Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shadow board

Obsessive? Perhaps. But it's worth all the trouble with the pegboard and the paint to have everything sorted, and know exactly where everything is so you can lay your hand on it right when you want it.

If only the family would learn to put things back in the right place after using them.

Wandering wombs

I remain steadfast in my conviction that there is a great deal of money to be made from the combination of Zorbing and Rebirthing therapy. It only remains to eliminate the problem of atomic agitation and interchange ensuing from the repeated impacts between the occupant and the interior of the zorb.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Human Centipede Blogging -- Nigerian Furniture edition

Just the thing for future Republican Conference chair-related psychodramas!
Blurry photographs, but the battery was failing on the camera. Rather than arse around trying for better images, in my naivete I assumed that the Ethnological Museum would have a halfway decent website where I could find better images at leisure.

Get your own pervy fertility-throne photographs, moochers.
Also too:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Turtle Haze

1. Russell's Second Conjecture, that "It's turtles all the way down", has only been demonstrated for the first 107 turtles. It has been shown to be mathematically equivalent to the Riemann Hypothesis, so if a tortoise or terrapin is found, the corollary follows that there must be a corresponding non-trivial zero of the Zeta Function with a real part ≠ ½.
Both conjectures are equivalent to Dunsany's Recursive Theology, which states that it's chess-playing gods all the way up.

2. It is estimated that at least 750 softball games around the world are disrupted  each year by leatherback turtles.

3. Turtles are clockwork entities, devised by James Blaylock as part of the backstory of The Digging Leviathan, only to be released into the environment when anti-steampunk extremists broke into his laboratory.

4. Hoan Kiem Lake in in the middle of Hanoi contains a giant softback turtle of uncertain species, recently captured with the help of the Vietnamese military who are better-trained in chelonian wrangling than any other military organisation of comparable size. It may be the last of its species. The mummified turtle kept in a shrine on Jade Island (after dying in a crowbar-related episode in 1967) was probably its mate. One day REAL SOON NOW the one in the lake will notice its bereavement and wreak a bloodthirsty vengeance. Someone should write a book.

5. Speaking of books, Mock Turtle sounds interesting and I have asked the Library Pixies to interloan a copy from the Pseudobiblic Archives.
6. Authorities do not recommend spending long periods in an aquarium gazing meditatively into a tank cultivating a mental bond with its strange slow inhabitants. Eventually there will be a transferal of consciousness and you will find yourself inside the tank staring out at your body as it exits the aquarium. This always happens. This is all very well for axolotls with their Aztec profiles, or for alien species, but it's not so much fun when you're a stomatopod.

Also you may find that you are a character in a Russell Hoban novel. Not that there's anything wrong with that (especially since Russell Hoban himself was only a character in a Dorothy Sayers novel).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Strike Lock-out of Riddled editorial cartoonists continues into third week

A commenter at Balloon Juice describes the Romney side of US presidential campaigning, in terms that call out for an illustration:
The general “campaign gone off the rails, through a housing development, and over a cliff” feel of the thing?
It is totally not "scab labour" when you ride back in the time machine and commission work from Windsor McKay.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cursed (or blessed) with an encyclopedic knowledge of ANALOG cover art from the 1970s

"an excuse to post Minotaur hentai", said Cerberus at the Sadly,Nocracy.

yes, I'm going to take this as a request.

Fire of unknown origin

Good news for the owners of ruly beards! There is a sudden fad in the world of Science for investigating facial hair -- preferably one's own -- as protection against UV radiation.*

Does this inspire the Riddled Research Laboratory to examine the efficacy of beards as protection against spontaneous human combustion and fire-starting pyrokinetics? Why yes, it evidently does, for values of "inspire" that include "giving tigris an excuse to poke AK and I with a stick until we make something up."

As shown here, the rate of a-cappella-singing-related spontaneous combustion among unbearded volunteers subjects is as high as 50%.** Conversely, the number of luxuriantly-bearded Riddled bloggers who have succumbed in this way is statistically indistinguishable from 0.

