Random Musings

Chuck Woolery Weighs In

It took him a month after the Womens’ March on Washington to come up with this:

Thanks for your input, Chuck.

UPDATE:  Chuck is having a very bad day… and clearly drunk


Giving Tuesday 2015

Giving Tuesday follows Cyber Monday, which is such a 1990s name, by the way.  Who uses the word “cyber” anymore to describe Internet transactions?

Anyway, Giving Tuesday is the only designated day of the three (the third being Black Friday) which is truly in the spirit of the season. Last year, Black Friday sales were down, but Giving Tuesday had a banner.  So some people get it.  I am glad it is a “thing”, even if it is only a few years old.  The story behind Giving Tuesday is here, but basically, Giving Tuesday was established in response to the commercialization and consumerism prevalent during the holiday season.

080624-cause800Unfortunately, a few businesses – big and small – sink to a pathetic level by using the day to promote themselves and their brand.  I’m talking about businesses like Evereve, a women’s fashion retailer — starting on December 2 and extending through the end of the month, $10 from every pair of jeans sold in stores or online will go toward a loan for a female entrepreneur overseas to start her own business, provide for her family and transform her community.  The cause is just, but why is Evereve’s so-called altruism dependent on people buying their product?  That’s consumerism — the very thing Giving Tuesday was meant to counteract.

Compare Evereve to, say, The Avon Foundation For Women.  That group has pledged to raise money to benefit domestic violence organizations this holiday season in partnership with the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Consumers can donate to The National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Avon Foundation will match every donation made, up to $500,000.  No consumer sales involved. In fact, if you click through on the Avon Foundation link above, you wouldn’t even see an Avon product anywhere.

Anyway, if your email inbox and Twitter feed is like mine, you are being inundated by actual charities and nonprofits for help.  It would be nice to help them all.  Whatever you choose — if it is a charity — you might want to run it by the Charity Navigator — not only to see if it is bonafide, but to see how its donations are used.  In fact, the Charity Navigator is a good place to go if you WANT to donate, but don’t know where to donate to.  In fact, you can donate to your favorite charities — like a struggling theater company — without leaving Charity Navigator!

Last year, I made a pitch for The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, a leading peer-directed national organization focusing on depression and bipolar disorder:

DBSA’s peer-based, wellness-oriented, and empowering services and resources are available when people need them, where they need them, and how they need to receive them-online 24/7, in local support groups, in audio and video casts, or in printed materials distributed by DBSA, our chapters, and mental health care facilities across America.

Through more than 700 support groups and nearly 300 chapters, DBSA reaches millions of people each year with in-person and online peer support; current, readily understandable information about depression and bipolar disorder; and empowering tools focused on an integrated approach to wellness.

And again, for all the same reasons, I invite you to donate to them again.  I have been involved with them locally as a group facilitator, and it is a great organization.  Your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar today!

Another strong group in the area of mental and emotional wellness is NAMI — The National Association of Mental Illness.  I’m a dues-paying member, so I am partial to this.  They are bigger than DBSA but have a broader agenda.  Most people who know NAMI, if they know NAMI at all, know it through their annual NAMIWalks, walk-a-thons all over the country to raise money and mental health awareness.

To get the facts about the mental health situation in the United States, click the “Read More” button below for a nice infographic.

If you want some more suggestions, again I recommend the aforementioned Charity Navigator… but I also will plug for some very topical charities:

Planned Parenthood — now more than ever (and you can give locally at the link)

Lady Parts Justice (edgier than PP)

Doctors Without Borders

World Relief

American Refugee Committee

ACLU – matching donations today only!

Act Blue

The Innocence Project

For breast cancer, I would avoid Susan Koman — there are better choices out there.

Locally, I would recommend the Second Harvest Food Bank or the Winston-Salem Rescue Mission, both of which gets consistently high charity ratings.  I would hold off on donating to local animal shelters, given the problems in Guilford County and Davidson County.  Forsyth County doesn’t seem to be ensnared, possibly because it is affiliated with the National Humane Society, rather than an independent local shelter.  In any event, once their acts are cleaned up, perhaps the other animal shelters will need your help.

And yeah, the arts count.  Just help out anywhere you can.

Stop It Everybody!

I am getting a little frustrated with the issue-hijacking every time there is a national tragedy, particularly mass shootings.  Whatever is in the news, people dovetail their own pet issues onto it.

No, Catholic League.  The Oregon shooting does not reinforce your argument that the world is anti-Christian.

No, right wing nutjobs. The Oregon shooting does not reinforce your argument the Muslim violence is rampant.

No, Jezebel. The Oregon shooting does not reinforce your argument that misogyny is to blame.

No, GOP presidential candidates. The Oregon shooting does not reinforce your argument that abortion is the root of all evil.

No, conspiracy theorists.  The Oregon shooting was real and does not reinforce your theory that the Obama administration is staging fake mass shootings as an excuse to take your guns away.

I see this all the time.

And it needs to be called out more.

By the way, we all remember the grand-daddy of issue-hijacking, don’t we?


His Parents Must Be So Proud

I’m not a fan of the public shaming of private people, but this is going viral.  And with good reason.

A drunk kid from the University of Connecticut staged a coup for some bacon jalapeño mac & cheese, and inadvertently revealed himself to be the worst person ever. He came to the university dining hall really drunk, in search of that spicy porky mac. He was asked to leave by the management because he was 1) really drunk, 2) drinking in a place where you’re not allowed to drink, and 3) underage drinking. He refused to leave without his mac & cheese, at which point someone began filming his altercation with the management.

After repeatedly yelling, getting physical multiple times, and calling the manager a “retard” and a “fag”, this guy—


—a restaurant employee we’ll call “Chill Beret Guy” decided that enough was enough. After the kid pushed the manager again, Chill Beret Guy took him down and held him until the cops arrived and took him away.

