Archive for April, 2011

20
Apr
11

Roundup – Fan-Made Film Credits Better Than Actual Credits

Line O’ the Day:

“I grew up in the 1980′s, and there must have been some kind of hitchhiking plague in the 1980′s because I distinctly remember being told in school to NEVER hitchhike. They had entire seminars and shit about how, if you hitchhiked, you would end up bound in a motel room and raped with a fire extinguisher.”

- Big Daddy Drew, 10 Good Movie Quotes To Yell Out During Orgasm [Deadspin]

Best of the Best:

Echoes of the Soviet Surge [Niels Annen on Foreign Policy]

The main take-away from the Soviet endgame for today’s NATO forces is less than rosy — namely, that an effective and able Afghan army is not sufficient to stabilize Afghanistan’s political system. An insurgency can survive and thrive if Kabul is in disarray. That said, the Soviet experience also casts some aspects of today’s effort in less-despairing light. The Red Army was largely successful in its effort to achieve one of the main goals the West has set out for itself: building an effective Afghan army. And even if the daily news from Afghanistan might suggest differently, conditions today are much more favorable than during the end of the Cold War. Indeed, while the mujahideen profited tremendously from U.S. and Pakistani aid, the Taliban today have no comparable international patron. Finally, today’s Afghan government possesses a crucial advantage that Najibullah’s government lacked — a nascent, if flawed, democratic process that can be used to bolster its support among the Afghan population.

Welcome to Debtors’ Prison, 2011 Edition [Wall Street Journal]

More than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can’t or won’t pay to be jailed. Judges have signed off on more than 5,000 such warrants since the start of 2010 in nine counties with a total population of 13.6 million people, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal of filings in those counties. Nationwide figures aren’t known because many courts don’t keep track of warrants by alleged offense. In interviews, 20 judges across the nation said the number of borrowers threatened with arrest in their courtrooms has surged since the financial crisis began.

A Declaration of Cyber-War [Michael Joseph Gross on Vanity Fair]

In terms of functionality, this was the largest piece of malicious software that most researchers had ever seen, and orders of magnitude more complex in structure. (Malware’s previous heavyweight champion, the Conficker worm, was only one-twentieth the size of this new threat.) During the next few months, a handful of determined people finally managed to decrypt almost all of the program, which a Microsoft researcher named “Stuxnet.” On first glimpsing what they found there, they were scared as hell.

The Man Who Wasn’t Darwin [David Quammen on National Geographic]

This is a classic episode in the history of science, a story of a coincidence and its aftermath, told and retold in books about how evolutionary biology came to be: the near simultaneous formulation of what we now think of as Darwin’s theory by Darwin himself and a young upstart, Alfred Russel Wallace. Classic or not, many people nowadays are unaware of it. Wallace, famed during his life as Darwin’s junior partner and for his other contributions to science and social thought, fell into obscurity after his death, in 1913.

How We Know [Freeman Dyson on The New York Review of Books, Reviewing The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick]

On the average, about eight words of drum language were needed to transmit one word of human language unambiguously. Western mathematicians would say that about one eighth of the information in the human Kele language belongs to the tones that are transmitted by the drum language. The redundancy of the drum language phrases compensates for the loss of the information in vowels and consonants. The African drummers knew nothing of Western mathematics, but they found the right level of redundancy for their drum language by trial and error…The story of the drum language illustrates the central dogma of information theory. The central dogma says, “Meaning is irrelevant.” Information is independent of the meaning that it expresses, and of the language used to express it. Information is an abstract concept, which can be embodied equally well in human speech or in writing or in drumbeats. All that is needed to transfer information from one language to another is a coding system. A coding system may be simple or complicated. If the code is simple, as it is for the drum language with its two tones, a given amount of information requires a longer message. If the code is complicated, as it is for spoken language, the same amount of information can be conveyed in a shorter message.

No Man’s Land: The Mystery of Mexico’s Drug Wars [Gary Moore on World Affairs]

At Cerro Prieto ["Dark Hill"]—far from eastern Mexico, but still accessible to roving Zeta operatives from the east—the local drug army is said to be like many across Mexico: mostly local boys, drawn from desert obscurity, either by enticement or brutal coercion. Either way, their narrow sliver of no-man’s-land is flanked on both sides by broad desert smuggling corridors controlled by El Chapo and the Sinaloa Cartel. Dark Hill has blocked monolithic control of the gateway to Arizona, the “golden door” of the Sonoran Desert. Heading the renegade effort is a local crime boss called El Gilo, who wedged himself into the crags and soaked up backing from El Chapo’s enemies.

