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Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 17:02 by John Sinteur in category: Cartoon



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Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World | The Onion

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 17:01 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News


Members of the earth’s earliest known civilization, the Sumerians, looked on in shock and confusion some 6,000 years ago as God, the Lord Almighty, created Heaven and Earth.

According to recently excavated clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform script, thousands of Sumerians—the first humans to establish systems of writing, agriculture, and government—were working on their sophisticated irrigation systems when the Father of All Creation reached down from the ether and blew the divine spirit of life into their thriving civilization.

“I do not understand,” reads an ancient line of pictographs depicting the sun, the moon, water, and a Sumerian who appears to be scratching his head. “A booming voice is saying, ‘Let there be light,’ but there is already light. It is saying, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass,’ but I am already standing on grass.”

“Everything is here already,” the pictograph continues. “We do not need more stars.”

Historians believe that, immediately following the biblical event, Sumerian witnesses returned to the city of Eridu, a bustling metropolis built 1,500 years before God called for the appearance of dry land, to discuss the new development. According to records, Sumerian farmers, priests, and civic administrators were not only befuddled, but also took issue with the face of God moving across the water, saying that He scared away those who were traveling to Mesopotamia to participate in their vast and intricate trade system.

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  1. Did you catch the other dig from the most important stories of the last 4.5 billion years? In the ‘greatest inventions’ infographic, they had the following:

    God — this multipurpose tool has allowed billions to soothe their mortal fears while easily excusing a wide variety of unconscionable actions such as war and homophobia.

How would you win this game show?

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 16:40 by John Sinteur in category: News


Here’s a nice little game-theory exercise:

You are in a game show with nineteen other players. You don’t know the other players, you can’t see them, and you can’t communicate with them. The game you are in is called ‘Greed!’, and is straightforward to explain. You are asked to write down a whole dollar amount in the range $1 – $1,000,000 on a piece of paper. You will be paid the amount you asked for if it is deemed to be ‘non-greedy’. Whether your request is indeed ‘non-greedy’ will be decided once all twenty request have been received by the host of the show. Your requested amount will be labeled ‘non-greedy’ if no other player has asked for less, and at least one player has asked for more.

How do you play?

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  1. On the first glimpse, the most probable way to win (= be labeled “non-greedy”) seems to me to ask for $1.

    $1 is the only amount which would fulfill for certain the first criterion (no one can ask for less than $1). I would then win if one or even more of the other players would ask for any other amount than 1$.

    But when everybody would do so, everybody would ask for 1$, so no one would have another player to ask for more, so everybody would be labeled “greedy”, and no one would receive anything.

  2. Only winning strategy is to write

    “1$ less than higher bidder”

  3. in that case 1$ less than the lower bidder

  4. Another thought on this game:

    It might also be a question of whether you only want to “win”, or whether you want to make as much money as possible.

    In the first case, I should ask for $1. It is the amount with the highest probability to win.

    In the last case, it is a consideration of “expectancy value”. The more I ask, the more improbable it becomes that I get this amount. The problem here: It is really difficult to calculate the probability function, because we have a system with 20 unknowns (players). Anyway, the expectancy function (money I ask for)*(probability(money I ask for)) has a maximum somewhere. I just don’t know how to calculate this maximum.

    Intuitively, I would ask for a ‘nice’ amount, like $1500 (if I win, new Laptop and new digicam!, if not… doesn’t matter.). Anything less is just not worth playing for, anything more becomes too improbable to win. When then somebody wins by asking for $10, well, nice for him, he might have ‘won’ and can be ‘proud’ now, but he has also not gained any significant amount of money.

  5. It appears the only logical way to win this show is to turn in a blank piece of paper. Remember, you are asked to write down a dollar amount. It doesn’t mean you have to.

  6. The problem here is that the situation is symmetrical — if all players are rational, they’ll all choose the same thing, and therefore they will lose. You can only get around that by having someone who plays badly, because for you to win, someone else has to lose according to these rules. So you can pick $1 and know you’ll win unless someone picked $0, or you can pick $0 confident that winning or losing makes no difference to screw over everyone else. If you pick $0, though, you’ll probably get a copy of the home game, which is much better than risking the chance to get $1!

  7. A truly selfless person would choose $0 so as to ensure that the other 18 players (not including the greedy swine who picked the highest amount) get their money, however much they asked for.

