Archive for the 'Humour' Category

How many really bored Texans are there?

June 7th, 2006

The brilliant Texas governor, or maybe a really drunk aid, have come up with a new plan to help prevent illegal immigration across the border from Mexico.

What’s the idea?

The Texas governor announced his plans for streaming the border surveillance camera footage over the internet at a meeting of police officials on Thursday.

“A stronger border is what Americans want and it’s what our security demands and that is what Texas is going to deliver,” Mr Perry said.

The cameras will cost $5m (£2.7m) to install and will be trained on sections of the 1,000-mile (1,600km) border known to be favoured by illegal immigrants.

Yep, placing lots and lots of cameras covering huge stretches of the border. Then wiring them all up, and broadcasting the footage on the Internet for anyone who wants to monitor.

The practicalities of effectively covering such an area with cameras are beyond me. For comparison, the entire border of Israel, with the sea and all neighbouring countries, is slightly more than 1,000km. They’re talking about 160% of that.

The price they quote for the job also seems widely inadequate. This should cover all the cameras, installation, wiring required to connect everything, computer servers to collect all the footage and store it, and bandwidth costs for transmitting all that video over the Internet?

No way. They’ll run out of money before even beginning to deploy and set the infrastructure, not to mention maintenance costs.

Heck, they current estimates I see for their fence idea is at $8 billion. This is a third of the length, but walls have much lower maintenance and upkeep costs, don’t require electricity, and don’t have to be wired. So maybe $5 billion is more likely than $5 million.

And that’s not even the biggest problem with the idea, I think. Who exactly do they expect to sit and watch those border cams??

Sure, some may be placed in locations with nice scenery, so may become popular. But most of the cameras will just be covering empty stretches of a deserted border. And totally deserted and eventless videos are mainly one thing: boring.

This is a part of why normally people who monitor such surveillance cameras are paid money. It’s a boring job. Nothing is happening, and there’s nothing to see.

Sure, the singular event of actually noticing a group of Mexicans trying to sneak in can be exhilarating and exiting, no doubt. But most people won’t get to see that even if they’ll wait hours, days, weeks, and months, just staring at a camera feed. It’s a very long border, I remind you.

Watching such a huge amount of cameras will require massive manpower dedicated to the task. Texas can’t employ so many people on this job, so they’re trying to get it done for free by the public.

But nobody will do it on their spare time. Not unless their alternatives are even more boring and dreary than watching a motionless camera feed.

Can there really be that many Texans out there who are constantly so bored out of their minds?


Hat tip to Make You Go Hmm

Chinese to English mistranslations

June 6th, 2006

This first link contains screenshots from a DVD of Star Wars: Episode III. Except that this is the version which was translated and dubbed to Chinese, showing English subtitles.

The subtitles’ English was translated back from the spoken Chinese, after the dubbing.

And the results are hilarious. Some of the lines are very amusing even if you never saw the movie, or any movie in the Star Wars series.

The other two links include pictures of Chinese restaurants’ menus. Including the translated names of all the dishes and courses in English.

Some are just plain bizarre, and some are terribly funny.

I just hope official documents and international agreements are translated better than that…

And here I thought bars were the one place it was alright to be drunk in

March 26th, 2006

Having laws against being drunk while driving is pretty common, happens in a lot of countries, and is something I see as perfectly fine and correct.

But in Texas they take further, too much further, I think. Now it seems they’re arresting people for being drunk while drinking inside bars.

It doesn’t matter if they don’t plan on getting out of the pub until much later when they’re sober. Or if they intend to go out and walk, not drive. Or if they really won’t do anything bad while drunk.

No, being drunk is the offence. Not doing anything problematical because of being drunk.

Being in a bar does not exempt one from the state laws against public drunkenness, Beck said.

The goal, she said, was to detain drunks before they leave a bar and go do something dangerous like drive a car.

This is Marvellous. Most people who get drunk do not hurt each other. Someone getting overly drunk and hurting someone, while getting much more publicity than someone being drunk and going to sleep (not exactly a news event, is it?) is rare. And the most common way this does happen is by people driving drunk. Something which people are mostly aware of, and can choose not to do, even while intoxicated.

So if someone wants to go to a bar to drink, either to try and drown some big sorrow (doesn’t work, but people still try), celebrate something, or just have a fun evening which includes drinks, this is now dangerous to do in Texas. Anyone getting drunk, without doing anything wrong, without harming anyone, without even thinking about driving, can get arrested.

This is not going to be good for the bars, I bet. Most bar patrons don’t plan in advance to get totally drunk, just to have a drink or a few, but I guess most aren’t entirely and completely sure they won’t drink a little more than planned. And now it’s dangerous. They drink to much, they can get arrested for it. Getting into a bat to have a couple of drinks now carries risks. Bye bye bars, hello coffee shops and restaurants.

And I can’t help but wonder about the next step. They’re arresting drunk people because they may do things. Things which they’re not doing, didn’t do, and don’t plan on doing. But because they’re theoretically capable of them, they get arrested. How is arresting drunk people, because they may drive, different from arresting angry people because they may decide to hit someone? Or arresting people who carry firearms because they may decide to shoot someone?

If you want to go and arrest people before the do something dangerous, well, you might as well just hit the streets and arrest every single person you see. Some of them are going to do dangerous stuff. Why take the risk, when it’s obvious they’re capable of it?

Anyone not bed-ridden should be arrested, and the sooner the better. Everyone will be much safer that way.

I never gotten really drunk in my life, but right now I’m very happy that I don’t live anywhere near Texas…

Purim, revisited

March 15th, 2006

Not really a post, I just thought that since it’s Purim again, I’ll link to my post from last year, So what is this Purim all about?.

The post is a humorous recounting of the story from the Scroll of Esther. There is one extra character not included in the original bible version of the story, but what makes the post funny is how very very close the rest of it is. Except the interpretations of course, those aren’t in the original. The actual deeds and happenings are, though.

I do realize that it could use some extra styling and editing, but I’m too lazy to do that, so it will just stay as-is for now. Maybe next year…

Militant dolls

March 8th, 2006

I have no idea what this site is about, or what the images are supposed to represent, since it’s probably written in Japanese, which I can’t read. But the images on the various pages linked to from this index page are certainly amusing.

