Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Judiciary Could Plotz

Judge Alex Kozinski (he of video game fame, who should really battle Roger Ebert to the death, first-person-shooter style) and Euguene Volokh (he of the Volokh Conspiracy, where I found this nugget in the first place) teamed up, originally in 1993, to track the cockamamie megillah of balebatisheh yiden and goyim who use Yiddish in court opinions:
The first reported use of "chutzpah" was in 1972, in an opinion of the Georgia Court of Appeals. We’re happy to say it was quite apt: breaking into a sheriff’s office to steal guns qualifies as chutzpah in our book. The four times "chutzpah" was used in published opinions in 1973, the courts didn’t even bother to give a definition. And, as we said, it’s been used over two hundred times since 1980. During the same period, the word "temerity" (a woefully inadequate substitute) was used only about two hundred sixty times, and "unmitigated gall" a mere thirteen.

Other Yiddish words have had tougher sledding. Variations on "kibitz" have appeared in seventeen cases; consider especially, Zannone v. Polino, a 1956 New York case with a moral, where kibitzing at a card game turning into a knife fight and a lawsuit—boys and girls, take note! "Maven" has appeared in fourteen cases, "klutz" in three. (See also Klopp v. Wackenhut Corp. (1992), which quoted one of the parties as contending "it had no duty to design the security station ‘for klutzes and total idiots’"). Also appearing in other cases, federal and state: "schlock" (1974 and again in 1993), "no-goodnik" (1991), "tzimmes" (1971), "rachmones" (1992), "a writ of rachmones does not lie" (1998), and, "Better the majority should worry about its umfarshtendenish of Rule 404(2), not Stephens’ chutzpah" (1991).

. . . .

"Noodge" appears only once--but in a U.S. Supreme Court case. Incidentally, that opinion was written by Justice Scalia, who’s also the only U.S. Supreme Court Justice to use "chutzpah" (the word, not the behavioral trait) in an opinion. "Schlimazel" is nowhere to be seen, even when spelled as "schlimazl," "shlimazel," "shlimazl," "schlemazl," "shlemazel," "schlemazel," or "shlemazl." "Schmooze" appears three times, the first time in--you guessed it--a Georgia case. Unfortunately, the judiciary of that great state stumbled that time, both misusing the word and misspelling it as "schmoose." We concede that Webster’s permits this spelling, but what do they know from Yiddish?
Link. The naches that I'm feeling right now . . . 'cause these guys are like mishpoche to me. When I read this, I let out a geshreeyeh, and I'm running with my friend . . . running around like a vilde chaye. So we've got the schpilkes . . . and it's a mizvah, what these guys did, and I want to try to give that back to you. Okeinhoreh, I say, and God bless 'em.

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Schizophrenia and Genetic Superiority

Scientific American has a groundbreaking insight—L.L. Cool S. (Ladies Love Cool Schizophrenics):
Psychologist Daniel Nettle of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England and his colleagues recruited 425 British men and women through advertisements in a small town newsletter and various specialty lists for creative types. The researchers surveyed this group with questions designed to measure various schizophrenic behaviors, artistic output and sexual success, among other aspects of their personal history.

Results of that survey showed that people who displayed strong evidence of "unusual experiences" and "impulsive non-conformity"--two broad types of schizophrenic behavior--had more sexual partners than their peers and were more likely to be involved in artistic pursuits, either professionally or as a hobby. Those who professionally pursued the arts had the highest average number of partners--5.5--compared to just over four for the less creativestudy participants.

. . . .

In short, some of the traits associated with the debilitating mental illness can actually increase a person’s desirability. And sometimes produce major works of art as well.
Link. Of course, the researchers could have saved a lot of time and effort by just having their subjects take The Genghis Khan Genetic Fitness Test.

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Plate in My Head


This site is hours of fun for the entire family, and we all have Sugar, Mr. Poon? to thank for it.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Taste of Their Own Medicine

Slate's Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer explain how a pharmaceutical company that wanted to get its message of the evils of Canadian drugs out to the public through a third party didn't count on the author taking dramatic license:
The original plot of The Spivak Conspiracy, the book's working title for a time, revolved around an attack on the United States by villainous Croatian Muslims, whose weapon of choice is tainted drugs sold to Americans through Canadian pharmacies. It's against the law to reimport American drugs. But some drugs cost as little as one-tenth of their U.S. price when purchased in Canada, and a lot of Americans have been hopping over the border to fill their prescriptions or buying drugs from Canadian pharmacies via the Internet. Last year, they bought nearly $1 billion worth of imports, cutting into the drug companies' profits.

. . . .

[Lawyer and former Hollywood executive turned telecom entrepreneur Kenin] Spivak says that when [pharmaceutical company consultant Mark] Barondess killed the project, he collectively offered the co-writers $100,000 to keep the deal quiet. In exchange, according to a partial copy of the agreement we obtained, he asked the authors to sign an agreement promising not to disparage "Barondess, the pharmaceutical industry, or PhRMA" in any "public, private, or promotional statements or writings." Barondess doesn't dispute that he offered Spivak and [ghostwriter Julie] Chrystyn money and asked for a nondisparagement agreement. But he claims that he was reacting to the writers' threat to bad-mouth the industry unless they were paid.

In the end, Spivak and Chrystyn turned down the money, rewrote the book, and retitled it The Karasik Conspiracy. The thriller is due out next month. We've read part of an early draft, and we can't recommend it as great literature. But the book has an instructive new bad guy: A large pharmaceutical company, so far unnamed, has poisoned Canadian-sold drugs—and then tried to make it look like a bunch of terrorists were behind the plot.

Link. This is the kind of intrigue-filled life I plan on leading at some point.

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If You Don't Reform These Taxes We'll Kill This Dog


Philadelphia Forward has done what politicians have been trying to do for years, but failing: link tax reform to cute little puppies. Philadelphia Will Do is there.

