PSA: The Sixty-first Second

Don't forget to adjust your various watches and clocks for the leap-second at 6:00 p.m. central-time tonight to make up for the lacksadasical earth. How much more fun would it be if we just let all the leap-year days and leap-seconds build up for a couple decades? We could save them all for some big Global Day o' Anarchy where time (and, presumably, laws or morals or norms) does not apply! God, if I had a day like that, I'd play so many emulated Super Nintendo games on my computer....

Late evening update: How was it for you? Good?

Get Shovelglovey!


A recent Gallup poll showed that 85.5% of Americans planning to make New Year's resolutions have fitness or weight loss in mind. I present to you, hundreds of millions of readers - the Shovelglove! M.Bro isn't awake yet, but I think she'll be pleased when she finds out I've cancelled our gym membership, bought two sledgehammers, and ruined two of her sweaters - for fitness!
Take a sledgehammer and wrap an old sweater around it. This is your "shovelglove." Every week day morning, set a timer for 14 minutes. Use the shovelglove to perform shoveling, butter churning, and wood chopping motions until the timer goes off. Stop. Rest on weekends and holidays.

You guessed it, 14 is a significant number. Why? Because it's one minute less than the smallest unit of schedulistically significant time. No calendar has a finer granularity than 15 minutes. No one ever has a meeting that starts at 5 or 10 or 14 minutes before or after the hour. You have no excuse not to do this. Time-wise, it doesn't even register.

Swinging a sledgehammer around like a spastic maniac is dangerous. But I haven't found anything to suggest that these movements, when properly performed by sane, healthy people, are especially risky. In fact, I've found some reputable sources specifically extolling the health benefits of shoveling (footnote pending).

Doctor, Doctor - give me the news

My regular doctor isn't going to be in the office for two weeks, but I needed strong antibiotics for my lingering sinus infection, so I went to someone else yesterday afternoon. I think he hit on me. While he was getting my medical history, he asked, "So, is there anyone you live with at home? Girlfriend? Boyfriend? Partner?" Then, when I was up on the little table and he was holding my chin and looking in my nose and down my throat he said, "Wow - you have a really strong neck!" I'm not sure if it was because I led him on or because of a real medical reason, but I walked out with a prescription for 10 days of 875mg Augmentin pills.

The Story of Wheat

Today's challenge - find the title and article with the greatest disparity of interestingness. You don't even need to play, though, because I win with The Story of Wheat.
Innovations came slowly in wheat farming. The horse collar arrived in the third century BC, in China. By not pressing on the animal's windpipe, it enabled the animal to drag greater weight—and faster than an ox. In 1701 AD the Berkshire farmer Jethro Tull devised a simple seed drill based on organ pipes, which resulted in eight times as many grains harvested for every grain sown. Like most agricultural innovators since, he was vilified. A century later the threshing machine was greeted by riots.

Our Santa, who art at the North Pole...

It's Christmas eve - the elves are giving the sleigh one last coat of turtle wax, the reindeer are carbo-loading, and Santa's down at the workshop micromanaging the Xbox 360 production line. What did you ask the big guy for this year? Here's my list -

-secret powers
-for dragons to really, finally be extinct
-for there to never ever be some male Yoko Ono that breaks up the New Pornographers
-for that guy at my gym that does Tai Chi by himself on the stretching mats to at least stop grunting
-to convince some video game programmer to start making SNES-style role playing games again, but longer and more involved instead of with better graphics
-a finished Intro to IR syllabus
-give me back my underwear

And M.Bro's list -
-can you just shave Jason's beard off while he's sleeping? Thanks.

Body-sculpt

In in the interest of cross-training in the off-season, tonight I went to the exercise class M.Bro goes to on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The last (and only other) "class" I'd been to was the cri-zazy one at Spice's gym last summer - and even though the sight of stairs made me wince for three days after that, I went into the class tonight with the same low expectations. And once again, I'm the mayor of Pain Town. My abs are already sore to the touch and the class only ended two hours ago. I blame the silly half-balls we had to balance and do crunches on.

It knows

I've noticed that the big cut on my schnozz does a good job separating out the more forthright people I know. Spice and Alex C, for example, asked me about it within 10 seconds of first seeing it. A few minutes ago, Alex actually interrupted his sentence for it - "So when are you and M.Bro headed back to Nebra.....what happened to your nose?!" I'm not sure if my less-forthright friends (I'm lookin' at you, ELF) are just secretly curious or assume that it was some embarrassing mishap that I'd rather not talk about (to be fair, they wouldn't be entirely wrong on that count).

It makes me sic!

