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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Extremely strange: Gallery of Victorian post-mortem photography

Go to io9 and see the whole thing.
After the invention of daguerrotype, the memorializing habits of people have changed: they've chosen the cheap, higher quality photographs instead of expensive and not so lifelike paintings. Painting dead people was common for centuries, so it's no surprise that, in the Victorian Era, post-mortem photos also came into fashion. Here are some of the strangest ones.

Dog picture of the week

This wonderful photograph was submitted to National Geographic Magazine Photo Contest by Julie Pavletich, in 2008.

(image credit: Julie Pavletich, National Georgaphic)

The White House pulls a switcheroo on retirement savings accounts

Be careful how much you save.

Mr. Obama proposes to "limit an individual's total balance across tax-preferred accounts to an amount sufficient to finance an annuity of not more than $205,000 per year in retirement, or about $3 million for someone retiring in 2013."*

The feds may think $3 million is all you need after a lifetime of work, but that's roughly the value of a California police sergeant's pension if she works for 30 years, retires at age 50 and lives to normal life expectancy.
Out in the private economy, people generally have to work longer than that before they retire, and some of them do manage to save significant amounts. We're talking about people who work for decades and abstain from buying the bigger house or the new car so they can contribute the maximum to their 401(k)s or IRAs. The people who defer gratification and build a nest egg to avoid becoming a burden on their kids or their fellow taxpayers. The people whose savings finance productive enterprise. You know, the bad guys.

*That seems to be assuming a risk-free 7% annually, unless you're spending down the principal, which you can't do because you don't know how long you'll live.  Where do you find a low risk 7% return indefinitely?

Friday, April 12, 2013

4th grade class assignment: 'I Am Willing to Give Up Some of My Constitutional Be Safer'

Harvey’s son wrote the note in January. After a local attorney came to speak to his class at Cedar Hills Elementary, his teacher, Cheryl Sabb, asked her class to copy the sentence down.

“There’s no way he knew how to write that on his own free will. He likes to use some big words to flourish -- [but] if he was going to put together a sentence that political I’m sure it would be more jumbled than a nice sentence like that,” he told the news outlet.

Friday links

Andrew Lloyd Webber will adapt the movie School of Rock into a Broadway musical.

Researchers: women are better off without their bras.

Why Do We Get Emotional When We Drink?

Man tries to take photo of beaver; it kills him.  In related news, Hero beavers stop oil spill with their dam.

Gallery: Photos of Sport Balls Replaced With Cats.

The Cicadas are Coming (to the Northeast).

The Cicadas are Coming (to the Northeast)

Certain groups of cicadas only rise to the surface to breed every 17 years.  I remember a huge group several years ago, and here comes another.  When the soil temperature begins to steady in the mid-60’s, “Brood II” magicicada nymphs will hatch underground and crawl to the surface by the billions.

While not every cicada species hatches in 17-year patterns, these particular “broods” may follow the pattern to avoid predators predicting their arrival or to keep from going extinct during long periods of cold weather. For many of you, this may be the first time in your life that this group has hatched.

Let Cicada Mania (yes, that’s a real website) tell you how to see this year’s “periodic cicadas”

Help WNYC and Radiolab track soil temperatures with home-made cicada thermometers, and follow the Swarmageddon in real-time.

Perils of a politically correct pentagon

Read the whole thing.  Excerpts:

One of the core functions of government is to defend the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic — that’s part of the oath of enlistment that all service personnel take. But only a flinty, clear-eyed — and politically incorrect — assessment of all threats can enable the military can do its job.

Today, however, the brass at the Pentagon seems hell-bent on turning the world’s most powerful military into an arm of the PC Police, a fresh field for “politically correct” bureaucrats on which to push their morally blind relativism.

Take the recent Defense Department briefing document that classified Catholics and Evangelical Protestants as “extremists” — the moral equivalent of al Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan. It also lumped Christians together with free-floating “Islamophobia,” Hamas, Sunni Muslims, the Jewish Defense League and the backwoods Hutaree militia as potential threats to the Republic.

Religious extremism is not limited to any single religion, ethnic group, or region of the world,” the briefing paper notes, which is true: The military must prepare for every eventuality, however remote, which is why we have plans for war with Canada and France, should the need arise.

But including half the country’s population on a list of potential terrorists does seem a bit extreme — especially when some 40 percent of active-duty military self-identify as evangelicals.