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Image credits: Dog T-Shirt for sale on, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

University of Pornsylvania

Right here at Philadelphia's favorite Ivy (you mean it's not a public school?), the University of Pennsylvania, Andrew Rennekamp warns that our cerebral cortices are being subjected to the dishonor of school-sponsored porno:
All Penn students have access to porn. In fact, thanks to Quake, the University's new literary erotica magazine, porn is now both distributed and funded by the University.

. . . .

Few recognize that, like heroin, pornography is addictive and has negative consequences. Like a drug, pornography alters the user's perception of reality.

. . . .

In reality, [couples] would probably both be better off going into the bedroom ignorant than entering with a distorted and narrowly defined porno-view of sex. As I'm sure even the editors of Quake would agree, social impairment, desensitization and narrow-mindedness in the bedroom is not a recipe for coital fireworks.

Link. Oh yes there's Trouble, right here at UPenn, with a capital "T" and that rhymes with "P" and that stands for "Porn." Quake, erm, responds:
All in a moment I realize I wouldn’t mind if he grabbed me by the hair and forced me over his knee, or led me to my desk and bent me over. I’m thrilled at this idea, and ashamed that I’m thrilled, and ashamed that I’m thinking on it for so long. He’s prattled on for at least a minute now without my noticing. I flush a little and pray that he continues in his tradition of never noticing any change in others’ appearances, so I won’t have to explain myself. It took him a year to notice his sister had braces, I tell myself. You’re safe. I bite my bottom lip. What a weirdo I am. I’ve had mood swings before, but seriously. Going from vanilla to this.

Link to "Sideways" by Arielle Brouse. I'm not too clear on the distinction, if any, Rennekamp draws between pornography and erotica. As for the former, we can always lean back on Justice Potter Stewart's famous nondefinition: "I know it when I see it." Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964). Unfortunately, Stewart died in 1985, so now we lack such a barometer.

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The Thrill Is Gone

If you're part of a longterm monogamous couple trying to rekindle lost romance, you'll be disappointed to learn that each separate dying ember had wrought its ghost upon the floor since the one-year-in point:
The University of Pavia found a brain chemical was likely to be responsible for the first flush of love.

Researchers said raised levels of a protein was linked to feelings of euphoria and dependence experienced at the start of a relationship.

But after studying people in long and short relationships and single people, they found the levels receded in time.

. . . .

Of the 39 people who were still in the same new relationship after a year, the levels of NGF had been reduced to normal levels.

. . . .

Dr Lance Workman, head of psychology at Bath Spa University, said: "Research has suggested that romantic love fades after a few years and becomes companionate love and it seems certain biological factors play a role."

Link (via Sploid). Maybe the desire of old and busted couples to replevy their depleted pro(mance)tein is an explanation for the trendy new "managed monogamy."

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Encyclopedia Paris and the Case of the Illegal Flesh-Eating Monkey

Paris Hilton's illegal-in-California pet Kink "Don't call me a monkey" Ajou is not only biting and clawing her face, but also causing its owner to pull either a Heston or a Polanski. The Superficial (submitted by Mars) is on the scene.

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Australian Mystery Puma Is Just a Giant Housecat

Gippsland, Victoria, Australia has for years been the home to rumors of a Phantom Cat. In June, a hunter bagged what he claimed to be just such a cat—big, wild, perhaps a puma. The DNA test results are in, and it's just a really huge feral cat:
He estimated it was more than 1.5 metres [almost five feet] long and weighed about 35 kilograms [77 pounds].

A scientist with a 30-year interest in big cat research, Bernie Mace, sent the 600 millimetre long tail to Monash University for testing.

. . . .

"The animal was big enough to be a significant threat to perhaps some of the small wallabies and I think the knowledge that feral cats grow to this size in our wild regions has got to be taken seriously and understood from an ecological point of view," he said.

Link (via Fortean Times). Luckily, we now have an artist's rendering of the feline, which could devour a Tasmanian tiger whole:

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Image credits: Canadian Big Cat Email Rumor, available at Snopes, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Scientology Earthworks in New Mexico


Usually, when we read about giant mysterious circles carved into the earth, especially in New Mexico, we jump to the logical conclusion that aliens are to blame. Now, it appears that the Church of Scientology may be instead:

The church tried to persuade station KRQE not to air its report last week about the aerial signposts marking a Scientology compound that includes a huge vault "built into a mountainside," the station said on its Web site. The tunnel was constructed to protect the works of L. Ron Hubbard, the late science-fiction writer who founded the church in the 1950s.

The archiving project, which the church has acknowledged, includes engraving Hubbard's writings on stainless steel tablets and encasing them in titanium capsules. It is overseen by a Scientology corporation called the Church of Spiritual Technology. Based in Los Angeles, the corporation dispatched an official named Jane McNairn and an attorney to visit the TV station in an effort to squelch the story, KRQE news director Michelle Donaldson said.

The church offered a tour of the underground facility if KRQE would kill the piece, the station said in its newscast. Scientology also called KRQE's owner, Emmis Communications, and "sought the help of a powerful New Mexican lawmaker" to lobby against airing the piece, the station reported on its Web site.

Link (via BoingBoing). KRQE elaborates and publishes pictures such as the one above:

The Church of Spiritual Technology flew their administrator to Albuquerque from Los Angeles. She visited the station with an attorney in an attempt to stop the story from airing.

. . . .

They also sought the help of a powerful New Mexican lawmaker, who called News 13 to say the scientologists had been "good neighbors" in San Miguel County, and encouraged the station not to air the story.

Link. I managed to track down the circles on Google Maps:

It's just west of San Miguel County's seat, Las Vegas, New Mexico.

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Life's Little Annoyances


This new book by the New York Times' Ian Urbina, Life's Little Annoyances, is heartwarming and hilarious, especially the tale on pages 157-59 of a guy who attempted to get back at the Palo Alto parking authority by overpaying by two cents to force more paperwork:
Yet again, Decker wrote to the parking authority. Not only did he implore them to verify with the collections agency that he had already paid, but he also instructed the city to repay him for the postage and expenses he had incurred in dealing with the collections agency. "The bill for postage on that letter [to the collections agency] comes to a total of $0.34, as does the postage on this letter," he wrote. "In addition, I was charged $0.17 for the two copies I made at Kinko's. The expenses are outlined below: Postage for letter to PRS $0.34, Postage for this letter $0.34, Copies from Kinko's $0.17, Total $0.85."
Sounds familiar.

