Archive for December, 2010

Dallas preacher steals Christmas

December 28, 2010

Sandra McGriff is this pastor who, it looks like got busted for burglary. I say it looks that way because the police records say that the person arrested was named Kathy Robinson, but McGriff’s brother-in-law Weldon claims it was her. So either it’s McGriff and she was carrying someone else’s ID or this is all some holiday prank gone horribly wrong. Or right.

She also said that McGriff had called her to talk about an hour before the burglary was reported. During that conversation, Agnew told McGriff she was away from home visiting her daughter.

PROTIP: Don’t do this. If you’re going to rob someone, find out when they’ll be away from home using their status on the Facesbooks.

After McGriff was treated for the injured arm, officers struggled to arrest her. She slipped out of one set of handcuffs and resisted being restrained.
She slipped a second set of handcuffs off while waiting in a police car, and kicked and tried to scratch officers as they again restrained her.

PROTIP: DO do this if you are arrested, if only for the sake of awesomeness.

Essentially this woman is being charged for taking too many shortcuts in her job. If you want to take your parishoners’ belongings (yeah, the person she robbed went to her church, which is called the Church of the Living God), you have to convince them to give them to you by “tithing.”

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Happy Jesusday

December 24, 2010

So here is the Christmas Truce letter describing an interesting event during WW I, interspersed with inappropriate videos and pictures. Enjoy.

Christmas Day in the trenches, 1914

Anonymous

 

“This will be the most memorable Christmas I’ve ever spent or likely to spend: since about tea time yesterday I don’t think theres been a shot fired on either side up to now. Last night turned a very clear frost moonlight night, so soon after dusk we had some decent fires going and had a few carols and songs. The Germans commenced by placing lights all along the edge of their trenches and coming over to us – wishing us a Happy Christmas etc. They also gave us a few songs etc. so we had quite a social party. Several of them can speak English very well so we had a few conversations. Some of our chaps went to over to their lines. I think theyve all come back bar one from ‘E’ Co. They no doubt kept him as a souvenir. In spite of our fires etc. it was terribly cold and a job to sleep between look out duties, which are two hours in every six.

First thing this morning it was very foggy. So we stood to arms a little longer than usual. A few of us that were lucky could go to Holy Communion early this morning. It was celebrated in a ruined farm about 500 yds behind us. I unfortunately couldnt go. There must be something in the spirit of Christmas as to day we are all on top of our trenches running about. Whereas other days we have to keep our heads well down. We had breakfast about 8.0 which went down alright especially some cocoa we made. We also had some of the post this morning. I had a parcel from B. G’s Lace Dept containing a sweater, smokes, under clothes etc. We also had a card from the Queen, which I am sending back to you to look after please. After breakfast we had a game of football at the back of our trenches! We’ve had a few Germans over to see us this morning. They also sent a party over to bury a sniper we shot in the week. He was about a 100 yds from our trench. A few of our fellows went out and helped to bury him.

About 10.30 we had a short church parade the morning service etc. held in the trench. How we did sing. –
‘O come all ye faithful. And While shepherds watched their flocks by night’ were the hymns we had. At present we are cooking our Christmas Dinner! so will finish this letter later.

Dinner is over! and well we enjoyed it. Our dinner party started off with fried bacon and dip-bread: followed by hot Xmas Pudding. I had a mascot in my piece. Next item on the menu was muscatels and almonds, oranges, bananas, chocolate etc followed by cocoa and smokes. You can guess we thought of the dinners at home.

Just before dinner I had the pleasure of shaking hands with several Germans: a party of them came 1/2way over to us so several of us went out to them. I exchanged one of my balaclavas for a hat. I’ve also got a button off one of their tunics. We also exchanged smokes etc. and had a decent chat. They say they won’t fire tomorrow if we don’t so I suppose we shall get a bit of a holiday – perhaps. After exchanging autographs and them wishing us a Happy New Year we departed and came back and had our dinner.

We can hardly believe that we’ve been firing at them for the last week or two – it all seems so strange. At present its freezing hard and everything is covered with ice…”.

Near the end of the letter the writer tells his mother, “As I can’t explain to everyone how I spent my 25th – you might hand this round please”.

The letter ends: “There are plenty of huge shell holes in front of our trenches, also pieces of shrapnel to be found. I never expected to shake hands with Germans between the firing lines on Christmas Day and I don’t suppose you thought of us doing so. So after a fashion we’ve enjoyed? our Christmas.

