alanj: (Default)
Here is a backscatter X-ray image of a human dummy.


The object on the left is a water bottle. The object on the right is an iron rod.

The object in the center is 320g of PETN explosive, approximately four times the amount carried by the "underwear bomber" which all this intrusive new screening is supposed to stop.

"What object in the center?", you ask? This one: Read more... )

Prop 19

Sep. 26th, 2010 12:35 pm
alanj: (Default)
I just donated $500 to Yes on Prop 19, which would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis in California. Ending this country's insanely destructive policy of marijuana prohibition is one of the most important social issues of our time, and this is going to be a very close vote where every ad dollar matters.

(No, I don't use marijuana, and no, I don't currently live in California.)
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While at M Resort this afternoon, I ran into my host, Wai-Mei. She's very nice, but there's occasionally a language gap between us, one that she tries to bridge with pure enthusiasm.

She asked if I needed anything, asked about a friend of mine, and then remarked:

"Your shirt so cute! Little M&M guys, I love it! You get at M&M's store?"

S&M's shirt

"No, actually, I got it at a fetish fair in Massachusetts somewhere else..."

I wasn't about to try and explain that one.
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Playing video poker in Yet Another Shitty Locals Joint, for about a hundred times the stakes of anyone around me, waiting for the staff to pay off a jackpot.

Lady looks up from the slot machine behind us. "Ooooh, what did you hit? Wow, that must be nice! How much is that? Oooh!"

I answer these questions honestly, but I really hate contributing to the delusions of gamblers that everyone around them is winning, and maybe next it'll be them. I'm winning. They're not. They never will. So I add - also honestly - "just don't ask how much I put in."

"Oh, we never talk about that. Only talk about the winning, never about the losing. That's how gambling works! It's lying to everyone around you, and to yourself." That's sort of disturbingly profound to hear from someone playing penny slots.

"I... I think I might have to quote you on that. Do you want attribution, or should I just say I heard it from a wise woman I met in a casino?"

"Just say you heard it from some chick."

She wanders off to find another penny slot, and I return to my work.
alanj: (Default)
The reason I'm laughing has nothing to do with the unemployment rate. Look closer.
alanj: (Default)
Stephen Torrence performs Jonathan Coulton's "Re: Your Brains" in American Sign Language. So awesome. Click through if you want the lyrics and gloss of the signs used.

Also check out his renditions of "First of May" and "Still Alive".
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The Patriots played the Colts last night. With 2:08 to go in the game, leading by six points, the Patriots faced fourth-and-2 at their own 28 yard line. To the amazement of everyone, they did not punt.

Bill Belichick called a short pass to the right side, falling short when Kevin Faulk bobbled the catch, was immediately hit, and only had possession after being driven back a half-yard, just behind the first-down marker. The Colts took over and Peyton Manning drove the other way for a touchdown, winning the game by 1, completing a 17-point comeback.

There can be no doubt that not punting was the correct decision. Take a wild-ass guess at a few numbers: A = probability of converting fourth-and-two, B = probability of losing after successful conversion, C = probability of losing after failed conversion, D = probability of losing after punt. Punting is only right if A*B + (1-A)*C < D.

My guesses are about 65%, 5%, 50%, 30%. Under those assumptions the Patriots win the game after a punt 70% of the time, and win the game after going for it over 79% of the time, a huge difference. Your guesses may be different, but you'll be hard-pressed to find any reasonable set of figures that makes punting correct.

There is no other coach in the NFL who makes this decision. Here is why:

Read more... )
alanj: (Default)
The following image has outlines of the home fields for all thirty major league baseball teams. Can you identify your team's field? How many others?

Cut for large image )

Original image, with key, is here.

That site, Flip Flop Fly Ball, has lots of neat baseball infographics - fans of baseball or of well executed visual presentation of data will have plenty to look through. His chart of the history of the American and National Leagues is particularly awesome.
alanj: (Default)
Translation Party is made of awesome. It repeatedly translates an English input phrase to Japanese and back until equilibrium is reached.

My favorite so far is the first sentence of the Gettysburg address, which after a chain of 39 translation steps eventually becomes "The score of 47-1 to China, free and fair, we were created under the guidance of our ancestors."

I've come across some other fun ones, though, from amusing glitches to the outright disturbing.
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[Error: unknown template qotd]

Barry Bonds. He hasn't filed for retirement, so he's technically still active. The vampirification process should take care of the knee issues he's had in recent years. He'd still have the body of a 45-year-old (forever), but his baseball smarts and work ethic should serve him well in an afterlife league. And given his already nearly-superhuman bat speed, one can only wonder what it'd be like as a vampire; the life essence of human victims beats the hell out of THG for developing fast-twitch muscles.

Most importantly, he's likely to want to join us; he wants to play, he can't play in MLB because he's blacklisted, and given his legal and personal issues, being forcefully removed from the world of the living will cause him as much relief as trauma. This is a win-now scenario, and we want a slugger who will immediately pick up a bat and start hitting, not some head case who's going to whine for months about "oh what have I become" or "what about my family" or "but I don't want to feed on the blood of the innocent". Someone like that isn't going to produce, and is going to be a huge drag on morale in the clubhouse.

