Once Again, Life Imitates The Onion

Did you know that the US government's third-largest agency is ramping up a 20-year, $4.5 billion construction project that will turn the grounds of a former mental hospital into an "elaborate" headquarters for its sprawling network of agencies? It's already a decade behind schedule and $1 billion over budget.
I can't come up with a better comment on this than that from a friend: "In some situations, parody is superfluous. Or impossible."

Do They Come With A Free Yugo?

Lawmakers said today they have “serious questions” about the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship after a Government Accountability Office report recommended slowing construction for further testing.
Well, that would seem like a good thing.
“The strategy has been ‘Buy before fly,’” said Paul Francis, the GAO’s managing director of acquisition and sourcing management, who testified at today’s hearing. “It is a ship in full-rate production, but its operational effectiveness will not be demonstrated for years to come. That’s where we are today.” 
Most of the planned 52 ships will already be under contract or built by the time operational testing is completed in 2019, he said.
Why, yes.  We're shelling out over $25 billion for four dozen ships that will totes work.  Eventually.
Francis said the Navy should consider buying the ship only in “minimum quantities” until enough testing is completed to prove its effectiveness. 
Sean Stackley, the Navy’s assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, rejected the GAO’s advice, saying any pause in construction would increase costs and delay needed testing. 
“Now is not the time to slow the program,” Stackley told the panel. “This is our most affordable warship program.”
It's underpowered, undermanned, and essentially useless... but hey, at least it's cheap!

You know what else is cheap, Mr. Stackley?

Not building additional ships until you know they meet requirements.

Unfortunately, that's not the way bureaucracy works.

As a friend noted recently, "You know how it is. People don't react well to 'Don't just do something; stand there!'"

Learn To Speak The King's English, Ya Limeys!



Well, in case you ever do wonder, here's the answer for you:

In 1776, whether you were declaring America independent from the crown or swearing your loyalty to King George III, your pronunciation would have been much the same. At that time, American and British accents hadn't yet diverged. What's surprising, though, is that Hollywood costume dramas get it all wrong: The Patriots and the Redcoats spoke with accents that were much closer to the contemporary American accent than to the Queen's English. 
It is the standard British accent that has drastically changed in the past two centuries, while the typical American accent has changed only subtly.

As a Pittsburgh native, I would like to point out that one of our sacred linguistic duties - along with the eliminating the use of the verb "to be"[1] in order to maintain the strategic US Verb Stockpile - is to combat the insidious danger of non-rhotic speech whenever possible.

Those seemingly gratuitous "r" sounds you hear from us when we talk about "warshing up", or tell you that something is "old fasherned"? Yep - that's the noble citizens of da 'burgh, protecting yinz fellers from that there non-rhotic English n'at.

Thankfully, we do not have to stand alone in this task.  Our brethren in the Auld Country are also doing their part to fight the scourge of non-rhotic speech:

The lofty manner of speech developed by these specialists gradually became standardized — it is officially called "Received Pronunciation" — and it spread across Britain. However, people in the north of England, Scotland and Ireland have largely maintained their traditional rhotic accents.

[1] Thusly: while the majority of the country would squander precious verbs, saying things like "the porch needs to be painted", your noble Pittsburgh brethren would simply point out that "the porch needs painted".  This allows the US to stockpile these verbs so that the State Department always has a large quantity available for writing strongly-worded, yet oddly ineffective, diplomatic notes.

Massad Ayoob on Zimmerman

A continuing series of articles from Backwoods Home Magazine.
Part 3: "Who Started It?" 
Part 5: The Gun Stuff
I hardly suppose that he's done with the series...

Updated: Nope!  I'll add links to additional postings as they appear.
Part 8: The Quantity of Injury Argument (7/24/2013)
Part 9: The Propaganda Factor (7/28/2013)
Part 10: The Semantics (7/31/2013) 
Part 11: Rating The Lawyers (Defense) (8/4/2013) 
Part 12: Rating The Lawyers (Prosecution) (8/8/2013) 
Part 13: Angela Corey (8/12/2013) 
Part 14: The Judge (8/18/2013) 
Part 15: Talk at the Scene, Talk on the Stand? (8/22/2013) 
Part 16: The Impact on the Black Community (8/29/2013) 
Part 17: The Cops (9/3/2013)  
Part 18: Aftershocks (9/8/2013)  
Part 19: Lessons (9/12/2013)  
Part 20: ... and Into the Future (9/13/2013)  

USAF Has Winner In Weiner?

