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)
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
A New One On Me

People misunderstand their own language in an infinite number of ways. (See the Eggcorn Database.) From a poster on the Eastern US Weather Forums, on the GFS, a computer weather model that has apparently been useless until 48 hours before any given storm:
The GFS myswell just be retired for the rest of the winter until inside 48 hours.

Monday, January 30, 2006
All Burgers Wide and Tall

Fifteen-pound burger, 20 inches wide: [via Tivo Community Forum]

Details of wide burger:
Dennis Liegey, the owner of Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, 120 northeast of Pittsburgh, said the "Beer Barrel Belly Buster" weighs in with 10 pounds of meat molded into a 20-inch patty on a specially baked, 17-inch bun.

The balance of the weight comes from 25 slices of cheese, a head of lettuce, three tomatoes, two onions, plus copious quantities of mayo, ketchup, relish, mustard, and peppers.

Any two people who can eat it within a three-hour sitting get it for free. For everyone else, it costs $30.
In-n-Out Burger, 100 patties tall. [via Mark Evanier]

UPDATE, IN RE BLOGGERS [ME] UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT: I sent Mark Evanier my two links on the 15-pound burger, but did not send the link to this very item, since there's no actual content besides the picture (not mine) and the CNN writeup (also not mine) so it felt lame. Which means that when he mentioned the big burger, and name-checked me, I felt very very stupid. But there's still no content in this item. there is. Oh, woeful paradox of self-referentiality.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Doonesbury Flashbacks

From the official Doonesbury FAQ:
When did Dubya first appear in the strip?
-- Mike C., Sydney, Australia

Then-president George H.W. Bush's son was first referenced on August 18, 1988, during the Republican National Convention. He was first depicted as a point of light on January 30, 1994.


Oh, irony.

All images under copyright, and stolen from the Doonesbury Flashbacks CD-ROM.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Apostrophe 911

Apostrophe misuse policing is hardly orginal, but the bastards keep coming up with new stuff! Seen on Usenet today:

In typical fashion, I moved from that position to a similar one at a differen't company.

Although it will be hard to beat my lifetime personal best find, a reference to the actor Phil Silver's.
TV Industry Holy Crap

CW Network to replace WB, UPN

Admittedly, each of those networks is about 3/4 of a net right now -- neither goes more than 2 hours a night in prime time, for instance -- but this has to be an overall shrinkage of the industry. And this supposedly starts this coming September.

UPDATE: "The CW will use The WB's current scheduling model, which consists of Monday through Friday nights from 8-10 p.m. EST; Sundays from 7-10 p.m. EST; Sunday from 5-7 p.m. EST outside of primetime. It will also include a Monday through Friday afternoon block from 3-5 p.m. EST and a 5-hour Saturday morning animation block."

UPDATE 2: Upon further thought, I think I've fallen for some PR spin. From looking at who's got what shows, I bet it turns out that the WB bought the scraps of UPN and is changing its name. Bear in mind, right now UPN has only 6 hours of scripted programming a week, plus 2 hours of wrestling.

UPPIERDATE: The following have been suggested, by the unofficial associate staff and myself, as merged -- or, shall we say, amalgamated -- shows that will run on the new network:

Various Remarks on CBS, Monday, and Stuff Mondays on CBS

I sampled Courting Alex, Jenna Elfman's new show. Nope. Summary: Dharma Became Greg. I do note the presence of Dabney Coleman as Elfman's father, who is (in the words of the running gag in Network) "crusty but benign". Dabney Coleman should never be benign. Dabney Coleman should always be the guy in Buffalo Bill who, when his longtime lover confronted him with her pregnancy, asked her "Who's the father?" Then she punched him in the face. Anyway, there's not much here except for Elfman's babe appeal, but if I'm going to watch a sitcom for the babe, I'll just wish ABC hadn't cancelled Emily's Reasons Why Not, which was, I'll admit, far worse than this.

