This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.

Posts about Outstate

How to ruin a great accomplishment

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 21, 2014 - 12:20 PM

Who’s up for losing whatever residual faith they have in humanity? Great! Off to NASA’s Google+ page, then.

We sent a robot to another planet and it took a picture of a comet. Naturally, this is cause for arguing about politics. And so much more! One of the comments:

NASA the Masta of Disaster know the truh. Why don't you ask them to tell the truth for a change while they are supported by the IMF look it up same funding International Monetary Fund the united nation not the United States don't even own its self anymore hahahhahahhhahh. IMF criminals. Now who is ruling. Learn who your real masters are. The real reason is not to educate about Mars or any other planet but to seek to learn to destroy under the Knights Templar tactics and demoralize and capture for enslavement. Who would know the planets better then the beings who reside on them. Damn people is dumb and blind. Never do their homework but quick to except the masters tricks. 

Never except the masters tricks, people.

Of course it all goes on to discuss the President. In a post. About a robot. On Mars. Can the sane, civil people have their own internet now? We promise to be nice.

NEVERMIND So that guy who said he’d solved the mystery of Jack the Ripper? Add him to all the others who turned out to be mistaken. So says the Independent, anyway.

. . . the scientist who carried out the DNA analysis has apparently made a fundamental error that fatally undermines his case against Kosminski – and once again throws open the debate over who the identity of the Ripper.

The scientist, Jari Louhelainen, is said to have made an "error of nomenclature" when using a DNA database to calculate the chances of a genetic match. If true, it would mean his calculations were wrong and that virtually anyone could have left the DNA that he insisted came from the Ripper's victim

Turns out the DNA evidence isn’t as tight as it seems, and the match to the blood on the victim’s shawl could be many people. INCLUDING THE ROYAL FAMILY! In case you’re still hanging on the idea of some syphlitic royal working out issues with the Masons, or something.

MUSIC Scariest film scores. Can music inherently frightening, or is it all context? “Rite of Spring” is rather terrifying, I think. Psycho? Well, if you scored it for flutes and slowed it down a bit, and you had no idea it was supposed to accompany shower stabbing but called it Bad Day at the Skating Rink, it wouldn’t be scary. The author cites the “Alien” score, which works in strange ways. The opening theme, for example. It’s sufficiently unnerving to fill you with dread before the first letter in ALIEN appears. You go into the movie knowing it’s going to be frightening, so you’re reading anticipatory dread into the sounds, but it’s so remote and cold it takes you right into the place where no one can hear you scream. It’s the sound of being a billion miles away.

Speaking of Alien: There’s a new game out, and people are surprise to find it doesn’t adhere to the standards of previous Alien games. In other words, it’s pretty good. It’ll be interesting to see how both sides of the #gamergate controversy deal with the main character: Ripley’s daughter. No, not Newt, whose strange line readings we have mostly accepted. Mostly.

DON’T DO THIS Anyone who's written a book knows the sting of a bad review. Oh yeah? you think. And what have you accomplished, other than sniping at the work of people who actually finished a book? It’s irritating, but you mend yourself and tell yourself there will always be carpers and pickers of nits. And then you figure out a way to find out where the reviewer lives and go their house to confront them. That’s the best part!

Why are you looking at me so oddly?

Of course, no, I didn’t do that, but one author did - and wrote about the experience in the Guardian, a confession of such horrible bad judgment that reading it is an exercise in the gradual loss of control over the muscles that keep your jaw from falling open.

The secondary stage: blogs detailing the fallout to the story, and picking apart some key details. The MEGO factor increases 10X here, because we’re getting into an online community, with all its petty eddies and log-rolling and outsized personalties. This site - which I have no reason to believe isn’t coming to this like everyone else, as a stranger to the author and the reviews in question - start to disassemble the original story. I mention this only to give you an idea how confusing this can be to outsiders:

Hale then is directed to Stop the GR Bullies where she finds a page on the GR Reviewer. According to fake person Athena Parker who co founded Stop the GR Bullies, the GR Reviewer attacked a fourteen year old. Stop the GR Bullies is a well known hate site that uses out of context screenshots to construct stories out of whole cloth. They have targeted people like Courtney Milan as well as many other individuals I respect. 

Hold on. Stop the GR Bullies it itself a bullying site that bullies people who want to stop bullying reviewers? And a bad review is now bullying?

You can get a round-up on the reactions, here

VotD The most nerve-wracking part of launching a ship? Launching a ship.