Beards are also known to have protective value against cats, mediums, and unwanted sexual attentions from nubile ladies... but not against chickens.
* Beardart from 50 Watts.
** Insert own joke about barber-shop quartets.

UPDATE: Anyone making up limericks involving 'pursuit', 'hirsute' and 'fur-suit' will incur a summary banning.

UPDATE2 (for tigris): 
Here's an image from the control experiment, in which an unbearded mannequin is exposed to anti-UV light from an anti-source.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Wonder of the Tundra #2 -- On the Permafrost

Eye-colour-based discrimination has a long and lamentable history in the US, but we thought that people had finally moved on to a general acceptance of equality. So it is SHOCKING to see a pair of Australian academics rarking up the old hatreds and prejudices. It is yet another sign of scruples being kicked to the curb in the course of increasingly cut-throat academic competition to win an IgNobel Award.
Of course there is some anecdotal evidence to support a link between blue eyes and disagreeable character.
On the other hand, here are some blue-eyed people who are so agreeable and cooperative with science-fiction illustrators that they have posed TWICE -- in the IDENTICAL POSE -- for two different books.

Disappointingly, Gardiner and Jackson have nothing to say about the personality correlates of metal-grey facetted artificial Tleilaxu eyes.
A pile of cobblers
Reading the small print of the paper, it emerges that the 'personality' side of the correlation consists of self-assessments on the five scales of the Five Factory personality model, i.e. it is a pile of cobblers. The Five-Factor model -- mentioned in previous issues of the Riddled Encyclopædia of All World Knowledge -- is a fine example of the 'looking under the streetlamp where there's more light' approach to psych research; the quantities it provides are numbers! which is more important than the fact that they mean two-thirds of SFA. There is a large investment of time, money, egos and people's careers in the FFM so it's not going to go away any time soon.

It also emerges that the authors were only able to obtain their significant association between eye-colour and personality by dividing their class sample of convenience into 'students with UK ancestry' and 'students with broader European ancestry', and leaving the latter third of the class out of the analysis. The argument went like this:

1. Blue eyes are common among Northern Europeans whose ancestors were Tundra-dwelling snowbacks and steppe-hoppers who lived up by the glaciers during the last ice age. In Frost's (2006) theory, these conditions predisposed the ladies of the day to select partners with a novel feature like blue eyes, novelty in a mate being HAWT.*

2. That inhospitable environment also selected for uncooperative personalities and selfish genes (as it were).** In Gardiner & Jackson's words,
-- though Magazine expressed it better.

3. The English population preserves that Mesolithic combination of genes, their racial purity unsullied by subsequent migrations and genetic influxes from more happy-go-lucky brown-eyed Mediterranean types. Yes, really.

A blue-eyed disagreeable reviewer might point out that this line of argument fails to link the purported genes of personality directly with those of eye colour, so the two traits might both be elevated in some population by dint of its pristine bloodline but they will vary independently... the covariance can only show up in a comparison with a different population. The theory does not predict the observations and the entire study falls apart as quickly under examination as my excuses for arriving home last night late and tired and emotional.

But the paper did introduce us to Frost (2006) as a theorist on tundra-dwelling mating strategies, and another example of Nominal Determinism in scientific career choice is always welcome.
* Here Frost was attempting to explain the diversity of eye colours among Europeans, as compared to other ethnic populations, including populations in Asia and Siberia whose ancestors survived a sojourn in equally extreme Arctic conditions and by his theory should have equally diverse eye colours.

** My first thought here was that competition and antagonism are not really survival traits in barely-habitable conditions, where cultures survive because people cooperate; they are luxuries that are only affordable in temperate resource-rich environments. A blogger over at Sciblogs thought the same way. There is probably an evo-psych explanation for why we leaped to the same response; we must be related or something.

