Sunday, July 30, 2006


A friend showed me this abstract last year:

The Pirahã language challenges simplistic application of Hockett's nearly universally accepted design features of human language by showing that some of these features (interchangeability, displacement, and productivity) may be culturally constrained. In particular, Pirahã culture constrains communication to nonabstract subjects which fall within the immediate experience of interlocutors. This constraint explains a number of very surprising features of Pirahã grammar and culture: the absence of numbers of any kind or a concept of counting and of any terms for quantification, the absence of color terms, the absence of embedding, the simplest pronoun inventory known, the absence of "relative tenses," the simplest kinship system yet documented, the absence of creation myths and fiction, the absence of any individual or collective memory of more than two generations past, the absence of drawing or other art and one of the simplest material cultures documented, and the fact that the Pirahã are monolingual after more than 200 years of regular contact with Brazilians and the Tupi-Guarani-speaking Kawahiv.

From Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirahã in Current Anthropology, volume 46 (2005), pages 621–646. PDF
Pirahã is also one of the few languages in the word that can be whistled, since tones carry most of the information.
Here are some other relevant links:úra-Pirahã_language

Media clichés on the brink, at the pump.

Jon Stewart observes the overextended "brink" of war, and Americans "feeling it at the pump".

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Me and My Monkey

Just what you need: a system that embeds an IC chip in your local monkey so you can get an e-mail when saru-san nears your home.

NTT West Corp., meanwhile, is developing a system in which integrated circuit tags can be placed on monkeys in the area to keep track of their whereabouts. When the tags--and therefore the monkeys--approach a field, the IC chips will inform locals by sending an e-mail to their cell phones.
From the DY story under a headline that reads: Pesky Critters Plague Farmers (Use a voice from one of the Beverly Hillbillies --preferably Granny-- when you say that.)

Update 2006.07.27:
The more I think about it (and I have a long commute with nothing better to do than listen to npr now that Marc Maron is off the air again), the less sense this story makes. Shouldn't the notification e-mail from the monkey be sent to the dog, not the farmer? The farmer, after all, could be off at the feed store, in town, over at his cousin's, or working another field. Not to mention that most rural areas are outside the range of cell phones, anyway. The dog could have a cellphone collar that would give a bowlingual version of the message, specially crafted to appeal to the dog's sense of adventure and love of military hierarchy. "K-9 Unit 1! Simian Intruder in Sector 7! Peaches and lettuce threatened! Report at once, and repel intruder!" The kennel could be automatically unlocked at that point.
Or is this monkey-vs-farmer (agrosimian? What's the adjective here?) issue really a telecommunications problem? Just as every problem looks like a nail if you are a hammer, every problem looks like a telecommunications problem if you are NTT. It seems like we could all take the advice of progressive rocker Peter Gabriel and just "Shock the Monkey", if that is OK with everybody. Am I missing something? If you implant the IC chip, why not wire the monkey's pain and pleasure centers, to create a monkey cyborg? Wouldn't that be better than being pestered with monkey mail?
Some readers (or "my one reader") may wonder why I am wasting my time considering this issue, while Southwest Asia (a.k.a. "Middle East" in early British colonial-speak) is at war. Rest assured that considerable neuronal resources are being directed at this problem as well. Current solutions under consideration do not involve the use of cyborg monkey armies, although I will concede that such solutions are underutilized in contemporary military practice, particularly Iraq, where the National Guard is a poor substitute for the robust and flexible simian intellect. My solutions will be revealed shortly, when the world is a little riper and readier for them. I should probably delete my profile, go under deep cover, so that Mossad, Hiz'b'allah, or Halliburton "Dick" Cheney doesn't come to slit my throat. Not to worry, though, my solution is so sensible and reasonable that it will not be able to receive serious consideration by the reality-impaired principle parties to the dispute.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Chickenheads in Marketing

Harry Shearer reports on le show that KFC has appropriated a famous Daoist (a.k.a. Taoist) priest in an attempt to sell more chicken sandwiches. This disregards the famed vegetarianism of the Daoists and offended people across China. Don't these people think about running these ideas by a test audience, just to see how they react, before they go nationwide –to an audience of 1,300,000,000 people? China Daily is complaining, the story was reported in the Independent, and UPI has it, too.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


