Long Weekend Miscellany

Note for non-Canadians: Monday is one of our most important holidays. Hence “long weekend”.

I don’t know how much time I will have to blog this weekend, but I can certainly present a miscellaneous set of things to keep you happy all weekend just in case. This will be a tremendously long post about various, mostly unrelated, things.

So, on with the show…


Motivational Poster

Yes, like everyone else on the Internet, I am going to have some fun with the build your own motivational poster tool.


Still, it’s not just the sun; just being outside for an entire day strains a dude. This is knowledge I have now, for the future. The knowledge exists inside of me.

Oh, it is so true Ferocious J. There is an obvious answer: The human race should destroy the sun1. You can sign the petition. In fact, I have it on good authority2 that “SUN CAUSES TERROR” and we should “JUST SAY NO TO SUN“. As a bonus, destroying the sun will solve the global warming problem. Destruction may be easier than you think, if we can get in contact with the Great Worm.


For your edification, a poem from the journal of author Tom Disch, with links added by me:

The Crisis in Education
On the Drudge Report a moment ago
I saw this headline:

Teacher apologizes for
asking students to write
about who they’d kill. . .

And well he should apologize!
There were 25 to 30 students
from 9th thru 12th grades, in his class,
all of them old enough, certainly,to know
he should have asked them whom
they’d like to kill
. Whom! Whom!
What kind of example is that man setting?


Click for the bigger version:
Sign #1


Way back in my undergrad days, I did Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo. All engineering programs at UW are co-op, which means that you don’t get summers off, but instead do eight school terms of four months each (that’s four normal school years) with six four month work terms mixed in. Every work term there is a tremendous interview process as students compete for coveted jobs–at the time I went placement was in the high 90s every term, so it wasn’t so much competition for “a spot” as competition for a “sweet spot”.

For some reason everyone thought Microsoft was a “sweet spot”–they certainly hired enough people every term, and I guess there were some people who would be impressed to see that on a graduating student’s resumee. Microsoft was known for having particularly hard interviews, asking students to perform unreasonable or sometimes silly tasks during the interview.

I applied for one Microsoft job during every round of interviews. In every round I was asked in for an interview, and after each interview (which I normally attended in my “happy shirt” and a pair of cutoff jeans, with my sorely-missed mane of locks in full effect) I got offered the spot at Microsoft. In every round I happily turned them down. In fact, the reason I kept applying was that when they offered me the job they were so sure I would accept–I mean isn’t it everyone’s dream to get offered a spot at Microsoft?–and the look on their faces when I said “No, I’m not really interested” was worth it. (For the record, this did not endear me to the co-op staff, who were trying to keep that high-ninties placement happening, and who naturally had little time for people who were so confident of getting multiple offers that the could afford to waste the system’s time jerking Microsoft around. I can see their point of view, but I still think it was pretty funny.)

Naturally, I had different program managers interviewing me each time (Microsoft sent dozens, if not actually hundreds of people to interview on campus for all the MS postigs), but there was always some ridiculous “question of the semester” that was part of the interview. I know people who got very intense about this stuff, stalking people who had done interview earlier in the day or week, and trying to get information on what the questions were this time around (and naturally these people had a positive incentive to say nothing, or even to lie, since they were in competition for “sweet spots”.) I always approached the silly assignments with a hearty sense of the ludicrous, and I think that’s part of the reason I always got the offer.

One time I was actually asked to write a video driver for a video card, on graph paper, during the interview. I had real fun with that one–the notion of writing system-level code on paper with no reference material, for fictious and poorly specified hardward is so silly that I almost couldn’t keep a straight face while I was writing the whole thing as Logo “turtle graphics”.

No one ever asked me to write file copy, but if they did I’d like to think I’d have been this funny about it.

(I note, with a hearty sense of irony, that apparently my organization at work has a “programming test” that we make prospective employees write.)


So, it appears there’s a sensible judge in Georgia:

Judge voids Georgia gay marriage ban

Judge Constance Russell of Fulton County Superior Court ruled that the measure violates the state’s “single-subject rule” as it asked voters to decide on multiple issues in one amendment, said Jack Senterfitt, an attorney with gay rights group Lambda Legal Defense…

OK, so he’s not ruling on the whole discrimination issue, just a straight-up procedural issue: the state has a rule that says “one issue per amendment”, and this was in violation of that, so it’s invalid. Simple right. The judge really has no choice but to rule this way, regardless of what he thinks.

So how does the Governor of Georgia characterize the ruling?

“This decision highlights the effect activist judges can have on our system of governance,” Perdue, a Republican seeking re-election this year, said in a statement.

“Activist judges”?? Seriously, they’re still selling that line, which we all know means “judges who don’t rule the way we want”. Wouldn’t Russell have had to be an “activist”, in the pejorative sense that the Republicans seem to love, to uphold the law in face of the procedural violation?