Mark, my TA, just sent me the following excerpt from what he calls, "the worst paper I've graded in four years of doing it" -
In the case of the Gulf War, the Geneva Convention weren't applied. The US suffered because of this, so if the US were to go by the Gulfs failure to comply, then we could legally torture and violate conventions.

Mommy, Mommy - I don't want to die

I'm not really a "Jesus Christ - why don't nobody just take responsibility for hisself nowadays?!?" kinda guy, but give me a break. If a kid releases the quick-release, then it's not defective - it did what it was supposed to do. I don't like siding with Wal-Mart, but I side with Wal-Mart on this one. From experience, I know these bikes come with multiple warnings (on the bike and in the manual), and that quick-releases don't just work themselves loose.
"That's what caused his accident," [mother] Cheryl Abplanalp said. "The front tire literally dropped off the bike."

In trial testimony, a Wal-Mart claims adjuster said she saw a pattern of such accidents, blaming them on small children who pulled the quick-release lever.

Four

That's how many papers I had to grade before running into plagiarism. It's text lifted directly from www.humansecurity.org and the abstract to a paper given at a Harvard discussion group - two separate sources means there is absolutely no way I'm backing down from giving this student a zero and failing them in the course.

Update: Jesus - part of this paper is lifted from the League of Nations entry on Wikipedia - that's right - fucking WIKIPEDIA. If you're going to make me play internet plagiarism detective, at least give me a fucking challenge!

Judging 2005

I'm ranking other sites' Best of 2005 lists by where they put Twin Cinema by The New Pornographers. That means Pop Matters, which put it at #1, is itself the #1 list. #12? - I'm disappointed in you, Pitchfork (although I can forgive you)

Maybe my brain is iced over

I can't tell the difference between 8 below zero and twenty above.

Oh Pagan Tree, O Pagan Tree...

Some highlights fromthe real story of "Christmas" -
Joseph A. Fitzmyer – Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America, member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and former president of the Catholic Biblical Association – writing in the Catholic Church’s official commentary on the New Testament, writes about the date of Jesus’ birth, “Though the year [of Jesus birth is not reckoned with certainty, the birth did not occur in AD 1. The Christian era, supposed to have its starting point in the year of Jesus birth, is based on a miscalculation introduced ca. 533 by Dionysius Exiguus.”

Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.

In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.

But you have nine hours to look it over!

If a student sent me an revised version of his paper four minutes ago and asked for feedback, I'm under no obligation to provide it, right?

The Bob Loblaw Law Blog

The OP has a 20 second clip from Monday night's new episode up - you, sir, are a mouthful! Warning, though, one of the lines is a little spoiler-ey.

BikeCo's War on Christmas

Despite having an awesome Tom Waits-ey gravelly voice, despite being comfortable with my sexuality in a pink shirt and tie combo, and despite forgetting my watch and wedding ring on the counter at home, I didn't manage to pick up any chicks at the BikeCo holiday party last night. M.Bro was always hanging around, being all "How is your dinner?" and "Why do you keep pretending you don't know me?" and "Hey - get your hands off of her!" By the end of dinner, though, my Waitsian growl had turned into a whisper again and I couldn't make myself heard over the band. Even though the paper and pen would make it really convenient, it's tough to get numbers when you have to write a note to ask for them. So we left pretty early.

Low point of the evening - M.Bro ordered a cosmopolitan - it was an open bar, but apparently there were selected excluded drinks. As he was setting our drinks in front of us, he bartender, who could have saved quite a bit of hassle for everyone, said, "The beer's on the house, but I gotta charge you for the cosmo - that'll be $9.25." Ummm - OK, I said, and tried to hand him my debit card. "Sorry - cash only," he replied. "Nope - no ATM in the building," he responded to my next question. So the low point of the evening was M.Bro and I leaving the party to find an ATM to pay the bartender for a problem that could have been solved very easily by him saying, "Just so you know - I have to charge you for the cosmopolitan" when M.Bro ordered it instead of after he made it.

High point of the evening - Jordan's girlfriend, Rachel, telling our table about the time she fell off a cliff while mountain biking in California, and Jordan responding, "That wasn't a cliff - it was only, like, 20 feet!" That's love, right there.

