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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen

I Saw That Movie!

As reported by the BBC, the first face transplant was performed in France.

The woman had lost her nose, lips and chin after being savaged by a dog.

In the controversial operation, tissues, muscles, arteries and veins were taken from a brain-dead donor and attached to the patient's lower face.
The idea of a living face donor freaks me out, man. What a concept for a story though, huh? Imagine surviving against all the odds: they turn off the machines, you keep breathing. Impossibly, you recover from a vegetative state. Then you discover your friggin face has been given away. Then what?

Blogging on the Job

I ran across this interesting article on CNet about how you can be fired for blogging. Their bottom line? If your boss sees your blog and is offended by something in there, in most states you have almost no protection from being fired. That said, both New York, California, Colorado, Montana and North Dakota have all recently passed laws that limit the action a private employer can take based on your off-duty behavior. But the flipside of this statement is a little unsettling: in 45 states, your employer can fire you for just about anything you do on your own time. Scary.

By the way, The Naked Truth is the blog where I got the article from. All you liberals, role-players and writers out there (you know who you are) should check it out.

This Deception from the Devil

Playing with Dragon Fire is a 1994 article from a Christian magazine for boys called Breakaway.

... I traded in my Bible for the game's rule book, trying to shut out the voice of Someone who loved me. Then, somewhere in the middle of the "fun", I came back to my senses -- and got back on my knees.

*Lord, what have I done?* I prayed. *I'm sorry for turning my back on You-- again. Give me the strength to resist this deception from the Devil ... and to keep my eyes on You.*

The real evil as described in the article was the obsession with gaming, and I think we'd all agree that obsession in all its forms (including an obsession with the Bible) is destructive.

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Hulk's Diary That Is on the Internet

This is pretty amusing. Heh. Hulk. Smash. How long that can stay interesting for? There's four years of it. Wow. That long, huh?

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.


Order of the Stick #249

As far as I can tell, Haley's line in #249 is Maybe you're right.... But then again, there's not much to go on.

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Order of the Stick #248

More cryptographic goodness.

Vaarsuvius: Yes, I'm afraid I must concur with Master Thundershield's diagnosis. There is no mystical genesis for the condition, so my arcane power, mighty though it may be, cannot remove it.

Durkon: Och, I was afraid o' dat when Thor's magic could na heal her.

Roy: Hey, gang, what's going on? No wait, let me guess. Haley's selling her tooth fillings to V for a quick profit, right?

Durkon: Actually, it be bad news fer the lass.

Belkar: (aside) And good news for fans of cryptograms.

Vaarsuvius: Miss Starshine appears to have been rendered incapable of properly articulating herself verbally.

Roy: What??

Haley: It means my speech is all funny-sounding.

Vaarsuvius: Yes, as you can hear, she can only enunciate gibberish.

Roy: My gods! Haley! I am so sorry! This is all my fault!

Haley: Come again?

Roy: I kept telling her to shut up, because she was making fun of me. And now she can't speak! She's clearly suffering from some sort of curse that I brought upon her!

Roy: (crying) Forgive me, Haley! Forgive me! I should never have said that to you!

Haley: Can somebody please get weepy transsexual off me?

Vaarsuvius: Actually, we believe that she is suffering from hysterical aphasia as a result of the mental trauma associated with the destruction of the treasure.

Roy: Oh. Never mind, then.

Vaarsuvius: Although, I suppose there would never have been an explosion in the first place if you had refrained from prentending to be —

Roy: I think I said NEVER. MIND. THEN.

Belkar: Could you hug Haley again for a moment? I need to capture the mental image for later.

Incidentally, it appears that there is an inconsistency in the cipher, and I am wondering whether I should email Rich Burlew about it. "T" in panel 3 should translate to "S", ("It means my speech is all funny-sounding") whereas "T" in panel 6 should translate to "R" ("Can somebody please get weepy transsexual off me?"). Does anyone see my mistake? Or do you agree that it's an error in the source?

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You Know You've Spent Too Much Time Roleplaying If...

So I'm looking for pictures of Moon Knight and I stumble onto a wiki called the Marvel Database Project, and then find my way into their forums, where I read this:

You know you've spent too much time roleplaying if...
You get pulled over by a police officer and say " Sorry officer i did'nt see the sign i must have failed my spot check" and then proceed to ask directions to the nearest tavern.
'Nuff said.


