Thursday, November 27, 2003

Just so you know

President Bush's visit to Iraq did not cure cancer, stop teenage pregnancy, reduce obesity, stop global warming, etc.

But if it had, the lefties would still say something snarky about it.

The line starts here

Drudge tells us a doctor invented a device which causes female orgasms at the touch of a button. No, not that one.

What surprised him was he can't find women to help him conduct trials with it. Sheesh, I'd think this would be the easiest sale in the world, what with the obvious benefit and the collateral ones such as reduced danger of repetitive stress injuries and perhaps sales of universal remotes.

But we're talking about women here, so it can't be that simple:
Glyn Hudson Allez, a psychosexual counsellor from Bristol, said that while there was likely to be a demand for such a "quick fix", the result might still be unsatisfactory for women.
Yes, dear...

President Bush travels to Iraq

CNN just announced that President George Bush made a trip to Iraq to have dinner with some US troops there. Developing...

You say Nevada, I say Nevada

Yep, the pres did the unforgivable again. He mispronounced "Nevada". Say goodbye to the swing voters.

Actually his way isn't an uncommon error. And he wasn't that far off - once Jesse Jackson mispronounced New York City as "Hymietown".

Other states get mispronounced regularly too, like Louisiana or Oregon. But my native Illinois seems to be the champion because of that final S that some just can't keep from pronouncing. It's "ellenOY", heathens.

Often locals get to listen to outsiders telling them they're pronouncing or spelling the name of their place wrong. Sorry pal, but if they spell it "ghoti" and insist on pronouncing it "fish", or "ghoughpteighbteau" as "potato" they're right and you're wrong, and you and your carpetbag can just keep on moving. It is a handy way to detect outsiders, especially the insufferable ones.

So remember that if you ever go to Vienna IL or GA (it's VYE-enna), Cairo, IL (KAY-ro), New Berlin, IL (new BERlin), get the idea.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


Hey, so what if you put on a couple of pounds? You'll reach an equilibrium eventually. Either you won't be able to reach the dinner table, or you won't be able to waddle to the fridge, or you won't be able to get to work, or something like that. There will be feedback at some point, however brutal it might be.

Well, maybe not. A 772 lb woman sued, and now her public housing unit is getting $15,000 of renovations to accomodate her size.

Now this woman has enablers - the original story is gone, but according to comments "This woman hasn't left her bed in three years, other than having to go to the hospital recently, when it took 22 firemen two hours to get her out. Her claim is that a standard public housing unit endangers her health because you can't fit her through the door."

At some point I would hope that the people who feed this woman would say "Sorry honey, but it's grapefruit and eggs today. Sure you'll kick my butt for that, but first you'll have to be able to get off your own. Now if you'll excuse me I'll be in the other room, past this door you can't get through, with the TV turned up."

Just poison her already and get it over with. You don't need a whip or a rack to be a torturer.

Great circles!

Ok, what's a great circle? It's a concept from spherical trigonometry, and...hey, wait, where are you going?

It's not that big a deal, really. All you need are a sphere and a plane. Now make sure that plane goes through the center of the sphere. The circle described by the intersection of the sphere and the plane is a great circle.

Depending on how you orient the plane and sphere, there are an infinite number of great circles. Pick any two points on the surface that aren't at opposite poles and there's exactly one great circle that contains them both. Parallels of latitude are not great circles. Meridians of longitude are all great circles, and but for political perversities time zone boundaries would be too.

So who cares? Navigators, for one. It turns out that the shortest difference between two points on the surface of a sphere along the surface of the sphere follows a great circle - the one that contains your start and endpoints. What do you know? - that happens to describe driving, or flying at a constant altitude, or sailing.

Soon I'll be making a round trip between DC and central IL by car. Looking at the atlas, it looks like the shortest way to go is by way of I-70 to Indy, then into the wilderness.

Then I decided to see what Yahoo said. It pointed me along I-80, up near Cleveland, Toledo, South Bend, the south side of Chicago. It sure looks farther. What the heck, let's see what AAA says. Yep, same thing.

Alright, I'll trick it. I'll route a trip from DC to Indy, and from Indy to the sticks to force it onto I-70. It worked, but the total mileage was higher. Sheesh, just look at the map - how can that be?

