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Friday, December 14, 2012

Glenn Reynolds: gun-free zones seem to be a magnet for mass shooters

Gun-free zones provide false sense of security.

Must read Mark Steyn: The Doctor Won’t See You Now

American health care is in a bureaucratic death grip.

Big Government American-style: Byzantine, legalistic, whimsical, coercive, heavy on the paperwork, and lacking the one consolation of statism — the great clarifying simplicity of universal mediocrity.

You have to see this Amazon page before they fix it

Check it out here, and read the reviews.  via Neatorama.

Religious identification in the UK: 176,632 identify themselves as Jedi Knights

Seventh most popular faith: The new figures reveal that the lightsabre-wielding disciples are only behind Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism in the popularity stakes.

Friday links

Best Science-Themed Holiday Gifts

Vintage Female Mug Shots

Geeky Gingerbread Art and Amazing Gingerbread Houses.

The Paintings of Young Adolf Hitler

Clip from the first episode of the Mickey Mouse Club, 1955

Clip from the first episode of the Mickey Mouse Club, 1955

The Nautical Roots of Popular Tattoos

Lots of information and illustrations at Collectors Weekly:

Contemporary tattooing in the West can be traced to the 15th century, when European pilgrims would mark themselves with reminders of locations they visited, as well as the names of their hometowns and spouses to help identify their bodies should they die during their travels. “The attractions of tattoos for itinerant populations are quite obvious,” says tattoo-art historian Matt Lodder. “They can’t be lost or stolen and they don’t encumber an already heavily burdened traveler, so it’s not a surprise that they became inextricably linked with sailors.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Spanish Dictionary For Tourists

ESPN Commentator: RGIII a 'Cornball Brother' Due to Possible Republicanism

ESPN’s Rob Parker dropped a bombshell today when he called NFL rookie star and MVP candidate Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III a “cornball brother.” That means, according to Parker, that RGIII isn’t a real black person, and that he might not be “one of us” or “down for the cause.”

What was his justification? RGIII is engaged to a white woman, and could be a Republican.


Anyone notice the flash crashes in the market this morning?

Multiple symbols, mostly just before the market opened but I'm told it's been happening since then, too.  Zero Hedge has some early details.

Heh: Explaining The U.S. Economy Via Star Wars

via ZeroHedge.

Conservative Members were purged because of ‘asshole factor,’ not voting record

Daily Caller:

As you probably know, conservatives are up in arms over the fact that some conservatives were “purged” from committee assignments.

It seems Republican leadership is aiming to make matters even worse.

According to CQ RollCall, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland “a staunch conservative who sits on the Republican Steering Committee that made the decision to remove the lawmakers,” is insisting that the conservative Members were not purged because of their voting record:

“What I tried to explain to them was, it didn’t have anything to do with your voting record, a scorecard, your work across the street or anything else. It had to do with your ability to work within the system and to try to work. And to be, I guess, constructive in things. And I said, ‘I guess you could say it was an asshole factor,’” Westmoreland said. “Now I wasn’t calling any member in particular an asshole, I was just trying to describe an environment where some people that you’re trying to work with, they just don’t want to work within the system.”

Westmoreland may be correct. But was that a smart thing to say? (No, it was not.)

How many days old are you?

Personally, I'm old as dirt.  Figure your own out here.

Full Length Zombie Movie Made By Physics Students At CERN

Does the Higgs Boson particle really turn people into zombies?

Here's the trailer.  Full film below.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mark Steyn: Topics for soldiers to avoid with Afghans

…“advocating women’s rights,” “any criticism of pedophilia,” “directing any criticism towards Afghans,” “mentioning homosexuality and homosexual conduct” or “anything related to Islam.”  Via The Corner.

Mark links to Judicial Watch, which has this:

...the new manual, which is around 75 pages, suggests that Western ignorance of Afghan culture— not Taliban infiltration—is responsible for the increase in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against the coalition forces.

Read the Judicial Watch post for comments and links showing how consistent this is with the Obama administration's ongoing approach to ending "Islamophobia".

Wednesday links

The Origin of the Candy Cane.

Firework Funerals for Pets.

'Cat burglar' with a magnetic collar responsible for spate of missing keys.

How To Carve An Elephant.

How mint became the default flavor of dental hygiene.

12 Essential American Cartoons.

How To Carve An Elephant

From a blog post (at the excellent Weird Universe) describing an article in a 1905 issue of Strand Magazine, which in turn was describing a 16th century cookbook (De Arte Coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking):

I highly recommend reading the entire Strand article, which includes:

Then, again, we are given minute instructions for the carving of beasts whose flesh was esteemed by the ancients. "In partes of Asia and Africa," we are told, "the oliphant is eaten, not as the Romans and Egyptians were wont to do, sparingly and only as pertain'd to his feete, trunk, and tayle all of which were great delicacies, but his entire carcase is carved and consumed." For the benefit of those who might happen to possess an elephant and be tempted to eat him a chart of carving instructions accompanies the text.

