Monday, October 31, 2005

Scalia Quote

From Justice Scalia’s dissent in Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428:
“The requirement that [constitutional rules, as modified by later decisions, must make sense] is the only thing that prevents this Court from being some sort of nine-headed Caesar, giving thumbs-up or thumbs-down to whatever outcome, case by case, suits or offends its collective fancy. . . .

“As far as I am aware, the public is not under the illusion that we are infallible.”


In honor of my favorite holiday, today I'm posting a few pictures. First up is the best Halloween costume I ever did, the insane butcher of 2001.

Next up is someone who went trick-or-treating with me as "Radiohead".

And a pic of my good ol' dog Raider, who, while not truly in the Halloween spirit in this pic, is at least in costume (and not happy about it).

And now, pictures I took last October at Wyuka Cemetary, where Mr. Charles Starkweather is buried.

(Learn more)
Of course, his first headstone was vandalized severely, but as my fiancee Laura tells me, Charlie Sheen played him in a movie and was kind enough to buy him a new one.
Now, the pictures:

I particularly love the light and shadow in this one . . . they truly add to the total overall effect.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design (or ID) is a hot topic these days. For those not in the know, the basic premises are these:
1. Evolution is only a theory, and is not proven
2. There are many holes in the theory of evolution
3. ID resolves this problem by positing that some intelligent force is at work in the evolutionary process, or that evolution is false entirely and that species are the work of some intelligent force.
4. Therefore ID should be taught alongside evolution in public school science classes
Understandably, the scientific community and others are concerned about the final assertion. School boards in some states (notably Kansas) are attracted to the idea.
I will address the three major arguments of ID critics in order to get a better understanding of the issue.

Intelligent Design is just a subterfuge for teaching religion in public schools

The criticism most emotionally and emphatically put forward by most lay ID critics is that it’s an attempt to teach religion in schools. This argument may have some merit, although people in policy-making positions don’t spend much time on it, for reasons that will become clear.
Yes, at first blush, ID sounds like the Judeo-Christian and Muslim ideas of creation. And in all fairness, this is probably why people want ID to be taught in schools. It would be ignorant to assert otherwise. But what looks like a leopard may actually be a jaguar.
What makes ID something new and different is that it completely avoids any discussion about the guiding, intelligent force. It could be any god or pantheon of gods: the Judeo-Christian God, Allah, Ahura-Mazda, or even the body of Tiamat destroyed by Marduk. But this ignores the fact that it could be something else: a galactic computer, aliens, or Aristotle’s unmoved mover, or something that we don’t even comprehend.
Aside from the fact that non-religious explanations can be had for ID, it doesn’t really fall into our normal understanding of religion. I’m probably stepping into the Language Guy’s territory here, but I think religion is generally thought of more as an understanding of that intelligent force, as a set of morals, or as a means toward salvation or some equivalent. ID doesn’t attempt to address any of these concerns, and religion (at least as I know it) generally treats the origin of things only incidentally.

If Intelligent Design is taught in public schools, then you will have to teach any and all ideas, even crackpot ones

There is a very amusing satirical response to ID in The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which also has an uncyclopedia article on the subject. This position partially depends on the subterfuge argument addressed above, especially when you note that FSM-ID is essentially no different from regular ID, except that it is actually more a promotion of a particular form of creationism. It’s similar to an assertion that Christian-ID should be taught in public schools, which is something no one is seriously suggesting.
It does bear noting that teaching ID would necessarily also allow other ideas into the school. But it seems a weak criticism because no other such idea has been seriously promoted. Has anyone even come up with a comparable idea? All explanations I have heard, other than evolution, would fall into the sphere of ID.
The argument also partially depends on what is a “crackpot” idea, the issue to which I turn next.

Intelligent Design is not scientific

This is the argument where everyone is putting their money. Proponents of ID have even put forward a new definition of scientific theory, but it can hardly be taken seriously because this definition would include astrology. And opponents of ID have put forward their most damning criticisms under this argument.
Scientific theories rest on testable hypotheses. For example, if the current atomic theory is correct, then we can expect that sodium, when it comes into contact with chlorine, will result in an entirely different substance. This substance we know as common table salt. But what about evolution and ID? Bear with me as I develop the argument.
Evolution rests on the theory of natural selection. Natural selection comes from observations of life-forms in nature as well as an understanding of genetics. Since we know how genetics work, we also know that natural selection happens. But, as I believe ID proponents correctly observe, there is nothing solid to show that all species come about from common ancestors through the process of natural selection.
As an example, it’s patently bizarre to assert that a simple genetic mutation put lungs into an animal that previously only had gills. It’s even more bizarre to assert that it happened to an entire breeding population, or that small genetic mutations, all of which were beneficial, eventually led to the development of lungs in a breeding population. Does this mean it didn’t happen? Certainly not, but it provides a foothold for ID.
ID latches on to these utter improbabilities, as well as the lack of a complete fossil record. While we can’t realistically expect scientists to produce such a record, this is what ID proponents would have them do, or else teach ID. In this way ID is perhaps a good thing, because we should always examine our science and point out its flaws lest it become dogma. But ID attempts to explain these problems with the bare assertion that, since natural selection can’t account for everything, there must be some intelligent force behind it all. This is where, it is contended, ID steps over the line and becomes unscientific.
But is it really any more unscientific than evolution? No one would seriously argue that the theory of natural selection isn’t scientific. In fact, I don’t know why they still call it a “theory” and not a “law.” Evolution, however, is something different. I suppose it is testable, but to this date it has never been tested. If, for example, scientists could observe a population as it develops into two genetically incompatible species, then evolution will have been tested. But it never has been tested in this way, and likely never will be, at least not on the same scale as the lungs-to-gills transformation. Correct me if I’m wrong on the state of research. There is an overwhelming abundance of evidence in favor of evolution as a theory, but ID is correct in pointing out that it’s far from proven as a law.
ID, however, is not even testable. Even if we observe a new species developing from another, it would support ID no more than evolution. And even if we observe a new species coming out of thin air, it still doesn’t prove that there was some intelligent, guiding force behind it. Unless and until we observe the intelligent force itself, ID can’t be tested.
ID does have a lot of powerful support from the pure position of reason. Philosophers for more than two millennia have used pure reason to come to the conclusion that there must be some higher force. And the early philosophers, notably Thales, Aristotle, and Democritus, believed that it is impossible to discuss philosophy without discussing what would now be seen as more scientific endeavors. So the question really comes down to where the line is between philosophy and science, and whether there should be such a line.
I’m not sure how adequately I addressed this last issue, but at least it gives an overview, and allows us to make some conclusions and ask the right questions.


