too intense.

As I was coping with the possibilities, I suddenly noticed that Mister Peebles looked suspiciously like George's boss Mister Spacely. That sealed it. It couldn't be a coincidence. George and Mr. Spacely clearly mastered time travel. Note that the Magilla Gorilla show started filming after The Jetsons' run was mostly done.

It turns out that I am not the first to notice that Mr. Spacely had an alter ego, but maybe I am the first to notice that George was moonlighting as well.

Wow. As I get older, I see that life is full of rich connections.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Women in Math and Science

I recently read an article about a new study concerning the impact female professors have on achievement. The study showed that female cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy were more likely to succeed in introductory science courses of they were taught by female professors, while male cadets didn't exhibit a gender effect. The original paper has many interesting details about the data and its implications. Here are some quotes I found particularly interesting:
  • Compared to men with the same entering math ability, female students perform substantially less well in their introductory math and science courses.
  • The gender gap is mitigated considerably when female students have female professors.
  • Professor gender seems to be irrelevant in the humanities.
  • The eff ect of female professors on female students is largest among students with high math ability.
  • Professor gender has minimal ef fects on male students' outcomes.
This study made me think back to Lawrence Summers, who was President of Harvard University in 2005 when he made remarks about women in math and science. The most interesting part of his comments (and the reaction to them) was the discussion about the causes of the disparity in female representation in science and math careers. Many people took offense when he said that the cause might not be discrimination. Summers basically said that social causes (including discrimination) are overplayed, and innate ability plays a role. His comments set off quite a bit of controversy and ultimately led to his departure from Harvard.

I'd like to discuss the USAFA study with Summers. Maybe women are under-represented for the same reason they under-perform. Maybe we need more women professors, or maybe we need to show men how to teach more like women teach.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Music Monday: Beatles Cover Bands

Who knew that Japanese Beatles cover band was a popular genre?
For a completely different take on the Beatles, check out the Fab Faux. I remember hearing this article on Morning Edition a while ago. The Fab Faux are great musicians who don't try to look like the Beatles. They focus on recreating the sound of the later albums. You know, the ones that are so incredibly produced that it would be impossible to re-create them live.

I'd love to see them in concert. The Beatles stopped touring, but if they had kept going and given it the effort that bands like Pink Floyd gave to their tours, it might have sounded a lot like this. These guys are amazing.
The Fab Faux's YouTube channel has some other videos, but if you do a search for "Fab Faux" on YouTube, you will find several others.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Web Stuff Friday: Orson Illusion Photos

Orson Welles in a commercial recording session is great. If you've ever been involved in studio work or seen what happens when someone who is hyper-talented (but not immensely patient) has to deal with incompetents, you will appreciate this. This is exactly what I imagine it would be like if the Senior VP who is in charge of our History program were ever to review my writing. Several folks have noticed the comedic potential in this:
Ze Frank's Hard Times is a very sophisticated and cool optical illusion. Be sure to follow the instructions. I love high-brow intellectual/technical/psychological stuff like this.

When a friend at work sent me a link to Awkward Family Photos, it reminded me of Rock and Roll Confidential's Hall of Douchebags. The photos are great, but the commentary really make both sites work.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Blago Bummer and Mixed Feelings on Sotomayor

Back in December, I said:
I know it's petty of me, but I hope that few black politicians get pulled into this mess.
Oh well. Not only was Jesse Jackson, Jr. implicated, but it looks like Senator Roland Burris is now in it up to his neck as well. It's always disappointing (but hardly surprising) when black politicians shoot themselves in the foot.

On an entirely different topic, I am heartened that some Republicans are condemning (not just distancing themselves from) comments by Rush and Newt about Sonia Sotomayor. She has said some regrettable things in the past, but she seems like a solid jurist.

I'm not sure what I think about Obama's comment that he wanted a justice who could empathize:
...we need somebody who's got the heart — the empathy — to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom.
Thus, we saw the Wall Street Journal's headline proclaiming Sotomayor The 'Empathy' Nominee. Still, when I read Obama's speech in context, I can see his point. I just wish that empathy had been more of a footnote. The Supreme Court is not about empathy. It's about interpreting laws and the constitution.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Some Blogs I Wish Were Still Going

This blog has come back from a couple month hiatus, but other blogs have simply gone on permanent sabbatical. I wish their writers would get back to these blogs.

