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Squirrel Invasion

Min thought it would be deer, but it seems like squirrels are the next species trying to get into our home.

Unintentional soundtrack:

Little Shirtwaist Fire - Rasputina
What You Laid On Me - Ann Peebles
Pandora's Lullaby - Alphaville


By fnord12 | July 2, 2015, 11:53 AM | My stupid life | Comments (3) | Link




I'm a Semi-Dirty Hippie

I totally believe in daily bathing. I'm just not 100% on daily soaping. I'm one of those water-only washers. Sort of. Bottoms get soaped. That's non-negotiable. C'mon, people. Poo happened. Soap or get off my furniture (this is why we can't have pets).

It started ages ago when my aunt made an offhand comment and revealed she'd stopped using soap cause it dried her skin. That eventually got me wondering if it made any sense that i daily washed oils off my body with cleansers only to have to follow that up with lotion because i was now so dry and itchy. My aunt didn't smell or seem dirty, so what the hell. A few years ago, i decided to give this water-only thing a shot. My lotion usage has been reduced significantly. Now, it's pretty much limited to every other day during the winter months (except my hands, which i wash several times a day because duh, so i have to moisturize them all year).

For what it's worth, i don't believe i'm getting all that dirty sitting at my desk all day when the majority of my body is covered by clothing. My most strenuous activity is lugging my lunch-laden backpack from the house to the car, and i'm not much of a sweat-er. So basically, if i've been planting shrubs all day - soap. If i've been nesting on the couch - water and a scrub brush do the trick. My mother hasn't mentioned anything about my hygiene (or lack thereof), and people haven't been avoiding being near me (sadly), so i figure everything's fine.

I just found this article today and thought it was interesting:

I was Subject 26 in testing a living bacterial skin tonic, developed by AOBiome, a biotech start-up in Cambridge, Mass. The tonic looks, feels and tastes like water, but each spray bottle of AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist contains billions of cultivated Nitrosomonas eutropha, an ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) that is most commonly found in dirt and untreated water. AOBiome scientists hypothesize that it once lived happily on us too -- before we started washing it away with soap and shampoo -- acting as a built-in cleanser, deodorant, anti-inflammatory and immune booster by feeding on the ammonia in our sweat and converting it into nitrite and nitric oxide.
...
AOBiome does not market its product as an alternative to conventional cleansers, but it notes that some regular users may find themselves less reliant on soaps, moisturizers and deodorants after as little as a month. Jamas, a quiet, serial entrepreneur with a doctorate in biotechnology, incorporated N. eutropha into his hygiene routine years ago; today he uses soap just twice a week. The chairman of the company's board of directors, Jamie Heywood, lathers up once or twice a month and shampoos just three times a year. The most extreme case is David Whitlock, the M.I.T.-trained chemical engineer who invented AO+. He has not showered for the past 12 years. He occasionally takes a sponge bath to wash away grime but trusts his skin's bacterial colony to do the rest. I met these men. I got close enough to shake their hands, engage in casual conversation and note that they in no way conveyed a sense of being "unclean" in either the visual or olfactory sense.
...
My skin began to change for the better. It actually became softer and smoother, rather than dry and flaky, as though a sauna's worth of humidity had penetrated my winter-hardened shell. And my complexion, prone to hormone-related breakouts, was clear. For the first time ever, my pores seemed to shrink. As I took my morning "shower" -- a three-minute rinse in a bathroom devoid of hygiene products -- I remembered all the antibiotics I took as a teenager to quell my acne. How funny it would be if adding bacteria were the answer all along.

Ok, not showering for 12 years sounds gross to me. Not showering daily actually sounds gross (remember the poo bottoms?). Prolly as gross to me as me mostly using just water sounds to you. But cereally - it's one thing to not use a cleanser and another thing to forgo washing altogether. As most articles about hand washing and laundry will tell you - friction is key to getting things clean. If you skip the whole showering thing entirely...is your pet monkey grooming you???

But it's not all about being a dirty hippie. There's also a medical goal to this, finding ways to heal lesions and to repel malaria-carrying insects.