Gustave Flaubert was born 191 years ago today

Quelle atroce invention que celle du bourgeois, n'est-ce pas? Pourquoi est-il sur la terre, et qu'y fait-il, le misérable? Pour moi, je ne sais pas à quoi peuvent passer le temps ici les gens qui ne s'occupent pas d'art. La manière dont ils vivent un problème.
- Gustave Flaubert (letter to Louise Colet, 22 September 1846)

(What a horrible invention, the bourgeois, don't you think? Why is he on earth, this wretch, what is he doing here? For my part, I do not know what people unconcerned with art can spend their time on. Their way of living is a riddle to me.)

La courtisane est un mythe. Jamais une femme n'a inventé une débauche.
- Flaubert (letter to Louise Colet, August 1852)

(The courtesan is a myth, no woman has ever invented anything in the
realm of sensual pleasure.)

Les honneurs déshonorent, les titres dégradent, la fonction abrutit.
- Flaubert (letter to Mme Brainne, 25 January 1879)

(Honors dishonor, titles degrade, an office dulls the mind.)

Before her marriage she had thought that she had love within her grasp, but since the happiness which she had expected this love to bring her hadn't come, she supposed she must have been mistaken. And Emma tried to imagine just what was meant, in life, by the words "bliss," "passion," and "rapture" -- words that had seemed so beautiful to her in books.
- Flaubert (Madame Bovary, Part I, Ch. 5)

No matter: she wasn't happy, and never had been. Why was life so unsatisfactory? Why did everything she leaned on crumble instantly to dust?... Besides, nothing was worth looking for: everything was a lie! Every smile concealed a yawn of boredom; every joy, a curse; every pleasure, its own surfeit; and the sweetest kisses left on one's lips but a vain longing for a fuller delight.
- Ibid., Part III, Ch. 6

Adultery, Emma was discovering, could be as banal as marriage.
- Id.

An interviewer asked me what book I thought best represented the modern American woman. All I could think of to answer was Madame Bovary.
- Mary McCarthy (1912-1989) (On the Contrary)

Today is the 191st anniversary of the birth of French novelist and short-story writer Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), remembered in the English-speaking world largely for his path-breaking novel, Madame Bovary (1857). Born in Rouen, Flaubert was first educated locally but then moved on to Paris to study law, which he abandoned in 1846. By 1842, he had already completed a novella, and in 1849-50, he traveled to the Middle East, where he apparently enjoyed a wide range of bisexual experiences, while also contracting syphilis. Upon returning to France, Flaubert spent five years writing Madame Bovary, only to be prosecuted for immorality upon its publication. (He was acquitted, and the novel achieved a succès de scandale .) Subsequently, he produced several more novels and short stories, but none equaled Madame Bovary. He labored for the last three years of his life on the satirical Bouvard et Pécuchet, which he considered his masterpiece, but when it appeared posthumously, it gained only a tepid reception. Flaubert was an obsessive perfectionist in his writing, carefully avoiding the inexact, the abstract, the vaguely inapt expression - always seeking "le mot juste" ("the right word"). Alternately a romantic and a realist, he had a far-reaching influence on writers as diverse as Franz Kafka and Jean-Paul Sartre. In a letter to George Sand in 1871, Flaubert noted,

"Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times."

Gustave Flaubert:

The above is taken from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email. If you'd like to be added to his list, leave your email address in the comments.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This Weird Map Visualizes Air Pollution as Nose Hair Length

Via Smithsonian Magazine, Clean Air Asia has this nifty map that visualizes each person’s air pollution exposure as super-long, disgusting nose hairs. It's based on the idea that more nose hair gives individuals a three times less likely chance of developing asthma.

So, if you live in Asia (European and American cities aren't listed) search your city and “style your nose hair” to cut your emissions.  You can even upload a photo and see what your various nose hair stylings look like.

Thomas Sowell: Taxing the Poor

While it is true that nearly half the households in the country pay no income tax at all, the apparently simple word “tax” has many complications that can be a challenge for even professional economists to untangle.

If you define a tax as only those things that the government chooses to call a tax, you get a radically different picture from what you get when you say, “If it looks like a tax, acts like a tax, and takes away your resources like a tax, then it’s a tax.”

Detailed Explanation: How to Sail a Boulder Across Lake Titicaca on a Reed Boat

Check out the whole post, with lots of photos, at Environmental Graffiti

On the southeastern shore of Bolivia's Lake Titicaca stand the ancient ruins of the city of Tiwanaku. Here, the remains of monolithic rock sculptures and buildings over 1,500 years old can be seen. What makes this site so incredible is not merely the size and weight of the stone used by these pre-Inca builders, but the fact that much of that stone originated far from the ruins – around 55 miles (90 kilometers) across the wide blue lake!

How these huge rocks, some of them weighing 40 tons, were transported across the famous lake – home to many indigenous tribes who live on its shores and in its floating villages – has long been a mystery.

Illinois: Federal appeals court tosses state ban on carrying concealed weapons

In a huge win for gun-rights groups, a federal appeals court in Chicago Tuesday tossed the state's ban on carrying concealed weapons and gave Illinois' Legislature 180 days to craft a law legalizing concealed carry.