Alternately, if we're more in need of pitching, Mark Prior. Prior was one of the top college pitchers of all time, and widely considered to be a can't-miss superstar in the making, until a succession of injuries derailed his career. Ailments such as tendinitis, labrum tears, strained hamstrings, etc are nearly nonexistent among the living dead; siring Prior would allow us to see what could have been.
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Very interesting article in The Atlantic on kidney donations.

Around a hundred thousand people in this country need a kidney transplant. One or two hundred million people in this country have a spare kidney that they could donate - living with only one kidney does not signficantly affect one's health. The surgery offers quick recovery but is not completely without risk - about three in ten thousand donors die.

The status quo is that a few potential recipients are lucky and have a close friend or family member who is a blood type and antigen match and is willing to donate; some potential recipients eventually receive a kidney from a deceased donor, which is not as effective, after a very long wait; and the vast majority of potential recipients go without, relying on expensive and less-effective dialysis to survive as long as they can.

Obviously the status quo sucks. If we were maximizing collective good, we'd have a lot more living donors. But how do you get from A to B? It's a fascinating question of both economics and ethics.
alanj: (hat)
I was playing the $1500 NLHE a couple days ago, and chatting with Molly.

14:30 A: "New table kinda sucks, no obvious hosers"
14:30 M: "ew"

14:45 A: "nm, identified a couple of targets"

15:05 M: "Nice. (Sorry, was outside washing horse cock.)"

I burst out laughing at this. When I sit down again, the table asks what was so funny. I relay the message. Most of the table is amused; the guy in seat 7 looks really puzzled.

7: "I... I don't even know what that MEANS."
A: "It MEANS that she was washing the COCK of a HORSE."
7: "Oh. Er. Huh. I thought it was slang or something."

I explain that there's this huge gelding over at the property, and he was rolling around and got something stuck up there, and now it's all infected and swollen, it's like he's got a tumor or a watermelon or something dangling around, so it has to be cleaned out, lots of pus, pretty nasty. Seat 7 is visibly uncomfortable.

A: "I'm sorry, was that more information than you needed?"
7: "No, no... I'm always interested to hear about... such things..."
A: "About HORSE COCK? Many people ARE interested in horse cock, it's true, but most of them don't want to mention it, and--"

At this point the dealer doubles over laughing. I text Molly again.

A: "I broke the dealer! YAY!"

Fast forward to this afternoon. I'm out playing video poker with Molly and Becca, we have three out of a bank of four machines.

At some point Molly starts talking about washing horse cock again, probably hoping to get a reaction out of Becca. If so, she's succeeding.

M: "I don't mind doing it, but I get tired of having him threaten to kick me."
A: "Maybe you shouldn't volunteer to do it, then?"
M: "Oh, he's not GOING to, but he lifts up his hoof and threatens to. I can't blame him, it can't be comfortable having a hose shoved up there."
B: "Poor horsie!"
M: "The swelling is going down, though. It used to be like this [demonstrates length and girth], and now it's more like this [demonstrates]."
A: "You know, you really ought to save the horse cock for when it'd be useful. Like, say, if a smoker sits down on that fourth machine. I bet it'd be even more effective than [ profile] tiurin's karaoke technique."

(When [ profile] tiurin is in a casino and wants to drive someone off, he sings along to the piped-in music, very loudly. If you've ever heard [ profile] tiurin sing, you will realize how effective this is.)

Five minutes later... sure enough, a smoker takes that seat.

A: "I see we have an opportunity for HORSE COCK."
M: "Well, yeah, it's really nasty and infected... and big... and... never mind, I can't do it."
A: "What? You were doing it just a moment ago."
M: "I dunno. I can't discuss horse cock on command, I guess."
A: "You can't rise to the occasion? So you're saying you're experiencing PERFORMANCE ANXIETY with your HORSE COCK? I'm sure you can come up with some HORSE COCK when--"

...and the smoker cashes out and walks away.

Horse cock FTW!
alanj: (Default)

Molly often jokes with me about bringing home randomly impractical objects or creatures. (A plasma torch. A couple dozen button quail. A huge Caterpillar tractor. A pony.)

Tomi is Molly's friend. She owns a small ranch with a seemingly constantly expanding collection of animals. Lots of horses, two German Shepherds, two Chihuahuas, a cat, and most recently, a small goat. She came over this afternoon to help Molly clean.

Leading up to this text-message conversation:

Molly: You should come by before Tomi leaves so you can see what she brought with her. =)
Alan: Please tell me it's not a pygmy goat
Molly: OK, I won't? Heh, it's just weed-eating the backyard as we clean. It has no interest in grass, amusingly.
Alan:'re serious? She brought a goat? I was joking.
Molly: She did! It's hanging out pretending it's on tryouts for the major leagues at Google.
Alan: LOL. How much longer is she there? Do I have time to stop for food?
Molly: Sure =)

Sure enough...


alanj: (Default)
I've been playing a lot of cribbage recently. I'd never even played it before a few months ago, but it's an excellent two-handed card game, and it's popular among the local gaming group that I've been hanging out with lately.