ARLINGTON, VA – The Air Force announced Wednesday they had selected former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner as the top civilian at the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) office. 
The disgraced former U.S. Representative from New York’s 9th Congressional district was chosen after an exhaustive and expensive search because, according to the unit’s director Maj. General Margaret Woodward, “he seemed like a great fit for the position.” 
Woodward explained that to combat sexual assault one needs to think like a sexual deviant — as other SAPR chiefs have done — and with Weiner, she thinks she has her man.
Reports are that Weiner is apparently not sold on the idea of working for the USAF, even in a civilian capacity.  Sources close to the former Senator have indicated that he is still primarily focused on the NYC mayoral race.  The same sources have noted that if he fails to win in NYC, he would be more than willing to consider moving in order to put his name on the ballot for the next San Diego mayoral race, as he thinks he would fit right in there.

African Imports

Africa cannot rely on outside people to come and feed our poor or treat our sick, says African businessman and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim. The key is good governance, in both the public and private sectors.
Mr. Ibrahim continues:
What actually happened in the last 50 to 60 years is that we missed a lot of opportunities. At the moment of independence, many African countries like Ghana and Egypt had higher income per capita than China, India or Singapore. Where are we now? And where are those guys? 
I think the blame should rest squarely on the way we have governed ourselves. 
Not any amount of aid is going to move Africa forward. The only way for us to move forward is to ensure good governance – the way we manage our economy, our social life, our legal structures and institutions – that is the basis for development. We cannot rely on people to come and feed our poor or treat our sick. This is the responsibility of our governments.
I'd love to help, Mo, but frankly, you seem like a sharp guy.  I would much rather import you to the US at this point that export you any of our "governance" help.

Witch? BOO!

Every Pixar movie is connected. I explain how, and possibly why. Several months ago, I watched a fun-filled video on Cracked.com that introduced the idea (at least to me) that all of the Pixar movies actually exist within the same universe. Since then, I’ve obsessed over this concept, working to complete what I call “The Pixar Theory,” a working narrative that ties all of the Pixar movies into one cohesive timeline with a main theme. This theory covers every Pixar production since Toy Story.
A wonderful example of how people manage to find reasons and patterns in everything

Now All I Need Are A Few Minions...

Enter your initials, create your own royal name
As we wait for Will & Kate's baby to be born, have some fun creating your very own royal moniker. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would approve.
Me?  I am... the Grand Emperor, Cedric del Fuego.

Now, bow! Bow before the EMPEROR OF FIRE!


This Is What Hamlet Meant

The Atlas Obscura - your source for "Curious and Wonderful Travel Destinations".
Definitive guidebook and friendly tour-guide to the world's most wondrous places. Travel tips, articles, strange facts and unique events.
Di you know that there's an H. R. Giger museum?  Curious about where you can (supposedly) find Thomas Edison's last breath?  Does the idea of visiting Vuclan Point - "An island in the middle of a lake, in the middle of a volcano, in the middle of a bigger lake, in the middle of a bigger island, in an archipelago, in the Pacific Ocean" - tickle your fancy?

I'm going to have to spend some time exploring this site.  It's reportedly not quite as much of an addictive time sink as TV Tropes [1]... but close.

[1] Why, yes.  I did provide you with a link to tvtropes.org.  To the "Xanatos Gambit" article, as a matter of fact.  Oh, go on - it's the weekend.  You weren't going to do anything productive with those three hours, anyways.

Beeeeeeep Scrzzzzzzx Wheeeeeet Boop!

Via Michael Flynn, here are 11 Sounds That Your Kids Have Probably Never Heard.
Who knew that some noises could eventually become as extinct as the passenger pigeon? Depending on your age, you or your kids or grandchildren may have only heard some of the following sounds in old movies, if at all.
If those are just enough to whet your appetite, you might be interested in the list of 20 iconic tech sounds bound for extinction as well. 