They’re mostly of dolls, and I mean delicate women’s dolls with the typical feminine clothing, in various combatant and military positions.

Some come next to what may be sketches from military manuals, or photos of soldiers, and the dolls are arranged in the same positions, holding similar weaponry.

Other seem to be images depicting stories in which those dolls are seen attacking and taking military outposts and vehicles, manned by real soldier dolls.

Quite hilarious, seeing a delicate doll in a bikini attaching mines to a jeep, or well armed and sneaking on a bunch of soldiers…

Maybe it’s just payback for the fact that everyone likes to torture their Barbie dolls.

Massive phone blunder for the British Foreign Office in Iraq

March 6th, 2006

In my own army unit they had strict limitations on phone usage. Well, not all that strict, we needed to talk on the phone, and we could. But there was a limit. And if a department strayed from the limit, they noticed. Quickly. And the department was reprimanded. In some cases repeat offenders simply had their phones cut off, or limited to only certain outgoing numbers, for a time.

The British Foreign Office, in comparison, is much more lax on phone usage. It can take them more than a year to notice very excessive charges. To destinations which were not related to operational needs. On phones that were stolen (but they didn’t notice this too, so that may be a good excuse). In Iraq.

It certainly was not part of Britain’s plans to win the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq. But the Foreign Office has been apparently paying for an adult sex chatline in a Baghdad street for 17 months without knowing it.

FO officials had already admitted that the lost phones had cost them £594,000 in unauthorised phone bills but it is now bracing itself for an extremely critical report from the Commons public accounts committee on how it came to pay phone bills, which at one stage hit £212,000 in one month, without asking questions.

Sir Michael said initial inquiries had revealed a series of blunders. The phones were already activated when they were sent to Baghdad and they were not properly logged in – so no one realised at first that they had been stolen. None of the bills were initially challenged until people realised the phones had gone missing.

This is such a long string of errors and blunders, one after the other, that it would have been really sad if it wasn’t so funny. Or maybe the other way around.

When shipping something abroad, they should track it. Always. If it was sent, and nobody received it, someone should have noticed. Private companies track inventory. Military units track inventory. Why can’t the British FO track inventory? Yes, there are items which aren’t tracked individually, but come on, a mobile phone isn’t exactly a paper-clip.

The fact that they didn’t monitor the billing for those phones is also amazing. The 17 months the article mentions is over a fiscal year. The charges should have been noticed after a month, I think, but not to notice such a bill after a whole year is almost beyond belief. I can’t think of any organization with such a free calling policy.

And these aren’t phones in an office at their HQ. These are phones sent to a foreign country, with all the confusion and potential problems that this entails. How can anyone expect that everything will be alright, and that no monitoring at all will be needed?

Not to mention, they also obviously didn’t screen the phones for permitted and forbidden destination. In an office, in the UK that would have been understandable. Too many places someone may need to call. But in the field, in Baghdad? These phones should have had a pretty limited list of allowed destinations, with a procedure set in order to allow others. And tight monitoring to make sure they’re not used otherwise. I believe those phone sex lines were not officially approved by anyone.

At least that’s one sex scandal that will be duly paid for by the guilty authorities, and in hard currency too.

Hard test

February 27th, 2006

I just had a short conversation with a friend who recently finished a university test. And two of the sentences I found just too amusing to let slip quietly into oblivion.

Just to make sure that these won’t give the totally wrong impression, the friend is quite an intelligent person, usually. I suspect this is more because the subject matter of that test was totally outside my friend’s interest. From the sample questions I heard, the test was absurdly easy, but that’s entirely not the way my friend, and the other classmates, apparently saw it.

And please notice that these were both said in an highly indigent tone.

Quote number one was in an attempt to explain to me why the test was hard, despite me thinking that the material should have made it very easy:

They didn’t ask us exactly about the things they said in class. To answer these questions we had to think about them.

Ah, a shame about this foul academic practice in which students are required to understand the material, instead of just parroting back what the lecturer said in class, isn’t it?

The second quote is from an attempt to demonstrate that not only was the test unduly difficult, but that the university made the students take it under uncommonly hard conditions:

And they didn’t even let us copy. I mean, at all!

I wonder if they have a case to appeal to the dean. That’s very cruel, and hardly fair…

Too much of a really-good thing

February 17th, 2006

It makes sense that being perfect would be good, or perfect even. But is being a perfect part of a perfect group still as good?

Many women, I noticed, tend to believe they’re perfect, and wonderful. Or at least tend to claim they are. I think at one point or another a conversation with nearly any long-time women friend of mine reached a point where they jokingly mentioned that they’re perfect, and so men should be very grateful and appreciative for knowing them and being in their presence. Especially given the fact that men in general (or their particular BF at the time, if they had any) are far from perfect.

Now, whether the premise is correct or not (And that’s really open for discussion), is not what this post is about. Let’s assume the claims made by those women are true, for the sake of the argument. Let’s also assume, because this is the context under which the statements were made, that men and women desire each other’s company.

Given those premises, then, the conclusion makes perfect sense. If a specific woman is perfect, or nearly so, and most men are far below perfect, then men should indeed show that woman the utmost respect and admiration. The poor wretch who is blessed with her presence, should know he’s in the presence of extremely superior perfection.

Not so fast, ladies. Don’t rejoice yet. There’s more, you see…

The problem starts with them all continuing the argument by stating that it’s not only them who are perfect, but rather all women. Although they were all, so far, quick to agree that maybe all is too strong a term, and there are some bad women out there too. They don’t generally drop to some, however, but rather just to a very large most.

Because of that, they claim that as a general rule men should be a lot more respectful towards all women, and show them all awe and admiration.

On the very face of it, if we accept the premises, this would appear to make sense. If all (I’ll round it up a bit, since the exceptions are generally claimed to be rare. Though for a some reason they’re often a part of the small circle of women the one I’m talking to actually knows. Go figure.) women are perfect, and all men are lousy, pathetic, and dense, then any man who is with a women is in the presence of someone obliging him despite being much better than him, and he should act accordingly.

This is where these conversation threads usually end, with the poor women failing to grasp the big gaping hole existing in the theory they raised in their perfect little heads.

Because, you see, if we do accept all these premises, and apply them to the real world, the conclusions would be very different.

