Saturday, September 22, 2007


The wonderful world of Google

Google is the most successful of the internet search engines, and the name has morphed into a verb (as in, "I googled for 'dystopia'") and a despicable weapon of mass destruction known as the "google bomb." But where would bloggers be without Google?

I've never researched their indexing scheme, but whatever it is, it can produce some appalling and/or hilarious results.

For instance, I've been getting a lot of hits lately from people searching for "long penises." Regular readers familiar with the staid material on this site may wonder if there isn't a secret page where I keep the "good stuff." Unfortunately there isn't. It's all the work of Google.

So when I wrote a post titled "Half a millimeter penis too long for some," I was of course discussing the censorship of a children's book. But the coincidence of "long" and "penis" in the heading has won that post a spot in the top 40 Google results for "long penis." While some might find the mismatch simply appalling, I find it charming.

Another interesting Google phenomenon is the effect of a mispelling. I noticed this over three years ago when I posted "What's that whooshing sound?" It was about an Oklahoma judge who calmed himself in the courtroom with a unique device as he went about the business of administering justice. Because of a simple typo that post brought me countless hits from those who inquire of Google "how to masterbuate." Someday I must do a post on the link between good spelling and masturbation.

But what has brought Google to mind is neither penises nor "masterbuation" but the relation of blogs to the news. Through a recent visitor I discovered an interesting link to Simply Appalling that was published in January 2006. I must have been on vacation at the time.

Jason Kottke of surveys the internet with an eye toward journalism, literature and cyberculture. In his post "Blogs versus the NY Times in Google" he investigated a prediction made in 2002—

In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times' Web site.

So Kottke wanted to know how well the prediction was coming along in 2005. He selected the top 8 media stories of that year and began his Google search. He classified the results as "1) 'traditional' media, 2) citizen media, 3) blogs, and 4)"

Kottke found "traditional" media to be the overall winner but the NY Times fared poorly. But here's where Simply Appalling comes into the picture. One of his 8 topics was "the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip." These were the results—

Search term: "gaza withdrawal"

1. Top media result (
31. Top blog result (Simply Appalling)
31. Top citizen media result (Simply Appalling)
No NY Times article appears in the first 100 results.

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

Thank you, Jason Kottke. And thank you, Google.

And I just want to say a warm word of welcome to those who've come here in search of long penises and the proper way to masturbate—or masterbuate. While we may be short on penises and technique we hope there's plenty of material you'll find quite titillating. Please come again.

Related posts
What's that whooshing sound? (7/2/04)
Masterbuate? What does it all mean? (7/27/04)
Israel and domestic terrorism on the eve of 9/11 (9/11/07)


Friday, September 21, 2007


Candid Admission of the Day

The subprime mortgage losses that triggered uncertainty about structured products more generally have reverberated in broader financial markets, raising concern about the consequences for economic activity. The resulting global financial losses have far exceeded even the most pessimistic estimates of the credit losses on these loans. —Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in Congressional testimony, as quoted by Eoin Callan in "Bernanke sees more subprime woes"

This is quite a contrast to Bernanke's previous assurances that the effects of the subprime mortgage debacle would be limited to the financial sector of the economy.

It also goes a long way toward explaining what Kevin Depew describes as the recent "shock and awe" Federal Reserve rate cut to ease the "credit crunch." He reads the costs of the cut in the headlines—

Meanwhile the problem is no longer with subprime mortgages. That mansion you were hoping to move to is suddenly out of reach. Nobody will give you a "jumbo mortgage" at a rate you're willing to pay. And besides, the developer has stopped work and the swimming pool hasn't been installed.

Both the Fed chairman and Treasury secretary indicated qualified support for the Democrats’ plans to increase the $417,000 cap on the value of government-backed mortgages to improve credit conditions in the ‘jumbo loan’ market.

The gap between interest rates on jumbo loans and normal conforming mortgages has increased five-fold in recent months, as risk aversion has pushed borrowing rates up.

Economists fear this trend could impair demand for higher-value homes and worsen the downturn in the US housing market.

Don't sell that gold watch! You may need it later to barter for necessities.