Dr. Elizabeth Grice, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania who studies the role of microbiota in wound healing and inflammatory skin disease, said she believed that discoveries about the second genome might one day not only revolutionize treatments for acne but also -- as AOBiome and its biotech peers hope -- help us diagnose and cure disease, heal severe lesions and more. Those with wounds that fail to respond to antibiotics could receive a probiotic cocktail adapted to fight the specific strain of infecting bacteria. Body odor could be altered to repel insects and thereby fight malaria and dengue fever. And eczema and other chronic inflammatory disorders could be ameliorated.
...
While most microbiome studies have focused on the health implications of what's found deep in the gut, companies like AOBiome are interested in how we can manipulate the hidden universe of organisms (bacteria, viruses and fungi) teeming throughout our glands, hair follicles and epidermis. They see long-term medical possibilities in the idea of adding skin bacteria instead of vanquishing them with antibacterials -- the potential to change how we diagnose and treat serious skin ailments.
...
AOBiome says its early research seems to hold promise. In-house lab results show that AOB activates enough acidified nitrite to diminish the dangerous methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A regime of concentrated AO+ caused a hundredfold decrease of Propionibacterium acnes, often blamed for acne breakouts. And the company says that diabetic mice with skin wounds heal more quickly after two weeks of treatment with a formulation of AOB.

Since we can't seem to convince people to stop using anti-bacterial soap, i hope they do find a way to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Plus, teens everywhere would thank them if they found a way to reduce hormonal acne.

So, while i'm not sold on the idea that you should just cultivate a colony of bacteria on your body and give up all bathing, i think there is something to the idea that some of our skin issues might be a result of us messing with it too much.

Now, who's got stinky feet problems? I have the perfect Christmas gift for you!


By min | June 30, 2015, 2:15 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link




Bernie Sanders and minorities

I have reached my tipping point on Bernie Sanders Needs to Make Inroads with African-Americans articles. This is the worst kind of vapid horse race political reporting. If you read that article and many like it, you will find no discussion of policy. The article boils down to "Sanders needs people to vote for him if he is going to win", which is a truism. Sanders is unknown nationally. He's been making amazing inroads in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and yes, those states are very white. So right now his support is primarily white, because he is campaigning in those states first. But there's nothing to say that his message won't resonate with non-white voters to the same degree. Except that about a million of these Bernie Sanders Needs to Make Inroads with minorities articles have been posted, and these articles, all of them content free, morph into a message that Sanders can't make inroads with African-Americans or Latinos, or doesn't want to, or something like that. And as far as i know, nothing can be further from the truth.

I don't presume to know for sure what issues African-Americans care about. I started to write a laundry list, from his involvement in the Civil Rights movement of the 60s and 70s, his opposition to Bill Clinton's welfare and crime "reforms" in the 90s, and through to today, when he's partnering with John Conyers on a youth jobs bill. But i don't want to presume. It would be nice if these articles actually investigated and reported on the issues that African-Americans and Latinos (and other groups) care about and compared it to Sanders' (and Hillary Clinton's) record and proposals. Anything else is just reading the poll numbers to us, and telling us nothing.


By fnord12 | June 30, 2015, 11:56 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link




Can't be "chocolate". It was already chocolate.

Get out of here, Sonny. No one wants your Hot Cloaca cereal.

This is from comics with a Feb 91 cover date.


By fnord12 | June 26, 2015, 9:52 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link




And now for something sillier

This is really just for Min, because it's her favorite character.


By fnord12 | June 26, 2015, 9:49 PM | Video Games | Comments (1) | Link




The hopey-changey thing is working out ok right now

Just wanted to sort of acknowledge that it's been a pretty amazing week.

1) The shooting in Charleston was a terrible tragedy. But the silver lining is the movement to get rid of the Confederate flags and other symbols of the Confederacy. That is of course small compensation for the deaths. But it's huge and belated progress. They may just be "symbols", but they are symbols of racism. I can't imagine the effect of being black and growing up around them.

2) The Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Also huge. Still work to be done. But this was an important ruling.

3) The Obamacare ruling. It's obvious what the intent of the law was, but it wasn't obvious how the right wing justices would rule. Justice Roberts seemingly wants to assure us that the Supreme Court isn't just an extension of the politics of the other two branches. I don't really believe him, but this is an argument in his favor (on the other hand, he did vote no on the gay marriage case).

4) Bernie Sanders. Maybe some people won't think this belongs in here with the other three. But i think his core platform of campaign finance reform and fixing inequality is as important as these other issues. And i'm amazed at how well he's doing. He's already significantly changed the conversation in the Democratic primary. I don't dare hope for more than that (but i do), but it's already exceeded my expectations.


By fnord12 | June 26, 2015, 7:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




Harrrr! Hand over yer mp3s, matey!

Iceland's Pirate Party surges (relatively speaking) in the polls.


By fnord12 | June 23, 2015, 7:41 AM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link




History's Greatest Team-Up


By fnord12 | June 22, 2015, 9:16 PM | TeeVee | Comments (0) | Link




Just Give Me a Diagnostic Report

Fnord and i have been requesting a machine that we can hook ourselves up to in order to get a diagnostic (much like mechanics do with cars) for years. Cause doctors suck, and i put more faith in an inanimate machine to get the answer right. Also, i need someone to tell me right now why i'm suddenly having unexplained sharp pains in my chest area that don't seem indicative of any kind of problem (at the moment, i just accept that that's a thing that happens once in a while). If you try to see a doctor for that, you can either go to the ER or make an appointment for 3 months from now. Thanks.