Here’s one fact that should make it obvious. The number of women in the world, for the sake of this argument, is equal to number of men. Now, I do make some rough generalizations here. Statistics show that there are more women than men. This actually strengthen my claim, but isn’t as relevant because it mainly results from the fact that women live longer.

The birth ratios are indeed almost equal, with average number of born men equal to the average number of born women. This is for simple evolutionary reasons. In a population tending to have more men than women, a women will have a smaller chance of not managing to find a mate, so a bigger chance of having children and passing her genes onward, making it a more viable genetic strategy to have women instead of men as kids. The reverse holds as well. So populations will tend to be stable around equal numbers from each gender. This does not take into account people beyond the child-bearing age, which is why the statistics show we have more women.

China, where the severe birth limitation, and cultural biases, caused people to get rid of daughters in order to have more sons, is not considered here. Both since the current huge ratio of men to women there is just a temporary condition, and because the women I had these conversations with were not Chinese, so as far as I am, or they are, concerned this does not apply.

The important part is that there are not more men than women in the world.

And remember, we also assume that men and women want to be together, in couples. Never mind that it’s not a universal truth, it’s most common, and more importantly it’s the assumption existing in all the conversations where the above statements and false conclusion were made.

What does it mean? Simply put, it means that the very large majority of women will end up with a men, and the very large majority of men will therefore end up with a women.

And this is where it becomes interesting. If there were just a few perfect women, they would be highly sought after. Everyone would prefer to be with a perfect and wonderful woman, instead of a plain one.

But remember, they’re all wonderful. All perfect. Even if they say so themselves.

So? So any man knows that if it doesn’t work out with a woman, there are plenty of other ones, all perfect and wonderful, he has a good chance with. The risk of losing perfection isn’t that big if you know you can easily get perfection to replace it. Men are far from perfect, remember. And since all women are perfect and wonderful, even a perfect and wonderful women doesn’t have anything to ensure she could keep one attracted better than any other women could.

And what happens from the women’s point of view? Men are really not up to par. They all have many faults, and many problems. So any man who is a little less lousy, a little less dense, a little less infested with faults, is a relatively great catch. They don’t take him, they’ll have to settle for a worse model.

Do you sense the pattern here? Counter-intuitive, isn’t it? Under these premises women are the ones who should be extra nice to men. Men don’t have much to worry about, since nearly whatever they do, they can still end up with a perfect women. But the women can only hope they’ll catch one who is a little better than the rest, and never know if when a relationship will fail they won’t have to settle for much worse afterwards.

Quite the opposite of what these women friends of mine were claiming, isn’t it? With the most ironic point being that this is not despite women being all perfect and wonderful. It is because of it.

By claiming that they’re perfect and deserve better treatment, they’re doing alright. But by extending that claim of perfection to the entire gender, they’re getting the absolute opposite effect. They want treatment as they deserve as perfect creatures. And by insisting to have men agree that all women are perfect, the treatment they deserve as perfect creatures becomes far less than what is sought after.

Now I just need to find a way to explain it to them without being physically beaten… I’m afraid I may not be able to pass the point quickly enough, about why I should be better treated and my life preserved.

P.S. Yes, this is not a serious essay. If you read this without noticing the amused and cynical undertone, you’ve been doing a bad job. Or I have been. I don’t believe all women are perfect, nor do I preach for men to treat women badly. Clear?

NASA sued over space mission

July 3rd, 2005

NASA is running a research experiment in which they will crash a probe into the Tempel-1 comet, trying to gain insights from the impact, and hopefully learn more about the composition of the comet’s core. This is called the Deep Impact mission.

Some people, though, aren’t happy. One is unhappy enough to go and sue NASA over the mission. Marina Bai, a Russian “self-published author and spiritualist”, is suing in a Russain court, over moral damages:

“Somewhere deep inside me, a voice told me the whole mission had to be stopped,” she said in an interview. “I fear that it could have an impact on all humanity.”

In court papers, Bai asserted that Deep Impact would “infringe upon my system of spiritual and life values, in particular on the values of every element of creation, upon the unacceptability of barbarically interfering with the natural life of the universe, and the violation of the natural balance of the universe.”

I just hope that the voice which told her that was a metaphor. If she’s really hearing voices, this may cause people to believe she may be a bit mentally imbalanced… Oh, heck, as if the rest of the lawsuit doesn’t make that point strongly enough as it is. The women is nuts.

The people at NASA think that she’s insane as well. Though they said it in one of the nicest ways I ever encountered. Not too hard to read between the lines, though:

Dolores Beasley, a spokeswoman for NASA, said it would be “inappropriate” to comment.

Is there any real danger, a chance that the impact will noticeably divert the comet? The scientists don’t think so. Of course, since they’re not yet entirely certain about the composition, they may turn out to be wrong, but the current estimations still allow for a very wide margin of error:

Scientists have dismissed fears that the collision might break up or divert the comet, comparing the impact to a mosquito striking a Boeing 747.

Still, even if she could prove the moral damage, and if the judges would for some reason rule in her favour, how bad can it be? How much can those damages be worth? Well, apparently according to Russian law, it can amount to quite a lot:

Bai’s attorney, Alexander V. Molokhov, said the damage claim was calculated under Russian law, which allows plaintiffs to recover an amount equal to the cost of the undertaking that allegedly does the harm.

So that would be around the entire cost of the mission. An interesting law I must say, granting compensation based on the cost of causing the damage, rather than on the damage itself.

If we had such a law here, I guess stuff like the current disengagement plans would have never happened. Imagine if every person who sees this as a moral crime and affront would sue, for the entire cost of the plan? If the court would accept that there were damages (and in this case a theoretical moral damage could be easily proved, since according to the believes of some of these people that’s really a big deal), the country would go broke… Hmm, there are Gush Katif residents who are immigrants from Russia, and who I think still have their Russain citizenship. I’m not that much of an expert on international law, but I wonder if they can sue using Russian courts, despite them also being Israeli residents and the better jurisdiction of Israeli courts…

In any case, a very interesting lawsuit. I doubt any sane judge will rule in her favour, especially considering the request compensations. Still:

Steven P. Maran, a spokesman for the American Astronomical Society and author of “Astronomy for Dummies,” reacted to Bai’s claims with humor.

