Friday, June 30, 2006

Six Random Things I Love About My Job

1.) Yesterday, my last hour at work was spent with a colored tape grid and a protractor stuck to my monitor. My eyes hurt a lot at the end, but I don't think anyone else I know can claim they've ever done that.

2.) At this point, whenever I'm working, I'm either problem-solving, running experiments, or reading papers. Can't complain about that.

3.) I'm getting sent to SfN. This pleases me immensely.

4.) Blasting Ministry, like I am right now.

5.) I can eat in the lab.

6.) Benefits. Especially the waiver for three credits of tuition.

And two I hate:
1.) Headaches from tightly focused staring at the computer monitor while the lights are turned out because they're running vision experiments at the other end of the room.

2.) Carpal tunnel.

Question for the other scientists out there

Once every week or so, does anyone else suddenly remember that they have a lab notebook they're supposed to be keeping comrehensive notes in each day?

Or is it just me?

Friday Random 10 - 30 June 2006

Tonite I'm going to the Ministry/RevCo show... so the listening list is a mash of all things Al-ariffic.

1. Ministry - Rio Grande Blood
2. Lard - Peeling Back the Foreskin of Liberty
3. Pailhead - I Will Refuse
4. Revolting Cocks - Attack Ships on Fire
5. Revolting Cocks - Devil Cock
6. Revolting Cocks - Stainless Steel Providers
7. Lard - Mate, Spawn, And Die!
8. Revolting Cocks - Fire Engine
9. Ministry - LiesLiesLies
10. PTP - Favorite Things

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Freaked Out


Good Design

As a student, unsurprisingly enough one of my common topics of conversation was various Professors' approaches to powerpoint presentation design.

Making these conversations particularly interesting was the fact that one of my best friends has RP; and thus, has an extremely narrow field of vision and is also blue-yellow color blind. So for his sake, I link to this Color Scheme Generator 2 which allows you to view color schemes as they would be percieved by people with varying types of color blindness.

So next time you're throwing together a presentation, remember to keep this in mind.

Nothing for you today.

Busy day in the lab: sorry, but nothing the rest of the afternoon and probably nothing this evening.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Movie: Gojoe

Around 15 minutes into Gojoe, I commented on how odd it was that I was watching a semi-historical film from another country, and could still tell how off their portrayal of history was.

Damn, am I eating crow from that: around halfway through, it slowly dawned on me that this had to be a movie about at least two historical figures that I knew absolutely nothing about. A quick checking of wikipedia later, and I've discovered that this was true.

So if you're interested in seeing a reinterpretation of the meeting of Benkei and Minamoto no Yoshitsune on the bridge of Gojoe, you should definitely check this out. If you end up deciding you want to watch it on your own, you should probably read the articles linked, and also some sort of synopsis of The Tail of the Heike just to get a bit of a sense of the conventional history. Is there something wrong with this movie, that they're not bothering to fill you in? No, not at all. It's just that Benkei & Yoshitsune are two classical characters from Japan's history & legends. So even though you're clearly introduced to everyone and get to know the characters, there's still a few elements of the story that feel like broad strokes because it's depending a bit on subverting your expectations of the characters. Compare it to a movie starring King Arthur or Hercules: even if you're taking a completely different approach to the character, there are certain parts of the story or of the character that you may not cover, because everyone already knows them.

And as for the movie itself... for me, it was all about the pacing. At 2:18, the movie takes its own slow time to get from place to place; giving you plenty of slow, static, gorgeous shots along the way, occasionally punctuated by shots so incredibly quick you can barely believe them. Meanwhile, you're slowly carried to each action scene, which start ridiculously fast and rapidly-cut then pick up the pace throughout the entire movie until the climax just gives you constant flashes of combat.

It's a hard movie to describe on a lot of levels. If you don't know any Japanese history but want to watch a samurai/actioner with engaging characters, you'll probably enjoy this. If you want a meaty plot, or if you want well-choreographed and followable fight scenes, you may not get a lot out of this: the approach is running counter to you. If you have any desire at all to watch great shot after great shot after great shot, you should definitely check it out. This is almost a cinematographer's wet dream. There are also a number of nice thematic and conceptual elements at work--I suspect they work best if you approach the movie with some knowledge of the characters, but I thought it was fascinating without remembering anything about them.

Four stars: it gets an extra half star for shaming me, and I'd probably give it five if I'd actually remembered anything from my Japanese History class.

Does anyone else find this hilarious?

John Cusack seeks restraining order on woman who acts like John Cusack character.

Per the complaint, Emily Leatherman, a 32-year-old transient with no known address, is accused of "stalking, throwing long letters of interest over [his] fence in bags with rocks and screwdrivers inside, making unannounced visits to offices of people [he works] with in an attempt to meet with [him] and listing [his] address as her own during a recent address."

I'm waiting for her to stand outside his house with a boom box... actually I'll bet she's already done that.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Thoughts on Blink, #1

I finished reading Blink over the weekend.

Definitely a thought-provoking book in certain respects. I'm probably going to be posting some comments/reviews/responses on/of/to several sections of it over the course of the week (if I have enough free time in the lab).

The first thing I wanted to point out--as was pointed out to me--is that Malcolm Gladwell is a journalist, and that seems to be both his weakness and his strength. A strength because he writes well, clearly, and I'm incredibly envious of his ability to get his ideas across in a concise fashion. It's a very accessible book, in that respect. But it's also his weakness, insomuch as he's clearly not a scientist and hasn't been trained as one (I'm not sure if it's fair to claim that his weakness is that he doesn't have a different profession, but whatever). There are several sections of the book where he will do a very good job of providing a simplified explanation of a system or a phenomenon, and then draw conclusions as though the simplified version is the full extent of it. So there are some major map-is-not-the-territory problems on occasion. But still: all-in-all, it seems to be a good book, if only for a good discussion of the ideas he's dealing with.

New Neuro-Carnivals

Decide for yourself what "neurocarnival" actually means.

Issue #1 of The Synapse is available at Pure Pedantry. Go, check it out.

The first issue of Encephalon will be coming out next week. I'll remind you then.

Which is a cooler name for a neurocarnival? You decide.

Yes, but can they yoke the minds of the weak to my will?

Reuters: Cell phone signals excite brain

Cell phone emissions excite the part of the brain cortex nearest to the phone, but it is not clear if these effects are harmful, Italian researchers reported on Monday.

The Future is Today: Theodore W. Berger, PhD. on Neural Prosthetics

As mentioned previously, I attended a excellent presentation by Dr. Theodore Berger--directer of USC's Center for Neural Engineering--titled "Toward Replacement Parts for the Brain: Implantable biomimetic microelectronics as neural prostheses for lost cognitive function."

First, let's start off with a fairly simple overview of what his research is intended to accomplish. Different classes of can be differentiated by which point in the input/output cycle they act in:

(flowchart design ripped off from Dr. Berger's powerpoint presentation)

Prostheses operating at either end of the system are more well-known. Cochlear implants are getting to be commonplace, a hefty amount of work is going into retinal implants, and we're also starting to see some movement in neuromuscular prosthetics. The collaboration Dr. Berger is heading, however, is the first project I've encountered that is centered on utilizing a bridging a gap between A & C.

The group has wisely chosen to focus its work on replacing damaged pathways in the . More electrophysiology research has probably been conducted in the hippocampus--or HPC--than any other region of the brain. The HPC can be potentially modelled as basically acting as a way-station for the consolidation of memories: it's fed short-term memories, and encodes them in neocortex as long-term memories. This input/output function (very) roughly follows the pathway:

entorhinal cortex (input) --> Dentate gyrus --> CA3 --> CA1 --> subiculum (output)

CA3 & CA1--along with the very small CA2--make up the hippocampus proper.