So, i need them to hurry up and make this a reality.

The dream of a working tricorder may be on the verge of becoming a reality, as eight teams from around the world gather in San Diego this month to deliver prototypes of their entries for the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE. The rules for the contest are simple: build a device that will allow consumers to perform their own tests for up to 24 different ailments and deliver a diagnosis on the spot, as well as send the data to a cloud-based software platform for further analysis by physicians.
...
The goal of the contest is to foster commercialization of the technologies needed to build sophisticated in-home diagnostic and monitoring devices. Exactly what form those technologies will take is still not clear, nor is whether any one device will eventually make it to the market.

Some of the teams--Cloud DX for example--already have commercial systems on the market. Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE Senior Director Grant Campany says one likely scenario is that winning teams will combine forces to create a hybrid product that combines the best features of each of their designs. "Every team has things that work really well, and other things that are a little clunky," says Kallenberg.



By min | June 22, 2015, 10:37 AM | Science | Comments (2) | Link




OMG! Two Pairs of Socks!

That's right, folks. It took me 8 months, but i finally managed to finish knitting a second pair of socks. That's a vast improvement over my last pair where it took me 4 months to knit one sock and then another 2 years to get around to finishing the second (to be fair, i knitted 2 shawls and a blanket in between socks, so i wasn't completely slacking).

Size 6US needles; 6oz/170g/315yd #4 "medium" weight acrylic yarn

Why make it easy, right? If i'm going to knit something, i might as well learn a new technique or four while i'm at it. With this pair of socks, i learned how to:

  • knit socks starting from the toe,

  • knit two socks at the same time (to avoid that year gap between socks),

  • use the Magic Loop technique to knit them on one pair of circular needles, and

  • cable knit.

I basically watched Very Pink Knits' YouTube video to learn how to knit the toe-up socks and combined it with other bits and pieces of advice and instruction i found on the internets (cause why go with 1 set of directions when you can use 3? how can that possibly go wrong?). Then i proceeded to fuck up no less than six times before i managed to get a finished product. That sounds like fun, right? Yeah. I'm totally knitting another pair of socks.


By min | June 20, 2015, 10:43 AM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link




WTF, DR?

The Dominican Republic's choice to retroactively strip some of its residents of citizenship has created the fifth-largest group of stateless people in the world. Until recently, the Dominican Republic considered all persons born in the country to be citizens, but in 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Court retroactively revoked citizenship for children born to foreign parents as early as 1929. Tuesday was residents' last chance to petition for naturalization to regain citizenship (albeit a lesser form).

The ruling is expected to primarily affect persons of Haitian heritage, who have been targeted for expulsion previously. Applying the ruling as far back as 1929 meant that families who had been citizens for two or more generations lost their Dominican Republic citizenship and couldn't turn to Haiti for a new home. A foreign-born person of Haitian descent is eligible for Haitian citizenship only if one parent is a natural-born Haitian citizen.

...

Once stateless people have been pushed out of their former home, they have no unique claim on any country in the world, which can wind up meaning that no nation offers them a new place to settle and be citizens. For example, hundreds of Rohingya Muslims, part of the world's single largest group of stateless people, have been in limbo after escaping Myanmar earlier this year. Although they have been given shelter in temporary camps, they have no new nation to belong to. If the Dominican Republic expels its newly stateless residents, they may also find that they have nowhere to legally live.

Link

The UN has helpfully officially stated they are "deeply concerned" about all of this. Thanks. Our UN sucks. We need the UN of the Toho-verse. Those people could get shit done.


By min | June 18, 2015, 8:59 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link




If Catcalls Were Cheeseburgers


By min | June 17, 2015, 3:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Ms. Marvel #15 - I'm reading currents so infrequently now that i didn't realize that i missed reading this until i went to put Daredevil #15.1 away. In my defense, the cover shows Kamala still flirting with Kamran in a casual setting, and we're way past that at this point, with Kamran having already turned out to be an evil Inhuman (and, as Kamala notes in this issue, "not even a villain... just a bad guy's lackey"). This book continues to be good. I thought the metaphor in the beginning was a little... on the nose, though:

Kamala: ...and instead, you brought me here against my will. After I said no.
Kamran: ...you just needed a little... persuasion.
Kamala: That is incredibly gross. You are incredibly gross.
Kamran: That's not how you seemed to feel when you snuck out with me the other night.
Kamala: I never thought anything like this would happen. I thought -- I thought it meant something else when we were together -- something good --
Kamran: Who's gonna believe that? You got in my car of your own free will. As far as anybody knows, you chose to be here. You put yourself in this situation.
Kamala: [To herself] Is he right? Is this my fault? Is this what I deserve?