I didn't know until today, but this is the day (midsummer day of the ox) for eating eel to boost your summer heat tolerance. Apparently this belief is an artefact of an advertising campaign of the Edo period. (Hey, I wonder what advertising jingles that I imprinted in my childhood will still be part of the culture in 2270? C&H pure cane sugar, from Hawaii, wonder-bread helps build strong healthy tumors 12 ways, it's the real thing, where's the beef, uh-oh, spaghettio!? I remember those as well as I remember Aesop or Mother Goose. But will I transmit them to coming generations? Maybe I already am!)
Anyway, I was hungry for eel (unagi) this week, and went out in the pouring rain of this incessant Blade-Runner-esque rainy season to try to buy, an unagi bento. I found one at 7-11, but the price was an unreasonable ¥1300, 2 or 3 times a normal lunch box. I switched to getting an unagi onigiri (eel rice ball) instead, for a still-expensive ¥220, double the price of your typical nori-wrapped onigiri. There seems to be an acute shortage of eel this year, as today's DY reports. While searching for other eel news headlines, I found that the JT has some eel-related vocabulary in their eel restaurant reviews that you could try out when you visit your local eelateria. If you don't even like seafood and were hoping this was about EELS, why don't you go there, instead?

Public Safety, Peace, and Social Justice

It's something I sometimes go years without thinking about, but this week, as I found myself returning home after midnight several times, I was impressed by the level of public safety in metropolitan Tokyo. The trains I have been on this last week, even on Friday night, were not filled with inebriated salariman, but with office workers returning home from working overtime or from going out for dinner and drinks, nearly half of them young or middle-aged women, in their 20s to 40s (presumably lightly armed).
Just for a moment, it seemed amazing that trains packed with commuters can arrive, not just late at night, but after midnight, and that thousands of women can walk safely home from the station alone, even in heels, and not even think about being afraid for their personal safety.
This is the situation, not just in one neighborhood, but in every neighborhood of this city, and every other city in Japan. I think we could find a few similarly safe neighborhoods in the (smaller) American metropolises of New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago, but not entire cities or states with a comparable level of public safety.
Sure, there is the occasional nutcase with a kitchen knife on a bicycle, stabbing multiple victims, but in a city of 20 million, you have to expect one or two people to wig out every once in a while.
The Japanese are aware that public safety in Japan is better than most other places, and they are proud of it. The foreign is seen as a dangerous place. Too much safety makes Japanese lacking in street smarts and protective paranoia.
Their own explanation tends toward the racist: we Japanese are one people, one ethnic group, therefore safe. Foreign police forces, enviously attribute the public safety to the Koban system of public policing.
I have always attributed this to the destruction of the class (and lingering caste) differences in the post-war period of occupation and social reconstruction. The new society was much more equal, and hence more democratic. Equality led to less crime.
Similar post-war redistributions of wealth in places such as West Germany and Britain led to crime rates that were much less than the United States as well. The IRA and Baader-Meinhof are exceptions that existed for different reasons and don't change the relative statistical differences.
Free or inexpensive public services such as education, health care, day care, and the like also enhance the relative equality of income. Estate taxes as high as 50% whittle away the excessive accumulated wealth of the hyper-rich.
As the Japanese are now restructuring their economy in a more American direction, tolerating and even encouraging greater inequality to stimulate the economy, we will see if the crime rate rises.
Currently, America is ruled by the criminal class, a kleptocracy attempting to veil itself in a theocratic shroud. After centuries with no effective revolution or redistribution of wealth, the families which profit(ed) from piracy, imperialism, and slavery are still our ruling class, the owners of the industries and media, while the former slaves are still the underclass. I think we could see the United States move toward reasonable, Japanese, or at least western European levels of crime, if the society were to be restructured and the wealth redistributed. Some may call that "socialism", but I don't think it is socialist for the fire department to extinguish a fire regardless of the value of the house, or for the police to answer a call regardless of the wealth of the caller. Justice, and equality of opportunity, should be a right.
The US is tending towards the inequality of the feudal social structures which were imposed on Latin America. Do not be surprised that American crime rates are more like those of Colombia, Argentina, El Salvador, or Chile than Japan, Britain, or West Germany.

