March 31, 2011
Get ready for April Fools Day.
If you are going to do a big prank tomorrow, be classy. Go after Big Business; they so richly deserve it. Or go after some sanctimonious bureaucrat who really has it coming. And do it in such a way that merely highlights the victim's ignorance and backward attitudes. Do it like these guys:
If only the Westboro Baptist Church were some sort of prank, but alas, they are not. They are justly vilified, and not very well understood. However, Louis Theroux, a BBC reporter and film maker has done two documentaries on them, spanning four years -- and it is interesting stuff.
The first documentary was filmed in 2007: What we're trying to do in the documentary is look at an activity that is so antisocial, so strange, so futile and at its worst, so cruel, and we're saying "Why? Why do that?", especially when you seem to be, for the most part, kind and sensitive people. We're exploring what is cruelty, trying to explain how something that really does very often just amount to cruelty could be perpetuated and passed down in a family. Why would nice people do such horrible things?
Four years later, Theroux came back to talk to the group again: What emerged to me was I was seeing a family that through its own tortured logic was involved in a long process of tearing itself apart, while denying at every stage what it was plainly doing. Many of their activities are deeply repellent and yet it is also possible to see the Westboro Baptist Church as human beings who, in a weird way, are victimizing themselves along with all those they picket.
March 21, 2011
Current front runners, 2012 Republican nomination:
March 16, 2011
Getting ready for Saint Patrick's Day:
March 11, 2011
The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Remade My Life, and Regained My Soul, by Dave Bruno.
"... it's not good to have a lot of stuff. Why shouldn't I? Because stuff isn't passive and I'm not superhuman. Stuff requires maintenance, both physical and emotional. It influences what we do and what we want to do. A normal human being can only handle having so much stuff before the stuff starts to take control, whether it be clutter or wasted time or unhealthy desires. If we don't self-impose limits, stuff is always going to win."
March 7, 2011
Food and drink:
In the "Oh, for Crying out Loud" department. From the town with the highest crime rate in America, a School board courageously steps up and makes a difference: teacher forced to resign after she did nothing illegal. Local school teacher quits after student discovers her x-rated past. How about if every school board member who has ever looked at porn resigns now, too? And also, every boy who has ever looked at a Playboy should be kicked off that season-winning varsity team. Then, fire all the teachers who have ever been to an R-rated movie, and now we can move on to Mothers who have had Impure Thoughts -- stone them!!!
February 24, 2011
Science & Tech:
February 14, 2011
Holy cow, it's Valentine's Day! What kind of flowers should I get her? A flowchart.
January 31, 2011
Law and Politics:
Science and health:
January 19, 2011
And finally, here's how we welcome in the new year for 2011: cartoon123010t.jpg
December 29, 2010
The current front runners for the Republican Nomination, 2012:
Sarah Palin 19%
Mitt Romney 18%
Mike Huckabee 17%
Newt Gingrich 15%
December 26, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
2010 Holiday Gift Guide:
Getting the Government to do your dirty work for you: a bunch of websites get confiscated because some industry lawyers want it.
Little Red Riding Hood, only not so little and certainly not for children. Spooky medieval village, werewolves, warriors... good fun.
Ignite: "Enlighten us. But make it fast." (New ideas in snappy, five-minute, illustrated lectures.)
Santa: "Were you good this year?"
Older couple: "Yes."
Santa: "That's too bad."
Macy's: "You're fired."
Just a few TSA madness links:
November 25, 2010
Tech / gadgets / things to covet / things to look at and say, "Huh?":
November 23 update:
While you might be able to talk your way out of it... (this was for getting off an airplane, not boarding, but still an interesting incident.)
People are now being arrested for "refusing to complete the security process."
You can no longer say, "I'm not putting up with this. I'll just not fly today." Once you enter the line, if you refuse both groping and scanning, they will arrest you.
People are getting hopping mad. Is it any wonder? One woman had her blouse pulled down by a TSA agent, exposing her bare breasts to all of the other passengers. (TSA employees thought this was hilarious.)
The "National Opt-Out Day" Protest gains momentum, and nobody knows how this will go if thousands of people are arrested tomorrow for civil disobedience.
TSA chief begs people not to "Opt Out" over the Thanksgiving rush. For one thing, if too many people "Opt-Out", travel will come to a complete halt and the system will utterly collapse. For another, the abuse of power is rapidly starting to crumble around the edges, and one big huge, ugly, media-covered national mess over the Thanksgiving vacation will likely be enough to force massive reform -- and the TSA really doesn't want to reform.
If you "Opt Out," you'll be very aggressively handled by TSA agents. Instead of using the "back of the hand" to pat you down, they are instructed to use the open hands and fingers to really give you a taste of their power. They will do this loudly and publicly, to deliberately shame and humiliate you in front of the other passengers, in order to intimidate them into compliance. This is official policy, by the way.
