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Tag: "nonsense"

Funny Because it’s Funny, Funny Because it’s True…

[ 0 ] March 12, 2010 |

The tragic return of Jay Leno, dramatized.


Does "to Rob" Require Some Kind of Physical Coercion?

[ 0 ] February 22, 2010 |

Doesn’t this imply that I should have become a burglar, or at least a stick-up artist?

I recently came across a psychological study showing that Americans tend to choose careers whose labels resemble their names. Thus the name Dennis is statistically overrepresented among dentists, and the ranks of geoscientists contain disproportionately high numbers of Georges and Geoffreys. The study ascribed these phenomena to “implicit egotism”: the “generally positive feelings” that people have about their own names. I wonder whether some of the Dennises in dentistry school ended up there by a different motivation: the secret wish to bring arbitrary language in tune with physical reality.

Return of the Vampires

[ 0 ] January 9, 2010 |

Every spring, Patterson runs a policy simulation designed to illustrate the difficulty of operating an organization in the context of asymmetric and limited information. Every fall, I run a two hour mini-simulation designed to give students a sense of how the larger simulation will play out. In my first year, I did zombies; the year after was the aftermath of Independence Day, and last year I asked our 35 first year graduate students to develop a strategy for containing or killing Godzilla. Since vampires seem to be in the news lately, this year I chose a vampire oriented scenario.

The scenario was broadly organized around the motivating concept of True Blood; vampires, in existence throughout human history, reveal themselves and demand civil recognition. With vampires the devil is always in the details, so I gave them the following characteristics:

  • Sun Sensitivity: Able to move about during day, but direct sunlight kills in short time frame (15 seconds)
  • Some shape-shifting ability; some vampires capable of turning into wolves, bats, while others lack such capability
  • Coffins: Not necessary, but typical
  • Human blood: Human blood is most nutritious, but mammal blood will do in a pinch
  • Fangs: Retractable
  • Super strength: Well in excess of human norms of endurance and physical strength
  • Vulnerabilities: Cross and other religious paraphernalia have no effect; wooden stake kills, incineration kills, silver injures. No effect from garlic, running water, etc.
  • Propagation: Vampires have to intentionally create additional vampires by force feeding “candidate” victims
  • Lifespan: Spans centuries, at least

Again, with a couple of exceptions these are broadly similar to the vampires in True Blood. I also gave the vampires a transnational governance structure of generally feudal character. I estimated the total numbers of world vampires at around 15 million, with a US population of just under a million.

I divided the students into the following groups:

  • Department of Justice
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of State
  • Department of Health and Human Services

Each group was tasked with developing an organizational response to the imminent public declaration of the existence of vampires. I gave each group a few general questions, then set them lose. CIA and DoD each received a bit of additional information. CIA had been aware of the existence of vampires essentially from the point of its founding, as had most major foreign intelligence organizations. The CIA even employed vampiric agents from time to time; a CIA vampire killed Salvador Allende. DoD’s relationship was even longer and more extensive. In its previous incarnations as the Departments of War and Navy, the US military had employed vampires since the Civil War. In World War II, an entire brigade sized unit was created, although it was mainly concerned with responding to the activities of German and Japanese vampires. I also indicated that many analysts believed that Osama Bin Laden was a vampire, and that Al Qaeda seemed comfortable with the use of vampiric agents.

Here are the highlights of what they came up with in the two hour window:

Department of Justice

  • Prioritize vampire-specific policies. When crafting initial vampire policy, reducing risk to humans must take precedence over the granting of equal protection to vampires.
  • Define vampire’s legal status. If the President desires full vampire inclusion in the human population, they must be granted equal protection under the law.
  • Review U.S. laws to make them species neutral, as far as possible.
  • Strengthen criminal statutes that address crimes likely to be associated with vampire behavior, including feeding and conversion. Also, create human-on-vampire hate crimes.
  • Amnesty for past crimes and legal food supply based on self-identification within a specified time frame.
  • Create and fund a new interagency entity headed by the Department of Justice to deal with vampire registration, identification and criminal enforcement, and distribution of vampire food.
  • Liaise with Interpol regarding transnational vampire threats.

Department of Defense

  • Upon legal recognition of the U.S. vampire population, the DoD has determine that a policy of further R&D should be pursued in regards to vampire defense and technology associate with vampire capabilities.
  • The increased integration of vampires into the armed forces brings up the issue of special training for both vampire and human troops. The DoD proposes to keep vampire units separate from human units.
  • A Global Conference on the Special Needs of Vampires is recommended to address international security issues, specifically a Convention on the Use of Vampires in Combat (CUVC).
  • Vampires are vital assets to the DoD. While vampires do have some limitations such as ability to withstand direct sunlight, their superhuman strength and longevity make them very valuable. Currently, US Armed Forces include three thousand of the one million U.S. vampires; this number should be bolstered through a voluntary conversion program.
  • With Osama bin Laden as a suspected vampire, other terrorists and terrorist groups may also be assumed to be vampires, given the inherent tactical advantages of converting a small force to vampires. Therefore there is an urgent necessity to create additional Special Forces units in the military to combat these insurgents wherever they may operate.
  • The DoD foresees civilian and military concerns about maintaining a sustainable, non-threatening ratio of vampire to human soldiers. The Department of Defense proposes a thorough internal review of the roles and positions of current vampire soldiers, past incidents of vampire misconduct, and the threat of defecting vampire units.
  • The increased vampire presence in the U.S. military presents logistical concerns that must be addressed by the DoD. Vampires have been previously granted Veteran’s Benefits after the traditional twenty years service. Instead, the required length of service should be adjusted in proportion to the longer vampire life span of several centuries.