Monday, July 17, 2006

More popular than "Jesus"?

This Java-based namevoyager generates a graph of the popularity of a given name from the 1880s to the present. Note the booming popularity of Jesus and the decline of George, Richard, Minnie, and Homer. Other names were just a flash in the pan and link their bearers to specific decades (Barbie, Cindy, etc.). Found at

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Barbie: These Precious Moments

My 3-year-old daughter has finally reached the Barbie-mutilation stage of child development (as documented by British researchers). Yesterday, nude Barbie served as a hammer to pound the floor, until her head fell off. We re-attached the head, but it seems my daughter prefers to remove it. Today I found Barbie displayed on the stairs, the glazed eyes of her severed head staring lifelessly at her own groin. It's reassuring to see that our daughter is probably going to be normal after all. I mean, she understands the difference between the real and the plastic representational. These milestones are priceless moments. In other child development news, she also went from being screamingly scared of bugs to wanting to pick up and observe every insect, no matter how creepy, even bugs that I can't touch, so I see a future career as an entomologist. (CSI lab?)

If you can't modem…

My adsl modem burned out this week so I have been without internet. I am not sure if it fried, or was steamed. In my terminology, "fried" implies an internal fault whereas "steamed" connotes an environmental, heat and humidity-induced failure. Anyway, the new one provided by my isp (so-net) is, oddly, an NEC. It stands upright for easy toppling by earthquakes and space conservation. There it is next to my AirMac base station. Apparently the term "Airport" was already copyrighted in Japan.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Convenient Death


The Legal Case
Lay's Death Complicates Efforts to Seize Assets
Published: July 6, 2006
HOUSTON, July 5 — In yet another bizarre twist to the Enron saga, the sudden death of Kenneth L. Lay on Wednesday may have spared his survivors financial ruin. Mr. Lay's death effectively voids the guilty verdict against him, temporarily thwarting the federal government's efforts to seize his remaining real estate and financial assets, legal experts say.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Post-mycar wired transit-on-demand

I have often thought that there should be an alternate means of transportation in the developed countries that is like the jeepneys of the Philippines or songthaews of Thailand, but networked to a database of incoming trip requests so that people could enter their time, start and end points, and have the nearest van routed to incorporate their trip. Someone with a serious business plan has picked up on the idea, and the result is the "taxibus". It turns out that the pre-networked version is a universal and common idea around the world, but the jitneys, as they were called in North America, were killed off by the streetcar monopolists before the streetcars were killed off by the automobile. From Wikipedia:

Jitney (USA and Canada)
A jitney is a North American English term which originally referred to a livery vehicle intermediate between a taxi and a bus. It is generally a small-capacity vehicle that follows a rough service route, but can go slightly out of its way to pick up and drop off passengers.
In some US jurisdictions the limit to a jitney is seven passengers. In Rhode Island a jitney license plate is used for all public passenger buses, even for larger ones.
While jitneys are fairly common in many less wealthy countries, such as the Philippines, they have appeared in the past in the U.S. and Canada. The first U.S. jitneys ran in Los Angeles, California in 1914. By 1915, there were 62,000 nationwide. Local regulations, demanded by streetcar companies, killed the jitney in most places. By the end of 1916, only 6,000 jitneys remained. [1] Similarly, in Vancouver, Canada, in the 1920s, jitneys competed directly with the streetcar monopoly, operating along the same routes as the streetcars but charging lower fares. Operators were referred to as "Jitney Men." They were so successful that the city government banned them at the request of the streetcar operators.
Since the oil crisis of 1973-74, jitneys have reappeared in some areas of the United States, particularly inner city areas once served by streetcars and private buses. (An increase in bus fares usually leads to a significant rise in jitney usage.) Liberalization of jitneys is often encouraged by libertarian urban economists, such as Rutgers' James Dunn and USC's Peter Gordon, as a more "market-friendly" alternative to public transportation. However, concerns over fares, insurance liabilities, and passenger safety have kept legislative support for jitneys decidedly tepid.
I really think their time may have come again, as the population is more wired. I'm not sure why the fares or insurance would be a problem in the US. Maybe there are too many barriers erected to protect automobiles, taxi companies, and city bus monopolies.