Oh, and the title is the same sort of title/joke as Judging Amy, which always confused me -- are we judging Amy, or is she 'Judging Amy', like 'Smiling Stan Lee'? And are we courting Alex, or is it about Alex-who-is-courting? (Both, at least in the second case.) And how about Crossing Jordan? Is Jordan crossing...something, or is somebody crossing her? And should they? That show should be called "Don't You Be Crossing Jordan [Girlfriend]". It's like a pun but it makes no sense.

Courting Alex also features Josh Randall, who was Ed's pal on Ed, where he played sort of a schmoe. Here's he's pretty much the same guy, but he's supposed to be a hunk. Acting! On Elfman's part, mostly. In the meantime, Ed himself, Tom Cavanaugh, stars on Love Monkey, also on CBS, Tuesdays. In this one, Ed's also the same guy as in his old show, but at least the show knows it. This one also didn't make the cut, but it was close. It's another show where the guy meets the girl in the first episode and then we watch nature take...its...protracted...course. I think we can blame Cheers for this whole thing, which was believe it or not was once not a cliche. (According to something-or-other, Newsradio went out of its way to deliberately avoid that structure by getting Dave and Lisa together almost immediately.) And this train of thought takes us back to Monday for...yes...How I Met Your Mother, whose pilot undercut precisely that expectation.

And as to HIMYM's "Drumroll, Please"...well, I cheered out loud at two payoffs -- one for Barney's season-long "Suit up!" bit, and the other for a writing move that always impresses me, which is when a recurring apparent throwaway bit turns out to be the key point of the show. (Aaron Sorkin in particular is golden at that; see also the Friends episode "The One With The Videotape", and Arrested Development's first season -- "Wow, Saddam's rape room looks a lot like our dining room.") If they'd added one final line of voiceover narration to the episode and then cancelled the show, I'd have stood and applauded. Please, just say it. We've earned it, and so have Future Ted's kids.

UPDATE: For a longer, funnier take on much of this that agrees with me in every respect, see here.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
"A Love Story In Reverse"

That's the tag line I recently noticed, in a 4-month-old issue of Entertainment Weekly, on an ad for How I Met Your Mother, whose pilot I enjoyed -- especially its final twist -- as I mentioned back then. Alan Sepinwall of the NJ Star-Ledger can pick up the story [link may require registration]:
"How I Met Your Mother" is narrated by Future Ted (Bob Saget), who in the year 2030 tells his teenage children the story of his young love life. In the show's premiere episode, present-day Ted (Josh Radnor) fell badly for newscaster Robin (Cobie Smulders), but just as viewers were settling in for the story of their courtship, Future Ted threw a huge monkey wrench into the works by telling his kids, "And that's the story of how I met your Aunt Robin."
Combined with the re-discovery of the ad, I realized that the intention had been to tell the story of how Ted fell out of love with Robin. I also decided that if that was their intention, they haven't been hitting their target squarely, since Ted's journey away from Robin has been...wobbly.

It turns out the people behind this show managed to screw up by having their lead "couple" have the one thing they didn't want:
But given the show's focus on relationships, its greatest strength has been the chemistry between Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders, which is so potent you could bottle and sell it.

But because Future Ted has already decreed Robin isn't the kids' mom, the show is stuck on a course that can't pair them off romantically for very long, if ever.

When Smulders plays a scene opposite Radnor, "magic happens," Smulders says. "Chemistry flows, fireworks get set off. I can't explain it, but it's kind of meant to be -- and obviously not."
"It's heartbreaking" that the two characters are destined to end up apart, says co-creator Carter Bays.

At the same time, there are no plans to quietly do away with Future Ted, or to reveal him to be a pathological liar, or to have Barney claim Ted's biography as his own in the future, or any other means of overturning the "Aunt Robin" proclamation.
What they've come up with right now is the introduction of Ashley Williams as Ted's new love interest, who appeared for a few seconds at the end of the last new episode. No one wants to say much about Monday's show -- even the CBS Web site features no information except for the title, "Drumroll Please." With a title like that, should we assume Williams is the mom-to-be?

"You never know," says Thomas with a cryptic smile.