Presenting the Full Body Sweater

Obvious Winner.

The Onion's Gift Guide For Kids

The Onion presents its ultimate holiday gift guide for children ages 5 and up.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The "Mayan Apocalypse" is ancient prophecy, if by "ancient" you mean "from the 1970s" and if by "prophecy" you mean "shroom trip"

‘Mayan Apocalypse’ Started With A Bad 70s Mushroom Trip, Not Ancient Civilization

The Mayan Apocalypse prophecy didn’t come from ancient civilization, and that the idea is hardly older than 30-40 years, give or take. Two New Age books in the 70s and 80s are to blame for our apocalyptic fears. The books detail an “upgrade” to human consciousness, predicted by a spirit from the seventh century, and that the whole thing came about from a magic mushroom trip, reports Yahoo.

Headline via Fark.

Jonah Goldberg has an excellent rant on the lack of updated toaster technology

Read the whole thing:

I’d bet the average person burns their toast just as much today as they did a half-century ago (reliable data on this is hard to find). I ask you: Why, man (or woman), why?

It’s not like there isn’t a market for such things. I’d wager more Americans own toasters than iPhones. It’s not like heating bread is a realm of human technological knowledge that cannot be further advanced (if such a realm exists). More plainly, it is not as if there aren’t technologies at hand today that wouldn’t improve the toasting experience if thoughtfully incorporated into a new generation of toasting devices.

School District Owes $1 Billion On $100 Million Loan

Capital appreciation bonds, known as CABs, are unlike typical bonds, where a school district is required to make immediate and regular payments. Instead, CABs allow districts to defer payments well into the future — by which time lots of interest has accrued.

In the West Contra Costa Schools' case, that $2.5 million bond will cost the district a whopping $34 million to repay.

Monday links

Coconut-Flavored Pineapples Invented by Mistake by Australian Scientists.

GRAPHIC: What Your Beer Says About Your Politics.

1983 Radio Shack computer catalog. Check out the prices!

The Banned Pokémon Episode That Gave Children Seizures.

30 Baby Animals That Will Make You Go ‘Aww’.

John McAfee’s (of the horrible anti-virus program) recent Central American troubles, via Taiwanese animation

Video: LEGO Battle of Helm’s Deep

Check out this chart: % change in currencies priced in gold

James Delingpole writing in The Telegraph: What unites most of us is this sensation that we're on the deck of the Titanic, watching the iceberg drawing closer and closer, and the chief steward keeps passing us these lengthy survey forms to fill in.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

How did zebras get their stripes?

Some European scientists have presented a mundane explanation, saying that zebras’ stripes exist to stave off blood-sucking horseflies. This explanation, as it turns out, is one of many possibilities.

By the way, scientists used to think that zebras were white animals with black stripes, because the underbellies of some zebras are white. But it turns out that zebra embryos start out with a dark skin, and go on to develop white stripes before birth. So they are, essentially, dark creatures.

Sperm Trajectories, Evolving Humans and a Tomato Tapestry: The Best Scientific Figures of 2012

My personal favorite is this graphic on embryonic forms from between 640 million and 540 million years ago.  More at Wired.

Why the rare burger may soon become endangered

UK: Council officials are cracking down on the freedom to choose how your burger is done, warning restaurants not to offer them rare or even medium-rare.

Video: Toddler in Stroller Launches Impromptu Opera Duet With Street Performer

Child joins street singer, steals the show. Even though the tyke doesn't know the words to the operatic melody—they come out as basically "goo goo ga ga"—the kid is in tune and even overshadows the professional.

Video: the RG3 (Robert Griffin III) injury

more here.

ZeroHouse: off the grid, self sufficient, erect in 1 day

How cool is this thing?  No hookup to power grid or water (solar powered and rainwater fed), all the furniture is built in, moves on two flatbed trucks.  via Althouse.

"Atlanta police find homicide victim seeking suspect."

The story's not that interesting - I just like headlines from the "Last Night I Shot An Elephant In My Pajamas" school of headline writing.

The Banned Pokémon Episode That Gave Children Seizures

On December 16, 1997, an episode of the then-unstoppable Pokémon animated series was broadcast in Japan. Barely thirty minutes later, nearly 700 children were on their way to hospital.

There comes a point, around twenty minutes into the show, when Pikachu uses his lightning attack to blow up some missiles. Because these are virtual missiles, and Pikachu is currently residing in Pokémon’s version of cyberspce, a regular explosion just wouldn’t look right.

So the animators used a rapidly-strobing technique that flashed red and blue lights on the screen, to make the explosion look “virtual”.

And then all hell broke loose. Read all about “Pokémon Shock”, a combination of the effects of strobe lighting combined with the sheer popularity of the program. It’s estimated that around 1 in 4000 people are vulnerable to “photosensitive seizures” and other health issues when viewing strobe lighting. That may sound minor, but when you consider over four million kids were watching that particular episode...

The original (now banned) sequence is below - watch at your own risk!