New Year Resolutions for Your Cat

Dec 312007

I strongly recommend reading these New Year resolutions to your cat. It won’t do any good, but you’ll find their behavior even more funny next year.

My human will never let me eat their pet hamster, and I am at peace with that.

I will not slurp fish food from the surface of the aquarium.

I will not eat large numbers of assorted bugs, then come home and throw them up so the humans can see that I’m getting plenty of roughage.

I will not lean way over to drink out of the tub, fall in, and then pelt right for the box of clumping cat litter. (It took FOREVER to get the stuff out of my fur.)

I will not use the bathtub to store live mice for late-night snacks.

We will not play “Herd of Thundering Wildebeests Stampeding Across the Plains of the Serengeti” over any humans’ bed while they’re trying to sleep.

I cannot leap through closed windows to catch birds outside. If I forget this and bonk my head on the window and fall behind the couch in my attempt, I will not get up and do the same thing again.

I will not assume the patio door is open when I race outside to chase leaves.

I will not stick my paw into any container to see if there is something in it. If I do, I will not hiss and scratch when my human has to shave me to get the rubber cement out of my fur.

If I bite the cactus, it will bite back.

When it rains, it will be raining on all sides of the house. It is not necessary to check every door.

I will not play “dead cat on the stairs” while people are trying to bring in groceries or laundry, or else one of these days, it will really come true.

When the humans play darts, I will not leap into the air and attempt to catch them.

I will not swat my human’s head repeatedly when they are on the family room floor trying to do sit ups.

When my human is typing at the computer, their forearms are not a hammock.

Computer and TV screens do not exist to backlight my lovely tail.

I will not puff my entire body to twice its size for no reason after my human has watched a horror movie.

I will not stand on the bathroom counter, stare down the hall, and growl at NOTHING after my human has watched the X-Files.

I will not drag dirty socks onto the bed at night and then yell at the top of my lungs so that my humans can admire my “kill.”

I will not perch on my human’s chest in the middle of the night and stare until they wake up.

I will not walk on the key board when my human is writing important adagfsg gdjag ;ln.

If I must claw my human I will not do it in such a way that the scars resemble a botched suicide attempt.

If I must give a present to my human guests, my toy mouse is much more socially acceptable than a big live bug, even if it isn’t as tasty.

Any more, fellow cat servants?

NetFlix Update

Dec 302007

Of the people who’ve signed up to be my NetFlix “friends”, Greg Perkins rates second with 80% similarity to me. (Paul and I are about 95% similar, so he doesn’t bother rating his own movies.)

Then again, Greg gave The Last Samurai five stars. I’ll admit, it was a well-constructed movie. However, Paul and I both thought it revoltingly vicious in its philosophy from start to finish, with the single exception of a comment about the perfectionism of the Samurai culture in all its pursuits. Its noble ethic was that of senseless sacrifice in the fulfillment of duty. It was anti-industrialization, anti-technology, anti-civilization, and (as if that’s not enough) anti-American. Blech!

Of course, the fact that it was a well-done movie, with a coherent plot and well-drawn characters, only made its thoroughly awful philosophy so much more clear. Normally, I can tolerate well-done movies with vicious themes… but not this time.

So Greg: Five stars?!? Explain yourself, man!

Top 30 Failed Technology Predictions

Dec 292007

Here is an interesting list of failed predictions about future technology:

1. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), maker of big business mainframe computers, arguing against the PC in 1977.

2. “We will never make a 32 bit operating system.” — Bill Gates

3. “Lee DeForest has said in many newspapers and over his signature that it would be possible to transmit the human voice across the Atlantic before many years. Based on these absurd and deliberately misleading statements, the misguided public … has been persuaded to purchase stock in his company …” — a U.S. District Attorney, prosecuting American inventor Lee DeForest for selling stock fraudulently through the mail for his Radio Telephone Company in 1913.

4. “There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.” — T. Craven, FCC Commissioner, in 1961 (the first commercial communications satellite went into service in 1965).

5. “To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth – all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.” — Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, in 1926

6. “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” — New York Times, 1936.

7. “Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical (sic) and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.” – Simon Newcomb; The Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk 18 months later.

8. “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” — Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist, president of the British Royal Society, 1895.

9. “There will never be a bigger plane built.” — A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people

10. “Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years.” — Alex Lewyt, president of vacuum cleaner company Lewyt Corp., in the New York Times in 1955.

11. “This is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.” — Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy during World War II, advising President Truman on the atomic bomb, 1945.[6] Leahy admitted the error five years later in his memoirs

12. “The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.” — Ernest Rutherford, shortly after splitting the atom for the first time.

13. “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” — Albert Einstein, 1932

14. “The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage.” — Charlie Chaplin, actor, producer, director, and studio founder, 1916

15. “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.” — The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903

16. “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” — Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.

17. “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” — A memo at Western Union, 1878 (or 1876).

18. “The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most.” — IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959.

19. “I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.” — HG Wells, British novelist, in 1901.

20. “X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” — Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883.

21. “The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd. It is little short of treasonous.” — Comment of Aide-de-camp to Field Marshal Haig, at tank demonstration, 1916.

22. “How, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.” — Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat, 1800s.

23. “Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” — Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1889 (Edison often ridiculed the arguments of competitor George Westinghouse for AC power).

24. “Home Taping Is Killing Music” — A 1980s campaign by the BPI, claiming that people recording music off the radio onto cassette would destroy the music industry.

25. “Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.” — Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948.

26. “[Television] won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” — Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.

27. “When the Paris Exhibition [of 1878] closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it.” – Oxford professor Erasmus Wilson

28. “Dear Mr. President: The canal system of this country is being threatened by a new form of transportation known as ‘railroads’ … As you may well know, Mr. President, ‘railroad’ carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ‘engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.” — Martin Van Buren, Governor of New York, 1830(?).