When the video was posted, it wasn’t too hard to find out who he was. His name is Luke V. Gatti. He’s a 19-year-old from Long Island, and after a cursory glance through his Facebook, it appears that he really likes to ski. That’s not why it was easy to find him, though; he has already been arrested twice for similar drunk-entitled-college-kid incidents. He was first arrested about a year ago at a house party on disorderly conduct charges, which involved him calling a police officer the n-word. His second arrest occurred two weeks later, when he assaulted a police officer. At his hearing, the judge told Gatti that he was “a little concerned” he would “pull a trifecta before the month is over.”

It took him a bit longer than a month, but he did indeed pull off a trifecta. As Chill Beret Guy held him down, Gatti started trying to play the victim and said, “If I get arrested again, I’m f*cked,” to which Chill Beret guy had the perfect response…

“Well then you’re f*cked.”

I know nine minutes is a lifetime in the Internet world, but…. watch it.  It’s fun. (Strong language though)

The Staten Island Ferris Wheel

It’s something everyone should do at least once in their life.  If they can.  And that’s… take the ferry out to Staten Island.

I’ve done that a few times.  You get on in lower Manhattan and go out to Staten Island and see the harbor, Statue of Liberty, etc.  It’s a nice way to kill an hour.

The problem is this: once you are in Staten Island, there’s not a lot to do (plus you have no means of transportation other than cabs).  So most people turn around and get on the ferry right back to Manhattan.  Which is nice.

But the governing bodies of Staten Island think they’ve got a way to get you to stay out there… and it’s a good one.

A big wheel:

Or, more precisely, a 630-foot-tall one that would become the world’s largest Ferris wheel.

It is the city’s latest and arguably most ambitious, if not audacious, attempt to draw tourists to Staten Island. Workers have begun laying the foundation for the wheel, which will carry as many as 1,440 riders at a time and will be visible across New York Harbor.

New-York-Wheel5 ferriswheel3

I like it.

Classic Films, as Understood by Drones


“12 Angry Men” (1957): A courthouse roof.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930): A conceptual triumph, it quickly becomes clear from above that there is actually heavy fighting on the Western front.

“Lawrence of Arabia” (1962): An actor who is most likely Peter O’Toole plays a suspected enemy combatant travelling across the Arabian Peninsula, assuming disguises and accruing armed associates.

“Airplane!” (1980): In this zany comedy, a commercial aircraft charts a normal flight path, exhibits some erratic movement upon descent, and lands safely.

“Hoosiers” (1986): A man, believed to be the actor Gene Hackman, is at the center of this eerie mystery set in the heart of Middle America, where unknown activities in school gymnasia are causing celebrations among locals.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975): In the opening scenes of this situational comedy, a man (Jack Nicholson?) enters a large building. Later, a different man leaves.

“Speed” (1994): After a passenger bus violates several traffic ordinances, it is hijacked by Keanu Reeves, drawing attention from police.

“Gravity” (2013): Sandra Bullock was nominated for an Academy Award for this solo performance as a woman emerging from a lake.

“Finding Nemo” (2003): A masterpiece of austere art-house filmmaking, this movie is a single tracking surveillance shot of the Pacific Ocean’s surface, concluding at a nondescript building, at 42 Wallaby Way in Sydney, Australia.

“Annie Hall” (1977): Two individuals, suspected to be Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, draw scrutiny following an erratic series of rendezvous in multiple urban centers.

“Rocky” (1976): In this tale of perseverance, a distinctive-looking man suffers grievous bodily harm as he runs up stairs, visits a butcher shop, and goes to the pet store.

“Citizenfour” (2014): In this global search mission, a treasonous American spying for Russia infiltrates the American intelligence community and steals a trove of classified national-security documents. He gives them to America’s enemies, as well as to reckless journalists, greatly endangering millions of innocent American lives.

“The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” (1974): A normal day in New York City.

South Carolina Copycat Sharks

With seven confirmed shark attacks so far this summer, this really is the Summer of the Shark for North Carolina.

Now South Carolina is getting into the game:

shark-injury-bloodyA young boy visiting the Lowcountry from Utah was bitten by a shark off Isle of Palms Tuesday.

Kysen Weakley, 12, tells News 2 around 6 p.m., he was playing with a younger cousin in knee-deep water at IOP Park when he felt something bite his leg. According to Kysen’s mother, the shark wrapped its mouth around his leg and let go immediately. Kysen then took his cousin and rushed out of the water.

“I felt a prick in my leg.  I like turned around and saw the sharks fin like swimming away.” Kysen said.


Only Two Women Alive Who Were Born In The 19th Century

When Susannah Mushatt Jones and Emma Morano were born in 1899, there was not yet world war or penicillin, and electricity was still considered a marvel. The women are believed to be the last two in the world with birthdates in the 1800s.

Jones, who lives in New York, currently tops a list of supercentenarians, or people who have lived past 110, which is maintained by Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group. The organization tracks and maintains a database of the world’s longest-living people. Morano, of Verbania, Italy, is just a few months younger than Jones and is Europe’s oldest person, according to the group. The group knows of no others born in the 1800s.


8190581_GEmma Morano
Born: Nov. 29, 1899
Verbania, Italy

Morano has lived on her own ever since she left her husband in 1938 because he beat her. Now 115, she resides in a neat one-room apartment in Verbania, a mountain town overlooking Lake Major in northwest Italy. She is cared for by her village: The mayor gave her a TV set, her niece stops in twice a day and her adoring physician of more than 25 years checks up on her regularly.

Morano attributes her longevity to her unusual diet: Three raw eggs a day (now two raw eggs and 150 grams of raw steak after a bout of anemia) – a diet she’s been on for decades after a sickly childhood.

“My father brought me to the doctor, and when he saw me he said, ‘Such a beautiful girl. If you had come just two days later, I would have not been able to save you.’ He told me to eat two or three eggs a day, so I eat two eggs a day.”


8190579_GSusannah Mushatt Jones
Born: July 6, 1899
New York

Now 115 years old, Jones spends her days in her one-bedroom apartment in a public housing facility for seniors in Brooklyn, where she has lived for more than three decades.