Make it a rechargable electric hybrid, put solar panels on the top, keep an average of more than 1.2 riders inside, and this could keep a lot of CO2 out of the air. Somehow they are a hell of a lot more fun than busses or taxis, too, probably because of the feeling of freedom and random variations in the ride.

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore"

A report in New Scientist forecasts complete homogenization of the global bird population by 2100.

Every year another species of bird vanishes forever, new research suggests, an extinction rate four times higher than traditional estimates.

Furthermore, the analysis predicts that by the end of the century the rate will accelerate to 10 extinctions per year, meaning the loss of 12% of all 10,000 known bird species.

The work was carried out by Peter Raven, at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis, US, and colleagues. By the year 2100, Raven adds, “we will see total homogenisation – an end to regional diversity. The same few bird species will be seen everywhere, whether they are native or not".
It seems to me that to survive in the anthropogenic environment, birds require a certain minimal level of inteligence, adaptability, and an omnivorous ability to eat human garbage. Most post-human bird species will be descended from the sparrows, pigeons, and crows that are surviving and even thriving in the current mass extinctions.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Liberation of the Planet of the Fire Monkeys

This abomination will probably remind you, as it does me, of the ending of the first Planet of the Apes movie, when Charlton Heston finds that not only have the damn dirty apes taken away his rifle, but that he is actually on Earth and Lady Liberty has mysteriously survived the nuclear destruction of NewYork and the geological changes to the local area. The Statue of Liberation Through Christ was built in Memphis (U.S.) by Pastor Alton Williams of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church, who intended to remind passers-by of their relationship with Christ.

As reported in the New York Times. Photo by Rollin Riggs.
Other reports from Jamaica and by one local Memphis TV station and another. None of these media reports say what it is made of.

The Final Report of Mr Higashi Take

This particular bamboo appeared around June 15th (I didn't notice it for a while) and was 97 cm on the 18th. These are pictures of July 3rd, July 4th, and July 8th. As of July 8th, it has reached its full size (or so I hope) about a meter or more above the eaves of the sunshine-stealing steel apartment building next door. Calculating the height is perhaps my first opportunity to use the trig functions of sin, cos, and tan they went to so much work to teach us in high school. Unfortunately, I was unable to recover any memories of those traumatic experiences. Carrying on, I would estimate the height as probably 250 cm or a skosh more for each floor, 30 to 50 cm above the ground for the ground floor, and a meter on top of that. That's around 6 m or 650 cm in twenty-three days of growth. That comes to 28 cm a day, or more than a centimeter an hour, as I observed earlier. That's nearly a foot a day or just under an inch added every 2 hours, 24 hours a day, for this short bamboo sprouting season which is basically June.
There is a chance that in a typhoon it will blow around a lot and whack the hell out of those rain gutters, so if I don't want to take a chance and wait and see, I should snag it and cut off the top, making this the Final Report of Mr Take.

Christianity's Gay Cultural Heritage

I have sometimes argued that while there is plenty of historical evidence of polygamy and polygyny, there is no history of gay marriage, and that rather than making it socially recognized when half of society is not ready to recognize it, we should instead abolish any connection or recognition of marriage by government. Individuals should be free to have whatever religious ceremonies they want, and enter into any contractual obligations with others within certain broad guidelines (e.g. no slavery) without any interest, involvement, or interference by the secular government. There should not be a one-size-fits-all marriage contractual conditions specified by each state or by the national government.