New Disney theme park?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 16, 2014 - 12:48 PM

Don't you have blog-post titles that end with a question mark? To say nothing of the first sentence in the post. At least it's not an exclamation point! Those always promise more than they provide. Anyway: Since it’s Fall Break for schools, more than a few families have decamped to Disneyworld. If they left yesterday they might get in all the parks . . . but comes 2021, that might take an extra day. WDW News Today, yesterday:

Just a few days ago we told you about the groundbreaking finally taking place at Flamingo Crossings and why that seems to be important and indicative of larger plans for Walt Disney World in the next 8-10 years. Well, it seems it might be a good sign that a 5th park is coming, especially with some recent land purchases made by Disney in the surrounding area.

What will the theme be? Can’t be all “Frozen,” since they’re building an attraction for that movie in Epcot. “Star Wars” is going into the Studios theme park, which is a natural place for future Pixar attractions - unless they go all-Pixar, which would be my guess. Think “Radiator Springs” on a massive scale, incorporating the non-Pixar “”Planes” spin-off. That’s a huge draw. They’ve sold enough “Cars” bedsheets for little boys to rival the GDP of developing nations.

The site also has this little character for their Twitter feed:

One of the most obscure Disney characters ever, at least before he was revived.

SCIENCE! The Mars colonists will have 67 days to enjoy humanity’s greatest adventure. After that they start to die. Telegraph:

Humans could only survive on Mars for 68 days according to a new study which throws doubt on ambitions to colonise the Red Planet.Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) concluded that with current technology a permanent settlement on Mars is "not feasible".They analysed the Dutch-based Mars One project which is aiming to colonise the planet starting in 2024.

I suspect the people who’ve signed up for this have no intention of going. Wonder if the document is legally binding; it would be dispiriting to see the trip start with pictures of the colonists being shoved in the rocket, screaming, holding on to the door like a cat that doesn’t want to be put in a toilet.

It would seem wise to A) preposition a ton of supplies, and B) wait until we have a drive that can get to Mars faster. Seven months is a long trip, especially when there’s no way back and you’ll die. It’s like rowing across the ocean from Japan to Antarctica without a good coat.

RUINS From Atlas Obscura: The secret escape train for Presidents beneath the streets of New York.

VotD And I do mean "day." It's almost six hours long. It's the Desert Bus of airline commercials. 

Why do we watch "The Walking Dead"?

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: October 13, 2014 - 12:24 PM

Because we’re tired of zombies and need some cannabilism to spice up Sunday night? Because it's cool when Darrel puts an arrow into a festering eye socket? Because we're pulling for Rick to lead the band back to a safe place, where he can get a security guard job, perhaps?

 This review sums up the views of those who have much more invested in the show than casual viewers - if there is such a thing. Last night's  opening sequence was so horrible it made you wonder exactly what you’re getting out of this. Calm, detached butchers working their way down the line, stunning their victims and slitting their throats: That’s Entertainment. Plus - spoilers - you get to see Bing Crosby’s granddaughter eaten alive! Who-hoo! Cut to the grinning host of “Talking Dead,” who promises Conan O’Brien’s take. I didn’t hear it, but it’s possible he pointed out how the entire show set us up to cheer on the last few scene’s ballistic slaughter, because those guys deserved it. And I suppose they did. But this is miserable business, and I wonder how the zombie craze will look to future cultural anthropologists. Well, you see, they were displaying their anxieties by telling tales of horrible disease and people who cut off people’s heads.I see. And what were they anxious about? Basically, horrible disease and people who cut off people’s heads.So it’s an allegory, then. Exactly.

URBANISM A visit to “the living wreckage of Penn Station.” As the article puts it: ”No other train station in the world has photographs all over of the building they tore down!" Lewis said. It’s almost a defense of Penn Station, which is an indefensible rathole.

ELSEWHERE The nation of Bulgaria brings to mind Boris Badenov-types for some people, or grey Soviet-era cities punctuated with dour busts of Lenin. Try this: 100 Instagram pictures of Bulgaria. You may be surprised, depending on whether you have any preconceptions at all.

YUM On one hand, it’s practically inedible. On the other, it’s ridiculously expensive. Meet . . the ETROG.

VotD This Minnesota guy has a long commute, and he made a video to prove it. Scroll down and strap in.

Groundskeeper Willie weighs in on the Scotland Vote

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: September 18, 2014 - 12:18 PM

We'll get to that in a moment, although you probably know how he votes. 

URGH In time for the 50th anniversary, the Top 10 Pop-Tart flavors. I don’t think there were five when I was growing up. It’s basically compacted sawdust with a coat of lacquer-sugar; no thanks. Except for the cinnamon ones.