    Virtue is its own reward which is good because it sure as hell doesn’t seem to get rewarded any OTHER way…

  8. re-read the rules: “a whole dollar amount in the range $1 – $1,000,000” – therefore $0 is not allowed. And as Mauro says, if you assume all players equally rational, they’ll play the same as you, so picking $1 doesn’t get anybody anything.

  9. The rules state that at least one other person must have asked for more, and no one must have asked for less. You can tie for the lowest bid. It’s not a race to undercut everyone, just to undercut one other person. There can be multiple winners. Similarly, there is no “penalty” for losing, other than not winning. That changes things significantly: the environment is not competitive, but cooperative.

    The first trivial case is to start at the top: you can’t win if you ask for $1M, because that’s the max amount, so no one can ask for more. Arguably, this is the least Greedy amount – using the traditional definition – because it’s a non-winnable bid. This bid is purely a gesture to assure that, given the rules as stated, at least one other person can win. However, there is no reward other than “warm fuzzies” – which, during the winter, won’t even keep you warm.

    If you view $1,000,000 as an “unwinnable” amount, the next highest value is $999,999. At first glance, that amount is now the maximum, therefore it seems “unwinnable” too, so it should not be chosen, and must be undercut. Continuing to applying that logic will eventually degrade into the other trivial case first mentioned by Steffen – the minimum amount of $1 – which is paradoxically a guaranteed loser. If all players bid the lowest amount, there is no “higher” bidder, so all players lose. Playing to be the “only” winner will guarantee that there is _no_ winner.

    Another factor is the risk/reward balance: what’s the point of winning if it’s close to $0? As this is a game theory exercise, it’s not inappropriate to draw parallels to “winning” a nuclear war – and ruling the world from the bottom of a mine shaft. You don’t have to beat everyone else, and you have plenty of room to make “winning” have a strong value. So, bid big.

    My solution? Generate a random number between 1 and ‘x’. If the random number is ‘1’, make a “risky but gracious” bid of $999,999 (still a chance of winning). Otherwise, make a “safe but selfish” bid of $999,998. ‘x’ should be determined as a function of the total number of players divided by a caution factor to create reasonably high odds of at least one player choosing the higher value. I leave it to probability experts to determine what ‘x’ should be for a sample size of 20. My gut instinct is somewhere between 6 and 10.

    Applying this algorithm should result in approximately 16-17 people winning $999,998 each. However, it just takes 1 idiot bidding $1…

Charlie’s Diary: Why I don’t (usually) use Windows

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 16:21 by John Sinteur in category: Funny!


In general Sony’s engineers seem to have the free hand in designing the prettiest, friendliest, most well-built machines possible. They get to develop advanced technology, or buy it from competitors at any price. At the cutting edge of consumer electronics their design process has the grace and elegance of a tea ceremony.
Their products have a soul.

Then, at a certain point during development, the engineers take their slick, shiny prototype up to the thirteenth floor and leave it on a massive smoked glasss table in an dark, empty conference room. They go home silently, and drink sake in a melancholy their wives cannot understand.

Back on the thirteenth floor, a team of crack marketeers emerges and starts handicapping the prototype. They add bloatware that links to unyielding vaporware websites, disable hardware for unlocking in future updates, install seven gigs of designer screen saver ‘introduction’ movies. They disable any meaningful way to use the device without buying into a distributed network of an occult protocol.

Meanwhile the CEO’s stalk each other in bamboo rooftop forests, their katanas gleaming with the blood of intra-corporate informants as they search to battle for supremacy.

At home the engineers try to forget what could have been. At one point they have drank enough sakes to allow themselves to cry a single, desperate tear.

As a comment on a windows installation article…. or, if you like:


that well-established genre, the tale of godawful Windows-installation woes.

Another few years and the genre will have its own accepted tropes and rhetorical divisions.

I. Exordium. The narrator introduces himself, establishes his experience in computing (ethos) and exhorts the listeners to gather round.
II. Prolegomenon. Customarily, the hardware spec of the machine is outlined here.

III. Praeinstallatio. The narrator describes his initial attempt to install Windows.
IV. Contrainstallatio. The installation goes wrong.
V. Descendo. The narrator describes his increasingly desperate attempts to get things to go right.
VI. Depilatio. The narrator is reduced to despair and frustration.
VII. Inertio. The narrator sinks into a horrified stupor as his machine gurgles and clunks to itself for anything up to three days.

VIII. Peroratio. The narrator rises into fury as he describes how long and painful an experience the install was;
which may be followed by
IX. Aptenodytes forsteri, the narrator switches to Linux.