So the stated goal of Berger's project is to create an implantable model device which mimics the signal processing functions of CA3. In human patients, this would mostly be useful for treating anterograde amnesia, most popularized in the film Memento.

So how does one go about replacing a--admittedly small--region of the brain with an implant? The project seems to be broken up into three phases:

Phase 1: Hippocampal Slices
Phase 2: Live rats
Phase 3: Live primates

Each of these phases is broken up into three stages of evolving approach:

Stage 1: Mathematical modelling
Stage 2: Software modelling
Stage 3: Hardware modelling

Phase 1--brain slices from hippocampus--is entirely complete. The project seems to be on the cusp of transitioning from stage 2 to stage 3 on live rats. So let's take a look at what they've accomplished so far:

The key problem they're centering their work around is duplicating--and accurately predicting--patterns of output in response to patterns of input. Brain activity is generally portrayed in a fairly simple fashion: either a neuron receives a strong enough collection of signals to undergo an action potential or it doesn't. Since action potentials are all-or-nothing affairs, all that matters is determining whether or not the neuron fires. However, whether or not a neuron fires an AP is influenced not only by the current pattern of input, but also by previous patterns of input.

They dealt with this by taking comprehensive readings of CA3 output while subjecting it to a widely ranging random series of stimulations based on Poisson's equation (don't ask me about the math--see the previous entry). They then took systems analytic approaches from engineering to determine how each section responds to the input. This was based on a bunch of equations and techniques I'd never heard of: I currently have "Volterra kernel estimation on a Laguerre basis" written in my notes, if you find that useful. The end result is a third order nonlinear model which takes as x(n) the input from the dentate gyrus to CA3 and returns y(n), CA3's output to CA1.

This is fairly impressive: as a third order equation, it only needs to track the previous two input bursts in order to predict the response with 95% accuracy. I would have guessed that they needed to track a lot more than that. But at the same time, they're intentionally simplifying the model (as Dr. Berger kept putting it, a number of aspects of their approach were based on the "Give Us A Break" hypothesis) to keep things feasible. They then went through a series of hardware models in brain slices, ending with a VLSI implementation that was a 1.1 x 1.1 mm chip modified to align the inputs & outputs with averaged site coordinates. The chip is intentionally designed so it doesn't have to be customized with each brain: instead, it only needs to accurately hit a few of the key sites.

They then connected the chip to dentate gyrus with recording electrodes, and compared the output of the chip to the actual output of the CA3 in response to defined stimuli. He showed us two datasets from this experiment: one he claimed was "very good," the other was "average." The datasets consisted of patterns of output from the chip overlaid on actual CA3 output. Although it clearly wasn't perfect, the results were nonetheless quite impressive.

At this point, he could clearly tell that he was running a bit late on time, so his coverage of the rat experiments they've performed to date was a bit rushed, making it harder for me to get decent notes. A few key points:

  • They are recording from the brains of live rats while performing a simple learned task requiring the use of memory.

  • Complicated math: Kolmogorov-Smirnov test

  • The 3rd degree model seems to minimize the number of recording sites they will need to a practical level.
  • Their was some interesting weirdness they'd observed involving their modelling of background noise that I utterly failed to write down.

  • They're on the verge of preparing hardware to test in rats.

  • They're also preparing to start taking data from macaques.

  • He strongly emphasized during Q & A that this project should not be considered a replacement for pharmaceutical therapies for memory problems, but rather they should be considered complementary. Even if expandable to other regions of the brain, at the most this system will only be able to subsititute for relatively distinct areas that are nonfunctional. But any damage great enough to render areas nonfunctional will probably also cause some damage to surrounding areas, leaving them partially functioning; pharm approaches will probably still be ideal for those areas.

Finally, the best question from Q & A went a little like this:

This project is impressively visionary and wide in scope. Did you have tenure when you started working on it?

More info:
Laboratory for Neural Engineering
Neural - Biomimetic Implants for the Brain

Quote of the Day:

Meryl Streep once said that every good actor knows that the statement "I love you" is a question. We send our love out into the world, hoping it will not be laughed at or destroyed. We trust the one we love to accept it...

--Roger Ebert, from his Review of Three Times.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Movie: Tokyo Raiders

I watched Tokyo Raiders last night, a personal favorite representing the Wacky-Kung-Fu-Espionage-Hijinks-Action genre.

First off, one thing needs to be made clear. This movie co-stars Ekin Cheng. Ekin Cheng is dreamy. If there is a God, then Ekin Cheng is his gift to people who appreciate dreamy men. In fact, if St. Thomas Aquinas were to meet Ekin Cheng, there would be a sixth proof for God's existence, and it would be Ekin Cheng. His eyes smolder with the burning passion of a thousand white-hot suns. Just look at him:

Can you seriously claim that he is not the living incarnation of walking beauty?

Now that I've got that off my chest, onto the movie itself. The impressive thing about Tokyo Raiders is that it manages to be intelligently assembled without being intelligent itself. At no point does this film challenge your intellect, your ideals, your preconceptions of humanity. It replaces all these things with Ekin Cheng kicking people in the face, the Japanese equivalent of Charlie's Angels, and Tony Leung Chiu Wai getting chased by giant men on tiny bikes while riding a motor-skateboard. But nonetheless, the movie isn't stupid. Not only does the plot actually make sense without having to resort to ignoring your suspension of disbelief, it actually has plot twists. That are neither transparently choreographed a half hour ahead of time nor pulled out of the blue the moment they occur.

The cinematography is gorgeous: both the way Jingle Ma tries to make the backdrop of Tokyo an occasional character in the film, and in his approach to filming the fight scenes. Although the choreography itself is not particularly amazing (not a knock: it's still plenty of fun, which is what it's trying to be), the pacing of combat combines with the camerawork and the occasional fluctuations in playback speed to make the fights often resemble dances as much as anything else. I'm not trying to say it's elegant, here: if the fighting in Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is ballet, Tokyo Raiders is Samba. Or the foxtrot. Maybe salsa. I really don't know anything about different dancing styles.

Anyways, the moral of the story: Tokyo Raiders is five stars of awesome. Four stars for being a great film, and one star for Ekin Cheng being dreamy. What do you say to that?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday Random 10: 23 June 2006

Where would be at the end of the week without shuffle?

1. Junkie XL w/Chuck D - Access to the Excess
2. Danger Doom - Perfect Hair
3. Nancy Sinatra - Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
4. Public Enemy w/Paris: Hannibal Lecture
5. Jah Wobble - Fly 8
6. Turbonegro - Le Saboteur
7. Analog Brothers - 2005
8. Nancy Sinatra - Light My Fire
I was sort of depressed when I downloaded this and discovered that it's basically the same arrangement Shirley Bassey used for her cover of this, and did a much better job with. But then again, it's Shirley Bassey, so it's not like comparing to her is fair. And this is Nancy Sinatra, and it's not like she can do any wrong. So, oh well.

9. Ella Fitzgerald w/Randy Brooks - A Kiss Goodnight
10. Ladytron - Soft Power

HIV Milestone


Over the past 17 years, successive generations of AIDS drugs have restored a total of three million years of life to HIV-positive Americans and prevented an estimated 2,900 infants from becoming infected, a new study finds.

The numbers, the first calculations of their kind, highlight both the successes and failures of AIDS treatment, said study co-author A. David Paltiel, an associate professor of public health at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.

