Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arby's Roast Beef Burger

Some folks might aspire to hard-to-find, out-of-the-way, hole-in-the-wall restaurants when in search of a new culinary adventure, but call off the dogs... Do it now.

Do you want a piece of the finest flavor sensation since chili-cheese-fries? Then head immediately to Arby's and stuff a Roast Beef Burger, baby! Arby's new Roast Beef Burger is a savory triumph - a thrill ride in 5 dimensions! And by all means put some Arby's sauce on it too.

Seriously, this is one good sandwich. I say get the Bacon Cheddar version. And get it with curly fries if you dare. But hurry, before I eat'em all!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Homemade Mini-subs

Here's just one of the "Wow! That's incredible!" type stories. I gotta admit I admire the ingenuity required to build these mini-subs, even though they're being used to smuggle drugs. It's incredible to me that they can be built secretly in the jungles isolated from most of civilization.

Here's the story about mini-subs, how they're built, and efforts to intercept them.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Good guitar songs for beginners

I recently had a couple people ask me about some good guitar songs to learn for beginners, and it got me to thinking about what I'd recommend. I did some websearching.

I got to thinking the first guitar song should have only a handful of chords, and the chords utilized should be common and form a foundation for future songs. Probably a I-IV-V chord combination that's found in hundreds of songs would be included

Some of the most common chords guitarists will play include G, C, D (this is a I-IV-V) chord combination in key of G. The Em is the natural "minor" chord when playing in this key.

Here are the chords and the most common voicings



... and here's a couple different ways that I like to play those chords. The don't have the same names, but usually they can substitute in many songs and still work fine, and sometimes are easier to play, and I find often sound smoother/firmer.



After looking around, here's some starter guitar songs that I'd recommend.

Try out:
Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl

Yes, the entire set of the chords in the song is G, C, D, Em, and D7

Another using most of the same chords
Poison - Every Rose Has it's Thorn

The next song I'd recommend introduces the "F" chord.... one of the more difficult chords to learn when starting.

Steve Mille - Take the Money and Run

Here's a couple different ways to appraoch the F chord. It also has an E chord. (the F5 and E5 versions shown are version of the E and F chords that just use 3 strings and a reduced voicing of notes in the chord - the person doing the transcriptins recommends them for some of the quicker chord changes in the song)

-F----E-------F5--E5----F(barre chord version)


If you want to try the barre chorde version of F, which I recommend cause it'll sound better, stretch your entire index finger across the first fret and use the remainder of your fingers to finish out the chord. It'll be hard until you get it, so you might try the other versions of the F or F5 shown until you get it.

This song additionally introduces some fast chord changes.

Another tune that won't be too hard is
The Animals House of the Rising Sun

This song introduces the Am chord, but otherwise utilizes much of what you've built on above. Additionally this song introduces a little bit of pick control. You can strum the chords and the song will sound fine, but the way it's recorded the individual notes of the song are picked separately. The pick control is something good to introduce here.

... Anyhow, that's my 2 cents on the matter.

EDIT: JUNE 9, 2009 Go here for a song to learn 6 basic chords to play along to with a song recorded over the weekend.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Interrogator op-ed on torture

I just read this op-ed by one of Abu Zubaydah's interrogators. The release of documents has apparently allowed him to speak on the issue and think this is clearly worth reading. Instead of getting "spun" by those who think they know what went on, go straight to a primary source.

I've posted at least once previously regarding torture, or as seems to be the phrase of the day "enhanced interrogation techniques." To me this issue cuts to the heart of what this country stands for, and it's disappointing how easily we will drop our core values.

To start with, the debate about whether these "enhanced" techniques were torture or not are strained - a play on words. Its not as if actions that are wrong become acceptable if we legally manipulate the definition of torture. The simple truth is this: If these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were used by another nation on Americans there's no doubt in my mind we'd be outraged. So sadly the issue isn't necessarily whether torture is wrong - but somehow it's mutated into something closer to "when it's OK to torture?" It bothers me that much of the debate around torture seems to get stuck on the question of whether it was effective or not.

The acceptability of torture is not and should not be dependent upon its effectiveness. It's a simple issue of right and wrong, and we too easily complicate it. We should want no part of torture to be associated with our nation. I think these practices are in fact going to be a sad part of our national legacy that will take generations to live down - we just haven't had time to see the aftershocks yet. We've undermined in large part our national voice on the subject of human rights around the world by confusing the issue. We've lost credibility through hypocrisy.

Additionally I'm discouraged by pro-torture arguments that it's OK because "it protects us from further attacks." I can't accept that. If anything, I think probability that it creates more bad will and creates more enemies outweighs any benefits. That's what I meant by the "aftershocks" mentioned above. Yes, the world is a dangerous place and there are people that wish to do us harm. I accept that. But we must also accept that we can never have 100% security, and that our actions regarding torture have likely created a more dangerous world an new generation of threats down the road. Ultimately it's a battle of mindshare, and we don't win that battle by adopting practices that are in direct conflict with our core values.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cool Trumpet Tune

I was cruising the web today searching for cool instrumental tunes, and came across this tune by a band called Dead Prez. I understand this song is unlike most of the other music that they do, but I was really liking the trumpet part on this, and it just has a cool vibe about it. It's call You'll Find a Way

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Conspiracy theories, the financial crisis, and Goldman Sachs

I've seen the author of this op-ed piece, William Cohan, on C-Span's Booknotes TV program. He's a very interesting speaker. In this piece he discusses Goldman's connections in the Government and how they've maneuvered their way through the crisis, and used many connections to their benefit. The general conspiracy thesis here is that the government lets Goldman's competitors fail or forces buyouts/mergers, leaves Goldman in a stronger competitive position than before, and sees that taxpayer funds get to AIG which in turns pays off Goldman's bad bets.