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The Best Best Word Book Ever


Flickr user Kokogiak has uploaded compare-contrast split shots (via Sivacracy) of pages from the 1963 and 1991 versions of Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. The biggest changes? More men doing housework and more women in more professions, even if that just means the addition of a yellow bow; more multiculturalism, as exemplified by the additional Chanukah-observing mice seen above; and more white-collar professionals. Althouse's eponymous author thinks this is politically-correct prescriptivism. My bet is that it's closer to descriptivism. Ann Bartow thinks it's descriptivism, but driven by the pursuit of consumption. I think it makes a cool Flickr set.

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Image credits: Best Word Book Ever - Chanukah, copyright kokogiak and the author and publisher of Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

We're celebating fifty years of women working outside the home.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bumbles Bounce


The classic Rankin/Bass stop-animation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer featured not only Santa but an initially fearsome but eventually loveable abominable snowman. According to at least one aficionado of mythical creatures, Jeffery Vallance of LA Weekly, those two characters might have originally been one:
When I first arrived in the Land of Hoarfrost, I was puzzled by the enigmatic heraldic symbol of Lapland, the wildman — a hairy, reddish, bestial character dressed in leaves, wielding a gnarled club. To me he looked like a typical prehistoric caveman or the Jolly Green Giant. I collected vague reports of an actual Swedish wildman (Snömannen), a yeti-like creature believed to inhabit the remote areas of the forest. One day when wandering through the wilds of Lapland, I beheld an astonishing thing: a colossal statue of the wildman painted bright red with a snowy white beard. From a distance it looked like Santa Claus. As I stood at the base, staring up at the Herculean statue, it hit me like a hunk of red-hot ejecta from Mount Hekla: Santa Claus, the wildman and Snömannen must spring from the same ancient source. I determined to find the connections between these enigmatic characters.

. . . .

Christmas is a festive holiday in Sàpmi, the Saami homeland. The Saami await a Yuletide visit from a giant, horned and hairy wildman named Stallo. In Lappish, stallo means "metal man." Sometimes Stallo is dressed in stylish, all-black clothes like an MIB (man in black) or in a metallic suit (as conspiracy theorists conjecture, a robot or ancient astronaut in a space suit). Most likely the metal suit was the chain-mail armor of the berserker Vikings. The amoral Stallo delights in macabre acts of genital mutilation of his innocent victims. (Stallo pokes his staff up the skirts of young girls.) On Christmas Eve, Stallo rides around in his sleigh looking for something to drink. Traditionally, the Saami drive a stake into the ground near a fresh-water supply so Stallo can tie up his sled while having a refreshing gulp of water. If Stallo cannot find anything to drink, he will bash in a child's skull, sucking out the brains and blood to satiate his thirst. The most dangerous night for Lapp children is Christmas Eve, when Stallo lurks about looking for naughty victims to cram into his sack.

Link (via Cryptomundo). If you could figure out how this all ties in with the Sedaris-Holland Sinterklaas legend, you'd have one heck of a master's thesis:

Unlike the jolly, obese American Santa, Saint Nicholas is painfully thin and dresses not unlike the pope, topping his robes with a tall hat resembling an embroidered tea cozy. The outfit, I was told, is a carryover from his former career, when he served as a bishop in Turkey.

One doesn't want to be too much of a cultural chauvinist, but this seemed completely wrong to me. For starters, Santa didn't use to do anything. He's not retired, and, more important, he has nothing to do with Turkey. The climate's all wrong, and people wouldn't appreciate him. When asked how he got from Turkey to the North Pole, Oscar told me with complete conviction that Saint Nicholas currently resides in Spain, which again is simply not true. While he could probably live wherever he wanted, Santa chose the North Pole specifically because it is harsh and isolated. No one can spy on him, and he doesn't have to worry about people coming to the door. Anyone can come to the door in Spain, and in that outfit, he'd most certainly be recognized. On top of that, aside from a few pleasantries, Santa doesn't speak Spanish. He knows enough to get by, but he's not fluent, and he certainly doesn't eat tapas.

While our Santa flies on a sled, Saint Nicholas arrives by boat and then transfers to a white horse. The event is televised, and great crowds gather at the waterfront to greet him. I'm not sure if there's a set date, but he generally docks in late November and spends a few weeks hanging out and asking people what they want.

"Is it just him alone?" I asked. "Or does he come with backup?"

Oscar's English was close to perfect, but he seemed thrown by a term normally reserved for police reinforcement.

"Helpers," I said. "Does he have any elves?"

Maybe I'm just overly sensitive, but I couldn't help but feel personally insulted when Oscar denounced the very idea as grotesque and unrealistic. "Elves," he said. "They're just so silly."

The words silly and unrealistic were redefined when I learned that Saint Nicholas travels with what was consistently described as "six to eight black men." I asked several Dutch people to narrow it down, but none of them could give me an exact number. It was always "six to eight," which seems strange, seeing as they've had hundreds of years to get a decent count.

Link ("Six to Eight Black Men" from Dress Your Family in Courderoy and Denim by David Sedaris, 2002).

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Image credits: Sinterklass with Funny Pope Hat Accompanied by Black Man, available at Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

The Cancer Conundrum

You'll have to pardon my crudeness and ignorance, but I just read that oral sex causes cancer and beer cures it. Isn't this sort of like nails poisoning you and hammers providing the antidote? What I'm driving at is, if cancer is caused and cured by two things that go hand in hand, did it ever really exist?

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Make Your Body Work for You!

Men's Health has "18 Tricks to Teach Your Body":
13. Thaw your brain!