He who lies down with dogs, will soon regret smearing himself beforehand with liver paste and peanut butter. Or so I hear from a friend

The post to go with this headline cannot be found. It appears to have taken the headline's share of the profits and left the country for a destination outside the reach of extradition treaties.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Counting on it

"As long as it is not The Shoe Box Man, it should be all right," I observed to Smut Clyde as we perused the latest notice on the "Training Courses section of Riddled Enterprises cafeteria noticeboard.
"I dunno how they get away with calling this custard" opined Smut  "damp flour is more like it. The Shoe Box Man was not one of life's educators." *
"I thought they were reasonable questions, Smut" I vouchsafed "If someone wants you to make believe that a shoe box is a computer then one is entitled to ask what kind of shoes."
"Plus whose shoes they were" he added "it stands to reason that who wore the internal components would influence the way it worked"  he said smiling fondly at the memory of the last Computer Basic course we had attended.
'Rubbish muffins at that course, this one had better be good" I said sagely.
And indeed it was, though Professors Cabbage's diffident engine was not something that one grasped how to use, immediately.

"Beautiful workmanship, Prof. Cabbage" Smut commented " with all the wheels an that".
"Yes" I opined " like a series of intersecting things in a solid thing. Like Carrot Surprise Cake"
"Ha ha" said Prof. Cabbage "But not as surprising!"
"Does it work out who owes what in a running bar tab?" asked Evangeline van Holsterin.
"I am sure that it could be programmed in such a manner" said the prof.
"Also expense accounts" I asked " since some people get all bent out of shape about them."
"Well I think it could do that " said the prof. "although it is mainly envisaged that it would be used for calculating advanced mathematical equations"
"That'd be AK's expenses all right" suggested tigris. She added hurriedly "all perfectly legitimate of course".
"You can't just wear any old lampshade at a winterstipple party" I explained.
 "It is thought that the diffident engine could be most useful in calculating fluid dynamic equations " said the prof.
The class seemed to lean closer "Like drinking?" I asked.
"No, more in terms of the complex interactions and physics of fluids" said the prof.
The class leaned back.
"Time for muffins" suggested Smut.
"I would like to apply the diffident engine to the mixing bowl of Raspberry and White Chocolate muffins" I noted as we went into the dining hall "as I always get the raspberry but no White Chocolate".
"One of life's mysteries, that" observed Smut "the proof might be in the pudding"
* Persons who recognise the Dilbert reference are advised to use their pieholes for the reason that they were so named. Also theft is homage.

They're burning witches Up on Punishment Hill

One of these passages comes from a pair of impotence-obsessed German misogynists in 1486. The other is from two days ago, from an American conservative radio propagandist with a history of emasculation issues, and indeed a complete bound set. See if you can tell which is which!

We have already shown that they can take away the male organ, not indeed by actually despoiling the human body of it, in the manner which we have already declared. And of this we shall instance a few examples. In the town of Ratisbon a certain young man who had an intrigue with a girl, wishing to leave her, lost his member; that is to say, some glamour was cast over it so that he could see or touch nothing but his smooth body. In his worry over this he went to a tavern to drink wine; and after he had sat there for a while he got into conversation with another woman who was there, and told her the cause of his sadness, explaining everything, and demonstrating in his body that it was so. The woman was astute, and asked whether he suspected anyone; and when he named such a one, unfolding the whole matter, she said: “If persuasion is not enough, you must use some violence, to induce her to restore to you your health.” [...]
Air pollution, global warming, has been shown to negatively impact penis size, say Italian researchers. I don’t buy this. I think it’s feminism. If it’s tied to the last 50 years, the average size of a member is 10% smaller in 50 years, it has to be the feminazis. I mean, the chickification, everything else.
Evidently the American Right's descent into the Dark Ages is progressing faster than even cynics had expected.* At least the two authors in 1486 were widely condemned by their peers for being an unethical bloodthirsty couple of sick fucks with heads full of maggots.