29. “Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” — Dr Dionysys Larder (1793-1859), professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, University College London.

30. “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?” — Associates of David Sarnoff responding to the latter’s call for investment in the radio in 1921.

(Via Fark.)

Philosophical Catfight

Dec 282007

Oh, how embarrassing: a public feud between philosophers Colin McGinn and Ted Honderich involving a bad book and an ugly ex-girlfriend.

While I’ve had my own unpleasant encounter with Colin McGinn’s piss-poor arguments against egoism, Ted Honderich doesn’t seem to be smelling like roses (philosophical or otherwise) in this stupid spat.

300, Again

Dec 272007

Paul and I just finished watching the movie 300 again. I disliked it as much as ever, if not more. I stand by my original objection that the loudly proclaimed ideals of reason, justice, and freedom were blatantly contradicted by the concretes of Spartan life. To that, I would add that the movie portrays the Spartans as much worse than they were — for example, in their political system of hereditary kingship, in their ideals of blind duty and obedience, in their law against retreat, and most of all in their explicit worship of utterly pointless “glorious” death in battle. That’s bad enough, but what’s so much worse is that the film deeply admires the Spartans for those vicious qualities — and expects us to do the same. Toward the end of the battle, the death-worship is so perfect and complete in both word and deed that I can’t even enjoy it as an action film.


More Concept Formation

Dec 262007

Here are more concepts which don’t have a single word in the English language:

Kummerspeck (Germany): “Grief bacon” – the weight that you gain by overeating when you’re worried about something.

Attaccabottoni (Italy): A “buttonholer” – someone who corners casual acquaintances or even complete strangers for the purpose of telling them their miserable life stories.

Shitta (Iran): Leftover dinner that’s eaten for breakfast.

Pana po’o (Hawaii): To scratch your head in an attempt to remember something you’ve forgotten.

Ngaobera (Easter Island): A sore throat caused by too much screaming.

Backpfeifengesicht (Germany): A face that’s just begging for somebody to put their fist in it.

Papierkrieg (Germany): “Paper war” – bureaucratic paperwork whose only purpose is to block you from getting the refund, insurance payment, or other benefit that you have coming.

Rujuk (Indonesia): To remarry your ex-wife.

Mokita (New Guinea): The truth that everyone knows, but no one will speak about.

Gorrero (Spain, Central America): Someone who never picks up the check.

Fucha (Poland): Using your employer’s time and resources for your own purposes.

(Via Neatorama.)

Merry Christmas!

Dec 252007

Merry Christmas!

We’re in the middle of a pretty hefty snowstorm right now. Here’s our weather forecast:

Today: Snow along with gusty winds at times. High 26F. Winds N at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of snow 80%. 2 to 4 inches of snow expected. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph.

Tonight: Snow this evening will diminish to a few snow showers late. Low 4F. Winds WSW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 70%. Snowfall around one inch.

Now that’s a true white Christmas! Then our white weather will continue:

Tomorrow: Partly cloudy skies in the morning will give way to cloudy skies during the afternoon. Cold. High 32F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.

Tomorrow night: Variable clouds with snow showers. Low 13F. SW winds shifting to N at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 60%. Significant snow accumulation possible.

Thursday: Snow showers possible. Highs in the mid 20s and lows in the mid single digits.

I do wonder what “significant snow accumulation” will mean for us.

District B13

Dec 242007

If you liked the opening chase-and-fight sequence of Casino Royale, you’ll probably also enjoy District B13, a French film chock full of the same kind of nimble chasing and fighting techniques. The technique used in both movies is “parkour“: “an activity with the aim of moving from one point to another as efficiently and quickly as possible, using principally the abilities of the human body.” It was invented by David Belle, one of the two main characters in the movie. He’s phenomenal to watch in action.

The movie isn’t profound, but it’s enjoyable for what it is. It has a engaging plot, a non-horrible theme, and well-drawn characters. That’s already better than most of what’s produced today!

Also, the other main character in District B13, Cyril Raffaelli, also worked on Brotherhood of the Wolf, another French film I like enough to own. It’s a well-done historical thriller with some kick-ass fight sequences.

Economics Humor — Seriously!

Dec 232007

As little as I know of economics, I definitely enjoyed this humorous translation of Mankiw’s 10 principles of economics by the Stand-up Economist:


Micro Nuclear Reactor

Dec 222007

I want one of these:

Toshiba Builds 100x Smaller Micro Nuclear Reactor

Toshiba has developed a new class of micro size Nuclear Reactors that is designed to power individual apartment buildings or city blocks. The new reactor, which is only 20 feet by 6 feet, could change everything for small remote communities, small businesses or even a group of neighbors who are fed up with the power companies and want more control over their energy needs.

The 200 kilowatt Toshiba designed reactor is engineered to be fail-safe and totally automatic and will not overheat. Unlike traditional nuclear reactors the new micro reactor uses no control rods to initiate the reaction. The new revolutionary technology uses reservoirs of liquid lithium-6, an isotope that is effective at absorbing neutrons. The Lithium-6 reservoirs are connected to a vertical tube that fits into the reactor core. The whole whole process is self sustaining and can last for up to 40 years, producing electricity for only 5 cents per kilowatt hour, about half the cost of grid energy.

Toshiba expects to install the first reactor in Japan in 2008 and to begin marketing the new system in Europe and America in 2009.

Here is more information. If this NY Times article is correct, the system is safe, simple, and relatively inexpensive.

(For some reason, the people who are so concerned about global warming and energy independence never seem to mention this as an option, and would rather ban incandescent light bulbs.)

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