Over to You, H. Parker Willis [Jim Grant via LRC]

“What Should the Federal Reserve Do Next?” Less, we say. Withdraw from the business of macroeconomic management. Acknowledge the essential error of the doctrine of interest-rate manipulation. Confess to the obvious flaws in the paper-currency system. Renounce debasement under the pseudo-scientific name of “quantitative easing.”

Maybe Possibly Truly Absolutely Definitely Perhaps The Most Waffling Peter King Column Yet. We Think. [Big Daddy Drew on KSK]

Now, I’m sure Adrian, being the operator for a large hotel in a city, has better things to do with her time than give some idiot who was careless with his receipts three attempts to locate a month-old hotel bill.

TRUTH: Adrian should not have helped Peter King.

That’s what makes a very good hotel very good.

What makes a good hotel very good? TOLERATING IMBECILES. Take it from the biggest one of all!

India, Pakistan, And The Hopeful Futility Of Cricket Diplomacy [Barry Petchesky on Deadspin]

Identity in the subcontinent isn’t a checked box on a census form. It’s a fugue, with many variations. Borders are mutable and theoretical. But sectarian allegiances are permanent. It’s why the cricket diplomacy column has had to be written every time the nations face off, and why it will have to be written again and again. A striking illustration of identity was given to me by Delhi-based sportswriter Gulu Ezekiel, born to a Jewish father and a Parsi mother. He considers himself part of two tiny and still-dwindling religious minorities in India. He is a cricket fan, too.

Obama’s new view of his own war powers [Glenn Greenwald on Salon]

The arguments raised to justify the Obama view of his own powers are every bit as frivolous as they were during the Bush years.  Many claim that the War Powers Resolution of 1973 allows a President to fight wars for 60 days without Congressional approval, but (a) the Obama administration is taking the position that not even the WPR can constrain the President, and (b) 1541(c) of that Resolution explicitly states that the war-making rights conferred by the statute apply only to a declaration of war, specific statutory authority, or “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”  Plainly, none of those circumstances prevail here.

The Truth About Race, Religion, And The Honor Code At BYU [Luke O’Brien and Darron Smith]

Only later, after the athletes had arrived on campus, did they realize the implications of the compact they had signed: that they had entered an environment where official morality is unevenly applied, where snitches and spies abound, and where, above all, an interplay of race and religion affects every decision and allows the school, at least publicly, to take a righteous stand that only advances the missionary aims of the church that owns it. In short, BYU creates the conditions for certain athletes to fail and, when they do, expresses only dismay.

Surly Flag Football Coach Needs Team To Learn How To “Grab A Fucking Flag And Pull It Off.” STAT [Deadspin]

Subject: Flag Football, Parental Discretion is Advised: Alright, so for those of you who know me and my coaching style, you know whats coming. For those of you who don’t, only read on if you can handle whatever I say. My strategy is not like Kevin, I don’t coddle my team or tell them “good job, we’ll win next week”. I will call you all out if you suck, and this week, we were fucking terrible.

How a university punished a female engineering student for this bikini photo [Justin Hyde on Jalponik]

A Canadian university suspended its student racecar-building team after one of the engineers in training had the audacity to pose with it while wearing a bikini. It’s an independent study course in sexism, administrative idiocy and misplaced priorities.

The Stupid Barry Bonds Prosecution, In A Stupid Nutshell [Tommy Craggs via Deadspin]

There’s a lot of mewling and bead-fondling in the sports pages today about what it all means for Bonds’s legacy — as always, it’s important to remember that a sportswriter talking about a legacy is just a fart talking about its own smell — but let’s ignore all that for now and instead direct our attention to an exchange from Day 12 of the trial, which I only just now noticed.

One Reason Sir Charles Doesn’t Like Reporters Is Because They’re Idiots [Charles Barkley on Sports Radio Interviews via Deadspin]

Dude, listen, I can’t speak for Mike Wilbon, but I think Chicago is the best summer city in the world. If the Bulls do not get to the conference finals, I’m going to kill Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau. I want to spend my week and a half in Chicago for the Conference Finals. I’m going to come in and spend the whole show with you guys and we’ll have a blast. Listen dude, I just want to be there for a week and a half and I’ll bring the beer.