FKS was hilarious. Dirty (even the title is dirty), but funny.

Kim Jong Il (the illmatic)'s Journal
was a fun fake blog.

Why is that chair empty? (subtitle: The fragile art of a good excuse.) was created by someone from my company about someone else from my company. This could have been broadened to become a blog about great lame excuses, but oh well. It was a good run while it lasted.

BTW: All of these blogs had their last posts within a three month period in 2006.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Orlando/Disney Trip

The family and I went to Orlando a while ago. The trip was mostly all about a little par 3 course and a lazy river pool at the hotel, but we also took a day trip to Disney's Magic Kingdom. By "the family" I mean Mrs. Kid, Boy and Girl Kid, as well as Ma and Pa Kid. It was quite a good trip.

Ride Line Updates
I posted Facebook updates from most of the ride lines. That was fun. I would never do something like that while on a vacation at the beach, but my first trip to Disney seemed like a good time to give it a shot.

The Stories and Characters
When I was on the Peter Pan ride, I realized that Boy and Girl Kid don't know the story or characters at all and I don't remember it enough to care about it. The ride is a total dud unless you know the story and are really into the characters. This ride was a waste of time (and, more importantly, a waste of a FastPass).

This got me to thinking about Disney as a whole. When it comes to the rides at the Magic Kingdom, most of them aren't all that amazing. If you aren't into the characters and stories, then maybe Kings Dominion or Busch Gardens is just as good.

The No Coors Lite Effect
After thinking "maybe a trip to Kings Dominion would be just as good as Disney" for a couple minutes, I realized what makes Disney so remarkable: No Coors Lite. No Bud. No Miller. No booze whatsoever. Why does this matter? It means that nobody gets sloppy drunk and things stay cleaner and more civil. It makes a big difference.

Parades, Princesses, and "Plush"
We watched two parades. The first was painful. It was a sappy, princess-centric thing that made my teeth ache. The second parade was much better. The music was more fun and less sappy, the characters were more fun, and there were men on stilts! Our greatest fear about Disney was that we would see lots of what one friend calls "plush." Girl Kid is terrified of anybody in a costume. Red Robin, the Chik-Fil-A cow, and Chuck-E-Cheese are all sources of terror for her. It turned out that we were able to avoid the plush entirely, so that was good.

After Disney: Golf, Pools, and Pina Coladas
After a day at Disney, the rest of the trip was spent at the Omni ChampionsGate playing par 3 golf and hanging out by and in the pools and the lazy river.

Overall, it was a great trip. Both kids loved Disney and the lazy river, and Boy Kid loved playing golf with his grandparents.

p.s. It's a good thing I didn't know about Orlando's inexperienced air traffic controllers before I went. Then again, maybe Vicki is right.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Music Monday: Godzilla vs. Iron Man

Godzilla and Iron Man are iconic (even archetypal) characters that have played a part in some great art. If you question my assessment of their significance, then just listen to the music they inspired.

Blue Oyster Cult's song about the big, radioactive lizard was never associated with the movies, but it was about the big, prehistoric lizard.
Blue Oyster Cult's Godzilla

Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne started with the title, and then changed the story to avoid infringing on Marvel's copyright, but it's hard to imagine that he wasn't inspired by Tony Stark's alter ego. The song is so good that Marvel used instrumental passages from it to accompany one of the great movie endings of all time.
Black Sabbath's Iron Man

The Bad Plus is a jazz trio that did an absolutely raucous version of the song. The studio version of the song features pianist Ethan Iverson playing a detuned upright with one hand and a Steinway grand with the other. There is great energy in this song.
The Bad Plus' Iron Man

I know that Iron Man has Godzilla outnumbered two to one in this comparison, but hey: Godzilla is about 200 feet tall and has atomic fire breath. Iron Man is a geek from MIT with a bunch of shrapnel threatening his heart.