She sticks to a strict daily routine: Every morning she wakes up around 9 a.m., takes a bath and then eats several slices of bacon, scrambled eggs and grits. On a recent day, Jones said little, but family members said she spends her days reflecting on her life and embracing what’s left of it – one day at a time. Her living room walls are adorned with family photos and birthday cards made by children in the community.

“Hey, Tee,” Jones’ niece, Lois Judge, said to her aunt using a family nickname, “How old are you?”

“I don’t know,” the frail Jones responded.

Jones, who wears a yellow turban on her head and a nightgown most days, watches the world from a small recliner. Posters from past birthday parties, letters from local elected officials and a note from President Barack Obama fill the surfaces. A sign in the kitchen reads: “Bacon makes everything better.”

She was born in a small farm town near Montgomery, Alabama. She was one of 11 siblings and attended a special school for young black girls. When she graduated from high school in 1922, Jones worked full time helping family members pick crops. She left after a year to begin working as a nanny, heading north to New Jersey and eventually making her way to New York.

She will turn 116 next week. Family members plan to throw her a party.


From today’s New York Times:


Correction:  March 26, 2015
An earlier version of the second correction above said that the error in the first correction
was made “during the reporting process, not by the editors”.  It should have read that the
error in the first correction was made “during the editing process, not by the reporters.”  The
correction has been made in both the first correction and the second correction.

Correction:  March 26, 2015
Somebody is dicking me around because now I’m told the the error in the first correction
was actually made by the reporters, and not the editors in the editing process.  This means
that the original second correction was correct, and the corrected second correction is now
in error.  It also means that we didn’t need the third correction at all.  But I’m not going to
change anything until we get to the bottom of this.

Correction:  March 26, 2015
Okay, what we apparently have here is your classic “he said, she said” situation, with the
editors here in New York arguing with the reporters that are stationed in Marseille.  The
senior editor here in New York just chewed my ass out saying that I made the paper very
“unprofessional” with all these corrections, and really — if I had just changed the Tuesday to
Thursday in the original article, nobody would have known.  But that’s not true — I would have
known.  Now he just shouted at me from across the room: “We’re not the story!”

Correction:  March 26, 2015
Okay, I’ve been fired.  Just like that.  Can you believe it?

Best and Worst Flights and Airports

Statistics wizard Nate Silver turns his attention to flying, and does some amazing analysis of the best and worst airlines and airports when it comes to delayed and cancelled flights.  It’s more complicated than you think, so you might want to read the whole thing.  For example, the government data on which he relies specifies that a 14 minute arrival delay counts as “on time”.  He also notes that some airlines “pad” their flight times so if they arrive late, they won’t look like a late arrival (kudos to American and US Airways for not doing this).

Anyway, some charts:





Remember That Christmas Present Coffee Machine You Got Or Gave?

It’s dangerous:

Keurig Green Mountain is recalling more than 6.6 million hot beverage-brewing machines in the United States that could overheat liquids and burn users.

Keurig says its Mini Plus Brewing Systems, with model number K10, can overheat and spray water during brewing. Keurig says it had received about 200 reports of hot liquid escaping from the brewer, including 90 reports of burn-related injuries.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released details on the recall Tuesday. The recalled brewers have an identification number starting with “31” printed on the bottom. They were sold online and in stores in the U.S. and Canada between 2009 and 2014.

Consumers are being urged to call Keurig Green Mountain Inc. of Waterbury, Vermont, at 1-844-255-7886 to arrange for free repair.

You’re welcome.

Suicide – Brave Or Cowardly?

A person from my past had issues.  She was diagnosed with Bipolar I, which they don't diagnose unless you have psychotic episodes, which she claimed to have had.  I never witnessed any (I don't think); in fact, what I witnessed mostly was the depressive side of her bipolarity, which included a suicide attempt or two.

In that depressive state, we would often talk about her situation (sometimes, it seemed like that was all we talked about), and she would occasionally talk matter-of-factly about killing herself, listing the people who would be "better off" if she wasn't alive (including her daughter).  Her rationale made no sense, but… that's the nature of the being bipolar: the perceptions of a bipolar person are usually wrong, even when (especially when) they feel so so right to the bipolar person.  When you are bipolar, you can't trust how you feel.  Which must be very difficult.

One of arguments she liked to make was that committing suicide was a very brave thing to do.  I didn't take a contrary position, although I know what she was responding to — that old chestnut you often hear that people who commit suicide are "cowardly".  They are afraid to face their difficulties, the myth goes, so they do the "cowardly" thing by ending it all.  My ex's point was just the opposite: it takes chutzpah, gonads, bravery to end it all.

i am reminded of those conversations now that question had been raised again in the public conscience, in light of the recent and tragic Robin Williams suicide.  Was Robin Williams cowardly for "checking out"?  

My answer is the same as always.  Of course he wasn't cowardly.  But I wouldn't agree to call him brave.  Not everything that happens falls on that scale.  He was sick.  His depression had control over him.  He couldn't help it.  So the answer is "neither" and the debate itself is silly.

The same goes for the question of whether suicide is "selfish".  Yes, of course suicide is selfish, but not in the perjorative sense that we usually mean when we say "selfish". After all, depression is selfish — is there ever a time when a person is more self-indulgent and self-involved than when he or she is depressed?  So of COURSE a person attempting suicide is selfish — he/she is in pain.  Just as much pain as if shot with a bullet.  

But all you can say is that they were "selfish", then you are missing the larger point.  What MADE them selfish?  It's NOT a character flaw, but more likely (and certainly in the case of Robin Williams), a mental illness known as depression or bipolar disorder or something along those lines.  The selfishness is incidental to the illness.  Calling them selfish, even if it happens to be true, only serves to malign and stigmatize those with a mental disorder.  It's turning a sickness into a callous act of blaming the victim.

Why do that?