Feedback

At the end of lecture tonight, I asked my students to take out a sheet of paper and answer this question - "If you found out your friend was registered to take this class with me in the future, what would be your advice to her?" The answers were generally positive, or at least the kind of answers I hoped for ("Don't just write down the slides" and "Come to all the lectures - the readings aren't enough" - stuff like that). I did have some negative feedback though, and it really frustrates me - not that they had criticisms, but that they didn't approach me with their concerns during the semester, when it could have actually made a difference. The frustration also comes from not being able to make them interested in the question I was trying to ask - and again, I think I would have been able to, had I known I wasn't. Here's an example -
To be honest, I would advise her not to take it. The lectures were full of detail, which is good, but they are never contexted into the larger picture. As a result, the final paper will be [ed. note: "will be"? It's due the day after tomorrow!] incredibly difficult to write, in addition to it being an impossibly broad question to answer.

I can't say for sure that this student didn't come to office hours, but I have a hard time believing that he would've had this attitude after speaking to me about the paper. In addition, they received the final paper assignment the first five minutes of the first lecture, so it wasn't a surprise that the question (Does international law have an independent effect on state behavior?) was going to be broad. Here's another example -
I would tell my friend to try to get out of the course. Your grading is really harsh. You expect something from the reaction papers that was never clearly told to the class. No matter how carefully I read the readings, my grade would not change. Also, an international law class should be about the law.

I had numerous students - ones that wrote them early enough to take advantage of this option - bring their reaction papers to me in office hours to discuss them before the due date. In addition, I allowed them to re-write and have their papers re-graded as many times as they wanted. I think that's a very generous policy, but it takes some effort on the part of the student. On the second point, I wish the student had asked me why I structure the class the way I did - I would have been happy to explain why I was approaching a class called Principles of International Law from the perspective of the motivations and incentives for states. Finally, the one that concerned me the most -
DON'T TAKE THIS CLASS. You can learn everything in 103 [Note: Introduction to International Relations] and that class is much easier. So there is no new info and this is a harder class, therefore it makes no sense to take it

It's not clear to me how the two courses could be covering the same material, but 103 could be easier - unless the student was only being engaged as the most superficial level. Yes, 103 and my class certainly address the same topics - it would be irresponsible to teach a course on International Relations without including interstate conflict or economic policy, for example. But if this student thought my class was just a more difficult version of the intro course, then he wasn't getting nearly as much out of the material as I wanted him to. Again - an issue that could have been addressed, but only if I know about it.

Update

My students thought all of your suggestions were hilarious, but the one I decided to go with was having volunteers deliver lecture from my notes a few lines at a time. I didn't think anyone in the audience was really taking it seriously, but about 20 students stayed for the optional roundtable discussion afterward with questions about the material(answered by my TA while I nodded my head wisely and approvingly). I told you international law about agriculture subsidies was interesting!

The internet is profit!

While Christmas shopping last night, M.Bro and I found a digital camera dock on clearance at Shopko. We were reasonably sure it would fit our Kodak, and for 75% off, we were willing to take the chance. It turns out we were wrong, but we listed it on ebay and it just sold for over twice what we paid for it! Score!

This is way my lecture ends - not with a bang, but a whisper

Sorry if you're having trouble reading this, but my voice seems to be checking out. Despite a bag and a three-quarters of lozenges, a sore throat on Sunday turned into a scratchy voice yesterday turned into a full-blown case of whispers-and-squeaks today. And for the next 2 1/2 hours, I'm going to have a steady stream of undergrads that want to me to talk to them about their term papers. It's not going to be better anytime soon, is what I'm saying. Tomorrow night I give my final lecture of the semester - it's going to be quite the letdown for my students when I give it entirely via powerpoint slides.

Update: My voice is completely gone now. Missy keeps whispering back to me - hilarious! Hey - is laryngitis a specific medical condition with specific medical causes, or is it like having something vague like a "sore knee"? If it's caused by something, what? What exactly is going on in my mouth?

Welcome to Disgusting Joke Tuesday!

Warning: just stop reading. OK - well at least stop eating.
Two necrophiliacs were sitting and talking.
The first one says, "Hey, so, how are things going with that girl you've been seeing?"
To which the other replies, "Things were going great, until the bitch split on me."

A woman is giving birth in a maternity ward. When the child is born, the doctor says, "Congratulations! It's a boy!"

He then, after shifting the child to his right arm, throws it against the wall with great force. He picks it up off the ground, and starts dribbling it like a soccer ball using his knees, and then gives it a swift kick out the door, where it slams into the wall outside of the room. He picks up the now deteriorated-looking body of the child, cradles it like a football, and runs down the hall, checking it into walls as he goes.

The woman at this point is in hysterics and wrenches herself out of the stirrups and off of the bed and runs into the hall, just in time to see the doctor slam-dunk the bloodied corpse of the child into a waste bin and doing a victory dance.

"WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!" the woman screams. "WHY DID YOU DO THAT TO MY CHILD?!?!"

