The Mad Monk's Bottled Bishop

Russian Museum to Exhibit Rasputin's Penis:

"This is the 30-centimeter preserved penis of Grigory Rasputin. `Having this exhibit, we can stop envying America, where Napoleon Bonaparte's penis is now kept. ... Napoleon's penis is but a small `pod' it cannot stand comparison to our organ of 30 centimeters...' the head of the museum said."
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"King of the Gadget-Hive"

Charlie Stross rambles entertainingly about the future:

Complaints that the modern world is unnatural or artificial in some way miss the point; the world we live in is anthropogenic, we made it. We didn't have any collective choice in the matter, either: short of discarding tools, clothes, and ultimately language there's no way back to the Garden of Eden from here. [...]

Eusocial animals like ants, termites, bees, or naked mole rats, exhibit curious behaviour; their societies are stratified by role, with workers, warriors, and reproductive castes that may differ morphologically from one another. Humans aren't so obviously specialized, but if you consider our machines as part of our extended phenotype, it begins to look that way: if our machines become intentionally driven, and they're tailored to play different roles in our society, then you could argue that we occupy some kind of privileged position in a hive-relationship with tools that require our continued safety and comfort in order to further their own reproduction.

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media update

  • Saw Kraftwerk last night: I hadn't seen them before. Definitely worth seeing, but, you know, it's Kraftwerk, so it's not really a concert. It was more like an interesting but slow-moving art film.

  • Kill Bill 2 was great. One of the things that I like about Tarantino's movies is that he's just such a giddy fanboy about his subject matter, and that excitement shows.

  • The Punisher is the worst movie I've seen in a long, long time. And I went into it with rock bottom expectations. It's been a decade since I've seen it, but I'm pretty sure that the Dolph Lundgren version was better. At least that one had ninjas.

    However, there was one brief scene (maybe 6 minutes long) of sheer unadulterated brilliance: it's best described as "The Punisher Versus Johnny Cash." That should have been the whole movie, right there, but no.

  • Tonight: The Pixies!

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when similes go wrong

Cicadas 'like a yard full of chicken nuggets':

When millions of cicadas emerge across the eastern United States for a rare mating season, they will appear as tasty morsels to pets. The insects are protein-rich but their hard outer shells can cause vomiting and constipation in cats and dogs, said Randall Lockwood, vice president for the Humane Society of the United States.

"Imagine a yard full of chicken nuggets, that's sort of what it's going to be like" for dogs and cats, Lockwood said Tuesday.

Millions of the large, red-eyed insects will soon emerge from the ground for a once-every-17-years mating dance lasting well into June.

That's right, chicken nuggets. Crunchy, red-eyed chicken nuggets.


apparently "SUV Ownership" is a self-correcting problem

Highway Deaths Hit 13-Year High:
The number of U.S. traffic deaths rose nearly 1 percent in 2003 and reached a 13-year high at 43,220, the government reported on Wednesday. It was the fifth straight year road deaths rose, although passenger car fatalities decreased. Sport utility vehicle deaths went up roughly 10 percent over 2002, with more than half of the victims in those crashes killed in rollovers. Motorcycle deaths also jumped.
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never bring a gun to a bomb fight

A Hamas suicide bomber blew up two armed Palestinians who tried to rob him at gun point in the Gaza Strip.

Rather than give up his explosives, the bomber detonated them, killing himself and the two robbers near the border fence between Gaza and Israel. [...] The robbers forced the bomber to lie on the ground and tried to steal the bomb, but the militant detonated it, killing all three.

There have been cases of rival groups stealing each other's explosives, but no group claimed the two gunmen, and their families did not go to the hospital to take the bodies, indicating that the two were not militants, who are revered in Palestinian society.

A Hamas official said that whatever their intention, the two should be considered agents of Israel. "Anyone who tries to stop a fighter from doing his work is a collaborator," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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Current Music: Cranes -- Reverie ♬

Tuvalu's Sinking:

The islands are, at best, 15 feet above sea level. Unusually high tides have started flooding the islands -- not by creeping up the beaches, but by bubbling up through the ground, as if the islands were leaky boats. Prime Minister Saufatu Sopoaga has been jetting around the world in a panic, telling anyone who will listen that Tuvalu will be the first victim of global warming. As sea levels rise, tourists might soon be able to see Tuvalu only by snorkel.

