Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lake Monster Champ Caught on Tape?

Brian

Deep, cold lakes across the world are said to conceal mysterious lake monsters, from Loch Ness's Nessie to Okanagan's Ogopogo. The United States has one, too, and in true competitive spirit the creature said to inhabit Lake Champlain, the long stretch of freshwater that divides New York from Vermont, is named Champ. We have perhaps the most convincing evidence of Champ yet now that, as ABC News eloquently puts it, "two respected, not crazy fishermen have videotaped . . . something."
"It was as big around as my thigh," said fisherman Peter Bodette. "I'm 100 percent sure of what we saw. I'm not 100 percent sure of what it was."

"It made my hair stand on end at the time," said fisherman Dick Affolter. "It just didn't fit anything — any creature I had seen."

Affolter said they never saw the entire body.

"What we saw always stayed at the surface and parts of it would come above the water, like the back of the nose or the head," he said.

Link (via Fortean Times). The leading theory is that the creature is a sturgeon, but Bodette and Affolter didn't see fins. "A sturgeon without fins? That's like a yellow perch (Perca flavescens) without six to eight dark vertical bands!"

Indexed by tags cryptozoology, lake, monster, Champlain, Champ, video, fishermen, fishing, sturgeon, yellow, Peter Bodette, Dick Affolter, Vermont, New York.

A Quiet Moment with Jack Bauer

Brian







"Tell me where the bomb is or I will kill your son."








Indexed by tags torture, 24, Jack Bauer.

Ode-sel

Brian
The Ford product gave me angina
A failure from Europe to China
Among Edsel's vices
Were extravagant prices
And a grill that looked like a vagina

Indexed by tags poetry, limerick, auto, car, Ford, Edsel, grill, vagina.

Evidence Rocks!

Brian
Probably the only people who will appreciate this are law students. Or anyone who liked Schoolhouse Rock. Or fans of low production value. Or Legos. Anyway, here goes:



(via Will Work for Favorable Dicta) (submitted by Law Chic Bec).

Indexed by tags: law, hearsay, exceptions, video, movie, music, Schoolhouse Rock, song, legos, toys.
Video credits: Hearsay Exception, courtesy YouTube, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Neadertals and Homo Sapiens: A Brief Moment In Time

The Grave Digger

What is happening with this picture?

Last week in the journal Nature, a new radiocarbon study has demonstrated that the H. sapiens and Neandertals spent less time together than was previously believed.

The old radiocarbon calculation is now known to be off by as much as several thousand years, the new research shows. That means that modern Homo sapiens barged into Europe 46,000 years ago, 3,000 years earlier than once estimated. But the radiocarbon dating under the new calculation also shows that their takeover of the continent was more rapid, their coexistence with the native Neanderthals much briefer.
[...]
That doesn't mean they didn't interbreed with the Neanderthals.

Link. Katerina Harvati of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, points out that a shorter coexistence would have decreased the time available for cultural or genetic exchange.

"Since these two species may have been able to interbreed, as many closely related mammal species can," Dr. Harvati said, "a restricted coexistence interval may be easier to reconcile with the observed lack of Neanderthal genetic contribution to the modern human gene pool and with the paucity of convincing fossil evidence for hybridization."

Just last year, the New York Times reported on a symposium held at NYU, 'Neanderthals Revisited: New Approaches and Perspectives.', in February 2005.

A strong consensus was emerging, they agreed, that the now-extinct Neanderthals were a distinct evolutionary entity from modern humans, presumably a different species. They were archaic members of the human family, robust with heavy brow ridges and forward-projecting faces, who lived in Europe and western Asia from at least 250,000 years ago until they vanished from the fossil record about 28,000 years ago.

The debate about Neandertals and H. sapiens interbreeding is ongoing. Much of the genetic testing that has been executed thus far has been limited to mitochondrial DNA, which is "is typically passed on only from the mother during sexual reproduction." Here we have a discussion of 2004 findings on mtDNA.

The approach taken recently by Serre et al [2004] avoided this problem by searching only for the presence of Neandertal mtDNA sequences in both early modern human and Neandertal fossils, while ignoring modern human sequences because they are potentially contaminants. Four additional Neandertal specimens tested positive, but Neandertal sequences could not be detected in five early modern human fossils with biochemical preservation consistent with DNA survival from the Czech Republic and France. This appears to confirm that sequences characteristic to Neandertal remains were not widespread in early modern humans.
[...]
In summary: Mitochondrial DNA sequences recovered from eight Neandertal specimens cannot be detected in either early fossil Europeans or in modern populations. This indicates that if Neandertals made any genetic contribution at all to modern humans, it must have been limited, though the extent of the contribution cannot be resolved at present.

What I think is really fascinating about the picture above is a subtle statement - if H. sapien ladies were interested in Neandertal men, this would explain the discrepancy in the findings.

Then again, the artist may just have been insecure about portraying a Neandertal lady's bottom. Then again, the Neandertal man is clothed. Tell me - do you think the art is accidental or intentional? Was David Danz trying to say something about interbreeding, or is it a more cultural anthropological statement about nudity and women?

Indexed by tags Neanderthal, Neandertal, hybrid, sex, radiocarbon dating, DNA, intelligence, interbreed.
Image credits: Untitled, David Danz, courtesy New York Times, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Man Forces Sex Contract on His Wife

Brian
Travis Frey, an Iowa man with serious issues, was charged with first-degree assault and kidnapping after he tied his wife to the bed with a rope because she took their daughters to church. Stranger still is the contract of sexual and behavioral domination he asked her to sign. Here is the section from the four-page contract that covers "sleepwear and sleeping":
When we are at home, and alone as a family, you will be naked within 20 minutes of the kids being in bed, and then sleep naked, unless instructed otherwise. If I am not home when the kids go to bed you are still to be naked before I return home. The only exception will be during your menstrual cycle.

When we are not at home, or not alone as a family, you will try to ensure that we sleep together. If we do sleep together you will sleep naked. I will make exceptions for sleepwear, but only if you do not ask for them. Exception will be given based on how well you follow this contract in its entirety. If we do not sleep together your sleepwear must conform to the standards for exceptions.

When exceptions are given the following is acceptable and is your choice: T-shirts, pajama tops, or gowns as long as the over-all length is not past your knees. Panties (any type) can be worn also. Absolutely no bottoms, shorts, pajama pants, or full gowns can be worn.