ID can’t properly be called religion, and it doesn’t really open the door to an infinity of crackpot ideas (unless you let non-scientists redefine what makes a scientific theory). ID is useful because it points out the flaws in the currently accepted scientific model of evolution, but it may go too far in making untestable assertions to explain those flaws.
Religion has its place, and science has its place. Reasonable people agree on that.
So what should we do about it? I can’t see any harm in requiring teachers to point out the flaws in the evolutionary model. Is there anything wrong with requiring teachers to make a statement that, while evolution is widely accepted in the scientific community, it is not the only explanation, and that these other explanations will not be discussed in class? I’m not sure what you do after that, if one of the students asks to be directed to a resource on these alternative explanations. This opens up a slippery slope. So you could simply have a standard list of other resources available in the area, or tell the kid to search the Internet, or allow the teacher to decline to answer the question.
What’s the best answer? I don’t claim to know. Let’s hear what you have to say.

Edit (11:00 a.m. Oct. 28): I would like to add one final point. Assuming that ID is nothing more than creationism in disguise, then going through ID as thoroughly as evolution in class would likely have no effect on students except to slow down their science education. If they are creationists they will get that education elsewhere, and if they are not then the ID discussion will likely have no effect on them. If there is more to ID than that, the situation is different.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

By the way, tomorrow I will post on intelligent design.
I've just been working out the details in the post, and I'll leave it up as the first post over the weekend so I hopefully get a lot of responses.

Hot or Not?

During my first two years of college, I got a lot of kicks out of Hot or Not, a site that allows people to post pictures of themselves and allow others to vote, on a scale of 1 to 10, on how "hot" they are. Most people go there for the sheer joy of rating, or to see and meet attractive people. I went there for different reasons.
I did some experiments, to be sure. I used different pictures of myself to find out what people find attractive in clothes, and was somewhat fascinated with the results. For example, people think men are "hot" when they wear a baseball cap backwards and give a slight grin. On the other hand, they don't generally like fedoras . . .

(I wish I could wear this hat every day, but people stare)

I also developed rules that I followed for rating people. Any girl who tried to show off cleavage or soemthing similar would get a 1, as would any guy who flexed his muscles or wasn't wearing a shirt. Old guys with a beard would get an automatic 10, as would anyone with a dog in the picture. I'm not sure what I did when two rules conflict, as when a guy without a shirt was holding a dog, or when the old guy with the beard was showing off his cleavage.

But the best thing about the site, however, is some of the absolutely bizarre pictures that people would post on it. For example:

This one's not too bad. From the file name, we know that her name is Rhonda. And from the picture, we know that she's a reptophile (I just completely made up that word). Rhonda and her iguana . . . actually the issue is, which one are we voting for? That is a very handsome iguana (at least a 9) but Rhonda's more of a . . . 6, probably. So, maybe she posted this so we would split the difference and giver her a 7 or 8.

This is absolutely amazing. Who posts a picture of themselves, for purposes of rating their attractiveness, in which they are wearing a mask? Does he think that people find luchadores attractive? And where you can see his face, it is cloaked in shadow, and the attendant mystery. Who is Mojo 2K? He is the luchador who comes in the night.

Now, when I think of what makes a person "hot," I think of their complete and utter hatred for all people. This one doesn't even bear further comment.

Has anyone else spent time on this site, or any other, finding amusement in it for reasons other than its creators intended?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Remote Control

Sci-fi comes to life:
A special headset was placed on my cranium by my hosts during a recent demonstration at an NTT research center. It sent a very low voltage electric current from the back of my ears through my head _ either from left to right or right to left, depending on which way the joystick on a remote-control was moved.
I think that's pretty scary myself.
What possible good could come of this technology? From reading the story, it doesn't sound like they can force you to move your arms or do anything in a coordinated way. If it could, it would be a lot scarier. Is this the next big thing in traffic control? We'll have self-driving cars and remote control pedestrians. No one will ever bump into anyone else ever again. Of course, let's not forget that companies could buy the rights to have people sent to their stores. This kind of research shouldn't be done at all.

New Template

Let me know what you guys think.

Top 100 Metal Songs: The Top Ten

UPDATE 1/5/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade

In case you're coming here from a search and missed the earlier installments, here they are: Introduction, 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, and 20-11. Now, the top ten.

#10: “Who Do You Love?” by George Thorogood & the Destroyers
Move It On Over (1978)

Maybe it’s not pure metal, but it certainly is very hard, bluesy rock with a very metal attitude. Since blues-inspired hard rock is the origin of heavy metal, it certainly fits. The lyrical style, talking about how cool and scary the vocalist is, foreshadows the vocal stylings of such later outfits as White Zombie, Mercyful Fate, Motörhead, and Danzig, among others. George’s growly voice also foreshadows the vast majority of 90’s metal vocalists. Not only that, but the simple, powerful riff throughout the tune is also echoed by later metal groups. This song definitely deserves a place in the top ten.