  • All vampire citizens must be required to register and carry identification so that FBI agents will be able to determine the difference between a vampire and a human. The FBI proposes to maintain a database of all vampire citizens that can be checked in the event of suspicious activity involving superhuman strength.
  • Vampire agents must be recruited to work within the Bureau to assist in infiltrating organized vampire crime groups.
  • Current tools such as handguns, steel handcuffs, and bullet proof vests will not be appropriate weapons in dealing with vampire criminals. The FBI must integrate silver handcuffs that resist shape-shifting, be armed with wooden stakes and bows and arrows, and trained in archery.
  • Underreporting of crimes related to blood sucking poses a threat to the FBI and to American citizens. The FBI will need to adapt our intelligence collecting methods to detect when humans change into vampires unwillingly by vampire attack. In the event of such attacks, the FBI must ensure that the vampire database is updated with new members of the species for both the protection of FBI agents as well as American citizens.


  • The most alarming threat from vampires is the potential for infiltration into the United States government, and their unique application in covert operations in the United States and abroad, especially as vampires retain the allegiances of their former lives.
  • CIA’s primary policy proposal focuses on the recruitment of unaffiliated vampires in an effort to check the influence of transnational vampire organizations. Efforts for this policy should focus on emphasizing vampire identification and vampire tracking with the United States.
  • If the DOJ supports interrogation efforts for vampires, a new interrogation manual needs to be created that includes techniques including UV rays and liquid silver-boarding for coercing information out of vampires that relates to US national security.
  • Vampiric individuals provide opportunities to enhance current counterintelligence efforts. Efforts to incorporate and assimilate vampiric individuals in a counterintelligence sphere should be coordinated with intelligence services worldwide who hold similar interests with CIA and the United States. Their physical characteristics allow for new levels and new methods of data collection in clandestine operations.


  • There are millions of vampire attacks on humans and animals yearly, many of which are fatal. This poses a different degree of terrorist threat. The Department of Homeland Security recommends a continued threat level of “High” (orange) as pertaining to vampire attacks.
  • The fear that the anticipated public vampiric announcement could incite in the United States population at large is a threat to homeland security generally in the risk mass hysteria poses. A more specific aspect of the threat is the probability that a marginalized population poses in the fight on terrorism. If the larger population fears Vamperic-Americans, this marginalized population will become a prime recruiting base for terrorism. This potential threat should be addressed with a public awareness campaign.
  • Given the large number of annual vampire-caused attacks, the Department of Homeland Security proposes the implementation of a microchip identification system. Current vampiric American citizens will be encouraged to voluntarily give up violent behavior and participate in the program to ensure their compliance.
  • Given the fact that there are approximately 15 million vampires worldwide and only 1 million in the U.S., it is reasonable to assume that some vampires will seek to immigrate to a country in which they will enjoy full citizenship. The DHS will direct Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to implement the microchip identification system on a mandatory basis for all vampires entering the United States.


  • Vampires will not fit within current human-oriented health administrative codes and regulations because, should they be granted full citizenship, they will have access to the national health care system. Their particular strength, lifespan, and sustenance needs would not fit into normal codes, and new ones must be developed, separate from human regulations to account for vampires’ unique condition. Medicare regulations will have to be severely restricted to vampires, as their life span is known to be far longer than average unaffiliated humans. Medicaid will also require adjustments, as human diseases afflict vampires to a far lesser extent.
  • In order to avoid any violent public backlash or outcry against vampires, the Department of Health and Human Services will publish an education campaign to inform the public about the honest intent of the vampire population to openly acculturate. The medical community will receive education on how to treat vampires, how to treat unwilling participants in vampirism, and will receive educational literature for public diffusion on what vampirism is and how it affects the body both positively and negatively.
  • In order to protect the US human population from becoming an unwilling food source to vampires, Health and Human Services will provide policy for the distribution and sale of human and animal blood to support the nutritional needs of the vampire population.
  • It is recommended that grants and funding be provided for the essential task of medical research into vampirism and related health concerns. Currently there is no known cure or treatment for vampirism. Research must be done into potential vaccines and cures for vampirism in order to assure the general public that options are available if accidental contraction occurs.

I can’t find State’s response, although as I recall it involved the potential for a separate state solution to the vampire problem. Also, several of the organization expressed concern over the extension of social services to vampires; Social Security, military and civil service promotion and retirement, and other program would have to be substantially changed.

Altogether, it was a very professional and carefully considered set of responses to an absurd question.

