Political test

Somewhere in my recent wanderings of the vast web-o-space, I found this political testing site which aims to give you a simplified graphic view of where you sit in the political spectrum. Attempting to expand the traditional political view from a simple left/right setting, the test gives results along an economic as well as social scale.


Both an economic dimension and a social dimension are important factors for a proper political analysis. By adding the social dimension you can show that Stalin was an authoritarian leftist (ie the state is more important than the individual) and that Gandhi, believing in the supreme value of each individual, is a liberal leftist. While the former involves state-imposed arbitary collectivism in the extreme top left, on the extreme bottom left is voluntary collectivism at regional level, with no state involved. Hundreds of such anarchist communities exisited in Spain during the civil war period.

You can also put Pinochet, who was prepared to sanction mass killing for the sake of the free market, on the far right as well as in a hardcore authoritarian position. On the non-socialist side you can distinguish someone like Milton Friedman, who is anti-state for fiscal rather than social reasons, from Hitler, who wanted to make the state stronger, even if he wiped out half of humanity in the process.

The chart also makes clear that, despite popular perceptions, the opposite of fascism is not communism but anarchism (ie liberal socialism), and that the opposite of communism ( i.e. an entirely state-planned economy) is neo-liberalism (i.e. extreme deregulated economy).

It’s an interesting expansion from what most folks use in considering political leanings, I think, and while the overall test-to-rating process seems a little simplistic, it appears at least well thought out. And even if the results aren’t that accurate, they should help get a conversation going on political evaluations for those interested in such discussions.

So where do I personally sit in this scale? Well, I fell in to the quadrant where I expected I would be, but not quite as far from either axis as I had anticipated. See my standings below the break:

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High heels are actually good for you

Who knew? Turns out that Science Digest let us all in on the secret 50 years ago – high heels are good for a woman’s posture, leg appearance, and breasts.


High-heeled shoes are physically and psychologically best for women’s wear, says a British doctor, contrary to the opinions of many authorities.

Careful tests on special scales have shown, said Dr. Owen McDonagh, that high heels throw the weight onto the heel rather than onto the toes, as is frequently charged.

Physically, he said, the added weight on the heel eliminates slouching, produces more healthy breathing, and adds inches to the bust.

“But the greatest effect is the psychological one,” Dr. McDonagh went on. climaxing a debate carried on in the British Medical Journal.

“Long legs are admired, and the high heel gives the impression of greater leg length. They give a sensation of slimness.”

A different opinion came from Dr. Reginald Payne, according to the Chicago Tribune, who said high heels produce bow legs and knock knees, and that if men tried to put animals into such contraptions, every anti-cruelty league would have a fit.

[tags]High heels, Modern Mechanix, b00bies!, Sexy legs[/tags]

Build your own Segway-style scooter

Don’t tlbonscooter have several thousand dollars in the wallet to spare, but really want your own Segway?  Well, you could always try the Do-it-yourself homebuilt Segway-style scooter if you have the skills for that.

Self-balancing scooters, like the Segwayâ„¢ are often thought to be technological miracles, but it is not actually very hard to build one. I built the one described here in about a week using off-the-shelf parts. I spent another week tweaking the high-speed stability, improving the steering control, and writing about it.

Shoot yeah!  I have mad skillz.  So mad they have to be spelled with a ‘z’ instead.  But not quite mad sizzles, which is what I hear Snoop Dogg has.

So just how does the DIY self-balancing scooter compare to a real Segway?

The Segway is made with quite high-quality, high-tech, and expensive components. Overall, the components I used are a lot lower-tech and cheaper than the ones in the Segway. Yet, mine seems to ride just fine. It suggests that there’s room for a Henry Ford of balancing scooters to develop and sell a low-cost everyman’s version. Here’s a quick comparison. Quotes below are from segway.com.

This is followed by the comparison.  And I can tell you from reading it that while the real deal certainly wins for polish, the DIY scooter doesn’t measure up too badly on functionality.  Now to find a few hundred spare hundred lost in the sofa to make my own.

The author of the page has extensive information on the why of building this, some ideas for doing your own, and even updates on his next generation DIY home-built.  Overall, it’s a really cool project.  The write-up and details are long, but if you are into this kind of project work, I assure you it is worth the time to read it.

[tags]Self-balancing scooter, DIY Segway-style scooter, DIY[/tags]

The story of the travelling nukes

I remember reading about the recent slip in which half a dozen missiles with nuclear warheads were flown from North Dakota to Louisiana before being discovered. I didn’t say anything about it back then because there really wasn’t a lot of good information on it, and I figured most visitors would miss it if I just posted as an aside (that mini posting box on the right hand side of the Blahg). Now, the Washington Post has a very nice story up about what happened, and I figure pointing out the article for those that want to read about it now would be reasonable.

Just after 9 a.m. on Aug. 29, a group of U.S. airmen entered a sod-covered bunker on North Dakota‘s Minot Air Force Base with orders to collect a set of unarmed cruise missiles bound for a weapons graveyard. They quickly pulled out a dozen cylinders, all of which appeared identical from a cursory glance, and hauled them along Bomber Boulevard to a waiting B-52 bomber.

The airmen attached the gray missiles to the plane’s wings, six on each side. After eyeballing the missiles on the right side, a flight officer signed a manifest that listed a dozen unarmed AGM-129 missiles. The officer did not notice that the six on the left contained nuclear warheads, each with the destructive power of up to 10 Hiroshima bombs.