2014 Dead Pool

Link to 2013 Dead Pool

Link to 2012 Dead Pool

Link to 2011 Dead Pool

There are two "dead pool" lists.  One is just a random list of people who I think will pass in the upcoming year. The other is a competitive list where you pick ten (and only ten) people-to-die, and you score your points by subtracting their age-at-death from 100.  For example, Amy Winehouse was in my 2011 Dead Pool list, and she indeed did die that year.  Since she was 27, I received 73 points (100 minus 27).

So, let's see how I did with my 2013 Dead Pool(s).

First, the generic list of people I thought might die:

  • Zsa-Zsa Gabor – still alive
  • Olivia de Havilland - still alive
  • Billy Graham – still alive
  • Eli Wallach – still alive
  • Stan Musial – died 1/19/2013
  • Norman Lear – still alive
  • Jean Stapleton – died 5/31/2013
  • Yogi Berra - still alive
  • Lauren Becall - still alive
  • Mickey Rooney - still alive
  • Fidel Castro - still alive
  • Pete Seeger - still alive
  • Nanette Fabray - still alive
  • Sid Caesar - still alive
  • Rose Marie - still alive

Not very impressive.  And even worse for my 2013 Competitive Dead Pool list:

  1. Eli Wallach (born 12/07/1915)
  2. Zsa Zsa Gabor (born 2/06/1917)
  3. Billy Graham (born 11/7/1918)
  4. George Bush (born 6/12/1924)
  5. Margaret Thatcher (born 10/13/1925)
  6. Fidel Castro (born 8/13/1926)
  7. John McLaughlin (born 3/29/1927)
  8. James Garner (born 4/7/1928)
  9. Dick Cheney (born 1/30/1941)
  10. Stephen Hawking (born 1/8/1942)

The only one on that list who actually died was Margaret Thatcher.  She died on 4/08/2013, maker her 87.  Which means this year I scored a total of 13 points.  That's terrible.

2012 points:  38
2011 points:  113

Let's see if I can do better.  For my 2014 general list, I'm just going to keep what I had, minus a couple of names:

  • Zsa-Zsa Gabor
  • Olivia de Havilland
  • Billy Graham
  • Eli Wallach
  • Norman Lear
  • Yogi Berra
  • Lauren Becall
  • Mickey Rooney
  • Fidel Castro
  • Pete Seeger
  • Nanette Fabray
  • Sid Caesar
  • Rose Marie
  • Don Pardo
  • June Lockhart

And as for my competitive list, I'm not going to tweak it much, and not going to go too young:

  1. Eli Wallach (born 12/07/1915)
  2. Zsa Zsa Gabor (born 2/06/1917)
  3. Billy Graham (born 11/7/1918)
  4. Abe Vigoda (born 2/24/1921)
  5. Bob Barker (born 12/12/1923)
  6. George Bush (born 6/12/1924)
  7. Fidel Castro (born 8/13/1926)
  8. John McLaughlin (born 3/29/1927)
  9. James Garner (born 4/7/1928)
  10. Valerie Harper (born 8/22/1940)

Who’s Right?

This is on the cusp of going viral, so weigh in.

Backstory: GTA V (that's "Grand Theft Auto V") was released, and a lot of people had pre-ordered it from places like Gamestop.  At midnight of the release which was two days ago, people lined up at Gamestop (and other places) to get their reserved copy.

So this one guy was asked to show his ID that he was over 18 (because the game is rated M for "Mature").  In the video, he's pretty clearly over 18.  He doesn't have his ID, but he shows his business card.  The women behind the counter and Gamestop gives him a hard time, but apparently lets him have the game.  

He's not happy with the way he is treated.  He leaves the store, comes back and asks for the woman's name.  She goads the other customers into making fun of him.

At least that's how it looks like to me.  You be the judge:


Even though the YouTube video talks about "nerd rage" (poking fun at the customer), I would say that the comments on YouTube, on Gamestop's Facebook site, and other places are about 90% against the female Gamestop employee.

Most of the comments say something like: "Sometimes you have to deal with difficult people in customer service.  That's part of the job.  Being rude to them and mocking them, however, is not the proper way to respond.  This woman should be fired."

Gamestop has tweeted that it is investigating the matter.

NOTE: There is a comment at the YouTube site, which may or may not be true, saying that the woman was fin fact ired:

I work for GS in the LA area. I am happy to report to all of you that this bitch has been fired as of today. She was a cunt to work for, and trust me when I say that we are all happy that she is gone. Also, she has done worse than just this. Just last year she was under investigation for fudging the numbers in her books because money and games were coming up missing. She talked her way out of it and pegged it on an innocent girl who just killed herself this past May. Burn in hell Chrys.

Fictitious Journalist Tweets Are Awesome

Some Ig Noble Prize Winners

MEDICINE PRIZE: Masateru Uchiyama [JAPAN], Xiangyuan Jin [CHINA, JAPAN], Qi Zhang [JAPAN], Toshihito Hirai [JAPAN], Atsushi Amano [JAPAN], Hisashi Bashuda [JAPAN] and Masanori Niimi [JAPAN, UK], for assessing the effect of listening to opera, on heart transplant patients who are mice.

REFERENCE: "Auditory stimulation of opera music induced prolongation of murine cardiac allograft survival and maintained generation of regulatory CD4+CD25+ cells," Masateru Uchiyama, Xiangyuan Jin, Qi Zhang, Toshihito Hirai, Atsushi Amano, Hisashi Bashuda and Masanori Niimi, Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, vol. 7, no. 26, epub. March 23, 2012.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Masateru Uchiyama, Xiangyuan Jin, Masanori Niimi


PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE: Laurent Bègue [FRANCE], Brad Bushman [USA, UK, the NETHERLANDS, POLAND], Oulmann Zerhouni [FRANCE], Baptiste Subra [FRANCE], and Medhi Ourabah [FRANCE], for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive.

