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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Video: Family Meeting

via Helenspage.

Employers, Perform Criminal Background Checks at Your Peril

Most businesses perform criminal background checks on job applicants, but the EEOC guidance frowns on such checks and creates new legal tripwires that could spark federal lawsuits. One EEOC commissioner who opposed the new policy, Constance Barker, warned in April that "the only real impact the new Guidance will have will be to scare business owners from ever conducting criminal background checks. . . . The Guidance tells them that they are taking a tremendous risk if they do."

If a background check discloses a criminal offense, the EEOC expects a company to do an intricate "individualized assessment" that will somehow prove that it has a "business necessity" not to hire the ex-offender (or that his offense disqualifies him for a specific job). Former EEOC General Counsel Donald Livingston, in testimony in December to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, warned that employers could be considered guilty of "race discrimination if they choose law abiding applicants over applicants with criminal convictions" unless they conduct a comprehensive analysis of the ex-offender's recent life history.

It is difficult to overstate the EEOC's zealotry on this issue. The agency is demanding that one of Mr. Livingston's clients—the Freeman Companies, a convention and corporate events planner—pay compensation to rejected job applicants who lied about their criminal records.

The biggest bombshell in the new guidelines is that businesses complying with state or local laws that require employee background checks can still be targeted for EEOC lawsuits. 

DIY high speed internet

Tired of waiting, and not wanting to whine, and not looking for a government handout, a rural Brit area does what was necessary to to get high speed internet.

They did it themselves and started stringing fiber, a lot of fiber. Volunteers. Digging trenches. Burying cable. Making splices. They're selling "shares" in the enterprise too.

via Ace.

Star Wars Fan Turns Living Room into Large Scale Battle of Hoth Diorama

More here, plus a tutorial on how to build those realistic-looking explosions with stuff you can find around the house.

Key Democrats Turn on Obamacare

Read the whole thing at American Interest:

Powerful Democrats who helped write and pass Obamacare subjected the new law’s chief administrator to withering criticism at a Senate hearing yesterday. Gary Cohen, the director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, testified before the Senate Finance Committee, and the Democrats on the committee—from its Chairman Max Baucus to Senators Ron Wyden, Bill Nelson, and Maria Cantwell—tore into him.

The about-face of these Democrats is a phenomenon worth pausing over. Many formerly supportive constituencies have grown wary of Obamacare in recent weeks as we’ve learned more about the effects it will have on the health care system. But these Senators’ 180-degree turns are something more severe.

Will young adults face ‘rate shock’ because of the health-care law?

Well, yes. Of course they will.

Insurers point to several reasons that premiums will rise. They will soon be required to offer more-comprehensive coverage than many currently provide. Also, their costs will increase because they will be barred from rejecting the sick, and they will no longer be allowed to charge older customers sharply higher premiums than younger ones.

The First Anatomically Designed Jeans With A Man's Junk In Mind

"No more scrunching, squishing, squashing or splitting of the goods".

Solar-Powered Car from 1912

Source: Newsweek (Mar 7, 1960), via WeirdUniverse:

A 1912 Baker Electric car that was retrofitted with a solar panel by Charles Escoffery for the International Rectifier Corp. back in 1960. The panel cost $20,000. (I don't know what that would be in present-day money, but it wouldn't be cheap.) With the panel, the Baker could run at 20 mph for three hours. International Rectifier hoped to soon be churning out "noiseless, smogless" solar cars for $5000 each. It's 53 years later now, and we're still waiting.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Meteor Crash, This Time In Cuba

Two meteor crashes (one in Cuba now) and a flyby asteroid all within a few hours seems unlikely to be a coincidence.

Chelyabinsk: What, Exactly, Just Happened?

The jury should still be out on whether this was related to the other asteroid.

Given that there is a close flyby of another object today, missing the Earth by only a whisker in astronomical terms (just a few earth radii away, and inside the orbit of our communications satellites), it seems like a strange coincidence in terms of timing. When I heard the news of the Russian strike this morning, my most immediate thought was that it was a fellow traveler.