This is about Kamran tricking Kamala into meeting his evil boss, but the metaphor is obvious, and... i don't know. I am not, nor have i ever been, a young woman. Maybe this has more resonance with other people. But it seems too clunky to work, and takes you out of the story. This book has generally been great about depicting the challenges of growing up (from a Muslim female perspective, but also universally) without being so overt about it. Kamala later later realizes that she doesn't "feel ashamed anymore, or guilty" and that she's going to stop giving Kamran power over her and her identity. I mean, all the guy did was kidnap her and bring her to be recruited by the bad guy boss. Typical young super-hero stuff. I think the above would have been stronger as subtext and it would have made the story feel more natural. I almost worry that G. Willow Wilson is reacting to the positive reviews of the book and all the wonderful letters from fans that are published talking about how the book is so empowering to them, and instead of just continuing with what she's been doing she's now trying to tailor the story to match what people are saying. Which isn't necessary.

Anyway, this can all be glossed over and we still have a fun action story, with really nice art by Takeshi Miyazawa. And let me say for a third time that he's better for this book than Adrian Alphona; in addition to the nice quasi-manga style, Miyazawa is much better at depicting action sequences, which is important for this issue. Next issue begins the Secret Wars tie-ins and "The Last Days of Ms. Marvel" and i'm not sure if we're getting them, but this issue's ending actually feels like an end to the series with the connection between Kamala and Bruno.


By fnord12 | June 17, 2015, 11:49 AM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link




Blaming the symptom

Maybe the problem wasn't Eugene McCarthy but the fact that LBJ wouldn't pull out of Vietnam. You can extrapolate from there.


By fnord12 | June 16, 2015, 10:24 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




Gold!

The state of Texas seems to be doing something really crazy.


By fnord12 | June 16, 2015, 10:16 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link




SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Daredevil #15.1 - Someone got tricked by a Waid/Samnee framing sequence into buying this. What we actually have here are a pair of continuity inserts.

The first is by Marc Guggenheim and Peter Krause. It takes place before Daredevil #1, which would have been helpful to inform us of in advance, because when i saw Matt Murdock working for a law firm that wasn't Nelson & Murdock i was pretty confused at first. The story also makes sure to rub the sliding timescale in our face by having DD (in the yellow and brown-red costume) using a burner cell phone. It also has him fighting a pair of thugs that have found a cache of super-villain equipment, which seems kind of wrong for the time period. Would Doctor Octopus have left a spare set of tentacles laying around circa 1964? And the Shocker? That's a character that doesn't debut until 1967, and while i guess there's nothing that says he couldn't have been operating much earlier than that, it still seems odd for some of his equipment to wind up in a warehouse with Doc Ock's arms (or for Daredevil to recognize it, for that matter). The point of the story is to attempt to address the friction between Daredevil as a vigilante and Matt Murdock as a lawyer, but fails to deliver anything meaningful (as Daredevil, he catches the wrong guy, and as Matt Murdock, he manages to get the guy acquitted, but that hardly addresses the problem).

The second story is by Chris Samnee (story and art, and with a style that is much darker than his regular work on this book), and at least it's more upfront about telling us when it takes place (after Daredevil #57, because Karen Page knows DD's secret ID). The premise here is that even lame super-villains can be a threat in the right circumstances. The villain of the story is Diablo, who is introduced in the Mark Waid framing sequence as "more punching bag than world-beater". The Samnee segment similarly says that he's been "little more than a thorn in the side of the Fantastic Four". I mean, geez. In the long run, Diablo may not have turned out to be a fan favorite (although he's been in some really cool stories, from the Lee/Kirby era through at least John Byrne), but in-universe, he's an immortal wizard. He created Dragon Man! People actually living in the Marvel universe should think he's a badass! The story also totally mischaracterizes Diablo as someone that would sell his wares to drug dealers, saying things like "Never has there been an operation with the potential for such a high profit margin." I don't get it.

I also have the problem that, by my placement, Diablo should be trapped in an alternate dimension by Dr. Doom at this point, but that may be something i can work around. Still, i am learning to hate continuity inserts more and more. They rarely add anything of value and they are just about guaranteed to screw something up.