Applied mathematicians don't get no respect

Just got back from the neural prosthesis seminar I mentioned on Wednesday, and I was really blown away on a certain level. More on that later, hopefully I'll have time to blog about it this afternoon or this weekend.

For the moment, I just wanted to quick comment on a trend I've seen in neuro seminars.

As biological disciplines go, neuroscience is very math- & engineering-oriented. Although I admit I haven't taken high-level classes in other areas, but there's a lot of fundamental neuroscience that's dependent on decently complicated math. This is above and beyond the sorts of statistics that all experimental biological scientists would benefit from understanding.

And yet, many presentations seem to include the standard section where someone puts up some equations on their powerpoint and apologize for having to go into the math, while making it clear that they're glossing over the important stuff. It seems like it must be sort of irritating--especially in something like this, that's very engineering and prediction-dependent--to have to gloss over one of the key areas because even amongst specialists, it'll just fly over people's heads.

And of course, you never get the chance to present to mathematicians, who might have a better hope of at least understanding the concepts involved, even if they don't know the specific approaches and algorithms, because mathematicians don't generally attend neuroscience seminars (at least, not from my observations to date).

Not sure where I'm going with this. Just a thought.


When did Alfa-Matrix start showing up on emusic? And a couple O Yuki Conjugate albums? Man... this is going to take some time to conquer indecisiveness...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Something horribly wrong with my gmail account...

Two of the sponsored links from the email I received for this comment:

Biblical Adam, First Man
Adam, first man per Bible records, archaeology dates him to 14,000 BP

DNA Analysis Concludes.
DNA Proof That Man Did Not Evolve From Monkeys. PhD In Microbiology.

On the one hand, it seems to have failed in its task by not providing me with a product I care about. On the other hand, they've certainly succeeded in their goal of giving me links that I would follow.

Which is probably all they care about, since they just want click-throughs.

It gets in your brain... AND IT WON'T LET YOU DIE!!!

Carl Zimmer dishes out more on our favorite parasite by revealing how it manages to stealthily sneak into your brain: via the immune system.

Antonio Barragan and his colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm were puzzled at first about how Toxoplasma managed this swift journey. "When we looked for parasites in the blood, we found very few that were just swimming around," said Dr. Barragan, an associate professor. But the scientists observed many of the parasites inside immune cells known as dendritic cells.

Dr. Barragan was intrigued. Dendritic cells, common in the gut, often come into contact with pathogens. They respond by crawling to the lymph nodes or the spleen, where they communicate with other immune cells.

"That led us to think, what if this parasite is directing these cells to move and to disseminate through the body?" Dr. Barragan said. He and his colleagues put dendritic cells in a dish and injected them with Toxoplasma. They noticed that the parasites triggered a peculiar change: the dendritic cells became hyperactive, crawling for an entire day.

Not as interesting as their potential effects on the human psyche, but still pretty interesting nonetheless.

By the way... extra points for getting the reference behind this post's title.

Just raise my hopes again, why don't you?

All of your friends who make fun of people who get cryonically frozen might be wrong again:

The latest research on water - still one of the least understood of all liquids despite a century of intensive study – seems to support the possibility that cells, tissues and even the entire human body could be cyropreserved without formation of damaging ice crystals, according to University of Helsinki researcher Anatoli Bogdan, Ph.D...

...Bogdan's experiments involved a form of water termed "glassy water," or low-density amorphous ice (LDA), which is produced by slowly supercooling diluted aqueous droplets. LDA melts into highly viscous water (HVW). Bogdan reports that HVW is not a new form of water, as some scientists believed.

"That HVW is not a new form of water (i.e., normal and glassy water are thermodynamically connected) may have some interesting practical implications in cryobiology, medicine, and cryonics." Bogdan said.

"It may seem fantastic, but the fact that in aqueous solution, [the] water component can be slowly supercooled to the glassy state and warmed back without the crystallization implies that, in principle, if the suitable cyroprotectant is created, cells in plants and living matter could withstand a large supercooling and survive," Bogdan explained. In present cyropreservation, the cells being preserved are often damaged due to freezing of water either on cooling or subsequent warming to room temperature.

This is beyond my area of expertise, so I'll just label this "sounds promising" for now. However I will point out that one should not argue with a Finn when it comes to ice. Unless one is an approaching Soviet army... and even then, it's probably not that great an idea.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Would you protest the great sport of fish-barrel shooting?

Courtesy John Lynch, Ann Coulter on Canada's participation in the Vietnam War:

Conference on Motor Control and Cognitive Neuroscience

The U of M's Center for Cognitive Sciences is presenting a conference on Motor Control & Cognitive Neuroscience on August 7-11.

Info on presenters is here. Note that on Friday, John Soechting (my PI) will be presenting on the haptics work that's the foundation for the project I'm working on. So if you're curious to see someone who knows what they're talking about explain it, go to that one.

Free registration is here, with a deadline of 31 July.

Upcoming presentation on neural prosthetics

I figure someone reading this has got to find this interesting.

On both tomorrow and Friday, Dr. Theodore W. Berger from the University of Southern California will be delivering a presentation titled, "Toward Replacement Parts for the Brain: Implantable Biomimetic Electronics as Neural Prostheses for Lost Cognitive Function."

From the description emailed out to department employees:

Abstract: Dr. Berger will present results of a multi-disciplinary project that is developing a microchip-based neural prosthesis for the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for the formation of long-term memories. Damage to the hippocampus is frequently associated with epilepsy, stroke, and dementia (Alzheimer's disease), and is considered to underlie the memory deficits related to these neurological conditions. The essential goals of Dr. Berger’s multi-laboratory effort include: (1) experimental study of neuron and neural network function -- how does the hippocampus encode information?, (2) formulation of biologically realistic models of neural system dynamics -- can that encoding process be described mathematically to realize a predictive model of how the hippocampus responds to any event?, (3) microchip implementation of neural system models -- can the mathematical model be realized as a set of electronic circuits to achieve parallel processing, rapid computational speed, and miniaturization?, and (4) creation of hybrid neuron-silicon interfaces -- can structural and functional connections between electronic devices and neural tissue be achieved for long-term, bi-directional communication with the brain? By integrating solutions to these component problems, we are realizing a microchip-based model of hippocampal nonlinear dynamics that can perform the same function as part of the hippocampus. Through bi-directional communication with other neural tissue that normally provides the inputs and outputs to/from a damaged hippocampal area, the biomimetic model could serve as a neural prosthesis. A proof-of-concept will be presented in which the CA3 region of the hippocampal slice is surgically removed, and is replaced by a microchip model of CA3 nonlinear dynamics – the “hybrid” hippocampal circuit displays normal physiological properties. How the work in brain slices is being extended to behaving animals also will be described.

I think that sounds wicked awesome. This is the third thing in the last week that I've heard out of USC that sounds interesting, so they're taking a huge leap up in my grad school considerations.

Maybe I should find out where it is, then.

Info for the presentations:
Title: "Toward Replacement Parts for the
Brain: Implantable Biomimetic Electronics as
Neural Prostheses for Lost Cognitive Function"

Thursday, June 22, 2006
3:30 - 4:30 pm
402 Walter Library


Friday, June 23, 2006
12;00 - 1:00 PM
2-101 Hasselmo Hall

These things are always open to the public and generally come with free food of some sort. So if you'd like to join me in a free lunch, swing on by!

Quote of the Day (Today)

So, lock up your daughter, and lock up your wife,
Lock up your backdoor, and run for your life
The man is back in town,
So, don't you mess me 'round.