When we are in bed together I can cuddle, spoon, hold or touch you in any way, as long as it is does [sic] not excessively disruptive to your sleep.
Link (contains some provisions that are more explicit than the one reprinted above). In case I had forgotten why I went to law school, this Frey guy shows up to remind me. He's clearly never heard of The Case of Mary Clark.

Indexed by tags crime, sex, marriage, contract, Travis Frey, Iowa, kidnapping, sleepwear.
Image credits: The Arnolfini Marriage, Jan Van Eyck, Netherlands 1434, courtesy iBiblio.com.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Odd Couples Cropping Up

The Grave Digger
It seems that these days, you can find friendship in the most unlikely places.

A baby hippo, "Owen", recently rescued after floods in Kenya has befriended a 100-year-old tortoise in Kenya. After Owen was found alone and dehydrated near the Indian Ocean, he was placed in an enclosure at a wildlife sanctuary and befriended a male tortoise of a similar color.

According to a park official, they sleep together, eat together and "have become inseparable".

"Since Owen arrived on the 27 December, the tortoise behaves like a mother to it," Haller Park tourism manager Pauline Kimoti told the BBC News website.

"The hippo follows the tortoise around and licks his face," she said.

The tortoise is named Mzee, which is Swahili for old man.
Link. The sanctuary plans eventually to get the help of the Kenya Wildlife Service to place Owen with Cleo, a lonely female hippo in a separate enclosure.

A hippo and a tortoise, you say? What could possibly be more unlikely? Perhaps... a hog and an antelope?

Shortly after his mate went to hog heaven, Willy the Red River porcine spied a new mud-pen pal in what officials are calling one of the oddest pairings at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Willy is a 10-year-old, 187-pound hog and his new mate is a 16-year-old bongo named Nicole, the largest member of the forest antelope family. The couple shares a muddy zoo exhibit where they nap and cuddle together—even nuzzling snout to nose.

"It's adorable. Wherever that bongo is, the hog is usually nearby," zoo spokesman Jason Jacobs said.

Link. Willy turned to Nicole for companionship shortly after his previous mate died of cancer.

Nicole wasn't interested in Willy at first, but the persistent pig eventually won her over. They now share breakfast, groom each other and take walks together. Nicole leads, and Willy trails closely behind.

"I think he definitely likes her more than she likes him," Holland said.

However, much like Kenya, the Los Angeles zoo officials intend to eventually separate the two, bringing in another bongo to the zoo for Nicole. Willy could be moved to another part of the zoo with other hogs.

With parents of twins, triplets, and quadruplets fighting the school systems to keep their children together, it seems there should be more effort to prevent the same separation anxiety in animals. I, for one, suggest we pull the animals out of public zoos and either put them in Catholic Zoo or we homezoo them. Apu and Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon, parents to octuplets, are a politically active couple, often speaking out against traditional zooish upbringings.

Stanford & Penn Law Profs among "101 Most Dangerous"

Brian
Joel Beinin, a Stanford history professor, explains that
[t]he modern social histories of Egypt, Israel and Palestine have been my principal research areas. However, my interests are broad and eclectic. My intellectual profile has been formed by engagement with political economy, cultural studies, and comparative empire studies.
Regina Austin, a Penn Law professor,
is a leading authority on economic discrimination and minority legal feminism. Her work on the overlapping burdens of race, gender, and class oppression, widely recognized for its insight and creativity, has been widely reprinted.
Both are really just as bad as serial killers and Mussolini. Maybe worse. In fact, they are among David Horowitz's 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, and since the pen is mightier than the sword, that makes them, like, warlords or something. Austin, of course, "call[s] on African-Americans to engage in law-breaking," and Beinin, naturally, "refers to jihadist suicide bombers as 'martyrs' and denounces America on Al-Jazeera TV." In their spare time they slaughter babies and listen to Eminem. It's honestly as if Horowitz entered professors' names into a random conservative insult generator. When Sean Hannity distilled Horowitz's argument down to a few sentences, luckily, we had Penn State literature prof Michael Berube to explain exactly what makes these folks so dangerous:
Kids are indoctrinated. They’re a captive audience.

The process all starts with the captivity, really. As you know, Sean, in America, students are assigned to their universities by the Federal Education and Re-education Committee. Once they arrive on campus, they are subjected to a rigorous system of mandatory coursework. We like to call it “basic training,” and let me tell you, the foreign language requirements are especially punitive. Now, the FERC records tell of a student who tried, in 1988, to “choose” an “elective” course at a Big Ten university. That student was sentenced to twenty years in the Nevada silver mines, where she works today. And I don’t think I have to tell you what happens to undergraduates who violate curfew!
Link.

Indexed by tags education, academia, professors, dangerous, Regina Austin, Joel Beinin, Michael Berube, David Horowitz.

Your Words in Einstein's Chalk

Brian
Link (via BoingBoing).

Indexed by tags Internet, tools, fun, Einstein, picture, words.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Deep Thoughts from the Panasonic DVD-S27

Brian
You cannot do that with this disc at this time.
You can do that with this disc some other time.
You can do that with another disc at this time.
You can even do other things with this disc at this time.
But you cannot do that with this disc at this time.

Indexed by tags technology, dvd, disc, warning.

This Day in Dakota Fanning History

Brian
Feb. 23, 1994: Dakota Fanning born. The very same day, McDonald's announced that all its corporate-owned restaurants would go smoke-free. You do the math.

Indexed by tags history, Dakota Fanning.

Woman Figure Skater Wears Pants on Ice

Brian
In Tuesday night's preliminary skate, Russian gold-hopeful Irina Slutskaya broke new ground by rolling down her sleeves:
Also good is the new rule that allows female skaters to wear pants. Slutskaya wore a sequined jumpsuit, basically the kind of thing male figure skaters tend to wear. She looked powerful, muscular, dynamic.

The copious tape of Michelle Kwan practicing last week showed the world how vigorous and athletic female figure skaters look when they wear sports gear, a stark contrast to the weirdly sexualized baby dolls their traditional tiny-but-chaste costumes turn them into.

