Archive for February, 2011

21
Feb
11

Roundup – Full Metal Disney

Line O’ the Day:

I asked [Charles Woodson] what he thought Al Davis might be saying tonight.

“VOODSON! VOODSON, YOU HAVE BETRAYED ME! BLAH! BLAH!”

- Big Daddy Drew, Peter King Suffers Yet Another Wonderful Free Super Bowl Trip [KSK]

Best of the Best:

How Much Does NFL Seeding Really Matter? [David Roher on HSAC via Deadspin]

Trying to make a hierarchy out of the NFL’s regular season is kind of like putting a broken glass sculpture back together. The “top” teams might get an advantage, but the randomness of the regular season often means that those squads aren’t actually the best. So why have the structure at all? There isn’t much of an alternative; random seeding isn’t exactly fair either. One nice option might involve increasing the playoff teams to eight per conference, eliminating the bye. More below-average teams would get in, but the resulting system, one without byes, might actually be fairer. It might even be a compromise in the current 18-game-season debate. And who wouldn’t want four more games of playoff football?

Our standard of living: Is it better than ever? [USA Today]

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found only 31% of Americans thought they could live comfortably for less than $50,000 a year. One-fourth thought it would take $100,000 or more to make them comfortable.  That’s roughly the same result as when Americans were asked the same question in 1987, after adjusting for inflation.  What’s different today — what stretches the ordinary imagination — is how much richer we’ve become than at any time in the past.

The Youth Unemployment Bomb [Peter Coy on Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

The highest rates of youth unemployment are found in the Middle East and North Africa, at roughly 24 percent each, according to the International Labor Organization. Most of the rest of the world is in the high teens—except for South and East Asia, the only regions with single-­digit youth unemployment. Young people are nearly three times as likely as adults to be unemployed.

Historical Public Debt Database [IMF]

US envoy’s business link to Egypt [The Independent]

Mr Wisner is a retired State Department 36-year career diplomat – he served as US ambassador to Egypt, Zambia, the Philippines and India under eight American presidents. In other words, he was not a political appointee. But it is inconceivable Hillary Clinton did not know of his employment by a company that works for the very dictator which Mr Wisner now defends in the face of a massive democratic opposition in Egypt.

Eruption on the Nile/Confusion on the Potomac [Eric Margolis via LRC]

While unsure which way to move for the time being, Washington is hoping that General and now Vice President Suleiman will assume full leadership of Egypt with the backing of yes-man defense minister Mohammed Tantawi, chief of staff Sami Enan, and prime minister Ahmed Shafik, a general. While the US and Israel clearly want this outcome, most Egyptians just as clearly do not.  Gen. Suleiman ran Egypt’s notoriously brutal secret police for a decade. He organized the torture of alleged terrorism suspects sent by the US to Egypt and suspected opponents of Mubarak’s dictatorship. How ironic it is to see Sudan’s leader, Gen. Omar Bashir, charged with crimes against humanity while Egypt’s chief torturer is lauded in North America.

The Apostate [Lawrence Wright on The New Yorker]

On August 19, 2009, Tommy Davis, the chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International, received a letter from the film director and screenwriter Paul Haggis.

Guns N’ Peas Is Where The Trajectory Of Man Began Its Steady Decline [Big Daddy Drew via Deadspin]

So the Black Eyed Peas covered “Sweet Child O Mine” at the Super Bowl last night, with Slash helping out on guitar. First of all, FUCK YOU SLASH. You just spent the last bit of goodwill you earned from NOT being Axl. Secondly, the journey to our eventual self-extinction has begun.

Soldier Finds Minefield on Road to Citizenship [Wall Street Journal]

During 10 years in the U.S. Army, Luis Lopez served in Iraq and Afghanistan, won medals and had a commander laud his service as a “critical part of the success of his unit fighting the global war on terrorism.”  Mr. Lopez is also an illegal immigrant.