Previous post
Shades of 1929 (9/15/07)



Rhetorical Question of the Day

When you think that China doesn’t protect its own workers, its own consumers and its own water quality, why would we expect them to protect ours? —Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio as quoted by Alan Beattle in "US-Peru deal seen as ‘a breakthrough’"

The U.S. has apparently come up with a trade deal with Peru that is a "first." It includes provisions on worker rights and the environment. The Bush administration prefers a more "purist" approach to trade agreements that would omit the imposition of "onerous requirements" on the subject country. Bush & Co. will give away the store so long as their cronies benefit. But with a slightly Democratic Senate in place, they're afraid they can't get any more deals through Congress without making some concessions.

As for the Democrats, it remains to be seen whether there's more smoke than fire on these issues, but I like this kind of talk—

"The elite in this country, whether it is newspaper editors or economists from Yale or Princeton or Harvard, are gasping: that’s ‘protectionism’,” [Sen. Sherrod Brown] told the [Financial Times].

“A word that has always meant something good in our country, protecting children, jobs, the environment . . .  now has a bad connotation.” He is convinced that cheerleading globalisation has been a vote loser.

Look, the United States is the world's greatest consumer nation. Poor countries will sell their grandmothers to get access to this market. And that, my friends, used to be known as "bargaining power." Wouldn't it be nice, for once, to try using some kind of power other than military might?

Well, I've gotta run. Need to do a little shopping.

Related posts
Lie of the Day (6/20/05)
CAFTA will proceed; the workers be damned (6/30/05)
CAFTA passes in the night (7/28/05)
Another harm of globalization (12/28/06)
How do you spell "avarice"? M-c-D-o-n-a-l-d-s (8/7/07)


Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Republican Revisionism of the Day

When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses. It’s time for Republicans to start acting like Republicans. —Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a TV ad, as quoted by Klaus Marre in "Romney calls on GOP to shape up"

I alerted you last week to the latest Republican meme—the incredible notion that the Republican Party has been subverted by "ex-Democrats and ex-liberals" (the Neocons). Straying from "true conservative" values is not the fault of the Republicans themselves but is somehow the fault of Democrats. I'm still trying to figure out where that leaves the "conservative" value of taking responsibility for one's own actions.

Obviously this new line looks like a good idea to Mitt Romney. But of course he has to lie to tell it: "We can’t be like Democrats — a party of big spending." Not only have the Republicans outspent the Democrats many times over, the Clinton years saw the closest thing to a balanced federal budget in generations.

I would suggest to any Republican who'll listen that it's time for the Republicans to start acting like Democrats. They'll save a lot of money and stand a much better chance of staying out of jail.

Previous post
Conservative Explanation of the Day (9/7/07)


Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Shocking Thought of the Day

It is shocking to think that anyone in the White House was involved in a dirty trick designed to prevent Americans from exercising their democratic rights. Unfortunately, after this year’s revelations about the firing of United States attorneys for partisan political reasons, the possibility cannot be dismissed out of hand. —official NY Times editorial

As Captain Renault of the movie Casablanca said just before taking his winnings: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"



Tourist Attraction of the Day

When tourists ask for the bathroom in the Minneapolis airport lately, it's usually not because they have to go. It's because they want to see the stall made famous by U.S. Sen. Larry Craig's arrest in a sex sting. Associated Press

There are some other fun features to this story—

The Royal Zino Shoeshine shop owner's grandson, Royal Zino, said it has been hectic.

"People have been going inside, taking pictures of the stall, taking pictures outside the bathroom door, man, it's been crazy," he said.

On their way to Guatemala, Jon and Sally Westby of Minneapolis made a visit.

"We had to just stop and check out the bathroom," Sally said. "In fact, it's Jon's second time, he was here last week already."

That's great, Jon. Just watch out for the cop in the next stall.

Related post
Sex education in America (8/31/07)


Sunday, September 16, 2007


Poem of the Day

Having come into our own, if not so meekly,
being numerous and cunning,
having rounded up and branded a maverick planet
we found conveniently running

rightful owners, therefore, if ever
such existed,
do not let it be said
we were tight-fisted

about spoils, or crowded
the losers out completely.
Note grass is permitted to grow
around our houses, if it grows neatly.

And though we cut down the sacred groves
and whisked the souls out of dog and stone,
nobody can say we didn't let the wind
go on blowing as it had blown.

And not only did we graciously leave
the sea its two-thirds,
but we said the gods could have the sky,
and there are parks for birds.

—R.E. Sebenthall,
   Acquainted with a chance of bobcats (1969)


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