“I get dizzy just thinking of this lawsuit,” he said. “But I don’t think the outcome is written in the stars.”

On the bright side, if she does win, the money will do good. The women obviously have some taste and good sense. I don’t know about those alleged oligarchs, but I wouldn’t have bought a soccer team either:

If she wins the case, she said, her nonprofit Transformations fund will spend the award on environmental and social programs.

“Unlike the oligarchs, I’m not going to buy a soccer team with the money,” she said.

The story got covered in plenty of papers. And surprisingly (or maybe not so suprisingly, given the fact that reports all to often bother to do a lot less fact-checking than they should) enough there are some factual differences between the reports.

Like for example, the above quoted article claims she asks compensations for a sum of $311 million. While other reports claim the actual investment in the mission was more like $330 million. It may sound like a small differece, a mere 6 percent or so, but I assure you that 19 million USD is not a small sum. Seriously.

Or, as another example, while the article I quoted states that scientists compared the impact to a “mosquito striking a Boeing 747″, the article linked in the above paragraph, about the mission itself, states that the scientists compared it to a “mosquito running into a 767 airliner”. The 747 is only double the size of a 767, so while a collision with a mosquito won’t matter much to any of them, that’s still a major difference.

Marina Bai herself, who is described in most places as a “self-published author and spiritualist”, is on other articles, some from Russain sources, described as a “local astrologer”.

Almost makes it seem as if reading the papers is as accurate as reading the map of the heavnens…

I doubt that was by design

June 14th, 2005

Christianity Today, the Evangelical Christian periodical, also publishes various specific studies and publications, which they sell for a modest fee to pastors. Not being an evangelical Christian, I never noticed them until I stumbled upon the page for this study, titled Sex as God Designed It. Catchy name, and since I find it hard to take such a thing as designed, I decided to take a look.

I did not actually pay for the article, but there’s plenty on the product page to explore. Now, I know that Christianity is a big supporter of marriage. And I know that it probably isn’t too enthusiastic about free sex. But from there, to what this study seems to claim, well, there’s quite a bit of a distance.

The church has a vital part to play in spreading the good news about sex.

Good news? News? As in something new which people didn’t know until now, and was just recently discovered? And here I thought the church was somewhat conservative and old fashioned, not running cutting-edge research on topics like sex.

Overview:

Western civilization is overstimulated and oversexed, says Philip Yancey. We are thoroughly saturated with sexual images and constantly surveyed about sexual attitudes and practices.

I don’t know about Mr. Yancey, but personally I am not (unfortunately) overstimulated and oversexed. Not only that, but I am not constantly surveyed about sexual attitudes. Come to think of it, I think I was never once surveyed about my sexual attitudes. So who the heck keeps coming back to Mr. Yancey to survey him?

But something essential and precious has been lost. Sadly, a persuasive Christian approach to sexuality is missing that could act as a balance to secular cynicism and obsession and help believers rediscover the elements of sacredness in a healthy sexual life.

I know sex should be great, but people who refer to it as sacred, or holy, are usually taken away by the nice people in white jackets, and hospitalized. Besides, if the purpose of a sexual relation was to be sacred and worship god, it would have been, like other things in that category, even more exciting and fulfilling, right? Sex might have been as fun as taking communion, maybe even as exciting and uplifting as praying, or going to confession. But since sex really pales in comparison (Right? Be honest, which would you rather do? So there you have it), then it should be obvious it can’t be nearly as sacred.

In this study, we’ll endeavour to understand God’s design for sex and discuss how the church can help spread the word.

About the only seriously good thing I have to say about this study, is that at least the author think that it’s possible, and desired, to understand God’s working and decisions. There are plenty of religious attitudes that claim trying to understand and analyse God is wrong, and thankfully this isn’t one of them.

Still, there’s really no need for the church to spread the word about sex. People know. It’s one of the worst kept secrets of all times.

So far for the overview, let’s take a look at the main points of the study article, see what it’s really about:

—Teaching point one: God created and designed sex and sexual expression to be experienced in a marital relationship.

So what Mr. Yancey is saying here, is that God is a terribly bad designer, and had no idea what she was doing during the design phase, no? Because, let’s face it, the fact that sex and sexual expression were designed specifically to be experienced in marital relationship explains a lot. It explains, for example, why nobody is ever sexually attracted to a person they’re not married to. It also explains why people always remain sexually attracted to people that they are married to. And, last but not least, it explains why nobody who is married is ever sexually attracted to anyone beside their spouses, for even the briefest of instants. Yes, wonderful design job. If you’d have bought something home with that design spec, and that actual performance, you’ll be running back to the store for a refund, and sue the company for false advertisement and sloppy design.

Ah, and let us not forget, this of course means that ever since the day of creation, everyone married. Historically speaking, there was never a time, and never a civilization, that had sex, but did not have marital relationship. The two come hand in hand. Right? Otherwise it would mean that through major parts of human history all people were just blatantly ignoring God.

—Teaching point two: When society loses faith in God, the purposes and practices of sexual expression become perverted.

Because, of course, nobody who isn’t Christian ever had a proper marriage between a man and a women, just like Mr. Yancey God likes. And we should be grateful for being notified that if society will lose faith in God then, among all the other horrors, something terrible will happen… People may come to think that sex is… fun. Dreadful, isn’t it?

—Teaching point three: The church must reclaim its teaching and pastoral role to provide a godly perspective and a well-grounded witness for sexuality.

The way I read that point, he says that priests and pastors should provide sex-ed classes in church, and should sometime sneak into people houses to make sure the sex they are having is only with their spouses. But that can’t possibly be what he means, can it?

Apply Your Findings

No, I’m not kidding. In the study about sex, and the dangers and perversion of out-of-marriage sex, one of the topics is getting the priests to apply their findings. I have nothing to say about that, except to wonder if that refers to the married evangelical priests, or the unmarried evangelical priests. Probably both. Well, have fun applying your findings then, guys. Darn, I like that euphemism, and predict it’s only a matter of time before it will hit the mainstream. I wonder how “Hi there, gorgeous. Would you like to come with me and help me apply my findings?” will go as a pick-up line…

Why did the chicken cross the road?