"Ahh, I'm just joking with you," the doctor says. "It was born dead."

Q: How do you know when to change the baby?
A: When the dog eats all the meat off the old one.

The Final Countdown

Since the first copies of Taming of the Blog: Best of 2005 were handed out last night, I should probably finish off this list as soon as possible.

#2) Gorillaz - "Feel Good Inc."
Although I thought Demon Days was kind of inconsistent overall, I'm absolutely in lust with this single. There must be six or seven separate audio parts and just as many beats, but Damon Alburn (also of Blur) and his cartoon band put it together and make me want to dance like I'm a cute boy from Norway.

#1) The New Pornographers - "The Bleeding Heart Show"
Want to know how far above everything else the New Pornographers are? If I didn't think it would be boring, there are three other songs from Twin Cinema that couldv'e held their own in this list (Sing Me Spanish Techno, Three or Four, and Use It), and none of them are even in my top three New Pornographers songs (Letter From an Occupant, The Laws Have Changed, and It's Only Divine Right). The Bleeding Heart Show sounds like an acoustic ballad for the first :30 or so, then Neko case's vocals come in and make you think, "Wow - what a great duet!" Then the drums and second guitar come in at about 1:15 and make you think, "Holy shit - this is a great song!" Then at about 2:00, the majesticness of this song kicks you right in the seat of your pants, and like Hey Jude, it just keeps crescendoing until it collapses in on itself. It'll leave you quivering a little bit.

Tranquility Park

Does Omaha have the most boring mountain bike trails in the country? Look at these pictures - the answer is yes.

Countdown

See #11-9 and #8-6 of this extended best-songs-of-2005 coundown below. Thanks to a couple late additions - songs that are unofficially 2005 releases that have now been given their proper position in the list - this is now a Top 13 list.

#10.5) The Brunettes - "Loopy, Loopy Love"
I'm adding this track on the fly because I didn't realize the album had a 2005 release date. I bought it from their merch table when they opened for The Shins in March, and it got an official release in October (although not in the US yet) (but the band just signed with Sub-Pop for US distribution). Right, the song - goofy lyrics, super-poppy music, and a male and female lead trading vocals - it's a bucket o' fun.

#5.5) Jupiter One - Countdown
This is such a new song that it hasn't been recorded on an album yet - but you can download the mp3 straight from the band. Listen to it and try to hold your head still. I knew you couldn't do it.

#5) The White Stripes - "Blue Orchid"
On an album otherwise driven mostly by piano and marimba, this track rocks harder than anything the White Stripes have done since Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground - a throwback to the blues-rock of de Stijl.

#4) Death Cab for Cutie - "Soul Meets Body"
Will putting an emo-esque song that got regular play on Z104 in my Top 13 list convince Spice that I'm not just a music contrarian? Probably not. Soul Meets Body is gorgeous and soaring, though, and sometimes I stop what I'm doing to listen to it.

#3) Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx - "Gold Digger"
On the whole, I didn't this this album was as strong as College Dropout, but Gold Digger is my favorite track on either CD. OleNelson gave it the #1 slot, and although I don't agree with the placement, his justification is spot-on.

What will claim my #1 spot? What did it edge out for top honors? It was a tough decision, but in the end, the strength of the rest of #1's album pushed it ahead. Stay tuned to find out! It's not Mariah Carey.

Hey kids - do you want a mostly-illegal Taming of the Blog Best of 2005 CD of your very own? I'm happy to spread the audio joy - just let me know (and, if I don't see you regularly, how to get it to you).

C'mon WORS!


Oh, man - how much fun would a mountain bike race like this be?!? A lot. That's how much.

Outsourcing gone too far

It's the least-fun part of every role-playing game, but killing low-level monsters with your wooden sword or +2MP fireball spell is a critical part of your child's formative years. Where is the conservative outrage when it starts getting outsourced to low-cost Chinese laborers? Where does this end? Breaking up with your highschool girlfriend? Hire a call center in India to let her know that a college freshman is too young for a long-distance relationship. Awkward Christmas dinner with the set of grandparents that you don't like? There's probably some hungry French-Canadian that would be happy to listen to stories about farming by hand just to get some mashed potatoes. If you were reading Grrrbear's blog, he'd have eight or nine more of these. He's such a pro.

It's her ILLUSION, Michael!

M.Bro downloaded "Final Countdown" by Europe as a ringtone - I'm so jealous of her and her polyphonic phone. If you're at the holiday party tonight, there's much entertainment to be had by calling her and then dancing like GOB when her phone starts to ring.

God help her if she tries to rename Bluthton!