The Sultan Of Twat: Babe Ruth’s Swinging First Few Years With The Yankees [Robert Weintrub’s The House that Ruth Built via Deadspin]

Fred Lieb said [Babe] Ruth was obsessed with the penis and not merely because he was famously well-endowed. His speech was peppered with phallic allusions, such as “I can knock the penis off any ball that ever was pitched.” A large stack of mail was “as big as my penis.” When he aged he confided to Lieb, “The worst of this is that I no longer can see my penis when I stand up.” The female genitalia weren’t left out. Asked “How’s it going, Jidge?” he would response, “Pussy good, pussy good.”

Rethinking Afghanistan, America, and Americans [Dana Visalli via LRC]

Abdullah, the son, added, “My father always tells me that the world is divided into two groups, those who build and those who destroy. The world is a village, and if you are destroying the village you are destroying the world. The military forces are always destroying. My father is always telling me to be part of the first group, the one that is building the world.” And so Abdullah’s goal is to become a doctor and help his people. “I must become a doctor,” he said, “or my life is nothing.”

Tsunami-hit towns forgot warnings from ancestors [Associated Press via Yahoo! News]

Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan’s destructive tsunami last month. But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day. “High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” the stone slab reads. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”  It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan’s northeastern shore.

The Canada bubble [MacLean’s]

So there you have it. Canada is either primed to be a world beater, or we’re about to go down the tubes. There’s arguably never been a time when forecasters have been so divided in their views of Canada’s economy. That’s partly due to the seemingly Herculean way we shrugged off the global recession while almost every other developed nation tanked and continues to struggle—a feat that can’t help but arouse a bit of too-good-to-be-true anxiety.

The No-Baby Boom: A growing number of couples are choosing to live child-free. And you might be joining their ranks. [Brian Frazer on Details]

Considering the state of the economy, it should come as no surprise that the ranks of the child-free are exploding. The Department of Agriculture reports that the average cost for a middle-income two-parent family to support a kid through high school is $286,050 (it’s nearly half a million dollars for couples in higher tax brackets). Want him or her to get a college education? The number jumps to nearly $350,000 for a public university, and more than $400,000 for private. Though if your kid’s planning to major in Male Sterilization, it could wind up being a good investment: The vasectomy business seems to be one of the few in America that is booming.

The Sleepless Elite: Why Some People Can Run on Little Sleep and Get So Much Done [Melinda Beck on Wall Street Journal]

To date, Dr. Jones says he has identified only about 20 true short sleepers, and he says they share some fascinating characteristics. Not only are their circadian rhythms different from most people, so are their moods (very upbeat) and their metabolism (they’re thinner than average, even though sleep deprivation usually raises the risk of obesity). They also seem to have a high tolerance for physical pain and psychological setbacks.

Trouble @Twitter [Jessi Hempel on Fortune]

Unsure of what they’d created, the founders basically turned Twitter over to its users — initially a bunch of techie early adopters — and watched what they did with it. The result was a bit of anarchy: The crowd developed an unintuitive language all its own (the hashtags and retweets and other abbreviations all came from users); an ecosystem of independent “dashboard” companies such as TweetDeck and HootSuite emerged to help consumers manage their Twittering — a development that would prove to be a mixed blessing for Twitter.

Welcome to the Far Eastern Conference: Stephon Marbury is seeking redemption—and vast riches—in basketball-mad China. [Wells Tower on Gentlemen’s Quarterly]

He hung up and gave me an unhappy look. “I’m leaving Taiyuan,” he said. “I been compromised.” Management, he told me, had informed him that his services as a player were no longer required for the regular season. “If they make the playoffs, then they’ll use me, is what they said. Otherwise, they want me to help coach.”  He was, in other words, being asked to recapitulate his humiliating final season riding the bench for the Knicks. It was hard to understand this “offer” as anything but a ploy to force Marbury to quit the Dragons, which, he told me, was what he had done.

Whimsical Remains:

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The content on this site is provided as general information and entertainment only and should not be taken as investment advice. All site content shall not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security or financial product, or to participate in any particular trading or investment strategy. The ideas expressed on this site are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of firms affiliated with the author. The author may or may not have a position in any security referenced herein and may or may not seek to do business with companies mentioned via this website. Any action that you take as a result of information or analysis on this site is ultimately your responsibility. Consult your investment adviser before making any investment decisions.

01
Apr
11

Roundup – Ohio

Line O’ the Day:

“We make fun of Ohio here at Deadspin an awful lot, and with good reason. If you placed an electrified cupcake in the center of the state, half the population would be dead by morning. And the other half would be asking for extra sprinkles.”