May 31st, 2005

Doesn’t matter why it crossed the road. The law doesn’t concern itself with reasons. Just as long as the chicken will recieve a fine for crossing the road, all is well.

Luckily, after some delibration a judge threw away the fine.

Not because it’s bloody silly, mind you, but because the judge was convinced that this specific chicken was domesticated, and not just livestock. If it was livestock, the 54$ fine would have stood. At these rates, I think letting a chicken cross the road probably costs a whole of a lot more than a whole chicken.

Maybe a better answer to the Why did the chicken cross the road? question would be because it chose to exercise its legal road-crossing right

Via Letters of Marque.

Not that funny by a long shot

May 5th, 2005

I kind of took a look at that Laugh Lab research several weeks ago, but it didn’t look all that interesting, so I lost interest. But now they claim to have finished the research, and have some results and conclusions about what makes jokes funny, and which jokes were judged to be funniest.

Go read that article and you could see just how corny and unimaginative is what they call the world’s funniest joke. Well, they do say that the tastes changed across geographical, and supposedly cultural, barriers. This is why they list the jokes that were found funniest in several different regions. All pretty dull and simplistic, if case you’re wondering.

What’s really funny is some of the other things that their research indicate, like for example that jokes with 103 words are especially funny. Now, that’s funny. As is the notion that people the jokes funniest at 6.03pm on October 7 (Alas, no time zone specified in the article). Or the claim that jokes mentioning ducks were seen as funnier than other jokes.

Oh, yes, and they now sell a book with their findings. This may explain a few things… That, and the fact that the raw data is web based votes, and we all know how scientifically sound these are, right?

The best pope picture ever

April 30th, 2005

The pope with optical illusion of horns This thing really makes me sorry I’m not a Catholic.

I mean, look at the guy, what a perfect picture…

And it’s not just the white collar of the priest behind him, that got captured in just the right position. It’s also the look on his face, which I suppose was meant to be an endearing and benevolent smile. Except that it’s, well, not. Heck, if someone would have asked him to put on a scheming evil smile, and if he did his best to comply, he still might have failed to do it so perfectly.

You just gotta admire the sheer amazing timing of this photo. It must have been an act of God. At least, most Catholics should think so. Because there’s no way a good Catholic God should have allowed this to happen if it wasn’t intentional. Heck, I know exactly what fanatic Muslim insurgents are going to use from now on in order to scare away little children.

Can’t you just picture it? Anyone and everyone that opposed the Church is going to love that. It’s scary if you aren’t familiar with the relevant horny-Satan image, and downright evil and nefarious if you do.

Poor Pope.

taken from Amy’s Robot.

So what is this Purim all about?

March 25th, 2005

[Update: I got a message from someone claiming that:

I am Jewish, I'm American and I take deep offense at what, in my opinion is a blasphemous misinterpretation of the holiday of Purim. It is not only a misinterpretation but such irresponsible explanations engender anti-Semitism.

If you want to give explanations of holidays, I'd suggest giving straight ones.

So, just to make it absoloutly obvious for the extra obtuse, this is supposed to be homour. Yes, it's closely based on the actual Scroll of Esther and the holiday customs, but the tone, and the interpretations, are pure satire/comedy. OK? CLEAR?]

This being the Jewish holiday of Purim now, you might have asked
yourself what is this Purim all about, where does it come from, and
what does it mean. Right?

Well, wonder no longer, here is the full explanation. First, we’ll go
over the story from the scroll of Esther, which details the whole
thing, and when we’re done, we’ll cover the ways it’s currently
celebrated.

Now, the scroll of Esther leaves a lot of important details out, but
have no fear, in here, for the first time, you’ll get a
behind-the-scene and honest look.

Who is this Esther you ask, and why is the scroll named after her?
Well, Esther is the dumb Jewish blonde which through sheer stupidity
and incompetence managed to nearly fail in every opportunity presented
to her to prevent a great war. But she’s a beautiful blonde, so as often
happen when men write the history, she’s considered one of the heroes
of the tale, and gets a lot of the credit.

Now, onward to the story.

It all supposedly took place a long long time ago, in ancient Persia.
The king of Persia at the time was called Achashverosh (Yes, it’s a
funny name, but nobody told him after he executed the first few). And
he had a very beautiful wife (Funny how this is the main criteria for
all these ancient kings in choosing wives, isn’t it?) called Vashti.

If this was an episode of the original Star-Trek series, Vashti would be
the ensign expendable… Achashverosh was having a large feast,
inviting all his important friends from all over. And after a few days
of celebrating he thought it may be a good idea to bring in the little
misses, to show off to his guests. So he sent for her. Alas, Vashti
wasn’t really a party person, and was having a bit of a headache, so
she said no. After much discussion with all the advisers, they reached
the inevitable conclusion, and he had her executed. No, seriously. He
also passed a law that women should do what their husbands tell them,
so some would say it wasn’t all bad.

And so started the search for a new queen. Obviously, this time he
wanted someone smart, intelligent, and a good conversationalist, to
make for a good marriage. No, no, kidding! Got you there for a moment,
didn’t I? He wanted someone beautiful. So agents were sent to scour the
country, looking for beautiful women. Then these women were pampered
for a whole year to make them look pretty, and presented to the king.

Now, you’d expect this to be a huge hit, with everyone sending their
cross-eyed daughter as well, in case they’ll get lucky and score the
king as a husband. And mostly, that what happened. Kings are always
considered a good catch. Now, remember Esther? Well, Esther was
different. Maybe her mum dropped her on the head when she was little,
or maybe it’s just the blonde thing. In any case, she spent something
like four years trying to run away and not get found by the agents.
Yes, this also mean the king was so picky that he didn’t find anyone
pretty enough for all those years, I guess those Persian women weren’t
something to behold…

Well, eventually Esther was caught. In comes the next actor is our
story Mordecai. Mordecai was a relative of Esther, and the guy who
raised her. Mordecai was also one of those paranoid Jews, who were sure
everyone were out to get the Jews, even though at this time nobody
really was. So the main advice he had to give Esther was to not tell
anyone she’s a Jew. Seriously.