Well, it turns out I was wrong about the historical evidence of gay marriage. How did that happen? I must have missed school on the day we did gay studies. The Irish Times published an article on it so long ago, 1998, that I will briefly quote it in its entirety here:

When marriage between gays was by rite
Tuesday, August 11, 1998

RITE AND REASON: A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St Catherine's monastery on Mount Sinai. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman pronubus (best man) overseeing what in a standard Roman icon would be the wedding of a husband and wife. In the icon, Christ is the pronubus. Only one thing is unusual. The "husband and wife" are in fact two men.
Is the icon suggesting that a homosexual "marriage" is one sanctified by Christ? The very idea initially seems shocking. The full answer comes from other sources about the two men featured, St Serge and St Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who became Christian martyrs.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that "we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life". More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St Serge is openly described as the "sweet companion and lover" of St Bacchus.

In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies, that they were a homosexual couple. Unusually their orientation and relationship was openly accepted by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image that to some modern Christian eyes might border on blasphemy, the icon has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing their "marriage".

The very idea of a Christian homosexual marriage seems incredible. Yet after a 12-year search of Catholic and Orthodox church archives Yale history professor John Boswell has discovered that a type of Christian homosexual "marriage" did exist as late as the 18th century.

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has evolved both as a concept and as a ritual. Prof Boswell discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient church liturgical documents (and clearly separate from other types of non-marital blessings such as blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among other titles, the "Office of Same Sex Union" (10th and 11th century Greek) or the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These ceremonies had all the contemporary symbols of a marriage: a community gathered in church, a blessing of the couple before the altar, their right hands joined as at heterosexual marriages, the participation of a priest, the taking of the Eucharist, a wedding banquet aftet afterwards. All of which are shown in contemporary drawings of the same sex union of Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867-886) and his companion John. Such homosexual unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12th/early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) has recorded.

Boswell's book, The Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex Unions in Pre- Modern Europe, lists in detail some same sex union ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century "Order for Solemnisation of Same Sex Union" having invoked St Serge and St Bacchus, called on God to "vouchsafe unto these thy servants [N and N] grace to love one another and to abide unhated and not a cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God and all thy saints." The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded."

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of Same Sex Union", uniting two men or two women, had the couple having their right hands laid on the Gospel while having a cross placed in their left hands. Having kissed the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Boswell found records of same-sex unions in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St Petersburg, in Paris, Istanbul, and in Sinai, covering ering a period from the 8th to the 18th centuries. Nor is he the first to make such a discovery. The Dominican Jacques Goar (1601-1653) includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek prayer books.

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, it was only from about the 14th century that anti-homosexual feelings swept western Europe. Yet same sex union ceremonies continued to take place.

At St John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish Church) in 1578 as many as 13 couples were "married" at Mass with the apparent co-operation of the local clergy, "taking Communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together", according to a contemporary report.

Another woman-to-woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century. Many questionable historical claims about the church have been made by some recent writers in this newspaper.

Boswell's academic study however is so well researched and sourced as to pose fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their attitude towards homosexuality.

FOR the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be a cowardly cop-out. That evidence shows convincingly that what the modern church claims has been its constant unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is in fact nothing of the sort.

It proves that for much of the last two millennia, illennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom from Ireland to Istanbul and in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given ability to love and commit to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honoured and blessed both in the name of, and through the Eucharist in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Jim Duffy is a writer and historian. The Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe by John Boswell is published by Harper Collins.

That's mind-blowing. I don't know if that changes my view on making it legal nationwide. There may be some other issues involved, and I haven't really researched it. For example, I think there may be even just as many gay sham marriages and mail-order brides as there were heterosexual ones.

Here is the book the article references, on Amazon. Oops, it's the UK Amazon, but appropriately so, perhaps. Indeed, the UK Amazon has a Special Relationship with the US one.

Is there anything more gay than Christianity? SpongeBob!?
In a (sorta) related story, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, claimed in 2005 that SpongeBob SquarePants, Barney, and Jimmy Neutron, among many others, appear in a "pro-homosexual video," that its makers planned to mail to thousands of elementary schools. Little did Mr Dobson, or I know, that Mr. S.B. SquarePants was presumably promoting recognition and respect for a long-recognized Christian rite of the European civilizations.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Burn oil, burn the constitution, burn Iraqis, burn the planet, but not the Flag

The US government recently cleared their desks of such minor issues as the destruction of New Orleans and Global Warming, pushing those issues off the back burner to another row of burners in back of those, in order to take up the pressing issue of flag burning.

