Blind man paints

armagan.jpg This is so cool! This painting was created by Esref Armagan, a Turkish painter who has been blind since birth. Researchers are scanning Mr. Armagan’s brain, in an attempt to understand how he can realistically paint things that he has never seen:

Because if Armagan can represent images in the same way a sighted person can, it raises big questions not only about how our brains construct mental images, but also about the role those images play in seeing. Do we build up mental images using just our eyes or do other senses contribute too? How much can congenitally blind people really understand about space and the layout of objects within it? How much “seeing” does a blind person actually do?

What does money buy?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about socio-economic class. It started when we took my wife’s van in for repairs two weeks ago. The mechanic reported that it needed $600 in brake repairs, $1800 in A/C repairs and, in his opinion, the transmission might go out soon. He advised us to just get rid of it because it would cost us more trouble and money than it’s worth in the coming years.


Poo Protesters

dogdoo_bush.jpg From Ananova News Service: Police in Germany are hunting pranksters who have been sticking miniature US flags into piles of dog poo in public parks.
Josef Oettl, parks administrator for Bayreuth, said: “This has been going on for about a year now, and there must be 2,000 to 3,000 piles of excrement that have been claimed during that time.”
The series of incidents was originally thought to be some sort of protest against the US-led invasion of Iraq.
And then when it continued it was thought to be a protest against President George W. Bush’s campaign for re-election.
But it is still going on and the police say they are completely baffled as to who is to blame.
“We have sent out extra patrols to try to catch whoever is doing this in the act,” said police spokesman Reiner Kuechler.
“But frankly, we don’t know what we would do if we caught them red handed.”
Legal experts say there is no law against using faeces as a flag stand and the federal constitution is vague on the issue.


This is not a political post! I’m bugged by people using the word ‘inaugural’ interchangeably with ‘inauguration’ as a noun. lists this as a valid usage of ‘inaugural’, but it really bugs me. And I strongly suspect that most people using it do so simply out of laziness: ‘inaugural address’, ‘inaugural celebration’, inaugural ball’ all get truncated to just “inaugural”. I may not be right, but that doesn’t stop me from being irritated by this.

DVR Update

About a month ago, we (finally) got a digital video recorder. And just as I’d heard from others, it has revolutionized our television watching. I normally only watch television after about 9:00 p.m., and usually there isn’t anything on at that time that particularly interests me. Well, not any longer. I’m currently recording Futurama, Good Eats, Monk, Stargate Atlantis, Frontline, and other individual shows and movies.
But the biggest change is with the children. Anytime they sit down to watch TV, something that they want to watch–and that we approve of–is on. Samuel has not even thought about the shows we would prefer he didn’t watch.
Hannah, my little tech clone, took to the DVR immediately. After a couple of tutorials on how to keep from filling up the entire hard drive with her shows (and thereby causing other family members’ show to be deleted), she and I are co-existing with it quite well.
For me, the biggest challenge so far is allowing shows that I haven’t watched to be deleted. I feel like I am obliged to watch everything that I record.
Our cable provider, Cox Communications, charges us $11/month extra for the DVR, and so far it has more than paid for itself. We haven’t rented a single DVD since we got it. The kids tend to rent older movies, and those are shown on TV regularly, so the kids have watched quite a few movies. I watched The Big Lebowski last night, but I have to say that the version that was edited for broadcast left something to be desired. I may have to rent it so I can get the original expletives.

Conspiracy theory, revisited

A few days ago, I commented on Josh Marshall’s theory that Bush’s social security privatization effort was motivated by a desire to keep the federal government from having to pay back all the money that it has borrowed from the social security trust fund. I criticized Marshall for offering a theory, but no supporting evidence.
Well, now Bush is flat-out lying about the solvency of social security, saying that it will be ‘insolvent’ in 40 years or so.
It’s projected that in forty years or so, Social Security will have start paying out more money than it receives in taxes, thereby drawing on the trust fund that it is currently accumulating.
If the federal government did not pay back the money that it has borrowed from the trust fund by that time, then the president’s statements would be true. Maybe he’s getting people used to the idea that social security will go bankrupt soon so that when he proposes not paying back the loans, many people won’t question it. It’s still just a theory with no concrete evidence, but I’m trying to make sense of the president’s moves.

“Badly sourced”

Slate offers a nice peek behind the curtains at how the Linguistic Society of America chooses its Words of the Year. Some excerpts:

In the Most Euphemistic category, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction seemed like a lock until Bill Frawley, the dean of the Columbia College of Arts and Sciences at George Washington University, suggested badly sourced, which was used by Colin Powell and others to mean “false.”
This year the strongest contender [in the Most Outrageous category] was santorum, defined (and heavily promoted) by sex writer Dan Savage—in a campaign to besmirch the name of right-wing Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum—as “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.” We dismissed one potential problem—that newspapers wouldn’t print the term if it won—on the grounds that we shouldn’t censor ourselves. And indeed, in the afternoon’s voting, santorum did win, but many newspapers simply skipped this category in their coverage. So much for academic freedom.