#9: “Cemetery Gates” by Pantera
Cowboys from Hell (1990)

This song goes through the style of such later Pantera hits as “This Love” and “Hollow”: mellow verses interspersed by a powerful chorus. The chorus in this one, however, has one of the greatest metal riffs ever composed, sounding almost like black metal. The solo may not be one of the late Dimebag Darrell’s best, but it certainly fits the eerie, confused, and angry tone of the song, which marks a transition from Pantera’s earlier (and disowned) hair metal style to their later thrash metal virtuosity. No true metal fan can dispute the placement of this classic on the top ten list.

#8: “Faget” by Korn
Korn (1994)

The album marked a transition in the metal world by itself, but this song is the culmination of the abuse-inspired rage of the album (the epitome of the less healthy, questioning angst comes at the end, with “Daddy”). It’s a message to all the people who teased Jonathan Davis as a child, and it’s a strong message at that: “I’m just a pretty boy, whatever you call it. You wouldn’t know a real man if you saw it. It keeps going on day after day, son, you FAKE! . . . I’m sick and tired of people treating me this way every day. Who gives a fuck? Right now I got something to say to all the people who think that I’m STRANGE, that I should be out of here locked up in a CAGE! You don’t know what the hell to fuck now anyway. You got this pretty boy feeling like I’m enslaved. To a world that never appreciated shit: YOU CAN SUCK MY DICK AND FUCKING LIKE IT!” With that, the rage comes out, and the most perfect moment on the album, and in the nu-metal revolution, is realized. (Sorry for the profanity to anyone that’s offended, but you can’t truly appreciate it without said profanity.)

#7: “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
??? (1963)

This one may seem a bit out of place. But it really isn’t. For one thing, the band Soil (of “Halo” fame) have it played over the speakers every time before they take the stage. The imagery is also characteristically metal: any time they speak of love, the discussion includes the pain and everything else that goes along with it. On my playlists, this one seems perfect as a bridge between “Down in a Hole” by Alice in Chains and “This Love” by Pantera.

#6: “Stone the Crow” by Down
NOLA (1995)

Phil Anselmo makes the top ten twice with this song (the other is “Cemetary Gates”). The most impressive thing about it is the beautifully melodic, southern-sounding riff through the verses, punctuated by Anselmo’s angry voice in the choruses and fully complemented by a great solo and guitar outro by Pepper Keenan. This is definitely the best track ever laid down by an all-star heavy metal side project, and it’s the most perfect blend of southern rock and heavy metal.
(Incidentally, yes the album is named after New Orleans. Not only that, but on their second album, released in 2002, there is a song called “New Orleans Is a Dying Whore.” Prophecy? No, just a moral criticism—or perhaps a lament for lost morals—which ultimately sounds strange coming from a group like this one.)

#5: “Mother” by Danzig
Danzig (1988)

To this day, and probably forevermore, Danzig will be best known for this song on his first solo album. It’s a warning to parents: don’t let your kids listen to Danzig. He will corrupt them, making delinquents out of your sons and whores out of your daughters. “Mother, tell your children not to hold my hand. Tell your children not to understand. Oh, Mother! Father! Do you want to bang heads with me? Do you want to feel everything? Oh, Father! Not about to see your light, but if you want to find hell with me, I can show you what it’s like, ‘til you’re bleeding!” The song has great riffs in chorus and verse, and concludes with one of John Christ’s better guitar solos.

#4: “Clean My Wounds” by Corrosion of Conformity
Deliverance (1994)

Pepper Keenan makes a second appearance in the top ten, this time also on vocals. Strangely enough, he had no place in the remaining 90. This one has one of the best staccato riffs ever written, and is incredibly catchy (it reminds me of “Who Do You Love?”). Not only that, but Keenan’s low-key voice (not to be confused with Maynard James Keenan) is a welcome replacement to CoC’s prior frontman’s voice. Keenan’s guitar solo also has a hint of the southern influence, but there is nothing to detract from the absolutely incredible riff in the verses.

#3: “13 Years of Grief” by Black Label Society
Stronger than Death (2000)

Zakk Wylde’s message to kids: “You’re so fucking tough, so motherfucking bad. 13 years of grief is all your folks ever had. Just an ignorant cunt, talking such shit.” Sure, metal is about rebellion from society. But listen to your parents, and respect them. When you’re 13 you shouldn’t be rebelling against them. If you do, you’ll probably end up with “6 months in the hole. Yeah, son, look at you now.” The riff is pure, unadulterated, bottom-heavy BLS biker metal, but the real star of the show here is Zakk’s absolutely amazing guitar solo, surpassing all of his other solos, including those done for Ozzy. Any fan of guitar solos or of biker metal needs to check this one out. And this concludes the good ol’ southern boy portion of the list.

#2: “The Nameless” by Slipknot
Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses (2004)

This song calcifies (hope I don’t leave you behind on that reference) the promise of Slipknot: in the early 2010’s these guys will be looked at in the same way that Metallica was looked at in the early 1990’s. It is the culmination of their most brilliant album (written and recorded in 8 months instead of 2 after a hiatus when the band members explored side projects to expand their horizons, most notably Stone Sour). It fully realizes the power of all nine members of the band, and the themes of Volume 3 (the interplay of control, love, hate, and obsession) are belted out in pure Slipknot fashion. The best part of it is the contrasting voices of Corey Taylor: the adoring, obsessed melodic and the furious, powerful, dominating force of his scream. The two voices begin as distinct, each with a separate role of love or hate, and by the end they become confused in the greatest crescendo ever written for a heavy metal song, as the narrator loses his grip on right and wrong or love and dominating obsession before finally screaming, repeating, and reinforcing the words “You’re mine!” I recommend this song so highly that I would call it the single best heavy metal song ever written. I could listen to this one over and over all day long, and it would never get old. Of course, you may be asking, if it’s the best ever written, why is it number two? Read on for the number one pick . . .