You are up to date on this whole Net Neutrality thing, right?

If not, you can Ask A Ninja for more information.


Dave Sim is still crazy, but seems to be channeling his crazy into socially useful outlets.

I lived in the same town as Dave for like a decade, and never ran into him. I did chase a waitress who knew Dave–apparently he hung out at the all-night greek place where she once worked–and she says he was a “really nice guy”. I’m guessing she never got into feminism with him.

Anyway, if I still lived in KW, I would probably go to see Dave read the Bible (once), just on the off chance that he would explode into insane rantings.


Click for the bigger version:
Sign #2


I always enjoy reading the posts at Waiterrant.net–they are very readable, and there’s something so relaxing about hearing tales of other people being complete assholes over what is essentially such small stuff; it makes you feel better about yourself. Of course there’s also the “insider” appeal that powered Kitchen Confidential, but from the front of the house.

However, I was actually touched by a recent posting that had almost nothing to do with the service industry. Old people, kids, tough guys being nice, and dogs–they get me every time.


I think there are Red States where time has not only stopped moving forward, but is actually running backward. Like Missouri.

Town won’t let unmarried parents live together

BLACK JACK, Missouri (AP) — The City Council has rejected a measure allowing unmarried couples with multiple children to live together, and the mayor said those who fall into that category could soon face eviction.

Mayor Norman McCourt declined to be interviewed but said in a statement that those who do not meet the town’s definition of family could soon face eviction.

Wow. Maybe next they’ll start denying occupancy permits on the basis of skin colour, or sexual orientation, or religous belief…


This next piece kind of reminds me of the underwater gnome colony–it’s an almost surreal mystery.

Piano found on Britain’s highest mountain


A musical mystery today surrounded Britain’s highest mountain after a piano was discovered near its summit.

Volunteers clearing stones from the 4,418ft peak were astonished when they discovered the musical instrument on Ben Nevis. An appeal has now been launched to find out how and why the piano came to be within 200 metres of the top of the mountain.

I quite liked this, as well:

“The only thing that that was missing was the keyboard – and that’s another mystery.


Wow, the Scientologists are actually straight up claiming super powers now. Really, really crappy super powers, but still…

Scientology nearly ready to unveil Super Power

CLEARWATER – Matt Feshbach believes he has super powers. He senses danger faster than most people. He appreciates beauty more deeply than he used to. He says he outperforms his peers in the money management industry.

He heightened his powers of perception in 1995 when he went to Los Angeles and became the first and so far only “public” Scientologist to take a highly classified Scientology program called Super Power.

Go read the whole thing. It’s totally comedic all the way through, especially including the list of the 57 senses that Scientology has. Yes, fifty-seven.


You know what’s great? A free new Kleptones track. Especially when it’s a new version of their highly tongue-in-cheek mashup of Wham! and Bon Jovi.

Speaking of music, I keep hearing that part of the reason today’s radio music sucks is because producers are relying WAAAAAY too much on compression, at great expense to dynamic range.

I love when highly technical people rant about the things they really know about:

Rather than use this new technology to take advantage of it’s wide dynamic range, the music industry went in the opposite direction. They decided that louder is better. Suddenly, we found ourselves in a race to see whose CD was the loudest. The only way to make CDs louder was to keep compressing the signal more and more. That’s where we are today. Everyone’s trying to make their CD sound louder than everyone else’s. The term that is used for this process is called, hot. Yes, most of today’s music is recorded hot. The net result, noise with a beat.

In December, 2001, several prominent individuals in the recording industry served on a panel to judge the best engineered CD for the Grammy’s. After listening to over 200 CDs, they couldn’t find a single CD worthy of a Grammy based on the criteria they were given. Everything they listened to was squashed to death with heavy amounts compression. What they wound up doing was selecting the CD that had the least amount of engineering. In reality, the winner didn’t win because of great engineering, he won simply because he had messed with the signal the least.


So there was a big poll about Marvel comics characters on one of the forums I read regularly . After all the results were tallyed, the pollster did a highly humourous (at least to comic nerds, and in a very British way) writeup of the results, which he posted to his LJ.

Here’s a snippet:

18. Captain America, Steve Rogers
Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
Captain America is a symbol for those uniquely American values of truth, justice and liberty – values that you just can’t get in other countries. They had some truth once in Malta, but it had been smuggled out by an Arab, and it withered and died without proper care. There were rumours of some justice in the Orkneys, but the UN sent a team to inspect it and it turned out to be a hedgehog. Unfortunately, the rest of the world is a cesspit of malice, deceit and exploitation, its citizens peering out from their tarry mires and turning muck-encrusted eyes towards that unique beacon of light that is America the Exemplar, with a churning maelstrom of resentment and jealousy brimming in their weak, shrivelled hearts. So thank God for Captain America, by jingo. Where would we be without him, fighting for your rights, in his satin tights, in the old red, white and blue?