I seem to recall being instructed in Boy Scouts or somewhere that the proper way of disposing of an American Flag was to burn it. It was not respectful to dispose of it in any other way, say as a cleaning rag or quilt or grease rag in the garage or buttwipes or something.

Somehow somebody somewhere has switched the rules 180˚ so that the flag should now never be burned. I wonder how they are suggesting we dispose of one? I guess since they are now sacred icons, they will never decay or grow old. Perhaps by touching the flag, we may obtain everlasting life. Sleep on one, and wake up feeling revitalized and refreshed. Wrap yourself in one for protection against our one billion enemies' thrice-daily prayers for our destruction.

Perhaps this proposed legislative (constitutional!) protection should also be extended to corporate logos as well as those of nation-states. Do not throw that Kleenex box in the trash; it has the Kleenex logo on its side.

Likewise with the Deer (i.t.h.) Leeder. Do not some use his name inappropriately in the newspapers, and are not these newspapers sometimes burned? Are these not Executive Desecrations, "hate-speech" in Repuglicant newspeak?

There were four known flag-"desecration" incidents in the US in the first 6 months of 2006. Note that the use of the word "desecration" is a misnomer, for the flag is not a sacred object of any religion, although this attempted legislation and linguistic usage found in the slipstream (a.k.a. cashstream) media attempts to program people to think that way. This merges church and state by making the symbols of the state into sacred objects.

It is a piece of cloth. It is no different than a photo or a piece of paper with a word or picture on it. Photographs will not steal your soul. These are symbols. They are not magical or sacred icons, you sick, sick Sedators(66-34). Please dump these (66) people, voters. (Assuming your vote will not be hacked.)

I suppose if I were in the DPRK, North Korea, and I cut a picture of Kin Jong Il, their Dear Leader, in half, I would probably get the death penalty there. America sure knows what countries to choose to emulate: Welcome to the DPRK model of magical statecraft!

A more better written better researched post on this stillborn brainchild of Utah Sedator Orrin Hatch here, which informed this rant post.

Compassionate Nazism: "God's" Gunners Focus on the Gay Family

As the Deer(in-the-headlights)Leader pResident Chimperor falls in the polls, and especially among The (rightwingnutcase) Base, how can Gay-bashing be made as a "compassionate" argument? How about arguing in favor of banning gay marriage by saying each child has a right to a mother and a father? It's a stretch, but they're just trying to appeal to the least intelligent 20% of the electorate here. Never mind that it implies that single parents should have their children taken away from them, and that orphans would rather remain in institutions than go to a loving family. I probably couldn't say anything further much better than Bob Geiger did at his blog, quoting the ad:

"It is a painful but very real truth. Homosexual marriages intentionally create motherless families or fatherless families," reads the newspaper ad. "But a compassionate society would not deliberately deny a child a mother or father."

Rushlimbo or Rash-limp-bo'

I try to avoid all discourse related to nutcase luminaries such as "rushlimbo" the limp and "ancolter". I managed to avoid knowing who the latter was until relatively recently but elrushbo was insinuated into my awareness by his presence on military radio, virtually the only source of English language radio around here, where he was placed as a "counterpoint" to "balance" NPR!
Now, I suppose somebody has to do the dirty toilet-cleaning work of listening to these fools and deconstructing what they say, but I would prefer to ignore both of them, and those who elevate them by talking about them. For me, the deconstruction is as if someone were watching a channel of commercials or the shopping channel, and presenting carefully researched counterpoints to the presentation. Hey. These are commercials. Of course it's a stream of lies. I know they are trying to sell me something. Why would I want to hear or look at what they are saying? Well, I can think of one reason: to study fascist discourse techniques. Anyway, I will violate my general rule of ignoring the idiots because the following image keeps popping into my head whenever I hear one of those names (which shall remain unnamed):

This is your brain.