Hoping you spend a happy time also George Boy as well. How we thought of England during the day.

Kind regards to all the neighbours.

Jesus gets an IQ test

December 23, 2010

The Annals of Improbable Research (the people who do the Ig Nobel Awards) were apparently browsing the Angelfire archives and stumbled across this guy who has calculated Jesus’ IQ, and it’s 300! Or maybe 450. It’s somewhere between those two, and this Bob person gives his calculations a little more wiggle room by qualifying them as “within this author’s ability to reasonably measure.”

And it’s a good thing Bob made sure he limited his Jesus IQ test to what’s within reason. You wouldn’t want irresponsible people to measure Jesus’ IQ in an unreasonable way. Sure, maybe there’s no evidence Jesus even knew how to read or write and maybe all of the main historical data on Jesus was second or third hand hearsay written by mostly anonymous sources who use a lot of mythical elements in their contradicting accounts of Jesus, but it’s important to stay within the bounds of reason, for example by claiming he had an IQ of around 400.

Festivus for the rest of us

December 23, 2010

Teabaggers say more stupid things

December 22, 2010

The Tea Party Nation is one of those groups of mouth-breathers who like to rant about politics. And now their leader, after causing some controversy by suggesting only property owners should be eligible to vote, is attacking the Methodist Church. This is very weird because theologically, they’re about as middle of the road as it’s possible to be. But this Judson Phillips person isn’t going after them for being too moderate. It’s because they are… (wait for it) socialist! From the weblog-thingie:

Reading the Methodist social justice manifesto is like reading a socialist wish list. They want amnesty, they want “economic justice”, they opposed “global climate change” (earth to the Methodists, man isn’t doing it), fighting global poverty (here is another hint, most poverty is caused by a lack of freedom and lack of a free enterprise system).  Not shockingly, the Methodists side with the Islamists against Israel, and of course oppose America in Iraq.
In short, if you hate America, you have a great future in the Methodist church.

You could go an investigate each of Phillips’ spurious claims here, but here’s an easy shortcut: The last president, that George W what’shisname guy, remember him? Yeah, he was and still is a member of the United Methodist Church.

Killing Santa for God in Amarillo

December 22, 2010

Repent Amarillo is this Christian quasi-militia group which became famous when they started trolling swingers’ club patrons a few months ago. Now they have moved on to more serious matters, which of course means they made these awesome sweatshirts and wore them while executing Santa Claus in effigy.

The very serious man in this video reads out the list of crimes Santa has committed. The first one’s idolatry – obvious, really, because of all those people who worship him. And the second one is that he lies by claiming that he actually exists. But how can he do the lying without existing? And how can you execute someone who doesn’t exist? Isn’t Repent Amarillo buying into the lie of Santa Claus existing by executing him? After all, you need to exist first before you can be executed. As Rene Descartes put it in Discourse on the Method:

This proposition, I think, therefore I am, is the first and the most certain which presents itself to whomever conducts his thoughts in order. The runner-up is, Then I get executed by a freelance Texan firing squad.

So then this distinguished gentleman calls Santa out for not having a soul and then says something about global warming.

I’m no expert on firing squads, but I was under the impression that they usually don’t 1. have their guns aimed for them by leveling them on a rack, 2. have the target only a few feet away 3. wear pretty pink earmuffs, and 4. hilariously mispronounce coup de grace.

Stuff

December 20, 2010

  • Matt Taibbi: Bernie Sanders puts Barack Obama to shame
  • Ben Goldacre: The Year in Nonsense
  • Boston Globe: Part 2 & 3 of the Big Picture Year in Photos
  • Armas Pal Pueblo: Daft Punk-o-matic
  • Cracked: 4 Bad Lessons ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’ Teaches Kids

Christmas with Gwar!

December 20, 2010

Racists to boycott Thor movie

December 16, 2010

The Council of Conservative Citizens is this white supremacist group which still exists, and they’re very angry about this movie:

… because there’s a BLACK GUY in it. From Digital Spy:

“It’s not enough that Marvel attacks conservatives values, now mythological Gods must be re-invented with black skin,” a post on the site reads.
“It seems that Marvel Studios believes that white people should have nothing that is unique to themselves. An upcoming movie, based on the comic book Thor, will give the Aesir an insulting multicultural makeover. One of the Gods will be played by Hip Hop DJ Elba.”