(oh, and xkcd, of course…)

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  1. What I wonder, why am I so lucky guy that my Windows installations always go without any problems?
    If only someone could explain it to me…

A Pictorial Guide to avoiding Camera Loss

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 15:08 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture


Have you lost your camera recently? Mislaid it somewhere in a national park? Left it in a taxi? Dropped it in the gorilla pit? Anyone can be a victim of the thoughtlessness and/or sleepiness that can lead to Camera Loss.

‘How can I prevent Camera Loss?’ I hear you ask, wishing I’d get to the point. Well, you can’t prevent cameras from getting lost, but you can do something so your camera can be found very soon after it has vanished.

All you have to do is take some photos – which you never delete from your camera – so when someone finds your camera at the bottom of the gorilla pit they are able to locate you and return the lost property to its rightful owner.

Go watch the pictures!

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Credit card’s newest trick: 79.9 percent interest

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 15:06 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons


It’s no mistake. This credit card’s interest rate is 79.9 percent.

The bloated APR is how First Premier Bank, a subprime credit card issuer, is skirting new regulations intended to curb abusive practices in the industry. It’s a strategy other subprime card issuers could start adopting to get around the new rules.

Typically, the First Premier card comes with a minimum of $256 in fees in the first year for a credit line of $250. Starting in February, however, a new law will cap such fees at 25 percent of a card’s credit line.

In a recent mailing for a preapproved card, First Premier lowers fees to just that limit — $75 in the first year for a credit line of $300. But the new law doesn’t set a cap on interest rates. Hence the 79.9 APR, up from the previous 9.9 percent.

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Religion 101 Final Exam

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 15:02 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News

[Question 8 of 26:]

You are a Starfleet Federation explorer in the process of cataloging two newly discovered planets. The majority of the inhabitants of each planet believe in a deity, but they are two different deities. Deity “X” is said to be not only all-powerful, all-loving, and all-knowing, but the designer of a marvelously complex and ordered world. Deity “Y” is said to be indifferent, absent, unconcerned with the affairs of his planet, and some even say evil. Which god rules over which planet?

Planet A: Has apparently achieved a state of advanced benign equilibrium in which there are no viruses or diseases, and only a very small number of natural disasters, which, when they do strike, always eliminate only the sinful and evil. The inhabitants, both plant and animal, have learned to maintain their existence through photosynthesis, and thus do not have to kill and eat each other in order to survive. There are no “birth defects”; every inhabitant comes into existence perfectly formed and equipped for a long and productive life.

Deity X_____
Deity Y_____

Planet B: Adorned with many examples of beauty and order, it is also constantly beset by hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, volcanoes, lightning bolts, viruses, disfiguring diseases, parasites, leeches, flies, crop-destroying pests and many other phenomena which afflict both the innocent and the evil. Every life form on the planet can only sustain its existence through the destruction and consumption of other life forms. Some of the inhabitants are born with a crippling condition called a “birth defect” which condemns them to living extremely limited, short or painful lives.

Deity X_____
Deity Y_____

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Parsley Sauce

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 14:36 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News


Just days after the death of Oral Roberts, Pastor Rod Parsley has given the world the most shameless and risible fund-raising plea seen this side of 1987. The Columbus Dispatch reports:

he Rev. Rod Parsley has issued a desperate plea for money, telling his flock that he is facing a “demonically inspired financial attack” that is threatening his ministry.

When asked to comment yesterday, Parsley’s World Harvest Church issued a statement saying the recession caused a decline in member giving in 2009, which has led to a fourth-quarter deficit of $3 million despite a 30 percent reduction in the budget.

This year, the church settled for $3.1 million with a family whose son was spanked at its day-care center in 2006, to the point his buttocks and legs were covered with welts and abrasions.

The boy, then 2, said he was spanked with a “knife” by a substitute teacher. His parents, Michael and Lacey Faieta, believe it was a ruler.

The Ohio Court of Appeals opinion can be seen here, and makes for grim reading: the substitute teacher was unqualified, and the only other time he had been left in sole supervision, a few months earlier, another child had mysteriously fractured his skull. In the case of the Faietas, when they tried to ask about how their son had come to have his injuries, they were threatened with a prosecution for criminal tresspass if they returned to the property.

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What’s Up with Citigroup?

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 14:31 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons


On Monday, Citigroup received permission from its regulators to buy back the remaining $20 billion in preferred shares held by Treasury because of its investments under TARP. (Treasury invested $25 billion in October 2008 and another $20 billion November 2008; however, $25 billion worth of preferred shares were converted into common shares earlier this year, giving the government about a 34% ownership stake in the bank.) The stock then fell by 6%. What’s going on?