This is your brain on drugs.

El Norte all over again South of the Border

It was refreshing to wake up and read this article by E. J. Dionne, which can also be found here, here or here.

López Obrador has had questions about the results in the state of Tabasco. Messrs. Calderón and López Obrador, please, please make sure that you don't have some close relative in charge of things down there. How would it look if the governor of the state was your own brother? What would people think if the top official in charge of elections was your sibling's partisan ally who made every key decision in your favor?

Another thing: Whichever one of you is ahead at any given point, please don't ask that the counting be stopped abruptly. Don't have some high-class lawyer with a name like Jaime A. Panadero III come out and say things like, "I don't believe that the people of Mexico want this national election turned over to lawyers and court contests" -- and then have the very same lawyer direct other lawyers to go to court to stop any further counts.

If either of you did such a thing, wouldn't it look hypocritical? Would it not seem as if all you cared about was obtaining power -- and that you didn't care how you got it? It would spoil the legitimacy of your election.

But, yes, there is an excellent chance that the Mexican election will end up in the courts. So it will be very important that the court rulings have credibility with the Mexican people, especially with those who end up on the losing side. The judges should exercise their power, well, judiciously. They need to make sure that they're not seen as making a partisan call.

Above all, this means not stopping recounts just before a deadline -- and then claiming, after the court-imposed delay, that there was no way to remedy the very problems in the counting that the court itself might point to because the deadline had passed.

It means that the judges should arrive at whatever decision they reach in a way that's consistent with their past views. They should not invent wholly new doctrines, utterly at odds with their previous positions, that happen to favor the candidate closer to their own ideological inclinations.

And, please, let there be no court decision so unprincipled that the judges themselves have to say that their ruling has no application to any future cases, that it "is limited to the present circumstances," because of the "many complexities" involved. That would make the whole court process look fixed, wouldn't it?
My Mexican friends could well object that it is insulting and ludicrous to presume their country is capable of coming up with such a nightmarish scenario. They would argue that no well-functioning democracy would ever settle a contested election in the ways I have just described.
I feel hopeful that Americans may be starting to notice that their own "democratic process" looks bad next to Mexico's, which didn't have the best record in the twentieth century. If this mysterious, new, reality-based way of seeing (known in China as "Seek truth from facts" 实事求是, shí shì qiú shì), currently out of vogue in the American political culture, could take hold in the US again, Americans may also notice that the national medical non-system is one of the worst in the world, the educational system has gone from tops to mediocre, and that around the world, the America of Bush is now more disliked (seen as a negative influence) than China and Russia.
Could be that what goes around comes around, and that the bad karma America imposed on places such as Chile, Iraq, El Salvador, and Mexico is now coming home to roost? The days when the three-letter agencies just killed and imprisoned foreign leaders and overthrew their governments are over. They have now conditioned the American people to accept the erosion of their freedom, leading to a political system that looks more and more like Russia and a social and economic system that resembles the ones we first set up years ago for Chile, Argentina, Colombia or Mexico. It may take a generation or it could be over in ten years, but the American system will decay and decline under the influence of Bushism. I mean, if America has higher levels of political and corporate corruption than Mexico has, our economy will eventually decline. Mexican immigrants may begin to flood back into Mexico the way immigrants who once left Japan, China, and India are now returning to their ancestral homes.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


This entire site seems to be an elaborate hoax, but maybe not. It is hard to tell what is real sometimes, the real organizations say such insane things. Be sure to read the SurvivaBall Safetycard.
Likewise with their links to the "Heritage Foundation".

Life During Wartime

I was happy to come across David Byrne's blog! He is currently in Patagonia, has some interesting observations from talking with people about what it was like when the junta started "disappearing" people in '78. Many other things, his impressions of a Cat Power concert, his view of An Inconvenient Truth.