Slutskaya's outfit wasn't sports gear, but it was a step in the right direction. Next to her, Cohen looked faintly ridiculous in her get-up, with its vast expanses of flesh-colored nylon.
Link. Slate's Meghan O'Rourke was also wowed by the power of the longjohns:
[T]he hero of the night may have been the top Russian: the 27-year-old dynamo Irina Slutskaya. Perhaps to stave off the inevitable jokes about her name, Slutskaya elected to be the first female figure skater in the Olympics to wear pants rather than the traditional flippy skirt. (The rules were changed earlier this year. How permissive figure skating has become!) Whatever the case, she skated with the power of a rocket booster, and, in her star-spangled catsuit, seemed ready to propel herself right into the sky.
Link. Despite my admiration for the traditional flippy skirt (I'm apparently one of the few who thought Sasha Cohen's Romawear was attractive, and Mrs. GR permits me to say that Kimmie Meissner, despite being only sixteen and rather resembling my sister-in-law, looked "cute"), I certainly understand that the old "I see London, I see France" routine can become demeaning over time.

Indexed by tags sports, olympics, figure, women, pants, Irina Slutskaya, Sasha Cohen, Kimmie Meissner.
Image credits: "Slutskaya must come from behind to take gold," courtesy BBC, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Clash Turns Skinhead against Skinhead in Northern Pennsylvania

Brian
Usually, skinheads are very productive in their hatred of other groups. Sometimes, however, they turn their hatred toward one another:
A witness to the melee outside Café Metropolis on Saturday night told police that two men who were stabbed are members of rival skinhead groups, an officer said Tuesday.

. . . .

Kevin Dougherty, the manager of Café Metropolis, said he was told that one of the men stabbed is a racist skinhead and the other is a non-racist skinhead.

. . . .

Dougherty said there is a kind of skinhead called a SHARP, which stands for Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice.

“You can’t tell the difference,” Dougherty said. “The problem is they look exactly alike.”

Although non-racist, SHARP members can be anti-gay, according to Dougherty and several Web sites about skinheads.


Link (via News of the Weird). Racist skinheads and non-racist skinheads? What is this, The Sneetches? SHARPs? As long as they can be anti-gay, I suppose they can be skinheads. Old and busted: hating other groups because you're afraid of their differences. New hotness: hating other groups because you're afraid you have their tendencies, too.


Indexed by tags crime, hatred, racism, skinheads, SHARP, Pennsylvania, Wilkes-Barre, gay, homophobia.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pit Bull Bans and Racial Profiling

Brian
The New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell argues that we make the same mistake when we ban aggressive dog breeds that we do when we search for racial profiles of terrorists:
[New York Police Commissioner Raymond] Kelly was pointing out what might be called profiling’s “category problem.” Generalizations involve matching a category of people to a behavior or trait—overweight middle-aged men to heart-attack risk, young men to bad driving. But, for that process to work, you have to be able both to define and to identify the category you are generalizing about. “You think that terrorists aren’t aware of how easy it is to be characterized by ethnicity?” Kelly went on. “Look at the 9/11 hijackers. They came here. They shaved. They went to topless bars. They wanted to blend in. They wanted to look like they were part of the American dream. These are not dumb people. Could a terrorist dress up as a Hasidic Jew and walk into the subway, and not be profiled? Yes. I think profiling is just nuts.”

. . . .

A Georgia-based group called the American Temperament Test Society has put twenty-five thousand dogs through a ten-part standardized drill designed to assess a dog’s stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and friendliness in the company of people. A handler takes a dog on a six-foot lead and judges its reaction to stimuli such as gunshots, an umbrella opening, and a weirdly dressed stranger approaching in a threatening way. Eighty-four per cent of the pit bulls that have been given the test have passed, which ranks pit bulls ahead of beagles, Airedales, bearded collies, and all but one variety of dachshund. “We have tested somewhere around a thousand pit-bull-type dogs,” Carl Herkstroeter, the president of the A.T.T.S., says. “I’ve tested half of them. And of the number I’ve tested I have disqualified one pit bull because of aggressive tendencies. They have done extremely well. They have a good temperament. They are very good with children.” It can even be argued that the same traits that make the pit bull so aggressive toward other dogs are what make it so nice to humans. “There are a lot of pit bulls these days who are licensed therapy dogs,” the writer Vicki Hearne points out. “Their stability and resoluteness make them excellent for work with people who might not like a more bouncy, flibbertigibbet sort of dog. When pit bulls set out to provide comfort, they are as resolute as they are when they fight, but what they are resolute about is being gentle. And, because they are fearless, they can be gentle with anybody.”

Then which are the pit bulls that get into trouble? “The ones that the legislation is geared toward have aggressive tendencies that are either bred in by the breeder, trained in by the trainer, or reinforced in by the owner,” Herkstroeter says. A mean pit bull is a dog that has been turned mean, by selective breeding, by being cross-bred with a bigger, human-aggressive breed like German shepherds or Rottweilers, or by being conditioned in such a way that it begins to express hostility to human beings. A pit bull is dangerous to people, then, not to the extent that it expresses its essential pit bullness but to the extent that it deviates from it. A pit-bull ban is a generalization about a generalization about a trait that is not, in fact, general. That’s a category problem.
Link (submitted by Lsc Emme). Now, without further ado, and only because we just figured out we could do video, we bring you a pit bull being chased by a pug:



Indexed by tags animals, dogs, crime, politics, terrorism, profiling, pit bull.
Video credits: "Pug Chases Pit Bull," courtesy YouTube, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Marriage Quiz Pops the True or False Question

The Grave Digger
Here you can test your knowledge of what has happened to the very special union between two loving individuals over the years. For those of you who browse my other blog, the above link is a real quiz written by a real person with real knowledge. Unlike this.

Indexed by tags marriage, quiz, New York Times, love.

Emailing Professors Spiraling Out of Control

The Grave Digger
Professors across the country have varying opinions of emails from students. Some see it as opportunity to get feedback on the content and speed of their lectures. Some see it as a demand to be on-call twenty four hours a day. Some see it as a sort of icebreaker to open communication with their students.

Likely, email is a combination of all of the above. However, the frustration doesn't end there, when professionalism and even common sense seem to have flown out the window.

Jennifer Schultens, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of California, Davis, received this e-mail message last September from a student in her calculus course: "Should I buy a binder or a subject notebook? Since I'm a freshman, I'm not sure how to shop for school supplies. Would you let me know your recommendations? Thank you!"

Link. As email makes professors more accessible to students, some err on the side of too casual and do not demonstrate the proper respect that would be otherwise displayed with a face-to-face meeting.

What's the answer? I don't know, but don't follow this example.