This is another example of a bank doing something stupid in order to say that it is no longer receiving TARP money, and probably more importantly so it can escape executive compensation restrictions. As Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit himself said last October, TARP capital is really cheap (quoted in David Wessel, In Fed We Trust). Instead of paying an 8% interest rate* on $20 billion in preferred shares, Citigroup chose to issue $17 billion of new common shares while its share price is below $4/share. Citigroup’s cost of equity is certainly more than 8%, so it just increased its overall cost of capital. The stock price fell because existing shareholders are guessing that the dilution they suffered (because new shares were issued) will more than compensate for the fact that Citi no longer has to pay dividends to Treasury.

Paying back the TARP money also makes Citigroup weaker. That’s $20 billion less in cash it has to withstand any potential problems in its asset portfolio. Now, you can say that it compensated by issuing new equity. But those are two separate transactions; Citi could have issued the common shares whether or not it paid back its TARP money. Standing on its own, paying back TARP money is unequivocally bad for the balance sheet.

So everybody gets fucked except the people who stand to receive bonus money. Cute.

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Italy contemplates Web restrictions after Berlusconi attack

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 14:03 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ

So let me get this straight… if a mental patient attacks your Grand Poohbah, and a lot of people use the internet to show support of the mental patient, the proper government reaction is to censor the internet?

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  1. There are a lot of thing that sounds creepy in that attack.

    * A cameraman moved the camera to the assault *before* the object was thrown.
    * In the first seconds after being hit, according to the videos B.’s face is not grazed, or bleeding.
    * It starts bleeding just after B. raises a black plastic bag to the face… why does he have in hand a small black garbage sack while parading in the center of Milan? Why does he uses the *inside* of the bag instead of his other hand, or the jacket sleeve?
    * Why, whit all the blood on his face coming from scratches and an open gum, he has not a single drop of blood on the shirt?
    * He addressed the people in the place just after the attack: if you have ever lost two teeth and had a “broken” lip, you know that having a speech is not the think you desire the most.
    * Police officers allowed B to have the speech just after an attack: what police force would allow this in a real life situation?
    * How could a single man, with a visible heavy object in the hand a maddened face come that near to B, when he usually goes around with 20 or more police officers both in uniform and in casual dresses?

    Moreover, the day after, two bombs were placed in Milan by an anarchic firm almost never heard before, without any warning from police or informants, without a plausible vindication? For the non-italian readers, that was standard strategy for GLADIO secret services in the ’70.

    To have a full information of the facts, consider that B is currently (or better, was before those facts) under scrutiny for his contacts with Mafia according to the deposition of a captured boss, is under trial for corruption of a judge, is discussed for favoritism to his televisions against Murdoch’s ones, is incurring in continuous scandals, had the right hand of one of his most trusted governors arrested for corruption in the television business unveiling a potentially wider scandal and many more.

‘This entire conference is an elaborate sham’

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 13:38 by John Sinteur in category: News


In other words, this entire conference is an elaborate sham, where the organizers have known all along that they’re heading for a very different world than the one they’re supposedly creating. It’s intellectual dishonesty of a very high order, and with very high consequences.

And it’s probably come too late to derail the stage management—tomorrow Barack Obama will piously intone that he’s committed to a two degree temperature target. But he isn’t—and now he can’t even say it with a straight face.

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The Bodhisattva Paradox

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 13:03 by John Sinteur in category: Quote


The bodhisattva cannot pass over into Nirvana. He cannot because, were he to do so, he would exhibit a selfishness that a bodhisattva cannot have. If he has the selfishness, he is not a bodhisattva, and so cannot enter Nirvana. If he lacks the selfishness, again, he cannot enter Nirvana, for that would be a selfish act. So either way, the bodhisattva is impotent to enter Nirvana. … So no one can reach Nirvana; we cannot because we are not bodhisattvas and the bodhisattva cannot because he is a bodhisattva.

– Arthur Danto, Mysticism and Morality, 1972

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  1. Yes, I can follow those lines of reasoning.

  2. Why is this a paradox?

  3. the paradox: what is “heaven” if nobody can get into it?

  4. The perspective of the paradox is backwards.

    Only after _all_ desire has been released is Nirvana attainable. A bodhisattva is filled with desire to help others attain Nirvana. Therefore, remaining as a bodhisattva is a choice to remain imperfect.

    A bodhisattva’s entry into Nirvana will help others by demonstrating that such entry is possible, and is therefore not selfish.