The Buckminster Fuller Institute, for a site largely dedicated to design, has a major design flaw in that the site's home page, linked to the banner graphic, is titled Page Not Found. Other than that, there is a good collection of ideas dedicated to Bucky. Try starting from

"We are being assume as closely as possible the viewpoint, the patience, and the competence of God."

— Buckminster Fuller

"As it became clear to Bucky that political systems were incapable of reforming people in order to bring about a good life to everyone, he announced a "design science revolution". Politics decides who gets to survive. Only by means of "comprehensive anticipatory design science" could the world’s resources be fairly distributed among all people, and the need for war made obsolete.

Virtually no other designers were thinking that way at the time, and few are today. The environmental movement has focused attention on ecologically beneficial (or at least benign) design, but biology-based ecological designers tend to be suspicious of technology. Bucky did not claim to be a scientist, but he asserted that science-base, well-designed technology holds our only chance for survival. With it, we can "reform the environment [ he meant the built environment] instead of people".

[...] By uncovering and analyzing the larger patterns in world commerce, and the rapid improvements in technology, Bucky concluded that there were plenty of resources if we didn’t squander them on weapons and inefficient designs, or waste the on fripperies (made and marketed by his imaginary, multinational corporate nemesis, Obnoxico)

[...] With an inventory of available resources in hand, the next step for a designer is to use it well. Comprehensive andticipatory design science demands maximum overall efficiency with the least cost to society and ecology. Being comprehensive is a direction (Bucky called it "comprehensive prospecting") that implies extensive, omnidirectional research. [...[ The goal is to optimize, rather than compromise. Sacrifice, except in the heroic sense should never be necessary. A well-designed product represents thousands of years of refined human experience."

Excerpt from BuckyWorks by Jay Baldwin, pg. 62

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

MP3s of the early 20th Cent. (& Muppet videos)

Foldedspace has mp3s of music from a hundred years ago, and links to Sesame Street video clips.

(WTF are…) The Meier Prophesies

Looks like a bizarro Swiss UFO cultist hoax, but still a fun read, if you are not easily depressed. It looks like we are in for 800 years of heck, a dark age, followed by a renaissance around the start of the fourth millennium. Just hang in there.

Overheard on CNN

From the Viewer Viewpoint department, a viewer (in Norway?) writes: "I am not superstitious, but I spit three times when I see a black cat cross the street."

A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly Quicktime trailer page:
This looks like it will be pretty good. Coming this summer. PKD lives!

More poster images at

Movie review

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Steps toward Mercerism?

Researchers in Canada have established that mice feel empathy for the suffering of other mice. No word on whether the researchers tested themselves with their proto-Voight-Kampf apparatus to confirm whether they themselves were real or manufactured.

IAA for Independence Day

The IAA (Institute for Applied Autonomy) uses technology to develop new forms of social protest.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is online at

The site seems to have a decent collection of online texts.

The smell of science

A report by Paul Marks in New Scientist tells of a successfully effort to construct a smell recorder by a team at Tokyo Institute of Technology. It is a little complicated, but if they have got the essentials down, as it seems they have, one could imagine many applications beyond the several they mentioned: online shopping, virtual reality, and use in remote medical diagnoses. It seems it would be possible to both "print" the odors onto paper, and have them discharged towards the user's face by a fan built into the computer display. If an odor codec is agreed upon and standardized, odors could be coded into web pages, movies, and music. Also, a biometric odor system could be one of the most non-intrusive biometric systems. Perhaps it could be called a bioscentric, or a B.O.-metric identification system.

Update 2006.07.05: Oops. What was I thinking? I guess it wouldn't make a very good biometric if you can record and playback the odor, print buckets of it, and bathe in it in order to assume a different B.O.metric profile. I was just free associating there. Well, anyway, you could use it to produce FBI sketches of criminals that include the odor as an embedded scratch'n'sniff, suitable for posting in a public place such as the Post Office. Oh, yeah, right, who the hell would want to scratch it and find out Osama binLaden smells like this, Saddam Hussein smells like this, here is Charles Manson, the Unabomber, Timothy McVeigh…? Anyway, I am sure this technology is at least as useful as the laser, which people had a hard time imagining uses for at first.