And, since you'll be seen as a "protester," they'll treat you like a criminal and likely accuse you of (or prosecute you for) terrorism. (Think that's silly? Think again. The equation of "protest = terror" has been used and abused for everything from marchers at a gay pride parade, to a mother mourning the death of her son in Iraq, to a grandmother writing a letter to the editor.)
Keep in mind the fact that a pissed-off TSA agent can have you detained for hours or days on a whim.
Or, the TSA agents may all suddenly shout "Bravo!" (And here you thought it couldn't get weirder.)
Even if you submit to the scan, if the metal detector goes off -- for ANY reason (say, medical devices or shrapnel) -- then you will also be groped.
You have heard about the "EVERYBODY FREEZE!!!" incidents, haven't you? How do you feel about standing absolutely still on the concourse for a half hour, with no explanation, and threats of arrest if you don't comply?
But here's the good news: the TSA won't be doing body cavity searches -- yet.
Have a nice trip.
TSA friskers speak out: (some paraphrased, with a few direct quotes.)
1: Passengers disgust me.
2: Passengers are mean, and "I feel disgusted feeling other peoples private parts."
3: It doesn't arouse me, and women passengers are dirty.
4: "One can’t describe me as a Nazi because I am following a security procedure."
5: Passengers are babies. "I am doing my job. I do not want to be here all day touching penises."
6: I "go home and cry after a day of honorably serving my country."
7: "I felt like vomiting."
8: "Hateful comments while I perform my job will break me down faster and harder than anything I encountered while in combat in the Army."
9: I'm just following orders, and it's their own fault I'm groping them, because they refused the scan.
So the three arguments TSA employees use in favor of continuing the scans and groping are:
1: I'm just following orders.
2: You all disgust me.
3: I'm very upset.
Well, that makes all of us feel much better.
An argument I saw: "I wish people would quit calling these TSA patdowns and searches assault. They aren't. They're demeaning, upsetting, unpleasant and smack of totalitarianism, but assault? No."
Really? That argument only applies in one direction. If you, a passenger, just touch a TSA agent -- barely touch them, even by accident -- you'll find yourself charged with "assault."
November 21 update:
And now we know where the TSA really stands:
Anyone refusing the naked radiation scans and the aggressive genital fondling may be arrested, detained and questioned "until we determine that you are not a threat" and fined $11,000.
Of course, any debate student knows that you can't prove a negative: it's impossible to prove that someone isn't a threat.
That's why the burden of law is supposed to go in the other direction; police have to prove that you are a threat before they arrest, search and imprison you. The new TSA ruling says that they can detain you for as long as they please, question you for as long as they like, until they are satisfied that you have been taught a lesson you'll not forget as long as you live.
The situation is clear: take an airplane in America today, and you will submit to any degradation, any humiliation, any assault, any bullying, any flagrant and capricious abuse of power that they choose to inflict on you, or you'll be very, very sorry.
November 19, 2010
TSA weirdness grows:
TSA coerces cancer survivor to go through radiation screening -- and then does an invasive grope session anyway, making her remove her prosthetic breast.
TSA confiscates nail clippers from a bunch of heavily armed US soldiers flying home. After inspecting, reinspecting, quarantining, reinspecting again, and generally hassling them for hours. You can carry that machine gun, but those nail clippers are a dangerous weapon.
TSA "up close and REALLY personal." Submit meekly, or be punished, publicly, loudly, with as much humiliation as possible.
TSA completely ignores cargo shipping, which actually is not at all secure.
Why refuse the naked scanner? Increased cancer risk, that's why.
How to explain to your small child why the TSA is molesting them, and why you allowed a complete stranger to fondle their genitals in public while you stood there doing nothing about it.
You know those naked scan pictures of you that the TSA said are never saved? They save them. And they are now on the internet.
Submit to a naked scan, get groped anyway (if you set off the metal detector, or look "suspicious.")
Don't like being stripped naked in public? Don't like strangers fondling your genitals or breasts? Tough. Submit, or "you won't fly," says the TSA.
Passenger outrage grows -- but results in zero change.
TSA guys blurt the truth out to Jeffrey Goldberg. On the new TSA testicle fondling: "You're not going to like it." And that's the whole point.
Napolitano meets with industry bigwigs... "TSA workers told him directly that they refer to the new body scanner devices as 'dick measurers,' and that the more aggressive groping measures had nothing to do with security and were in fact instituted solely to force people to choose the scanner over the pat down."
November 9, 2010
The taste of bitter can open bronchial and lung airways "more extensively than any known drug that we have for treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."
Facebook Fun: a bit after Halloween, someone still "in the mood" posted that she was in "Full-On Zombie Mode."
Sam: Ahh! Zombie!!And they were off.
Kathy: Vegetarian Zombie: Graaains!
Rich: Railroad Zombie: Traaains!
Kathy: Plumber Zombie: Draaains!
What happens when the oil runs out: it isn't pretty. The name of the site is "Collapsus" and it's intense. But, if you plan ahead, and can be adaptable, you may get by. For example: how to make your own cheap "Rocket Stove." (cooks very fast with very little wood and very little smoke.)
