Saturday, July 28, 2007

This comic is dumm, but hilarious. I think I would react in a similar way...

Friday, July 27, 2007

This post was inspired by Ben's comment on the last post. He was disappointed that McBain's experiences with lab safety did not make Nature's "Best of Simpson's Science" list. That reminded me of this picture I saw in a recent issue of TIME magazine. It comes from a peculiarly-titled website called Though you wouldn't know from the name, it is a site that collects pictures of cute cats with clever captions (actually they are pretty funny...and adorable). Anyways, the TIME article notes how undisputably weird, quirky sites like this are becoming a thing of the past. The author argued that contemporary internet phenomena are almost inevitably homogeized and commercialized, because, well, nowadays the internet is a part of mainstream culture. The pure geekiness is being squeezed out, i.e. no more "all are base are belong to us". I suppose I am not enough of a computer dork to comment on the validity of that opinion, but I am nerdy enough to write a post that finds a common thread between cats, the simpsons, and a respected, weekly-news magazine.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

For those who love The Simpsons, check this out. Science in The Simpsons...on this blog we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Some researchers spent the last 20 years trying to write a computer program that is unbeatable at checkers…and they just succeeded (see here). While this is interesting, I find the predictions in this article amusing. They are predicting that chess will take another 50 years to “crack”. Who actually wants to spend the next few decades trying to write an unbeatable chess program, one that always plays a perfect match? Hopefully, and I don’t know this, they are just waiting for computing power to reach a level capable of analyzing all the possible moves. Seems like something that would have been useful during the cold war…

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Yesterday and the day before, I had my big german test. I assume that I passed, but I have no idea about the grade (the oral part necessitates rather subjective evaluation). Anyways, according to the German government, my knowledge of the German language is now sufficient to integrate into German society. Yeah, we will see. The test marks the end of my formal, classroom German education. From now on, TV, radio, internet, and the street will be my teachers. Luckily, some aspects of German language manage to keep me interested in learning, e.g. how many words have seeped into the international conciousness (see here).

In an unrelated note, Ines was on TV last night (MDR) because she bought the new Harry Potter book. She was briefly interviewed (about 4 or 5 questions), but only 7 words actually made it into the final cut of the report. Too bad, she had a wild theory about how the series ends...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

This is pretty interesting. In ancient China, war tended to coincide with extended periods of cold climate, which naturally resulted in reduced food availability. If people are starving, it is very easy to imagine them taking up arms and trying to acquire food/land by force. Thus, this result is not particularly surprising. What I find interesting, though, is how these presumed “resource wars” may contrast with several recent conflicts. The cold war, for example, was a fight over an ideology. Similarly, the war on terrorism/drugs are also, on some level, ideological wars. People are supposedly fighting over ideas, not the basic elements of subsistence. On the other hand, power seems to be a the underlying motive in every conflict. Those in power, i.e. the winner, can decide how to control resources and which ideological message to convey. Is it overly simplistic to say the cause of war is simply a struggle for power? Probably, but it seems to make sense to me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Memories in music

Have you ever noticed how music can define generations? What would the 70’s have been without funk, the 80’s without electro and punk, or the 90’s without rap? Well, now that I’m a twenty-something, I can reflect back upon the music and memories in my life. I’ll do this theoretically. If I were to make three mix CDs that defined three of the last “blocks” of my life, here is what they’d be.