--AC/DC, "TNT"

Quote of the Day (Yesterday)

"After the OJ Simpson verdict, one of the jurors appeared on TV and said with absolute conviction, 'Race had absolutely nothing to do with my decision,'" psychologist Joshua Aronson says. "But how on earth could she know that? What my research with priming race and test performance, and Bargh's research with the interrupters, and Maier's experiment with the ropes show is that people are ignorant of the things that affect their actions, yet they rarely feel ignorant. We need to accept our ignorance and say 'I don't know' more often."
--Blink, p. 71

We Are All Junkies

Courtesy the Science Blog: 'Thirst for knowledge' may be opium craving:

Neuroscientists have proposed a simple explanation for the pleasure of grasping a new concept: The brain is getting its fix. The "click" of comprehension triggers a biochemical cascade that rewards the brain with a shot of natural opium-like substances, said Irving Biederman of the University of Southern California. He presents his theory in an invited article in the latest issue of American Scientist...

...Biederman hypothesized that knowledge addiction has strong evolutionary value because mate selection correlates closely with perceived intelligence.

Only more pressing material needs, such as hunger, can suspend the quest for knowledge, he added.

The same mechanism is involved in the aesthetic experience, Biederman said, providing a neurological explanation for the pleasure we derive from art.

"This account may provide a plausible and very simple mechanism for aesthetic and perceptual and cognitive curiosity."

I'm totally going to have to track that down. So there may be more on this one later.

Good start

Hey, health care, what a great idea!

SAN FRANCISCO - The city would offer health care to any adult resident, regardless of immigration or employment status, under a plan announced Tuesday...

...The city estimates the plan would cost $200 million a year, an expense that would be borne by taxpayers, businesses that don't already insure all their workers, and participants themselves.

Residents would pay both monthly fees and service co-payments on a sliding scale depending on income. A person with annual earnings at the federal poverty line would pay $3 per month, while someone who makes between $19,600 and $40,000 — or up to 400 percent above the poverty line — would pay an average of $35 per month.

Details of how the employer contribution would work were scheduled to be presented Wednesday to the Board of Supervisors. Approval is expected, though the details could change.

The most recent version, sponsored by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, would require every business with more than 20 employees to pay $1.60 an hour into the system for all employees not already covered by a health plan, no matter how few hours they work.

The plan sounds about as good as what I'm getting at the U. I think I'm paying about the same once it kicks in next month. On the one hand, I do get some out of the Twin Cities options (although I chose the one that doesn't have a lot, since I don't expect to use them); and on the other, I expect that they'll get less dealing with copays. I could be wrong, though.

Regardless, it's a great start; and one I'd like to see progress further.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The last NBA post of the season

There are reasons to feel okay about tonite's game. For instance, I am begrudgingly forced to admit by Dr. X that Zo did earn his ring tonite.

On the other hand, this is the second (and last) game in a row ultimately decided by giving Dwyane a free trip to the foul line, after a night of giving him cheap and free rides.

Stupid Music Jokes

BT's soundtrack to "Tiger Woods Golf 2005" just went up on emusic. Please tell me I'm not the only one who finds this intrinsically amusing on some bizarre level.

Reading Comprehension Skill Test

File Under: People are Dumb, sports columnists:

Tim Dahlberg just wrote a column about how much he hates Mark Cuban. It seems to clearly indicate (at least, to me) that he has read both this post and this post on Mark Cuban's blog.

And yet, he doesn't actually seem to have read either of them.

The thing that irritates me most of all is that one of the tactics he's taking is a fairly common, lazy swipe at Cuban:

Does anyone even know who owns the Heat? Someone must sign the paychecks in Miami.

I find it odd that so many sports commentators want to argue that there's something wrong with someone who actually cares about the team they own.

UPDATE: Tim Keown joins the club:

Give Cuban credit for his roundabout promotion of this theory. There's a certain backhanded beauty to it. Think of it this way: How can he lose? If the Mavs win, they've overcome both the Heat and the forces that conspire. If they lose, they never had a chance.

Even assuming he hasn't read this morning's Cuban post, this makes no sense. What is this "roundabout promotion" of which he speaks? Is Cuban buying out other columnists, paying them to spread this theory he publically disavows? Has he hired someone to simulate an army of fans, writing angry blog posts and sending angry emails to ESPN? I would really like to know how Keown justifies his conspiracy theory about Mark Cuban believing in conspiracies.

Lessons Is Lessons

In a recent post, Kevin Drum comments:

It may be that democratization by force is a chimera, but the level of incompetence in Iraq has been so monumental that it seems almost impossible to draw any enduring conclusions from our experience there.

I'd say impossible, but not quite. Just because lessons are obvious, or have been learned before, doesn't mean we shouldn't utilize them in preparing conclusions for future efforts:
  • Most obviously, don't let gross incompetents lead us to war.

  • Greater transparency is a requirement for successful function of government; most especially in the run-up to and the conduction of war.

  • When waging war, just pretending you care about the results--at an absolute minimum--isn't enough.

I'm sure someone whose spent more time thinking about this can elucidate more clearly than I. But at the moment, it seems to sort of boil down to the idea that we've set a fairly clear bottom rung: we at least know that any time we try to do something even remotely similar to this in the future, we have to be better prepared than this. You don't go to war with the president you have; because if you have the wrong president, you make sure as hell that he doesn't go to war.

Movie Reviews: Suicide Club & Moon Child

I've been trying to keep track of movies I've watched lately, on the theory that I can one day actually remember anything about them or--perhaps, just perhaps--grow as a human being in response to my experience with the artistic display. Of course, there are many who would argue that the very nature of my taste in films makes the latter feat impossible. But to them, I say thee nay! I implore that my audience ignore the statements of such haters.

I watched two movies this past weekend: the first was Sion Sono's Jisatsu saakuru, aka Suicide Club; the second was Takahisa Zeze's Moon Child. It is probably important to note that both of these directors apparently started in the porn industry, a connection I failed to make until after the fact.

I'd previously seen the first five minutes of Suicide Club, which is an awesome moment of truly epic proportions. Also very giallo, so it was leading me to expect a Argentoesque horror/police investigation film. Although both of these apply in certain fashions to the film, it ultimately reminded me more of David Lynch. And I do say that with some trepidation, as I've encountered the comparison to David Lynch in reviews & promo of Asian films more than any other director--other than perhaps John Woo, but that's cheating--and it's rarely applied in any real sense beyond "David Lynch==weird & Takashi Miike==weird ==> David Lynch==Takashi Miike." But this was a film that reminded me at moments of Lost Highway more than anything else, if only because it seems to be in a similar vein of taking ~3 viewings to figure it out.

For now, it's a movie with some gorgeous shots of horrible things happening that seems to thematically interweave ideas of karma with mankind's disconnection from each other and ourselves. Two thumbs up, it currently gets four stars out of five with an option to buy once I figure it out.

It should also be mentioned that this movie is totally NOT for the squeamish.

Moon Child. I'd seen this before, and really only for one reason: Lee-Hom Wang. He's an acquaintance of a close friend, and we make sure to catch all of his movies when we can, just for the heck of it. It was a surprising film, because both of his previous movies were standard dumb Hong Kong movies, and this was fairly intelligent. Also because we'd encountered a lot of negative reviews, and it's actually very good.