Indexed by tags email, professors, college, professionalism.


NBA Contest Is Not a Slam Dunk

Brian

The consensus around Philadelphia, which is always a town for sports consensus, is that Andre Iguodala clearly should have won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest over former Pac-10 rival Nate Robinson:
A.I. to A.I. was absolutely sick, up there with some of the best dunks ever. Nate Robinson missed his [lame] dunk 14 times before he finally made it. None of his previous dunks were even that impressive. I am not one to say a dunk is good just because a [little person] threw it down.
Link. Philly Future lets A.I. the shorter sum it up in three words. Incidentally, holy moly! We can do video now.

Indexed by tags sports, basketball, Philadelphia, 76ers, New York, Knicks, Andre Iguodala, Nate Robinson, NBA, slam dunk, contest, robbed.
Video credits: "Iguodala vs. Robinson NBA Slam Dunk Contest 2006," courtesy YouTube, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Monday, February 20, 2006

"Trolls": Norway's Ebu Gogo

Brian
When you plan your next vacation, you might want to consider troll hunting in Northern Norway, but be sure to turn that smile upside down:
People come to Northern Norway not only for the auroras and to see its Arctic landscape, but also to hunt for trolls, the mythical creatures rumored to hide in the forests and mountainsides.

These "nordmenn" (men of the north) are generally believed to have supernatural powers and offer good luck. Supposedly, trolls are as blind as a bat and can't see their own hand in front of them. Legend says the worst thing you could do near a troll is to be happy; they hate happiness and things that make people happy. So we have to be careful to not make a troll mad.
Link (via Sploid). Unlike the ebu gogo, no one's found tiny little bones of dead trolls. But when they do, they'll sell them on ebay.

Indexed by tags travel, Europe, Norway, trolls, ebu gogo, cryptozoology.

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
Mother Nature prevents frustrated HMO patients from crossing the street between pretty white lines.

Indexed by tag Montrose.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

There Goes Our Last Best Hope against Pumas

Brian
Pennsylvania puma hunter Roger Cowburn died yesterday:
The Penn State’s Nittany Lions are nationally known, mostly as a football team. But the “Nittany Lions” didn’t pop out of the air as a name. Nittany is the mountain where, legend has it, Pennsylvania’s last puma was shot.

. . . .

Cowburn thought otherwise. For years he’d interviewed witnesses who had seen the big cats in the state. And he had collected material evidence that people had a hard time denying too. In one meeting, State Sen. Roger A. Madigan, R-Towanda, and state Game Commission officials viewed such evidence presented by retired Mansfield University professor Dennis Wydra that Wydra believed confirmed the existence of mountain lions in the wilds of central Pennsylvania. The closed-door meeting at Madigan’s Williamsport office had a bigger impact because of the physical evidence there.

Wydra displayed plaster footcasts of bear, wolf and mountain lion tracks “taken by Roger Cowburn of Ulysses,” as one media account mentioned, in almost a footnote whisper, at the Lick Run area on State Game Lands. Wydra also showed a shirt that supposedly had been found with mountain lion fecal matter and large claw marks on it. Behind-the-scenes, but important, that was the way Cowburn liked it.
Link. I guess I better get some canned good and hole up inside away from the pumas. With Cowburn out the way, there'll be no stopping them.

Indexed by tags pumas, Pennsylvania, Roger Cowburn, died.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The V-Day You Could Have Had

Brian

Valentine's Day was this past week. Yes, it is too late to buy belated–Valentine's Day flowers, but it's not too late to buy sorry-I-forgot–Valentine's Day flowers. And it's never too early to start planning for next year. May I suggest a romantic dinner at that bastion of burger-stand nostalgia, Le Chateau Blanc?
When we first saw that White Castle was having a special Valentine's Day at their locations, Gothamist hoped that someone would go. Thankfully, we have some friends that decided to (our better half hates White Castle). As promised, there were tablecloths, candles, and a host. As a bonus, . . . the manager/greeter at the Metropolitan Ave White Castle even spoke French.
Link (via Sugar, Mr. Poon?). Laissez les bons glisseurs rouller!

Indexed by tags food and drink, valentines, fast food, White Castle.
Image credits: "Valentine's Day Placesetting" by chules, available at Flickr, acquired via Creative Commons license.

Friday, February 17, 2006

High School Poetry Blog

Brian
A friend of a friend teaches an English class that puts its poetry on the web. She says:
A note on the poets' backgrounds: they are members of my self-contained English classes at Broadmoor High. Most of them have severe learning disabilities, so sometimes their writing gets a bit...interesting. They are brilliant people, but the written word hasn't traditionally been their friend. Most of them began the year reading and writing at between a Kindergarten and 4th grade level, and are working very hard to improve that. I think that putting their writing in the public forum is awfully gutsy and I'm really proud of them for it!!

I promise that they will be delighted to read your comments, as well as incredibly encouraged in their writing.
Link. This stuff is truly, strangely entrancing. Leave encouraging and constructive comments if you get the chance, and don't forget to tell them where you are writing from.

Indexed by tags English, poetry, education, high school.

The Difference between Reality and Fantasy

Brian
What President Bush predictably said about the Vice President's shooting incident: "I thought the vice president handled the issue just fine. . . . I'm satisfied with the explanation he gave."

What President Bush said in the fantasy world that exists only in my head: "Hells yes I'm afraid of the man. . . . No, I don't believe it was an accident, and I refuse to be left alone with him."

Indexed by tags politics, Bush, Cheney, shooting.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Random Movie Quote Thursday

Brian
He must hate me.
He hates me.
I know he does.
He looks at me like I'm the ugliest thing in the world.
He doesn't like my friends.
He doesn't like one thing about me.
He called me—
he called me a dirty tramp.
My own father.
I don't know if he means it.
I mean maybe he doesn't mean it,
but he acts like he does.
We were together.
We were gonna celebrate Easter
and we were gonna catch a double bill.
Big deal!
So I put on my new dress and I came out,
and he grabbed my face and started rubbing off all the lipstick.
I thought he'd rub off my lips.
And I ran out of that house.
I'll never get close to anybody.

Indexed by tags movies, quotes.

