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Friday, July 19, 2013

Feynman's ode to wine

I ran across this today (I'd seen it long ago but forgotten about it).  See a larger version here.  via It's OK To Be Smart.

Mark Steyn on Detroit: six decades of “progressive” policies

No bombs, no invasions, no civil war, just “liberal” “progressive” politics day in, day out. Americans sigh and say, “Oh, well, Detroit’s an ‘outlier.’” It’s an outlier only in the sense that it happened here first. The same malign alliance between a corrupt political class, rapacious public-sector unions, and an ever more swollen army of welfare dependents has been adopted in the formally Golden State of California, and in large part by the Obama administration, whose priorities — “health” “care” “reform,” “immigration” “reform” — are determined by the same elite/union/dependency axis. As one droll tweeter put it, “If Obama had a city, it would look like Detroit.”

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina declared Detroit’s bankruptcy “unconstitutional” because, according to the Detroit Free Press, “the Michigan Constitution prohibits actions that will lessen the pension benefits of public employees.” Which means that, in Michigan, reality is unconstitutional.

The one good thing that could come out of bankruptcy is if those public-sector pensions are cut and government workers forced to learn what happens when, as National Review’s Kevin Williamson puts it, a parasite outgrows its host. But, pending an appeal, that’s “unconstitutional,” no matter how dead the host is. Beyond that, Detroit needs urgently both to make it non-insane for talented people to live in the city, and to cease subjecting its present population to a public “education” system that’s little more than unionized child abuse.

Must read Jonah Goldberg on the execrable Sharpton

Read the whole thing at NRO:

Sharpton’s relationship with money has always been complicated. When he claimed he didn’t have the resources to pay damages in a defamation suit he lost, Sharpton was asked in a deposition how he could afford his suits. He didn’t own them, he replied, someone else did. He was merely granted “access” to the garments as needed. The same went for his TV, silverware, etc.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. In our overly therapeutic culture, we talk a lot about “enabling” pathologies, self-destructive behavior, etc. Well, Sharpton is a pathology enabled by the very system he loathes.

In a healthy society, Sharpton might be on parole now — not the must-get guest for Meet the Press and Today on issues of racial justice.

Friday links

Happy Meals for Horror Films.

Real life imitates Syfy channel - Video: 154 pound giant piranha.

Incredible plant sculptures.

The story behind football's yellow first down line.

How Cereal Transformed American Culture.

Real life imitates syfy channel - Video: 154 pound giant piranha

This real-life giant piranha is nearly five feet long and weighs 154 pounds. It is the largest member of the tigerfish clan, a genus of fierce predators with protruding, dagger-like teeth. It is found in Congo River system and Lake Tanganyika.
It is the only fish that doesn't fear crocodile, locals say, and it actually eats smaller ones. Sometimes it also attack humans. It's so lightning fast and forceful, not only will it snap an angler's line but it will sometimes make off with his or her tackle.

More information and pictures at Digital Journal.

The Syfy channel has Piranhaconda - here's the trailer:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Eddie Murphy Rule: was the commodities trading in Trading Places realistic?

NPR's Planet Money Podcast:

We know something crazy happens on the trading floor. We know that Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd get rich and the Duke brothers lose everything. But how does it all happen? And could it happen in the real world?

Also on the show: The "Eddie Murphy Rule" that wound up in the the big financial overhaul law Congress passed in 2010.

via GeekPress.

Man Who Couldn’t Defeat George W. Bush Attempting To Resolve Israel-Palestine Conflict

AMMAN, JORDAN (The Onion)—Arriving in the Middle East today for top-level negotiations with Palestinian and Israeli officials, a man who could not even devise a way to beat George W. Bush in a head-to-head vote will spend the next several days attempting to bring a peaceful resolution to the most intractable global conflict of the modern era, State Department sources confirmed. “We are confident that [this person who managed to win just 19 states against George W. Bush, even in the midst of two highly unpopular and costly foreign wars] will be able to establish a framework to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, stating that the diplomat, who was actually deemed by the American populace to be a worse option than four more years of an administration led by a former baseball team owner and Dick Cheney, could provide the leadership necessary to resolve the bitter, bloody conflict that has raged for more than six decades. “[The individual whose sole goal for more than a year was to make the simple case that he would do a better job than one of the most disliked and poorly rated politicians of all time, and who decisively failed at this singular task] will lay out his bold vision for a road map to peace, and it’s one that we believe both Israelis and Palestinians will be very receptive to. Our best hope for a safe, prosperous Middle East lies with [a guy who came in second to a former substance abuser who nearly choked to death on a pretzel].” Sources throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories said they were optimistic about a peace deal, saying they were eager to hear the ideas of the husband of a powerful food-processing heiress.

Before Breaking Bad's last 8 episodes, here's a 9 minute round-up of the whole show so far

The last 8 episodes start August 11!

96-Year-Old Woman Refuses Would-Be Robber

MARSHFIELD (Wisconsin) - Read the whole thing.