World's largest crocodile dies

The crocodile, which was given the name Lolong, was captured in the town of Bunawan after a three-week hunt involving dozens of people.

The giant reptile, which measured 6.4m (21ft) and weighed in at 1,075kg (2,370lb), had begun to draw local and foreign tourists to the town.

Revealed: Batman Wasn't Gay After All

Interesting post - read the whole thing at Ace.

In 1954 a German-American psychiatrist named Dr. Frederick Wertham published a book called The Seduction of the Innocent, which claimed that comic books were causing children to become homosexual, promiscuous, delinquent and criminal, and also preoccupied by the occult.

Among his more famous theses was the claim that Batman and his young ward Robin lived out the perfect homosexual fantasy together at Wayne Manor, a hawk and his chicken, with no women around and lots of spelunking in secret caves.*

The book caused a Moral Panic -- what would America be without its frequent stupid moral panics? -- and resulted in the near-death of the comic book industry. The industry had to create a "voluntary" comic code to forestall Congress from legislating one

While Wertham's various speculations and interpretations have always been ridiculous (and ridiculed), it now turns out he faked his research, too.

He claimed he'd documented case-studies of Superman (a "fascist," in Wertham's estimation) and Batman (a gay fascist) causing all sorts of bad behavior in children.

But he lied.

Who gets the million-dollar Dorner reward?

But it may not be who gets the reward, but whether anyone does. It may have been offered with a catch: capture and conviction.

A day late: Anti-Valentine's Day cards from a bygone era

The history of "Vinegar Valentines", and lots more examples.

Friday links

Star Trek Bloopers.

10 Richest People Of All Time And How They Made Their Fortunes.

Famous Tree Tunnels.

The Day John Lennon Met Paul McCartney.

Parts of the body named after people.

Beercade: The arcade machine that rewards winners with beer.

Meteorite Hits Russian Urals: Fireball Explosion Wreaks Havoc

Residents on their way to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave, according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1,500 kilometres east of Moscow.

The meteorite raced across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake which could be seen as far as 200 kilometres away in Yekaterinburg. Car alarms went off, windows shattered and mobile phones worked only intermittently.

More here, videos of the impact and the damage here.

Singer Chubby Checker sues makers of penis-length app

The Chubby Checker, which estimates penis length in both metric and imperial measurements, was reportedly removed in September 2012.

‘Any of you ladies out there just start seeing someone new and wondering what the size of their member is?’ asks an old listing posted in 2011.

‘All you need to do is find out the man’s shoe size and plug it in… Now with the Chubby Checker there is no need for disappointment or surprise…’

Making Scotch in zero gravity

The beauty of the opening of space for commercial research by Nanoracks is that it’s allowed a number of different experiments to flourish on board the International Space Station. Perhaps on of the most interesting is one being carried out by Ardbeg Distillery – they want to see what happens to the chemical interactions that give Scotch its flavor characteristics when they happen in zero gravity.

Inside the MixStix is some brand new Ardbeg spirit – about a half a liter – and shards of charred oak like the oak that exists inside a cask. The experiment travelled to the International Space Station on a Soyuz in October of 2011. Once installed, an astronaut activated the experiment, causing the spirit to mix with the oak particles. At the same time it was activated in space, a control sample was activated here on Earth.

The spirit will mature with the oak for at least two years. And the company is fascinated by the possible outcomes.

The Sperm Bike

More here.  And here are other weird and wonderful high-tech inventions of the world.

The Day John Lennon Met Paul McCartney

Much of the genesis of the Beatles is a bit nebulous and is often argued, but most Beatles historians cite the date, July 6, 1957, as the official beginning of the Beatles.

John Lennon, a neighborhood guitar-player (local trouble-maker, part-time shoplifter and full-time egomaniac) had been playing around at a few local gigs in the area for a year or so. John’s initial band was called “The Blackjacks”, consisting of a few of his mates from school. Soon thereafter, the band’s name was changed to “The Quarrymen”, in honor of their present school, Quarry Bank High School.