Fast forward a year later. Esther is finally to be presented before the
king. Being a petulant girl, she refused to wear the standard perfume
and make-up. Luckily, this otherwise pretty stupid act was actually a
good move, since after seeing hundreds of heavily perfumed and more
heavily made up women, Achashverosh was probably just very happy to see
someone with a normal skin tone, and who didn’t stank of myrrh. So he
married Esther and made her queen.

She didn’t tell him she was a Jew, of course, so I suppose the marriage wasn’t Jewish. Terrible.

One thing you need to know, is about Mordecai. According to the scroll,
the guy was constantly at the palace gate, and wandering around the
palace. Most critics take it to mean he was important and respected. A
more sensible outlook would be that he was a beggar hobo, but one of
those odd characters which goes everywhere, and which everybody knows.
This would fit the facts perfectly. Now, at some point during the
following years these two servants decided to try and kill
Achashverosh. Maybe they were blonde too, but in any case they talked
about it at great length, without paying attention to their surrounding,
so Mordecai was walking by, and heard them speaking. Being a good
citizen, and probably hoping for a warm meal, he reported it. The two
servants were caught, and, as you probably guessed, went to meet their
makers. Now Esther made sure that the king be aware the credit belongs
to Mordecai, and it was even written in the annals of the kingdom. What
further did the king do about it? Nothing! Who cares if some hobo saves
your life? It’s his duty, after all, no?

Fast forward a little more, and introduce our new actor, Haman. Haman
was one of those egotist and ambitious persons, who have enough
charisma to make people like and trust them. So he became one of
Achashverosh’s advisers, and at some point the head advisor. This is
like head vizier, and anyone who have ever watched a Disney movie know
how they come out, right? Evil, scheming, and full of himself. Haman
fit the bill perfectly. And, as is always the case, the king really
listened to him and gave him nearly free reign.

One of the first things Haman did was arrange for a law forcing
everyone to bow down to him. It made him feel all important inside.
Which takes us back to Mordecai. As we already mentioned, the guy had
some odd notions about what being a Jew meant, and decided he won’t be
bowing his head to anyone except to god. This annoyed Haman a great
deal, but being all important he couldn’t really complain, since people
would laugh at him, so he just let it simmer inside, and took it all on
his wife.

Well, not entirely. He wanted to get rid of Mordecai. But how do you
do it without admitting the hobo gets to you? A problem, indeed. Here
comes in the character which isn’t mentioned in scroll, or in any other
place. Yes, you get here an exclusive first tale of what really
happened. There was a witch involved, you see. An evil witch, scheming
mischief throughout the kingdom. She noticed Haman’s malice (Witches
are good at that), and knew exactly what to do. So she came over, and
suggested a solution. Get rid of all the Jews. All of them, to the
last. Since Mordecai is a Jew, that would neatly take care of the
problem.

Haman of course liked the idea, and went about it. Now, he didn’t want
it to happen too soon, so if anyone saw him talking with the witch, it
won’t be apparent. So he decided to cast a random lot. In Hebrew, this
can be called a "Pur", and this is why the holiday is called "Purim".
Yes, seriously! Absurd, isn’t it? Anyway, he picked a date, and went to
the king.

Now the king might refuse if he was told "Listen, I wanna get rid of
the Jews, what do you say?", so Haman put a spin on it. He told the
king that there are people in his country who plot against him and do
not obey his rules. He got the king so worked up about them, that when
he offered the customary bribe, the king refused. He gave Haman his
signet, and told him to deal with it however he wants to. Remember the
signet, it will be important later.

Haman, being like all great viziers too fond of overly elaborate and
complex plans, wrote and order for the Jews to be attacked and
destroyed on the given date, and sent it throughout the realm.

The Jews heard about it, and were bewildered. It really did came out of
nowhere, since nobody had a problem with Jews. Remember, this was not a
release of old cultural angers, but rather a revenge against Mordecai
that was manipulated and blown out of proportion.

In typical Jewish fashion, Mordecai did what any intelligent men would
do when hearing such news. He tore off his clothes, and wore sackcloth
and ashes (Probably got them at a sale, and was looking for a good
excuse to use them. Who knows?). And this being a grand gesture, the
other bewildered Jews followed suit.

But Mordecai wasn’t a complete idiot. He knew the queen is a relative,
and as a queen may have an effect on the king. So he approached her,
and asked her to talk to the king. Esther, being an excitable blonde,
reacted even more dramatically, and in a fit responded that she’ll
first go on a fast, and that she won’t (imagine much stomping of feet)
talk to the king unless all the Jews do likewise. So they did.

Actually, there was another reason she didn’t want to talk to the kind
directly. See, Achashverosh, being an important king, was not to be
disturbed. If you approached him without being invited, well, off with
your head! Now, a normal beautiful queen would probably have been able
to figure out that just wandering near him scantily clothed may get her
an invite. If not, it was always possible to send a message. The king
was seeing people, like all his advisers, and many servants. But, you
know, blonde.

So she fasted three days, to make sure she’ll look haggard instead of
beautifully radiant, and then just walked over to him. Luckily, he
noticed her before she quite reached him, and invited her to come over.
The king was still besotted, so she asked her what she wanted, up to
half his kingdom (They always do that, did you notice? No wonder there
were all those tiny kingdoms around, everyone getting anything from any
king ever was always offered half the kingdom, odd).

What would you have done? Asked to spare the Jews, of course. They
weren’t close to being half the kingdom. But Esther, well, blonde. It
has been three days, so she didn’t really remember what she wanted,
only that she really needed to ask the king for something, and that
Haman was somehow involved. Also, she hadn’t eaten for three days, so
was thinking about food. So what boon did she ask? That the king and
Haman will drop over for dinner. Yes, seriously.

They came for dinner, had lots of wonderful small talk, and at the end
of the evening the king again asked her if she wants anything. But she
still wasn’t able to really remember, so she just invited the both of
them to come again tomorrow evening.