The movie itself is pretty weird: it's a near-future gangster action film with a vampire as one of the main characters. It takes place over several time jumps ranging from the year 2000 to the year 2050, following the lives of our protagonists. I realized this time that it runs symmetrically: it starts as a vampire film, it turns into an action film about a couple of young gangsters just starting to make a name for themselves, it evolves into a John Woo-esque tale of loyalty and betrayal, which gets you to the big action-packed climax, and then it turns into a vampire movie again. This is what leads to a lot of the negative reviews, I think: they generally seem to center on complaints about it basically being an action gangster movie with vampires, which really just makes me suspect they were approaching the movie from the wrong angle.

There's a lot of good, intelligent thought that clearly went into this movie; I'm not sure quite how much of it made it out. The series of time jumps makes it feel like it should have been a three hour epic that was either not thought through well enough to develop all the material, or that just got cut down to two hours. Regardless, there's so much just packed into the movie that it feels impressively full on a level you don't often encounter any more. I think part of that is its character-driven nature--which is in and of itself odd, since you don't get a lot of time actually spent on the character development, so you have to read between the scenes--since I generally tend to be attracted to more plot-driven movies with more traditional character archetypes. Also four out of five stars, because it ultimately feels a bit distracted, and makes me feel like there should be more to it than there really is.

Rodents = Pure Excitement

MATLAB is killing me with boredom today. Even with the Natacha Atlas and the Rei Harakami blasting, I'm about to fall asleep here.

So I was not surprised to discover that Derek's discussion of the importance of rats sent me staring moon-eyed out the window, tearing with nostalgia for those magical moments I had until a few short months ago, when I could get peed or bled on by rats on a daily basis.

Sigh... I miss those days.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Made With Molecules, Part Deux

Oh my God, my nephew is totally going to get one of these soon.

How well is your hearing holding up?

Test with this Flash app.

(via ochen k.)


I'm a bit obsessed with neurotransmitters. One of my long-term plans during this last bout of school was to celebrate my graduation by getting an NT tattoo, either serotonin or dopamine. Dopamine, because of its key role in the reward pathway and thus in drug addiction; and serotonin due to its position as the (sort of) archetypal indole alkaloid and its general beauty. So sue me: I find indole alkaloids incredibly gorgeous.

Anyways, that plan's been pushed off for a bit due to my financial straits from college expenses. My current hope is to pay off my credit card debt and put a dent in my loans before I go to grad school next year and to get the tattoo once I can be confidently standing on my own feet next summer. But thanks to Made With Molecules, I might be able to get some jewelry to help me wait patiently:

I'm a bit irritated by the dopamine = pleasure claim (a post for another day), and the phrase "together they keep balance" sends stomping urges up and down my spine. But I'm willing to forgive them, since they've made gorgeous jewelry representing some of the things I love most.

(Thanks to Retrospectacle)

Blink Excerpt

Reading Blink over my lunch break, came across this passage during my lunch break which I found highly interesting. It's more or less a digression in the middle of the first chapter, which I'll have more to say about later (I hope):

...Morse code is made up of dots and dashes, each of which has its own prescribed length. But no one ever replicates those prescribed lengths perfectly. When operators send a message--particularly using the old manual machines known as the straight key or the bug--they vary the spacing or stretch out the dots and dashes or combine dots and dashes and spaces in a particular rhythm. Morse code is like speech. Everyone has a different voice.

In the Second World War, the British assembled thousands of so-called interceptors--mostly women--whose job it was to tune in every day and night to the radio broadcasts of the various divisions of the German military. The Germans were, of course, broadcasting in code, so--at least in the early part of the war--the British couldn't understand what was being said. But that didn't necessarily matter, because before long, just by listening to the cadence of the transmission, the interceptors began to pick up on the individual fists of the German operators, and by doing so, they knew something nearly as important, which was who was doing the sending. "If you listened to the same call signs over a certain period, you would begin to recognize that there were, say, three or four different operators in that unit, working on a shift system, each with his own characteristics," says Nigel West, a British military historian. "And invariably, quite apart from the text, there would be the preambles, and the illicit exchanges. How are you today? How's the girlfriend? What's the weather like in Munich? So you fill out a little card, on which you write down all that kind of information, and pretty soon you have a kind of relationship with that person."

The interceptors came up with descriptions of the fists and styles of the operators they were following. They assigned them names and assembled elaborate profiles of their personalities. After they identified the person who was sending the message, the interceptors would then locate their signal. So now they knew something more. They knew who was where. West goes on: "...And in a moment of crisis, when someone very high up asks, 'Can you really be absolutely certain that this particular Luftwaffe Fliegerkorps [German air force squadron] is outside of Tobruk and not in Italy?' you can answer, 'Yes, that was Oscar, that was absolutely sure.'"

The key thing about fists is that they emerge naturally. Radio operators don't deliberately try to sound distinctive. They simply end up sounding distinctive, because some part of their personality appears to express itself automatically and unconsciously in the way they work the Morse code keys. The other thing about a fist is that it reveals itself in even the smallest sample of Morse code. We have to listen to only a few characters to pick out an individual's pattern. It doesn't change or disappear for stretches or show up only in certain words or phrases... An operator's fist is stable.

Just an interesting piece of military history I'd never encountered previously.

Game 5

Really, the only thing I have to say about last night's game was that I feel more sorry for Josh Howard than I could have imagined possible. That look on his face during the accidental last time-out last night was quite possibly sadder than anything I've ever seen.

Other than that, it was a good game, and I have at most a few minor complaints or irritations. What was up with that last second trip to the backcourt, delay in clock starting, the standard pissed off fan reactions...

And also the question: what the hell was Udonis doing on the floor at the end of the first half while he was BLEEDING FROM THE EYE?

I've been wanting to get this off my chest for a while now:

Despite certain allegations to the contrary, this is NOT what I do for a living:

Couple quick links from the weekend

I don't know if this is legitimate or not, because I haven't had the chance to check. But I've seen some Crohn's sufferers--such as writer Mark Millar--claim that they're convinced online. But you know, it is a real doctor at a real hospital so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Professor John Hermon Taylor of St. George's Hospital Medical School in London claims to have developed a vaccine for and is looking for donations to help get it through the UK licensing bureaucracy. So if you've ever wanted a chance to donate some money that might accomplish something in the short term, have at it.


So, you see...

Well, this girl...

I can't do it. I'll let the Idaho Statesmen explain:

The imagination of the Cole Elementary first-grader came to life Friday when the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Idaho, Windermere Real Estate and others orchestrated Aubrey's wish to be a superhero for a day.

Aubrey, aka "Star," has optic glioma, a brain tumor behind her eyes. But it didn't stop her as she foiled crimes and chased her arch-nemesis, Black (named for the character on Neighborhood Watch signs), through the city of Boise, followed by a cavalcade of police cars.

With a determined look on her face, Aubrey used her super powers of X-ray vision, super strength, fast speed and blowing power to rescue a hostage from Black's grip and tie the villain to the replica Liberty Bell in front of the Statehouse at about noon...

...Aubrey made up other superheroes to help her fight crimes in scripted scenes on her special day. She equipped Lion Lady, Frog Lady, Dog Man, House Lifter, Sky Girl, Martian Manhunter and Tree Girl with their own superpowers. A script assisted heroes and police as the drama played out, but Aubrey always knew what to say because she loves to play superhero with friends.

(thanks to Blog@Newsarama)


AP: Side effects cast shadow over new HIV meds

That's all for now, folks.

Thoughts from the Reading List

NOTE: This post was written Saturday afternoon when bereft of internet, and I'm only getting around to putting it online now.