Paul had been invited to watch the Quarrymen by a mutual friend. After the band’s first concert, Paul was introduced to John... After the brief introduction, Paul played John the song “Twenty Flight Rock” by Eddie Cochrane. John decided to “make the group stronger” and asked Paul to join.

Paul kept the songs neatly arranged in a notebook and each new tune was listed as “Another Lennon-McCartney Original”. The two made a lifelong pact to continue composing in this way and earnestly shook on it. (This handshake was the only actual songwriting agreement the two had; they never signed a written contract as inevitable co-composers.)

Although both John and Paul continued to compose songs on their own too, they never broke their pact and every song, whether solo or co-written, was given the “Lennon-McCartney” label.

Today I Found Out has links and more detail, plus these related posts:

John Lennon Once Almost Beat a Man to Death

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

23% Of America Is Illiterate, with "holy crap" graphic

One in five Americans lacks the basic reading skills beyond a 4th grade level.  via ZeroHedge.  Larger version of graphic here.

Mutant cane toads

Up to 20 per cent of cane toads in certain areas in Gladstone were found with "malformations", compared with 1 per cent of the population in non-urban areas.

"Cane toads are to the fresh water environment, what canaries were to coal mines," Mr Wilson said.

High exposure to ultraviolet radiation and parasites, as well as chemical runoff and airborne pollution can contribute to abnormalities in the amphibians.

Supercut: goats yelling like humans

Turn the sound down (not off):

Six Ways TV Affects Your Brain and Sperm

Not much new here but I like the headline.

Researchers are only just beginning to understand the effect television has on the brain, and what they’ve found so far sure isn’t good. From decreasing your chances of procreating to cutting years off your life...

Mirror in the forest

Mirror in the forest.

The 10 Men Who Would Be Pope

Top candidates.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SOTU Seating plan

via Jonah Goldberg.

Instead of a government of laws, we are becoming a government of regulations

We need reform, desperately, and that reform should be led by conservatives. No one is harder on crime – real crime – than us, but there is no more conservative cause than returning our justice system to a condition where the “justice” part takes precedence over the “system” part.

The explosion of new and ridiculous federal crimes, compounded by prosecutors who have lost all sense of perspective and are not held accountable, puts every American at risk.

Part of the reason is Congressional laziness, where the folks paid to debate, consider and make laws simply delegate away their responsibility to bureaucrats in federal agencies who issue idiotic regulations with the power of criminal statutes. 

Instead of a government of laws, we are becoming a government of regulations, and opaque and indecipherable ones to boot. Making it even worse is the fact that many are “strict” liability statutes – the federal prosecutors do not even need to prove that you intended to commit a crime. So you are just as guilty of a felony for having an eagle feather you picked up off the forest floor as one you plucked off the bald-headed national symbol you just shot.

Fort Hood "workplace violence" designation screws over victims

Fort Hood Hero Says President Obama 'Betrayed' Her, Other Victims.

Three years after the White House arranged a hero's welcome at the State of the Union address for the Fort Hood police sergeant and her partner who stopped the deadly shooting there, Kimberly Munley says President Obama broke the promise he made to her that the victims would be well taken care of.

"Betrayed is a good word," former Sgt. Munley told ABC News in a tearful interview to be broadcast tonight on "World News with Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline."

"Not to the least little bit have the victims been taken care of," she said. "In fact they've been neglected."

Munley and dozens of other victims have now filed a lawsuit against the military alleging the "workplace violence" designation means the Fort Hood victims are receiving lower priority access to medical care as veterans, and a loss of financial benefits available to those who injuries are classified as "combat related."

READ the Fort Hood Victims' Lawsuit

Some of the victims "had to find civilian doctors to get proper medical treatment" and the military has not assigned liaison officers to help them coordinate their recovery, said the group's lawyer, Reed Rubinstein.

"There's a substantial number of very serious, crippling cases of post-traumatic stress disorder exacerbated, frankly, by what the Army and the Defense Department did in this case," said Rubinstein. "We have a couple of cases in which the soldiers' command accused the soldiers of malingering, and would say things to them that Fort Hood really wasn't so bad, it wasn't combat."