By fnord12 | June 16, 2015, 6:18 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link




I Don't Know Why People Believe Candidates During a Campaign

It only leads to disappointment. You really should manage your expectations better. What they say to win has nothing to do with what they will actually do.

In Barack Obama's speech the night he won the 2008 election, he made a promise:
[A]bove all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation ...

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change.

And there were a whole lot of people ready to help. According to Marshall Ganz, one of the architects of Obama's 2008 organizing strategy, Obama's campaign had 3,000 organizers who recruited thousands more local leaders, who then helped mobilize 1.5 million volunteers and 13.5 million contributors. They thought Obama meant it, and was going to ask them to stay involved and keep campaigning.

But Obama didn't mean it. As Ganz later said:

One Obama campaign volunteer from Delaware County, Pa., put it this way soon after the election: "We're all fired up now, and twiddling our thumbs! ... Here, ALL the leader volunteers are getting bombarded by calls from volunteers essentially asking 'Nowwhatnowwhatnowwhat?'"
...
Consider this, however: I think it's unlikely that Obama's demobilization of his supporters was actually a "mistake." As Ganz put it in 2010, Obama saw his supporters "like a tiger you can't control"; Ganz speculated that the president's real goal was simply to "keep the machine on for the next election."

In other words, Obama was acting in accordance with what I like to call "The Iron Law of Institutions" -- that is, the people in charge of institutions (as Obama was in charge of the Democratic party and his "movement" in 2009) care first and foremost about their own power within the institution, rather than the power of the institution itself.

So while the Democratic party itself would have been much more powerful overall if Obama had kept his grassroots mobilized and involved, Obama himself and his most important donors and supporters would have been less powerful within the Democratic party. So Obama let the enthusiasm and activism surrounding his candidacy dissipate, all his supporters stayed home in 2010 and Obama's party suffered a catastrophic collapse.

But from Obama's perspective, so what?

Link


By min | June 16, 2015, 8:32 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




Marvel Sales

April.


By fnord12 | June 15, 2015, 8:16 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link




Raising the overtime requirement

I mentioned this back in December without thinking that Obama would even consider doing it, but now it really does seem to be happening.


By fnord12 | June 9, 2015, 11:51 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




Jane the Virgin is a pretty funny show

After reading the interview i linked to, we tried some of the shows that the comedians were from. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt didn't work for us, but we are actually enjoying Jane the Virgin. It's a good spoof of soap operas with lots of surreal moments...

...and a great fourth wall breaking narrator. Comics could actually learn something from how the narrator provides the recaps and brings viewers up to speed with the twists of the soap opera plots. He's kind of like Marvel's footnotes on steroids.


By fnord12 | June 6, 2015, 12:39 PM | TeeVee | Comments (1) | Link




Well i never bought any New 52 so you can't blame me

Morgan Wick, a regular commenter on my Marvel chronology project, has a great essay up regarding the upcoming Secret Wars event*. (Well of course *i* think it's great since it touches on my regular "continuity is the selling point" soapbox topic.)

*For a few months more, at least, all of this must come with a big asterisk that of course we don't yet know where Marvel is ultimately going with Secret Wars.


By fnord12 | June 3, 2015, 10:19 PM | Comics | Comments (8) | Link




Juxtaposition

The Medium puts up a list of questions from a Bernie Sanders interview on CNN against a list of questions from an Ask Me Anything interview on Reddit. It's (so much) a matter of the quality of the question; it's that all of the CNN questions are horse race questions. I get it: Bernie Sanders is a longshot candidate. And a question or two about he chances makes perfect sense. But don't we want to actually learn where politicians stand on the issues? And isn't Bernie Sanders a longshot candidate at least in part because people don't know him, and then all that they hear about him is that he's a longshot candidate?

I'm not saying that it's CNN's job to help Sanders get his message out (although reporters then shouldn't get upset when politicians stop going on their shows, which they do). But it just feels like the target audience for CNN is political junkies that don't know how to use the internet, not people actually looking for news and information.


By fnord12 | June 1, 2015, 1:58 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link




Recession alert

The latest economic news doesn't look so good. I guess we're not going to see any efforts to change this until the next government shake-up. If i were the Democrats, that would make me worried, because the incumbent presidential party doesn't get re-elected during a downturn. And it might be good to start asking candidates where they stand on stimulus spending. I know Bernie Sanders' answer, but i have less faith in Hillary Clinton.


By fnord12 | June 1, 2015, 9:43 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




A classic Sid Meier's Culture Victory

One of the guest posters on Kevin Drum's blog has been doing a series of articles on Cuba and the easing of the embargo. This one in particular is a lot of fun. I love the idea of USB sticks full of bootleg TV shows being passed around like drugs. It's funny, and of course we can all tut tut about the quality of our TV shows, but it does show that we can do more to change world opinion with our culture than with embargos or wars.