REFERENCE: "'Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder': People Who Think They Are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive," Laurent Bègue, Brad J. Bushman, Oulmann Zerhouni, Baptiste Subra, Medhi Ourabah, British Journal of Psychology, epub May 15, 2012.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Brad Bushman, Laurent Bègue, Medhi Ourabah


JOINT PRIZE IN BIOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY: Marie Dacke [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA], Emily Baird [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA, GERMANY], Marcus Byrne [SOUTH AFRICA, UK], Clarke Scholtz [SOUTH AFRICA], and Eric Warrant [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA, GERMANY], for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way.

REFERENCE: "Dung Beetles Use the Milky Way for Orientation," Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Clarke H. Scholtz, Eric J. Warrant, Current Biology, epub January 24, 2013. The authors, at Lund University, Sweden, the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, and the University of Pretoria

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Marie Dacke, Emily Baird, Marcus Byrne, Eric Warrant


SAFETY ENGINEERING PRIZE: The late Gustano Pizzo [USA], for inventing an electro-mechanical system to trap airplane hijackers — the system drops a hijacker through trap doors, seals him into a package, then drops the encapsulated hijacker through the airplane's specially-installed bomb bay doors, whence he parachutes to earth, where police, having been alerted by radio, await his arrival. US Patent #3811643, Gustano A. Pizzo, "anti hijacking system for aircraft", May 21, 1972.


PHYSICS PRIZE: Alberto Minetti [ITALY, UK, DENMARK, SWITZERLAND], Yuri Ivanenko [ITALY, RUSSIA, FRANCE], Germana Cappellini [ITALY], Nadia Dominici [ITALY, SWITZERLAND], and Francesco Lacquaniti [ITALY], for discovering that some people would be physically capable of running across the surface of a pond — if those people and that pond were on the moon.

REFERENCE: "Humans Running in Place on Water at Simulated Reduced Gravity," Alberto E. Minetti, Yuri P. Ivanenko, Germana Cappellini, Nadia Dominici, Francesco Lacquaniti, PLoS ONE, vol. 7, no. 7, 2012, e37300.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Alberto Minetti and Yuri Ivanenko


CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Shinsuke Imai [JAPAN], Nobuaki Tsuge [JAPAN], Muneaki Tomotake [JAPAN], Yoshiaki Nagatome [JAPAN], Toshiyuki Nagata [JAPAN, GERMANY], and Hidehiko Kumgai [JAPAN], for discovering that the biochemical process by which onions make people cry is even more complicated than scientists previously realized.

REFERENCE: "Plant Biochemistry: An Onion Enzyme that Makes the Eyes Water," S. Imai, N. Tsuge, M. Tomotake, Y. Nagatome, H. Sawada, T. Nagata and H. Kumagai, Nature, vol. 419, no. 6908, October 2002, p. 685.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: All six co-authors.


ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE: Brian Crandall [USA] and Peter Stahl [CANADA, USA], for parboiling a dead shrew, and then swallowing the shrew without chewing, and then carefully examining everything excreted during subsequent days — all so they could see which bones would dissolve inside the human digestive system, and which bones would not.

REFERENCE: "Human Digestive Effects on a Micromammalian Skeleton," Peter W. Stahl and Brian D. Crandall, Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 22, November 1995, pp. 789–97.



PEACE PRIZE: Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public, AND to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.


PROBABILITY PRIZE: Bert Tolkamp [UK, the NETHERLANDS], Marie Haskell [UK], Fritha Langford [UK, CANADA], David Roberts [UK], and Colin Morgan [UK], for making two related discoveries: First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and Second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again.

REFERENCE: "Are Cows More Likely to Lie Down the Longer They Stand?" Bert J. Tolkamp, Marie J. Haskell, Fritha M. Langford, David J. Roberts, Colin A. Morgan, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 124, nos. 1-2, 2010, pp. 1–10.



PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde, for the medical techniques described in their report "Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam" — techniques which they recommend, except in cases where the amputated penis had been partially eaten by a duck. [THAILAND]

REFERENCE: "Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam," by Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde, American Journal of Surgery, 1983, no. 146, pp. 376-382.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Nobel laureate Eric Maskin read aloud the acceptance speech sent by the winners.

– See more at: http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/#sthash.7rkilh9k.dpuf

The full list of winners for 2013 is here.

Duckworth Dresses Down IRS Contractor

It is one of those rare Congressional exchanges that's both dramatic and compelling: Yesterday during a House Oversight Committee hearing, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost her legs and use of her right arm when she served in Iraq, dressed down an IRS contractor who used his military disability status to receive government contracts reserved for disabled vets.

The catch? The Military Times reports Braulio Castillo claimed disability based on an injury he sustained at the U.S. Military Preparatory School nearly 30 years ago. The Times reports that Castillo broke his foot at the prep school, but went on to play football in college.

Duckworth pounced. It's worth watching the whole thing:


The Insane Sorority Girl Letter… Read By Michael Shannon

If you've been under a rock the past few days, the latest Internet meme is an actual letter written by a Delta Gamma sorority girl to her sisters.  It demands to be printed in full:

If you just opened this like I told you to, tie yourself down to whatever chair you’re sitting in, because this email is going to be a rough fucking ride.

For those of you that have your heads stuck under rocks, which apparently is the majority of this chapter, we have been FUCKING UP in terms of night time events and general social interactions with Sigma Nu. I’ve been getting texts on texts about people LITERALLY being so fucking AWKWARD and so fucking BORING. If you’re reading this right now and saying to yourself “But oh em gee Julia, I’ve been having so much fun with my sisters this week!”, then punch yourself in the face right now so that I don’t have to fucking find you on campus to do it myself.