Recently we've been playing what I'm calling "turbo cribbage". Shuffle together six decks of cards, cut (or flip or RPS) for deal, then play best of five games to 61. Loser of each game has first deal in the next game. No shuffling between hands - all played cards and starter cards go into a discard pile.

Compared to regular cribbage, this variant has some clear advantages:

+: The game moves much faster. Ratio of time spent playing to time spent shuffling is radically increased. You can play best-of-five-to-61 in about the same amount of time usually spent playing first-to-121.
+: Much more of the play is spent in the endgame, the most strategically interesting phase of play.

It also has some differences of unclear merit:

?: Card removal is almost eliminated. In single-deck cribbage, if you lead a three and your opponent responds with six for two, you can feel pretty safe playing nine for six with only one three left in the deck. Not so when there are 21 threes left in the shoe!
?: Certain inferences about the opponent's hand, like "he seems to have a flush and the 8s is gone so he doesn't have an eight", go away.
?: Huge hands, and huge runs of pegging, become more common - though the "several short races to 61" format helps prevent these from dominating scoring strategy, as endgame point values are nonlinear.
?: Card counting becomes a possibility. I have no idea how much it'd help, but feel free to keep a running five count and find out. :) Adding another potential element of skill to the game hardly seems like a bad thing.

And one negative:

-: You need six decks of cards. But we live in Vegas. This is what casino gift shops are for. $0.25/deck at South Point.

Anyway, I came up with this on a whim, but I'm really pleased with how it worked out.

Next up: Heads-up holdem from a six-deck shoe. Because if there were ever a game that desperately needed to be rescued from a tediously low play:shuffle ratio, live heads-up holdem would be it... and besides, haven't you ever wanted to be dealt suited aces, and not have it be a misdeal?
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At Venetian to pick up my $175 free play, I get into an elevator, wearing the same shirt as last time:

no raptors

A young black gentleman is in the elevator already.

"No... raptors? What's that about?"

"I do not want to be hunted down and killed by raptors!"

"Is it from a movie, or a game, or something?"

"No. I just don't like raptors." (Yes, I know about Jurassic Park, but I haven't seen it.)

"So why that particular concern, man? They extinct!"

Fortunately we arrive at my floor just then, and I can nod gravely and say "You can never be too sure" as I walk away.

Toe Jam

Sep. 3rd, 2008 03:36 am
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This song came on the radio as I was driving into town, and Molly and I hit rewind to listen to it like eight times in a row, laughing our asses off the entire time. David Byrne at his lunatic best, over a catchy as hell calypso/funk groove by Fatboy Slim, with a rap by Dizzee Rascal in the middle just to add to the insanity. I love all three of those artists, but never expected a collaboration between them.

Then I came home and watched the video, and it too is silly and crazy and cool as all hell! But I'm reluctant to link to it because it demands enough attention that you can't really pay attention to the music at the same time. So go listen to the song first. After you're done with that, you can watch the video and read David Byrne's comments.
What's it about? Well, in a way the video that Norm had done captures it pretty perfectly. What exactly IS happening in between my toes, anyway? It's all slightly loopy innuendo, ecstatic, sexy and borderline disgusting — and this video pretty much takes that vibe and runs with it.
Anyway, this song basically singlehandedly made my day. Hope some of you enjoy it too.
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I've used Torrent by PlasmaDesign as my desktop wallpaper for a couple of years, and I decided I wanted a change. It's remarkably hard to find a desktop background that does what I want - break up the visual monotony of a solid color, but at the same time, don't be excessively distracting, don't have lines of sharp contrast that impair ability to read text, etc.

You know, wallpaper. There are reasons why real-life wallpaper doesn't consist of, say, full-wall photographs of a pretty sunset! It's something you notice in the background when you're not looking at something else. It's not the focus of attention.

Anyway, then I remembered Propaganda, a collection of abstract images designed for use as desktop wallpaper. I used them as backgrounds on my Linux laptops back when I was at the University of Oregon, almost ten years ago. I was worried about the resolution - we didn't exactly have 30" LCD monitors back then - but since all the images are 512x512 seamless tiles, they work equally well tiled across a 2560x1600 display as across a 1024x768 13" laptop screen or 1280x1024 desktop CRT.

I don't really understand the titles. I'm currently using a mottled dark green pattern which for some reason has the title "Mahogany Handjob 3". But, y'know, it's not like the titles matter. Joe-Bob sez check it out.
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I heard this lady say, "I love kids."

That's nice.

A little weird, though.

It's like saying, "I like people! ...for a little while."

"How old are you? 14? Fuck off."

- Demitri Martin


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