Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Today's Referrer Log Note

If you're the person who visited from, which is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, by Googling for "Donboy blog", here's my story: I'm a resident of Massachusetts, and over 30. If Ted is retiring next year, I'm available to run. I've never run for public office and would need to be drunk to do public speaking.

On the other hand, if you're putting together email lists...I'm already getting spam email from "DEMS-BLOGLIST@LIST.DEMOCRATS.GOV" and it has no opt-out provision, so cut it out.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Book Plug: Waiting for Birdy

A family friend, Catherine Newman, has a weekly column at, about her life as the mother of Ben (now 5) and, more recently, Abigail, referred to since conception as Birdy. A book of her columns plus new material is now out; as it covers her second pregnancy and the first few months of Birdy's life, it's called Waiting for Birdy. Her book signings have been big successes. I've been hearing about this for a while: "Catherine has a following! People recognize her on the street!" I didn't get it. At my mother's house this weekend, I picked up her copy of the book, and ended up reading the whole thing. Oh, now I get it:
I know it's totally normal for toddlers to be fearful, but it's just so sad. One day you have this joyful child bouncing through your house like a rubber ball, and the next day he staggers to the breakfast table all haggard with worry, like an extra on the set of A Clockwork Orange. You can practically see the fears lounging around in his psyche, helping themselves to another bowl of cereal while they plan their latest attack: "Okay, you — yes you, Unshakeable Terror of Drains — you're up today." I can hardly stand it.
"What's 'drown'?" Ben suddenly thought to ask one night, and a million terrible thoughts unspooled immediately in my mind. I remembered that, like, 20-page section on drowning in the book The Perfect Storm, which describes, in shattering detail, how long you can keep yourself from inhaling underwater, and then how it might feel as your lungs fill up with the sea. Nah. I thought about Titanic — those countless good people rolling off the tilted deck and into the dark water, like potatoes into a stew pot. Nah.

How do you balance the requirements of honesty with the risk of a life-long terror of water? Because believe me — we're bathing infrequently enough as it is. "It's like swimming," I finally said, "only, um, the water makes you too tired." Michael overheard this and raised his eyebrows at me. "Nice one," he teased, "really clear and honest."

My friend Barbara laughed when I told her about my equally lame explanation of "war." "Ah," she said, "you went with 'The mean guys who can't share.' We went with 'Greedy guys who don't know how to use their words.' Similar approaches."
Here's the book link; here's the column archive.
Monday, April 25, 2005
Learning Japanese

Assuming that SiteMeter hasn't gone mad, somebody's used the English-to-Japanese function at to translate this very blog into Japanese. Good luck, Japanese friend.
Clear Channel's Death Grip on Our Culture May Be Overstated

As I was driving on the Mass Pike this afternoon, I saw a billboard from the marijuana legalization group Here's the ad, as referenced on their site:

Below this billboard was the name of the company that owned the billboard itself: Clear Channel Communications. CC is said to own more billboards than any other company in America, and they've been accused of abusing that position before: see here for the setup (an attempt by an anti-war group to buy a billboard during that RNC last summer), and here for the resolution (ad visuals changed, revised ad was accepted.)

It's good to know that either they're not the source of right-wing evil that they sometimes seem to be, or they're just not paying attention to all of their own activities.

Friday, April 22, 2005
Tip line

The woman who claimed she got a fingertip in her chili at Wendy's has been arrested. This sentence, in the AP writeup, has an unfortunate (but perhaps unavoidable) choice of words:
Wendy's also has hired private investigators, set up a hot line for tips and offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who provides information leading to the finger's original owner.

Thursday, April 21, 2005
" owner pledges no porn"

MSNBC has a Reuters report that was registered, along with several other speculative pope names, before the election of New Pope. (MSNBC must have been under serious time pressure:
Florida resident Rogers Cadenhead, who describes himself on his Web site as the author of several technology books, said on his site that he registered six domain names earlier this month based on names he thought the new pope might pick.
It took me 5 seconds on to confirm that Cadenhead has 35 books out in various editions.)

Anyway, favorite line:

Cadenhead said he was considering his options for the site but if the Pope's people were to approach him to discuss taking over the site he might make a few requests of the Vatican including "one of those hats" and "world peace".

UPDATE: Mark Evanier reports the same story, with the same quote flagged. But because it's Evanier, he also knows Rogers Cadenhead.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
CNN's Good-Taste Coverage of the Oklahoma City Bombing

Family members visit the memorial for their murdered loved ones -- but dammit, we will NOT be scooped if a Pope is chosen!
Like a Googlewhack, but different

In Googling for the combination "drugstore cigarette", I just learned by complete coincidence that those are both the names of types of beetles.

I knew about God's "inordinate fondness for beetles"; I didn't know that every noun in the dictionary is also a beetle name.

(Second-level Google discovery: the likely-seeming pun "An Inordinate Fondness for Beatles" yields only 17 hits. And now, 18.)
Monday, April 18, 2005
Jokes I Got, Oh, Forty Years Later

When I was a kid, I was vaguely aware that the name Alvin, of Alvin and the Chipmunks, was kind of unusual. His brothers, Simon and Theodore, at least had names that seemed normal.

Somewhere in the last forty years, I got the idea that all three names were good traditional Catholic names. That's as far as I got.

Today, finally, I realized: Monks. Brother Simon, Brother Theodore, Brother Alvin. Chip Monks.

(Ironically, there's an Arlo and Janis strip -- I think -- where a character realizes "Wait a minute...Chippendale...Chip and Dale! Now I get it!" Must be something about rodents.)