Now, flash back to the undocumented story of the witch. She got her
nefarious plot in place, but had one problem. Witnesses. She knew of
the trouble brewing, and needed to find a way to make sure Haman would
die when everything will fall into place. Come in Haman’s wife Zeresh,
which according to the scroll is going to be introduced in the scene
later that evening. But this is a little flash back for background. You
See, according to the scroll, she was a pompous women as well, who
desired the glory and advancement of her husband. This could not be
further from the truth. They had ten kids, which she had to raise by
herself while he was having fun at the palace. She had to take care of
the house. She had to do whatever silly thing her husband demanded, by
law. And worst, she had to bow to him all the time, even if she was
doing the dishes. She hated the guy’s guts. So a few weeks before this
evening she went to look for someone to help her get rid of him. An
apothecary to sell her poison, or some such. And the witch found her,
and promised to help, without evidence that Zeresh had something to do
with it, provided at the right time Zeresh would do as she tells her to.

Back to the scroll time line and documented plot. Haman is just leaving
dinner, more full of himself than ever, on account of being invited to
eat with the king and queen. And he passes the ever lurking Mordecai,
who doesn’t bow. Haman knows what is going to happen to him pretty
soon, but he still fumes, especially this night.

The witch makes her move, goes to Zeresh, and instructs her. When Haman
comes home, instead of patiently ignoring his usual whines and fuming,
she pretends to really care, and suggests a solution. She tells Haman
to build a huge gallows, and that later he would find a reason to hang
Mordecai there. He was so astounded that his wide suddenly gave him
the appreciation he deserved, that it seemed to him like a good idea,
instead of as a totally silly one, and promptly arranged for a gallows
to be built.

Now, at this night, like many others, Achashverosh couldn’t sleep. So
he asked for the annals to be read to him. Usually the parts were
selected in random (seriously. Maybe it helped keep him interested).
This time, we can say that a certain meddling witch passed certain
bribed, and among the randomly selected bits was the not so randomly
selected story about how Mordecai saved his life.

And, as expected, he decided that maybe he should do something about
it. He was in a good mood himself, after all, and felt magnanimous.
But as you may have noticed, he was more accustomed to killing people
than in having them honoured, so the next day he called his trusted
assistant Haman for consultation.

Now, everyone of you who worked with pompous bosses, or with clients,
will agree that they are usually very bad at saying what they really
want and need. Achashverosh was no different. Instead of saying
"Remember that Mordecai guy who saved my life once? What do you think
would be a nice way to show my appreciation, and to make sure that the
rest of the population see how magnanimous I am?", he just said "So,
Haman, what do you think I should do with a person that I like really
want to honour?" . And so, understandably, Haman thought it was all
about him, and suggested the should be dressed in all the kings
regalia, and paraded throughout the city on the king’s horse by one of
the king’s trusted officers.

To which, to Haman’s chagrin, the king replied "Cool, so go do that to
Mordecai, will you?". And poor Haman had no choice, and had to parade
Mordecai throughout the city. But he knew what was going to happen to
Mordecai soon, so this must have been great comfort to him throughout.

Forward to the evening. Another dinner with Esther, Achashverosh, and
Haman. This time, Esther nearly managed to collect her wits together,
and when the king again asked what is it that she wanted, she asked to
spare the lives of her and her people that are being destroyed by an
evil person. Now, you all remember that Mordecai told her not to say
she was a Jew, so up to this point it never occurred to her it could be
a good idea to change that. Ergo, the king looked at her totally
stunned, and asked what the heck she was talking about. Esther, being
ever vigilant about her priorities, told the king it was Haman, but
didn’t quite paid enough attention to mention the whole being a Jew
thing and that there is already a decree  against the Jews. As the
furious king was wondering what to do about Haman, Haman tried to beg
the queen for forgiveness. The king was apparently insanely Jealous,
since when he saw Haman holding the queen, he assumed Haman was
assaulting her, and got even madder.

At this point another servant, previously primed and prompted no doubt
by the witch, mentioned the gallows which were just finished. This
seemed perfect to the king, and Haman was hanged. Knowledge of the
witch’s involvement went to the grave with him, not to surface again
until now.

The next day Mordecai noticed that something is still missing, so he
dragged Esther, and they went to talk to the king about that decree.
This is where you needed to remember the signet for. Apparently,
anything signed with the royal signet cannot be revoked. yes, again,
seriously.
I mean, how stupid is that? The king cannot change his mind if he
signed something with the signet? And this king? I want to see how long
will someone stay alive after telling the king "No frigging way, your
highness, your signet is on it, forget about it!"… Not to mention the
possibility for conflicting edicts. But in any case, that’s the way it
was.

This was all too complicated for poor Achashverosh, who has just lost
his head advisor so couldn’t even consult him. Can you guess what he
did? Gave the signet to Mordecai, and told him to deal with it in
whatever way he wants. Very free and loose with his signet, this
Achashverosh dude…

Now, given that much power, many things could have been done. The
previous edict, while not revoked, could have been altered. Even
something silly like "but you can only try to kill Jews for the first
five minutes, and don’t try too hard", or something like that.

Instead, Mordecai chose differently. He arranged for a law allowing the
Jews to defend themselves against anyone who would attack them. And
notified all the Jews throughout the land about it.

Yes, seriously. Because, of course, otherwise being good citizens, the
Jews would have certainly just rolled over nicely and turned the other
cheek, no doubt. The entire thing is very unclear. What’s important is
that on the day there were fighting throughout the land, many houses
were razed, and many people died, both Jews and otherwise. Fun all
around.

But Jews survived mostly, so officially they won. The scroll even
mentioned that they were generous, and didn’t take spoils from the war.
Well, duh! The queen pretty much took care of this for them, in a
frenzy for being a nice Jew and giving away to the needy. Trust me,
after a little civil war, they were all needy. why object to the spoils
going to the crown, if the crown will give them back, eh? In fact, this
was so blatant, that tons of gifts were sent, and many delicacies and
food items were distributed in the days of wild feasting afterwards.

Oh, yes, and Haman’s sons were hanged as well. Why not, right? I don’t
think the daughters were, but nobody paid much attention to daughters
anyway these days…

Mordecai was made an advisor to the king (and hopefully gave back the
signet, though it’s not explicitly stated), and is remembered as one
taking good care of his people. Today we’d say he was robbing the
kingdom in the favour of his own constituency, but then he was just a
good Jewish guy.

And there concludes the story. On to the customs of the holiday.

The first one is of course lots and lots of partying. You’re supposed
to party madly and get so drunk you won’t even be able to tell Mordecai
and Haman apart (pretty easy, they both probably look like specks of
dust these days). Probably to symbolize the crazy drunkard victory
celebrations and non-looting that went after winning, and the victims
be damned.