- Big Daddy Drew, The Hater’s Guide To The Field Of 68, Part I [Deadspin] Best of the Best: This Wu-Tang Clan Super Game Boy Commercial Was Banned For Being “Too Ill” [COD via Vimeo via Deadspin]

In 1993, members of the Wu-Tang Clan produced a 40-second spot for Nintendo’s Super Game Boy. Filmed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1993, it featured a beat by Prince Paul, voice-over from RZA and ODB, and a work of graffiti from the COD Crew. A member of COD found the old video and uploaded it to Vimeo a few weeks ago. He writes in the description that the commercial “was banned from networks for being too ill.” That’s all you need to know.

The Brains Behind Jägermeister Have Gone To Heaven [The Local via Brian Hickey on Deadspin]

And I thank Mast (on left in photo) for the inspiration to kick through a wall back in ’95 just to pose through it, bottle of Jäger in hand.

The Miami Heat Have Failed Us; Or, How Chris Bosh Is Like The Space Station [Bethlehem Shoals on Free Darko via Deadspin]

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have, if not made each other worse, certainly reduced each other to almost rote displays of brilliance. It is, after all the shouting, a marriage of convenience that has diluted both men while neither diminishing them nor forcing us to reconsider their meaning. Bosh has been most transformed, and for all the jokes last summer about folks having never seen the former Raptor play, it’s embarrassing what an easy target he has become.

Bill Simmons, Malcolm Gladwell, And The Dirty Secret Of The MIT Sports Analytics Conference [Jack Dickey on Deadspin]

Analytics played a large role in their ascent, obviously, but as I will quickly learn, this conference is more about the ascent itself than the complicated and often abstruse means to achieving it. It’s an MBA mixer in the guise of a statistics seminar. Everything here carries the faint air of the hustle.

Tea Party Cements Patriot Act Into Place [Bob Adelman on The New American]

Some things are unforgivable in a democracy. The Patriot Act should be right at the top of that list. Nobody who has supported that wretched law should ever be allowed to brag of defending liberty again. That goes for the Tea Party. By voting to extend surveillance of American citizens, they have abandoned the principles of freedom that brought about their rise to power. They have shown their true face.

Japan earthquake: The explainer [Chris Rowan via Scientific American]

Friday’s earthquake has been followed by a huge swarm of aftershocks (at my last count, there have been more than 250 aftershocks of greater than magnitude 5, and aroundr 30 of greater than magnitude 6), as the crust around the rupture zone responds to the large stresses applied by the sudden movement of the subduction thrust. However, there was also some noticeable seismic activity before the main shock: on Wednesday, there was a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in the same region as today’s earthquake, followed by a number of smaller magnitude 5 quakes, and three magnitude 6-6.1 events. These were mainly clustered in a region just to the northeast of Friday’s larger rupture, and within the much larger cloud of aftershocks In hindsight, these earthquakes were foreshocks of today’s main event. However, there was no way of telling this in advance: there is nothing particularly “foreshock-y” about foreshocks beyond the fact that they end up being smaller in magnitude than the main shock they precede. In fact, if you plot the last few days of earthquakes over time, you can see that, on Wednesday and Thursday, seismic activity seemed to be dying down again in the wake of Wednesday’s 7.2 quake.

How does radiation travel, and what kinds of damage can it do? [Esther Inglis-Arkell via io9]

Gamma rays travel like any other electromagnetic waves – cutting a fairly straight line through world. They can move through a vacuum, or through air or water. They can also cut through light elements like aluminum or most metals. Lead can cut down on gamma radiation, but it can’t really stop it. One inch of lead will cut any amount of gamma radiation by half. Another inch will cut it by another half, and so on, and so on. Practically speaking, a few feet of lead will weed out pretty much any gamma radiation, but technically nothing can block all gamma rays from coming through.

Lebanon was the forgotten player in the sixties space race [New Scientist via io9]

The Lebanese Rocket Society was the brainchild of Manoug Manougian, a 25-year-old math and physics lecturer who in 1960 was teaching at Beirut’s Haigazian College. Deeply fascinated with rockets, he enlisted some students who shared his love and together they started building the things. They weren’t just playing around with models – using a student’s family farm, the newly formed society set up shop and started experimenting with various solid rocket fuels.

ESPN, Jalen Rose, And The Manufactured “Uncle Tom” Controversy [Jack Dickey on Deadspin]

The program did such a nuts number in large part because of its hype. Jalen Rose, one of the documentary’s executive producers, called Duke’s black players “Uncle Toms” in the movie. Well, sort of. All week long, it was all anyone could talk about, especially on ESPN, and it wasn’t long before we were presented with the spectacle of an ESPN on-air personality, one who’s producing a movie for ESPN, appearing on ESPN programs to talk about his comments made in this ESPN movie, comments that aired in advance on an ESPN program. ESPN wins, and Jalen Rose wins, too, and in a way it’s the perfect coda for the Fab Five’s story.