#1: “Mercyful Fate” medley by Metallica
Garage Inc. (1998)

Sure, it’s a cover. But it only makes sense to be at the top spot on the list. Mercyful Fate had 5 songs on the list, and Metallica had 10 besides this one. This medley combines some of the best writing in the metal world with some of the best performing in the world ever, period. James Hetfield’s voice obviously can’t match King Diamond’s range, but it’s always a good one, and the sound of Metallica’s guitars is the best in the business (although I can’t say the same for the drums on St. Anger or the bass on . . . And Justice for All). The gods of heavy metal go through five of Mercyful Fate’s best early tracks in this 11 minute, 11 second heavy metal epic (Metallica’s longest studio track): “Satan’s Fall,” “Curse of the Pharaohs,” “A Corpse Without a Soul,” “Into the Coven,” and “Evil,” (forgive me if I missed one) including not only riffs and lyrics but also several solos. (They said that they loved the work so much that they couldn’t possibly pick just one.) The songs flow together perfectly because of Mercyful Fate’s consistent writing, and Metallica even weave back and forth between the songs instead of simply painting by number. The band’s enthusiasm for Fate’s work shows through in their highly energetic and accelerated performance. Once again, this song is one that I could put on “repeat” for a full 24 hours.
(I don’t know if this cover was why he did it, but King Diamond sang “Happy Birthday” to James at a concert where Hetfield and Ulrich attended.)

UPDATE 7/31/06: Does this list piss you off? Do you think you have good suggestions for a brand-new list? Go here and give me your suggestions!

UPDATE 9/20/09:

I've given up on making a new list. My tastes have gotten so much heavier and less mainstream (Opeth, Necrophagist, Death, Bloodbath, etc.) and I've been adding so many more albums all the time that I've realized making a list like this--which is truly complete and fair--is a hopeless endeavor. I still like everything on this list, but I listen to it less all the time.

If you want to see a list of my favorite bands as it stands now, this is what I took off my Facebook page:

Alchemist, Alice in Chains, Amon Amarth, Amorphis, Apocalyptica, Artillery, At the Gates, Baroness, Behemoth, Black Sabbath, Blood Tsunami, Bloodbath, Candlemass, Johnny Cash, Cephalic Carnage, Coal Chamber, Corrosion of Conformity, Crimson Moonlight, Cryptopsy, Cynic, Dååth, Danzig, Dark Tranquility, Death, Deftones, Dethklok, DevilDriver, Diablo Swing Orchestra, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Dimmu Borgir, Disillusion, Disturbed, Down, Dream Theater, Eluveitie, Eryn Non Dae, Extol, Godsmack, Gojira, The Haunted, John Lee Hooker, Iced Earth, In Flames, Tony Iommi, Iron Maiden, Isis, King Diamond, Korn, Lacuna Coil, Lake of Tears, Led Zeppelin, Living Sacrifice, Mar De Grises, Mastodon, Megadeth, Mercyful Fate, Meshuggah, Metallica, Monster Magnet, Motörhead, My Dying Bride, Necrophagist, Nevermore, Nile, Nine Inch Nails, Opeth, Orphaned Land, Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera, Psyopus, Ram-Zet, Rammstein, Red Harvest, Sepultura, Slipknot, Soilwork, Sotajumala, Soul Embraced, Spineshank, Static-X, Suffocation, Swallow the Sun, Theatre of Tragedy, Therion, Tool, Type O Negative, Volbeat, White Zombie, Black Label Society

I've also disabled comments, as I think 100 is enough.

I hope everyone will accept that I now admit my list was narrow-minded, but I needed the Internet to introduce me to the great stuff (I don't know anyone else who listens to death metal, and I don't think I've ever met anyone who does). In this vein, anyone who needs to be introduced to all kinds of metal you can't hear on the radio should check out MetalCast, the best podcast ever.

UPDATE 1/5/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More Changes?

I'm done dealing with File Bucket. They have deleted my pictures too many times for me to have to deal with it. Let's just hope Photo Bucket is a better bucket.

As a side note, please answer my poll in the sidebar. I really want to know if I should get to work on changing the template for easier reading, or if you guys like the look.

Monday, October 24, 2005

More Movies I Want to See

Oprah’s Book Club
Starring: Edward Norton and Oprah Winfrey
Psychological drama about how Norton meets Oprah and they start a book club. Many people join the club, but after they read the books they’re not allowed to talk about them. “If this is your first night at Oprah’s book club, you have to read.” In the end you find out that Norton is a figment of Oprah’s imagination, but nobody else wanted to say anything to her because she’s so powerful that she could destroy them.

Jesus’ Thirteen
Jesus and his Apostles carry out an elaborate scheme to steal money from Ceasar’s Palace.

The Stewart Redemption
Sodomy abounds in this dramatic tale of Martha Stewart’s stay in prison. (BTW, in the real movie, he should have gotten manslaughter instead. That jury had to be rigged.)

The Blair, Nebraska Project
Scary movie filmed on handheld camcorders. It’s scary because Iowa is right there (but they never actually show Iowa in the movie).

And, the one for legal-type people:
Collateral Estoppel
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, and Jada Pinkett Smith
Thriller about how Jada sued Tom, Jada won, and in Jamie’s subsequent suit against Tom, Tom is not allowed to contest issues that were actually litigated and necessary to the Jada v. Tom decision. You’ll be on the edge of your bench! The ABA gives it 5 out of 5.


The Language Guy has made another extremely interesting post, this time about how people speak about the causes of things.