By fnord12 | June 1, 2015, 9:39 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




The invisible hand of the market is probably doing something unseemly

Paul Krugman links to a funny-but-probably-true comment on Kevin O'Rouke's blog:

The markets want money for cocaine and prostitutes. I am deadly serious.

Most people don't realize that "the markets" are in reality 22-27 year old business school graduates, furiously concocting chaotic trading strategies on excel sheets and reporting to bosses perhaps 5 years senior to them. In addition, they generally possess the mentality and probably intelligence of junior cycle secondary school students. Without knowledge of these basic facts, nothing about the markets makes any sense--and with knowledge, everything does.


By fnord12 | June 1, 2015, 9:36 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




Temporarily Free!

I had major mixed feelings about Rand Paul's sort-of filibuster that led to the temporary expiration of the bulk data collection provisions of Patriot Act. First of all, i have major mixed feelings about Rand Paul in general. Second of all, i don't support the filibuster or the exploitation of other procedural nonsense. The vote should be the vote. Finally, it is temporary; all this accomplished is a few days where the programs are halted (although not in cases where investigations are already ongoing, which given the way the program works probably gives investigators a lot of leeway, plus who is supervising them?).

But you use the tools you have (if the Senate won't reform themselves, then it's their own damn fault when the filibuster is used), and you take allies where you can get them. If nothing else, this was a good symbolic victory. It's good that there's been some very public opposition to the NSA's activities. Sometimes that is enough to change public opinion (more people say now that they've always opposed the Iraq invasion than polls showed at the time, for example). And Paul's actions did cause Mitch McConnell to do a 180 on the "USA Freedom Act" (did you know it's an acronym?) that at least has some minor reforms in it.

One thing i laugh at, and i've seen this from both liberal commentators as well as Republican politicians like John McCain, is that what Paul did is "just" because of his presidential ambitions, a fundraising stunt. Well... isn't that how this democracy thing is supposed to work? There are constituents out there who don't support the NSA spying. Rand Paul would like to be president, and so he fights for the things they want, and these individual supporters send him money, usually in small increments. Isn't that better than holding $500 plate fundraising dinners? Seems like it to me.


By fnord12 | June 1, 2015, 8:48 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link




Now It's Happening at Work

It took me a while to get this up...

About 1 week after the baby bunny incident, i'm unlocking the front doors at work, and i see this sitting on the patio right in front of the door:

Fnord tells me it looks like it's the size of a hen, but it was actually about the size of my palm.


Normal birds, when you open doors near them, fly away. This one just sat there like a lump. I sort of tapped it with my foot to encourage it to fly away. The damned thing rolled over! Why did you roll over! Why didn't you fly away! Or hop? Are you broken???

It wasn't broken. I know this because after several minutes of me crouching right next to it, it finally decided it had enough and walked a whole 2 feet away.

I googled. I think it's some kind of sparrow. And since some of the feathers on its back were still fluffy, i think it meant it was a fledgeling - old enough to be kicked out of the nest but not yet able to fly. So that explains why it didn't fly away when i opened the door. It doesn't explain why it just sat there like a dope when i was practically on top of it. It might not be able to fly, but its legs were in perfect working order. Hop, damn you!

It spent the whole day hiding behind a metal bin. It was gone the next morning, so it either figured out how to fly or a feral cat got it. We're going to go with the first option.


By min | May 31, 2015, 1:45 PM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link




I Think We Won the Amazon Wars

We've achieved all we can ever hope to achieve in this life. We just got the biggest box ever from Amazon.

And it's full of essential stuff - popcorn and vegan cheddar kettle chips. Yeah. We did that.

I don't think we can ever apologize enough to our poor mail carrier.


By min | May 31, 2015, 1:36 PM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link




Vegan Chocolate Cake with Ganache

vegan chocolate cake with ganache topping

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unflavored non-dairy milk

  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar

  • 2 cups flour

  • 2/3 cups cocoa powder

  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 5 T butter, softened (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

  • 1/4 cup + 1 T oil

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Yield: 2 9-inch round cakes

Grease 2 9-inch round baking pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Whisk the milk and vinegar together.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to mix.

Preheat the oven to 350degF.

Using a mixer, cream the butter. Beat in the sugar, mixing on med-high for a few minutes. Add the oil and vanilla extract. Mix for a few more minutes until smooth.

Pour half of dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Beat on low until just combined (~30 seconds). Be careful not to over mix the batter. Scrape the bowl and beater, then pour in all of the milk mixture. Mix on low for another 30-60 seconds. Pour in the rest of the dry ingredients and mix on low again until just mixed (~30 seconds). The batter will appear a little lumpy, but that's ok.