No, It Is NOT A "How To" Guide

Well, at least no intentionally.  Presenting... the DoD's Encyclopedia Of Ethical Failure!
The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure [PDF, there is a Word file direct from the DoD] is 167 pages of stories of elaborate frauds, scams, and abuses of power in the US government. Interestingly, the sarcasm-filled document is also published by the US government, to help illustrate how government workers get in trouble.
Some interesting tidbits:
Two workers at the Veterans Affair’s Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy, which mails prescriptions to veterans, were charged with taking kickbacks for purchasing a product from a supplier at more than twice the normal price. The product? Red tape. 
An Assistant Secretary of Telecommunications and Information within the Department of Commerce spoke with ethics officers about a small dinner party she was having at her home but neglected to mention: a) the party was for between 60 and 80 people and b) it was paid for by companies she was responsible for regulating. 
A Department of Homeland Security border officer was fired for misuse of government property after he flew a multi-million dollar DHS helicopter to his daughter’s elementary school and landed it on school property.
And my favorite so far:
A concerned citizen contacted the Inspector General after seeing a Blackhawk helicopter parked in a field behind a restaurant. Inside, he found five service members that had stopped for lunch and were enjoying their meal with several civilians. An investigation revealed that the soldiers were on a training mission, but they had properly listed the restaurant stop in their mission plan. Since the stop was properly listed, the soldiers had not violated any regulations, but they still received verbal counseling because their actions created an appearance of impropriety.

Ask Jay!

I have commented before on Jay Carney's inability to answer questions.  Now, thanks to the folks at Yahoo! News, for the first time you can see just how this master dissembler goes about answering (or, more to the point, not answering) the various queries that have been put to him during the past few years!

Occupy 1789

The Whiskey Rebellion, or Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States in 1789, during the presidency of George Washington... 
Many residents of the western frontier petitioned against passage of the whiskey excise. When that failed, some western Pennsylvanians organized extralegal conventions to advocate repeal of the law. Opposition to the tax was particularly prevalent in four southwestern counties: Allegheny, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland... 
On August 1, about 7,000 people gathered at Braddock’s Field. This would prove to be the largest gathering of protesters. The crowd consisted primarily of poor people who owned no land. Most did not own whiskey stills. The furor over the whiskey excise had unleashed anger about other economic grievances. By this time, the victims of violence were often wealthy property owners who had no connection to the whiskey tax. Some of the most radical protesters wanted to march on Pittsburgh, which they called “Sodom”, loot the homes of the wealthy, and then burn the town to the ground.

"Mallow Mold" Menaces Maturing Marshmallows

Chanel 9 Eyewitness News reports:

Oh, my.

I had no idea that this year's marshmallow crops were in such a bad state.  This is going to be rough, not just on the farmers themselves, but also on their local economies. Marshmallow picking is labor-intensive, and there are a lot of families that depend on the seasonal harvesting work to help them make ends meet.

In the short term, the US may end up having to increase imports from Argentina to make up for the domestic marshmallow crop shortfall.  Of course, the world marshmallow market is already looking to Argentina to help make up for the near total loss of Madagascar's orange marshmallow harvest to locusts. No matter how you cut it, this is going to result in economic upheaval, both domestically and internationally.

If your family is one (like mine!) that enjoys summertime campfire s'mores, or marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes as part of your Thanksgiving meal, you may want to lay in a supply now to get you through the next few months.

Zach Hill Sings "Fearless"

Well, no, not really.

You may recall that Mr. Hill is The Minimum Wage Historian (note the capitalized "The", as he is, indeed, the ur-MWH from which all other underpaid historians are derived) .  He has a new book out - coincidentally, entitled Fearless - and I am sure that it will be snarky, entertaining and educational all at once.