CD 1 – High school (in no particular order)
1. Metallica – As the bell tolls. Metallica was one of the first bands I discovered as a teenager, and I always thought “Ride the Lightning” was their coolest album.
2. Prodigy – Smack my bitch up. When I was 16, I tried to buy this album at NFM (for all the Omahans), but they wouldn’t sell it to me because of the explicit lyric sticker (needed to be 18).
3. Offspring – Gone away. Any number of Offspring songs could’ve made the list. I was tempted to take “Pretty fly (for a white guy)”, but thought it was too obvious.
4. Korn – Blind. The first track from Korn’s first album is a classic. I must have heard it a thousand times in my high school’s weight room.
5. Zebrahead – Get back. Some fun pop metal that today sounds, well, so 90s.
6. Reel Big Fish – She’s got a girlfriend. Ska enjoyed a brief surge in popularity in the late 90s, and RBF were a favorite in the genre (swing music also had a resurgence, with less penetration into youth culture)
7. Powerman 5000 – When worlds collide. A prominent group in the nu-metal wave with no staying-power in the long term (their second album was supposedly scrapped by the label for being too crappy).
8. Hed p.e. – Serpent boy. Of all the bands that tried to fuse rap and metal, this one probably managed it make sound most genuine. I liked to call it ghetto metal.
9. Limp Bizkit – Counterfeit. Though I can’t say it too loudly in public these days, I will admit in private to being a Limp Bizkit fan as a teenager. I had to be. They were huge. This song, their first single ever, was never popular, though I thought it described well all the phony people I had to go to school with.
10. Deftones – My own summer (shove it). Because of the chorus (“Shove it!”), I wanted this to be our class song.
11. The Urge – Liquor store. Do I even need to explain why Liquor store would be a favorite for bored teenagers?
12. Green Day – Nimrod. This is the song that turned me onto Green Day, possibly the best pop-punk band ever.
13. Static-X – Push it. I secretly wanted hair like frontman Wayne Static. Also, I always remember how a fan graciously requested this song at one of their shows by screaming “Push the F*#@ing it!”.
14. NIN – Closer. This was one of the first songs I managed to download in mp3 format (the very first was Blur – Song2).
15. 2 Skinnee J’s – Riot Nrrrd. A song written by nerds for nerds that just rocks. Besides one of the two J’s was the son of my high school counselor.
16. Korn – Falling away from me/Freak on a leash. Korn is the only band making it twice onto the list, and these two songs probably mark the peak of their popularity. I was a huge Korn fan. I had to support the leading musical alternative to boy bands like N’Sync.

CD2 – College (again no order)
1. Mudvayne – Dig (or -1). Mudvayne took over Korn’s place as my favorite band in college. I would always listen to them when I needed to vent some anger (which was often, I seem to recall).
2. Slipknot – Wait and bleed. Slipknot was around when I was in high school, but I only became interested in college when I discovered the like-minded band, Mudvayne.
3. System of a Down – Sugar. Another band I was listening to in high school. SOAD’s popularity peaked, though, when I was in college, so I think of them as a post-2000 band.
4. Ill Nino – Revolution
5. 36 Crazyfists – Turns to ashes
6. 40 Below Summer – Step into the sideshow
7. Boy Hits Car – As I watch the sun fuck the ocean. The music produced by artists 3 to 7 just fit this transitional period, from nu-metal to the more metal/hardcore that dominates heavy music nowadays. Also, these bands are rather obscure, reflecting my increasingly eccentric taste in music at the time.
8. theStart – Gorgeous. This band is a bit of an outsider on the list, but I was really into theStart’s modernized take on new wave. Actually, more of Ines’ taste than mine.
9. Deadsy – Mansion world. An electro-rock band fronted by Cher’s son, how could you go wrong? Coolest live version of the Star Wars theme I’ve ever heard.
10. OTEP – The lord is my weapon. The angriest female front woman in the world, and I was digging it in the summer of ’01, the last summer I spent suffering under my parent’s roof.
11. Primer 55 – Anti-social. Chorus: “Sorry I’m anti-social, but people just make me sick”. Yeah, I was often of this attitude, especially in the presence of suck-up pre-med students or arrogant Frat boys and Sorority girls.
12. Xandria – Child of the blue. An obscure German band I found via Who would have thought that I’d now be able to buy their CDs in the store…in Germany?
13. Rorschach test – Fornicator. I don’t know any other songs from this band, but this song was played now and then on the Uni’s radio station. With the hook “that’s why they call me, Fornicator!”, how could a male, college student not love this track?
14. Atom and His Package – I’m downright amazed at what I can destroy with just a hammer. Frosty’s theme song.
15. Mindless Self Indulgence – Faggot/Bitches/Planet of the Apes. MSI’s major label debut was 30 tracks listed in alphabetical order. That kind of peculiarity led to MSI being a favorite band in my circle of friends. I can’t describe the music; you just have to experience it.