If you are on the trail a great deal, consider a "Kelly Kettle." These have been around for decades, and are basically a "Rocket Stove" with a very fast-boiling water jacket, and an optional cook-top (which is what makes them really efficient.) Available in sturdy stainless steel or lightweight aluminum. Backpackers may complain about the weight of these, but when you use a Kelly Kettle (26 ounces for the durable Stainless Trekker, 20 ounces for the Aluminum Trekker) you leave a lot of gear at home: subtract the weight of your cookstove, FULL fuel bottle, windscreen, cleaning kit, and much of your cookset, and you will likely be a full pound lighter. And, you cook much faster -- and safer, too.
November 10 Update: What's a "Rocket Stove?" you may well ask. It's simply a way of burning wood (or paper, or cardboard, or pine needles, etc) far more efficiently. Basically, it has an updraft flue which contains the flame and adds lots of extra air. This cause far more complete combustion, and funnels the flame into a concentrated area where you place your cook pot or frying pan.
There are two reasons this is important: (1.) If you live in poverty in a third world country, your two biggest problems are getting clean water and a way to cook food. Firewood is so scarce that deforestation is the catastrophic result. A usable "Rocket Stove" can be built basically for "free" out of trash -- discarded tin cans, bits and pieces of masonry, etc -- and it increases the efficiency of your cooking fire by a factor of about ten. So not only can you cook your food, you also (2.) get far less smoke (wasted, unburned combustibles) in your living space, drastically reducing eye problems, asthma, bronchial infections, and you avoid the ingestion of toxic fumes from smoldering waste wood that has been painted or stained, or from waste paper loaded with lots of toxic inks and dyes.
Rocket stoves can be built small, light and portable, or large and as a permanent cooking station for your outdoor kitchen. They can be built -- fast -- for free, out of scrap, or elegantly and beautifully with a little investment of time and materials. It's a technology based on knowledge.
If you are into camping, backpacking, or "living lightly upon the land," then extremely high efficiency is already a virtue unto itself in your mind. A "Rocket Stove" is just a new -- and useful -- tool for that ethic. (Actually, it's also an old tool; look up "Hobo Stove" to see how itinerant agricultural workers cooked on the road back during the Great Depression.)
Simplify; a beautifully remodeled Airstream trailer for the minimalist. (Looks like it's about an 18-footer. They say that the 1980 and earlier models are the best.) Living in 150 square feet would be a great incentive to try the "100 Things Challenge." And you can use this "fake TV" gizmo to convince burglars that you are at home in your tiny castle, so they don't steal all 100 of your things. Here's a couple more cool small houses: the Esclice is only 9' 8" wide. And the Sustain Minihome is also very clean looking, with an efficient floor plan. But the Tumbleweed Tiny House folks have been doing this for years, and they are very good at it, starting at 65 square feet, going up to 837 square feet.
3M now claims to "own" the color Purple. (I expect a 3M corporate lawyer to send me a threatening "take down notice" any second now.)
Soft drink sizes; my goodness, how times change. 1950s: "Two FULL glasses in each 12-ounce King Size Can!" 2010: "Small" = 16 ounces. Free refills on your 64-ounce "large." (As if we need a half-gallon of Pepsi to wash down those fries.)
Clear scientific evidence for psychic phenomena. But you already knew that. (It's actually quite surprising how they worked this one out.)
Ancient ales: the oldest-known brewed beverage in the world was made from "hawthorn fruit, sake rice, barley, and honey."
Behold the "Celtic Button Knot." Cool and useful.
If "Unicredit" bought your debt, those "Deputies" who hauled you before that "Judge" in that "Courtroom" are all fake.
Cybercrime is bringing down the Internet.
I'm proud to be Scottish, but I ain't reading this book anytime soon.
Christmas lights for backpackers: battery powered, LED. Fun.
The coming chocolate crisis.
Suspicious? Spot the fake smile.
Colorado DA drops felony hit-and-run charges against billion-dollar financier because of "serious job implications." Update: the DA says his "deal" is actually "Far more punitive" than you may think.
Carbon-fiber Lamborghini. Pricey, but undeniably cool.
People in the UK take their Shortbread recipes very seriously.
(See the "Archives" for previous posts -- here's the most recent)
Proud to be a "True Blue" American.
Papa Vox Archives:
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An experiment in the supposition that shoes are bad for you with reviews of various "nearly barefoot" alternatives to the evil shoe.
An experiment in lowering the set-point as a means of safe, rapid, nearly-effortless weight loss.
The miracle of medical massage.
Where do your tax dollars go?
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Astronomy Picture of the Day
Don't be suckered by a dubious email that smells like an urban myth. Look it up and find out:
David Brin's Blog
One of today's greatest SciFi authors. A rational, scientific approach to modern life and governmental policy -- what a radical concept!
Websites worth visiting:
Big Brass Blog
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Crooks and Liars
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your members of Congress:
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