So I've just started reading the introduction of Malcolm Gladwell's blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, recently on loan from a friend. For those who aren't aware (most), the book--at least from the introduction--presents itself as a discussion of split-second decision making.

The interesting thing, though, is that he also presents this type of decision making as being primarily on an unconscious level. So while reading the introduction, I was reminded of one of the shorter case studies from V.S. Ramachandran's A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness, concerning a patient who is consciously blind due to a brain injury, but still has an unconscious ability to recognize objects and their positions.

(Or something like that, I don't have it with me right now.)

Now in Ramachandran's case, the patient's odd visual responses are due to brain damage which selectively severs the connections to the primary visual cortex--responsible for visual processing in mammals (I'm pretty sure, but I'm writing this away from home without an internet connection and I know I'll be too lazy/absent-minded to look this up when I copy and paste it into blogger); while connections to the superior colliculus, responsible for vision in other animals, were intact. But the superior colliculus doesn't input to systems involved in conscious thought. So somehow it's providing visual input that the brain can utilize, which still has no access to conscious recognition systems.

Now, I have no idea what mechanisms Malcolm Gladwell will discuss for his system later on in the book. But at the moment, I'm enamored of the idea that humans have parallel systems for many processes--probably more than we're aware, even now--systems that are involved in conscious thought, and systems that act independently of consciousness.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Good news

In an attempt to promote legal uses for cocaine, Bolivia has opened the first of two factories for developing coca products. Partially funded by Venezuala, the hope for this initiative seems to be to cut down on coca funneled to illicit use & abuse by coming up with legal ways to profit off of it:

Morales rose in politics as the leader of Bolivia's coca farmers and part of his anti-drug policy is to encourage licit uses for coca -- the plant used to make cocaine, which is also revered by Andean peoples for its medicinal properties.

"Manufacturing coca (products) doesn't do any harm because coca isn't a drug," Morales told hundreds of coca farmers gathered in a stadium in the town of Irupana, in the Yungas region 85 miles from La Paz. The event was broadcast on state television.

This seems like good news because it's a much more sensible approach than those generally taken by the US in foreign producers--such as Bolivia and Colombia. The defoliating slash-and-burn technique is devastating on the peoples of the region in a number of ways. There's an economic impact that hurts the farmers growing the coca more than the cartels, leaving the farmers more dependent on the cartels for income than before; there's also the human impact measured by how unhealthy high levels of extended exposure to many of these chemicals can be; and there's also the impact of attacking a foodstuff essential to the diets of most Andean peoples.

Coca, you see, is also a fairly nutritious plant. And it also plays an adaptive role in the Andes, helping people to endure hard labor and extended travel in high altitude conditions.

Just some food for thought.

Web Junk in the Web Trunk

L I Kk E

Thanks to spell with flickr.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The next phase?

Just received and took a survey from the Society for Neuroscience. It seems that they're considering either cancelling or somehow altering their approach to the print edition of the Journal of Neuroscience, while simultaneously considering moving to an open source publishing approach.

Intriguing times lie ahead.

The Rumor Mill

I've always been a total gossip, so I'm really feeling no guilt here. As wonkette puts it:

Jack, if you’re going to pick up girls from out of town, you could pick a better venue than the Pride parade. That’s all we’re saying.

The details? Rather simple. Jack Burkman, a Republican strategist, apparently walked up to a 23-year old from Tennessee who was in DC for the pride parade. He offered her and her friends a thousand dollars plus hotel payment for a threesome.

They turned him down. Then she posted about it on her MySpace.

Let's spread this one far and wide, shall we?

Wonkette sums it up
MySpace post #1
MySpace post #2

Thanks to Atrios.

Friday Random 10: 16 June 2006

Skinny Puppy - Killing Game (Autechre Remix, Bent Mix)
Midival Punditz - Ajmer
Cibelle - Arrete La, Menina
Karsh Kale - Innocence and Power
Karsh Kale - Destroy the Icon (Bone Cruise Mix)
Bad Religion - Atomic Garden
Android Lust - Linguae
Dead Kennedys - This Could Be Anywhere
Meat Beat Manifesto - Postcards


You will receive no commentary on last night's game. Unless I'm right and there was a magnet in the ball (or potentially a disembodied spirit inhabiting Miami's stadium), the Mavs deserved to lose that.

Although I did learn that James Posey has a degree in forensic science, so I can never wish ill upon him again. Also, we totally want CBS to launch "CSI NBA," a television show about James Posey fighting crime. It'll be awesome. Because who doesn't want to see Kobe Bryant carried off the court in handcuffs?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Couple quick links

Via inter:digital strategies, Google has just launched a US Government search site.

ScienceBloggers for charity.

Irony of the week

Bruce Springsteen presents the Seeger Sessions: We Shall Overcome at non-union venue.

Quick B-Ball blogging

No, I didn't avoid blogging about Game 3 because the Mavs lost. I was just busy all day yesterday, with little internet access.

Game 3 was actually probably the best game of the series thus far. Although Game 1 was also competitive, it was never as much so. And the size of the leads that would appear and vanish over the course of Tuesday night was pretty impressive. It was also just nice to see a game that was high-scoring for both teams, with lots of players having good games.

Also, now that Dan Crawford isn't officiating again until Game 7, the Mavs can finish the second half of their victory in peace.

Fools! All Of You!

Pharyngula asks the question:

Sure, our many times great grandchildren could get a foothold off of planet Earth. But do we really want to create a competing race of naked mole apes?

I am quite certain that I'm not the first to state, unequivocally, that the answer is YES!!!

Yesterday: Learning, NFL Violations, Konsumah Kultchah

Sorry no posting yesterday, I sort of forgot that I had an off-site seminar to attend. It was a training session in using the customized DOE (Design-of-Experiment) function in the latest version of JMP (a stats package). It looks fairly robust, but pretty useless to me for now because we pretty much only do observational experimentation. Unless someone knows a decent number of sentient life forms with no sensory biases they'd be willing to loan us for the week... Didn't think so.

Anyways, it was certainly something with the potential to be useful in the future, once I'm working on projects involving more active experimentation. It did totally pay for itself yesterday, though, what with it being free and all. And also what with a free breakfast (I ate my weight in fresh pineapple), a free lunch (make your own sandwich, garden vegetable soup, and COOKIES), and the free books: Applied Linear Statistical Models (current edition), JMP Start Statistics, and JMP for Basic Univariate and Multivariate Statistics. Yes, they gave us over $200 in free books, the biggest of which is a $130 college textbook not specific to their software. For attending a free seminar. I was quite impressed.

I got out earlier than expected, so friend Phil & I walked over to the Sam Goody that's closing in downtown to check out the out-of-business sale. I purchased Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Doppelganger, The Wishing Stairs, and Pride Bushido vol. 1 for $20. All new, baby. And that was after I put down another $20 or so worth of DVDs & CDs (including this, this, and this) due to pangs of guilt from the number of DVDs I've purchased since graduation (which I shall perhaps go into... later.

Anyways: all in all, a good day for consumerism. Which is a good day for America.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Extreme Karate

I just discovered this movie existed.

It must be mine.

Thanks to Chris and Dave

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ambiguous Blessings

I'm trying to decide whether it's a boon or a curse that I inevitably end up spending about a half hour to an hour each week scotch-taping code printouts into my lab notebook. I'll let you know once I figure it out.

He's the Son of A Bad Man

(Shamelessly stolen from Pharyngula)

I was randomly browsing through the New York Asian Film Festival 2006 list to see what movies I would need to keep an eye out for at local theaters or on DVD... there were a few interesting looking ones, but I really needed to point out Oh! My Zombie Mermaid as winning the title-of-the-year award. It certainly sounds worth checking out.