Too much Chipwich too fast will freeze the brains of lesser men. As for you, press your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth, covering as much as you can. "Since the nerves in the roof of your mouth get extremely cold, your body thinks your brain is freezing, too," says Abo. "In compensating, it overheats, causing an ice-cream headache." The more pressure you apply to the roof of your mouth, the faster your headache will subside.

14. Prevent near-sightedness!

Poor distance vision is rarely caused by genetics, says Anne Barber, O.D., an optometrist in Tacoma, Washington. "It's usually caused by near-point stress." In other words, staring at your computer screen for too long. So flex your way to 20/20 vision. Every few hours during the day, close your eyes, tense your body, take a deep breath, and, after a few seconds, release your breath and muscles at the same time. Tightening and releasing muscles such as the biceps and glutes can trick involuntary muscles -- like the eyes -- into relaxing as well.
Link (via Boing Boing). This reminds me of cool experiments we did in science class in middle school (incidentally, had I already informed you of the magnitude of my nerdiness?) like this one:

Find a place (a hallway, perhaps) where the walls are the right distance apart and stand between them, arms outstretched to each side at shoulder level, with one palm flat on each wall. Push against the walls firmly for sixty seconds. When the time is up, step away from the walls with your arms still at shoulder level. Despite your best efforts, your arms will slowly descend to your sides. Ooo eee ooo.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Barry Bonds, Larry Ellison, and Great Moments in the History of Coincidence

Just over the right-field wall of San Francisco's SBC (nee PacBell) Park sits a pocket of the Bay christened McCovey Cove after former hometown longball-hitter Willie McCovey. This natural feature is what makes SBC Park one of the greatest in Major League Baseball; the seamless integration of stadium and nature calls to subconscious the kind of ballfields, crammed between train tracks and the harbor, you might have played in as a child. The best feature of the best part of the park is the group of fan-boaters who sit on the water, listening to the game on the radio and waiting for a homerun, preferrably hit by the hometown Giants, to come sailing out of the park, like marine versions of the ballhawks in lawnchairs on Waveland Avenue outside Wrigley.

Larry Ellison was one such boater. The retired firefighter's ritual was sitting in a kayak and waiting for one of those balls to come sailing over the wall and into the cove, where his tiny craft's lightness and quickness might give him an advantage in the race for the bobbing ball. That's where Ellison was on Monday, April 12, 2004. At the plate in SBC was Barry Bonds, the greatest homerun hitter of recent decades, who had previously hit dozens of balls into McCovey Cove in the four years since the park was opened, notably during his race for the single-season homerun mark in 2001. On this Monday, Bonds was chasing another mark--career homeruns--and coming up fast behind the man in third place, perhaps the greatest ballplayer of all time, former Giant Willie Mays, who happened to be Bonds's godfather. Sure enough, with two men on and two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Bonds swung at the pitch from Milwaukee's Matt Kinney and knocked Number 660--the Mays-tying ball--over the right-field wall and into McCovey Cove. And sure enough, Ellison was the first one to reach it.

Ellison knew that this was a meaningful ball. He knew the personal significance Number 660 held for Bonds, who grew interested in baseball as a boy in large part because of his godfather Mays, but he also knew that this particular ball would be one of the dozen or so most collectible balls in the history of baseball, able to sell at auction for six or perhaps seven figures. That's why it surprised everyone, except the people who really knew him, that Ellison so easily decided to return the ball to Bonds. Bonds and the Giants were grateful; in return they gave Ellison other memorabilia and six tickets behind homeplate so he and his family could enjoy the next game as VIPs. Ellison kept the memorabilia and five of the tickets, but turned down the seat for himself. He preferred his kayak in McCovey Cove.

The next night, Tuesday, April 13, 2004, that's where Ellison was when Bonds took a seventh-inning two-out pitch from the Brewers' Ben Ford and lobbed it over the right-field wall. Number 661 bobbed in the cold, salty water of McCovey Cove for a few seconds before it was fished out by the hand of Larry Ellison. With this homerun, Bonds had passed Mays and moved into number three on the career list behind Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth. After the game, Ellison approached Bonds to return the ball, but this time Bonds told him to keep it.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Random Movie Quote Thursday

You wanna hurt me?
Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better.
I'm an easy target.
Yeah, you're right,
I talk too much.
I also listen too much.
I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you,
but I don't like to hurt people's feelings.
Well, you think what you want about me.
I'm not changing.
I like--
I like me.
My wife likes me.
My customers like me.
'Cause I'm the real article.
What you see is what you get.

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The Complex Politics of the First Thanksgiving


Charles C. Mann has an excellent article in this month's Smithsonian magazine about the Patuxet native we've all come to know as Squanto, friendly helper when the Pilgrims were struggling to survive:
More than likely Tisquantum was not the name he was given at birth. In that part of the Northeast, tisquantum referred to rage, especially the rage of manitou, the world-suffusing spiritual power at the heart of coastal Indians’ religious beliefs. When Tisquantum approached the Pilgrims and identified himself by that sobriquet, it was as if he had stuck out his hand and
said, Hello, I’m the Wrath of God.
. . . .
Recognizing that the colonists would be unlikely to keep him around forever, Tisquantum decided to gather together the few Native survivors of Patuxet and reconstitute the old community at a site near Plymouth. More ambitious still, he hoped to use his influence on the English to make this new Patuxet the center of the Wampanoag confederation, thereby stripping the sachemship from Massasoit. To accomplish these goals, as Governor Bradford later recounted, he intended to play the Indians and English against each other.
. . . .
By fall the settlers’ situation was secure enough that they held a feast of thanksgiving. Massasoit showed up with “some ninety men,” Winslow later recalled, most of them with weapons. The Pilgrim militia responded by marching around and firing their guns in the air in a manner intended to convey menace. Gratified, both sides sat down, ate a lot of food and complained about the Narragansett. Ecce Thanksgiving.

Link. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone on what has turned into, oddly enough, America's most pious and communal national holiday.

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Image credits: The Treaty of Penn with the Indians, Benjamin West, America, 1771-72.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Great Advances in the Human Endeavor of Flight

15th Cent.: Leonardo da Vinci draws up plans for a heavier-than-air flying machine.