I do not give a flying fuck, and Sigma Nu does not give a flying fuck, about how much you fucking love to talk to your sisters. You have 361 days out of the fucking year to talk to sisters, and this week is NOT, I fucking repeat NOT ONE OF THEM. This week is about fostering relationships in the greek community, and that’s not fucking possible if you’re going to stand around and talk to each other and not our matchup. Newsflash you stupid cocks: FRATS DON’T LIKE BORING SORORITIES. Oh wait, DOUBLE FUCKING NEWSFLASH: SIGMA NU IS NOT GOING TO WANT TO HANG OUT WITH US IF WE FUCKING SUCK, which by the way in case you’re an idiot and need it spelled out for you, WE FUCKING SUCK SO FAR. This also applies to you little shits that have talked openly about post gaming at a different frat IN FRONT OF SIGMA NU BROTHERS. Are you people fucking retarded? That’s not a rhetorical question, I LITERALLY want you to email me back telling me if you’re mentally slow so I can make sure you don’t go to anymore night time events. If Sigma Nu openly said “Yeah we’re gonna invite Zeta over”, would you be happy? WOULD YOU? No you wouldn’t, so WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU DO IT TO THEM?? IN FRONT OF THEM?!! First of all, you SHOULDN’T be post gaming at other frats, I don’t give a FUCK if your boyfriend is in it, if your brother is in it, or if your entire family is in that frat. YOU DON’T GO. YOU. DON’T. GO. And you ESPECIALLY do fucking NOT convince other girls to leave with you.

“But Julia!”, you say in a whiny little bitch voice to your computer screen as you read this email, “I’ve been cheering on our teams at all the sports, doesn’t that count for something?” NO YOU STUPID FUCKING ASS HATS, IT FUCKING DOESN’T. DO YOU WANNA KNOW FUCKING WHY?!! IT DOESN’T COUNT BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN FUCKING UP AT SOBER FUCKING EVENTS TOO. I’ve not only gotten texts about people being fucking WEIRD at sports (for example, being stupid shits and saying stuff like “durr what’s kickball?” is not fucking funny), but I’ve gotten texts about people actually cheering for the opposing team. The opposing. Fucking. Team. ARE YOU FUCKING STUPID?!! I don’t give a SHIT about sportsmanship, YOU CHEER FOR OUR GODDAMN TEAM AND NOT THE OTHER ONE, HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN TO A SPORTS GAME? ARE YOU FUCKING BLIND? Or are you just so fucking dense about what it means to make people like you that you think being a good little supporter of the greek community is going to make our matchup happy? Well it’s time someone told you, NO ONE FUCKING LIKES THAT, ESPECIALLY OUR FUCKING MATCHUP. I will fucking cunt punt the next person I hear about doing something like that, and I don’t give a fuck if you SOR me, I WILL FUCKING ASSAULT YOU.

“Ohhh Julia, I’m now crying because your email has made me oh so so sad”. Well good. If this email applies to you in any way, meaning if you are a little asswipe that stands in the corners at night or if you’re a weird shit that does weird shit during the day, this following message is for you:


I’m not fucking kidding. Don’t go. Seriously, if you have done ANYTHING I’ve mentioned in this email and have some rare disease where you’re unable to NOT do these things, then you are HORRIBLE, I repeat, HORRIBLE PR FOR THIS CHAPTER. I would rather have 40 girls that are fun, talk to boys, and not fucking awkward than 80 that are fucking faggots. If you are one of the people that have told me “Oh nooo boo hoo I can’t talk to boys I’m too sober”, then I pity you because I don’t know how you got this far in life, and with that in mind don’t fucking show up unless you’re going to stop being a goddamn cock block for our chapter. Seriously. I swear to fucking God if I see anyone being a goddamn boner at tonight’s event, I will tell you to leave even if you’re sober. I’m not even kidding. Try me.

And for those of you who are offended at this email, I would apologize but I really don’t give a fuck. Go fuck yourself.

I never understood the Greek system, but I never much cared for the women who were a part of it just to meet guys.  (Tip: you don't need a Greek system to do that).  Anyway, most people are shocked by the tone and awesomeness of the letter, and Michael Shannon took a shot at it:

 Truly awesome.

Chilling Out, Maxing, Relaxing All Cool

Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Theme Song Prompts School Lockdown

Travis Clawson's life got flipped, turned upside-down. A receptionist at an eye doctor's office in Pennsylvania called 19-year-old Travis Clawson on Thursday to confirm an appointment. Instead, she got an outgoing message that alarmed her. She thought she heard the teenager say something about shooting up the school. The receptionist then called Sewickley police, who contacted the Ambridge Area High School, where official put the school on lockdown. Police found Clawson at the school and arrested him.

An investigation determined that the outgoing message on the phone was Clawson singing the theme to the TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The line “And all shooting some b-ball outside of the school” was what alarmed the receptionist and set off the crisis. Clawson was released and has not been charged with any crime, but his parents were urged to have him change the outgoing message on his phone

Distracting Headlines

Report: As many as 8 people may be involved in avalanche in Scottish Highlands - @STVNews

"Involved"?  What does that mean?

Does that mean "buried" or "trapped"?  And if so, why not say that?

Unless the headline is saying that these 8 people started the avalanche.  But if that's the case, then the headline should say that.


Additional Myers-Briggs Personality Types


Unfeeling Uncaring Judging Screaming (UUJS)

Lurking Touching Hurting Regretting (UTHR)

Lying Denying Confessing Lying (LDCL)

Smoking Dancing Laughing Fucking (SDLF)

Moping Whining Crying Leaping (MWCL)

Loving Buying Owing Impoverishing (LBOI)

Hating Marrying Abusing Divorcing (HMAD)

Running Swimming Boxing Fencing (RSBF)

Writing Drinking Drinking Drinking (WDDD)

Opening Sniffing Tasting Questioning (OSTQ)

Eating Sleeping Videogame Playing (ESVP)

Deadspin Wins The Internet

Deadspin is the news organization that broke the story (which I'm not writing about) regarding Notre Dame player Manti Te'o and his non-existent girlfriend.

The reason why I say they "win the Internet" is not because of their groundbreaking story, but because of this twitter exchange:


followed by….


White House Responds To Death Star Petition

Someone has a great sense of humor:

This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For

By Paul Shawcross

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

Read the whole thing.

The First OMG?

