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Saturday, June 1, 2013

John 11:35: US won’t allow Canadian relief for OK to cross border

American officials will not allow the 20,000 kilograms of food, blankets and diapers into the country until every item on board is itemized in alphabetical order and has the country of origin of every product noted.

“A few” low level IRS employees turns out to be … 88

If the practice was contained to just “a few” people working on their own without orders, there is no way that you’d have eighty-eight people connected to it. Unless the IRS wants to argue that it’s supervision is so poor and ineffective that 88 employees can conspire to target people for their political beliefs and no one in authority would have the first clue about it, that’s an absurd posture to take. Don’t bet against that argument getting rolled out at some point, though.

Getting Drunk Like the Ancients Did

Read the whole thing at Popular Mechanics:

Many beer enthusiasts and homebrewers know about the Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity law of 1516. Brewmasters certainly know it: Originally restricting the allowable ingredients in beer to water, barley, and hops, the law guided the next 500 years of brewing history away from experimentation by telling everyone what was—and wasn't—a real beer.

But don't try telling that to the ancients. Thousands of years before Germany laid down its beer law, humans in every great civilization were experimenting with booze and letting their inebriated imaginations soar. These long-forgotten brewmasters were the original artisanal microbrewers, combining whatever ingredients they found around them into concoctions that don't easily fit into today's classifications for potent potables.

"There wasn't beer, there wasn't wine, there wasn't mead. Every beverage was a hybrid," says Sam Calagione, founder of the Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware.

For the last dozen-plus years, Calagione and biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum have been using chemical and plant residues found in ancient archaeological sites to rediscover the recipes of ancient booze.

Hedgehog deflated by vets in life-saving procedure

Veterinary surgeon Adam Revitt said: "The hedgehog was so swollen and very inflated. It couldn't curl up into a ball and couldn't move.”

At first the team couldn't understand how the spherical creature could be so large and yet remain a normal weight until an x-ray revealed a giant air pocket trapped under the animal’s skin.

Yesterday was England's shin-kicking competition

Here's the Wikipedia entry.  The 2013 contest was supposed to happen yesterday, but I can't find anything on the winner.

The Other IRS Scandal - it targeted pro-Israel charities

Read the whole thing at PowerLine:

It wasn’t just the Tea Party: it has been widely reported that the IRS also has harassed and discriminated against pro-Israel charities, in particular those that support settlements in Judea and Samaria. In the Free Beacon, Alana Goodman pursues the story:
A Washington Free Beacon investigation has identified at least five pro-Israel organizations that have been audited by the IRS in the wake of a coordinated campaign by White House-allied activist groups in 2009 and 2010.
These organizations, some of which are too afraid of government reprisals to speak publicly, say in interviews with the Free Beacon that they now believe the IRS actions may have been coordinated by the Obama administration.
The media scrutiny began as early as March 26, 2009, when the Washington Post’s David Ignatius published a column questioning the groups’ tax-exempt status.
Ignatius’s column is here. Ignatius displayed a remarkable obtuseness with regard to the First Amendment:
For many years, the United States has had a policy against spending aid money to fund Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which successive administrations have regarded as an obstacle to peace. Yet private organizations in the United States continue to raise tax-exempt contributions for the very activities that the government opposes.
But the tax laws do not depend, obviously, on whether a charitable organization supports or opposes the policies of the current U.S. administration. Groups like the Sierra Club and the ACLU have often promoted policies at odds with administration policies, but no one has suggested that they should therefore lose their tax-exempt status. And, of course, you can contribute to tax-exempt organizations like the Free Gaza Movement. But somehow the idea took hold that charities lending support to Israeli settlements are somehow different. This idea was promoted by pro-Palestinian groups, who encouraged IRS scrutiny of such organizations.

Using the powers at your disposal to dispose of those who challenge your power

Neil Cavuto zeroes in on the common theme linking Obama's scandals: "If you're not gonna love me, fear me."

Obama himself has put his philosophy in just those terms, telling Latino votersbefore the 2010 midterms to "punish our enemies and reward our friends." At the end of the 2012 election, he was telling his supporters to think of voting for him as an act of revenge against their enemies. And you can't help but notice his politics are deliberately divisive - he and his allies advance every single policy by conjuring an "enemy" group motivated by nothing but pure evil. 

It's not just rhetorical posturing. It's an attitude that has spread throughout his Administration, which is remarkably energetic in its abuse of power to injure and intimidate those "enemies." A just government is fearsome to criminals and foreign enemies; Obama's government keeps the law-abiding in a constant state of terror. One false move and you'll run afoul of a vengeful regulator agency. Any day now, the President could pop up with another round of demands to confiscate your income.