1903: The Wright Brothers successfully fly at Kittyhawk.

1927: Charles Lindbergh flies nonstop across the Atlantic.

1961: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man to fly into outer space.

2005: College students think they've engineered the perfect paper airplane. The Times of London is on the scene.

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Photo credits: Bathing Beauty Getting into Early Aircraft, Harry Mellon Rhoads, 1910, Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library.

Terrorists Armed with Hypnosis

Is it just me, or does this sound like a really bad idea for a James Bond film?

Amid fears that Indonesia's most wanted terrorist will strike again, some police have a new theory: Noordin Top is using hypnotism to elude capture and recruit more suicide bombers.

. . . .

"A village chief fell unconscious after kissing the hand of a man resembling Noordin," one policeman told the latest edition of Tempo news magazine.

The magazine said the chief's mind went blank "like he was hypnotised" after meeting a "tabib", or traditional healer, who looked like Noordin.

One officer said police believed even a skilled religious preacher would have difficulty finding so many followers willing to kill themselves for a cause.

Link (via Fortean Times). Well, they may have hypnosis, but at least we have waterboarding. Sorry, I mean waterboarding.

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Fun Quiz

Mull over the clues in this quote, and see if you can figure out its author:
I was walking along a path with two friends—the sun was setting—suddenly the sky turned blood red—I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence—there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city—my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety—and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.

When you have your answer, or you give up, click here.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Just One Word: Nanotech

Nanoguru (always a fun word to type) Clayton Brown of Nanobound explains why the nanotech industry's investment bubble won't burst suddenly like that of the dot coms:
In nanotech, there is more visibility, at least within a typical investment horizon. For instance, solar power will increase significantly, but we understand the power market and its limits. Similarly, for nano-enabled clothing, we know the size of the apparel market, for quantum-based computing, we know the size of the computer market, for nano-enabled drug delivery, we know the size of the drug market, and so forth... Nanotechnological innovations will disrupt many existing markets over time, rather than aggregating in a new and unfathomable market, at least in the foreseeable future.

Link. That goes, of course, except for space elevators. Who knows how large a market would develop for rides on those things? Dare I say . . . the sky's the limit.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

How the Grinch Appropriated Christmas


"Winter Wonderland" isn't specific enough for some people, and saying "Happy Holidays" is just plain rude:

Evangelical Christian pastor Jerry Falwell has a message for Americans when it comes to celebrating Christmas this year: You're either with us, or you're against us.

Falwell has put the power of his 24,000-member congregation behind the "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign," an effort led by the conservative legal organization Liberty Counsel. The group promises to file suit against anyone who spreads what it sees as misinformation about how Christmas can be celebrated in schools and public spaces.

The 8,000 members of the Christian Educators Association International will be the campaign's "eyes and ears" in the nation's public schools. They'll be reporting to 750 Liberty Counsel lawyers who are ready to pounce if, for example, a teacher is muzzled from leading the third-graders in "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

. . . .

On his show last week, Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly offered a list of . . . retailers that he says refuse to use "Merry Christmas" in their store advertising.

Link (via the Huffington Post). So I get to either support Jerry Falwell and Bill O'Reilly by celebrating Christmas on their terms or not celebrate it at all? I choose (c) none of the above.

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Image credits: Adoration of the Magi by Heironymous Bosch, Dutch c.1510.

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Old Taylor's store is 75 years old this week, which makes it pritneer the oldest establishment in town.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Recipe Friday

Previously on Recipe Friday . . .
TGR: If I could only come up with one good recipe.
[Sounds of screaming]
Lucy: Reverend, where is your recipe now?!

The following events take place between ten and eleven a.m.:

Hey, recipe gang! It’s been a while. Luckily, I’ve got a recipe today that is tasty, easy, and reminiscent of childhoods past.

Not Your Lunchlady’s Sloppy Joes

You’ll need the following tools:
  • Big skillet
  • Toaster (oven)
  • Stove
  • Spatula
  • Sharp, but not too big, knife
  • Cutting board
  • Can opener
And you’ll need the following food-type items:
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 - 7.5 oz can tomatoes, diced (you can get them bigger then diced, then use kitchen scissors to cut them up in the can if you want)
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • Chili power
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Quick cooking oatmeal (plain)
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Hamburger buns
Begin the preparations:
  1. Clean the onion and green pepper.
  2. Stand the green pepper on end on the cutting board. Insert your knife into the top, pushing all the way through to the bottom. Cut a circle around the stem and push or pull out the core and all its seedy whiteness. Compost that bugger.
  3. Slice the remaining hollow cylinder of green pepper in half, then into quarters. Then take one quarter and slice it into strips about 1/4” thick. Pinch all those strips together and slice them cross-ways so they end up little tiny pieces. Do the same with the other three quarters of the pepper.
  4. For the onion, slice off each nasty end and peel off all the papery covering. Sometimes it helps if you make a superficial cut in the covering, which gives you an edge to peel. Once you have the naked onion, cut it up into pieces about as small as the green pepper pieces, or as small as you can get without crying.
Now, you have to look in your heart and ask yourself a question: is the ground beef I am going to use frozen?
  • If you’re using non-frozen ground beef, throw it in the skillet along with the green pepper and onion pieces. Then brown it over medium heat. What does browning mean? We’ll get there in a second.
  • If you’re using frozen ground beef, it’s going to take a little while to brown it, so put it in the skillet but leave the onions and green peppers out until you are about halfway done.
  • Browning ground beef basically means breaking it up into tiny pieces with the spatula while you are cooking it. You know you’re done browning when the meat is, oddly enough, brown. At that point, you can say to yourself, Well done, Brownie, you’re doing a great job.
  • If the meat is a frozen hunk when you start, you can still brown it, but it takes a little longer. Put it in the skillet until one side starts sizzling. Then flip it over and use the spatula to scrape off the partially cooked meat on that side—basically, scrape off whatever you can. By the time you are done, it should be just about time to flip it back over and do the same to the other side. Keep doing this until there is no frozen meat left and it all just breaks up into tiny pieces for you. But don’t forget to add the onions and peppers halfway through.
Now what?
Once you’ve got the ground beef all browned, and the onions and peppers have been in there a little while and it’s all simmering, you’ll want to ask yourself, how much grease is in that pan? If it looks like a lot, you’ll have to drain it out. This is a complicated maneuver which involves putting a lid on the pan, lifting the pan by the handle, then holding it sideways over a can or bowl or something with one hand on the lid handle, so that grease can run out the bottom into the can, but you don’t let any of the food fall out. If you used lean enough ground beef in the first place, you probably don’t have to drain it at all.