. . .

A simple error in a missile storage room led to missteps at every turn, as ground crews failed to notice the warheads, and as security teams and flight crew members failed to provide adequate oversight and check the cargo thoroughly. An elaborate nuclear safeguard system, nurtured during the Cold War and infused with rigorous accounting and command procedures, was utterly debased, the investigation’s early results show.

. . .

A former Air Force senior master sergeant wrote separately that “mistakes were made at the lowest level of supervision and this snowballed into the one of the biggest mistakes in USAF history. I am still scratching my head wondering how this could [have] happened.”

A recounting of the oversights and skipped protocols that let this roll into such a problem are well covered in the story. Having worked in an environment where classified material was handled, and having seen the safeguards in place, it’s always interesting to me to hear about breakdowns in procedures. This particular incident was a little more interesting because the mistakes happened, I think in part, when people who were not expecting to be handling abnormal goods didn’t follow the necessary steps involved when abnormal materials work was occurring.

By skipping the safety protocols because this was viewed as a normal (i.e. non-nuclear) goods transfer, a real problem developed. That was why we were always instructed to always, always, always follow procedures as if we were dealing with classified information. That prevents accidental information leaks and reduces the probability of missing a step in proper handling of classified information.

[tags]Nuclear materials, Broken Arrow?, Bent spear, Mishandling nuclear warheads[/tags]

It is good to get wood

I love wood. There’s something good about having some sturdy wood all day, you know. The look of good wood in your hands is really memorable. That’s why I’ve been thinking about getting wood for my wife.


Of course, since we don’t have an iPhone, we can’t use this particular wood replacement, but I’m thinking about trying to find a wood case replacement like this one for her iPod.


That looks much better than these (admittedly cool but not as cool) wooden iPod cases, doesn’t it?


So, all kinds of choices, but I have a feeling that to give my wife some good hard wood, I’ll have to do all the work myself.

[tags]iWood, iPhone, iPod, Wood is good[/tags]

When gaming cliches go real

As gamers, we often realize how precarious the fate of the universe can be. Often, most people think all is going well and the universe is not mere moments from ceasing to exist. However, there are beings out there, waiting the perfect adventurer to come so that they might hand out a quest which ultimately saves everything we know and care for.

This is the story of such a character. A wizard, seemingly stripped of power but urgently needing to deliver a scroll to a nearby companion. He would deliver it himself, but for reasons unknown, he is held fast to a single spot. Will anyone help him?

About a year and a half ago, the idea struck me that RPGs had a particularly odd phenomenon that required investigation. Now, I don’t pretend to be the first person who thought it strange that in the majority of role-playing games, strangers will march up to you and ask you to do their chores/rescue their daughters. But I do pretend to be the first person to dress up as a wizard, go into the streets of Bath, and find out if it was realistic. Below is the story of my adventure, originally published on The Escapist, and now in its full glory for you, today.

. . .

The plan: To take to the streets, dressed as a wizard, with a quest for the good peoples of Bath, England. Would they really help out a stranger with a strange beard? Would they even stop and listen? Is there any truth to this convention we’ve otherwise entirely accepted?

First of all, I should immediately get this out of the way: No one, at any point, approached me to ask for a quest. Short of suspending a yellow exclamation mark above my head, I’m not sure what more I could have done to attract the attention of any passing adventurers braving the cold thoroughfare through the centre of the town. If anything, people did their very best to avoid me, refusing eye contact, moving far away from my pleading face. It was already concerning.

I should explain the scenario. I, the brave wizard, had transferred through a portal into this dimension, but could not leave the spot on which I stood. It was imperative to the survival of the universe that the magic spell I held (a rolled up scroll of paper, engagingly tied with a purple ribbon) be given to the girl in the red cloak and hood, waiting outside what you humans call “the shoe shop,” 300 yards down the road. Upon completion of this vital task, a bag of gold coins would be given as a reward. In my dimension, chocolate coins are of the very highest worth. Would anyone go out of their way for me, in order to be the savior of all mankind, for the prize of a bag of candy?

Curious as to his success? Wondering if anyone helped this now-powerless wizard? I know I am. Let’s head over and see how things turn out. (via /.)

[tags]Gaming cliches, Virtual conventions go real, Wizards, Real-world gaming, Gaming experiments, Will you please save my child?[/tags]


See through pinball machine

Pinball machines are cool. I keep looking around, trying to find a decent machine locally at a price I can afford. I pretty much always fail, but I still look. So when I saw this see-through pinball machine highlighted over on boingboing, I just had to post about it. This is a machine I wish to have in my house.


Michael Schiess – -proprietor of the legendary Lucky JuJu Pinball Arcade in Alameda, CA — has with the help of a few friends transformed a 1976 “Surf Champ” Gottlieb pinball machine piece by piece into a completely transparent pinball machine. The machine will be part of a science center exhibit he’s developing around the science of pinball machines. This thing is beautiful.

Of course, I’ll never have a pinball machine that awesome residing in my house. But I can tell everyone I’d like to have one like that. And someday, I’ll hopefully have some kind of pinball machine at home.

More images are available at the linked site.

[tags]Pinball, Lucky JuJu, Pinball Arcade[/tags]