Friday, May 31, 2013

What Happens To Spelling Bee Kids?

Read the whole thing at NPR:

Former spellers tend to lead successful professional lives, says James Maguire, who tracked years of national spellers for his book, American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds. "Whatever the menu of things they're going to do, that skill of single-minded focus is going to help them. Not only can they do that — they can do it under pressure."

Maguire says almost all the former spelling bee kids wind up winning "at life," though not necessarily with careers working with words. More than half a dozen former champs from the past two decades excelled in math and science and went on to become physicians.

Friday links

What would a bowling ball look like if it were blown up to the size of the Earth?

Why Do We Feel Hot in Temperatures Lower Than Our Body Temp?

Teen's invention could charge your phone in 20 seconds.

Pre-Sliced Bread was Once Banned in the United States.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Pre-Sliced Bread was Once Banned in the United States

In 1943, Claude R. Wickard, the head of the War Foods Administration as well as the Secretary of Agriculture, got the bright idea to ban pre-sliced bread in America, which he did on January 18, 1943. The specific reasons behind this aren’t entirely clear, though it was about conservation of resources. One known reason for the banning was to conserve wax paper. There have also been many who have suggested there were secondary goals of conserving wheat and steel.

With regards to the wax paper conservation, by FDA regulations, pre-sliced bread used much thicker wax paper than loaves sold whole due to the fact that sliced bread, not surprisingly, goes stale significantly faster than loaves left unsliced. While this was the official stated reason for the ban, there was no shortage of wax paper at the time the ban was put in place- according to the War Production Board, most bread making companies had wax paper supplies on hand to last several months, even if they didn’t buy anymore during that span.

It has also been suggested that a secondary goal was to try to conserve wheat and to lower bread and flour prices. Around WWII, the Office of Price Administration had authorized an increase in flour prices by about 10%. This naturally resulted in the price of bread increasing. When pre-sliced bread was first introduced nation-wide, it drastically increased bread sales. So, the thought was that by banning pre-sliced bread, the amount of bread consumed would go down. This would then reduce the demand for flour and wheat, and thus, decrease prices of those products while increasing stockpiles of wheat. Once again, particularly the idea of conserving wheat seems an odd thing given that, at the time of the ban, the U.S. had stockpiled over 1 billion bushels of wheat, which would be enough to meet the United States’ needs for about two years, even if no new wheat was harvested over that span.

Finally, bread making machines themselves used quite a bit of steel in their production, so it has been suggested that one of the reasons for this bread ban was to conserve this metal. This line of reasoning also seems somewhat dubious as most bread manufacturers weren’t actively buying new bread slicing machines at any given time, so the benefit would be marginal, even accounting for the machine’s large size and significant amount of metal used in their production.

As you might imagine, banning pre-sliced bread didn’t go over very well with the masses. As one woman aptly put it in a letter appearing in the New York Times:
“I should like to let you know how important sliced bread is to the morale and saneness of a household. My husband and four children are all in a rush during and after breakfast. Without ready-sliced bread I must do the slicing for toast—two pieces for each one—that’s ten. For their lunches I must cut by hand at least twenty slices, for two sandwiches apiece. Afterward I make my own toast. Twenty-two slices of bread to be cut in a hurry!”
Within about three months of the ban being introduced, on March 8, 1943, it was rescinded. Upon lifting the ban, Wickard stated, “Our experience with the order, however, leads us to believe that the savings are not as much as we expected…” Shocker.

From the excellent Today I found Out, which has related links and bonus facts.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Video: Return of the cicadas

The Best Newspaper Headline Placement Ever?

"You are all going to die" Joss Whedon's Commencement Speech at Wesleyan

Wesleyan has posted a transcript of Whedon's speech, which starts with a story about the commencement speech he heard during his Wesleyan graduation ceremony. Bill Cosby asserted that there was no point in trying to change the world, a claim with which Whedon naturally took issue.
And so, what I’d like to say to all of you is that you are all going to die.
This is a good commencement speech because I’m figuring it’s only going to go up from here. It can only get better, so this is good. It can’t get more depressing. You have, in fact, already begun to die. You look great. Don’t get me wrong. And you are youth and beauty. You are at the physical peak. Your bodies have just gotten off the ski slope on the peak of growth, potential, and now comes the black diamond mogul run to the grave. And the weird thing is your body wants to die. On a cellular level, that’s what it wants. And that’s probably not what you want.