Thursday, January 19, 2006
Our Choosing

Scott McClellan on the WH response to the new bin Laden tape:
The terrorists started this war, and the president made it clear that we will end it at a time and place of our choosing.
Oh. How's tomorrow? That works for me.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
A Geek Explains Spelling to Other, Non-Spelling Geeks

Slashdot is running the king of all meta-discussions today, in which the management (the notorious CmdrTaco) says that he doesn't care about spelling and grammar because that's never the point of what's being said. Commenter SIGPFE, for the first time in my experience, explains, in a way that might get through to the kind of nerd who's proudly blind to these errors, how constant misspellings and other mistakes infuriate those of us who can see them:

It's not just about wincing. The process of reading is pipelined. Humans can scan through text very quickly because while the eye is scanning one word you're parsing the sentence from a few words before and thinking about the meaning of what came before that. When you hit a grammatical or spelling error you cause a pipeline stall. If an incorrect word is used you can often continue for several more words before you discover that the sentence is impossible to parse forcing you to backtrack. Good writers intuitively know how to construct a sentence to lead you towards the correct parsing and make the process of reading as effortless as possible. The Slashdot editors often make reading a chore with readers being forced to scan sentences over and over again in an attempt to find a sensible reading.

People have been endeavouring to write well for centuries. It's funny how the Slashdot editors can suddenly decide that this entire tradition is worthless. Have they not noticed that writers have been trying to convey a message other than "I can spell" for aeons and yet still make the effort to spell correctly as a courtesy to their readers?

When you write text on a forum like Slashdot every minute you spend writing translates into thousands of minutes of reading. People would do well to remember that.


But having said that, there remains the substantial number of people in the discussion who say that they really, truly aren't slowed down by text filled with misspellings and similar errors. Despite my unshakable belief that people like this are stupid -- because you just can't be a frequent reader and not develop that nails-on-a-blackboard response to bad spelling -- the facts may be against me, and much as I'd like to maintain my belief, I'm forced to admit that if these people really can read misspelled text without being bothered, and do it as well as I can read "proper" text, then they're just better at reading than I am. The bastards.

I'm also curious if any actual research has been done into this feeling of being rubbed the wrong way by bad use of language. I don't even know if that would fall under linguistics or psychology. I do know that it has been suggested that pre-WWII Germans were irritated by the sound of Yiddish, which is a dialect of German and which they considered a "degenerate" form of the language, although it may be hard to untangle cause and effect there. And for that matter there's no shortage of Americans who love to mock "Ebonics".

[edited: "cause and effect", for God's sake.]
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Al Gore Practices Jujitsu

From Raw Story:
In response to White House comments that Gore exhibited "hypocrisy" in calling for a Special Prosecutor, saying that the Clinton administration had wiretapped some Americans, Gore will make this statement shortly:

"...Second, the Attorney General's attempt to cite a previous administration's activity as precedent for theirs - even though factually wrong - ironically demonstrates another reason why we must be so vigilant about their brazen disregard for the law. If unchecked, their behavior would serve as a precedent to encourage future presidents to claim these same powers, which many legal experts in both parties believe are clearly illegal."
Ha ha! I use your own strength against you! Now you die!

Not that it'll help, but I like it.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Things You Don't Want To See In The Half-Price Bin at the Supermarket

An enema.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Different Strokes

Pat Robertson thinks that God gave Ariel Sharon a stroke as punishment for giving the Gaza strip away.

So what did Dick Clark do? Endorse a two-state solution?
Thursday, January 05, 2006
Never Take Investment Advice From Me

Here's the Google stock price for the last six months. See that vertical red line I've drawn at late August? That's the point at which I bought "put" options, which means that I was betting that the stock would go down. Oopsie.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Hey, Fans of Don Rumsfeld and George Orwell

From Chapter 4 of 1984:
Winston thought for a moment, then pulled the speakwrite towards him and began dictating in Big Brother's familiar style: a style at once military and pedantic, and, because of a trick of asking questions and then promptly answering them ('What lessons do we learn from this fact, comrades? The lesson -- which is also one of the fundamental principles of Ingsoc -- that,' etc., etc.), easy to imitate.

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