As a first year law student (last year) I spent months discussing the meaning of "causation" in Torts class. The legal profession generally dissects that word into two parts:

1. Cause-in-fact
2. Proximate cause

"Cause-in-fact" is generally easy to establish, such as: if X did not run the red light, he would not have collided with Y. But it's too easy to establish: if X would have been driving 25 mph instead of 28 mph, he would not have been in the intersection at that time and would not have collided with Y.

Cause-in-fact goes too far. If X's parents had not had sex, then X would not have been born and could not have murdered Y. If you only used cause-in-fact, then X's parents (and grandparents, etc.) would be liable for Y's death.

So, that's the reason we move on to proximate cause, which is also sometimes referred to as legal cause. It's basically a rather squishy concept that's used to decide whether or not someone should be held liable for causing a problem.

A great example of how this is used today (the "scope of the risk" test) is this:
X leaves a gallon can of nitro glycerine on the edge of the kitchen table. This is negligent because it could get knocked off and explode. Y, a child, knocks the can off the table, but miraculously it does not explode. Instead, it breaks Y's foot.
Should X be liable? Probably, no. The reason it was negligent for X to put the can there was the risk of explosion, not the risk of breaking someone's foot. It was not within the scope of the risk. For purposes of this analysis, you should imagine that the can was full of water. If it would have been negligent to put a can of water there, X should be liable. If that is not negligent, then X should not be liable.

Under this analysis, there can be more than one proximate cause of an injury. Assume X and Z both crashed their cars into Y simultaneously. Under the simplest analysis, Y could recover all of his money damages from either X or Z.

An entirely different can of worms is opened when you go into the products liability area of torts. Here, you still generally speak of the proximate cause of the injury, but the analysis gets more and more squishy. This is especially so in the case of fungible materials. For example, assume you can prove that lead paint was the cause of the injury. Assume also that you have no idea who the manufacturer of that paint was, but you know that it was purchased between 1920 and 1925. Courts will then look at the market share of all the manufacturers of that time. A, B, and C each sold 20% of the lead paint during that time, D sold 35%, and E sold only 5%. If that's as far as your analysis goes, then D should pay 35% of the damages, E 5%, and the other three should each pay 20%. It's different, however, when you know the paint was sold in Nebraska, for example, and E had 99% of the market share in Nebraska.
As may be obvious, this is not scientific. But if you assume that everyone injured by lead paint sues all the manufacturers all the time, and every court uses the same analysis and the same facts, then the result should be correct. This probably won't happen.

Well, at least that's a brief overview of what the law says about causation. It's not scientific, but usually it feels right to people that hear the result.


I've made some changes around here, as the result of a couple different stimuli.

First and foremost, I now allow anonymous posting in the comments section to each post. I didn't realize I had this turned off, and I definitely didn't realize that it would exclude so many people from participating.

I certainly had no idea the extreme measures to which some people would resort in order to post here.

The second major change I've made is to reduce the number of posts on the main page from 15 to 10, and I've cleaned out some of the Javascript crap that's really unnecessary to enjoy Full Metal Attorney. This is because I went home over the weekend and checked the site . . . on dial-up. I sometimes forget that not everyone is on a T3 line.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Eternal Twilight

That’s right. Eternal Twilight: a costumed Kansas City 80’s style heavy metal band (and I think they played Dungeons & Dragons too much). This is another goodie that I luckily saved from my old computer. I don’t know how, but we discovered their website sometime in 2000 or 2001, and we were simply amazed. Dumbfounded, in fact. There is scant evidence of their existence left on the Internet. You can try if you want to. They used to be on way back in the day, but nevermore. Their domain name has even been hijacked by some MMORPG group. Thank God I saved these pictures for posterity. Let’s take a closer look.

A purple triangle is their logo. I’m not sure if there’s some kind of homosexuality reference there, and I don’t want to speculate. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that the banner in the background, which they cleverly cover with their logo, does not say “Eternal Twilight.” I haven’t changed the file name either, and it’s called “APStars”. So it’s questionable whether this was actually a shot of the band. It also covers the drummer, so it’s impossible to tell whether one was actually there (I’ll get back to that). Finally, you can’t see an audience at all, so there’s no evidence that they didn’t just take this picture in their basement (or someone’s mom’s basement). If anyone knows, please let me know about it.

Vocals: Lucifer

Yes, he’s making the triangle sign, but this one’s upside down, and his mask has a little purple triangle. Again, I’m not going into the possible homosexual references, but can you say Tinky Winky?

Yes, his jacket is fringed. And yes, those pants are entirely too tight for him. I can’t even begin to comprehend their obsession with Photoshop, or why they did so much of this dramatic posing.

Guitar: Phynnyx

He has a BC Rich guitar, another testament to their priority of image over music. And his outfit looks like some second-rate Halloween costume, so they weren’t even good with the image thing.

Is that Megadeth’s Marty Friedman behind the mask? Perhaps we will never know . . . .

Look out! Oh, wait, no, it’s just Phynnyx. I think he must have been the Photoshop “expert” here, because there were a lot more pictures of him on the site than the other members. He also seems to be particularly obsessed with the lens flare filter.

Ah, now there’s his orb of power. All should fear Phynnyx! OK, I have one last picture of Eternal Twilight’s shredder:

What an axeman . . . .

Bass: Apollo

OK, now this was definitely taken in someone’s basement. Did you notice the cord lying on the ground? Couldn’t he have unplugged the bass for the picture? He shouldn’t have worn that shirt, and the mustache is just creepy. Actually, it kind of adds to the whole Mexican luchador look. Notice the lens flare again, symbolizing the all-powerful . . . um . . . powers . . . of Eternal Twilight.

Drums: ???

When we discovered them, they were looking for a drummer. Judging by the first picture above, I wonder whether they ever actually had a drummer. In my experience, drummers are in short supply compared with guitar players. They’re even rarer than bass players. So they probably already had a band and were never desperate enough to hook up with these guys.