Capital of Myanmar (Burma) Packs Up and Moves

Brian
The military junta that rules Burma, which they've renamed Myanmar, but which in Risk is still just part of Siam, has decided that the name change wasn't confusing enough, so now they're moving the capital to an obscure village just for the sake of throwing people cramming for Jeopardy off:
[W]hy go to the huge trouble and expense of relocating thousands of officials to a remote mountainous region, when there is a well-established political infrastructure in the port city of Rangoon?

Information Minister Kyaw Hsan said the site of the new capital, near the town of Pyinmana, was a more strategic location for Burma's military rulers.

"It is centrally located, and has quick access to all parts of the country," he told reporters on Monday.

But analysts outside the country were unconvinced.

They said the real reason was probably still a mystery, but it was possible the country's hard-line military rulers were worried about foreign invasion, or wanted more control over ethnic minorities in the border regions, or were even following the advice of fortune tellers.
Link. Fortune tellers, huh? Sounds like what you'd expect from the people that brought you gold-eyed cats. The Beeb even features the move in a photo gallery, which looks oddly like The Bridge on the River Kwai. Now I've got that crazy whistling stuck in my head. What were we talking about?

Indexed by tags politics, military, junta, Burma, Myanmar, Rangoon, Pyinmana, capital, The Bridge on the River Kwai.

More Bacteria in Fast Food Ice than Toilet Water According to Seventh Grade Experiment

Brian
Twelve-year-old Jasmine Roberts of Tampa suspected that the ice served at fast food restaurants was more contaminated with bacteria that the restaurants' own toilet water, so she tested her hypothesis and found she was right:
She tested the samples at a lab at the Moffitt Cancer Center where she volunteers with a USF professor. Roberts says the results did not surprise her.

Jasmine Roberts:
"I found that 70-percent of the time, the ice from the fast food restaurant's contain more bacteria than the fast food restaurant's toilet water."

Roberts' graph shows the toilet water, shown in red, had less bacteria in most cases than the ice inside shown in blue, and the ice from drive-through windows shown in green. Roberts' teacher says he wasn't surprised either.

Mark Danish, Honors Science Teacher:
"It does concern me[,] and I think with any restaurant you have to think twice about what you may get there."
Link (via BoingBoing). The result was a winning science fair entry. Man, and all I did was see how bread grew mold.

Indexed by tags: science, food and drink, fast food, ice, toilet water, experiment, Tampa, Jasmine Roberts.

Unworkable Devices as Art

Brian
Donald Simanek, a retired physics professor from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, is curator of a virtual Museum of Unworkable Devices, which includes an exhibit on the dual-bellows wheel, pictured above:
The source we swiped this picture from didn't provide documentation, and the author didn't seem to understand exactly how it was supposed to work. We can imagine two ways to use this wheel, both ineffective. In both cases the little protuberances on each bellows represent lead weights.
  • The arms are independent, and the bellows and shafts on each arm are filled with a liquid. In the position shown the weights on the arm at the right have compressed the inner bellows and expanded the outer bellows, so that the liquid inside is shifted to a larger radius. On the left arm, the outer bellows is compressed and the inner one is expanded by the weights, so that the fluid inside is shifted to a smaller radius. Result: the classic "continually overbalanced wheel", and the wheel should turn clockwise.

  • The arms are independent, and the bellows and shafts on each arm are filled with air. The entire wheel is immersed in a tank of liquid. In the position shown, the weights on the arm at the right have compressed the inner bellows and expanded the outer bellows, so that the net buoyant force on the air-filled bellows is shifted to a larger radius. On the left arm, the outer bellows is compressed and the inner one is expanded by the weights so that the net buoyant force on the air-filled bellows is shifted to a smaller radius. The wheel should turn counter-clockwise.
Of course, neither result occurs.
Link (via the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society). It reminds me of these rosette cookies my mom used to make. Except they were definitely workable devices.

Indexed by tags science, invention, device, , , , rosette.
Image credits: "Dual Bellows," courtesy Museum of Unworkable Devices Annex, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Show Dog Heads for the Hills after Westminster

Brian
Earlier this week was the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. A whippet, stressing out after not winning, made a break for it at JFK:
The dog, a female Whippet named Bohem C'est La Vie, was scheduled to travel with her owners on a Delta Air Lines flight to California from New York -- where the dog show took place -- when she broke free from her cage about noon, according to Tiffany Townsend of the New York Port Authority.

Port Authority Police said they dispatched a helicopter to aid in the search for several hours Wednesday, and said the dog was spotted in marsh land surrounding the airport, but authorities on the ground were unable to catch her.
Link. It may have been her owners that drove her over the edge. But I suspect is was the ridiculous name. Bohem C'est La Vie? How is that any match for Rufus?

Indexed by tags nature, dog, whippet, escape, New York, JFK, airport, helicopter, Bohem C'est La Vie, Westminster Kennel Club, dog show.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Soundtrack to the Blue Screen of Death

Brian
I believe it was Ross who once said, "You know that smell gas has? They put that in." So too does Hitachi put in sounds for when its harddrives fail for various reasons—they help identify the problem. When Hitachi posted these sounds as part of a troubleshooting guide, it prompted Gizmodo to hold a contest searching for the most interesting piece of music made entirely of failing Hitachi harddrive noises. This (via the Volokh Conspiracy) was declared winner. Doesn't it sound like a numbers station? But it's still not as danceable as "Dick Is a Killer."

Indexed by tags music, computers, electronica, mashup.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Babies Match Voices to Faces by the Numbers

Brian
Even seven-month-olds, who weigh in at around twenty pounds and might just be learning to crawl, can tell how many people are talking based on the number of voices they hear:
Neuroscientists Kerry Jordan and Elizabeth Brannon had previously shown that rhesus monkeys have a natural ability to match the number of voices they hear to the number of individuals they expect to see. When presented with a soundtrack of "coo" sounds, the monkeys chose to look at a picture containing the same number of fellow monkey faces. If the monkeys heard two coos, for example, they preferred to look at a picture of two monkeys rather than three and vice versa. The researchers expected the same to be true of human babies.

. . . .

The 20 seven-month-old infants in the study spent an average of nearly 22 seconds looking at the numerically appropriate video compared to just more than 14 seconds looking at the numerically wrong video. This represented 59.2 percent of their total time looking--nearly exactly the same percentage of time that the 20 rhesus monkeys spent looking at the video with the right number of monkeys. "This spontaneous matching of [numbers] across [sight and sound] supports the contention that human infants, human adults and nonhuman primates share at least one common nonverbal numerical representational system," the researchers conclude. Their report on these findings appears in this week's Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.
Link. Next up: a study asking whether babies can tell the difference, by sound alone, between quail and Alexander Hamilton.

Indexed by tags science, babies, infants, sound, math, maths, counting, voices.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Rat Brain Replay And Memory

The Grave Digger
According to the results of a new study, a rat at the end of a track replays his recent route in the brain cells of the hippocampus. David Foster and Matthew Wilson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology became interested in waking brain activity of rats, and implanted devices to capture neuron firing in the hippocampuses of four rats.

[...T]hey let the animals run up and down a track with food at each end. Upon reaching the end of the track, the rats paused to eat, groom or just be still.

But their hippocampus cells were in a frenzy of activity. These cells are known to play a role in the formation of memories in rats and primates, including humans. By measuring the amount and location of the hippocampus cell firing, the researchers were able to determine that the neurons fired in the exact reverse order of the firing that occurred when the rat scurried from one end of the track to the other.

In essence, the rats' brains replayed the recent route, possibly committing it to memory. Such activity did not occur when the animals simply rested outside the track or when they were in a more familiar environment. "Reverse replay in the hippocampus might have a critical role in support of learning," the researchers conclude in their paper detailingthe findings, published online yesterday by Nature.

Link. The researches believe that reply allows for learning about recent events, and "understanding this replay is likely to be critical to understanding how animals learn from
experience."

My hope is that the researchers can investigate further so that we can utilize their abilities to the fullest. Does the rat brain reply have the yellow lines, arrows, and circles like on sports highlights? What about slow motion? Will rats ever learn to compete with our current football reporting technology? If so, will their memories be reliable enough for use in trivia competitions?

Indexed by tags rats, brains, memory, science, hippocampus, MIT.

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
Senior drivers are crotchety.

Indexed by tag Montrose.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Vice Presidents with Guns

Brian
The above image is a depiction of the famous duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton in 1804, which was back in a time when vice presidents would occasionally take political associates out into the woods and shoot them.

Indexed by tags news, history, politics, Dick Cheney, shotgun, Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, duel.
Image credits: "Duel of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton," from
Lamb's History of New York, public domain, courtesy New York Public Library.

French Kangaroos Tangle with Peugeots

Brian
French cars have been suffering from encouters with wild kangaroos—I suppose I should say "kangaroux":
Motorists driving through the Rambouillet forest have hit numerous furry, gray, stupid, non-deer creatures with their cars. But when they call their insurance companies to file damage reports, they get the bureaucratic equivalent of a "yeah, right."

One woman who lives in the town of Emance said, "My husband and I were driving home, and it was very cold and dark. Suddenly a kangaroo jumped in front of the car. It was like a deer, but a deer bounds away. This creature just sat there."

According to the mayor of Emance, Francoise Grangeon, "Kangaroos have been part of our daily life for 20 years." She's had to write hundreds of letters to insurance companies declaring that motorists are not insane, and roos really do roam the region.

The surly macropods have been breeding in the romantic forest of Rambouillet since they escaped a nearby wildlife park. Ever since, they've been flinging themselves into the grills of moving cars with wild abandon.
Link. Um, wtf mate?

Indexed by tags nature, kangaroos, France, car, accident, insurance, wtf mate?

Insanely Long Rare Earthworm Smells Like Lilies

Brian

Yaniria Sanchez-de Leon, an Idaho graduate student working at a Washington ecological preserve, is the first person in nearly twenty years to lay eyes on a giant Palouse earthworm:
Earthworm experts who gathered for a workshop in Sanchez-de Leon's native Puerto Rico in November confirmed Sanchez-de Leon's identification, as did Northwest earthworm expert William M. Fender-Westwind of Portland, Ore.

"By earthworm standards, they're pretty cool," said James Johnson, the head of the university's Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences Department.

Link. "Earthworm standards" are, of course, a very precise scale of coolness at the low end of the spectrum, useless for quantifying Corvettes or Jimi Hendrix. Still, the coolness is only enhanced by the odor of freshly cut flowers:
While [Sanchez-de Leon] did not detect much lily fragrance from this specimen, she said prior reports made note of the pleasant smell, which hasn't yet been explained.

The worm's scientific name, Driloleirus americanus, means "lily-like worm."

Link (via Fark). This may explain the strange allure of Tremors.

Indexed by tags nature, earthworm, worm, giant, Washington, Palouse, lilies, Yaniria Sanchez-de Leon.
Image credits: "Giant Palouse Earthworm," Yaniria Sanchez-de Leon / University of Idaho, courtesy Discovery Channel, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

When Balls First Hit the Wall

Brian

Slate's Jesse Sheidlower wonders where the expression "balls to the wall" comes from and finds its origins less genital and more militaristic:
Somewhat disappointingly, it has nothing to do with hammers, nails, and a particularly gruesome way of treating an enemy. The expression comes from the world of military aviation. In many planes, control sticks are topped with a ball-shaped grip. One such control is the throttle—to get maximum power you push it all the way forward, to the front of the cockpit, or firewall (so-called because it prevents an engine fire from reaching the rest of the plane). Another control is the joystick—pushing it forward sends a plane into a dive. So, literally pushing the balls to the (fire)wall would put a plane into a maximum-speed dive, and figuratively going balls to the wall is doing something all-out, with maximum effort. The phrase is essentially the aeronautical equivalent of the automotive "pedal to the metal."
Link. So you see, it comes from bomber and fighter pilots, and those guys never have dirty minds.

Indexed by tags military, aviation, etymology, balls to the wall.
Image credits: "P-47D Thunderbolt 1-72 Plastic Model Kit by Revell Germany," courtesy Megahobby.com, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Scorpion Survives Fifteen Months Encased in Plaster with Dinosaur Fossil

Brian
The scorpion, which already has eight legs, two pincers, a stinging tail and a nasty disposition, can add another weapon to its repertoire—the ability to spend fifteen months locked in a plaster mold with a dinosaur fossil and without food or water:
Don DeBlieux, a paleontologist for the Utah Geological Survey, said he was sawing open the plaster mold when the scorpion wriggled from a crack in a sandstone block.

DeBlieux is still chipping away at the 1,000-pound rock to expose the horned skull of an 80-million-year-old plant eater—a species of dinosaur he says is new to science.

The scorpion "must have been hanging out in a crack the day we plastered him," DeBlieux said Thursday.

