Das Rabblemeister

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Tuesday, November 2 — Quit reading this and go vote!

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In Illinois, if you wear a T-shirt with this image on it, you may not be allowed to vote. Click on the image for the full story.

  • NASA issues superhero suits: The see-through version, though, should be banned, or at least banned from use by men. Or maybe just that one guy wearing it in the photo. Way too much information, no thanks. (Sexist pig that I am, I’d be OK with women wearing those, of course. That might help improve the abysmal ratings of the NASA Channel.)
  • How to estimate the size of a crowd: Saturday’s Jon Stewart / Stephen Colbert rally in Washington, D.C. naturally brought forth the question of how it compared with the Glen Beck rally on August 28, particularly which one was bigger. So how does one estimate such things?
    There’s never a shortage of guesses about things like this, including by the news media, but it turns out there is a method for doing this, based on photographs, maps, and some standard estimation factors established by the National Park Service. See this article for an explanation of how one veteran crowd estimator does it and, based on that methodology, a comparison of the two events. Note that, based on this mathematical method, the CBS News estimates for both events – apparently no more than WAGs — were way off.
  • Is Obama a Keynesian? That was the question the comedy group Second City Network posed to a number of participants at the Stewart / Colbert media event. Since many signs at the event self-proclaimed that they are the intelligent, the sane, the educated (implying, I suppose, that those at the similar Tea Party event in August were not), this should be an easy question, no? Here’s the video.
    Apparently many of the sophisticates at the Stewart / Colbert event didn’t know the difference between a Kenyan (meaning someone born in Kenya) and a Keynesian.
  • TV news director commits big boo-boo: In Alaska, Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller, supported by the local Tea Party movement, is leading in a hotly-contested three-way election. Then yesterday news director Nick McDermott of local CBS affiliate KTVA called someone in the Joe Miller campaign, left a voice mail, inadvertently failed to hang up the phone properly, and for a couple of minutes the Miller campaign staffer’s voice mail ended up recording the rather shocking discussion going on in the KTVA news room. Here’s what it revealed.
  • For you iPhone users: In the item above, news director / co-conspirator Nick McDermott was using an iPhone. This is not the first time this election season that an iPhone that did not hang up properly created a very embarrassing political moment. Your humble correspondent is ignorant of the ways of iPhones (being a happy Droid user), but what gives here? Is it so hard to hang up an iPhone properly?
  • Evil” apps for iPhone and Android phones: Well, they’re not that evil, but they’re things the phone company never wanted you to have, some of them very, very useful. See “evil” apps for iPhone (most of these will work on iPads too), “evil” apps for Android phones. And remember this about power and responsibility.
  • This studly hunk says that if women enjoyed sex like men do, "Women would go and hang around in churchyards thinking, “God, I’ve got to get my ******* rocks off”, or they’d go to Hampstead Heath and meet strangers to s**g behind a bush."

  • Would you recognize these symptoms: They can come on fairly suddenly, may not last very long, then go away with no discernible after-effects. What do they indicate?
    • Speech problems, slurred speech, or difficulty speaking or comprehending
    • Paralysis and weakness, which may occur in a leg or arm or in the face
    • Vision problems, such as double vision or loss of vision (may be in one eye or both)
    • Balance problems, including losing your balance, difficulty walking, and losing coordination
    • Headache, which is usually severe and with no known cause

Even though the symptoms may go away completely and the person may indicate everything is OK now, these symptom likely indicate an immediately life-threatening condition. See this for what they indicate and what you should do immediately.

  • Did you know that women don’t really enjoy sex? That’s what this man said, and he’s famous. He’s also been called “the cleverest man in Britain” (not sure by whom) and he’s equally famous for his sexuality, so how could he be wrong?
  • Do NOT show this to your kids: It’s not lewd or profane but, believe me, you don’t want your kids to see it. No, you really don’t.
  • That’s all for today. And now, if you haven’t already, GO VOTE!!!

Written by dasrabblemeister

November 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Thursday, October 28 — birthday of Tokugawa Yoshinobu (1837) and Jigoro Kano (1860)

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  • Tokugawa who? And Jigoro what? OK, for the one or two of you who are not deeply steeped in 19th-century Japanese history, Tokugawa Yoshinobu was Japan’s last shogun. And Jigoro Kano was the Japanese martial artist who invented Judo. Both were truly remarkable men with very interesting lives and many varied accomplishments, such as Yoshinobu for both his overhaul of the Japanese military and for his photography, and Kano who in addition to being one of Japan’s all-time great martial artists was Japan’s national director of primary education and the first Asian member of the International Olympic Committee. Well worth reading about both — see links above.
  • Afghan girl

    This photo of an Afghan girl is one of the most famous photographs in history, taken by Steve McCurry for National Geographic in 1985. In 2002 McCurry returned to Afghanistan and found her again. She had never seen the cover photo and had no idea that hers is one of the most famous faces on the planet. Click on the photo for her amazing story. Her name, by the way, is Sharbat Gula. Image copyright National Geographic Society.

  • Also born on this day: Gilbert Grosvenor (1875), founder of the National Geographic Society, by whose maps you can go look up where Japan is. Also Microsoft founder and multi-gazillionaire Bill Gates (1955), who helped create a generation of children, and now young adults, who no longer know how to use paper maps.
  • Taliban Tabasco? Forewarned, spice lovers: Carrying salt, pepper, or spices in your luggage can get you tagged as a potential terrorist. See this incident of well-known food writer whose Tabasco Spiced Salt got him flagged for special search. More examples in the comments.
  • Cable customers with attitude: Don’t you hate it when the cable company drops one of your favorite channels? It’s infuriating, but what can you do? The cable companies usually hold a local monopoly and therefore have all the power — or do they? In New York local provider Cablevision got into a dispute with News Corp. (owner of the Fox Network and Fox News) and decided just to drop Fox. Oops, not so fast: Customers are so angry at losing Fox that they’ve just hit Cablevision with a $450 million class-action suit, including a request for an injunction to force Cablevision to restore Fox immediately. ($450 million is about one month’s revenue for Cablevision. New Yorkers pay an average of $150/month for cable — yikes.)
    Some of the immediate anger is because blacking out Fox means blacking out the impending World Series. But another  stated cause in the lawsuit is that “The Fox Channels provide a distinctive point of view in the political speech arena, which Cablevision customers are being deprived of just days before a critical mid-term election in the United States.” That’s rather surprising coming from the very liberal New York City area, but perhaps it shouldn’t be: In the latest ratings (and for most of this decade) Fox News has out-pulled all the other cable news networks (CNN, HLN, MSNBC) combined, and by a large margin at that. And it’s not just conservatives — 61% of Fox News’ audience is moderates or liberals, meaning more liberals and moderates watch Fox News than any other news channel (!). In fact Fox News is now the second-highest-rated of all cable channels, which is simply amazing for a channel that does only news and politics. C’mon, all you news junkies, watch something else once in a while — the History Channel, Discovery, Nat Geo, the Cartoon Channel, something other than just news.
  • Squasher and squashee: Looking up the numbers on Fox News’ ratings dominance reminds me of what Ted Turner, at the time owner of then-dominant CNN, said about Fox News when it first went on the air in 1996: “We’ll squash them like a bug.” Flashback, 3000 years ago: Pride goeth before a fall, quoth the writer of Proverbs.
  • Dumber than insects: In computing news, it was announced today that the fastest supercomputer in the world is now… in China. But to put that in perspective, researchers at Queen Mary University of London have found that one of the hardest computing problems in the world — the so-called “traveling salesman” problem, which is how to determine the shortest path to reach multiple arbitrary locations visiting each one only once, a problem that can easily take a supercomputer days to solve for just a few dozen locations — can be solved in only a few minutes by… a bee. A plain ol’ buzz-around-flowers honeybee or bumblebee. And having solved the problem, the bee will then remember and re-use the route. That’s quite remarkable considering that a bee’s brain is about the size of the tip of a pencil — the pointy tip of a pencil. Based on current computing theory, one could make a pretty good case that a bee-sized brain simply cannot do that, just as aerodynamicists once stated that, based on their mechanics and aerodynamics, bees should not be able to fly — except they do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2010 — Teddy Roosevelt’s birthday (1858)

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  • On this day in history:
    Constantine's symbol -- Chi Rho

    In his vision, Constantine was told to place this symbol on the shields of all his soldiers. It's a well-known Christian symbol, representing the Greek letters Chi and Rho, the first two letters of the Greek word for "Christ." Click on the image for more info.

    • In hoc signo vinces: In the year 312 AD, Constantine the Great received his famous Vision of the Cross, which caused him to convert to Christianity and declare his kingdom Christian, one of the major turning points of both Christianity and Western history.
    • In 1682, the city of Philadelphia (Greek for “City of Brotherly Love”) is founded. Belying its name, it immediately becomes a mecca for the world’s most rude sports fans.
    • In 2004, the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. Immediately afterward, Hell issues a freeze warning.
  • Did you know there’s a Wikipedia in Simple English? It’s just like the regular English Wikipedia, but uses simpler words, grammar, and syntax. It’s primarily intended for children and people not fluent in English, including adults learning English. It doesn’t have all the content of the regular English Wikipedia, which at present contains over 500 000 articles vs. 50 000 for the Simple English version, but it’s still a great resource if you have kids or know people not fully fluent in English.
  • A defeat for the Thought Police: A U.S. District Court in Washington State has ruled unconstitutional a request by the state of North Carolina for a list of all of Amazon’s customers in its state and their purchases. The court ruled that “The First Amendment protects a buyer from having the expressive content of her purchase of books, music, and audiovisual materials disclosed to the government. Citizens are entitled to receive information and ideas through books, films, and other expressive materials anonymously.
  • The wonders of ubiquitous video: Did you see the news yesterday about a Democrat activist being “stomped on the head” at a Republican candidate’s rally in Kentucky? I watched the video — she was not “stomped on the head,” but she was taken down to the ground and one person used his foot to push her shoulder back down when she tried to get up. (I did think it odd that she claimed to be stomped on the head and neck, yet she refused treatment and moments later she was giving an interview with not a mark on her.)
    Well, today a second video surfaced showing why she was taken down by security and bystanders: First she rushed the candidate’s car and pushed something into the open passenger window — a very aggressive act that caused her to be pulled away from the car by security. She then ran around the car and rushed the candidate directly as he was getting out of the car. It was then that she was tackled and held down, thinking she was attempting an attack on the candidate. Given her very aggressive actions — seemingly trying to attack the candidate — tackling and restraining her seems the right reaction by those standing nearby. Perhaps it could have been done more professionally, but these were civilian bystanders who happened to be on the spot, not the police.
    I doubt that Lauren Valle, the Democrat activist, intended actual harm to Rand Paul, the candidate. But her very aggressive and threatening actions were certainly provocative, and I think that was her intent — to provoke a reaction while her cohort nearby shot the video and immediately blasted it to the news media, which is precisely what was done. It got her the intended news coverage, made the Republican crowd look bad, made the headlines. And now that the full story has come out (both in video and in eyewitness accounts), that’ll be buried in the back pages, if it’s covered at all. From a left-wing activist’s point of view, it was a successful false-provocation media event.

Written by dasrabblemeister

October 28, 2010 at 4:34 am

Posted in Uncategorized