How could you possibly provide this for breakfast and think “I’m sending them off to school well-nourished”?

REWIND An amusing list of Top Five Video Store Memories, from Flashbak. Yes, children, you had to pay a membership fee.

They’ve been gone from my neighborhood for so long two of the dead locations have been something else twice over. Nostalgia aside, who misses VHS? No one.

YOURS TRULY They’ve found the identity of Jack the Ripper! And it’s not that guy. It’s the other guy. Atlas Obscura:

Mudgett's conclusion, supported by expert forensic analysts from The British Museum and elsewhere, is shocking: Jack the Ripper was potentially none other than Dr. H. H. Holmes, the "devil" of Erik Larson's best-selling book The Devil in the White City and North America's first and most horribly prolific serial killer. Holmes, whose given name was Herman Webster Mudgett, murdered and dissected over 200 women in Chicago in the early 1890s and against the backdrop of The World's Columbian Exposition - the first World's Fair.

Eh. The DNA evidence on the crazed Pole seems convincing. Holmes seemed too careful and methodical. On the other hand, maybe he was also eternal, and was responsible for the Black Dahlia and the Zodiac killings; someone get on that book right away.

TOMO EXPLAINS Confused about Scottish Independence? This should help.

Re: re: re: re: re: re:

Posted by: James Lileks Updated: August 15, 2014 - 12:44 PM

A stirring defense of email? Yes. It is indeed a “tremendous, decentralized, open platform on which new, innovative things can and have been built,” as Alexis Madrigal says at the Atlantic. It’s also becoming the equivalent of snail mail, inasmuch as the personal communications come via other channels. Phones killed the letter; email killed letters; texting killed email; and so on. So this is heresy! Or is it?

It's worth noting that spam, which once threatened to overrun our inboxes, has been made invisible by more sophisticated email filtering. I received hundreds of spam emails yesterday, and yet I didn't see a single one because Gmail and my Atlantic email filtered them all neatly out of my main inbox. At the same time, the culture of botty spam spread to every other corner of the Internet. I see spam comments on every website and spam Facebook pages and spam Twitter accounts every day. 

That’s true. But texts on your phone are easier, no?

This isn't something the originators of email ever could have imagined, but: Email does mobile really well.

While the mobile web is a rusting scrapheap of unreadable text, broken advertisements, and janky layouts, normal emails look great on phones! They are super lightweight, so they download quickly over any kind of connection, and the tools to forward or otherwise deal with them are built expertly and natively into our mobile devices. 

That’s true as well. Hmm. Well, here’s the problem. Email as a means of personal communication works fine, and allows for more greater length, if people in the future will still be capable of such things. But it will be mostly associated with work, which for millions means it is simply a nag that tells you what you haven’t done yet.

Good article; give it a read.

SCIENCE! Another big rock heading our way. Panic. Slowly. The Independent serves up some quality science writing:

They were studying asteroid 1950 DA, which has a one in 300 chance of hitting the planet on 16 March, 2880 Although the odds seem small, it is the most likely asteroid to collide with Earth and the odds are higher than being shot dead in the US.

Sigh. That’s a meaningless statistic. Where in the US? Chicago? The Alaskan tundra?  Let’s keep reading:

The University of Tennessee researchers said 1950 DA is rotating so quickly it “defies gravity” and is held together by cohesive forces, called van der Waals, never before detected on an asteroid.

From the comments:

Van der Waals force is the name for the intermolecular electromagnetic forces that keep your desk together and the screen you are reading this on. Every solid body is kept in one piece by them, including asteroids, big and small.

Moving right along:

The findings, published in the science journal Nature, could prompt a change in tactics defending our planet.

The chance of contemporary tactics changing to anticipate an event in 2880 seem small. It’s difficult to change tactics to anticipate something we know for certain will happen in 2015. Moving right along:

Previous research has shown that asteroids are loose piles of rubble held together by gravity and friction but by calculating 1950 DA’s thermal inertia and bulk density, the team detected the action of cohesive forces that stop it breaking up.

Ben Rozitis, a postdoctoral researcher, said if only gravity were holding it together, the spinning would cause it to fly apart.

The rotation is so fast that at its equator, 1950 DA effectively experiences negative gravity and if an astronaut were to attempt to stand on the surface, he or she would be thrown off into space.

Which sounds like nonsense. But speaking of being flung into space:

Votd Surely there’s a point where you’re fleeing the cops and you have one on your hood banging his helmet on your windshield where you think This cannot possibly end well.

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