Order of the Stick #247

For those of you who read the Order of the Stick, you may have wondered what Haley has been saying in strips #247 and #248. Fortunately for those gentle readers who are geeky enough to care but not geeky enough to solve the cipher, I've taken the liberty of translating strip #247 for you below (Haley's translated lines are in bold):

Durkon: So, uh... we're just aboot ready ta leave, guys. V an' I just prepared our spells.

Elan: Yeah, OK.

Elan: Durkon, I'm a bit worried about Haley. She hasn't budged in hours, and if nothing else, I would think she'd have to go potty by now. Can you check her out?

Durkon: Well, she not be paralyzed or held or nuthin'. She seems ta be in perfect health, except for some fire damage.


Durkon: Gah!

Haley: Gone! All of it, gone! I can't believe it's all gone!

Elan: Haley, I know you have more Bonus Languages than I do, but now's not the time to show them off.

Haley: I got eaten by a dragon for that freakin' treasure!

Haley: I got vomited up! By a disgusting, acid-breathing dragon! And now it's GONE!

Durkon: Elan, hold on a moment. Comprehend Languages!

Durkon: Och, lad, she not be speakin' any language. I cannae understand a word, even wit' tha magic o' Thor. I think she be havin' some kind o' breakdown about tha loot.

Haley: Not THE loot, MY loot. Mine!

Elan: I don't understand. Is she gonna be OK?

Durkon: Well, lad, the brain be a funny thing. Sometimes, it just stops workin' right when ye've been through a bad scene.

Haley: Wait, why do I sound funny? Hello? Hello?

Belkar: Wait, wait, so she can't speak at all? Even if she wants to? Hey Haley, if you don't want me to tell Elan how you really feel, just say so.

Haley: What? No! Don't you dare!

Belkar: Well, OK, since you didn't say anything.... Elan, Haley is actually in —

Haley: Sneak attack boot to the face!

Belkar: Oof!

Belkar: Objection noted.

Haley: Darn straight.

Durkon: It's just like me granpappy always said: A kick be worth a thousand words.

Elan: I'm so confused.

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Bring out the GIMPS

Around 300 BCE, Euclid proved that there are an infinite number of prime numbers. That means that there are prime numbers that are as yet undiscovered! Now, I know what you're thinking. "All of these prime numbers are out there just waiting to be found. How can I be a part of it?"

Once upon a time, I would say get a degree in mathematics from an accredited university and then study up on number theory for a while, but now there's an easier way. The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) allows everybody to get in on the fun! All you need is a Pentium class computer with some cycles to spare.

The GIMPS project aims to discover new Mersenne primes, a certain kind of prime numbers named for French mathematician Marin Mersenne (1588-1648). Members of this series take the form 2n-1 and are of particular interest to those working in the field of data encryption. RSA encryption, developed in 1977 by MIT researchers Rivest, Shamir and Adlemann is based on the Marsenne prime series, and was a breakthrough in encryption technologies because it provided a method of securing data even though the method of encryption was made public.

Much like the SETI@home project which helps scientists analyze radio signals they detect in space, the GIMPS project uses distributed computing to accomplish processor-intensive tasks. The idea is simple: share the workload across enough computers, and the work will get done much faster. If you leave your computer on all day, you can install the GIMPS software which will run while the computer is idle, testing numbers for primality and reporting the results back to the project's central server, PrimeNet.

And the work is paying off. To date, GIMPS has discovered 8 Marsenne primes, the latest on February 18, 2005, when the 42nd known Mersenne Prime was discovered by a computer in Germany running the GIMPS software. The magic number: 225,964,951-1. If written out, it would have 7,816,230 digits. That's one hell of a prime number!

And if that weren't exciting enough, now you can have one of your very own! Perfectly Scientific, Inc. offers a poster with the entire number printed out in a crystal-clear 1-point font, suitable for reading with a magnifying glass. And with Christmas right around the corner, you now know what to buy for all those math geeks on your list.

So, get in the game, people. Join the legion of GIMPS.


Prime Numbers

You know... sometimes I even amaze myself. Just when I think that I have posted the geekiest thing I can find (like the Millenium Falcon computer), another, even geekier thing comes along, and I outdo myself. And so here it is, all of the prime numbers lower than 1,000:

235711131719 2329313741434753
5961677173798389 97101103107109113127131
137139149151157163167173 179181191193197199211223
227229233239241251257263 269271277281283293307311
313317331337347349353359 367373379383389397401409
419421431433439443449457 461463467479487491499503
509521523541547557563569 571577587593599601607613
617619631641643647653659 661673677683691701709719
727733739743751757761769 773787797809811821823827
829839853857859863877881 883887907911919929937941
If you want more (and I know you do), you can download the first 15,000,000 prime numbers here.