A 96-year-old Marshfield woman with nerves of steel prevented her mom-and-pop grocery store from being robbed.

Police say the would-be robber may have thought the woman was an easy target when he entered Wolf's Grocery Store in Marshfield.

But the woman put up a fight the man never expected.

Police say the man wearing a mask ordered Wolf to open the cash register.

"I said I'm not opening up that cash register and that's it, I'm not opening it, I said you can have all the Tootsie Rolls you want but I am not opening that cash register," said Wolf.

Wolf has run the store for more than 50 years. She says she stood her ground Monday for a simple reason—the money was hers.

IRS Admits It Leaked Christine O’Donnell’s Tax Records To Opposition Day She Announced

Washington Times

On March 9, 2010, the day she revealed her plan to run for the Senate in a press release, a tax lien was placed on a house purported to be hers and publicized. The problem was she no longer owned the house. The IRS eventually blamed the lien on a computer glitch and withdrew it.

Now Mr. Martel, a criminal investigator for the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, was telling her that an official in Delaware state government had improperly accessed her records on that very same day.

Beyond that, Ms. O’Donnell and Senate investigators who have tried to help her have run into a wall of silence, leaving more questions than answers about whether abuses of the IRS system extend to private individuals and not just the tax-exempt groups already identified as victims.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Does NSA know your WiFi password? Andriod backups may give it to them

Read the whole thing at Ars: If you’re using Google’s “back up my data” feature for Android, the passwords to the Wi-Fi networks you access from your smartphone or tablet are available in plaintext to anyone with access to the data. And, as a bug report submitted by an employee of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on July 12 suggests, that leaves them wide open to harvesting by agencies like the NSA or the FBI.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Résumés of Unemployed Disney Villains

"At the end of their movies, these Disney villains find themselves out of a job. Their evil plans have been thwarted, their life’s work (however villainous) has been snuffed out. So what do they do after their adversaries (otherwise known as some of our favorite characters) get to live happily ever after? We think they might have to look for new places to use their very special sets of skills. And to get a new job, you need a great resume. Here’s what we imagine some Disney villain resumes might look like."

Via Laughing Squid.

Must see: Wolverine Puppet Musical

This is excellent, especially if you love musicals - songs sung to the tune of Fugue for Tinhorns (Guys and Dolls), Oh, What a Beautiful Morning (Oklahoma), and Music of the Night (Phantom), among others.

Previously: Joseph Campbell's monomyth theory, a.k.a. “The Hero’s Journey” explained by puppets.

via The Mary Sue.

Tuesday links

How would earth change if you drained the oceans? If you dumped the water on top of the Curiosity rover, how would Mars change as the water accumulated?

Real-Life Superhuman Blows Up Hot Water Bottles with His Nose. With video.

Doc Holliday's dental chair available at auction.

Excellent gallery of airships.

Reporter Awkwardly Shows What To Do In a Bear Encounter.

Why mosquitoes bite some people more than others.

Reporter Awkwardly Shows What To Do In a Bear Encounter

After a man came face-to-face with a 300 lb. black bear in Scituate, Rhode Island, NBC affiliate reporter Julie Trammel created a safety segment where she melodramatically acted out just what viewers should do if they are ever confronted with a “curious bear.” Several commenters on YouTube have warned that these instructions should never be heeded in the event of a bear encounter.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Real-Life Superhuman Blows Up Hot Water Bottles with His Nose. With video.

Talk about useless superpowers...

Jemal Tkeshelashvili, from Georgia, is a superhuman with a very unique ability. He can blow up hot water bottles to the point where they explode, with his nose. Jemal currently holds the Guinness World Record for most hot water bottles burst with the nose in one minute.

What Jemal does might seem silly, but it’s actually quite extraordinary considering most people can barely blow up a latex balloon, let alone a thick rubber hot water bottle, with their nose. One might think it’s his lungs that do all the work, but tests have shown that his lungs are not much different than those of an average healthy person. He has good pulmonary volume, but it’s the force with which he’s capable of pushing out the air that makes him special. That means his strong intercostal and abdominal muscles push out all the air in his lungs really fast, creating enormous pressure. In 2009, the 23-year-old judo practitioner set a new record for most hot water bottles burst with the nose in one minute, managing to explode three of them, but he’s capable of much more impressive feats.

Tiny Diapers for the Tip of Your Penis

Quotation of the day

“If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.”

~Thomas Sowell

10 Twinkie Facts for the Great Return

Twinkies are back in stores today.

1. Twinkies were invented because a bakery manager named James Dewar wanted to get more use out of his shortcake pans. He noticed that he was only pulling those particular pans out of his cupboard during the summer strawberry season and wondered if he was really getting enough bang for his buck out of them. The Continental Baking Company where he was employed was looking for a new, cheap snack to satisfy Depression-Era buyers without emptying their pockets, so Dewar combined the neglected shortcake pans with a recipe that was cheap to make and came up with the Twinkie.

2. Back in those days, Twinkies were sold two for five cents...

3. ...which was a good price if Dewar wanted to buy his own creation in a store, because he never saw a penny of royalties from inventing the Twinkie or naming them. They were named after he spotted a billboard advertising "Twinkle Toe Shoes."

Read the whole list at Mental Floss.  I like this one:

9. Do you remember Twinkie the Kid? The official mascot could wrangle you up a Twinkie in the blink of an eye. He had some lesser-known Hostess cohorts including Captain Cupcake, Happy Ho Ho, and Fruit Pie the Magician.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

‘Harry Potter’ Author Secretly Wrote Crime Novel Under Male Pseudonym - now #1 on Amazon

The Cuckoo's Calling is number 1 on Amazon.

At The Blaze: J.K. Rowling used the name Robert Galbraith to write “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” according to the U.K. Sunday Times.

“I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name,” Rowling said, according to The Telegraph.

“In a rare feat, the pseudonymous Galbraith combines a complex and compelling sleuth and an equally well-formed and unlikely assistant with a baffling crime in his stellar debut,” Publishers Weekly raved earlier this year.

“Galbraith” came complete with a fictitious biography: a former Royal Military Police officer who took up private security. “The idea…grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who returned to the civilian world.”

Weather forecast of the day

How the World Was Misled About Government Skype Eavesdropping

Read the whole thing at Slate: Since it was purchased by Microsoft in 2011, Skype has been extremely evasive on the issue of government surveillance. Now, a string of leaked secret details from the National Security Agency reveal why.
The Guardian also cites documents showing that work began on integrating Skype into the NSA’s Internet surveillance program PRISM in November 2010, several months before Microsoft purchased the service from U.S. private equity firms. By February 2011, the NSA was able to monitor Skype audio calls. In addition, by July last year, the NSA reportedly boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through PRISM.

These details compound recent revelations about Skype’s cooperation with the U.S. government. Last month, the Post reported that the NSA has a “User’s Guide for PRISM Skype Collection” that outlines how it can eavesdrop on Skype “when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of 'audio, video, chat, and file transfers' when Skype users connect by computer alone.” About two weeks later, the New York Times reported that, five years ago, before Microsoft acquired Skype, Skype initiated an internal program called “Project Chess” to explore how it could make Skype calls readily available to the government.

Guardian removes column: “Open season on black boys after a verdict like this”

Via Legal Insurrection, The Guardian posted, then took down, a column by Gary Younge:

Open season on black boys after a verdict like this

Posted: Sun, 14 Jul 2013 07:25:00 GMTPosted:2013-07-14T08:07:42Z

Calls for calm after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin are empty words for black families.

Let it be noted that on this day, Saturday 13 July 2013, it was still deemed legal in the US to chase and then shoot dead an unarmed young black man on his way home from the store because you didn’t like the look of him.
The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year was tragic. But in the age of Obama the acquittal of George Zimmerman offers at least that clarity. For the salient facts in this case were not in dispute. On 26 February 2012 Martin was on his way home, minding his own business armed only with a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. Zimmerman pursued him, armed with a 9mm handgun, believing him to be a criminal. Martin resisted. They fought. Zimmerman shot him dead.
Who screamed. Who was stronger. Who called whom what and when and why are all details to warm the heart of a cable news producer with 24 hours to fill. Strip them all away and the truth remains that Martin’s heart would still be beating if Zimmerman had not chased him down and shot him.
There is no doubt about who the aggressor was here. The only reason the two interacted at all, physically or otherwise, is that Zimmerman believed it was his civic duty to apprehend an innocent teenager who caused suspicion by his existence alone.
Appeals for calm in the wake of such a verdict raise the question of what calm there can possibly be in a place where such a verdict is possible. Parents of black boys are not likely to feel calm. Partners of black men are not likely to feel calm. Children with black fathers are not likely to feel calm. Those who now fear violent social disorder must ask themselves whose interests are served by a violent social order in which young black men can be thus slain and discarded.
But while the acquittal was shameful it was not a shock. It took more than six weeks after Martin’s death for Zimmerman to be arrested and only then after massive pressure both nationally and locally. Those who dismissed this as a political trial (a peculiar accusation in the summer of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden) should bear in mind that it was politics that made this case controversial.
Charging Zimmerman should have been a no-brainer. He was not initially charged because Florida has a “stand your ground” law whereby deadly force is permitted if the person “reasonably believes” it is necessary to protect their own life, the life of another or to prevent a forcible felony.
Since it was Zimmerman who stalked Martin, the question remains: what ground is a young black man entitled to and on what grounds may he defend himself? What version of events is there for that night in which Martin gets away with his life? Or is it open season on black boys after dark?
Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict will be contested for years to come. But he passed judgement on Trayvon that night summarily.
“Fucking punks,” Zimmerman told the police dispatcher that night. “These assholes. They always get away.”
So true it’s painful. And so predictable it hurts.