It should be noted that the CCC was also very angry at Robert Rodriguez for his movie Machete. The silver lining here I guess is that groups like this have been reduced to whining about movies which they don’t like, Bill Donahue-style. But anyway, who knew that a backwoods group of whiny loons like these guys would know enough to distinguish Marvel from DC?

Killing for God in Pakistan

December 15, 2010

Naushad Valiyani, a doctor in Pakistan, is being held on blasphemy charges. Usually these kinds of charges are used for some nonreligious reason, similar to how sex and drug charges can be used to target political dissidennts in the West, and this case is not an exception to that rule. From The Independent:

The case began when Muhammad Faizan, a pharmaceutical representative, gave Mr Valiyani his business card. When the doctor threw it away, Mr Faizan filed a complaint, noting that his name was the same as the Prophet’s.

Wow, and we thought “Big Pharma” in America was bad. At least they’re not trying to get doctors killed for ignoring their sales pitches.

According to the source of all knowledge, Pakistani law makes blasphemy a crime punishable by death and a fine. They’re probably just trying to cover the cost of the bullet.

Similar:

Misleading headline of the day

December 15, 2010

As a lefty commie pinko peacenik, I was encouraged by this headline (“Air Force Is Through With Predator Drones”) of Spencer Ackerman’s post on Wired‘s Danger Room blog. Great! Now maybe we’ll stop doing counterproductive shit like bombing funerals in Pakistan because there might be a terrorist there – which would then set off an infinite regress of “terrorist funeral” drone bombings until everyone in the region is too afraid to ever go to another funeral again.

Then I read the lede.

Wave a tear-stained handkerchief for the drone that changed the face of air war: The Air Force won’t buy any more Predators.

Oh, so they’re just going to stop buying them. Well, that just means that we’ll stop using drones after the ones which have been purchased are worn out or destroyed, right? Here’s the next sentence in Ackerman’s post:

The Reaper drone is about to be in full effect.

Oh I see what you did there. In the same way that people refer to photocopies as Xeroxes® or to tissues as Kleenex®, I had thought of Predator® drone as a generic term for all drones instead of a brand name. So now we’ve got the Reaper®, and next will be something called the Avenger®.

Apparently the Predator, despite its name, wasn’t designed to carry weapons. Those capabilities weren’t added on until afterwards. But the Reaper and presumably the Avenger too, definitely are. And now lots of other countries are all like how I am with this.

Stuff

December 15, 2010

The proof: Top 40 pop music = fascism

  • Scientific American: Michael Shermer on conspiracy theories
  • Slate: Christopher Hitchens on the Nixon/Kissinger tapes
  • Big Picture: 2010 in photos (part 1 of 3)
  • Neatorama: Canadian couple alters car so they can take their pet bison to the bar
  • NY Times: A Bayesian Take on Julian Assange
  • Wired Science: Massive Volcanism May Have Caused Biggest Extinction Ever

REPOST: Monkey Music

December 15, 2010

A few years ago, perceptual scientist Josh McDermott of MIT and Harvard evolutionary psychologist Marc D. Hauser published a study (and here’s a laymen’s report on the report – YO DAWG I HERD U LIKE REPORTS) which dealt with the origins of music. From the abstract:

We claim that theories of the origins of music will be usefully constrained if we can determine which aspects of music perception are innate, and, of those, which are uniquely human and specific to music… Our research suggests that many rudimentary acoustic preferences, such as those for consonant over dissonant intervals, may be unique to humans.

And, of course, being scientists, they tested this hypothesis by trapping marmoset monkeys in a maze and blaring music at them. First the two ends of the maze were set up so that speakers were playing a Russian lullaby at one end and “German techno” (I heard it, it was actually jungle/drum n’ bass) at the other. And this time, the monkeys congregated near the Russian lullaby.

The next time, a control group of sorts was set up so that the German techno was replaced with no music at all. And given that choice between the Russian lullaby and nothing, the monkeys gathered near the silent speaker. So the tenative conclusion was that music is more innately a human phenomenon and that we could be uniquely hard-wired towards liking music in a way that other primates are not. This made me sad for some irrational reason. It would be cool if monkeys liked music.

But this study, like most good ones, really raised more new questions than it did answer old ones. So, for example, the monkeys used in the experiment were marmosets, or “New World monkeys,” which are more distantly related to us than, say, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas. The common ancestor we share with marmosets lived around 44 million years ago, and the common ancestor we share with both chimpanzees and bonobos lived only around 5-7 million years ago. So it could be that a predisposition to music is something which arose after our branch of the evolutionary tree forked away from the marmosets- somewhere between 44 and 5 million years ago. Or, it could be that (and this is where we finally get to something new) McDermott and Hauser just weren’t using the right kind of music in their studies.