The problem is that I have a flat map of a spherical object, which causes distortions and in particular does not show great circles. One result is that east-west distances appear greater than they are. And it gets worse the farther north you go, until you reach the North Pole and every direction is south. Over a distance of several hundred miles the effect is significant. So the I-80 route only looks like a longer path because it is further north and thus is more distorted by the map.

If my map had shown great circles, they would lie above and to the outside of straight lines drawn between the endpoints, coinciding only when you're going straight north or south. If you were traveling exclusively on latitude and longitude lines and you wanted the shortest path between two points, you would want to go east or west before you went south, or after you went north. Of course if you're in the southern hemisphere the rules are different, and I'll leave that as an exercise.

Now if I really wanted to open a can of worms I could get into why roads are routed the way they are. But as much as I wish this were dictated by engineering considerations, the reality is that there is all manner of political skulduggery behind it. One example, from Illinois, might wind up in a future post.

Lileks was 100% right

You know what I'm talking about. If that prima donna horse's ass who calls himself "Salam Pax" is really worried about how quickly Iraq is disinfected he can do far better than to smirk and pose for left wing rags in the UK.

Monday, November 24, 2003

He must not know how to blog

Oh yeah, that "More than Human" show I mentioned below. It showed a guy balancing 8 bowling balls atop one another. It even tries to explain why he does it.

When did human beings start wearing clothes?

That's not so simple to answer because clothes generally don't fossilize. But evolutionary biologists wouldn't let something like that deter them - to estimate an answer they turned to lice.

I'm glad to say that I don't have much firsthand experience with lice, whether they be head lice, body lice or crab lice ("the crabs"). They all live on human beings, with preferences for the head, body, or genitalia respectively. (There are other kinds, but they live on other critters).

One major differentiator between head and body lice is that head lice lay eggs in your hair. Body lice attack hairless parts and lay eggs in clothing. So if you assume that at some point head lice and body lice were the same critter, it makes sense that they would have started differentiating about the same time humans started wearing clothes.

Voila - clothing must be about 40,000 to 72,000 years old.

Evolution of a climber

Tori Allen is the 15 year old daughter of some missionaries who happens to be one of the best female rock climbers in the world.

So where's she from? There's probably a mountain in her back yard, right? No, actually she lives in Indianapolis, where anything tall is manmade. So how'd she get to be so good at such a young age?

She was featured on a Discovery Channel "More than Human" show this past weekend where they revealed some of her secrets. Not surprisingly, she is very flexible and agile. At 5' 3" and about 120 lbs if I recall, she's no stick, but she has only about 16% body fat. And her grip is very strong - she can chin up using just one finger from each hand and can fall deliberately from one grip to another for a couple of feet and still catch herself using only her hands.

So was she just born gifted? No doubt that was part of it. But then when she was a toddler she lived with her parents in Benin, and they had a pet monkey. And she'd follow the monkey around in trees regularly and, apparently, fearlessly. This of course encouraged some unusual development in terms of strength and might account for her long fingers, long arms (her armspan is a couple of inches greater than her height), very strong tendons and many other characteristics that make her an exceptional climber.

I'm sure we ought to give the monkey some of the credit. (I don't know what kind of monkey her friend was, but it definitely wasn't a bonobo.)

The principle-agent problem

Liberals hate to see the little guy crushed under the jackboots of capitalists. They prefer this function to be performed by labor unions instead, because labor unions give them more money. Megan McArdle explains here on TCS.

And don't miss her blog, Asymmetrical Information.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Web Fire Escape!

Remember those old-time PC games with a TBIC (The Boss Is Coming) key? I'm thinking it came out with "Leather Goddesses of Phobos" or soon thereafter. Anyway, just punch that key and suddenly the screen would show a display that looked like something you were being paid to do.

Of course that's not necessary with Windows if you know what you're doing - a productive screen is just an alt-tab away, or you can kill the whole app with an alt-F4.

But now we have the Web Fire Escape! Punch the icon and get switched instantly to Google or whatever you configured it to point to. Obviously everyone needs this - get it here.