No-one has been able to trace the source of the "new Italian study on sexuality" [...] that says the average size of a penis is roughly 10 percent smaller than it was 50 years ago." Everyone sees how unlikely it is that their own country would tolerate an agency that had authority to make accurate, objective measurements of penis size over the last 50 years, but if you tell them it's in Italy, people think "Oh yeah, Italians."

The nearest thing is a pair of Italian researchers who recently gained the impression that penis size was a source of increasing anxiety among males -- perhaps having checked the contents of their e-mail spam folders -- and decided to review the literature on p3n1s enlargement methods to see what (if anything) made a difference:

* Even cynics who were asking back in May,
Am I alone in thinking that if Heinrich “Malleus” Kramer were alive today, he’d have a successful career in US politics?
BONUS Malleus Maleficarium news:
The stage version of the Malleus was described as "the second worst West End musical of all time".

Some blogs are tasteless, and would sensationalise this scene with an animated gif or such as. At Riddled we have more class than that.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Party of Record

Winterstippling time has been and gone and the after match function went well.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I dial it in and tune the station They talk about the US inflation I understand just a little No comprende -- it's a riddle

How many other blogs offer you not one, not two, but three Luchador masks for drag-&-dropping your Mexican-wannbee dress-up Mitt Romney? None other blogs.

Must credit John Protevi in comments at LGM.

On other news, the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre is divided over the question of whether wrestlers with prosthetic arms would be beneficial to the sport or otherwise.

Out of the cradle endlessly rocking

How many other blogs offer you Nyancat-Centipedes? None many other blogs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A happy baby performing gymnastics in utero *

* Description courtesy of the cataloger at NOAA.
The University of Iowa Library also has a copy.

It is never too early to begin the training in calisthenics and rhythmic gymnastics, if your child is to have a decent chance competing in the Olympics. More and more parents are resorting to intrauterine education in order to gain an edge on the opposition. Here is a lady introducing her unborn octuplets to contemporary hoop technique.

See how well it has worked!

In contrast, here are the Sigismund Sextuplets who set out to acquire hula-hoop skills in their mid-teens... despite years of intensive practice they are still not clear on the concept.

But wait, there's more!

The prospect of "monetising one's blog" flies way above our heads at Riddled, simple farming people that we are, uncomfortable with anything more abstract than a mangel-wurzel or a milking machine (one soon learns to tell the two apart in an agrarian economy). But the notion -- explained to us slowly and repeatedly by Evangeline van Holsterin, H.B.a.t.O.E. -- is to host advertisements; ideally ones that are tailored to the unique profile of the blog's readers, and to the search terms that attract them.

In the case of Riddled this would mean webvertisements about "anthropomorphic monocle", "18th century cannon", "mister twister - buttplug", "tattoo microsoft office" and that perennial favourite, "tits gore".

One day we might learn how to do this... some time after we have worked out the intricacies of customising the settings on the Windoze task-bar. But until then, whenever noxious or eye-injurious graphics pop up to shatter your concentration, rest assured that we put them there on purpose.

It has further been explained to me -- with diagrams scribbled on the backs of beer mats, and on the table-top with spilt beer, and on the back of my head with the flat of a hand -- that there is a vibrant ecology of spurious websites trying to cash in, using content scraped elsewhere on the Interducts to attract randomly-Googling readership as an audience for the webvertisements .

Then there is TrafficPaymaster, software emanating from one Grant Shapps, which automates the process of generating spam websites -- with the special feature of rewording the stolen material through a thesaurus word-replacement process. The resulting content reads like assembly instructions translated from Mongolian, but of course coherence is not the point... the webpages only have to fool a search engine for long enough to direct readers thither, however briefly they stay. Let anyone suggest that similar software is involved in Riddled posts and the Banhammer will fall from Heaven like the quality of Mercy, equally unstrained, but heavier.

But Mr Shapps is not personally using his software. Instead he sells it to other people, offering them the once-in-a-lunchtime opportunity to make a fortune rorting the Interlattice for webvertising windfalls. It is the classic get-rich-quick scam. Not only does it appeal to the greed and stupidity of the rubes (relying on their failure to ask themselves, "If this package is so lucrative then why is he selling it to us?"), but it adds the allure of exclusivity (for the windfalls would dry up if everyone were busy polluting the intermesh with spamsites).

