Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."


Social Media

Despair, Inc. :-( -- makers of many brilliant "demotivational posters" -- has been on a tear lately. Today they introduced two hilarious new tee-shirts (one of which sports the logo shown above, "unlocking the awesome potential of behavioral disorders").

Check 'em out!



SNL: Palin and Clinton

NBC's Saturday Night Live brought back Tina Fey last night for a brilliant skit as Gov. Sarah Palin. Tina (who served as head writer for SNL from 1999 to 2006) left the show two years ago to create the series 30 Rock. This is one of the funniest SNL videos I've seen in a long time:

UPDATE: This link points to the official NBC site, so you get to be exposed to their 15-second Chevy commercial before you can watch the video. Ain't capitalism grand?

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Nuclear Blogtank

Cheryl at Whirled View has asked:
"What strategies are available to a country with fissionable material sufficient for 1-5 nuclear weapons, some of which may be assembled? Take into account probable responses, and assume some sort of rationality on the holders of these weapons and material. You may specifically refer to Iran and North Korea, or any other nation, or make the scenario(s) more general. Flesh out the scenario with some support."
Since it has become known to The Great and Wonderful Wizard that nefarious forces in the lands of ZenPundit are "contemplating how to leverage the possession of a small number of nuclear weapons to best advantage," we will develop our own strategy in the interest of global peace and tranquility.

Our resources being small, and our arsenal limited, we can not come anywhere close to the Kahnesque scenarios of On Thermonuclear War. And with a severely constrained national ability to reconstitute, our primary objective is the security and preservation of our fissile material.

Therefore, we will pursue a four-fold strategy we call "Deterrence Light":

1. INTERNAL SECURITY: Ensure the secrecy of our fissile material. Maximize employment of decoys and spoofs so as to preserve this material should it ever be needed. In addition, ensure that only the most loyal forces of Oz are entrusted with this powerful knowledge. Should we fail in this most important endeavor, our national investment in this capability will be for naught.

2. EXTERNAL AWARENESS: Inform the world of our technological accomplishment -- and embed in our announcements disinformation regarding the exact disposition of our research establishment and weapons complexes. Deterrence fails when your potential adversaries don't realize the extent of your capabilities.

3. MAXIMIZED ARSENAL: Given that our arsenal has, at most, five weapons, we will seek to maximize our arsenal by producing the smallest practicable weapons -- weapons still with significant destructive power in order to support our strategy of 'Deterrence Light'. To reinforce our standing in the world, we will stage one underground test (in full compliance with international protocols, short of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which we see as the foil of established powers seeking to preserve their exclusivity).

4. DELIVERY OPTIONS: Develop multiple methods to deliver weapons systems unto our adversaries, should the deterrence strategies of 1. and 2. above fail: via land, sea and air/space -- but emphasizing surface routes due to the high assurance (good) despite the lengthy response time (bad). While Oz may not be able to respond immediately to a clear and present danger, we must preserve the ability to respond at a time and place of our choosing -- akin to the Fedayeen Saddam in Iraq following the fall of the Iraqi government in 2003. Moreover, our declared philosophy will be peaceful coexistence with our neighbors and the world -- but a clear warning to our adversaries that their economic and population centers will suffer should they cause our own government or our people harm.

The Kind and Benevolent Wizard is content that the world will see us for our goodness, and not think ill that we should use this technological capability for the assured preservation of Oz and its ideals.

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Random Seven Meme

While I harbored plans to provide an intellectually stimulating post on "decisionmaking" today, I instead have to respond to General of the Hordes Subadei's "randomness meme".

Update: I've been double-tapped, this time by The Strategist.

The Rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog. (Done, above)
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Present an image of martial discord from whatever period or situation you'd like.

So, beginning with #5, here is an image from (IMHO) the most significant moment of the most significant battle of the Civil War: Gen. Stonewall Jackson succumbing to friendly fire.

This fateful shot, near dusk in the rugged woods of central Virginia in early May 1863, felled the maneuverist spirit of the Confederate States Army -- and left General Bobby Lee with only Longstreet's "static defense" a few short weeks later at Gettysburg. Had Stonewall Jackson been present in Pennsylvania, I have no doubt that he would have listened to Hood and his Texans' idea of flanking Meade and the Army of the Potomac well south of Little Round Top -- and many more of us would to this day be sending our income tax returns to Richmond....

Seven random facts about me:

1. I have been in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Actually, I've been under the DMZ -- in an intercept tunnel dug by the R.O.K. into a mostly-completed tunnel from the north. It was wide enough for two soldiers to walk abreast, or for one division per hour to move through.

2. I've lived in six different states of the U.S., including (for two years) Hawai'i. So quit your whining about the price of food & gas -- we were paying nearly six bucks for a gallon of milk ten years ago.