Two big AD stories in the news, and I wouldn't want you to miss either, Mrs. Internet-reader Guy. First, some meta-humor from an upcoming episode in a glowing review by Toronto's Eye Weekly (capped by a list of other too-smart-for-TV shows). Second, in more upcoming-episode news, Justine Bateman!

Countdown

8) Sufjan Stevens - "Chicago"
Olenelson put Sufjan Stevens at #2 on his list, and while I agree that he belongs in the year-end countdown, I'm not willing to give him quite that high of ranking. The use of a brass section and children's choir does make "Chicago" pretty timeless, though.

7) The King of France - Mexico
A great new band that I discovered on 3hive, then the lead singer of Nada Surf stole my thunder by recommending them in a Spin interview. You can download "Mexico" for free - also, Mexico.

6) The Decemberists - 16 Military Wives
A great anti-war ditty by a wimpy band of pirates or something. 32 softly-focused, but brightly-colored eyes.

Freaks & Geeks

If you're one of my snoopy friends, you know that M.Bro and I have been watching Freaks & Geeks from Netflix. She didn't believe that I used to be Bill...

...until a google image search proved that he bears a certain resemblance to me now too -

Countdown

Top eleven songs of 2005, in reverse order, a few a day for the next few days - let's do this thing.

11) Wolf Parade - "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts"
Is that David Bowie? Singing with Modest Mouse? In Canada? No. But almost.

10) LCD Soundsystem - "Daft Punk is Playing at my House"
"...my house" - you know the tune, homie. It's the lead track to a two-disc set of new stuff and previously-released hits (Losing My Edge is the best of disc 2). You've got to set them up kid. Set them up.

9) Kaiser Chiefs - "I Predict a Riot"
I deem this song "rollicking" - it'd be catchy in snippets between batters at a baseball game, except for, y'know, the predicting-a-riot message it sends.

Scared of Santa: A Gallery

"Nothing says Happy Holidays like a photo of sweet little toddlers screaming at Santa" - what the article doesn't say, is that sometimes the fear is very, very justified. I'm scared of this Santa, and I'm like 95% sure it's not even the real Santa.

In the shop

After quite a bit of time out of commission, Blazey the Blazer is in the shop being worked on. We had been walking or riding most places, and using M.Bro's giant, embarrassing store van when we absolutely needed to drive somewhere. The nice man from Mike's Towing (Mike?) had to drag it out of the garage since it not only won't start, but won't come out of park. The nice people at Firestone on Mineral Point gave us a line of credit, which means we can pay over three months without interest and get 10% off parts and labor. Blazey's scheduled for a half-hour on the diagnostic computer to find out exactly what's wrong, but we probably won't find out until tomorrow. If you're the finger-crossing type, cross your fingers for Blazey.

Maybe I'll put it in her brownie...


In just over an hour, Missy and I will be celebrating the first new episode of Arrested Development in a month with soup and garlic bread. We're also mourning the possibility that it's also the last episode we'll see on network TV. Will the show make it past tonight's episode? Or will we have to watch the last, "lost" seven episodes on DVD?

Post-AD Update: HA! Oh. my. God. Tony Hale singing Mr. Roboto (again)! Monster! "Maybe you're not smart either. I didn't know until someone told me"! "We had the signatures"! "It's not my trick, Michael...."! And the best - "Why am I not going underwater?!"!!!

I want to see this (and not see Fox News) in my lifetime

The chairman of the FCC called for cable companies to start providing a la carte, channel-specific pricing structures, rather than large blocks of channels -
But cable still seems to operate by the old rules, which leaves a lot of customers frustrated. Cycling freaks are angry when their system doesn't carry OLN, the only U.S. network to air the Tour de France. Anglophiles have their knickers in a twist if they can't get BBC America. For the childless, channels like Noggin are no-go zones. Left-wingers have to surf past Fox News Channel, and right-wingers avoid PBS. And yet cable viewers effectively have to pay for—and subsidize—all those channels.

Hey Charter Communications - here's my order:
ABC
NBC
CBS
FOX
UPN (for Veronica Mars, and Veronica Mars only)
PBS
OLN
F/X
The History Channel
VH1
CNN
Bravo
HBO

UTA: Ack! And:
Comedy Central

Ellemenopee

Is this the most addicting flash game I've ever played? It might just be! Type the alphabet as quickly as you can. Then do it again. And again. One more time.

I can't get below 6.379, which seems kinda pathetic. I only played for a couple minutes, though, and it seems like this is the kind of game you can get progressively better at. Unlike the kind of game where you shoot a penguin from a cannon.