I just finished my first round of experiments on subjects bigger/smarter than a breadbox. You know, people.

A bit anticlimactic, honestly.

The War on Drugs as War on People

Received from email: Drug Warriors Push Eye-Eating Fungus

On April 16, the New York Times ran a full-page ad from contact lens producer Bausch and Lomb, announcing the recall of its “ReNu with MoistureLoc” rewetting solution, and warning the 30 million American wearers of soft contact lenses about Fusarium keratitis. This infection, first detected in Asia, has rapidly spread across the United States. It is caused by a mold-like fungus that can penetrate the cornea of soft contact lens wearers, causing redness and pain that can lead to blindness—requiring a corneal replacement.

That same week, the House of Representatives passed a provision to a bill requiring that the very same fungus be sprayed in “a major drug-producing country,” such as Colombia. The bill’s sponsor was Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) and its most vocal supporter was his colleague Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who has been promoting the fungus for almost a decade as key to winning the drug war.

The Colombian government has come out against it. And those entities of the U.S. government that have studied the use of Fusarium for more than 30 years don’t recommend it either: The Office of National Drug Control Policy, also known as the Drug Czar’s office, CIA, DEA, the State Department and the USDA have all concluded that the fungus is unsafe for humans and the environment...

...Mutation of the fungus allows it to attack other “hosts.” The eye-eating Fusarium seems to be a result of such a mutation. After all, the soft-contact lenses that it grows behind are a recent development—having only been commercially available since 1971.

The DEA stopped funding Fusarium research in the United States during the early ’90s after it learned that Fusarium infections can be deadly in “immunocompromised” people—not only AIDS patients and those with other illnesses, but also those who are severely malnourished. The University of the Andes in Bogotá has recently reported that 12 percent of Colombian children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Spraying this fungus on a vulnerable population could be perceived as using a biological weapon.

I have neither time nor expertise to try to track down the bill in question to confirm details... Assuming that's the case, my only other source of skepticism would be whether or not it really is that capable of transferring to human hosts.

All in all, this strikes me as a bit freaky.

Monday, June 12, 2006

From the You-Have-Got-To-Be-Kidding-Me Department...


Davidoff: Teh Good Life

Davidoff: Teh Good Life
Originally uploaded by Mal Cubed.

I tried to do this this morning, and it told me it had worked but the post never appeared.

So I'm trying again.

Brought to you by the closing credits of the instant Hong Kong classic Hit Team

More basketball

Yesterday we went to the -Comets game in the afternoon, as a friend had signed up for the birthday package. We got our "quality time" with Prowl, which unfortunately involved neither candlelight dinners nor buying him a beer. Side benefits: we got a ton of Lynx schwag, as an attempt to apologize for only having kid-sized jerseys for the birthday party since it was 13 & under get a free jersey day. Also, our friend Uriah got to take part in the dancing competition between the 3rd & 4th.

As always, he lost to an eight-year-old kid doing the robot.

I haven't been to a Lynx game in two years, and I didn't really follow them last year either. But I've got to say, the rules changes this year (switching from 20 min. halfs to 10 min. quarters and cutting the shot clock down from 30 sec. to 25 sec.) have immensely changed the game play. There was always a bit more emphasis on athleticism in WNBA over the crazy stuff you see in the NBA, but if feels like the rate and style of play have really shifted. The game's really getting lightning-quick, but you're also starting to see jockeying for position and fighting for the ball after shooting rather than just having everyone run to the other basket at each turnover.

The general rate of pirate ball has also gone up immensely, which I am quite pleased with. I would highly recommend checking out some WNBA games for anyone who wants to see some good, cheap basketball.

I was also pleased to see the Lynx win by 15, of course.

Then we rushed off to catch game 2 of the Mavs-Heat finals.

Just looking at the score of a game can easily give someone the wrong impression. Although the Mavs only beat the Heat by four more points than they did Thursday night, it was a completely different game. After game 1, a friend asked me if I thought the Mavs could sweep the Heat. I thought it was possible, but unlikely. I was expecting Shaq to rebound last night, and the Heat to start working on a more modular defense to plug up the holes Jason Terry was making. Instead, the Heat fell apart. In game 1, the last few minutes was the only point we really felt the Mavs couldn't lose. In game 2, there was no point in the second half where the Heat seemed to have a chance.

I couldn't pay close enough attention to the game to really figure out what happened to the Heat. However, here are a few stats that can help give an impression:
Four Point Plays: 2 (1 by Jerry Stackhouse, 1 by Josh Howard: the 7th & 8th in NBA finals history, the first team to ever get two in the same game).
# of points scored by Shaq: 5 (an all-time low)
# of points scored by Stackhouse in the last 1:19 of the first half: 10

Two addenda:
1. I suspect some Heat fans have pulled out the hatin'.

2. This is all Mark Cuban's fault. But he's condemned me to a lifetime of misery for having seen this, now it's your turn.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Tiger Blade Trailer

I randomly came across Tiger Blade while trawling for something on eBay the other night. Thai action movie about martial arts cops vs. black magic criminals? I was curious. I couldn't find anything about it on IMDB, then I got distracted and forgot about it. Today I found this link to a trailer (only the "final version" works), which is worth checking out.

It doesn't look either great or definitely awesome, but it has three moments that are enough to make me want to see the film. See if you can identify them.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Poorly considered phrasing, perhaps

I'm not sure this is intended to mean what it sounds like:

O'Neal compensated for his dismal foul shooting by nailing jumpers and getting inside for layups and dunks despite being double teammed.
(emphasis mine)

Especially when it's preceded in the article by:

Jerry Stackhouse suffered a small cut on the nose late in the first half when he ran into O'Neal's right elbow while driving to the basket.

Stackhouse, who did not start but is usually one of the first players off Dallas bench, needed three stitches at halftime to close the wound.

Friday Random 10: 9 June 2006

This was inspired by the discovery that Bill Laswell did an album with Matisyahu's backing band. That sort of scares me. A lot. I've been trying to work up the courage to preview the tracks for about a half hour, and I haven't got there yet. Here's what I've been listening to instead.

1. Nancy Sinatra - It Ain't Me, Babe
Speaking of creepy weirdness... I was doing my bimonthly search to see if eMusic has picked up anything that includes Lucy Kaplansky's cover of this track off of Red House Record's Nod to Bob when I discovered that this was on one of the Nancy Sinatra albums that just went up. It really doesn't have any of the elements that appeal to me from any other version of the track I've heard. But it's pretty catchy, which is sort of weird in and of itself.
2. Dead Kennedys - At My Job
3. Goblin - Phenomena-M15 (Alternate Version)
My favorite Goblin track, possibly good enough to make Phenomena my favorite Argento film (although far from his best). If there was a God, this would have been in Opera (which may very well be his best) instead of Phenomena.
4. Tito Puente - Lambada Timbales
5. Luxt - Genocide Skin
I miss Luxt. What made the band work seemed to be their inherent contradiction: it always felt like the female lead wanted to be in a heavier goth/ethereal band, whereas the male lead wanted to be in a more standard metal/coldwave band. They finally got the balance right on Chromasex Monkeydrive and American Beast, so of course they broke up.
6. 1000 Homo DJs - Supernaut
I didn't realize I had this on my laptop. I think I can say with confidence that this probably didn't show up on VH1's much-maligned top 40 metal tracks of all time special.