Another one is using a loud and annoying rattler (called gragger in
English for some reason I don’t fathom) whenever the name of Haman is
mentioned. Officially he is "The Evil Haman", and this is so that we
won’t have to hear his name. Yep, Jewish logic again, instead of not
saying it, make more noise so it won’t be heard. Of course you have to
know when it is said to do that, so you don’t really lose any
information. Very bright.

The most important of all is the wearing of costumes. Everybody dresses
up. Traditionally there are many Mordecai and Esther outfits, but
everything goes. As the years go by, it becomes as commercialized as
Halloween, only without the morbid undertones. Whatever is popular for
kid’s books and TV shows, or movies, goes.

Then there are the special cookies, called Hamantashen in English. In
Hebrew it’s "Ozney Haman", which means Ears of Haman. Someone at some
point, maybe after drinking enough alcohol, decided those triangular
cookies look like ears. I don’t see it. You make it by making a round
thin layer of dough, put filling in the middle, and fold it from three
direction so that you get an open triangle with the filling showing in
the middle. Poppy seeds are the common filling, but variations abound.

Gifts to the poor are officially another holiday custom. Practically,
you don’t see it so much on a personal level. This is of course to
celebrate the plunder that was divided after the fighting subsided.

And the "sending gifts of food", in Hebrew it’s "Mishloach Manot",
which is like Sending Rations or something of the sort. Basically, you
take a bunch of cookies, candies, and small toys, pack them with pretty
ribbons, and give them as gifts to friends, or strangers (not much of
that going on, except for schools where you sometimes randomly switch
between class members). Sadly, the custom is being ruined in recent
years by modern and healthy versions of those gift baskets.

And that’s about it. Happy Purim everyone!

How she broke my heart, and then forgot all about it. Twice.

March 13th, 2005

This is another one of those things I originally posted elsewhere,
but decided to also copy here. The story was very slightly edited to
keep her anonymous.

Before I get to the sad tale itself, here are a couple of reviews about it, which made me think that it may merit reposting:

I laughed so hard, I was afraid I was going to wake up my mom (and then I realized she didn’t go to sleep yet. LOL)

Followed by

LOLOLOL, know what you mean, I did wake up my roomy – and she wasn’t happy!! :)

So you see, it has to be good. Has to!

Anyway, here goes:

Well, let me tell you the harrowing tale of how she broke my heart and then forgot all about it. Twice.

We were sitting on some lecture in the university. I won’t mention
which since she still has trauma from it, and hate for the explicit
names being mentioned. In any case, at some point she came up with some
harebrained theory about the effects of global climate conditions, and
long-term the climatic behaviour (The lesson was in Economics, it was
potentially relevant to the topic discussed at the time).

And she told me to suggest this theory to the lecturer.

Which is when I made my *big* mistake. I said no.

At the time I thought I had a good reason. Her theory made no sense
and was obviously wrong. Totally so. Due to that it seemed logical to
avoid raising it in class (even though the lecturer was probably dumb
enough to consider it).

So, to repeat the sad moment, I said no.

At which point she gave me this gorgeous, but oh so sad, pout,
raising tears of sympathy to my eyes. I was overwhelmed by the desire
to repent, and suggest her claim to the lecturer, anything to remove
the hurt look in her eyes. But before I could do so she told me…

Excuse me for a minute there, I need a short break before I can continue…

She told me… That she didn’t love me anymore.

Now you have to realize that she never did tell me that she loved me
before that point. Yet, surely, she cannot stop loving me if she never
did, right?

So for the briefest of moments, a mere tiny fraction of time, my
heart soared and leaped to unimaginable heights, knowing that I had her
love. Only to come crashing and tumbling down, the long long way down,
when the realization hit me that she no longer does. Worse, I did not
get to bask in the glow of her love while I had it, and only found out
about it once it was so abruptly taken away…

My heart, as I said, fell down and hit rock bottom, all in an
instant. And if you didn’t know, the preservation of momentum and
kinetic energy hold sway even in matters of the heart. Because it
soared so high the moment before, the landing was so very hard.

My heart, which I thought so durable up to that moment, shuddered,
and broke into billions, nay, trillions, of tiny microscopic pieces,
spread all over the place. Many flew so far and wide that I to this day
know not where they landed. The rest was spread around me, the
glittering dust of my heart that now felt like ashes of despair.

And then she turned around, and we continued with the lesson.

With the utmost investment of will power I managed to hold a
semblance of calm, not showing the turmoil raging inside me. I managed
to go through the rest of the day, the rest of the following couple of
years, in a daze of pain, sorrow, loss, and yearning, while maintaining
an amicable façade to all those around.

Then, at some point much later (about two years), while talking with
her, she asked if she could ask me to do something. I replied with a
flippant "Have I ever said no to you", and as the pain of memory lanced
through me, added hurriedly "apart from that last time?".

And she gave me a totally blank and puzzled look. As if to say what
one time are you talking about?. And then she really did ask "What one
time are you talking about?". I tried to give broad hints, since surely
the most tragic event of my life must have left some memorable
impression on her. But no.

Eventually, I had to relive the entire terrible moment, retelling
the whole story. And as I concluded, and silence filled the room,
laying heavily between us she said…

Please give me another moment here to collect myself…

She said in the most light and indifferent tone, "Oh? Really? I don’t remember that at all. Well, never mind, I take that back".
And turned around to go on with what she was doing before.

For a second, it was as if the ashes of my heart where trying once
again to string themselves together into a remnant, but fuller remnant,
of the whole that once was. She didn’t mean that she didn’t love me
after all. But then it hit me that in the same breath she then didn’t
mean that she did. And my heart came apart again, not having enough
time to glue itself.

Then it became worse. The whole incident meant nothing to her. Nothing.
I was a ruined, devastated, and destroyed man, and she didn’t even notice, didn’t bat an eyelid, didn’t bother remembering.

And life went on. Until a few months later when she again asked me
if I can do something for her. And having temporarily repressed the
memory of the previous incident, I gave the same answer. And can you
guess what she said? Can you? Let me give you a hint… "What one time
are you talking about?"…

Yes, she forgot it again! Twice!

And so it stands up to this very day…