The Music

I think that’s supposed to be Lucifer there . . . I don’t know. I assume they just burned these on somebody’s computer and printed off the inserts in the same fashion. Now I wish to God I had bought this before they disappeared off the map. I listened to some of it off, and there were actually drums, but those could have been added electronically, for all I know. It actually wasn’t that bad. Don’t get me wrong, it was bad. But worse stuff gets played on the radio today. The sad part is that all of it was on my extra hard drive—the one that crashed. If I remember correctly, it was kind of a mix of Dio, Mötley Crüe, and . . . um . . . Firehouse, or something. I really wish I could share it with all of you, but alas, it was not meant to be.

The Fate of Eternal Twilight

Well, apparently they’re not as eternal as they once thought. Their web site became basically a blank page, with a disclaimer that they were trying to get their stuff together, and Lucifer’s e-mail address. I e-mailed him in late 2001 or early 2002, I think, expressing our deepest regards for them and our wish to see them in concert. And we would have gone, too, despite the three hour plus drive, if only for the irony and, perhaps, a signed 8x10 glossy to pass on to my grandchildren some day. I didn’t get a response.
The best theory I can come up with is that they never found a drummer, and they just gave up on it. On the other hand, things could have gone more like this:
“Scott! Quit making so much noise!”
“Mom! I told you, call me Lucifer. And I’m 35 years old, don’t tell me what to do.”
“Lucy? Why do you want a girl’s name? Scott, as long as you’re living in my basement you’re living under my rules. Why can’t you get a job like your nice friend Apollo?”
“Mom! Cut it out!”
It’s anyone’s guess.

If anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Eternal Twilight, let me know!

I hope somebody from KC is reading this. If anyone ever saw this before, or even heard about them, I want to know.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

10-Year-Old Hero Saves Chihuahua

In Omaha, a ten-year-old girl jumped on top of a pit bull to save her four pound chihuahua. You can read about it. I think that's awesome, and when I was that age I probably would have done the same thing. Today, I make a point to wear my steel-toe boots when I go to the dog park, just in case. Those can probably take down a pit bull in 1-3 kicks. If it was a Great Dane or a Saint Bernard, however, I don't know how much good it would do--but I'd probably go for it anyway.

This is not to say that I don't like pit bulls. I think they get a bad rap. (Actually, Shetland sheepdogs are a whole lot meaner by nature, and everyone thinks they're perfect.) The girl who lives upstairs from Laura owns a pit bull mix, and Doja (as she's named) is a sweet little thing, and Russell's girlfriend. The sad part is that Doja's owner lost her roommate, and has to move out next week because she can't afford the rent. :(

A Little Low-Brow Humor: Men’s Restroom Etiquette Quiz

If you came here for something intelligent to read, I promise to post something like that again next week (possibly on intelligent design). You can also check out my index (link also in the sidebar). Today it’s restroom talk. It’s something for all the men out there to read. Women will probably find it amusing too. I make light of it, but all the rules I lay out are the unwritten rules (until now—although some posit that the first two tablets brought down by Moses included these, those people are crazy), and some of you apparently don’t know all of them.

In response to the maddening restroom etiquette of some of the people here at the law college, I am going to go through several potential situations, and discuss the proper etiquette. The hypothetical restroom is exactly like several such rooms in the law school: there are two semi-private toilets, two sinks, and three urinals as shown:

In every situation, you have to pee (really bad). Where do you go?
1. No one is in the restroom.
2. Someone is using urinal C.
3. Someone is using urinal A.
4. Someone is using urinals A and C.
5. Someone is using urinal B.
6. Someone is using urinals A and C, and both toilets.
Write down your answers (or don’t, I don’t care).

The Answers

1. Did you answer A? If you did, you were right. Urinal C would be acceptable, but due to its lower height it has lower status, and whether or not you’re the alpha wolf, you pee on the biggest tree in the forest when no one’s around. If you answered B, then you were dead wrong. Give everyone else a little room to breathe. Some of you may be appalled that someone would actually use B, but believe me that some people do. It’s maddening, isn’t it?
2. This should be easy after doing the first situation. The correct answer is A. Not only does this give you breathing room, but you retain all of your dignity. If you answered C, however, something is seriously wrong with you. I don’t care how short the other guy is and how tall you are, it’s never polite to read over someone’s shoulder, and it’s even worse to pee over their shoulder. (No, I’ve never seen this, but I wonder about some people.)
3. If you answered C, then congratulations! It gives you a little breathing room, and it’s only a step down on the totem pole. Unless you think the place you pee is going to have some effect on your mating prospects, then it’s no big deal. If you answered B, then you need to bitch-slap yourself. There’s a lot more dignity in peeing in a low urinal than there is in getting next to another man’s unsheathed member.
4. This is where it gets tricky. If you said you would go to one of the toilets, then you’re well on your way to being a polite restroom-user. If you forgot the toilets were there, don’t sweat it. Just keep in mind that at home you pee in a toilet all the time. If you didn’t forget, but picked B anyway, then you made the wrong choice, friend. I’m here to help you, but there’s only so much I can do. And remember to lift the freaking seat before you pee, you filthy animal.
5. OK, you’re right, this guy is being impolite. By now you know you’re supposed to use a toilet, but when you do, don’t slam the door because you’re mad at the other guy. Just let it slide, and maybe gently inform him of his error (this is something I never have the guts to do). At the end maybe we’ll talk about other possible solutions to this problem.
6. Yes, we are in a real pickle now. Many of you, thinking you had no other options, probably picked B. That was wrong. You should never, under any circumstances, use urinal B. (Unless you’re going to pee in your pants. In that case, think ahead a little bit next time. You’re not five years old anymore. Actually that’s another good reason to leave urinal B open, just in case someone’s going to piss himself.) The correct answer is that you should wait for the next open urinal, or, in the alternative, leave the restroom and come back later or look for another restroom. If you said you’d pee in one of the sinks, then you really need help.