3. Along with college buddy Tony, I used to brew my own beer. A doppelbock we brewed in the early 1990s won an "Honorable Mention" at the Del Mar Fair in San Diego -- despite being a simple extract brew.

4. My grandmother was a Marine in World War II. As was my grandfather (which is how they met, gearing up for Operation OLYMPIC and the invasion of Japan in 1945; thank God for the Manhattan Project!). Other Marines in my family include my step-dad, my uncle and my cousin. Alas, I wasn't good enough ("4-F" medical disqualification at the entry processing station after graduating from college).

5. I met my bride on a plane. I was going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with the ski club from the Navy lab where I worked; she was going to her grandmother's funeral. She sat in front of me from San Diego to Denver, and again (a week later) right in front of me from Denver back to San Diego. (Makes it hard to be agnostic with that kind of blatant interventionism going on! :-)

6. I missed just one math question on my college prep exam (the ACT), taking my possible score of 36 (out of 35) all the way down to a 33. The question? Area of a circle. Every time I think about it, refrains of "π are square" echo in my head....

7. I once wanted to major in philosophy, probably due more to the fact that I was a lazy student incapable of serious, deep study than for any real interest in epistemology. Parental intervention (i.e., "Fine - but YOU have to pay for your tuition, books and lodging!") gently nudged me back on the physics track.

In the interest of seeing how the fairer sex addresses Rule #5, I hereby tag:

Citizen Netmom
Baby Brewing Cocktail Mommy
Sydney Liles (as ZenPundit has tagged Sam :-)
Cheryl @ Whirled View

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Birthday Sex & the City

SatC GirlsCINCOZ celebrates her birthday today, so we honored the occasion with a "cocktail party / Sex & the City movie night". Mind you, CINCOZ is not one for imbibing whilst expecting -- so I ensured that her want of a Cosmopolitan was duly noted on her shirt:

(Gratuitous, unpaid promotion: Check out Kristen's most excellent site, Baby Brewing, with some hilarious tee shirts and maternity wear -- R is sporting a "Mommy Wants a Cocktail" maternity tee, while I am "Drinking for Two". And if you really want some world class parenting humor, check out her 'blog Mommy Needs a Cocktail.)

Thankfully, I was well-versed enough in the characters (thanks to R's weekends watching re-runs via HBO-On-Demand) and their various psychoses. I was even pre-briefing a couple of R's friends before the movie (a feat they all found quite humorous). As one of only seven men in an otherwise packed theater (and the only one accompanying seven stunningly attractive, intelligent and successful women), I had a great time. (Top that, Dante!)

Definitely a trail to avoid....

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Dubious Post of the Week

Earlier this week Stan Wasserman at Harvard's "Complexity and Social Networks Blog" posted a rant about how he's " ... beginning to despise the word 'social' in 'social networks', 'social networking', 'social software', and so forth ......"

My comment (which has not yet been posted, since they moderate blog feedback) was that he'd better rethink the name of their blog. I suppose "Complexity and Network Science Blog" has a nice ring to it... :-)

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Happy Mother's Day

The kids helped make a video for CINCHOUSE in honor of Mother's Day:

Don't send a lame Mother's Day eCard.
Try JibJab Sendables!



Important Anniversary

Tomorrow marks an important date in American history -- one that will reverberate through posterity due to its massive impact on culture and society.

No, I'm not talking about the 1993 assault on the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, TX (which is eerily similar to the recent raid -- in Texas also -- of a polygamist compound [h/t tdaxp]). Nor am I talking about Timothy McVeigh's domestic terror attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City two years later.

And no, I am not talking about "the shot heard 'round the world" at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts in 1775 during the Battles of Lexington and Concord that kindled the American Revolutionary War (aka "Patriots' Day" by residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and runners of the Boston Marathon).

No, I am referring to the first airing of "The Simpsons" shorts on the Tracey Ullman Show on April 19th, 1987.

It's hard to believe that Matt Groening's animated shorts, which quickly spun off into what is now the longest-running animated series in history (in its 19th season), was first introduced to us all just 21 years ago....

In the words of the inestimable Bart (an anagram for "brat"), "Cowabunga!"

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Beakman in Oak Ridge!

The inestimable Beakman, the King Kong of Knowledge, was at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge today. Man-cub, announcing "I like pie!" (or was it, "I like pi"?), was dubbed "Pi-Guy" by Beakman -- and got to go on stage as a volunteer answerer with a crazy wig:
We got to see Beakman make a bat appear out of thin air, watch "Beakman Bucket" spew (with audience participation as the three elements of the pharyngeal process) and observe Bernoulli's Principle with the aid of a paint roller, a leaf blower and a roll of toilet paper.