Emerging And Submerging Markets In The Third World [Jerry Bowyer via Forbes]

Economists call the presence of a monopoly of resources, or of choke points in the shipping of resources, the “commodity curse.” Oil, gold, diamonds, uranium and so forth in large quantities correlate with poverty, not wealth; with stagnation, not growth.

Without language, numbers make no sense [New Scientist via io9]

People need language to fully understand numbers. This discovery – long suspected, and now backed by strong evidence – may shed light on the way children acquire their number sense.

400 hungry wolves overrun Siberian town of 1,300 [Daily Mail via io9]

Frigid temperatures in the small town of Verkhoyansk in Russia’s Sakha Republic have led to the formation of an unnaturally large pack of livestock-hungry wolves. In the past four days, 30 horses have been devoured by this massive pack.

Kayabuki in Utsunomiya – Where Waiters Are Monkeys [Budget Trouble]

Kayabuki is a restaurant (actually, an izakaya, to be precise) in the Miyukihoncho part of Utsunomiya (address: 4688-13 Miyukihoncho, parking available) where two monkeys work as waiters (or waitresses – sorry I didn’t feel like pulling down underpants). Their names are Yacchan (presumably a boy) and Fukuchan (presumably a girl, though I’m not sure).

Tiny water flea has the biggest genome ever sequenced [Science via io9]

A lot of Daphnia’s genes appear to have clear environmental functions, as certain genes are expressed in response to changing environmental factors. For instance, if one of these water fleas finds itself in polluted waters, a whole suite of genes will be expressed slightly differently than in its counterparts that are still in clean water. These shifting ecological reactions seem to be tied to Daphnia’s frequent cell duplication, although the researchers say we still don’t entirely understand this relationship.

Neutron star observed creating otherwise impossible form of matter [io9]

And now we have the first direct evidence that neutron stars are forming superfluids of neutrons – a totally bizarre state of matter that can’t even be created in Earth laboratories. A superfluid is sort of like a liquid, except its behavior can be very strange. Basically, a superfluid is where viscosity drops to zero and thermal conductivity becomes infinite, the upshot of which is the superfluid flows uncontrollably in all directions while maintaining the same temperature throughout. Even gravity is no longer a barrier for superfluids – it can flow right up the side of a beaker and escape. Superfluids essentially live in a world without friction.

Was George Washington the victim of 18th century airbrushing? [AAS and MIT via io9]

It’s not just modern magazines that tweak people’s faces to fit the standard of beauty. For hundreds of years, portraits have been altered to reflect whatever ideas of beauty that people had at the time. Every woman in the 18th century appears to have the same nose. No one in the 17th century had any eyebrows to speak of. And everyone at every time had flawless skin despite limited access to soap. It’s not certain that if a historical figure appeared today beside their portrait, anyone would recognize them.

Ray Allen Humbly Breaks The NBA’s 3-Point Record [Boston Globe via Deadspin]

Last night, Ray Allen made the 2,561st three-pointer of his professional career in a 92-86 loss to the Lakers and gave Reggie Miller a hug. He did this, as he reportedly does everything else in his life, quite humbly. Even if it is true that all 2,562 of those three-pointers (he knocked down another later in the game) were each worth $65,613.

New discovery explains why a mundane book of poetry stayed in print for a century [University of Oxford via io9]

It appears that readers in the 1700s were not as obsessive about the delicately-turned phrase as we imagine them to be. The pornographic poems were not listed at the front of the book. Hidden as they were, behind all the other poems, it’s unlikely that the casual page-turner would have found them while browsing the shelves of a store or a private library. Instead, the volumes would have gained readers as people whispered to each other about what kind of poetry they would actually be buying.

Are we witnessing the death spiral of the Hollywood blockbuster? [Charlie Jane Anders on io9]

The idea of spending $300 million to make a two-hour fantasy is kind of weird if you think about it. That kind of spending only makes sense if you can convince millions of people to spend between $10 and $20 each to see the result. This is one case where the format is the content — there’s no other format in which you could spend such an obscene amount of money on just two hours’ entertainment. It’s not going to happen on television, it’s not going to happen with direct-to-DVD movies. There’s really no other format I can think of that would justify that kind of opulence.

Things you can do better asleep than you can awake [Annalee Newitz on io9]

As you sink into sleep, you enter a state called hypnagogia, similar to hypnosis. You may hear strange noises or snatches of imaginary conversations, experience odd physical sensations, and see vivid hallucinations of geometric shapes. Your muscles may twitch involuntarily. Nobody is sure why. Nor does anyone know why, as we enter deeper sleep, our white blood cell count rises and eventually we begin to dream. But after decades of careful observation, scientists have figured out that there are a few things we do better when we’re sleeping than when we’re awake.

Would putting a spike in the middle of your steering wheel make you safer? [Esther Inglis-Arkell on io9]

Gordon Tullock, an economist, once joked that if the government wanted people to drive safely, they’d mandate a spike in the middle of each steering wheel. Of course such a thing would never happen — nor should it, morally — but ensuring the person most in control of a situation will be damaged by their mistakes can lead to much safer behavior than ensuring that they’ll be protected, even if others won’t be. Everyone’s careful not to incite a revolution if they know they’ll be the first up against the wall.

When Irish Eyes are Crying [Michael Lewis via Vanity Fair]

There’s no such thing as a non-recourse home mortgage in Ireland. The guy who pays too much for his house is not allowed to simply hand the keys to the bank and walk away. He’s on the hook, personally, for whatever he borrowed. Across Ireland, people are unable to extract themselves from their houses or their bank loans. Irish people will tell you that, because of their sad history of dispossession, owning a home is not just a way to avoid paying rent but a mark of freedom. In their rush to freedom, the Irish built their own prisons. And their leaders helped them to do it.

The False Promise of Green Jobs [Bjørn Lomborg via Project Syndicate]

The companies calling for political intervention to create green jobs tend to be those that stand to gain from subsidies and tariffs. But, because these policies increase the cost of fuel and electricity, they imply layoffs elsewhere, across many different economic sectors.

“I came out and a bear was crapping in my car and drinking my beer…” [Jalopnik]

I live on a ranch where there are lots of bears…there was one that learned how to open open door handles. It got in and the wind must have shut the door, it got into 3 other peoples cars before getting shut in mine. it drank 4 beers, ate a bottle of mallox, and crapped all over the place.

Here’s Video Of Wayne Rooney’s Brilliant Goal For Manchester United Today [Deadspin]

His upper-corner, overhead-kick game-winner was the stuff of highlight legend. It was nothing short of jaw-droppingly good.

An Inside Look At The White House Pooper! [Big Daddy Drew on Deadspin]

Hummus is also extremely underrated as a condiment. Ever put it on rice? UNGODLY. It’s like I’m riding a magic carpet to Ali Baba’s flavor palace.

NBA’s Greatest Shots – Court Location & Video [Hoopism]

Our Valentines day gift for hoops fans, the visualization below is an Interactive video collection of the most important and amazing shots in NBA history, mapped by location and year. We asked the authors of some of our favorite basketball blogs to submit their favorites and then rounded out the list to get to 65 total shots.

Lessons in Manliness from the Egyptian Revolution [Yasser El Hadari via The Art of Manliness]

While Muslim protesters were attending Friday Prayers, Christians formed a human wall to protect them. On Sunday when Christian protesters performed Mass, Muslims stood watch to protect them. There was no slurring in the protests. People who attended were of different races, religions, and social backgrounds; black and white, Muslim and Christian,  rich and poor, we stood together. If people deep down inside had a certain hatred for others due to these differences, the protests helped them replace this hatred with understanding. In the end we were all the same. We were all Egyptian, and we all wanted freedom.

Iran Bans Valentine’s Day [Melik Kaylan via The Wall Street Journal]

In another sign of its ever more improvisational approach to governance, the Iranian regime has outlawed Valentine’s Day. “Symbols of hearts, half-hearts, red roses, and any activities promoting this day are banned,” announced state media last month. “Authorities will take legal action against those who ignore the ban.”

Conan 2.0 [Douglas Alden Warshaw via Forbes]

Mitchell posted his “I’m with Coco” image on his own site, then created a new “I’m with Coco” Facebook page and Twitter account, and then at 4 a.m. he went to bed. When he woke up at noon, he was shocked to discover that more than 30,000 people were following his new Twitter feed, close to 10,000 had clicked LIKE on his new Facebook page, and an untold number were making his “I’m with Coco” graphic their own profile picture on Facebook. Two days later, “I’m with Coco” had 185,000 Twitter followers, and just a week after Mitchell’s all-nighter the number was 700,000.  That was barely a year ago, but it was before most television executives understood what Twitter was. In fact, it was before Conan O’Brien, age 47, understood what Twitter was. “I’m a Luddite when it comes to computers,” says the man who keeps a bust of Teddy Roosevelt prominently in his office. “I didn’t do Twitter. Didn’t understand why anyone would do Twitter. I’m not on Facebook.” But now, suddenly, NBC executives were telling O’Brien to “stop it,” and O’Brien was saying, “Stop what? It’s not me.” And it wasn’t. It was Gen X and Gen Y.

Baby gymnastics: Russia’s ‘potentially dangerous’ therapy [BBC News]

Mr Tyutin holds Victoria’s baby by the legs, so that little Pavel is dangling upside down – and swings him gently from side to side like a pendulum.  Then, like the game of cup and ball, he swings the baby up towards him and catches him in his chest. Pavel is just 17 days old. The Russians call this dynamic baby gymnastics. The practice is legal in Russia and widespread. There are believed to be hundreds of practitioners across the country. Oleg maintains it gives babies a head start in life.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue: Score One For the Bears [Bespoke Investment Group]

Since 1978, an American has appeared on the cover of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in 17 different years.  The average performance of the S&P 500 during those years is a gain of 10.7% with positive returns 82.4% of the time.  Of the 16 years where no American appeared on the cover, the S&P 500 has averaged a gain of 8.2% with positive returns 75% of the time.  To be sure, we would note that the S&P 500′s 38.5% decline in 2008 when an American appeared on the cover caused the spread between the two performance numbers to narrow considerably.  So what does a Russian model on the cover mean for Russia’s equity market?  Interestingly, going back to 1978, this is the first year that we have seen a Russian model on the cover of the issue, so there is no precedent.  However, just two weeks ago we noted that while all the other BRICs were crumbling, Russia had been doing exceptionally well.  Coincidence?

The Loneliness Of The American College Transfer Student [Big Daddy Drew on Deadspin]

I remember being on the floor of my room in South Quad, bawling my eyes out on the phone. I couldn’t stop crying. Real, hard crying. The kind where your jaw unhinges and long, cathartic wails just come pouring right out of you. My mom was on the other end of the line, and for a very long time, she didn’t say anything.

The sabotaging of Iran [Financial Times]

The new type of covert war that has ensnared scientists, unleashed dangerous viruses and sought novel ways of exporting faulty equipment takes the nuclear stand-off into uncharted territory. If effective, it buys the US and its partners time, postponing the day when they might have to decide between a conventional strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, with all the risks that it engenders for the Middle East, or acceptance of Iran becoming a nuclear-capable state. But every war has a cost, and in this mysterious world of intrigue and sabotage, no one knows yet what the real price will be.

What Health Reform Missed: The Doctor Shortage [Fox Business]

ACP says when it comes to doctor shortages, Massachusetts’ attempt at a universal care model provides a case study of what can happen. There, “shortages of primary care physicians have led to long waits for appointments,” ACP says.

Whimsical Remains:

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As you sink into sleep, you enter a state called hypnagogia, similar to hypnosis. You may hear strange noises or snatches of imaginary conversations, experience odd physical sensations, and see vivid hallucinations of geometric shapes. Your muscles may twitch involuntarily. Nobody is sure why. Nor does anyone know why, as we enter deeper sleep, our white blood cell count rises and eventually we begin to dream. But after decades of careful observation, scientists have figured out that there are a few things we do better when we’re sleeping than when we’re awake.
06
Feb
11

Roundup – Nic Cage Loses His Shit

Line O’ the Day:

Computer Repair Store | Charleston, SC, USA

(A customer walks up to the counter with a desktop and sets it down.)

Customer: “Excuse me, are you Catholic?”

Me: “No.”

Customer: “Well, I think it’s possessed and it needs an exorcism. Do you have any Catholic workers?”

Me: “I don’t think so. Maybe I can take a look at it?”

Customer: “No! You have to be Catholic!” *takes his desktop and leaves*

- Needs A Mass Reboot [Not Always Right]

Best of the Best:

Interview: Robert Shiller on Human Traits Essential to Capitalism [The Browser]

My parents raised me as a Methodist, but my Sunday school teacher complained I had a chip on my shoulder. I thought he was a moron, so I wasn’t very good at Sunday school. I didn’t think much of the preachers. But I suppose I have spiritual feelings.

Battle for the Strongest Beer in the World [MadeMan]

Tactical Nuclear Penguin is made using the freeze distillation process three times, and this following a 14-month aging process in double barrels. With an ABV of 27 percent, Tactical Nuclear Penguin was the daddy of all strong beers for a short stretch at the end of 2009. According to the brewers it “should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance in exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whiskey, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost.”

My Reply to Krugman on Austrian Business-Cycle Theory [Robert Murphy via The Mises Institute]

I do not claim that the Austrian theory of the business cycle captures every pertinent feature of modern recessions. What I do claim is that a theory — including any of Paul Krugman’s Keynesian models — that neglects the distortion of the capital structure during boom periods cannot possibly hope to accurately prescribe policy solutions after a crash.

Elderly drivers could hold a key to the neurology of depression [Scientific American via io9]

Researchers were able to simulate this decrease in visual area function in younger people, and the volunteers all became far more aware of larger movements in the background of their vision. But there wasn’t any concurrent reduction in foreground vision, meaning the volunteers’ brains had to suddenly deal with far more visual stimuli, which would make paying attention during driving much more difficult. As the researchers point out, similar types of vision and attention problems have been seen among those with depression and schizophrenia.

The Greek engineer who invented the steam engine 2,000 years ago [Alasdair Wilkins on io9]

Hero, or Heron, of Alexandria, on the other hand, had the astonishing bad taste to be born around 10 CE, which made his inventions so far ahead of their time that they could be of little practical use and, in time, were forgotten. If he had been born in, say, 1710, his engineering prowess and incredible creativity might have made him the richest person in the world. As it is, he’ll just have to settle for the posthumous reputation of being the greatest inventor in human history.

Last Call for Dry Sundays: Georgia, One of Only Three Holdouts, Considers Ending a Ban on Alcohol Sales [The Wall Street Journal]

Supermarkets and other opponents have tried for years to change the law in Georgia, one of three states that still prohibits Sunday alcohol sales, a restriction imposed across the U.S. after the repeal of Prohibition. More recently, a coalition of Christian groups, conservative politicians and small liquor store owners have managed to keep Sundays dry.  But a state budget shortfall of as much as $2 billion this year, a lingering hangover from the recession, has persuaded leaders in the Republican-dominated state Senate to seek new revenues, including a seventh-day boost from the so-called sin tax levied on liquor, wine and beer sales.

Sober Thoughts on Afghanistan: Realities on the Ground [Fred Reed]

We are all familiar with the Predator and Raptor drones used to target Al Qaeda suspects in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pentagon wants to replace the Hellfire missiles fired currently by the drones with the new Mk 48 ADCAP (“Advanced Capability”) missile which, while much more accurate, also has a larger blast radius—meaning that more civilians will be killed. Is it worth it, given the anger aroused among civilian populations by the extra deaths? This is the kind of question that commanders on the ground must decide.

The Fantasy of Democracy: FOXghanistan 2 [Fred Reed]

Some time ago I discovered Fox News (Honest: For the preceding ten years I didn’t have TV). Fox seemed to me politically dangerous, being, as I thought anyway, the voice of a huge, angry, and badly uninformed lower middle class. From such, in times of economic decline, come Brown Shirts.

In Norway, Start-ups Say Ja to Socialism [Max Chafkin on Inc.com]

I also became convinced of this truth, which I have observed in the smartest American and the smartest Norwegian entrepreneurs: It’s not about the money. Entrepreneurs are not hedge fund managers, and they rarely operate like coldly rational economic entities. This theme runs through books like Bo Burlingham’s Small Giants, about company owners who choose not to maximize profits and instead seek to make their companies great; and it can be found in the countless stories, many of them told in this magazine, of founders who leave money on the table in favor of things they judge to be more important.

More troops lost to suicide [John Donnelly on Congress.org]

For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The reasons are complicated and the accounting uncertain — for instance, should returning soldiers who take their own lives after being mustered out be included? But the suicide rate is a further indication of the stress that military personnel live under after nearly a decade of war.

Dealing With Assange and the Secrets He Spilled [Bill Keller on The New York Times Magazine]

This past June, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, phoned me and asked, mysteriously, whether I had any idea how to arrange a secure communication. Not really, I confessed. The Times doesn’t have encrypted phone lines, or a Cone of Silence. Well then, he said, he would try to speak circumspectly. In a roundabout way, he laid out an unusual proposition: an organization called WikiLeaks, a secretive cadre of antisecrecy vigilantes, had come into possession of a substantial amount of classified United States government communications. WikiLeaks’s leader, Julian Assange, an eccentric former computer hacker of Australian birth and no fixed residence, offered The Guardian half a million military dispatches from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. There might be more after that, including an immense bundle of confidential diplomatic cables. The Guardian suggested — to increase the impact as well as to share the labor of handling such a trove — that The New York Times be invited to share this exclusive bounty. The source agreed. Was I interested?  I was interested.

7 scientific accidents that led to world-changing discoveries [Esther Inglis-Arkell via io9]

Last week, drunk scientists discovered how to make superconductors run faster when they accidentally spilled wine on an experiment. Often science and serendipity often go hand in hand. Here are more accidental discoveries that changed the world.

The Insurgent Bloggers of Iran [Annabelle Sreberny & Gholam Khiabany via io9]

This law effectively reproduced the existing Press Law which had been revised in 2000 to take account of the growing criticism of many semi-independent newspapers and their online versions and required all ‘publishers’ to obtain a license. As was the case in the press law, insulting Islam and religious leaders and institutions, as well as fomenting national discord and disunity and promoting prostitution and immoral behaviours, all figured in the new internet regulations and ISPs and users could be punished for not abiding by these rules.

Did China Try To Pass Off Top Gun As Air Force Footage? [Gizmodo]

The clips in question were reportedly aired during the News Broadcast program on China Central Television, the major state television broadcast company. They supposedly showed a J-10 fighter firing a missile at another aircraft during a practice exercise.  But an internet commenter quickly pointed out that the aircraft the J-10 was shown shooting down was an F-5, an American aircraft, and the very one Tom Cruise guns down in a scene from Top Gun. Comparing frames from the CCTV broadcast (left) and Top Gun (right), well, they’re lookin’ pretty much identical.

The Confessions Of A Former Adolescent Puck Tease [Katie Baker on Deadspin]

In 1999, Katie Baker was a thoroughly self-possessed, hockey-loving 18-year-old headed for Harvard. Or so the older men she met online — and offline — believed.

100,000-year-old human settlement in U.A.E. overturns what we know of our evolution [Science via io9]

The tools discovered during an excavation in the U.A.E., located in the southeastern part of the Arabian peninsula, have been reliably dated to 100,000 years ago. Genetic evidence has suggested modern humans did not leave Africa until about 60,000 years ago, but these tools appear to be the work of our ancestors and not other hominids like Neanderthals.

A history of supercontinents on planet Earth [Alasdair Wilkins via io9]

Pangaea gets remembered because it’s the most recent supercontinent, and because its later days overlap with the birth of the dinosaurs in the late Triassic and early Jurassic. Geologically speaking, it’s easy to look at Pangaea as a counterpart of sorts to the seven continents we live on today, with the twin giant continents of Gondwanaland and Laurasia as a transitional stage between these two extremes. But it’s generally forgotten that Pangaea is just the latest in a line of about half a dozen supercontinents, and Earth will see quite a few more over its final five billion years of life.

How a cat named Zoe earned several advanced degrees and became a psychotherapist [io9]

Zoe’s stunning academic and professional career is actually pretty common. A great number of animals have professional or academic certifications. Most of these were obtained as part of a stunt to shame the organization or to provide evidence for lawsuits or government investigations.

Could a U.S. government crackdown take America off the internet? [Annalee Newitz on io9]

There are a number of laws that protect internet service providers from government control. But that could change very soon. Several bills have been working their way through Congress that would give President Obama “kill switch” control over the internet during a “national cyber-emergency.”…Such a bill would allow the President to order shutdown of the American internet without any checks from the Judiciary.

Are Soccer Fans the Unsung Heroes of Egypt’s Uprising? [Multiple Sources via Gawker]

Chief among these are supporters of the team Al Ahly (“The National”). Al Ahly’s history is intertwined with the protest of oppressive regimes: It was founded as a sports club in 1907, in part to give student unions a place to gather at a time they were organizing against British colonial rule. According to Middle East soccer expert James Dorsey, today’s Al Ahly supporters are notorious for overwhelming police barriers at matches and their general toughness—in other words, they’re well-suited to cut through tear gas in the streets, or to join the human chain protecting the Egyptian Museum from looters.

The Mystery of the Tainted Cocaine [Brendan Kiley on The Stranger]

So what’s the incentive to use a relatively expensive cut of something that makes your customers sick and increases your smuggling risk? Even stranger: The cocaine trade, in both smuggling and production, has fragmented in recent years (more on that in a minute). If there’s no central production, how did hundreds and hundreds of independent shops come to use the same unusual cutting agent?  Nobody seems to know, including experts I spoke with on both coasts of the United States: doctors, scholars, chemists, think-tank fellows, research scientists, federal and state public-health analysts, law enforcement agencies from the Seattle Police Department to the DEA, and even people who work in and around the drug trade. Everyone has theories, but nobody has answers.  It’s a mystery.

Free Burton Snowboard [David Thorne via 27b/6]

Also, I apologise. While the average male height of 5″9 statistically means anything under is considered short, my question was without diminutive intention. I’m sure there are many advantages to being so small. Target carries an excellent range of boys clothing at competitive prices and a lower centre of gravity should, once helped up onto the ski-lift, allow you to snowboardsurf with greater stability. If I were small, I would buy a cat and ride it.

The Last Temptation of Ted [Kevin Roose on The Gentlemen’s Quarterly]

For the first time since we’ve met, Ted isn’t looking directly at me. “Here’s where I really am on this issue,” he half whispers. “I think that probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual.” After a weekend of Ted trying to convince me of his unambiguous devotion to his wife and kids, I’m at first too surprised to say anything.

The Mideast Burns [Eric Margolis via LRC]

The Mideast uprisings are poorly understood by most North Americans. The US media frame news of the regional intifada in terms of the faux war on terror, and a false choice between dictatorial “stability” and Islamic political extremism. Much of what’s happening is seen through Israel’s eyes, and is distorted. Burning Cairo should show how misguided we have been in our understanding of the Arab world.  Platitudes aside, there is little concern in the US about bringing real democracy and modern society in the Arab world. Washington still wants obedience, not pluralism, in its Mideast Raj, and primacy for Israel in the Levant. As with the British Empire, democracy at home is fine – but it’s not right for the nations of the Arab world.

Feeling the Heat: Global Inflation [The Wall Street Journal]

Consumer prices are moving unevenly across the world. Economic growth, supply and demand, currency values and a variety of other factors drive consumer prices up — inflation — or down — deflation. Bars and figures show change from a year earlier in consumer price indexes.  Growth rate, central-bank policy, currency movements and external factors all can be greater influences on price movements than the size of an economy. Based on IMF 2010 estimates.

Why did this frog species suddenly evolve extra teeth? [Evolution via BBC News via io9]

What’s even weirder is that this frog species originally had these teeth, then lost them, and then re-evolved them after 200 million years. It’s some of the best evidence yet for the still fiercely debated question of whether species can re-evolve complex features that they once possessed but then lost.

How pigeons get to be superstitious [Psychologist World via io9]

In one particular case, Skinner decided to go random on his hungry pigeons. He dropped food into the box at completely random times, independent of any behavior on the part of the pigeons. But the behavior of the pigeons, he found, didn’t stay random. After a few drops of the food, the pigeons began exhibiting certain consistent behavior. One circled counter-clockwise, another spun around in circles; seventy-five percent of them exhibited some kind of odd behavior.

Every NBA Slam Dunk Contest Video Visualization [Hoopism]

We broke down every NBA slam dunk contest (1984 to 2010) by dunk, year, and score. You can see video footage of the actual dunk by clicking on the circles in the graph.

Les Carpenter Is A Junket Purist [Big Daddy Drew on KSK]

The success of the Super Bowl always came with balmy afternoons where fans and sponsors could enjoy golf junkets…

Holy shit. Really. REALLY? A Super Bowl is only successful if a corporate sponsor can experience a proper golf junket? I understand that. I remember watching the 2003 Super Bowl and thinking to myself, “You know, this game-winning drive by New England sure is entertaining. But I just can’t quite enjoy it because I don’t know if Papa John was able to get in a quick 18 today in between meetings.” Totally ruined the game for me.

The Super Bowl Week Orgy, Through The Eyes Of An NFL Player [Nate Jackson via Deadspin]

Hype is the spirit of the weekend. You can have fun if you understand this. But if you expect anything novel, you’ll be disappointed. When Sunday rolls around, the partygoers will skip town, tired of laughing at unfunny jokes. They’ll be gone before the game even starts. The game. Oh, yes, that’s what this whole thing was about.

You Could Win More Super Bowls If Your Coach Were Autistic [Big Daddy Drew on Deadspin]

“But I’m a bit wary of watching the game over at Charlie’s. The past time I went there, he snorted Ortho fertilizer and ran around the place throwing knives at the walls. UNPREDICTABLE LIKE BRANDO.”

Nullification: Answering the Objections [Tom Woods]

Anyone who actually reads the book will discover, among many other things, that the Principles of ’98 – as these decentralist ideas came to be known – were in fact resorted to more often by northern states than by southern, and from 1798 through the second half of the nineteenth century were used in support of free speech and free trade, and against the fugitive-slave laws, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and the prospect of military conscription, among other examples. And nullification was employed not in support of slavery but against it.

Whimsical Remains:

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