Put it back uncovered on the burner, if you took it off, and then add the following:
  • 7.5 ounces of diced canned tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oatmeal
  • Some Tabasco sauce (your call)
Mix it all up with your spatula, and then reduce the heat to low-medium. This is one of those “it’ll be done when it is done” sort of things—you have to just watch it, stirring it up occasionally, and then eventually decide, okay, it’s time to eat this. Maybe it’ll take five minutes, maybe eight, maybe twelve: I don’t know. You can’t really mess it up.

Toast your buns in the toaster oven. No, your hamburger buns. When they are done toasting, and your meat is done roasting, and you are nearly done boasting, stick the buns on a plate, slap some sloppy joe on there, and eat away. Goes great with Jell-O.

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Adapted from the sloppy joe recipe in The New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.

But Where Are the Hendersons?

Mark Nelson has what he claims to believe is Bigfoot footage from Sonoma County earlier this month. You can see video and stills here. I found it on Cryptomundo, which is where I also found this comment from a person called squatchworks:
Not a bad video, of course it would be nice to see it from begining to end. One thing that seems odd to me is the arm swing, why does everyone assume a bigfoot makes such big swings with its arms. Freeman has a set of photos that show the arms being flung like in this video. Also the arm length seems human just from looking at second half of the video where we see the bigfoot? moving to the right. Also the beginning of the clip seems like the camera man is waiting for a cue but that could just be due to the cut to make the mpeg. Very interesting but we have to remember that there is a contest running , can’t remember who is doing but i think its a fantasy card game, they are looking for the best hoaxed monster video.

Well, if it is a hoax, I don't think it will win that contest, simply because it's so boring.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Random Movie Quote Thursday

I used to be able to name
every nut that there was.
And it used to drive my mother crazy,
because she used to say,
"Harlan Pepper,
if you don't stop naming nuts,"
and the joke was that we lived in Pine Nut,
and I think that's what put it
in my mind at that point.
So she would hear me in the other room,
and she'd just start yelling.
I'd say,
Cashew nut.
Macadamia nut."
That was the one that would send her into going crazy.
She'd say,
"Would you stop naming nuts!"
And Hubert used to be able to make the sound,
he couldn't talk,
but he'd go "rrrawr rrawr"
and that sounded like "Macadamia nut."
Pine nut,
which is a nut,
but it's also the name of a town.
Pistachio nut.
Red pistachio nut.
Natural, all natural white pistachio nut.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Angry Identity

Have you been the victim of identity theft? I ask only because federal law mandates that every news story that mentions the subject begins with those precise words. I'd prefer they be punctuated with an interrobang, the official punctuation mark of SuedO Apmuza. Interrobang?! Nevertheless, identity theft is often mischaracterized in such reports, Brian Bergstein contends:
[L]awmakers and companies might be misdirecting their anti-fraud energies. Overly fearful consumers could be unecessarily avoiding doing business on the Web.

Too often overlooked, many analysts argue, are savvy "synthetic'' fraud schemes that frequently don't directly victimize individual consumers. In such schemes, criminals invent fictitious identities and use them to ring up phony charges. By some estimates, this accounts for three-quarters of the money stolen by identity crooks.

Link (submitted by Mars). News of identity theft might bring up all sorts of negative feelings, but remember, it's always best to respond with blinding rage:
Anger is good for you, as long as you keep it below a boil, according to new psychology research based on face reading.

People who respond to stressful situations with short-term anger or indignation have a sense of control and optimism that lacks in those who respond with fear.

"These are the most exciting data I've ever collected," Carnegie Mellon psychologist Jennifer Lerner told a gathering of science writers here last month.

Link (also submitted by Mars). Lerner then toppled the podium before running out of the room cursing and pounding her fists.

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Image credits: Fear-Love "Lifeline" Shirt, available at Groovy Movie Stuff, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

The Maine Creature

Some unidentified animal terrorized the dogs of central Maine last summer, tearing up their throats:
[D]ozens of people say they have recently seen or heard an unidentifiable creature in area woods. It began in mid-August when a Wales man reported that an unknown animal crept out of the woods behind his house and mauled his Doberman pinscher.
The animal that killed Duchess the Doberman was never identified.
Since that attack, people from Wales, Litchfield, Sabattus, Greene, Turner, Lewiston and Auburn have come forward to speak of a mystery creature.

Link. Now, over a year later, the creature is back:
A dog found with a 10-inch gash across its throat in Greene on Monday may have been attacked by a wild animal, veterinary officials said Tuesday.

. . . .

In addition to the gash around the animal's neck, the dog's left front leg appeared to have been chewed on, McCloskey said. There was no indication that it was a person that caused the wounds.

. . . .

"We always go with the most logical answer. In this case, the most logical would be a badger or a coyote," [cryptozoologist Loren] Coleman said. "If I were investigating this, I would start asking in a widening circle whether people in that area have seen damage to livestock. If there are reports of injury to livestock, I'd start looking at the cats."

It is Coleman's nature never to rule out more fantastic possibilities. A big part of his job is to track down reports that may be linked to creatures that so far are only rumored to exist. Bigfoot, for instance. "In the East, we actually see many Bigfoot attacks on dogs," Coleman said. "They absolutely despise dogs."

Link (via Cryptomundo) (registration required, but use BugMeNot). Whatever it is, we should catch it, learn from it, and make it mate with the Glyndon Beast. Then make the offspring mate with the Dover Demon.