Now, that brings up a question: What happens to a domain if a nation disappears? VeriSign spokesman Tom Galvin tells me that a defunct country's Internet domain lives on. For instance, you can still find addresses on .su -- the domain for the Soviet Union.

Anyway, as Galvin points out, Tuvalu would not necessarily cease to exist. Apparently, the laws of the sea say that a country is a country, even if underwater. Sopoaga has said in speeches, "Our sovereignty would not be threatened. Our claim would be maintained on this spot."

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long live the new flesh

Flesh Gun:

Dutch artist Joanneke Meester holds up a replica pistol made out of an eight-inch piece of her skin. Joanneke made the pistol from a flap of her own skin which was surgically removed from her abdomen. The puckered skin was stretched and sewn with nylon over a plastic and fiber mold.

"If everyone made a pistol from their own skin, I think they would think twice about using a gun. I think there would be less violence in the world," she said. "But it's not that easy. Violence will always exist."

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Current Music: Luxt -- Locust ♬

DNA Lounge: Wherein we find that the State Legislature is dumb, and so are banks.

Don't forget: ZOMBIE DNA this Saturday! I watched the rehearsal, and the show is going to be hilarious.

To nobody's great surprise, the proposal to move San Francisco's last call time from 2am to 4am was shot down by the State Assembly yesterday. According to John Wood of SFLNC:

The SFLNC is disappointed to announce that AB 2433, state legislation to allow for a later last call in San Francisco, failed to make it out of committee at the State Assembly, effectively killing any chance of passage this year.

While San Francisco officials were heavily in support of the bill, statewide anti-alcohol groups lined up against AB 2433, claiming that it would lead inevitably to later last call in other parts of the State. [...]

In addition, testimony from a mother of a person killed by a drunk driver clearly made the legislators uncomfortable in voting for the legislation. [...] Many democratic legislators left the room after the Mother Against Drunk Drivers testimony and did not vote, so there were not enough votes to move the bill out of committee.

So it was killed by the "if we can save just one child, won't it all have been worth it?" argument that prohibitionists of all stripes have been using for centuries. Well, maybe next year (though I'm not holding my breath.)

Our online ticket sales have been working out reasonably well, but the way address verification works sure is a confusing mess. We keep having people trying to buy tickets and finding that their bank has the wrong address on file (or the wrong zip code, or something) and so the address verification fails. When this happens, they try to buy tickets six times in a row, it doesn't work, and then finally they call their bank to find out what's up. The bank phone-monkey oh-so-helpfully tells them that their credit card was charged six times, and they angrily call us demanding we give them their money back.

The problem with this is that we don't have their money! They were never charged. Probably the phone-monkey said something like "your card was authorized for $20 six times", but phone-monkey helpfully doesn't bother to explain the difference between "authorized" and "charged", and the customer understandably freaks out.

It's just such an amazingly stupid system. When you place an order, the bank does this:

    1. Verify that sufficient funds are available.

    2. If so, place a "hold" on the amount of the transaction. (This doesn't take the money out of your account, it just reserves it. Banks call this "authorization".)

    3. Check that the address you entered matches;

    4. If the address matched, then transfer the money from your account to our account. (This is where your card is actually charged; banks call this "capture".)

    5. If the address did not match, then release the "hold" on the funds that was made in step 2.

Ok, what's wrong with this picture? Well, the first thing that's wrong is, why the hell do they hold the money before validating the address?? That's just insane!

Oh, but it gets better: because apparently some (many? most?) banks don't bother with step 5 at all. That's right, if you typo the address, they don't cancel the "authorization", so that money is in limbo until it times out. It's still in your account (it hasn't been transferred to anybody) but it's unavailable to you until the hold expires, which can take anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks, depending on the bank.

Combine this egregious design with the fearmongering being spread by incommunicative bank phone-monkeys, and you end up with unhappy customers thinking we're ripping them off. It's just great.

Banks are dumb.