Passengers reveal the dire conditions of disabled Carnival cruise ship that they will be stuck on until Thursday

Some of the 4,200 people on board reported that cabin carpets are soaked in urine, passengers are sleeping in tents on deck and scarce food supplies has reduced them to eating cold onion sandwiches.

The ship has been stranded since Sunday after a fire in the engine room crippled the power system.

Obama Thanks Pope For “Our Work Together”

Barack Obama thanked Pope Benedict XVI for “our work together” over these last four years. (What work?)

“On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years. The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.”

Unfortunately, those fond memories by Obama are not shared by the Vatican.

French want wolves to be 'educated' not to kill sheep

France wants to save the wolf from extinction, but they (the wolves, not the French) keep killing sheep.

Under a proposed "National Wolf Plan," the government says it will conduct experiments into "educating" the canine carnivore, which is spreading stealthily in remote areas.

Rest assured, this scheme does not entail lecturing wolves about the cuteness of lambs or trying to convert them to vegetarianism.

Instead, it entails capturing individual wolves that are known to attack a local flock and then marking these bothersome predators before letting them go.

The theory is that the animal will be so traumatised by the experience that it will leave the sheep alone and instead hunt for deer, boar, rabbits and other wild animals.

The Backwards Bowler

Check out his website.

If the Hubble telescope were aimed at the Earth, how detailed would the images be?

Interesting article, and interesting because much of the technology in military spy satellites is believed to be similar to that of Hubble.

Parody Website Fools WaPo Into Thinking Sarah Palin Heading To Al Jazeera

Another proud moment for the Washington Post's layers and layers of fact-checkers. The story was entitled Sarah Palin’s plan to reach ‘millions of devoutly religious people’ through al-Jazeera.

“The Sarah Palin Story is a cautionary tale about what can happen when politics and celebrity meet,” begins Washington Post contributor Suzi Parker’s profile of Sarah Palin’s move from Fox News Channel to the future cable news network Al Jazeera English. “Late last week Al Jazeera America announced the former vice-presidential candidate would be joining their news network.”

“Bless her heart, is Palin trying her best to stay relevant while her 15 minutes fades into the political history books?” Parker asked, after noting that the former Alaska governor posted a message on her Facebook announcing her intention to attend the memorial service of slain Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.

RELATED: No, Ann Coulter Did NOT Refuse To Board A Plane Because Pilot Was Black

More at Breitbart and Mediaite.

Where criminals get their guns

Daily Caller discusses a 1997 Justice Department survey of more than 18,000 state and federal convicts:

• 39.6% of criminals obtained a gun from a friend or family member
• 39.2% of criminals obtained a gun on the street or from an illegal source
• 0.7% of criminals purchased a gun at a gun show
• 1% of criminals purchased a gun at a flea market
• 3.8% of criminals purchased a gun from a pawn shop
• 8.3% of criminals actually bought their guns from retail outlets

Tuesday links

Squids can fly 100 feet through the air.

Dumpster diving - man turns dumpster into swimming pool.

History of Pad Thai.

Modern Churches That Look Like Chickens.

Weird Chocolate-Coated Foods.

Ben & Jerry’s Graveyard for Discontinued Flavors.

How Samsung Went From A Dried Fish Exporter To One Of The Top Names In Tech

Business Insider has an article on the company's history, starting way back in 1938 when it was a company that exported dried fish to China.

via Presurfer.

How the Zipper Was Invented

How the Automatic Hook and Eye Company became the Hookless Fastener Company in 1917.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Maker’s Mark to meet increasing demand by … reducing its alcohol content

What PR genius came up with this?

"Usually you're going to notice that," Williamsburg bartender Erik Lane, 31, said of the lowering in proof. "If I started putting a half shot of water in the bottom of everyone's beer just to make the keg last longer they'd notice."

Florida Man is the world’s worst superhero ever

The Twitter account @_FloridaMan features real-world headlines that include the phrase “Florida Man.” Clearly, Florida Man is the world’s worst superhero ever.

Navy SEAL describes (in detail) moment he shot bin Laden in head

'He's got a gun within reach. He's a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won't have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].

'That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath. 'In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he's going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! Same place.