17. Fin Fang Foom
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
The ultimate Marvel monster. Here’s what you don’t need to know about Fin Fang Foom: He was the navigator on an alien spacecraft who landed in China and spent thousands of years sleeping, fought the Communists, got abducted by another alien, got shipped off to Mole Man’s Monster Island, got possessed by a madman, then by a demon, used kung fu to fend off an alien invasion, got blown up, rebuilt himself out of sewer lizards, and converted to Buddhism. Here’s what you do need to know about Fin Fang Foom; he’s a giant lizard in purple pants. If you don’t understand what makes this great, you probably shouldn’t have any contact with superhero comics.


Just in case you were feeling good, I thought I better slip in a pointer to this ten point list of the signs of the impending3 U.S. police state.

You should read the text, but here’s the ten points:

  • The Internet Clampdown
  • “The Long War”
  • Prison camps
  • Touchscreen Voting Machines
  • Signing Statements
  • Warrantless Wiretapping
  • “Free Speech Zones”
  • High-ranking Whistleblowers
  • The CIA Shakeup


Morse design

Man, I wish I worked at the same place as Scott Morse. His co-workers get original Morse designs for t-shirts for their kids. That would be pretty awesome.

(I did get two copies of his most recent book: one for me and one for Sarah. This will be fine unless Sarah’s Mom ever looks at the last page in the book.)


I read a Gor book once. I sometimes do these things to myself because I hate not knowing what things are about–I mean, I’ve actually read more than one Bible translation cover-to-cover for the same reason. One Gor book was enough for me–it was not quite as bad as Battlefield Earth, but it was close.

Some people read on past the first one. Apparently they get worse.

Some people, apparently, take the whole thing WAAAAY too seriously.

Officers discover sex-slave cult

A sex slavery cult based on a series of 1960s science fiction novels has been uncovered by police in Darlington.

Durham Police discovered the bizarre sect after raiding a home in the area, after receiving complaints that a woman was being held against her will.

I wish that first sentence had been written as “A sex slavery cult based on a series of crappy 1960s novels…” I hate the idea that the public perception of SF readers is being informed by a bunch of goofs who think they’re BDSM Conan or whatever. Sigh.


Speaking of cults and science fiction, the new post at Meme Therapy asks about science fiction and religion, using that Gor story as a lead-in. Lots of interesting answers again, but this time I think Schroeder makes the most interesting point:

…What’s more interesting is the potential for cognitive science and neuropsychology to create deliberate replacements for current religions. I mean something that’s as satisfying to people as religions currently are, but is also reality-based rather than myth-based. The necessity of having faith creates huge stresses these days because it demands that you simultaneously believe two contradictory things: your religion’s take on the world, and science’s. Psychologically this is known as cognitive dissonance, and it’s not usually considered healthy.

There’s actually a lot of research going on into how religions work. One thing we’ve discovered, for instance, is that they share a deliberate “high cost of adoption,” which might be the requirement that you do accept something that’s hard to believe; in the ancient mystery cults the high cost often involved self-mutilation. We don’t accept people who haven’t paid the cost, and are suspicious of faiths that don’t have a high adoption-cost. Maybe this is one reason why secular humanism hasn’t taken over; its adoption-cost is too low to make it credible to people. So knowing this, what kind of adjustments or re-engineering can we make to, say, humanism? Increase its cost to increase “sales?” –One thing’s for sure, the next couple of generations are going to be very messy and very interesting in this arena.

There’s more than few scary stories inherent in the notion of scientifically created religions, “custom-coded” to take advantage of the way our brains work. I know there’s also a positive spin there, where we could replace religion with an altrusitic, rational, designer creation, but I suspect that advertising and political control will actually be the drivers here, not the ultimate good of mankind.



  1. Note for Alex only: is this another thing like the pants meme that you released into the wild?(back)
  2. for really uncommon values of “good” and “authority”(back)
  3. I think they are possibly being overly generous here(back)

  2 comments for “Long Weekend Miscellany

  1. May 20, 2006 at 9:02 am

    Interesting grab bag of things. I think the piano on top of Ben Nevis was probably carried up by an eccentric group of hikers whose enthusiasm wrotes checks their asses couldn’t cash. Either that or they were deliberate pranksters.

    I’m going hiking in Scotland next month myself but I don’t plan on depositing any mysterious bits of furniture on any mountaintops.

    Were you ever part of Watsfic? Or is that club still going?

  2. May 20, 2006 at 11:35 am

    Even getting it that far is a cashing a lot of cheque, although putting it right on the summit would have been even better, I agree.

    I was never in Watsfic, but it was still going when I was in school. Of course, I graduated ten years ago now (!) so, that’s not exactly an up to date report.

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This work by Chris McLaren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada.