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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