Urinal B is simply ornamental, a buffer zone between you and the next guy. In fact, if I had my way they wouldn’t even be equipped with plumbing. OK, maybe that’s asking for trouble. So let’s just put a plant there instead. No . . . some people will still pee in there. Trash cans have the same problem. Maybe we’ll just put up a sign there that says “This space designated as a buffer zone.”

So the question is: what do we do about people that don’t follow the rules? I’m tempted to post up an “out of order” sign over urinal B. If people take it down, then carry one with you and post it up every time you go. Or you could just subtly talk to people, saying “Hey, don’t you hate it when someone uses the middle urinal?” Or you could direct them to the URL of this post. E-mail it to every man in your address book. (Oh, the shameless propaganda!)

So, to test your knowledge, let’s try two more. In the first of these, assume any of the above situations, but there are dividers between the urinals. Think about your answer.
Ready? The dividers make no difference! You’re still too uncomfortably close to the next guy if you use B.
In the second new hypothetical, assume there are nine urinals, lettered A through J. Someone is using urinal A. What do you do?
Ready? You should have answered J. You may feel safe taking C, or E, or G, but you should always put as much of a buffer between you and the next guy. Using H or F or D is reducing the number of usable urinals, and that’s a big no-no. If you were wondering why there is no urinal I, well, that’s just a silly question. Everyone knows there’s no urinal I.

Am I just crazy? Am I just being insecure? Let me know what you think.

One last thing: wash your hands when you’re done!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I'm infinitely happy that Blogger has added the "Flag" button (although some blogs seem to have bypassed the bar at the top). However, I have discovered that pressing the "Next Blog" button as a way of finding something new and interesting has completely lost its usefulness. Almost all of it is spam, or as they're now calling spam blogs, splogs. And a good chunk of it is pornography, often with titles like "Groped in Public" or "MILF Pictures" or "Mature Woman Free Pics" or other such bull. There needs to be some kind of mechanism to prevent these blogs from starting rather than just a reactive method.
Happy birthday to my mom!

Crash It Your Way

WAUSAU, Wis. - A man whose car ran into the front entry of a fast-food restaurant backed away, parked and went in for breakfast, officials say.
That's really cool. I wouldn't let a little thing like a car crash get in between me and breakfast. Especially not when I'm 78 years old and hungry. This reminds me of the old days working at Target. You know how every elerly person goes to the same place every morning to eat breakfast and either read the paper or talk with other elderly people? Let's call that place the denture destination. Target in Norfolk, Nebraska is the denture destination for some. (It has a little restaruant and opens an hour before the rest of the mall.) The thing is, for the elderly being the first person in the door at the denture destination on a given morning makes them the freaking cock of the walk. When they unlock those doors they race in there, and they will crush anyone who stands in their way. It's the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) every day for those people.

A final note on the story:
General manager Kathy Fasse declined to say what he ordered.
You call this news? I'm infuriated that I don't know what he ordered! But seriously, it would have added to the overall feel of the story if we did know, but since she didn't say . . . don't you think they could have left that out of the story altogether? I guess they have their priorities straight.

Going to the Dogs

This is the last group of pictures from this weekend.

First off, Dempsey is the biggest celebrity in Edgar, Nebraska. He goes with Laura's mother everywhere in town, including the bank and the post office. Everyone loves to see the little foxy dog.

Next up is my son, Russell. I rescued him back in June, and he loves to go visit Dempsey and run around on the farm.

All images © 2005 Kelly Hoffart

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Top 100 Metal Songs 20-11

UPDATE 1/5/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade

All the previous installments:
Introduction, 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, 40-31, 30-21

#20: “Supernaut” by Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath, Volume 4 (1972)

I have to admit, when I set out to make this list I didn’t expect this to be the highest Black Sabbath song. In fact, it’s one of the least well-known songs from their first four albums. It’s not even one of their dark songs. It’s an extremely energetic song about (I think) drugs. It’s exactly the kind of song you want to hear when you’re in a really good mood. The main riff is awesome, and the solos make the song incredible. There’s a great guitar solo by the capable Tony Iommi and even an entertaining drum solo by Bill Ward. I suspect that it’s Sabbath’s answer to the accusations of the time that they couldn’t play. Steve Huey of All Music Guide said “the crushing "Supernaut" is one of the heaviest tracks the band ever recorded.” Enough said.

#19: “Man in the Box” by Alice in Chains
Facelift (1990)

This bottom-heavy song of abuse is the best written by this Seattle band. While he is abused, he is defiant, unlike most of their other heroin-depressed songs. “I’m the dog who gets beat. Shove my nose in shit. Won’t you come and save me?” It even has some of the best interplay of vocals between Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell, and one of Cantrell’s better guitar solos.

#18: “Jailbait” by Motörhead
Ace of Spades (1980)

This song has everything that makes Motörhead great: a raunchy, high energy riff paired up with irreverent lyrics sung by Lemmy Kilmister’s uniquely raunchy voice. “Teenage baby you’re a sweet young thing. . . . You’re jailbait and I just can’t wait. . . . Love that young stuff.” The solo is even entertaining, even though it’s nothing special.

#17: “Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed
The Sickness (2000)

If this song doesn’t make you want to smash into the person next to you, nothing will. Descent into madness is the order of the day. The song begins with Draiman’s famous “evil monkey scream” along with decidedly White Zombie/Godsmack-inspired guitars, and everyone can get into the chorus. “Open up your hate and let it flow into me. Get up, come on get down with the sickness. You mother get up, come on get down with the sickness. You fucker get up, come on get down with the sickness. Madness is the gift that has been given to me.” It’s really too bad that the edited version has to cut out the insane rant near the end, because it’s filled with some of the most anger ever distilled into musical form.

