Archive for March 31st, 2008

Idjit Of The Day

My slimy reptile of a governor:

The Clinton campaign has said before that Fox treats them more fairly than MSNBC, but prominent surrogate Governor Ed Rendell heaped the strongest praise yet on the Murdoch-owned network.

“I think during this entire primary coverage, starting in Iowa and up to the present — FOX has done the fairest job, and remained the most objective of all the cable networks. You hate both of our candidates. No, I’m only kidding. But you actually have done a very balanced job of reporting the news, and some of the other stations are just caught up with Senator Obama, who is a great guy, but Senator Obama can do no wrong, and Senator Clinton can do no right.”

I suppose if Fox smears both Democrat candidates equally, that could be considered balanced, but certainly not fair.

Please, someone, make Ed Rendell go away.

2 comments March 31st, 2008 at 10:49pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Media,Republicans,Wankers

Wankers Of The Day

Deutsche Telekom/T-Mobile:

So last week Deutsche Telekom, owners of the global T-Mobile brand, sent Engadget a late birthday present: a hand-delivered letter direct from their German legal department requesting the prompt discontinuation of the use of the color magenta on Engadget Mobile. Yep, seriously.

Granted, we get nastygrams from angry tech companies practically every day, but rarely regarding anything that’s not some piece of news we published that they’re livid about having out in the open. And irony of ironies, this whole use-of-magenta thing is precisely the topic we took up last year on behalf of DT.

We spoke with David Beigie, vice president of corporate communications for T-Mobile US, who offered: “As a trademark owner, from time to time Deutsche Telekom looks at usage that could lead to confusion in the marketplace. The letter sent by DT merely outlines these perspectives and is meant to simply open a dialogue. Engadget continues to pioneer forums for discussion of wireless industry developments and innovation. T-Mobile respects the role Engadget and its readers play in advancing dialog on these important topics.”

I mean, come on. What the hell were they thinking??? Please tell me they haven’t actually trademarked the color magenta.

Engadget also included this handy little chart, which I found quite useful:

Deutsche Telekom Engadget Mobile
Cellphone carrier Yep No
Distributor of telecom equipment Yep No
Likely to be mistaken for T-Mobile / Deutsch Telekom We certainly hope so No
Former state-owned monopoly Yep No
Has something against US 3G Apparently No
Has more than five friends Might not anymore Yep

March 31st, 2008 at 09:32pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Technology,Wankers,Weirdness

O Canada

The Toronto Globe & Mail’s John Ibbitson does not have good things to say about Dubya and his legacy…

All presidents in the final year of a final mandate are lame ducks. But Mr. Bush is experiencing something unheard of for a U.S. president. He’s being ignored.

(…)

The U.S. economy teeters on the brink of recession, threatened by falling home prices and worthless mortgages; even Wall Street has lost confidence in Wall Street.

What is the President doing to avert the crisis? Who cares? Economically, what really matters is what Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is doing. Politically, what matters is what Mr. McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton say they would be doing if they were in charge.

“There is very little that he will be able to do in his last year,” observes Larry Berman, a political scientist who specializes in presidential politics at University of California, Davis. “It’s legacy-shaping, rather than agenda-building.”

The problem is that Mr. Bush’s legacy is unambiguously dismal. He is leaving the economy in worse shape than he found it, with an extra $4-trillion added to the national debt for good measure.

He presided over a vast expansion, and abuse, of the powers of his office. The legacy of Guantanamo, torture and wiretaps will not soon be forgotten.

The war on terror has had few tangible successes and many apparent failures. And elsewhere in foreign policy, the record has been bleak. To take just one example: when Mr. Bush first met Mr. Putin, Mr. Bush declared that he had looked the Russian President in the eye, “was able to get a sense of his soul,” and found him “very straightforward and trustworthy.” Seven years later, Russia is more powerful, more aggressive and considerably less friendly toward the United States.

Because Mr. Bush is held in such low regard by Congress and the American people – his popular approval rating is currently one of the worst ever recorded for a president in office – he is even more constrained than other lame duck presidents.

“He has neither much leverage, nor much vision,” concludes Murray Weidenbaum, who was the first chairman of Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers and is now honorary chairman of the Weidenbaum Center, a public-policy institute at Washington University in St. Louis.

(…)

“Just look at the campaign,” he observes. “All through the primaries the Republican candidates tended to ignore Bush. They paid much more attention to Ronald Reagan. Even the Democrats seem to have lost interest in attacking Bush.”

(…)

Mr. Bush has little on his agenda beyond a slender hope that his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, might somehow broker an agreement leading to the creation of a Palestinian state.

And then, first and finally, there is Iraq. Prof. Berman predicts that “in 10 or 15 years, when all of the information is out on the decision to go to war, and all the intelligence is available, I think that President Bush will not fare well.” Some would consider that a scholarly understatement.

Mr. Bush, it has been said, compares himself to Harry Truman, a president who left office dogged by an unpopular war and low public approval, but who is today viewed as one the 20th century’s finest presidents.

It is possible that posterity will be equally kind to Mr. Bush. But if you’re going to compare yourself to Mr. Truman, it helps to have your own equivalent of the Marshall Plan, the containment policy against Russia, the formation of NATO, the defence of South Korea and desegregation of the armed forces on your résumé. What in the Bush legacy even comes close?

(…)

…[I]f Mr. McCain beats the odds and wins in November, giving the Republicans 12 straight years in the White House, Mr. Bush’s defenders will rightly insist that he deserves praise for helping make that victory possible.

Still, it’s a thin gruel after more than seven years in office, most of that time with a Republican majority in Congress. It is why Mr. Bush, rather than shaping his legacy, is forced to watch from the sidelines while others render their verdicts. And they are not kind.

Awesome.  I especially like the “Mr. President, you’re no Harry Truman” part.  Of course, I would prefer that America were not in the toilet in the first place, and that Iraq was not on the brink of all-out civil war.  But if that’s the situation we’re stuck with, I would at least like blame where blame is due.

2 comments March 31st, 2008 at 08:32pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Media

Monday Media Blogging

Shockheaded Peter:

Oh my.

2 comments March 31st, 2008 at 05:51pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging

Statcrilegious

So, apparently, if you simulate the whole of baseball history 10,000 times over, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak isn’t that big a deal:

WITH the baseball season under way and the memory of scandal in the sport so fresh, many fans yearn for an earlier era, a time when mythology mingled with baseball. The sport’s most mythic achievement is Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, a feat that has never come even close to being matched. Fans and scientists alike, including Edward M. Purcell, a Nobel laureate in physics, and Stephen Jay Gould, the evolutionary biologist, have described the streak as well-nigh impossible.

In a fit of scientific skepticism, we decided to calculate how unlikely Joltin’ Joe’s achievement really was. Using a comprehensive collection of baseball statistics from 1871 to 2005, we simulated the entire history of baseball 10,000 times in a computer. In essence, we programmed the computer to construct an enormous set of parallel baseball universes, all with the same players but subject to the vagaries of chance in each one.

(…)

To tease out the meaningful lessons from random effects (fluky streaks that happen by luck), we redid the whole thing 10,000 times. In each of these simulated histories, somebody holds the record for the longest hitting streak. We tabulated who that player was, when he did it, and how long his streak was.

And suddenly the unlikely becomes likely: we get a very long streak each time we run baseball history. These results are shown in Figure 1. The streaks ranged from 39 games at the shortest, to a freakish baseball universe where the record was a remarkable (and remarkably rare) 109 games.

More than half the time, or in 5,295 baseball universes, the record for the longest hitting streak exceeded 53 games. Two-thirds of the time, the best streak was between 50 and 64 games.

In other words, streaks of 56 games or longer are not at all an unusual occurrence. Forty-two percent of the simulated baseball histories have a streak of DiMaggio’s length or longer. You shouldn’t be too surprised that someone, at some time in the history of the game, accomplished what DiMaggio did.

The real surprise is when the record was set. Our analysis reveals that 1941 was one of the least likely seasons for such an epic streak to occur.

Figure 2 shows the number of times, out of 10,000 simulations, that the longest streak occurred in a particular year. The likeliest time for the longest streak to have occurred was in the 19th century, back in the misty beginnings of baseball. Or maybe in the 1920s or ’30s.

But not in 1941, or afterward. That season was the miracle year in only 19 of our alternate major-league histories. By comparison, in 1,290 of our baseball universes, or more than a tenth, the record was set in a single year: 1894.

And Joe DiMaggio is nowhere near the likeliest player to hold the record for longest hitting streak in baseball history. He is No. 56 on the list. (Fifty-six? Cue “The Twilight Zone” music.) Two old-timers, Hugh Duffy and Willie Keeler, are the most probable record holders. Between them, they set the record in more than a thousand of the parallel baseball universes. Ty Cobb did it nearly 300 times.

DiMaggio held the record 28 times. Plus once more, when it counted.

Questions left unanswered:

o Who had the 109-game hitting streak???

o Were there any parallel universes with multiple hitting streaks of 56 games or more?

o Did the simulation take into account opposing teams and pitchers making a concerted effort to stop the streak?

o Were there more perfect games and no-hitters than reality or less? Did the Mets pitch any?

o Where can I get a copy of the simulation program?

2 comments March 31st, 2008 at 11:21am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Sports,Weirdness

Long Live The New Blog B&W Photoblogging

Well, after a neverending nightmare of slowdowns, outages, hacking, and hijacking, capped off by a much-hyped and poorly-executed datacenter relocation which took my blog out for most of the weekend, I have finally escaped the Horrible Black Hole Of Suck that is Ix Webhosting. ::matthew has kindly migrated me over to a new host, and hopefully the sailing will be much smoother now.

Oh, and I have some more photos:

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Hey, remember that building that was getting demolished? They finally imploded it.

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More post-implosion goodness.

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And, um, a strut thingy from what I believe to be a snowblower.

March 31st, 2008 at 07:39am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

The Magic Of Pig Bladder Powder

I just saw this over at Kung Fu Monkey.  Incredible if true:

Three years ago, Lee Spievack sliced off the tip of his finger in the propeller of a hobby shop airplane.

What happened next, Andrews reports, propelled him into the future of medicine. Spievack’s brother, Alan, a medical research scientist, sent him a special powder and told him to sprinkle it on the wound.

“I powdered it on until it was covered,” Spievack recalled.

To his astonishment, every bit of his fingertip grew back.

“Your finger grew back,” Andrews asked Spievack, “flesh, blood, vessels and nail?”

“Four weeks,” he answered.

Andrews spoke to Dr. Steven Badylak of the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine and asked if that powder was the reason behind Spievack’s new finger tip.

“Yes, it is,” Badylak explained. “We took this and turned it into a powdered form.”

That powder is a substance made from pig bladders called extracellular matrix. It is a mix of protein and connective tissue surgeons often use to repair tendons and it holds some of the secrets behind the emerging new science of regenerative medicine.

“It tells the body, start that process of tissue regrowth,” said Badylak.

Badlayk is one of the many scientists who now believe every tissue in the body has cells which are capable of regeneration. All scientists have to do is find enough of those cells and “direct” them to grow.

“Somehow the matrix summons the cells and tell them what to do,” Badylak explained. “It helps instruct them in terms of where they need to go, how they need to differentiate – should I become a blood vessel, a nerve, a muscle cell or whatever.”

If this helped Spievack’s finger regrow, Badylak says, at least in theory, you should be able to grow a whole limb.

I sure hope so.  I wonder if there’s a time limit on how soon after the injury the Magickal Regenerating Pixie Dust has to be sprinkled on the wound.

March 31st, 2008 at 06:55am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Science,Weirdness


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