I kindof like conspiracy theories anyhow, but this one has a particularly resonant ring to it.

Quote from the article:

Goldman has since received some $13 billion in cash, collateral and other payouts from A.I.G. — that is, from taxpayers.

Goldman recently reported an "unexpected first-quarter profit of $1.8 billion."

...and we're upset about bonuses in the millions of dollars at AIG?

Here's a link to a review on his book about the collapse of Bear Sterns called House of Cards.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Particle Wave

Alright, I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking at, but it's a scientific effort to take a picture of an electron's particle wave produced when it was ejected from the atom by injecting energy into the atom via an ultraviolet pulse. A megafast (scientifc term) strobe was used and from what I can gather from entirely unscientific reading is that we're looking at some sort of momentum field.

I read about this in Discover Magazine so am inclined to think it's for real, but my initial thought otherwise would've been that you can't take a picture of an electron - that the observation itself forces the electron to stop being a wavelike probability distribution that we're seeing here and forces it to become a particle. But it seems to me I'm seeing a probability distribution here.

Here's one of the blog posts about this I came across.

It's interesting that there are gaps in the probability distribution. I had pictured the electron in a cloud, but there seem to be rings where it prefers to be - at least unless there's some sort of interference pattern in the photography that's causing the gaps in the distribution to appear. The wobbly nature of the motion in the very short period of time is interesting - sortof an elliptical orbit maybe. I can't tell if we're looking at something sperical or more dimensional, although some comments indicate sphere.

Anyhow, thought this was pretty cool


Here's a story about a study indicating turning down the thermostat being an effective weight loss strategy for some people.

The idea is that fighting off cold kicks in burning of a certain type of fat (called "brown fat" in the article).

The idea is presented that perhaps drugs could be developed to stimulate the same effect. It reminds me a little bit of a book I read a few years back describing how one of the unintended consequences of the quest for leaner meats via selective breeding was also causing animals to become more high strung and aggressive. Essentially breeding for leaner meats had created hyper animals who burn alot of calories keeping their meat leaner. Makes me wonder if a similar diet pill would cause the same effect in people.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

1862 news article - Battle of Shiloh

I was reading this clip of an 1862 news article regarding what has become known as the Battle of Shiloh (the article lists it as the Battle of Pittsburg - not sure when the name changed to Shiloh).

Reading the article I was struck by the difference in reporting vs. what we hear of war today today. Quotes like:
"The slaughter on both sides is immense."

"Several barges of ice are ordered to go up the Tennessee to-night for the use of the wounded. "

and literary flourishes
"he brandished his sword and waved them on to the crowning victory, while cannon balls were falling like hail around him. The men followed with a shout that sounded above the roar and din of the artillery, and the rebels fled in dismay, as from a destroying avalanche, and never made another stand."

"Capt. Carson was between Gen. Grant and your correspondent, when a cannon ball took off his head and killed and wounded several others."

The other thing that was striking: The article lists many of the dead and wounded by name.

Baseball and number crunching

I kindof have a thing for numbers and simulations. I enjoyed the Moneyball book about stats Billy Beane looks at when trying to get the most bang-for-buck out of the Oakland A's low budget - doing so by identifying overlooked characteristics of players games that contribute to wins (a picky batter who walks alot), and by also identifying characteristics that other teams overpay for (hot relief pitchers - it's often just a statistical run of good luck).

Here's a story about a computer simulation that helps investigate questions such as:
- does a sacrifice bunt make sense?
- should your best slugger always hit 4th?
- should a team attempt to steal bases more or less?
- Does the intentional walk help or hurt your chance of winning?

(you can find the answers in the story)

I haven't watched a baseball game in years, but it's interesting that the statistical questions about the game are still engaging.

Here's the one I want to know.
Does it make sense to change pitchers to bring in a lefty pitcher to face a single lefty batter?

When I was younger it seemed kindof strange to me to use up your bullpen warming up and bringing in a pitcher to face a single batter. Or over the long haul does alot of bullpen activity just wear out the staff?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Vegetable Orchestra

This gives you some ideas for what to do with the extras when your garden is overflowing with abundance and you just can't keep up.

And with the leftovers they feed the audience vegetable soup!

It's not just abandoned homes....

It's not just foreclosed and abandoned homes on the rise. This article from the NYTimes highlights the growing trend in abandoned boats.

They are expensive-to-maintain toys that have lost their appeal. The owners cannot sell them, because the secondhand market is overwhelmed. They cannot afford to spend hundreds of dollars a month mooring and maintaining them. And they do not have the thousands of dollars required to properly dispose of them.