It really should have. I honestly don't think I know a single metalhead or rivethead whose eyes don't light up when you say, "And they all sing the same refrain: it's fun to take a trip. Put acid in your veins."

7. Lard - Bozo Skeleton
Oh, wow! I was just thinking about this track this morning: I was reading about Joe Lieberman's primary challenge, which set me to thinking about Lieberman & Tipper Gore, inevitably conjuring the lyrics
Washington Stepford wives
Would we be Stepford children?
If they could do away
With the music we love the most
Lyrics warp your children's minds
"Just a minute now, that's our job!"
Your worst enemy is your own kids
Don't talk with them, buy our lies instead

8. Spahn Ranch - The Warmth of Silence
9. Revolting Cocks - Caliente (Dark Entries)
I'd just like to take amoment to acknowledge that this is both the third Ministry side-project to appear, and also Jello Biafra's third appearance. This isn't rigged, I swear! Although I am also forced to admit that the vocals are distorted enough on this track that I'm not actually sure that the voice I think is Jello is, in fact, Jello.

10. Ladytron - Sugar (Jagz Kooner Mix)

Fight for PBS & The Fight Over Cable

A couple media links, courtesy Political Animal:

First off, it's time to fight for Big Bird again:

House Republicans yesterday revived their efforts to slash funding for public broadcasting, as a key committee approved a $115 million reduction in the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that could force the elimination of some popular PBS and NPR programs.

I'm sure this will go just as well for them as it did last time.

Secondly, on the topic of cable a la carte: I'm really just finding it relentlessly amusing that the argument over a la carte is pivoting around right-wing fundie A arguing that a la carte is good because it prevents people from having to give money to the pornographers corrupting our nation vs. right-wing fundie B arguing that a la carte is bad because it will put cable TV preachers out of business. Instead of, you know, any of the actual arguments that actually matter to 90% of the American population.

And then I felt myself falling insane

You know you've been cooped up too long when you suddenly start audibly rejoicing at getting "madhatsnopants" to appear on your screen.

Either that, or you're just coding. Which is sort of the same thing in the end, really.

Not a Historian

The Congressional Black Caucus on removing Rep. Jefferson (Crooked-LA) from his committee seat:

The caucus chairman, Rep. Melvin Watt of North Carolina, told reporters that some black voters might ask why action was sought against "a black member of Congress" when there was neither precedent nor rule for it.

I think it says something that I'm willing to believe there's no precedent for removing a Congressman from a choice committee seat after he's been taped accepting a suitcase with $100,000 which was later recovered from his freezer.



Does anyone else find some of the quotes in this article incredibly amusing?

But Sen. John Cornyn (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, said it violated both the letter and spirit of the Constitution. "I can not and will not support a bill whose very purpose is to divide Americans based upon race," he said...

...Assistant Attorney General William Moschella, in a letter Wednesday to Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the administration "strongly opposes" the bill because it would reverse the country's melting-pot tradition and "divide people by their race."...

...The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a report that came out in May, recommended against passage, saying it "would discriminate on the basis of race or national origin and further subdivide the American people into discrete subgroups."

Because the administration has--of course!--always put the melting pot first, and never attempted to divide Americans. In any fashion. At all.

Context for those clicking-disinclined: Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) put forward a native Hawai'ian self-rule bill, which got shot off the floor. Although I've been in Hawai'i for a total of one month of my life, I have two things I would like to point out to the GOP:

  • The secessionist movement is alive and well in Hawai'i. Not that it'll ever go anywhere, but you may just wish to take a moment to ponder why these people are that irked.

  • You may note that the Hawai'ian flag is based on the Union Jack. That's because the people of Hawai'i--to this very day--generally claim to feel better treated by Britain than by the US government.

Just some food for thought.

Is this acceptable behavior?

AP: U.S. shows photos of battered al-Zarqawi

The headline really says everything of note in the article: the military is displaying photos of al-Zarqawi's corpse's battered face. Where? Why? Not mentioned anywhere in the article at this point, as far as I can tell. I'm assuming it's just to confirm his death to the public in some fashion.

But parading around images of a dead enemy is something I feel a bit uncomfortable with. This has probably been discussed previously--I feel like there might have been a bit of a controversy with a similar approach to Saddam Hussein's sons--but my long-term memory ain't so good, and I'm too lazy to research. Regardless, I have suspicious that if American war dead--either grunt or general--were displayed in a similar fashion, the American response would be widespread condemnation and outrage.

Or maybe I'm wrong. Shrug.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Quick thoughts on game 1 of the NBA Finals

It was less reDirkulous than I'd hoped, although he more than made up for it for that clock shot at the end of the first half. Jason Terry was really the star of the night, although we hope that will be a rotating position with the Mavericks.

Highlight reel moments? I wasn't really paying enough attention to note them, but a few off the top of my head:
--the Dirk shot above
--Terry missing the layup, and thus cursing his teem.
--the Terry three-point montage
--the Shaq attempted murder montage. They'll never show this, but come on: Shaq opens by nearly falling into the camera pit, which could easily taken out... all of the camerafolks. Shaq nearly breaking Dirk's jaw. Shaq nearly breaking someone's nose (I can't remember who at the moment). Shaq bumping into someone and hurling them into the stands with such force I thought he was going for a home run. I don't think he's doing this on purpose, he's just big and clumsy.
--And what reel would be complete without a montage of Shaq missing his free throws? I don't care what the books say: you and I know that for a brief moment, Shaq was at his new all-time NBA low.

Ads: go here and click on the "clinking bottles" video in the appropriate section. I'm trying to decide if it's horribly homophobic or they're just trying to have it both ways. I'd ask for opinions, but between our hiatus and the break-neck shift in topic from the usual I'd be surprised if anyone's successfully read this far.

Peace out.

Mayhaps I spoke to soon

Of course, by "posting again regularly," I mean "today will be super-busy and blogger will be super-flaky."

Because, you know, I have superhuman powers of obfuscation.

I'm Back (I think)

Sorry about the impromptu vacation there, but I think I need a few weeks to settle into the groove of work/summer/not being in school. It's been a while; you know how it is.

Anyways, regular posting should resume shortly. Although the focus may become slightly expanded, since I'm no longer morally obliged to eat, drink, breath Neuroscience 24 hours a day, 8 days a week.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bigotry blocked from constitution once again.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Silly & Superstitious

Happy Six Thousand, Six Hundred & Sixty-Six Day.

Currently listening to Ministry - The Great Satan.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bas Rutten: Master of Self-Defense

Friday, June 02, 2006


Originally uploaded by Mal Cubed.

I got bored near the end at the bar last night.

It says "DOPAMINE" on it. Not to mention "BOUTON" and "CLEFT".

These are all subjects of great relevance to this blog, believe it or not.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Sorry I haven't been posting much lately. A couple things are combining to give me little rumination time.

A: This is the first job I think I've ever actually liked and found challenging. As a result, I'm spending eight hours a day wrestling with MATLAB and trig in an attempt to get over the hump in my learning curve. Hopefully by tomorrow, I'll have started to work stuff out enough that I can start letting myself take breaks and stuff like that without worrying about forgetting everything I've figured out thus far that day over the course of five or ten minutes.

Man, I sure hope that there's a lot of trig on the GRE, because right now I would totally kick ass at it.

B: I've got a few major post-school projects brewing at home that are eating up my not-at-work time. Again, I should be done with those within the week.

So regular posting should hopefully resume shortly.

In the meanwhile, Kevin Drum linked to this Joel Achenbach article on global warming skeptics from the Washington Post magazine. I think it's pretty kickass.

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