Hope That There’s No Confrontration in Crimea…

[ 0 ] December 19, 2009 |

I don’t understand how I had missed this:

H/t Chet.

English to Gibberish Translator

[ 3 ] December 18, 2009 |

This is just creepy:

There’s a bathroom on the right

[ 0 ] November 25, 2009 |

A few years ago I ran into the concept of a mondegreen, which is usually defined as a mis-heard line in a song. The most commonly cited examples include “there’s a bathroom on the right,” as a mis-hearing of CCR’s “there’s a bad moon on the rise” and “s’cuse me while I kiss this guy” rather than Jimi Hendrix’s original “s’cuse me while I kiss the sky.”

Thanks to the wonders of wikipedia, I’ve learned that the original definition, formulated by Sylvia Wright, is actually narrower and more interesting: “The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original“.

It doesn’t seem to me that either of the common examples given above qualify. I humbly submit the following as instances from from my own personal history of mis-hearing song lyrics:

Rod Stewart, Maggie Mae:

I suppose I could collect my books and go back to school
Or steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool.

The correct lyric is “fool.” “Pool” deploys a clever pun, and a much more arresting image of the feckless yet suddenly intriguing father.

[Correction: Jim in comments points out that in fact “pool” is the real lyric, and that my subsequent interpretation is the actual mondogreen, except it wouldn’t be one by the original definition. As Emily Litella used to say . . . never mind].

Speaking of which, The Kinks, Father Christmas:

When I was small I believed in Santa
Though I knew there was no dad.

Instead of the canonical “though I knew it was my dad.” The mis-hearing adds a level of wistful pathos to the proceedings.

Next up, Neil Young, Helpless:

There is a town in north Ontario
With dream comfort memory to spare

The correct line is “With dream comfort memory despair.”

I’m of two minds about this one, as the correct version is more disturbingly surreal, while the mis-hearing has a certain homey charm.

Anyway, I like Wright’s original definition much more than the contemporary (mis)understanding of what she had in mind, which is rather ironic as Alanis Morrisette did not observe.

The Christian Values Spokeswoman Competition

[ 0 ] November 20, 2009 |

I’m assuming that she failed to fulfill all of the duties of the position at the high standard demanded by the National Organization for Marriage, and that the crown will now pass to the first runner-up…

…to be clear, I value this more as an occasion for mocking NOM, and of the various conservative organizations and pundits that undertook the lionization of Ms. Prejean, than of criticizing Prejean personally. I think that she deserves some opprobrium for embracing the most hateful groups in our society, but I also think that she’s been dealt a difficult and unfair hand.

But She Has 8 ranks in the "Bluff" Skill…

[ 0 ] November 18, 2009 |

This comment from Dave’s thread (also appearing here) deserves the full blog treatment:

First let me say, great blog! Second, let me say I wish I had read it first before buying this book.

I stood in line to get my copy of this book from the local bookstore fearing it might be sold out early. Hot chick on the cover, so far so good. Then I opened it and started reading.

To my chagrin it didn’t start out well. I thought well at some point this has to get better. But guess what it doesn’t! There’s nothing at all about dex rolls, dps builds, searching for traps, sneak attacks, assassins, +4 daggers or anything!

All it is some woman whining about how everyone in her party wouldn’t let her make any decisions, about how something called a Couric made her look like a complete idiot (I couldn’t find it in the monster manual but, I’m guessing it must be like a Sphinx), and how her group leader McCain wouldn’t let her be rogue enough.

Well, I don’t even know where to start addressing this stuff. She doesn’t even have any daggers! I mean, that’s hardly the group leader’s fault! She should have loaded out before the quest started!

Plus, on every single page she bemoans her 8 INT build and blames her horrible playing on everyone else! It’s her fault for putting all her stat points into Charisma!

To sum up, this book is terrible. It’s anti-rogue if anything. If you want a book on how not to be a rogue this has got to be the bible.

I’m going back to the store now to see if I can get my hard earned cash back for this awful drek.

What a rip-off!

[ 0 ] November 12, 2009 |

Though I’ve been unable to score H1N1 shots for my two small children — a situation that has caused me no end of frustration — I somehow managed to find a pharmacy in town willing to offer me the vaccine this afternoon. Sadly, they only had FluMist available, so I wasn’t able to get my long-anticipated dose of thimerosal. Argh! It’s been a couple of weeks since I got me seasonal flu shot, and my body is absolutely craving the shit. Anyone out there holding?

….Praise be! Thank you, intertubes!


[ 0 ] November 9, 2009 |

Lesson of the day: Things are always fine if you’re a white male with a college degree, age 25-44. I suspect that if it had asked how many college degrees I have, the unemployment rate would have gone up…

You Think the NSF is Immune to Twilight? Think Again…

[ 0 ] September 16, 2009 |

This is amusing enough, but rather past expiration date; I’ve been including sexy teenage vampires in all of my grant proposals for years now.

Who Would Win in a Fight?

[ 0 ] September 10, 2009 |

Gil Grissom vs. Jessica Fletcher?*

*Infant care=too much daytime teevee=stupid questions

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