'And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I've ever done, or the worst thing I've ever done? This is real and that's him. Holy sh**.

Daily Mail article based on this longer Esquire article.

Hitler’s Last Surviving Food Taster

Ninety-five-year-old Margot Woelk is believed to be the last official food taster for Hitler who is still alive. She now tells the British media that Hitler ate fruit and vegetables, but no meat during the two years she was forced to taste his food before he did, due to threats that the German leader might be poisoned.

This is how she described her high-risk work:

Between 11 and 12 o’clock, we had to taste the food, and only after all of us had tried it was it driven to the headquarters by the SS.

It was all vegetarian, the most delicious fresh things, from asparagus to peppers and peas, served with rice and salads. It was all arranged on one plate, just as it was served to him. There was no meat and I do not remember any fish.

Of course I was afraid. If it had been poisoned I would not be here today. We were forced to eat it, we had no choice.

An article in Psychology Today in 2011 described the paradox of the Nazis’ disregard for human life yet their obsession with animal protection. Humane treatment of animals aside, the Telegraph explains that Hitler’s vegetarianism was motivated by his desire for Aryan bodily purity.

'Walking Dead' Writers Regret Naming Every Single Character 'Rick'

ATLANTA—As The Walking Dead returns to AMC for the second half of its third season, writers for the popular zombie drama told reporters Monday they are beginning to regret naming absolutely all of the characters in the series “Rick.” 

“When we started working on that first episode, there were just a few characters, so we figured it didn’t really matter what we called them,” said showrunner Glen Mazzara, whose writing team has since expanded the show’s ensemble cast to more than 50 unique roles, including protagonist Rick Grimes, fan favorite Rick Dixon, and a mysterious, shadowy figure known only within the show’s universe as “Rick.” “As it stands, we’re juggling three seasons’ worth of characters—men, women, children, and even zombies—all of whom are referred to as ‘Rick,’ generally without a last name. Yes, it’s confusing, but what are we supposed to do at this point? Completely change the names of all the show’s characters?” 

Despite the show’s convoluted naming system, AMC executives have confirmed that Sunday’s midseason premiere—in which Rick and Rick rescue Rick while Rick comes to terms with his guilt over Rick’s death—garnered a record 12.3 million viewers.

What Are Dogs Saying When They Bark?

Reflex, side-effect of domestication or meaningful, both for other dogs and for humans?

Scientific American has an excerpt from The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think.  The authors describe some of the research on dog communication, including studies that show both humans and dogs can tell the difference between barks associated with food, and barks associated threatening strangers.  

It (the excerpt) is heavy on anecdote and light on information, but the subject is interesting and hopefully there'll be more substance to the rest of the book.

The Phylogeny and Evolutionary History of Pokémon

Via It's OK To Be Smart.  Read the full paper in the Annals of Improbable Research here (page 15), check out a hi-res view of the taxonomy here, and join these Redditors in discussing any errors they may have made here.

Parody or Serious? CNN Anchor Blames Asteroid on Global Warming

CNN anchor Deb Feyerick asked Saturday afternoon if an approaching asteroid, which will pass by Earth on February 15, “is an example of, perhaps, global warming?"

Using Regulation to Stop Innovation in Higher Ed

Accreditation is a gate that either lets in the new idea or is slammed in the innovator’s face. And accreditation is primarily in the hands of existing suppliers of education together with change-resistant and heavily lobbied government. The good news is that innovators are finding ways to outflank this formidable obstacle. One way is to partner directly with an accredited institution. Another is for a new venture to develop its own credentialed courses which can meet the market test of acceptance where it really matters – employers. That second route is being explored by such upstarts as Coursera, edX and Udacity.

However a more serious threat ultimately may be less obvious than accreditation. It’s the danger of increasing federal and state red tape. This can suffocate a new business or entire industry. No doubt with the encouragement of established institutions, for instance, online ventures are encountering a rising tide of new regulations. 

Playmobil has a set re-enacting a bank robbery

Anti-gun campaigners have hit out at Playmobil over its Bank and Safe pack, which comes with all the pieces needed to stage a violent heist, including a safe that opens to reveal a haul of valuables and armed bank robber figurines.