. . . .

Scorpions, which eat insects, are capable of surviving for months without feeding or moving in a sleep period known as diapause, said Richard Baumann, a Brigham Young University zoologist.
Link. The scientists were only speculating that the scorpion lacked food. In reality, the dinosaur was alive when he went in. Booyah! Don't tangle with arachnids, man.

Indexed by tags science, nature, scorpion, plaster, sleep, diapause, fossil.

Al Michaels to NBC for Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and a Talking Duck to Be Named

Brian

Eric B of Major League Idiot notes the unorthodoxness of ESPN, proud new owner of Monday Night Football, trading announcer Al Michaels to NBC for the rights to a pre–Mickey Mouse cartoon rabbit:
ESPN is trading Al Michaels to NBC for partial Ryder Cup coverage, Olympic highlights, Notre Dame highlights, and the rights to Oswald, a cartoon created by Walt Disney in 1927 as a precursor to Mickey Mouse. There are rumors that the two sides originally talked about an expanded deal that would also have included La Bamba from Conan O'Brien, six episodes of Scrubs, and the rights to the Peacock going from NBC to ESPN, with ESPN sending Chris Berman's repertoire of nicknames, every third Bill Simmons column, and a year’s subscription of the Mag to NBC. That part of the deal stalled, however, when the sides couldn't agree on whether NBC would get all of Berman's nicknames or just all football names, as well as when ESPN demanded that the expanded version include NBC taking Woody Page off their hands. Therefore, the sides kept it simple and traded a broadcaster for golf coverage and a cartoon rabbit. Yeah. You couldn’t cook this up if you were on LSD.
Link. But according to the Dallas Morning News's Barry Horn, the hilarity belies the real dynamic that prompted the trade:
Michaels begged out of a new contract with ESPN to move to NBC. If Al Michaels was named Terrell Owens, the sports world would be howling at the callousness of the move. It will be interesting to hear Michaels have to hush up on Sunday nights whenever the topic turns to player contracts.

. . . .

To save face, ESPN negotiated away the rights to Oswald, a worthless but sentimental-to-Disney cartoon rabbit, and the right to pay NBC $12 million for Friday coverage of the next four Ryder Cups.

ESPN had big plans when it agreed to pay the NFL a whopping $1.1 billion per season for Monday Night Football. Michaels was part of those plans.

Instead, the plan now includes a junior varsity broadcast crew - Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser.

Link. What really matters, though, is how great Oswald would look on a watch.

Indexed by tags , , , , , , , , , , .
Image credits: (1) "Al Michaels," courtesy the American Sportscasters Association, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes; (2) "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit," courtesy disneyarchief.nl, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Blind Woman Regains Sight after Heart Attack

Brian
Joyce Urch had gone mysteriously blind before her fiftieth birthday. She suffered from glaucoma, but doctors didn't think that was the blindness's cause—in fact, they had no idea what caused it. But when she awoke after a heart attack, her vision had returned:
She said: "When I first came round I just opened my eyes and shouted, 'I can see, I can see.' When I looked in the mirror I said, 'Oh.' I said to [her husband] Eric, 'You've got older haven't you?' But I thought, 'I'm old myself, my husband must be too.'"

. . . .

"They did a lot of tests and said it was a genetic condition," said Mrs Urch. "Other members of my family have lost their sight, including my grandmother and two aunts.

. . . .

Martin Breen, consultant cardiologist at the Walgrave Hospital, said: "I am not able to give a medical explanation. When she was admitted to hospital, she had suffered a serious heart attack and our main concern was to save her life. I am delighted that she has fully recovered, and it is an added bonus that she has also recovered her sight."
Link. Despite an explanation of the link, if any, between the heart attack and the regained sight, doctors are now recommending that the blind go on an all-cholesterol diet.

Indexed by tags , , , , , , .

Human-Animal Hybrid Offensive to Muslims?

Brian
A picture included in a brochure purporting to display images offensive to Islam taken on a tour of the Middle East by a delegation of Danish Muslims is actually not one of the controversial Muhammad cartoons but a photo of a costumed Frenchman in a pig-calling contest:
The picture shows a bearded man wearing fake pig ears, a pig nose, and a pink embroidered cap on his head. He was wearing the costume while participating in a pig-squealing contest at an annual festival in a farm village in southern France last summer.

. . . .

"The photograph was taken at an agriculture fair last summer and is totally unrelated to the current controversy," said AP's Director of Photography Santiago Lyon.

Jack Stokes, an AP spokesman, said the picture was used "completely out of context and without permission.

"AP is attempting to contact the distributors of this unrelated photo to protest its misrepresentation and demand that they stop immediately," he said.
Link (via Newsvine). I don't care what religion you practice or what language you speak: human-animal hybrids are offensive.

Indexed by tags , , , , , , , .
Image credits: "Costumed Competitor in a French Pig-squeeling Contest," AP Photo, courtesy Newsvine, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

A Brief History of Electronica

Brian
Obsolete.com chronicles every musical instrument it can find that was invented between 1870 and 1990. Amidst the list is the famous theremin, invented in Russia in 1917 and pictured above:
One problem with utilising the heterodyning effect for musical purposes was that as the body came near the vacuum tubes the capacitance of the body caused variations in frequency. Leon Termen realised that[,] rather than being a problem, body capacitance could be used as a control mechanism for an instrument and finally freeing the performer from the keyboard and fixed intonation.

Termen's first machine, built in the [Russia] in 1917[,] was christened the "Theremin" (after himself) or the "Aetherophone" (sound from the 'ether') and was the first instrument to exploit the heterodyning principle. The original Theremin used a foot pedal to control the volume and a switch mechanism to alter the pitch. This prototype evolved into a production model Theremin in 1920[—]this was a unique design, resembling a gramaphone cabinet on 4 legs with a protruding metal antenae and a metal loop. The instrument was played by moving the hands around the metal loop for volume and around the ante[n]nae for pitch. The output was a monophonic continuous tone modulated by the performer. The timbre of the instrument was fixed and resembled a violin string sound.
Link (via BoingBoing). It also resembles the ooo-eee-ooo screech found in horror movies and "Good Vibrations." I don't know where but she sends me there.