#16: “Nothing to Gein” by Mudvayne
L.D. 50 (2000)

This is perhaps one of Mudvayne’s most thoughtful songs. It’s written from the perspective of Edward Gein, first and foremost mother’s little boy and in his later years a model mental patient, and you can look up on Google what he did in between (hint: Hitchcock’s Psycho was based partly on him, and so was Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs). They handle the material somewhat sensitively, trying to figure out what made him the way he is, but definitely with a Mudvayne twist. The song moves through extremely heavy parts with screaming vocals and singing, and even goes through a funky part. “Masturbate, celebrate the fields of death with skin upon my face. Life, submissiveness. Hypnotizing the ignorant a little boy’s best friend is always his mother, at least that’s what she said. Life of a simple man taught that everyone else is dirty and their love is meaningless. . . . If I soak my hands in others’ blood am I sick? If I wash my hands in others’ blood am I sick? . . . If I bathe myself in others’ blood am I sick?”

#15: “Greed” by Godsmack
Awake (2000)

This is exactly why Godsmack is the new millenium’s answer to White Zombie. They take no prisoners and give no apologies with their heavy, raw riffs and Sully’s perfect metal voice. There’s nothing that immediately jumps out as particularly brilliant about their music, until you realize that they have put their finger on the pulse of heavy metal and understood exactly what makes us love it. This song is the best example of that purification of metal: they have heated it, purified it, and forged it into Damascan steel.

#14: “Forty Six & 2” by Tool
Aenima (1996)

Although this is one of their little-known songs, it really is the quintessential Tool song. I don’t really know how to describe it, except as a complex blending of unusual bass and guitar riffs overlaid and gilded with Maynard James Keenan’s sometimes delicate and sometimes powerful voice.

#13: “More Human Than Human” by White Zombie
Astro-Creep: 2000 (1995)

This is the most memorable song ever performed by Mr. Zombie. Everyone knows the porno-esque bass line at the beginning, made complete with the sounds of a woman moaning in ecstasy. The lyrics simply talk about how invincible and scary Rob is as the epitome of all the bad things about society in the world of Blade Runner. “More human than human” is the company’s motto in that movie, the company that makes replicants. He even quotes the big bad guy near the end: “I want more life, fucker.” You could either mosh or grind to this song if you wanted to, and I think that’s what makes its appeal so wide.

#12: “Into the Coven” by Mercyful Fate
Melissa (1983)

The pretty little intro music deceives you, and then it turns to a more dramatic metal sound and you realize what you’re in for. “Howl like a wolf” King Diamond sings in his falsetto, “and a witch will open the door.” He wants you to be Lucifer’s child. The whole song has this perfect air of bad Satan-themed horror movie, and that’s one of the reasons we love King and company. The solos also complement the loping rhythm of the music as well on this as on any of MF’s tracks. If you want a dramatic song that will send chills up and down your spine, this is the one to listen to, and King minces no words about why you’re here to enter his coven: “My soul belongs to Satan.”

#11: “Master of Puppets” by Metallica
Master of Puppets (1986)

I’ve heard this one so many times I don’t even need to listen to it again to write this review. This could rightly be considered the predecessor to “One” on Justice, and although it’s generally not as highly rated I have placed it ahead of that particular epic. While “One” has a particularly heavy and fast climax, this one is heavy and powerful the whole way through, and the main riff is the best that Metallica has ever written. The lyrical imagery is at least equally as powerful as that in “One,” with the continuing theme throughout the Puppets album (all-encompassing, abusive control by some dominant entity) powerfully present: “Master! Master! Where’s those dreams that I’ve been after? Master! Master! You promised only lies! Laughter! Laughter! All I hear or see is laughter. Laughter! Laughter! Laughing at my cries!” This theme is echoed by such later giants as Tool (“Prison Sex”), Alice in Chains (“Man in the Box”), Megadeth (“Captive Honor”), and Black Label Society (“Counterfeit God”). It’s even better live, when 80,000 people scream “Master” along with the band (or at least that was the seating capacity of the packed former Mile High Stadium where I saw them the first time in 2000), or when they play “Sanitarium” when the song hits the mellow part and then pick up where they left off when “Sanitarium” is over, or how they replace the words “You’re dedicated to how I’m killing you” to end with “how I’m f*ing you”. Here’s what Steve Huey of All Music Guide said:
Even though Master of Puppets didn't take as gigantic a leap forward as Ride the Lightning, it was the band's greatest achievement, hailed as a masterpiece by critics far outside heavy metal's core audience. It was also a substantial hit, reaching the Top 30 and selling three million copies despite absolutely nonexistent airplay. Instead of a radical reinvention, Master of Puppets is a refinement of past innovations. . . . Everything about it feels blown up to epic proportions (indeed, the songs are much longer on average), and the band feels more in control of its direction. You'd never know it by the lyrics, though -- in one way or another, nearly every song on Master of Puppets deals with the fear of powerlessness. Sometimes they're about hypocritical authority (military and religious leaders), sometimes primal, uncontrollable human urges (drugs, insanity, rage), and, in true H.P. Lovecraft fashion, sometimes monsters. Yet by bookending the album with two slices of thrash mayhem ("Battery" and "Damage, Inc."), the band reigns triumphant through sheer force -- of sound, of will, of malice. The arrangements are thick and muscular, and the material varies enough in texture and tempo to hold interest through all its twists and turns. Some critics have called Master of Puppets the best heavy metal album ever recorded; if it isn't, it certainly comes close.
(Emphasis added, and liberally applied.)

And finally, the moment you've been waiting for, the Top Ten.

UPDATE 1/5/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade