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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Video: How Obama Measures Up Against Other TV Pitchmen

  Breaking News

Holy Crap video: Fishing Boats In Rough Sea

Reminded me of Dr. Johnson on the subject of sailors - all of the quotes below are from Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson:

No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.

A ship is worse than a gaol. There is, in a gaol, better air, better company, better conveniency of every kind; and a ship has the additional disadvantage of being in danger.

Men go to sea, before they know the unhappiness of that way of life; and when they have come to know it, they cannot escape from it, because it is then too late to choose another profession; as indeed is generally the case with men, when they have once engaged in any particular way of life.

Venezuela has quietly seized control of two US-owned oil rigs

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela has quietly seized control of two oil rigs owned by a unit of Houston-based Superior Energy Services after the company shut them down because the state oil monopoly was months behind on payments.

The seizure took place Thursday after a judge in the state of Anzoategui, accompanied by four members of the local police and national guard, entered a Superior depot and ordered it to hand over control of two specialized rigs to an affiliate of PDVSA, the state-owned oil producer.

PDVSA justified the equipment's expropriation, calling it essential to the South American nation's development and welfare, according to a court order obtained by The Associated Press. Company workers were instructed to load the rigs, known as snubbing units and used to repair damaged casing, onto trucks to be deployed at "critical wells" elsewhere, according to the document.

"It was like a thief breaking into your house, asking for the keys to the safe and then expecting you to help carry it away," Jesus Centeno, local operations manager for Superior in the city of Anaco, said by phone. "Their argument was that we were practically sabotaging national production."

Elvis Does Karate

Apparently some of Elvis Presley's (wikisignature on-stage moves were karate-inspired:

via Cynical C.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mark Steyn: life in the Republic of Paperwork

CNN has been pondering what they call “a particularly tough few days at the White House.” “Four out of five Americans have little or no trust in their government to do anything right,” says chief political analyst Gloria Borger. “And now Obama probably feels the same way.” Our hearts go out to him, poor wee disillusioned thing. We are assured by the headline writers that the president was “unaware” of Obamacare’s website defects, and the NSA spying, and the IRS targeting of his political enemies, and the Justice Department bugging the Associated Press, and pretty much anything else you ask him about. But, as he put it, “nobody’s madder than me” at this shadowy rogue entity called the “Government of the United States” that’s running around pulling all this stuff. And, once he finds out who’s running this Government of the United States rogue entity, he’s gonna come down as hard on him as he did on that videomaker in California; he’s gonna send round the National Park Service SWAT team to teach that punk a lesson he won’t forget.

Video: South Park Takes On Obamacare Rollout Fiasco…

The Walking Dead virus: the microbiology of zombies

Spoiler alert.  Read the whole thing at Slate.  Excerpts:

In the TV series The Walking Dead, the characters inhabit a world overrun by zombies—specifically, zombies caused by a mysterious virus that has apparently infected everyone in the population. The living keep the virus in check by unknown means. But when someone dies—whether quickly after being bitten by a “walker” or felled by a human nemesis or more slowly due to natural causes—the result is the same: After death, everyone is reanimated as a bloodthirsty zombie.

It might not seem like things could get any worse, but as the group found out in this week’s episode, “Infected,” the zombie pandemic virus isn’t the only killer pathogen out there.

Why is a diagnosis important? The group decides in this episode to isolate people who are showing symptoms of the disease. (The next episode, in fact, is called “Isolation.”) If the pathogen is indeed swine influenza, and if it was already spreading among the humans in the prison, Rick’s step of sacrificing the piglets to the zombie horde would do little to nothing to stop the illness. If, however, it was S. suis, isolation probably wouldn’t even be necessary—keeping people away from the pigs should do the trick and end the epidemic.

Could such a diagnosis be made in the middle of an apocalypse? Definitively, probably not—but the group has both a veterinarian and a physician within the prison. It wouldn’t take much to do a crude epidemiological analysis, asking those who are coughing if they’d been exposed to pigs or how much time they’d spent around other (possibly sick) people. If all the sick people cluster together and haven’t been around the pigs at all, flu is a more logical choice, which may have originated in the pigs or the people. (An overcrowded prison, with people mixing from two recently assimilated communities, is certainly a great place for infectious diseases to spread.) To complicate matters, Rick correctly mentions to Carl at the end of the episode that the pigs could have made people sick or people could have sickened the pigs—many germs don’t care about species boundaries. There’s also the mysterious rat-feeder introduced in Sunday’s episode: Someone within the prison is catching live rats and feeding them to the zombie horde lingering outside the prison gates. Rats are notorious vectors of disease. Do they play a role in this new outbreak?

Scientifically Accurate ThunderCats anf Duck Tales. NSFW

I'd consider all of these NSFW.

Thundercats, Noooooooo!!

From the same guys, here's Scientifically Accurate Duck Tales:

And Scientifically Accurate Ninja Turtles:

via io9

Check out NASA’s Pumpkin Carving Competition For Halloween 2013

via The Daily Dot.

Watch Rare Film of Richard Pryor Singing the Blues: No Joke, All Heart

via Open Culture:

None of Richard Pryor's raunchy or self-deprecating wit here, just a genuine, heartfelt rendition of Jimmy Cox’s 1924 “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” According to eOne Music’s Eric Alper, Pryor not only started performing comedy after he moved to New York City in 1963, he also sang, opening for such soon-to-be-greats as Nina Simone and Bob Dylan. Pryor in fact got his start on the club circuit as a drummer, so “he was familiar with the scene.” recounts a poignant story from Simone’s autobiography about Pryor’s intense stage fright before one of these early gigs:
He shook like he had malaria, he was so nervous. I couldn’t bear to watch him shiver so I put my arms around him there in the dark and rocked him like a baby until he calmed down. The next night was the same, and the next, and I rocked him each time.
As a singer, Pryor doesn’t channel and focus his anxiety so much as he slowly masters it, appearing a little stiff at first but eventually knocking it out with a surprisingly good performance that well deserves a listen. The provenance of the clip isn’t exactly clear, and some intro material marks it as part of a documentary, maybe. Please weigh in if you know or suspect the film clip’s source.

Pentagon Manual: White Males Have Unfair Advantages

A controversial 600-plus page manual used by the military to train its Equal Opportunity officers teaches that “healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian” men hold an unfair advantage over other races, and warns in great detail about a so-called “White Male Club.”

“Simply put, a healthy, white, heterosexual, Christian male receives many unearned advantages of social privilege, whereas a black, homosexual, atheist female in poor health receives many unearned disadvantages of social privilege,” reads a statement in the manual created by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI).

The manual, which was obtained by Fox News, also instructs troops to “support the leadership of people of color. Do this consistently, but not uncritically,” the manual states.

I obtained a copy of the manual from an Equal Opportunity officer who was disturbed by the course content and furious over the DEOMI’s reliance on the Southern Poverty Law Center for information on “extremist” groups

“I’m participating in teaching things that are not true,” the instructor told me. He asked not to be identified because he feared reprisals.

DEOMI instructors were also responsible for briefings at bases around the country that falsely labeled evangelical Christians, Catholics and a number of high-profile Christian ministries as domestic hate groups.

Excellent timelapse video of the Albuquerque balloon festival

Watch full screen.

via Twisted Sifter.

Friday links

Video: Daylight Saving Time Explained.

Must-see gallery at Wired: Best Microscope Photos of the Year.

Slow Motion Flipping Cat Physics, with bonus Buttered Toast/Cat Paradox video.

The Real-Life Neuroscience Behind Zombies.

Top Ten Monsters of the Middle Ages.

10 Figures of Speech Illustrated by Monty Python: Paradiastole, Epanorthosis, Syncatabasis & More.

Watch a Tick Burrowing Into Skin in Microscopic Detail.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here.

Video: Daylight Saving Time Explained

The history and effects of Daylight Saving Time.

via GeekPress.

Must Read by Jonah Goldberg - Obama: The Myth of the Master Strategist

Often in error but never in doubt, Barack Obama could walk into the Rose Garden and step on a half-dozen rakes like Foghorn Leghorn in an old Looney Tunes cartoon, and the official line would be, “He meant to do that.”

And the amazing thing is that so many people believe it. “Mr. Obama is like a championship chess player, always several moves ahead of friend and foe alike. He’s smart, deft, elegant and subtle,” proclaimed then–New York Times columnist Bob Herbert in 2009. It’s an image of the president that his biggest fans, in and out of the press, have been terribly reluctant to relinquish — because it confirms the faith they invested in him. Nobody ever likes to admit they were suckered.

If Obama were a chess master — or even a fairly adept checkers novice — he would have known that when you’re not ready to do something incredibly important, it’s best to buy time. He could have traded a delay (three months? six months?) for some major budget concessions, maybe even lifting the sequester. Perhaps his base wouldn’t have liked it, but he could have easily spun the compromise as a necessity given how irrational and “extreme” the GOP was being.

Publicly he’d say he was paying a ransom to “kidnappers” and “hostage takers.” He’d denounce Republicans for delaying precious insurance coverage for sick kids and frail oldsters just to score partisan and ideological points.

But privately, ah, privately, the master strategist would be stroking his proverbial white cat — or, in reality, his hypoallergenic black dog — while breathing a sigh of relief that he bought himself some time to fix his woefully mangled health-care reform.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Slow Motion Flipping Cat Physics, with bonus Buttered Toast/Cat Paradox video

The buttered cat paradox is a common joke based on the tongue-in-cheek combination of two adages:

     Buttered toast always lands buttered side down.

The paradox arises when one considers what would happen if one attached a piece of buttered toast (butter side up) to the back of a cat, then dropped the cat from a large height.  In this video, jelly is used instead of butter, but the principle holds true:

Here's a second short video with a slightly different explanation, in case you're interested:

Marge Is Gandalf In The Simpsons Hobbit Couch Gag

10 Figures of Speech Illustrated by Monty Python: Paradiastole, Epanorthosis, Syncatabasis & More

10 Figures of Speech from Max Tohline on Vimeo.

10 figures of speech “as illustrated by Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” one of the most literate of popular artifacts to ever appear on television. There’s “paradiastole,” the fancy term for euphemism, demonstrated by John Cleese’s overly decorous newscaster. There’s “epanorthosis,” or “immediate and emphatic self-correction, often following a slip of the tongue,” which Eric Idle overdoes in splendid fashion. Every possible poetic figure or grammatical tic seems to have been named and catalogued by those philosophically resourceful Greeks and Romans. And it’s likely that the Pythons have utilized them all.

In a First, Police Ticket a Driver Wearing Google Glass

At Wired:

The arresting officer issued the citation to Abadie for violating California’s Vehicle Code Section 27602, which states that “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, or any other similar means of visually displaying a television broadcast or video signal that produces entertainment or business applications, is operating and is located in the motor vehicle at a point forward of the back of the driver’s seat, or is operating and the monitor, screen, or display is visible to the driver while driving the motor vehicle.”

Obviously, that law is aimed at preventing drivers from viewing videos in the front seat, something that all factory and aftermarket in-dash displays disable when the vehicle is in motion (although bypassing that restriction is well documented).

The law explicitly states that it does not apply to equipment “installed in a vehicle” — not mounted on a driver’s face — including: “(1) A vehicle information display. (2) A global positioning display. (3) A mapping display.” The vehicle code also adds the caveat that, “the equipment has an interlock device that, when the motor vehicle is driven, disables the equipment for all uses except as a visual display”

According to Abadie’s post on Google+, Glass wasn’t functioning when she was driving (you’ve got to issue a voice command or swipe the side to get it running), but that didn’t seem to be the issue — the arresting officer said “it was blocking my view.”

Laws prohibiting drivers from using Google Glass while driving have already surfaced both stateside and abroad. West Virginia House Bill 3057 was submitted earlier this year but has been stuck in the House Roads and Transportation committee. Arizona has proposed similar legislation, and the U.K.’s Department of Transport is also considering banning certain wearable devices to be used while driving.

That’s going to be an issue for Mercedes-Benz, which is already working on Glass integration into its vehicles. But the broader question is what’s worse: Staring at your mobile phone’s screen as it gives you navigation instructions or text messages, or simply looking through a head-mounted display?

Abadie’s ticket might be the opening salvo in the war to get wearables out of the car, but one of her Google Glass Explorer friends is already telling her to fight the case — and he’s a lawyer.

Picking The Right Vehicle For The Zombie Apocalypse

A car leasing group has an excellent infographic looking at the pros and cons of various vehicle types for survival during a Walking Dead situation:

The Tilsun group looks at which category of vehicle you should pick if you wake up one morning to find the undead masses are going to severely hamper your daily routine. We ensure you have all the information available to be fully prepared and able to make an educated choice of vehicle, meaning that even in the midst of the Zombie apocalypse, you can still complete the school run, your commute or maybe, just maybe, survive.

DIY mod to your computer monitor so that only you can see it

From youtube user brusspup, via HuffPo.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In 2006, Kurt Vonnegut sent this excellent letter to a high school class

Back in 2006, a group of students at Xavier High School in New York City (one of whom, "JT," submitted this letter) were given an assignment by their English teacher, Ms. Lockwood, that was to test their persuasive writing skills: they were asked to write to their favourite author and ask him or her to visit the school. Five of those pupils chose Kurt Vonnegut. His thoughtful reply, seen below, was the only response the class received.


November 5, 2006

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don't make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.

Here's an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don't do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, butrhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don't tell anybody what you're doing. Don't show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what's inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

“Intellectual Sewing”: Keeping Proust in Stitches

Keeping Proust in Stitches: "In 2008 I began to cut up all seven volumes of Marcel Proust’s novel A la recherche du temps perdu and to hand stitch 3,000 pages of print into patchwork... 

A new academic sub-discipline is born: “Sewing Proust: Patchwork as Critical Practice,” Rhiannon Williams, Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Volume 1, Number 1, November 2013 , pp. 43-56. 

The author, at the University of Derby, explains: “I describe my own work, somewhat provocatively, as ‘intellectual sewing’ conducted in the manner of a critique. My methodology supports the agenda for integration of theory into practice...

"In 2008 I began to cut up all seven volumes of Marcel Proust’s novel A la recherche du temps perdu and to hand stitch 3,000 pages of print into patchwork...

That is to say, what might it mean to take apart then stitch together Proust’s Modernist text 100 years after its production?”"

Monty Python’s All-England Summarize Proust Competition (uncensored*):

*From the YouTube info
"All the videos of this sketch that I've seen here are the censored version, so I figured I'd upload this. It's from one of my old Python videos that I taped from PBS. 
For those that don't know, the line "Strangling animals, golf, and masturbating" was censored by the BBC when this episode first aired. Then for the first Flying Circus DVD release, it was not only censored, but the scene was actually re-cut to only say "Golf and strangling animals". This video has the original, unedited line intact."
More on this project and similar sewing-with-print projects here.

Wednesday links

From 1930, Information Tests To Try On Your Children.

An Interactive Map of Personality Traits by State in the US.

Stephen King Writes A Letter to His 16-Year-Old Self: “Stay Away from Recreational Drugs”.

If an asteroid was very small but supermassive, could you really live on it like the Little Prince?

Time-Lapse Video of Baby Giant Panda Twins’ First 100 Days.

ICYMI, links from Monday are here.

1982 video: Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison and Gene Wolfe discuss sci-fi writing

Asimov, Wolfe and Ellison - hosted by Studs Terkel.

Interesting story on the never-published third volume of Dangerous Visions.

The In-Depth Science of Why a Beer Bottle Erupts When You Whack It

Beer physics lesson of the day:

“Beer tapping” is the kind of jerky thing that jerks do at bars. They walk up to you—you with your nice, cold bottle of beer, the one you’ve been looking forward to all day while you were working at your hard, stressful job—and they thump their bottle down on yours. Your beer erupts in a foamy mess. You can try to catch some of that quickly disappearing beer, if you want. But, really, it’s gone.

But then, when you’re done being annoyed, you think: Why did my beer do that?

The answer, it turns out, is super complicated, and has to do with the physics of small bubbles and the power of a reflecting pressure front.

More at Smithsonian, via GeekPress.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The UN Is Assembling a Team to Save Us From Killer Asteroids

When a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in February, the world’s space agencies found out along with the rest of us, on Twitter and YouTube. That, says former astronaut Ed Lu, is unacceptable—and the United Nations agrees. Last week the General Assembly approved a set of measures that Lu and other astronauts have recommended to protect the planet from the dangers of rogue asteroids. 

Meet the International Asteroid Warning Group, which in theory will put a stop to asteroids with death on their spacerock minds. If the group sees an asteroid heading our way they’ll pass that info on to the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (as opposed to the Committee on the Warmongering Uses of Outer Space), whose job it’ll be to send a spacecraft to knock the asteroid out of orbit.

Apologies to Jonathan Edwards: Spinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Selected Sermons of Jonathan Edwards
Read the whole thing. “Their polls shall slide in due time.”

The public that holds you over the wilderness, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: its wrath burns like fire; it looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; they are of purer eyes than to bear to have you in their sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in their eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in yours. You have offended them infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince. Yet it is nothing but their whim and indifference that hold you from falling from grace every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell last night; that you was suffered to awake again to the political game this morning, after you closed your eyes to sleep. . . .

The wrath of the voters is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of the voters’ vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. . . .

Therefore, let every one that is in office, now awake and turn from the wrath to come. The wrath of the people is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this delegation. Let every one fly out of Washington: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”

This is a must read: The (Militarized Goverment's) War On Us

Excellent article, reminiscent of Radley Balko's series of stories on militarized police forces and agencies.  Read the whole thing.  Excerpts (emphasis mine):

Increasingly, the US government’s many police forces (often state and local ones as well) operate militarily and are trained to treat ordinary citizens as enemies. At the same time, the people from whom the government personnel take their cues routinely describe those who differ from them socially and politically as illegitimate, criminal, even terrorists. Though these developments have separate roots, the post-9/11 state of no-win war against anonymous enemies has given them momentum. The longer it goes on, the more they converge and set in motion a spiral of civil strife all too well known in history, a spiral ever more difficult to stop short of civil war. Even now ordinary Americans are liable to being disadvantaged, hurt or even killed by their government as never before.

Government’s violent treatment of citizens has become generalized and unremarkable.

Every US government agency, and most state and local ones now police their ever burgeoning regulations with military equipment, tactics, and above all with the assumption that they are dealing with people who should not be dealt with any other way.

Cool - new trailer for X-Men Days of Future Past

The next X-Men movie, to be released next year.

YouTube description:
The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. The beloved characters from the original "X-Men" film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from "X-Men: First Class," in an epic battle that must change the past -- to save our future.

Read this if you have sons, daughters or grandkids. In school rooms, “Boys are treated like defective girls.”

Read the whole article in Time, Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys, discusses how boys are treated like second class citizens in public school:

Being a boy can be a serious liability in today’s classroom. As a group, boys are noisy, rowdy and hard to manage. Many are messy, disorganized and won’t sit still. Young male rambunctiousness, according to a recent study, leads teachers to underestimate their intellectual and academic abilities. “Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools,” says psychologist Michael Thompson. “Boys are treated like defective girls.”

And this: Prolonged confinement in classrooms diminishes children’s concentration and leads to squirming and restlessness. And boys appear to be more seriously affected by recess deprivation than girls. “Parents should be aware,” warn two university researchers, “that classroom organization may be responsible for their sons’ inattention and fidgeting and that breaks may be a better remedy than Ritalin.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

The “Star Wars” blooper reel

Outtakes from the original Star Wars.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Final Trailer

You should definitely read the book before seeing the movie, if you haven't already done so.

Video: Lou Reed Walk on the Wild Side and documentary from PBS

Really, the only Lou Reed music I remember well is Walk on the Wild Side from the Transformer album.  I walked around all day yesterday singing the do-do-do-do part (except during the Skins game, when I didn't much feel like singing):

Here's the 1998 PBS special:

Lou Reed, one of the most influential rock musicians of the past 50 years, died yesterday at the age of 71.

Monday links

List of reasons for admission to an insane asylum from the late 1800s.

The Origin of the Legend of Zelda.

Chronopharmacology: What Is the Exactly Perfect Time to Drink Your Coffee?

Not The Onion: Save healthcare dollars with do-it-yourself dentistry.

World of pigeon racing rocked by doping scandal.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here.