Indexed by tags , , , , .
Image credits: "Lev Sergeivitch Termen playing the 'Theremin,'" courtesy Obsolete.com, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Friday, February 10, 2006

French Caver Discovers Prehistoric Art

The Grave Digger
Gerard Jourdy, 63, has discovered prehistoric cave art, including a hand in cobalt blue, believed to date back 27,000 years. This would make them older than the famous Lascaux paintings, in the Dordogne, which are among the best known and most important prehistoric sites of Stone Age cave art.

"In a small chamber I found the bones of two hyenas - complete skeletons, which is rare. And I saw human bones amid the debris - tibias, vertebrae and shoulder-blades," he told the news agency.

"Then in the bigger chamber there was this hand - very beautiful, very delicate. There was just the one in cobalt blue. When you come into the chamber it is like it is greeting you. It's incredible."

Link. The French culture ministry confirmed the findings, and commented that "although the discovery was of interest, the paintings were not as spectacular as those in the Cosquer and Chauvet caves in the Ardeche."

Mr Jourdy also said he saw a sculpture of a face made from a stalactite - which would be a scientific first for the era, but experts were dubious about this claim, AFP says.
[...]
Experts think the caves were used for hunting rituals and shamanistic rites, and it is thought that the first paintings were done some 17,000 years ago.

Whatever the case, I'm just glad that there were no inappropriate nudes. I don't want this cave "ransacked by an angry mob."

Indexed by tags , , , ,

G-rated Movies Feature Three Times the Men

Brian
An advocacy group that encourages balanced gender representation in entertainment for children reports that, in the 101 most popular G-rated films between 1990 and 2004, speaking male characters outnumber speaking female characters by an almost three-to-one margin:
In the 101 animated and live-action films examined, 28 percent of speaking characters were female, and just 17 percent of people in crowd scenes were female, researchers found in the study released Thursday by [advocacy group] See Jane.

"It's important for what kids watch that as far as possible, they see the real world reflected, to see men and women, boys and girls, sharing the space," said [See Jane founder Geena] Davis, co-star of the female-empowerment film "Thelma & Louise" and star of TV's "Commander in Chief" in which she plays the U.S. president. "They should see female characters taking up half the planet, which we do."

. . . .

Joe Kelly, co-founder of Dads & Daughters, said as much as he loves "Toy Story," the study made him think about the movie differently. The movie has a positive message about two characters - Tom Hanks' Woody and Tim Allen's Buzz Lightyear - overcoming their differences and working together, but it does have a flaw, Kelly said.

"It wasn't until the study that I went back and realized there's only one toy that's a female character, and it's Bo-Peep. She's standing at the window going, 'Oh, Woody, don't hurt yourself,'" Kelly said. "Not that I want 'Toy Story' to be changed. I don't think there should be any sort of gender formula. But there are other movies to be made with powerful messages featuring female characters."
Link (via Newsvine). There's only one woman in the world, and her name is Ariel. Somebody's got to nail that girl's fins to the floor.

Indexed by tags , , , , , .
Image credits: "Best Pals Woody and Buzz," courtesy DVD Town, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Philadelphia's Negro Leagues Tradition

Brian
As a new exhibit honoring the players of the Negro Leagues opens to mark Black History Month and commemorate winter ball, it's a good time to remember the origins of black baseball in Philadelphia. Between 1934 and 1950, Philadelphia had an organized team called the Stars, who, with such prospective Hall of Famers as Dick Lundy, Biz Mackey, and Jud Wilson, took the Negro National League pennant in their inaugural year. The Stars' park was at 44th and Parkside in West Philly, across the street from the site of America's first world's fair, ground upon which now stands a memorial including the above mural.

Seventy years before the Stars were born, the city's first black baseball club, the Philadelphia Pythians, were founded by the spectacularly named Octavius Valentine Catto in the midst of the Civil War. Catto was the star shortshop for the Pythians, who, adhering to the fashion of the day, adopted a Greek name, this one based on athletic contests that were precursors to the Olympics. When, at the 1867 convention of the National Association of Base Ball Players, Catto applied to have the Pythians officially recognized, the association explicitly erected the baseball color barrier that would be ultimately crossed by Jackie Robinson four score years hence:
It is not presumed by your committee that any club who have applied are composed of persons of color, or any portion of them; and the recommendations of your committee in this report are based upon this view, and they unanimously report against the admission of any club which may be composed of one or more colored persons.
But Catto wouldn't let his fight for black political equality be sidetracked by one racist organization. Beyond his role as team leader and star, he was a renowned academic, activist, and sometime military leader. Years prior, in 1863, when Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia crossed into Pennsylvania and approached Gettysburg, Catto raised a company of volunteers, many of whom were his students from Philadelphia's Institute for Colored Youth, only to be rejected upon arrival in Gettysburg by a Union General who reasoned that black troops were not authorized. As the 1860s turned into the 1870s and the height of Reconstruction, Catto, rebuked for his color and that of his colleagues by both the Union Army and organized baseball, became instrumental in passing Pennsylvania's fifteenth amendment, which gave black men the right to vote, and in organizing African-American voting efforts throughout Philadelphia.

In that era, African-Americans overwhelmingly supported the liberal party of their day, the Republican Party, which, as the party of Lincoln, resisted the racial bigotry and conservatism of the Democrats. During one particular contentious campaign in 1871, gangs of white Democrats organized around volunteer fire companies threatened violence against black voters and, come Election Day, made good on their promise. On that day, as he walked amid rampant street violence to his home at 8th and South, he passed white members of South Philly's Moyamensing Hose Company, one of whom turned and fired two fatal shots into the back of Octavius Valentine Catto.

Years later the organized Negro Leagues brought recognition to black baseball, and after Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby broke the color barrier Philadelphia pro teams followed suit, with the A's signing Bob Trice in 1953 and the Phillies signing John Kennedy in 1957. The last negro leagues teams petered out in the fifties, with the Stars closing up shop as that decade opened.

Today the Stars are remembered with a mural and a statue in a tiny park. An East Camden elementary school bears Catto's name. At 812 South Street in Philadelphia, a historical marker reads
Octavius V. Catto

An early graduate of the Institute for Colored Youth, Catto, who lived here, was an educator, a Union army major, and a political organizer. In 1871 he was assassinated by street rioters while urging African-Americans to vote. His death was widely mourned locally.
Indexed by tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
Image credits: (1) "Philadelphia Stars Mural 4" by capnpitz, available under Creative Commons license; (2) "Octavius Catto, Black Baseball Pioneer," courtesy Wikipedia, public domain.