    However, entering Nirvana may not be done for the purpose of encouraging others, as purpose = desire.

    Only two solutions exist:
    1) wait until everyone has become a bodhisattva, and no one remaining needs help.
    2) “Screw you guys, I’m going home”.

U.S. National Debt Tops Debt Limit

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 12:28 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ


The latest calculation of the National Debt as posted by the Treasury Department has – at least numerically – exceeded the statutory Debt Limit approved by Congress last February as part of the Recovery Act stimulus bill.

The ceiling was set at $12.104 trillion dollars. The latest posting by Treasury shows the National Debt at nearly $12.135 trillion.

A senior Treasury official told CBS News that the department has some “extraordinary accounting tools” it can use to give the government breathing room in the range of $150-billion when the Debt exceeds the Debt Ceiling.

Next time you’re at the limit of your bank account or credit card, give your bank a call, and tell them that, although numerically you’re maxed out, you’ve got some extraordinary accounting tools that say they should give you some more. See what your bank answers you…

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Techno Jeep

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 11:11 by John Sinteur in category: News

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Insurance company stocks “on fire” – they’re winning, we’re losing

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 9:45 by John Sinteur in category: News


If you need a guide to the health reform debate in Washington, take a look at health insurance company stocks. When the debate is going the right way – towards quality, affordable health care for everyone, towards getting people out from under the insurance industry’s crushing monopoly – insurance company stocks take a dive. When the debate is moving against what America wants – towards more private industry, less insurance regulations, and the like – health care stocks soar.

Right now, they’re soaring.

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Look at them doing their secret terrorist fist jab!

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 8:43 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture


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Business: The end of the affair

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 8:39 by John Sinteur in category: News


But in 2010, for the second year running, tens of thousands of overqualified MBAs will emerge with nowhere exciting to go. A very few will land jobs in investment banking, but those who want grand jobs in big companies or consultancies will be disappointed. Increasingly they will go crawling back to their old employers to do pretty much whatever they were doing before for pretty much the same money. As the efficacy of a business school is measured according to the salary one gets when one finishes, both students and employers will question whether it is really worth the $160,000 that a top MBA costs.

This is not going to be a little recessionary dip. It will be a more fundamental reappraisal. The magical myth of the MBA has for some time left the facts behind. In future, those who stump up will do so because they want to learn the skills, not because they think they are buying entry into a cool and exclusive club.

Some good things will follow from this. There will be fewer smart Alecs who think they know it all pouring into companies. There has been a bear market in management bullshit since the credit crunch began, but so far this has been on the demand side—managers have been too intent on staying in work to talk much jargon. In 2010 the decline of the MBA will cut off the supply of bullshit at source. Pretentious ideas about business will be in retreat.

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The Known Universe

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 8:38 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture

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Has dark matter finally been detected?

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 8:34 by John Sinteur in category: News


For 80 years, it has eluded the finest minds in science. But tonight it appeared that the hunt may be over for dark matter, the mysterious and invisible substance that accounts for three-quarters of the mass of the universe.

In a series of coordinated announcements at several US laboratories, researchers said they believed they had captured dark matter in a defunct iron ore mine half a mile underground. The claim, if confirmed next year, will rank as one the most spectacular discoveries in physics in the past century.

Tantalising glimpses of dark matter particles were picked up by highly sensitive detectors at the bottom of the Soudan mine in Minnesota, the scientists said.

Dan Bauer, head of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS), said the group had spotted two particles with all the expected characteristics of dark matter. There is a one in four chance that the result is due to some other effect in the underground detectors, Bauer told a seminar at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, near Chicago.

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Al Franken Shuts Down Joe Lieberman on the Senate Floor

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 8:29 by John Sinteur in category: News


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2009 in photos (part 3 of 3)

Posted on December 18th, 2009 at 7:55 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture


The year 2009 is now coming to a close, and it’s time to take a look back over the past 12 months through photographs. Historic elections were held in Iran, India and the United States, some wars wound down while others escalated, China turned 60, and the Berlin Wall was remembered 20 years after it came down. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2009. This is a multi-entry story, 120 photographs over three days. Please see also part 1 and part 2. (40 photos total)

A car plows into a parade that included Queen Beatrix and the royal family on the national Queen’s Day holiday in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn April 30, 2009. Ten people were injured and eight killed in the attack, including the 38-year-old driver, who narrowly missed the open-top bus carrying Queen Beatrix and the royal family. (REUTERS/Robin Utrecht/Pool) #

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