Divide the batter evenly between the 2 cake pans. Give the pans a little jiggle/spin to level off the batter, and place the pans in the oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, turning the pans 180deg after the first 15 minutes.

Set the pans on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes before turning the cakes out onto the rack to finish cooling completely.


Vegan Fudgey Filling

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

  • 2 T maple syrup

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Yield: 1 cup fudge filling

This is basically an extra fudgey, soft buttercream frosting that isn't too sweet. The recipe could be tripled to make enough to frost the entire cake, as well, but it would definitely need some time in the fridge to firm up else the layers could be in danger of sliding.

Cream the butter. Add the cocoa powder and sugar. Beat well. Mix in the maple syrup and vanilla extract. If the mixture isn't sweet enough for you, add more powdered sugar and maple syrup a tablespoon at a time. Keep in mind each addition of a dry or a wet ingredient will change the consistency slightly. If the filling is too dry, but you don't want to go any sweeter, add non-dairy milk until you achieve the desired consistency.


Vegan Ganache Topping

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate (you can use chocolate chips)

  • 2 T maple syrup

  • 2 pints raspberries, rinsed and blotted dry
  • Yield: ~1 1/4 cup ganache (not exactly sure - i didn't measure it)

I know! How the hell much is 4oz of chocolate for people who don't have a food scale??? I'm going to guesstimate it to be about 1 1/4 cups. Or just look at your 12 oz bag of chocolate chips and pour out approximately 1/3 of that bag. Close enough!

Heat the milk on low until it just starts to bubble on the edges. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and maple syrup. Stir until smooth. Set aside for about 20 minutes so that it's cooled down and is a little less runny.


Assembling the Cake

Place one of the cakes on a plate/platter upside down. This way, the domed top (that some recipes will suggest you slice off) is on the bottom and you have a nice flat surface to frost. Gravity will take care of the dome.

Smooth the fudgey filling over the bottom layer of cake. Stick this in the fridge for about 10 minutes before placing the second layer on top. As i mentioned earlier, the fudgey filling is a little soft, so chilling it a little will make sure everything stays in place.

Carefully pour half of the ganache over the top. Using a rubber spatula, spread the ganache evenly without pushing it over the sides. Let this chill for 10 minutes or so and pour another layer of ganache over the cake. There will be a little ganache that overflows and drips down the side, but your goal is to make sure most of the ganache is on the cake and not pooling on the cake plate.

Chill for 10 minutes before decorating the top with the fresh raspberries and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Refrigerate until about 15 minutes before serving.


By min | May 31, 2015, 12:40 AM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (0) | Link




The music of fnord12

The band that Min and i were in, Lead Singer Syndrome, had been on semi-hiatus for a few years and recently we finally decided it was time to admit that it was really just dead. I'm still sporadically working with some of the other members of the group and it may return in some fashion at a later date (without Min). But during the hiatus i had basically put a hold on making music for myself, and once i admitted that the band was dead i was able to get back to that. So i've "released" a new "album" (i.e., i've put some songs up on the website). And i've also revamped the music section a bit, organizing it better and updating the music player from the old flash based thing to a nice HTML 5 player called jPlayer that should work on all devices (as opposed to flash). The new album is a combination of some purely new songs plus some tracks that i originally created as blueprints for LSS.

You can check out the updated Music section on the sidebar (or here) and the new stuff specifically is Chumley Lives Again.

Chumley Lives Again

By fnord12 | May 29, 2015, 12:02 PM | Music | Comments (0) | Link




Recap 67

There's a Squid-Faced Elder God at the Door Asking for You


By min | May 29, 2015, 11:42 AM | D&D | Comments (0) | Link




Who's co-opting who?

Josh Marshall at TPM has an interesting post about a pretty weird and funny scenario where the DNC is sending out a lot of Bernie Sanders messaging. Marshall's point is that everyone is so sure that Hillary Clinton is going to win that they feel comfortable sending out sort of a happy message of co-existence. My more sinister thought is that the DNC is pulling in all these disaffected and lapsed liberals into the Democrat's apparatus with the idea that they'll stick around to vote for Clinton in the general as long as the primary doesn't get contentious. But on the other hand... the DNC is sending out a lot of Bernie Sanders messaging! That's kind of crazy, and it seems like Sanders' mission of pulling the Democrats to the left is already working. Even if the "sinister" scenario is the correct one, they still need to keep all the people they pull in engaged for the general.

In other Bernie news, the New York Times' contribution is um, that old people like him.