In a study in the new issue of Biology Letters, which just came out yesterday and is not yet online (although you can read reports on the study from Science News, Science Daily, and Scientific American), University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor Charles Snowdon teamed up with composer/cellist David Teie of the University of Maryland to run an experiment similar to the 2006 McDermott/Hauser study with an important twist. Instead of playing ordinary music, Teie created a musical composition for cello and vocals based on the tamarin calls, which is the animal on which they were experimenting. For the sake of being pedantic, the common ancestor we share with tamarins lived around the same time as the one we share with marmoset monkeys (38-49 million years ago), so this is pretty close to being a standardized test relative to the earlier one.

And the tamarins liked their custom-made music. They apparently were much calmer and groomed each other more. Snowdon says this kind of music should be used in zoos to give the monkeys a better quality of life in captivity. But that could be bad for business for the zoos, since said music is incredibly annoying to us. Don’t take my word for it though, you can listen to it at the Science News link in the above paragraph.

DJing for the FUTURE

December 15, 2010

OMG THIS IS SO COOL I WANT ONE WANT WANT WANT

Note for readers who happen to be eccentric and/or deranged millionaires: My birthday is December 29.

Jeremy Marks

December 14, 2010

Jeremy Marks is a Los Angeles high school special education student who’s been caught up in the criminal justice system. Originally he was offered to plead guilty on charges which would land him 7 years in a prison, and more recently he’s been offered a plea deal which included “attempted lynching” and would cost him just under 3 years in prison. He has been in jail for the past 7 months awaiting his day in court as his family is too poor to afford the bail set.

Here’s what happened: Marks was at a bus stop outside of a McDonald’s when a school police officer confronted another student for smoking. Based on the police report, eyewitnesses reports, and sworn testimonies (outlined in an write-up in the LA Weekly, which weirdly enough seems to be the only major news organization covering this), the cop seems to have lost her shit and smashed the kid’s head into a window until it broke. The window, that is.

Here’s part of the testimony of Los Angeles Unified School District campus police officer Erin Robles:

It was getting very, very wild.

OK, hold it right there. What do you think of when you think of something “very, very wild?” I have a few ideas, but describing them would probably violate some of WordPress’ Terms of Service. Anyway, here’s what immediately follows from the above quote:

There was screaming, people were walking behind me.

Forget about the screaming for now. People were walking behind her? That’s the second thing she remembers in order to back up her claim about it being “very, very wild?” Also, I hate to be the one to break it to officer Robles, but there are people walking behind her all the time.

Next, we get to the explanation of the screaming.

There were individuals trying to reach for my O.C. spray that had fallen on the ground. I was screaming for help on my radio.

Did you catch that?

There was screaming

Really? Why was there screaming?

I was screaming

Well that explains it. That’s why you always have to watch for the use of passive tense. People usually use it when they don’t want to identify the subject of the sentence, in this case the fact that it was her screaming instead of there just being screaming by nobody in particular.

Here’s how an eyewitness described the situation to the LA Weekly:

She slammed the student into a wall, threw him on the ground, took out her pepper spray, slammed him into the bus, broke the window out of the bus with his head, sprayed him in the face and slammed him into the bus some more.

Now’s probably a good time to note that the student in question is not Jeremy Marks. Marks was in the area, and he and a few others took out their cell phones to record video of the assault. Here is one of them and here is another. Marks was essentially arrested for recording the incident and for allegedly yelling “kick her ass!” though if you read the LA Weekly article that second claim sounds pretty dubious. The lynching charge comes from an odd definition of lynching which includes means trying to “incite a riot during an attempt to free a suspect from police custody.”

Even if Marks did call for a police ass-kicking, I don’t really see how you get from that to inciting a riot. And even if we grant the LAUSD cops that much, there would already have to be an attempt to free the suspect from police custody going on in order for that to apply to this weird lynching law, and that just doesn’t seem to be the case based on the evidence. The kids watching the altercation are just laughing and talking shit. There’s no escape attempt for the “incitement to riot” to be during.

This is just a case of an overzealous police officer with a corrupt department determined to use this kid as a scapegoat. And it’s fucking his life up for no real reason at all.

UPDATE: An engineer at Google heard about this story on reddit and has paid Marks’ bail.