Larry Correia is organizing a book bomb for Mr. Hill.  In part, this is because he's a friend, and a good writer, and entertaining as all get-out.  However, it is also because Zach recently an unexpectedly lost his job.  So if you click on the link, read the blurb, and think "Hey, this sounds interesting!" - please go ahead and get yourself a copy.  While you're at it, pick up one for your significant other, your closest friends, various family members, and that weird guy who hangs around outside the Circle K talking to himself about aliens.
Fearless: Powerful Women of History
This is an unscholarly book about the amazing women found in history. It uses humor to examine the lives of these hard core, butt-kicking women that stood up against the Man in their own way. Some used swords and others used words, but each had courage.
Now, I am pretty sure that I don't have enough Internet Clout (TM) to get Mr. Hill to actually sing "Fearless" if his sales go through the roof.  However, if enough folks buy his new book, I'm pretty sure we can get him crooning something or other, even if it's just to himself.  If we're really lucky, we could even end up with a YouTube video of him giggling hysterically and muttering "ka-CHING! ka-CHING!" over and over again.

I don't know about you, but yeah, I would find that entertaining.  So buy his book, m'kay?

But Do They Serve Spam

SAN FRANCISCO—The Haight-Ashbury district was all about peace and love until bacon entered the picture.

The trouble began in May, when this city's health department shut down a popular restaurant called Bacon Bacon after neighbors' complaints caused a permit delay. The neighbors' concern: the scent of bacon grease was blowin' in the wind.

Now bacon lovers have found out, and they're raising a stink.

Ahead of a permit hearing scheduled for Thursday, nearly 3,000 bacon advocates have signed a petition in support of Bacon Bacon. Phylis Johnson-Silk, who lives around the corner and loves the place, is making signs that say, "Bacon rules!" and "Really? You complained to the cops that you smelled bacon?"
By my count, there are three people complaining... and two of them were already looking for a way to close down the restaurant for other reasons:
But while Mr. Angelus was frying, some Haight neighbors were stewing. It was bad enough that the restaurant's patrons used neighbors' stoops for dining tables and that Mr. Angelus had a habit of parking his truck on the street, they say. 
Then one day, Ms. Nevins was outside and noticed another problem: a "strong bacon smell," she noted on a pad where she and Mr. Nevins were logging issues with the restaurant.
What could she have against bacon, really?

"A lot of people got really carried away with condemning me," Mr. Nevins says. "I used to be much more of a bacon eater," says Ms. Nevins. "But now I'm not."
Ahhhh - I see.  Want to take a bet that one or more of the complainers happen to be a particular strain of holier-than-thou ex-meat-eating 100% organic locally sourced hipster locavore vegan?

So, yeah.  There's a smell to the situation, but it ain't the bacon that stinks.

Something Fishy

... or not.
Taking omega-3 fish oil supplements may increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer by 70%
Researchers at Ohio State University, in the U.S., also found that taking the supplement was also associated with a 44 per cent greater chance of developing low-grade prostate cancer.
Ye-owch. My strict regimen of Mountain Dew infused Twinkies sprinkled with Pop Rocks is looking better and better each day.

Not that it ever looked bad, mind you...

Grizzly Hills

It may look like Brett Binns is taking pictures of his time in Alaska...

.... but it's obvious he's in Grizzly Hills.

Or maybe it's just me.

I'm A Sexy Schlepper

Since income being generated at an individual level is not a reliable indicator that work being performed, I prefer a different distinction: schlep work versus sexy work. If there is schlepping involved, it is more likely to be real work. If there are sexy elements involved, it is more likely to be conspicuous production pretending to be work... 
... when you actually poke at what people think of as creative — the broader universe around prototypical categories like fine art, rock music or programming — you realize they don’t really mean creative. They mean sexy.
There's obviously some intersection of the sexy/schlep sets - computer programming, for example.  Lots of schlep work, but the overall community is large enough and well enough connected that a developer can experience some sexy aspects, as well.

I Heart My Hamster Ball

A Guide to Understanding Introverts.

Looking at it from inside my hamster ball, it seems pretty spot-on.