Great fun!

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Tagged: Christmas Meme

Local friend Citizen Netmom has been tagged by LissaKay to provide a "Christmas Meme" profile, so I'm following her lead. Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share Christmas facts about yourself.
3. Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of "Getting to Know Your Friends."

1. Wrapping or gift bags?
Gift bags - the ultimate convenience in gift-giving!

2. Real or artificial tree?
Artificial pre-lit. (See comment on "convenience" in 1. above.)

3. When do you put up the tree?
Me? Never. My bride? Usually just after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down?
After our annual Epiphany Party in early January.

5. Do you like egg nog?
Not as much as what you can put *in* the eggnog.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
A BMX bike when I was 12 years old.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes (a small porcelain one).

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
At an office "gag gift exchange", I ended up with a plastic hand pedestal that was supposed to be a remote control holder. We kept it in the closet until the follow year's gift exchange.

9. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Despite my comments on "convenience" above, this is one area where we go all out -- mail is the only way for us. Our family photo is planned months in advance (this year's card was from a February trip to Mexico, complete with Santa hats in the luggage), cards are ordered shortly after Halloween, and labels printed the week before Thanksgiving. We have made a habit (perhaps bordering on Obsessive-Compulsive :-) of mailing them the day before Thanksgiving -- sort of a green flag for friends and family of the start of the holiday season.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Black Friday. My lovely bride, however, starts the day *after* Christmas for the next year.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
My bride's crockpot turkey (never dry!). And my Grandmother's & Aunt Peggy's Secret Toffee.

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?

14. Favorite Christmas song(s)?
Sarajevo 12/24 by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
We usually travel -- we have family and friends scattered throughout the country.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Yes (though it might take me a while). Don't forget Olive! (As in "Olive, the other reindeer..." :-)

17. Angel on the tree top or a star?

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
One selected gift on Christmas Eve, the rest on Christmas morning.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Some people let themselves get too stressed out -- so courtesy seems to be too rare this time of year, ESPECIALLY on the roads and parking lots.

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color?
Classic white lights, gold trimmed ribbon, with lots of sentimental-value ornaments.

21. What do you leave for Santa?
Milk and cookies, of course. And some carrots on the lawn for his reindeer.

22. Least favorite holiday song?
Anything with "singing" animals.

23. Favorite ornament?
Our Macy's-New York City "Curious George" ornament (showing George climbing the Empire State Building in a clear glass globe) from their 75th Anniversary Parade.

24. Family tradition?
Besides what's already been described here (decorations, cards, gifts), we have an emerging tradition of performances. Both kids play in holiday piano recitals, and Renee always performs with the church choir in their Christmas performances. Also, Shelby has performed in The Nutcracker three of the past four years now -- and Jarrett has said he wants to be a "party boy / mouse soldier" in next year's Nutcracker.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Eve services?
Yes, a couple times (once in San Diego, when my mother-in-law visited us there; and another time in Minnesota at her church).

I will be passing this "tag" on to the following blogfriends (updated to link to their replies):

Sean Meade

Can't wait to see what they post... Merry Christmas to all!

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Tennessee Snowball Fight!

Don't send a lame Starring You! eCard. Try JibJab Sendables!



Do the Dew

My personal favorite soft drink (Mountain Dew) was invented right here, in east Tennessee, some 60 years ago. The trademark was awarded on this day, November 12th, 1948, to the Hartman brothers of Knoxville (who invented the drink as a mixer for whiskey).

Pepsi-Cola bought the franchise in 1964, and today there are nearly a dozen flavors and several brand varieties. Knoxville Trivia Blog has a great timeline on the Dew's evolution (including early marketing techniques to correlate the drink to Appalachia-distilled Moonshine), and even Wikipedia has a page on the drink.

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Tools for Search, Fun

Zenpundit is test-driving a cool new visual search tool called searchCrystal. This tool allows you to visually compare, remix and mash hits from a variety of feeds in one simple interface. To wit:

Although this is a neat GUI for quickly comparing multiple search engines, even allowing the user to manually adjust the radius of the concentric circles, I found myself wondering "what's missing?" from the display. As one who frequently tailors and refines my Boolean searches until I get a good sense of what's available, I found the "top ten" default display deck for each engine on searchCrystal too constraining.

But rather than do a true in-depth review of searchCrystal, I decided to help the kids make our own "The Simpsons" avatars:

Matt Groening has come a long way from the Life in Hell comics I enjoyed in college! If you want to make your own avatars, go to The Simpsons Movie. H/T to Younghusband of Coming Anarchy (whose own avatars are uploaded to flickr).

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