CD3 – Finland and beyond
1. Dog Fashion Disco – Sweet insanity. Honestly, DFD should be on the college list. However, I enjoyed sharing DFD with unsuspecting Finns, so I put this band here.
2. HIM – Join me in death. Before I knew I was headed North, I did not know HIM was Finland’s biggest pop culture export. In your face Sweden!
3. Nightwish – Nemo. When I arrived in Finland, this song was on top of the charts. A goth-metal band topping the charts? Yeah, I had definitely arrived in a foreign country.
4. Lordi – Hard rock hallelujah. This song is ridiculous, but after winning the Eurovision song contest, the monsters of Lordi were treated national heroes.
5. Timo Rautianen – Hyvää paiva. The last Finnish band on the list is the first one I saw live in JKL.
6. Rammstein – Amerika. In Europe, unlike the U.S., this band is not a one-hit wonder. Anyways, their attempted lampoon of the U.S. always makes me laugh.
7. HORSE the Band – Bunnies. Nintendo meets death metal. They have perhaps the funniest lyrics that can’t be understood because of the screaming delivery.
8. The Blood Brothers – Spit shine your black clouds. This song is on the Young Machetes CD, probably my ‘07 album of the year (though it came out in late ‘06…can’t catch the new releases as quick as I used to).
9. Tub Ring – The promise keeper. Similar to DFD, perhaps even quirkier at times, their eccentric, creative style forms to my musical tastes. They’ve been a fixture on my mp3 player, so I’ve spent a lot of time jamming out to their music while doing mindless lab work.
10. Modest Mouse – Float on. A particular American (not me) in JKL had quite the affinity for MM, and was always willing to talk to you about how great the band is.
11. The Sounds – Living in America. The chorus “we’re not living in America, and we’re not sorry” just resonates for an ex-pat. Also, Ines regularly plays this track when she spins, usually before or after Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America”. Cool.
12. The Faint – Agenda Suicide. I was listening to the Faint in college. After all, they came from Omaha, my hometown. The discovery that this home town band had a fan base in Europe, though, rekindled my interest in this band. P.S. Ines also usually spins this track.
13. Wir sind Helden – Denkmal. This song, because of Singstar on Playstation, was the first German song in which I learned (most of) the lyrics. Also, we recently saw them live in studio, giving a radio concert.
14. The Killers – Smile like you mean it/Somebody told me. These songs will always remind me of Finland and more importantly my very special blog partner, Ines.

This is the 100th post on the blog!!! Wohoo!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Ok, there hasn’t been a proper post for a long while. I could use a variety of different excuses, e.g. work, german learning, TV, playstation, beer, etc. I have to be honest, though, laziness should probably be at the top of the list. It seems to be monsoon season in Germany, so it isn’t like I’ve been working on my tan. Let’s just call that break a summer blogging holiday, and get on with this post. Ok?

What the heck has gone on the last couple weeks? The biggest milestone for me is that I handed in my PhD thesis. Yippee! Unfortunately, though, that yippee still has an asterisk next to it. The thesis needs to be reviewed, revised, and then defended before I’m Dr. Benesh (or Dr. Dan as Ines’ friends favor). Also, I’ve been going through the usual cycle of manuscript submission and subsequent rejection, so I can’t claim that my professional life is without disappointment and failure. Ines has also made some big career moves lately. She got a job working for the TV show “unter uns” (not the soap, but the talk show) finding guests and more or less keeping the whole thing organized. Right now, it is part-time, but in the fall it’ll be a full-time gig…pretty cool.

Other stuff…last weekend Ines and I had holiday. It was not a proper holiday, i.e. 2-3 weeks away from work, like a typical summer vacation in Germany. Nope, we just took a 4-day weekend, but it was nonetheless cool. We visited the Rhine Valley, saw the Loreley, tasted some fine German wines, and went inside the world’s largest wine barrel (Dürkheimer Riesenfass, toll). Perhaps the most memorable part of the trip, though, is one of the places we stayed, a village called Frankenstein. How awesome is that? As you can see from the picture, this simple fact kept us amused (ok, more me than Ines). After visiting the wine region, we drove to Kassel to check out the Documenta in Kassel, the biggest art exhibition in the world. One of the more famous “pieces” at the exhibition was from an Asian artist that planted rice fields on a hill in front of an old palace. When we saw it, the ground was completely dry and the rice plants were dying. At least these misplaced rice fields were somehow more artistic than the paintings of black lines on a white background. Yeah, I don’t understand art at all.