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Love and Marriage


A friend of SuedO Apmuza brought to my attention the fallacy of the oft-quoted statistic that states that half of all marriages end in divorce. Egged on, oddly enough, by Mrs. GR, I did a little digging and came up with the facts:
The figure is based on a simple - and flawed - calculation: the annual marriage rate per 1,000 people compared with the annual divorce rate. In 2003, for example, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 7.5 marriages per 1,000 people and 3.8 divorces, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

But researchers say that this is misleading because the people who are divorcing in any given year are not the same as those who are marrying, and that the statistic is virtually useless in understanding divorce rates. In fact, they say, studies find that the divorce rate in the United States has never reached one in every two marriages, and new research suggests that, with rates now declining, it probably never will.

. . . .

Researchers say that the small drop in the overall divorce rate is caused by a steep decline in the rate among college graduates. As a result, a "divorce divide" has opened up between those with and without college degrees, said Dr. Steven P. Martin, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland.

. . . .

Women without undergraduate degrees have remained at about the same rate, their risk of divorce or separation within the first 10 years of marriage hovering at around 35 percent. But for college graduates, the divorce rate in the first 10 years of marriage has plummeted to just over 16 percent of those married between 1990 and 1994 from 27 percent of those married between 1975 and 1979.

Link. I wonder if those college graduates are practictioners of the new monogamy:
“What’s new here is not that couples are being nonmonogamous,” says Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and author of Marriage: A History. “It’s that couples are negotiating the terms of their monogamy.” Of course, such negotiations can be as exhausting as cheating ever was; just ask anyone who’s tried to plan a “nontraditional” wedding. There’s something to be said for the well-worn path—it’s like a built-in referee. Sure, you might not agree with his calls, but at least he always has one.

. . . .

[T]here is absolutely nothing skeevy about Siege and Katie. They’re smart, funny, polite, hip, attractive, self-deprecating, and affectionate with one another. And that’s the most disconcerting thing of all. Call us snobs, but it’s easy to dismiss suburban swingers who show up at orgies with a Tupperware container or Bay Area hippies missing the irony gene. But when a couple like Siege and Katie decry strict monogamy? It makes you wonder, How old-fashioned, socially programmed, and ass-backward am I?

These two can certainly teach most couples a thing or two about communication: They finish each other’s sentences and tease one another gently about the few times they’ve failed to follow their own simple yet strict rules. (1) The Vampire Rule: If they’re both in the same city, they have to make it back by dawn. (2) The Three-Strikes Rule: All pinch hitters must be interested in befriending both Siege and Katie (and vice versa); however, up to three solo dates are acceptable to warm someone up. (3) The Postcards Rule: If they’re seeing someone else on their own, they must bring home photographic evidence. (4) The Woman-Only Rule: Katie is bisexual, Siege is not—thus, for pinch hitters to meet rule No. 2, they must be female. (5) The Veto Rule: for Katie’s benefit, allowing her to rule out potential home-wreckers. (6) The Safety Rule: What some couples call “body-fluid monogamy,” i.e., always use condoms when having sex with a third . . . or a fourth . . . or a fifth . . .

Link. Because if they are, what's the point in getting divorced anyway?

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Image credits: Venus and Adonis by Jacob Adriaensz Backer, c. 1650.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Science Redefined (in Kansas)

The Kansas State Board of Education, which has always been ahead of its time, has now redefined the term "science." It used to mean this:
[T]he human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us.

But now it means this:
[A] systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.

And here's what people think about it:
Adrian Melott, a physics professor at the University of Kansas who has long been fighting Darwin's opponents, said, "The only reason to take out 'natural explanations' is if you want to open the door to supernatural explanations."

Gerald Holton, a professor of the history of science at Harvard, said removing those two words and the framework they set means "anything goes."

Link (submitted by Mrs. TGR). All I have to say is, Citizens of Kansas: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for you have turned away from His Noodly Appendage, and don't ask for His help because He might not be there. Ramen.

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From Cyclopean Sheep to Cancer Cure in Three Easy Steps

Sometimes, when you are looking for a cure for cancer, you have to start in the most obvious places--one-eyed sheep and spiny fruit flies:
Idaho sheep ranchers couldn't figure out why, in the decade after World War II, a random batch of their lambs were being born with strange birth defects. The creatures had underdeveloped brains and a single eye planted, cyclopslike, in the middle of their foreheads. In 1957 they called in scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate.

The scientists worked for 11 years to solve the mystery. One of them, Lynn James, lived with the sheep for three summers before discovering the culprit:corn lilies. When the animals moved to higher ground during droughts, they snacked on the flowers. The lilies, it turned out, contained a poison, later dubbed cyclopamine, that stunted developing lamb embryos. The mothers remained unharmed.

. . . .

But now cancer researchers have improbably seized on the obscure plant chemical as the blueprint for a half-dozen promising tumor-fighters. Cyclopamine, it turns out, blocks the function of a gene called Sonic hedgehog that is essential for embryonic development but also plays a lead role in causing deadly cancers of the pancreas, skin, prostate and esophagus.

Link (via The Anomalist). To find out why there is a gene called Sonic Hedgehog and what role spiny fruit flies play in all this, read on.

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Image credits: Escape from Cyclops by
Perrin & Seymour, from Eight Books of Homer's Odyssey (1897), borrowed from for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Tin Foil Helmets Ineffective Against Government


Those crazy cats at MIT have had yet another breakthrough, this time studying the effectiveness of the standard safetywear of paranoid borderline-schizophrenics everywhere, the foil helmet:


The helmets amplify frequency bands that coincide with those allocated to the US government between 1.2 Ghz and 1.4 Ghz. According to the FCC, [t]hese bands are supposedly reserved for ''radio location'' (ie, GPS), and other communications with satellites (see, for example, [3]). The 2.6 Ghz band coincides with mobile phone technology. Though not affiliated by government, these bands are at the hands of multinational corporations.