You Can't Cant, Cant

Via Bruce Schneier, a pointer to an article on secret languages:
Around the year 1566, a Kentish gentleman named Thomas Harman became a literary sensation. His Caveat or Warening for Common Cursetors Vulgarely Called Vagabones offered the reader a chance to look into the world of the beggars who walked from town to town seeking alms or shelter and irritating respectable folk. Detailing the dupes and con tricks perpetrated by these vagrants, Harman pointed to a feature that set this community apart: a shared, secret language, known as Pedlars’ French, ‘an unknowne tongue to all but to these bolde beastly bawdy beggers and vaine Vagabonds, beeing halfe mingled with English when it is familiarly talked’. The thieves’ language became famous in the literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: more simply, it was known as cant.
An interesting article, though I take exception with calling these "secret languages".  These are not different languages - they're people using existing language in conjunction with domain-specific meanings to mask their communications.  But I suppose "secret language" sounds more exotic and exciting than "jargon".

Pittsburgh GPS

Comedian Tom Misial talks about getting his father a Pittsburgh GPS.

This is true.  So, so, so, very true...  the directions to the bowling alley?  Yeah.  I could definitely get you there.  "Past the crazy church on stilts", indeed.

Head 'asplode

View From The Porch: Cradle and Grave of Liberty, Part Deux...

Ten police.  Warrantless search.   Legally owned guns seized.

In the suburbs of Boston.  On Independence Day.

As every irony meter within a thousand miles explodes.

Independence Day

Teach your children well...

A child watches as a women sews a star on a United States flag, 1917. Photograph by May Smith, National Geographic. (From National Geographic | Found)

Rad Snark

Today we celebrate that time when a bunch of radical libertarians* convinced everyone to overthrow the government. 
*Plus Alexander Hamilton.
Heh :-) 

An Appropriate Name

Senator Dick Durbin thinks that the First Amendment is awesome!  Unfortunately, this brain-damaged hulk of statist refuse also thinks that some animals are more equal than others.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has penned an editorial for the Chicago Sun-Times in which he argues that journalists need some form of government-granted protection, but that the government should decide who is a real journalist and who isn't. 
Who does Dick think qualifies as a journalist?  Hint: it's not you, peon.

That would be because he's a totalitarian hack and a waste of good air.


Third Time's The Charm

Jason Everman was kicked out of two bands that went on to incredible fame. Then his life became even more interesting.
A very cool story.

Metadata IS Data

Wondering what the big deal is about phone record metadata?

Green party politician Malte Spitz sued to have German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom hand over six months of his phone data that he then made available to ZEIT ONLINE. We combined this geolocation data with information relating to his life as a politician, such as Twitter feeds, blog entries and websites, all of which is all freely available on the internet.
By pushing the play button, you will set off on a trip through Malte Spitz's life. The speed controller allows you to adjust how fast you travel, the pause button will let you stop at interesting points. In addition, a calendar at the bottom shows when he was in a particular location and can be used to jump to a specific time period. Each column corresponds to one day.
Metadata isn't some special kind of data that doesn't really mean anything.

Metadata is data.

And you can do a heck of a lot with it.

Two Steps

Mirror, Mirror

Sometimes these kinds of stories write themselves....
In a memo to the CIA workforce this week, Brennan says the "Honor the Oath," campaign is intended to "reinforce our corporate culture of secrecy" through education and training. The Associated Press obtained the memo Wednesday, marked unclassified and for official use only.
Someone in the CIA has a wicked keen sense of irony.

Citizen Bloomberg

It appears the New York City council would like to see some changes in the NYPD.
No, really?  Ostensibly, the reason is to provide oversight.  In reality, it's because Bloomberg is a power-hungry, racist, megalomaniac nut job.
Part of the NYPD's problem is Mayor Bloomberg himself. The fact that he regards the police department as both "his" and a "military organization" is indicative of his mindset. Bloomberg wants a military force policing his city and has done everything in his power to bring his own brand of martial law to NYC. For its own good, of course.
Claiming sole direction of the city police force, and describing them as a military organization?  Geez.  Only a right-wing nut job would have any problems with that.


Minions invade Facebook

Despicable Me 2 Movie
Insert an army of minions into any photo with the Instaminion Facebook app!
The possibilities for this abound - most of them tasteless.  Still...