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told an environmentalist group that “climate change” is a national-security threat, a claim that the Pentagon’s PC desk jockeys have been banging on about for years.

“Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps, the more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” said Panetta.

Too often, though, PC has serious consequences in the real world. One lethal example is Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the self-proclaimed “soldier of Allah” and spontaneous jihadi who opened fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009, killing 13 and wounding 32.

Incredibly, Hasan’s still awaiting trial for his religiously inspired rampage — but that’s not the worst of it.

The Army immediately insisted that the rampage had not been a case of Islamic extremism — and never mind that Hasan reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar” as he emptied his gun into his unarmed victims at the inaptly named Soldier Readiness Processing Center.

In fact, PC had kept the rest of the government from even keeping a closer eye on Hasan — though it knew he’d been receiving “spiritual guidance” from Yemen-based al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki

Because he was a Muslim officer, the Army treated him with kid gloves — and is still giving him favored treatment today.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shodan: The scariest search engine on the Internet

Unlike Google, which crawls the Web looking for websites, Shodan navigates the Internet's back channels. It's a kind of "dark" Google, looking for the servers, webcams, printers, routers and all the other stuff that is connected to and makes up the Internet. (Shodan's site was slow to load Monday following the publication of this story.)

Shodan runs 24/7 and collects information on about 500 million connected devices and services each month.

It's stunning what can be found with a simple search on Shodan. Countless traffic lights,security cameras, home automation devices and heating systems are connected to the Internet and easy to spot.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mark Steyn: The tolerance enforcers will not tolerate dissent

Read the whole thing.
Not having a strong feeling is no longer permitted. The Diversity Celebrators have their exquisitely sensitive antennae attuned for anything less than enthusiastic approval. Very quickly, traditional religious teaching on homosexuality will be penned up within church sanctuaries, and “faith-based” ancillary institutions will be crowbarred into submission.

US Army Labeled Evangelicals, Catholics as Examples of Religious Extremism

Mark Steyn: This is one for the “too stupid to survive” files:
When I first saw the headline, I assumed it must all be a little less obviously bone-crushingly stupid or at any rate more nuanced once you got into the story. But I invite you to look at the accompanying poster for the Equal Opportunity training brief issued by the Army Reserve in Pennsylvania. It lists “extremist” groups, starting with “Evangelical Christianity” at Number One, “Al Quaeda” (misspelled under any Roman rendering of Arabic) at Number Five, “Hamas” at Six, and “Catholicism” rounding out the Top Ten.
Think of the number of people involved in the creation, printing and distribution of this graphic – and along the way not one of them stopped to say, “Hey, this is totally dumb.”
At the beginning of America Alone, I quote Arnold Toynbee: “Civilizations die from suicide, not murder.” The urge to suicide is always there; the trick is keeping it confined to the outer edges: In the Cold War this kind of moronic false equivalence was the province of leftie professors and fringe playwrights, who spent three decades failing to notice nobody from West Germany was climbing over the Berlin Wall to get into the East. Now this false equivalence is peddled by the politically correct eunuch bureaucracy of the US military.
When Major Hasan got a case of Pre-Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and opened fire at Fort Hood standing on a table yelling “Allahu Akbar!”, it was just the luck of the draw: He could have been shouting the Angelus. Best to prepare for all eventualities.
As Robert Spencer says, this is not going to end well.
He adds this: Too Stupid to Survive (cont.):
I see that Fleet Street is doing the job American journalists won’t do and reporting further fascinating details of this story. From the slide presentation. we learn that, having been told Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism are “extremist”,
America’s fighting men are then warned:
Soldiers are prohibited from the following actions in support of Extremist Organizations…
*Creating, Organizing, or Taking a Visible Leadership Role in such an Organization.
A Russian officer famously described British troops in the Crimea as lions led by asses. That barely begins to cover the descent of America’s military bureaucracy into the armored wing of the Berkeley faculty lounge.

More here from Ed Driscoll.

New Cookbook, 'Semenology,' Provides Recipes, Storage Tips And More

In his new book "Semenology: The Semen Bartender's Handbook," Bay Area author Paul "Fotie" Photenhauer details the benefits of bartending with, you guessed it, human semen.

A follow-up to his first book, "Natural Harvest: A Collection of Semen Based Recipes," "Semenology" is what Photenhauer describes as "the ultimate handbook for mixologists looking for ingredients that go beyond exotic fruit juices and rare spirits."