Maybe I will follow up with a discussion of why I was looking for a prime numbers... you know: hashing algorithms and constant-time lookups and all that. But why bore you with the "why" when I can simply provide useless data and say, "why not"?



To quote Mike Patton:

Pour shame all over us
Harden into a crust
Forget the glamour and
Mumble a jackhammer
Under your breath
Hide your face in the curtains
Better unsaid, so close
And it rolls off the tongue
The world expects the pose
Perfectly natural
Loosen up
Smearing wet concrete
And swearing you'll never be
At your weakest, etched in stone
And we're frozen here, peeking
sweet talk
Ah yes, caffeine. While I'm sure that the lyrics above have absolutely nothing to do with caffeine (or if they do, I fail to see how), it's a cool song. Really.

Anyway... this post is inspired by the loud conversation in the kitchen near my cube and another discussion I had gotten into with a coworker regarding the caffeine content of coffee and tea.

I'm sure you've heard it. "You know, tea has more caffeine than coffee." Well, if you're talking about tea leaves versus coffee beans, that may be true, but that's where the truism falls down. The truth is that in its prepared form, coffee absolutely, positively has more caffeine than tea.

Admittedly, there are a number of discrepancies between the figures cited on the internet, and that is likely because there are a number of variables that affect the actual amount of caffeine in the beverage, including how the beans are roasted, how the coffee is prepared, and the type of coffee you're talking about. But in no instance does any authoritative source claim that tea has even close to the same amount of caffeine as coffee, let alone more. In most cases, it looks like it's about a third to a half as much:

Bunker and McWilliams in the Journal of American Diet (74:28-32, 1979) (as cited by
Center for Science in the Public Interest135mg35-40mg (Lipton)
Food and Drug Administration, et. al., as quoted here110-150mg9-50mg
European Food Information Council85mg50mg
So, stop repeating this evil slander of my favorite beverage. The authorities may not all agree on how much, but they all agree that coffee kicks tea's ass.

Free d20 Products from Atlas

Atlas Games president John Nephew turns 36 on Thursday, November 17th. And what better way to celebrate than with free stuff? You send a self-addressed envelope (at least 10" x 13") with $2.26 in US postage, and Atlas will return it with up to 3 pounds of d20 goodies. Make sure it's postmarked no later than Thursday!


Instant Game

Animalball Games has made a "barebones" edition of their Instant Game system available for free as a PDF download. The concept is simple: the Story Master (SM) randomly determines the setting and plot each session, and the players develop characters "on the fly" using a super-light rules framework. Interesting stuff.


Cheerleaders Arrested

Two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders were arrested at a bar in Tampa Bay for getting into a fight Saturday night. Apparently, they were having sex in the bathroom, angering some of the other women who were waiting outside.

Witnesses said Keathley and the woman were having sex in a stall at Banana Joe's in Channelside about 2:10 a.m. Sunday, an arrest report states.

Club patron Melissa Holden said she and other women became angry while waiting for the restroom.

Holden said she could see the two women in the stall and heard moaning. After about 15 minutes, she said, the two women emerged. Another patron complained and then "the blonde hit me in the face," Holden said. Sports
As a good friend of mine might say: there's too much talk in this world, and not enough stadiums full of lesbians. At least, Carolina has shown us the way to correcting this sad state of affairs in the NFL.


Nature of Science

From the brand-spanking-new Kansas Board of Education-approved science standards (links 1 and 2), a section about the "Nature of Science":