Of course, there's also the Playmobil Security Check Point:

Pope to Resign

The Vatican released this statement from Pope Benedict XVI announcing his plan to resign on February 28:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Does every species get around 1 billion heartbeats per lifetime?

Universal scaling has always fascinated me:

Mice and Elephants: A Matter of Scale:

Mice and Elephants: A Matter of Scale

Heart rate and life expectancy in mammals and humans
Life expectancy and total heart beats per lifetime in mammals and humans


American Citizens Split On DOJ Memo Authorizing Government To Kill Them

WASHINGTON—Following the release of a secret Department of Justice memo this week that outlines the administration’s legal justification for killing U.S. citizens, a new Pew Research Center poll has revealed that a majority of Americans are torn over whether they support the government’s right to kill them anywhere at any time without due process. 

“On the one hand, I get it—it’s important for the government to be able to murder me and any of my friends or family members whenever they please for reputed national security reasons. But on the other hand, it would kind of be nice to stay alive and have, maybe, a trial, actual evidence—stuff like that,” said visibly conflicted 39-year-old Nashua, NH resident Rebecca Sawyer, who, like millions of other Americans, is split over whether secret federal agents should be allowed to target and assassinate her anywhere on U.S. soil. “I wouldn’t mind if federal officials blew up other citizens and claimed it was in the name of my safety. But it’s just that when it comes to me, I guess I’d rather not be slaughtered by my own elected officials on charges that never have to be validated by any accountable authority. This is tough.” 

While most Americans expressed conflicted feelings regarding the memo, the poll also found that 28 percent of citizens were unequivocally in favor of being obliterated at any point, for any reason, in a massive airstrike.

RIP John Karlin, The Psychologist Who Designed the Telephone

By all accounts a modest man despite his variegated accomplishments (he had a doctorate in mathematical psychology, was trained in electrical engineering and had been a professional violinist), Mr. Karlin, who died on Jan. 28, at 94, was virtually unknown to the general public.

But his research, along with that of his subordinates, quietly yet emphatically defined the experience of using the telephone in the mid-20th century and afterward, from ushering in all-digit dialing to casting the shape of the keypad on touch-tone phones. And that keypad, in turn, would inform the design of a spate of other everyday objects.

And this:

An early experiment involved the telephone cord. In the postwar years, the copper used inside the cords remained scarce. Telephone company executives wondered whether the standard cord, then about three feet long, might be shortened. Mr. Karlin’s staff stole into colleagues’ offices every three days and covertly shortened their phone cords, an inch at time. No one noticed, they found, until the cords had lost an entire foot.

From then on, phones came with shorter cords.

Mr. Karlin also introduced the white dot inside each finger hole that was a fixture of rotary phones in later years. After the phone was redesigned at midcentury, with the letters and numbers moved outside the finger holes, users, to AT&T’s bewilderment, could no longer dial as quickly.

With blank space at the center of the holes, Mr. Karlin found, callers no longer had a target at which to aim their fingers. The dot restored the speed.

Interesting stuff - read the whole thing.

Modern Churches That Look Like Chickens

This Facebook meme requires only googly eyes, a beak and a red comb. via Neatorama.

No, David Attenborough: Africa hasn't warmed by 3.5 degrees C in two decades

Read the whole article at The Telegraph and follow the links.

It's not often one looks to the Guardian's environment pages for an incisive and thorough critique of green propagandising. But hats off – really – to Leo Hickman for this ruthless deconstruction of an erroneous claim made by David Attenborough on his latest BBC nature documentary that in the last twenty years Africa has warmed by 3.5 degrees C.

3.5 degrees C in two decades? That would indeed be a remarkable temperature rise in anybody's money. (Remember, since 1850 global mean temperatures have risen by about 0.8 degrees C – and we're supposed to find that worrying and significant).

To his credit, this troubled Leo Hickman, too.

So began his wild goose chase to track down the source of the BBC's factoid. 

As you'll see from his superb piece he never got a terribly satisfactory answer.