It requires no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the current helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC. We hope this report will encourage the paranoid community to develop improved helmet designs to avoid falling prey to these shortcomings.

Link. Great, now what am I supposed to do?

Milhouse: [steps up to blackboard] Ahem. OK, here's what we've got: the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people . . .
Bart: Thank you.
Milhouse: . . . under the supervision of the reverse vampires . . .
Lisa: [sighs]
Milhouse: . . . are forcing our parents to go to bed early in a fiendish plot to eliminate the meal of dinner. [sotto voce] We're through the looking glass here, people.

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Photo credits: From On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Mmm, That's Great Bass!


Leave it to the folks at Jones Soda Co. to offer salmon-flavored soda. Personally, I'm not a fan of the seafood generally, but if I were, I don't think I'd like it in soft drink form.

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Photo credits: Bass-o-matic 76 from Saturday Night Live, copyright 1976 by NBC studios, borrowed from winostuff for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Finally, a More Prehistoric Way to Hunt Deer

Tired of hunting with spears, bows, and trebuchets? So is the Pennsylvania Atlatl Society, and they're doing something about it:
[Chuck] Butorajac, who lives in Ligonier, is a member of the Pennsylvania Atlatl Society, which is trying to make it legal to hunt deer and perhaps other species in Pennsylvania with an atlatl, a device that anthropologists say dates back almost 20,000 years.

. . . .

An atlatl is essentially a stick-like tool, about two feet long, with a small hook on one end. That hook fits into the back of a seven- or eight-foot-long spear -- or dart, as some refer to it -- tipped with a stone or metal broadhead.

Two things make the atlatl so effective as a hunting tool, said Doug Leeth of Lawndale, N.C., a spokesman for the International Atlatl Society. One is that it serves as an extension of the hunter's arm, allowing him to throw the spear with more power. The other is the weight of the spear.

. . . .

"This is going to be bigger than the pet rock, the hula hoop, whatever," Butorajac agreed. "If we can get the OK to hunt with these, this is going to be big."

Link. What that last bit means is, essentially, every kid is going to want one. But they'll shoot their eye out.

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Image credits: Copyright Ken M. Brown, 1986, available at The Graham-Applegate Rancheria, Texas Beyond History, borrowed for news reporting and comment purposes.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Robble Robble


If you had to abandon your trajectory in life as an ordinary citizen and suddenly become a bank robber, what would your modus operandi be? In you're in Northern Virginia, you might try the uninterupted-conversation tactic:

In the most recent heist, the woman, with sunglasses casually pushed up on her dark hair and a mobile phone at her ear, walked up to a bank teller in Ashburn, Virginia, on November 4 and opened her purse to show a handgun and a note demanding cash, said Loudoun County sheriff's spokesman Kraig Troxell.

"During the entire sequence, she was on her cell phone," Troxell said by telephone. "When we compared it with other robberies that have occurred in the area, we determined she was involved in three other robberies. ... In those cases, she was also on the cell phone."

. . . .

"With the use of the cell phone, was she just trying to act nonchalant, not drawing any attention to herself? Was there anyone even on the other line? Was there an accomplice? Was she just talking to someone on the phone who may not have been aware of what she was doing, just to help her through the crime?"

Link. Alternatively, you might end up in Canada using the old easy-bake trick:

The suspect waits his turn in line and, once at the teller, quietly makes his intentions known on a recipe card. He has never shown a gun.

. . . .

Police declined to say how much money the man, dubbed the "Recipe Card Bandit" by media, has stolen in the robberies.

The Canadian Bankers Association offered a reward of C$10,000 for information leading to an arrest, a move only used twice in the past six years.

Link. That last figure translates to $82.24 in American dollars.

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Image credits: Forest Scene with Robbery, David Vinckboons, Antwerp, early 17th Century.

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

When it's not those darn local kids, it's those darn kids from New York City.

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What Does the U.S. Military Want with Canada's Garage Doors?

Earlier this month, Ottawa was affected by a mysterious force that was--oh evil of evils--preventing the city from operating its garage doors:
Hundreds of automatic garage doors in the Ottawa area have suddenly and strangely stopped working, due to a powerful radio signal that appears to be interfering with their remote controls.

The phenomenon began suddenly last weekend, J.P. Cleroux of Ram Overhead Door Systems said, adding that a strong signal was blocking garage door openers.

"It's affects a 25-mile radius. That's huge," said Cleroux.

Link. But then, leaving questions behind, most notably the one posed in the title of this post, the signal fanished like a New York maple syrup cloud:
The powerful radio signal causing the problem stopped transmitting on Thursday afternoon, around the time CBC News contacted the U.S. Embassy to ask if it knew anything about it.

The embassy categorically denies that it had anything to do with it.

The signal was being transmitted at 390 megahertz, a U.S. military frequency used by the Pentagon's new Land Mobile Radio System. The same frequency is used by garage doors openers, which started to malfunction around the city about almost two weeks ago. A similar problem has popped up around military bases in the States.

Link. It's that dastardly evil Dr. Bondvillain!

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Did you know . . .

. . . when you are injured in an auto accident or on the job, the government limits the time you have to file suit?

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency out of Women Employees


You know, I've always wondered if there were any no-nonsense, practical considerations I should take into account when I am forced to deal with women in the workplace:
1. If you can get them, pick young married women. They have these advantages, according to the reports of western companies: they usually have more of a sense of responsibility than do their unmarried sisters; they're less likely to be flirtatious; as a rule, they need the work or they wouldn't be doing it — maybe a sick husband or one who's in the army; they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Most transportation companies have found that older women who have never contacted the public, have a hard time adapting themselves, are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It's always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.

3. While there are exceptions, of course, to this rule, general experience indicates that "husky" girls — those who are just a little on the heavy side — are likely to be more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

Link. These tips actually appeared in a 1943 issue of Mass Transportation magazine. Of course they seem generally out-dated now; we now know, for instance, that skinny girls are just as efficient as husky girls, and that's important to keep in mind when interviewing.

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