This letter, circa 1917, was from British Admiral James Fisher to Winston Churchill (once First Lord of the Admiralty), and may have been the first OMG in recorded history.



Snoopy To Sail Across The Atlantic

Today, November 27th,a miniature boat was launched in hopes of being the first unmanned craft to (intentionally) cross the Atlantic.

Robin Lovelock is a retired NATO scientist and the creator of this project. He believes the vessel will have to navigate 6,000 miles via GPS to make it from the coastal village Barton on Sea, England.

Lovelock has a website where you can watch videos, get updates, and even follow an up-to-date GPS map of the boat.


Click to embiggen….

Looks like the tides took him back to land.

Commies Bite Down Hard On Onion

The People’s Daily Online, the mouthpiece of China’s Communist Party, has fallen for a satirical article in the Onion proclaiming North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un the “Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.” The report credulously quotes the Onion’s endorsement:

With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile.

The People’s Daily also included a 55-photo slideshow of the North Korean heartthrob in action. A sample:

The Onion has updated their story with this note:

For more coverage on The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive 2012, Kim Jong-Un, please visit our friends at the People’s Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc. Exemplary reportage, comrades.

Helen Lays Down The Rules

Eighty-six year old Helen Philpot of Margaret and Helen has some rules for her family this Thanksgiving:

Dear Family,

I’m not dead yet.  Thanksgiving is still important to me.  If being in my Last Will and Testament is important to you, then you might consider being with me for my favorite holiday.

Dinner is at 2:00.   Not 2:15.  Not 2:05.   Two.  Arrive late and you get what’s leftover.

Last year, that moron Marshall fried a turkey in one of those contraptions and practically burned the deck off the house.  This year, the only peanut oil used to make the meal will be from the secret scoop of peanut butter I add to the carrot soup.

Jonathan, your last new wife was an idiot.  You don’t arrive at someone’s house on Thanksgiving needing to use the oven and the stove.  Honest to God I thought you might have learned after two wives – date them longer and save us all the agony of another divorce.

Now, the house rules are slightly different this year because I have decided that 47% of you don’t know how to take care of nice things.  Paper plates and red Solo cups might be bad for the environment, but I’ll be gone soon and that will be your problem to deal with.

House Rules:

  1.  The University of Texas no longer plays Texas A&M.   The television stays off during the meal.
  2. The” no cans for kids” rule still exists.  We are using 2 liter bottles because your children still open a third can before finishing the first two.  Parents can fill a child’s cup when it is empty.  All of the cups have names on them and I’ll be paying close attention to refills.
  3. Cloe, last year we were at Trudy’s house and I looked the other way when your Jell-O salad showed up.  This year, if Jell-O salad comes in the front door it will go right back out the back door with the garbage.  Save yourself some time honey.  You’ve never been a good cook and you shouldn’t bring something that wiggles more than you.  Buy something from the HEB bakery.
  4. Grandmothers give grandchildren cookies and candy.  That is a fact of life.  Your children can eat healthy at your home.  At my home, they can eat whatever they like as long as they finish it.
  5. I cook with bacon and bacon grease.  That’s nothing new.  Your being a vegetarian doesn’t change the fact that stuffing without bacon is like egg salad without eggs.  Even the green bean casserole has a little bacon grease in it.   That’s why it tastes so good.  Not eating bacon is just not natural.  And as far as being healthy… look at me.  I’ve outlived almost everyone I know.
  6. Salad at Thanksgiving is a waste of space.
  7. I do not like cell phones.  Leave them in the car.
  8. I do not like video cameras.  There will be 32 people here.  I am sure you can capture lots of memories without the camera pointed at me.
  9. Being a mother means you have to actually pay attention to the kids.  I have nice things and I don’t put them away just because company is coming over.  Mary, watch your kids and I’ll watch my things.
  10. Rhonda, a cat that requires a shot twice a day is a cat that has lived too many lives.  I think staying home to care for the cat is your way of letting me know that I have lived too many lives too.  I can live with that.  Can you?
  11. Words mean things.  I say what I mean.   Let me repeat:  You don’t need to bring anything means you don’t need to bring anything.   And if I did tell you to bring something, bring it in the quantity I said.  Really.  This doesn’t have to be difficult.
  12. Dominos and cards are better than anything that requires a battery or an on/off switch.  That was true when you were kids and it’s true now that you have kids.
  13. Showing up for Thanksgiving guarantees presents at Christmas.  Not showing up guarantees a card that may or may not be signed.

The election is over so I’ll watch what I say and you will do the same.  If we all stick to that, we’ll have a good time.  If not, I’ll still have a good time but it will be at your expense.  In memory of your Grandfather, the back fridge will be filled with beer.  Drink until it is gone.  I prefer wine anyway.  But one from each family needs to be the designated driver.  I mean it really.

She rocks.

Absolutely-Real Not-At-All Fake Video Of Ann Dunham Giving Birth To Barack Obama

Here it is.  Proof!  Absolutely proof that Obama was indeed born in Kenya.


 Here's the story behind to absolutely-real not-at-all-fake video.

And you can tell it's real because filming births on Super 8 film was so commonplace in 1961.

Also, the medical chart (right next to a Kenyan flag) conveniently says that the Woman giving birth is Ann Dunham.  Oh sure, you would expect that, in 1961, she would have gone by her married name, Ann Obama, but that just shows how dumb you are.


And of course on that medical chart, at the very end of the film, you can see that the Kenyan hospital had access to Ann Dunham's high school yearbook photo, as any Kenyan hospital would.

But the thing that really makes this video absolutely-real and not-at-all-fake is that fact that Ann Dunham gives birth to a very gargantuan and somewhat confused baby Obama, who emerges in a slightly damp state from her vajayjay, umbilical cord not needed.  And like the future leader that he is, Baby Barack is alert, ready to read books, and perhaps shoot a view hoops after being smothered underneath his mother's skirt.

The ball is in your court, Mr. Obama.