By fnord12 | May 28, 2015, 2:23 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




Mary Sue

On the comics blog recently, a commenter used the phrase "Mary Sue" in a way that i believe to be incorrect. But from all of his previous comments i know that person to be smart and well read, and the usage is one that i see a lot. I think of this usage as being a lot like how "beg the question" has evolved into meaning something entirely different than originally intended. But i could just be plain wrong, so i wanted to outline my understanding of the phrase and see if people agree. I don't mean to single out any commenter (especially ones whose alter egos are invading Kree soldiers); it's something that's been bugging me for a while and the fact that it came up recently just brought it to the front of my mind.

I've always understood the phrase Mary Sue to be when an author inserts themselves* into the story in a wish fulfillment kind of way. And that's how Wikipedia defines it. The name originally came from a parody of fan fiction where a Lieutenant Mary Sue joined the Starship Enterprise crew and just proved to be a wonderful officer and got to be romantically involved with William Shatner and everything else. Simple, basic fan fiction where the author is fantasizing about being a part of the story.

We really shouldn't see this sort of thing in professional writing, and i can't think of any examples where we do. The closest sort of thing i can think of in comics is Richard Rory (and to a lesser degree Howard the Duck) being a stand-in for Steve Gerber, or the Beyonder in Secret Wars II being a metaphor for Jim Shooter. But those characters don't qualify as Mary Sues because the point of them is not for the author to fantasize about being part of the story. It's to provide that external voice, or to do an autobiographical self-examination (see also every Woody Allen movie). We may or may not like the meta nature of this type of character, but it's not simply the author showing how awesome they would be if they could be in the story.

The above examples aren't really where i see the phrase being (mis-?)used, though. Where it always seems to come up is in cases where the author has what i call a pet character. One major example is Roger Stern's Monica Rambeau, aka Captain Marvel. The common complaint is that Stern made the character too powerful and too perfect and structured stories so that she could always be the hero. This post isn't about debating the merits of that criticism. I just don't think it's correct to call Captain Marvel a Mary Sue. Stern isn't trying to insert himself into the story. He's just (perhaps) going too far in trying to sell or develop the character he's created, at the expense of other characters or good storytelling.

That's a potentially valid criticism, and we do need a phrase for it (again, i use "pet character"), but i think it should be distinguished from Mary Sue. Maybe i'm fighting an uphill battle here, but i already do that with "beg the question" so i'm obviously not above that sort of thing.


*See previous post


By fnord12 | May 28, 2015, 10:04 AM | Comics & Master of Style | Comments (9) | Link




Them!

Not the giant ants. This is a Master of Style post, so we're talking grammar here. And i'm linking to a Kevin Drum post that is several months old. This is just a belated notice that i am following Drum down the dark side in using "them" and "they" as a singular third person pronoun.


By fnord12 | May 28, 2015, 9:31 AM | Master of Style | Comments (1) | Link




Women in comedy

A serious roundtable interview that still manages to be quite funny.


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 5:32 PM | Liberal Outrage & Movies & TeeVee | Comments (0) | Link




A more serious Bernie Sanders post

The good news is that Bernie Sanders is now polling in the double digits (and these are still polls where people that aren't even candidates, like Elizabeth Warren, are being included). The bad news is that the media's double standard in covering Sanders compared to Republican candidates that are doing the same or worse than him continues.

Just as a warning: my political posts died down a lot after the midterm Elections since it was obvious at that point that we were going to be dealing with gridlock for the next two years. But now with Bernie Sanders running i'm back on the political sites, so there's going to be a lot more posts about Bernie specifically and politics more generally.


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 5:28 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




Brilliant, guys

LA's labor unions want an exemption from the city's new $15-an-hour minimum wage. The optics alone are a disaster, let alone the fact that it would result in lower wages for union employees. You know, the people you are supposed to represent?


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 4:51 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




Best 404 Error Page ever

Warning: a video will start playing automatically when you click this link, but it will be worth it.

Bernie for President!


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 1:00 PM | Liberal Outrage & Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link




These days?

In all my years of political awareness, i've never understood it to be anything else.


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 12:53 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link




Who are we talking to here?

Comic store price listings were a staple of comics ads since at least the early 80s (and you can definitely find smaller classified ads prior to that). But they begin to take on a different tone in 1990.

Cap is "hot"? Alien Nation "should be very strong"? It sounds like this ad is talking to other dealers. The speculator market is happening, people.

I can't even find mention of a Deluxe version of Alien Nation #1 on mycomicshop.com, so maybe it really was hot! The regular #1 from 1990 sells for $1.35 Near Mint, though.


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 11:13 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



No need to stop here. There's plenty more SuperMegaMonkey where that came from.