Even the income from charging TrafficPaymaster customers a £313 stupidity tax was not enough for Mr Shapps so he has gone seeking new fields of dimwitted cupidity to exploit. With such success that the English Conservative Party have appointed him Minister of Housing, and now their new co-Chairman.
Feel the synergy! He can use TrafficPaymaster to write the Party Manifesto!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"I thought you said you could just read his brain electronically." "Oh yes,but we'd have to get it out first." "It's got to be prepared." "Treated."


Colleagues have been telling me that the vogue has peaked and ebbed for Zombie / Classic-literature mash-ups. "Piffle!" I have been responding, among other dismissive expressions of disbelief, including "Calenture fritillary hatstand!" and "Well cover me in peanut butter and throw me to the labradors!" which is totally not a literal request. Without further ado:

The Tale of Two Zombie Mice.
Zombie Tom Thumb set to work at once to carve the brain. It was a beautiful shiny yellow, streaked with red. The knife crumpled up and hurt him; he put his finger in his mouth.

"It is not thawed enough; it is hard. You have a try, Zombie Hunca Munca."

Then Zombie Tom Thumb lost his temper. He put the brain in the middle of the floor, and hit it with the tongs and with the shovel — bang, bang, smash, smash!
Zombie mice are irate because they went to the trouble of breaking into the rodent brain-bank expecting nommable brains frozen for later revival -- or at the least, pickled in alcohol -- but instead they have been plastinated.

This is apparently the wave of the future for post-mortem cerebral preservation. Instead of a tank of liquid nitrogen at the Cryonics Institute, all the cool kids are opting for immediate perfusion of their severed heads with glutaraldehyde ("a kind of advanced embalming process"), then impregnation with osmium tetroxide, followed by Gunter-von-Hagen style plastination. This preserves the sensitivity settings of every neuron and the rich neuron-to-neuron connectivity to be recorded and uploaded at leisure and emulated in software.* The "recording" phase involves slicing and scanning the plastic brain in a micro nanotome, but what could possibly go wrong?
Today, the Brain Preservation Foundation is running a prize competition to demonstrate that the connectome** is perfectly preserved using both chemo and cryopreservation techniques, in mice, rabbit, and pig brains.
The advantage of starting with mice is that when an emulated consciousness escapes from the confines of its private virtual reality and roams freely through the broader software environment of the computer housing it -- this always happens, it must be a tradition or an old charter or something -- it can be traced and contacted by luring it with the simulated smell of cheese.

Cordwainer Smith is VINDICATED:
"If it's frozen," said the first technician, "we won't be able to put in the computer. It will have to go forward with with emergency stores."

"This brain isn't frozen," said Tiga-belas indignantly. "It's been laminated. We stiffened it with celluprime and then we veneered it down, about seven thousand layers. Each one has plastic of at least two molecules thickness. This mouse can't spoil. As a matter of fact, this mouse is going to keep on thinking forever. He won't think much, unless we put the voltage on him, but he'll think. And he can't spoil. This is ceramic plastic, and it would take a major weapon to break it."
* The well-intentioned people at the Brain Preservation Foundation appear to be computer engineers rather than neuroscientists and thus they have seriously underestimated the difficulty of the task, such as has NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE in the history of Artificial Intelligence. They seem to be under the impression that neurons and their axon-dendrite intertweaking are all that matter in cerebral activity, with glial cells there only as invisible graduate students support staff... there may be a few surprises in store about the connectivity of astroglial cells.

** PZ Myers elsewhere bemoans the fashion for using '-ome' and '-omics' to coin new names for scientific specialities (not to mention the inevitable journals). I agree that 'connectomic', 'synaptomic' and 'epigenomic' together bring us that much closer to Omicgeddon.