Science is a human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us. Throughout history people from many cultures have used the methods of science to contribute to scientific knowledge and technological innovations, making science a worldwide enterprise. Scientists test explanations against the natural world, logically integrating observations and tested hypotheses with accepted explanations to gradually build more reliable and accurate understandings of nature. Scientific explanations must be testable and repeatable, and findings must be confirmed through additional observation and experimentation. As it is practiced in the late 20th and early 21st century, science is restricted to explaining only the natural world, using only natural cause. This is because science currently has no tools to test explanations using non-natural (such as supernatural) causes.
Hypothesis, law, and theory are frequently misunderstood terms used in science. A hypothesis is a testable statement about the natural world that can be used to design experiments and to build more complex inferences and explanations. A law is a descriptive generalization based on repeated observations. A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of the natural world that incorporates observations, inferences, laws, well-tested hypotheses and experimental findings to explain a specific aspect of the natural world. Theories drive research because they draw attention to areas where data or understandings are incomplete, suggesting additional directions for research.
The effect of these criteria is to ensure that scientific explanations about the world can be modified or abandoned in favor of new explanations if empirical evidence so warrants. Because all scientific explanations depend on observational and experimental confirmation, all scientific knowledge is, in principle, subject to change as additional evidence becomes available and/or as new technologies extends our abilities to explore. This open-endedness of science is its greatest strength, and allows for constant refining and improvement of explanations. Although all scientific knowledge is in principle tentative, science has a high degree of confidence in explanations that have been repeatedly tested and shown to be valid. The willingness of scientists to change explanations based on evidence, actually results in more reliable information. Changes in scientific knowledge can occur gradually or rapidly. The early 21st century is a time of quite rapid scientific advancement, characterized by a high rate of both discovery and accumulation of knowledge. Rather then developing “new” theories, the current explosion of knowledge has greatly expanded the basic and well-accepted principles from physics, chemistry, earth sciences, and biological sciences. Scientists recognize that there are still new frontiers of science. (Source, emphasis mine)
I am simply nonplussed. More later.

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Chrebet's Final Concussion?

Wayne Chrebet's heroic career with the New York Jets may very well be over after suffering a concussion in Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers. Typical of his play throughout his 11-year tenure with the green-and-white, the hit came when Wayne made a play to keep his team alive on third down, late in the fourth quarter. Chargers free safety drilled him, slamming his head into the turf. He was lying motionless, dazed, still clutching the ball to his chest.

This makes at least nine concussions for Chrebet, who was a walk-on at Hofstra University, where the Jets have had their practice facilities for the past thirty years. And now, since the Jets have just entered into a joint agreement with the Giants to move their practice facilities near Giant Stadium in the Meadowlands, New Jersey, this truly marks the end of an era.

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Of Religion and Social Dysfunction

Thanks to one Jason Stackhouse (who I have met but don't know well; I found his blog via agent 139) for linking to an interesting study examining the relationship between belief in God and a society's well-being. It's presented well, and cites its research, but neither the author nor the publication is familiar to me. Given the huge bullshit-to-actual-content ratio on the internet, I'm skeptical of authoritative-looking papers from unknown sources. That said, it's an interesting read.

The aim is to critically examine the once-obvious assumption that belief in God is beneficial to society as a whole. To do so, the study compares the United States to other Western democracies, including Australia, Sweden, France, Germany and Japan, graphing indicators of social dysfunction (such as abortion, rate of STD infection, youth suicides, and teen pregnancy) against indicators of religiosity (attending church services regularly, absolute belief in God, Bliblical literalism). And its findings are somewhat surprising. Not only is there an inverse relationship between social dysfunction and secularism, but look at the graphs at the end of the paper (click the links to see the different data). That "U", representing the United States, is always flung way outside the cluster of countries down near the corner of the graph. America is anomalous in that it "is the only prosperous first world nation to retain rates of religiosity otherwise limited to the second and third worlds" (¶13).

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"I am a fashion god"

As reported by CNN, FEMA director Michael Brown was hard at work while hurricane Katrina devestated the gulf coast. He corresponded via e-mail with his advisors and associates regarding finding a dog-sitter and discussing what he should wear. A few days before Katrina made landfall, Brown's press secretary advised, "Even the president rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow. In this [crisis] and on TV you need to look more hard-working." On the day Katrina hit, he answered, "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire, you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god." That morning, he had written to Cindy Taylor, deputy director of public affairs, "Can I quit now?"

The incompetence of this administration is utterly staggering. Doesn't the president realize that indulging in this wanton cronyism has cost countless American lives?

Collective Nouns

An army of ants, a gaggle of geese.... collective nouns can be a fun distraction for those of us who think this sort of thing can be entertaining. Hmmm... a grammar of geeks? Has a certain ring to it. Anyone else have an idea for what to call a pack of gamer-types?

Ghosts Defeat God in the UK

According to CNN, a recent survey taken in the United Kingdom found that while 68 percent of the more than 2,000 respondents believed in ghosts and spirits, only 55 percent believed in God. Not only that, but the survey also found that mass media has played a role in peoples' beliefs:

Of those who believed in ghosts, 12 percent said they had actually seen an apparition and 76 percent said that TV reality shows about the supernatural and films like the spooky "Blair Witch Project" had played a part in convincing them that ghouls exist.
I'd like to try to analyze these numbers – which, by the way, seem incredible to me – but I'm utterly at a loss. Even if it was true that reality TV shaped your beliefs, would you admit it?

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.