P.S: The official Chipmunks site claims that the 3 names were the names of executives at the record company that Ross Bagdasarian (aka Dave Seville) was with -- and given that those men actually used the names "Si", "Ted", and "Al", I'm guessing that they were strongly non-Catholic. I intend to ignore this information.

"Only Lane Bike"

Geoffrey K. Pullum at Language Log, while complaining about NPR pledge break announcers who think that a person can remember phone numbers spoken on the radio, notes again his earlier point about backwards-ordered lane messages:

Why the hell do all the authorities who put signs on road surfaces in the USA make the completely false assumption that you are going to read the words in the order in which your front bumper arrives at them? It is madness; psycholinguistic bunk. That is not what happens for me. I can't believe anyone has a different reaction. As soon as you see the block of words, you instinctively read them all, from the top. Look at this, which is painted on a road surface on my campus:


What do you see? ONLY LANE BIKE, right? It's the same with XING PED; it's the same with AHEAD STOP; it's the same with CLEAR KEEP. The way they lay them out, backwards them read you. Impeded is comprehension. Am I the only person in the whole United flaming States smart enough to have noticed this and to have realized what the problem is and what the solution would be?

With this in my head, I came upon a situation today that may explain things.

I was driving in moderate-to-heavy traffic, maybe less than 20 mph, when I came upon an instance of backwards-ordered lane markings. Because of the traffic pattern, each word was revealed and then covered, for a couple of seconds each. I forget what the message was, but taking "Only Bike Lane" as the example, I really did read it as "Bike......Lane.....Only...." over about a five-second period. If it had been the other way -- which I agree makes more sense on a higher-speed, clear road -- it would have been "Only....[what? only what?]......Lane.....[only lane? lane only? huh?].....Bike [ aha! Got it. Bike Lane Only.]" And I would have been confused and slightly distracted for all of that time. (In fact, this is a little bit of the phone number problem now, because it involves holding several words in your head for a few seconds.) But at high speed, although the message is indeed reversed, you see it all at once, and so it's much easier and faster to figure out the reversal.

So maybe the logic is that you trade off an easily-reinterpreted message, at higher speed, to avoid a disproportionately more confusing message in the low-speed case.

(And on the phone numbers -- have you ever noticed how many people leave their phone numbers on your answering machine as if they're trying to prove how quickly they can say the numbers?)

Sunday, April 17, 2005
"Cool", or..."Uh Oh"?

Josh Chafetz calls this "unbelievably cool":

For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

Irving Wallace's The Word:
In the Beginning, there was . . . The Word.

The classic thriller of an ancient manuscript, a secret society committed to hiding an explosive truth, and the man who must uncover that truth--if he can stay alive long enough

In the ruins of the ancient Roman seaport of Ostia Antica, an Italian archaeologist has discovered a first century papyrus, its faded text revealing a new gospel written by James, younger brother of Jesus. This discovery will show the world a new Jesus Christ, fill in the missing years of his ministry, contradict the existing accounts of his life--and potentially destroy the foundation of 2,000 years of Western civilization.

First published in 1972, The Word remains a classic of brilliant storytelling, authentic detail and breathtaking narrative power.
Yeah...I'm going with "uh oh".

Monday, April 11, 2005
Tax Fun

Let's see, if AT&T spun off AT&T Wireless in July 2001, on a 77.66%/22.34% basis, and then in November 2002 AT&T spun off Comcast on a 37.4%/62.6% basis, and then AT&T Wireless was bought by Cingular in 2004, causing a taxable event, and you paid $XXXX for the AT&T shares in the year 2000: quick, what the basis of the forced sale of your AT&T Wireless shares? What's the basis of your AT&T shares, and your Comcast shares, both of which you continue to hold? And do you really think it was a good idea to ignore those letters from AT&T explaining all of this when it happened?

Thank God for ETrade's online copies of all monthly statement, and various companies' Investor Relations sections of their web sites.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Me No Blog Good

...because me not Ezra.

Powerline, we must begin to understand, has no fucking idea what they're talking about at any given moment. Once upon a time, some GOP operative sent by the Ghost of Nixon got something right for them in the Free Republic comments section, and ever since then the homo-erotically named bloggers over there have thought his success their own and tried to get a bunch of other Important Stories About Treasonous Democrats right too. But they don't. Reading their site is like watching a blind child in a dog park -- you keep trying to warn him not to step in the piles of shit, but you're never able to get there quite quick enough. They want to make a point on Carter and end up calling him a traitor -- ooh, all over your shoe! They want to attack the AP but end up proving themselves utterly ignorant of how cameras work -- damn, you got it on your sock! They try to accuse Democrats of faking the Schiavo memo until an aide to current Republican Senator and Bush's former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez -- Agh, it's all over you!

Monday, April 04, 2005
Betting on the Next Pope

The Irish betting chain Paddy Power is taking bets on the next Pope. My two favorite parts:

And at one central Dublin outlet of Paddy Power, Seamus Hegarty spent a cool, calculating 20 minutes before putting his 10 euro note on a 25-1 shot: Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico.

"The money I lose on this I'll make back on the British election," predicted Hegarty, 49, who says he simply had to place a bet on someone so that he could maximize his enjoyment of watching events unfold from the Vatican.
Although not listed on its Web page, the Dublin-based bookie also was offering joke bets. Father Dougal Maguire, the fictional dim-witted priest on the British sitcom "Father Ted," attracted sufficient betting that his odds were shortened from 100,000-1 to 250-1.
According to the logic of sports bookmaking, this means that enough money came in on the non-existent Father Dougal that Paddy Power decided to move the line to protect themselves from financial ruin just in case the Vatican decided to make a fictional British sitcom character Pope.

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