An Advanced Statistical Analysis Of Jimmy Chitwood’s Basketball Performance In Hoosiers [David Roher on HSAC via Deadspin]

Hoosiers, for those of us born after its release, is based on a true story of what Indiana high school basketball was like in the 1950s when imagined by white people in the 1980s.

Why a nuclear reactor will never become a bomb [Alasdair Wilkins on io9]

A nuclear weapon is designed to release all its energy in one incredibly destructive blast, which means the material wants to be as densely packed with fissile material as possible, and the material should be packed into as homogeneous a sphere as possible. That’s absolutely nothing like the design of reactor cores, which is meant to produce a steady, controlled release of energy, and even the sort of energy buildup needed to produce a meltdown can’t ever attain the speed and intensity needed for an explosive nuclear energy release. The geometric arrangement of uranium-235 in a nuclear reactor is just fundamentally not conducive to the spherical arrangement needed for an explosive chain reaction, and the amount of non-fissile uranium-238 in reactor-grade uranium also stops any runaway reactions dead in their tracks.

Why we will probably never be able to predict the next big earthquake [Alasdair Wilkins on io9]

There are very few areas of science where experts are actually willing to make definitive statements that something is impossible. And yet that’s pretty much exactly where the field of earthquake prediction stands, at least ever since a 1996 paper in the journal Science in which four seismology experts published a paper simply entitled, “Earthquakes Cannot Be Predicted.”  That’s a remarkably absolute statement, and it’s worth understanding just why seismologists took such a strong stance.

How the Large Hadron Collider could create time-travesling Higgs particles [Discovery News via io9]

“One of the attractive things about this approach to time travel is that it avoids all the big paradoxes,” Weiler said. “Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example. However, if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future.”

Get your stout beer perfect by putting crap in it [The Economist via io9]

The fizziness of drinks is a result of tiny pieces of grit in the container. In a bar, or in most homes, there might not be a lot of dirt in a container, but there is cellulose. Cellulose are little strings of plant material from the rag or paper towel that the glass was wiped with. These pieces of cellulose come with small amounts of air, and that air provides the seeds for bubbles.

How Wearing a Glove Can Warp Your Sense of Good and Bad [Psychological Science via io9]

Casasanto had healthy university students slip bulky ski gloves on one of their hands, then tested them again. For right-handers who had the ski glove on their dominant hand, just twelve minutes of this impeded motor experience was enough to switch their unconscious associations to favoring the left side, as though they had been lefties their entire lives.

Could we be on the verge of inventing tractor beams? [Esther Inglis-Arkell on io9]

Even more impressively, a Bessel beam is able to reconstruct itself. Place an object in front of an ordinary laser and it will cut off that laser. Place it in front of a Bessel beam, and the beam will appear again on the other side.  It’s these qualities that allow Bessel beams to become tractor beams.

The worst statistics in the world [Cochrane Review via io9]

Statistics have a huge influence on a how effective people think drugs are – except, of course, it’s the wrong influence. For example, in a case where a drug lowers the risk of contracting a disease, there are four ways to describe its effects. According to the researchers, these are:

•Relative Risk Reduction (RRR): there’s a 50% reduction in risk
•Absolute Risk Reduction (ARR), the risk has fallen from 1% to 0.5%
•Number Needed to Treat (NNT), 200 people need to be treated to prevent one occurrence
•Natural Frequency, 1 out of 200 people will be helped by this drug

In a meta-analysis of 35 studies, the one description that both consumers and doctors most reliably understood was frequency, and the least accurately comprehended was the relative risk reduction, which usually lead to individuals thinking a drug was far more effective than it actually was.

UFC 128: A Hero Is Made And Dollars Are Born [Luke O’Brien on Deadspin]

Newark is as close as the UFC can get to New York City, but it’s still too far.

Whimsical Remains:

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The content on this site is provided as general information and entertainment only and should not be taken as investment advice. All site content shall not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security or financial product, or to participate in any particular trading or investment strategy. The ideas expressed on this site are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of firms affiliated with the author. The author may or may not have a position in any security referenced herein and may or may not seek to do business with companies mentioned via this website. Any action that you take as a result of information or analysis on this site is ultimately your responsibility. Consult your investment adviser before making any investment decisions.




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