NYC To Get The World’s Largest Ferris Wheel

Artist's rendering:


It'll be on Staten Island and cost $230 million.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2014 on the privately financed project, which also includes a 100-shop outlet mall and a 200-room hotel. The grand opening could come by the end of 2015.


One photo per day from January 11, 2000 to June 30, 2012.  The aging is very gradual — be patient.  Watch the forehead get noticably larger about halfway through.

Fascinating stuff.


He has a bad hair day everyday, too.

World’s Worst Protester Dies

O.K.  So two weeks ago, this guy made the news for his anti-gay protest-gone-wrong outside General Mills:


Today, we learned he died:

A Twin Cities man who staged a fiery protest outside General Mills headquarters in Golden Valley last week died several days later while running an errand, his family's minister said Wednesday.

Michael L. Leisner, 65, of Andover, gained national television attention for setting a box of Cheerios on fire outside the cereal maker's corporate offices on Aug. 5 in a one-person protest of the company's support for same-sex marriage.

Leisner posted video of his act online, with it showing him scrambling to stomp out the flames before he hurriedly instructs his off-camera friends to get in the car. The video made its way onto cable television's "The Daily Show" and "Chelsea Lately."

Leisner died Saturday while waiting in his car for his sons to finish playing tennis, said Dwight Denyes, senior pastor at Emmanuel Christian Center in Spring Lake Park.

Makes you think.

News Night 2.0 Caves

So last night, for all the high-minded talk about doing news differently, the fine journalists at News Night (on HBO's The Newsroom) decided it was important to cover the Casey Anthony case and Anthony Weiner's twitpics of his "manhood".  And why?  Because Nancy Grace was kicking the crap out of them in the ratings.

Oh, sure, there was much handwringing about it.  In fact, the whole show was about handwringing.  You see, News Night wants to be the network of choices for a Republican presidential debate, and they can't get the Republicans to go along if all their viewers have  migrated to Nancy Grace.  News Night wants the GOP debate badly because they want to change the way debates are run… forever.

Now, if I had a time travel machine (which could also warp into fictional realms), I would tell these people that the Republicans had 200 debates and Dunkin Donuts could have been the sponsor of one of them, so don't worry about it.

Anyway, so News Night decided to cover Casey Anthony's trial — all six weeks of it (or so we are led to believe; last night was Part One of a two-parter cleverly subtitled "Tragedy Porn", which is what covering Casey Anthony is.)

That said, the folks at Wonkette are wondering something else — why Maggie hasn't been fired yet:

Last night’s Newsroom was about many important things presumably, like good journalists being very angry about having to cover the snuff porn that was the Casey Anthony trial, and Rupert Murdoch’s British phone-tapping empire, and Olivia Munn being awesome. There was probably some other Issues in there as well, who can remember? But the only important question left is: with all the talented out-of-work journalists out there, why haven’t they yet fired Maggie?

First, last week (sorry we left you hanging, we didn’t feel like it), during the night when the ACN staff has been called in to work because Barack Obama killed Osama bin Laden, Maggie flips out and insists her boss (HER BOSS) interrupt his busy schedule of confirming that Barack Obama killed Osama bin Laden in order to role-play breaking up with Maggie’s roommate, because Maggie wants her boss to break up with her roommate. THIS SEEMS INAPPROPRIATE.

Now, it is revealed to us, during a squabble in the newsroom over who has to screen a starfucker calling in about Anthony Wiener’s junk tweets (oh right, it was about Anthony Wiener’s junk tweets too; recent history is fun!) that Maggie is actually the very lowest person on the ACN totem pole, like, under the two women who were hired as interns the same day. And yet when the executive producers walk into their news meeting while Maggie is on a tear about being personally offended by Michele Bachmann saying she hears God’s voice (oh yeah, it was about Michele Bachmann too), she tells them to hold their fucking water, because she is not done talking.

Good question.

Guy Catches Girlfriend With A New Friend On Facebook And Gets Violent

The friend? Mitt Romney:

JULY 31–Suspicious that his live-in girlfriend was planning an affair, a Tennessee man confronted the woman after spotting a photo of an unknown guy on her Facebook page, according to a police report.

Lowell Turpin, 40, “angrily demanded to know who the male was,” reported Anderson County Sheriff’s Department investigators.

Crystal Gray, 38, “replied that it was a picture of Mitt Romney.”

Despite being informed that the man on Gray’s wall was the presumptive Republican presidential candidate (and not some hunky, severely conservative sidepiece), Turpin apparently was not placated. Gray said that he “became upset because she was attempting to communicate with friends through her Facebook account.”

In a subsequent tussle over the laptop, Gray’s hand was injured as she unsuccessfully tried to stop Turpin form smashing the computer against the wall. Gray told deputies that Turpin, pictured in the above mug shot, also punched her in the face during the encounter.

While denying that he assaulted Gray, the 310-pound Turpin gave probers “multiple contradictory accounts of the struggle over the laptop.” Turpin wascharged with domestic assault in connection with the July 22 incident at the couple’s Clinton residence.

Turpin remains locked up in the Anderson County jail in lieu of $1000 bond

It's a good thing for her sake that she didn't "friend" Obama.  I have a feeling this guy would have gone even more ballistic.

Near Death At Seaworld

Remarkable and scary video of a trainer at Seaworld being attacked by an Orca.  From 2006, this was just released through a FOIA request.

It gets wild about 1:30 into the video. The Orca grabbed a trainer's foot. The man gets pulled under, then after a while the animal resurfaces and stays at the surface for a while, still holding the trainer's foot in its mouth. He keeps patting the animal, trying to calm it. Occasionally the Orca pulls him under again, as his foot is still in its mouth.  At one point, you notice that his foot is free yet he's still patting the animal.  Apparently, he cannot flee even though his foot is free, as the Orca will come after him.  So he continues to pat the animal while slowly pushing it toward the edge.  Just as he gets close enough, he releases the Orca then runs for his life to get out of the pool. 

The video is really quite horrifying but also fascinating.