Wednesday Reads: Math, Dogs and Sheep

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Good Mid-Morning

Just a quick thought this morning before we get to the links. Yesterday Boston Boomer linked to an article about Janet Yellen, and there were a few sentences that made me stop and think. Which is really something because usually when it comes to articles containing anything associated with numbers, my brain tends to retreat like a coward who is being bombarded by incoming aerial livestock.

la vache in flightBut seriously…the article Boston Boomer linked to was from CNN. Here is the quote:

CNN Money’s report on Yellen’s speech, Janet Yellen: Job market not recovered.

That was Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s main message Friday in a much anticipated speech.

“It speaks to the depth of the damage that, five years after the end of the recession, the labor market has yet to fully recover,” she said.

ae0607c9a034b49a4870b3b008599168The debate now is whether the job situation in America is healthy enough for the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates, which have been at historic lows in recent years in an effort to jump start the economy. Yellen, however, said little new on Friday, and U.S. stock markets stayed flat.

Yellen is chair of the committee that sets interest rates, but she only gets one vote. Other members have differing views. The Fed board and other top economists are spending the weekend in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, debating these key issues.

Though the unemployment rate “has fallen considerably and at a surprisingly rapid pace,” Yellen said problems remain.

Emphasis mine.

Okay, maybe I am a bit hypersensitive, but why the specific mention about her getting only one vote. Is this something new? I was under the impression that whenever Greenspan or Bernake or Geithner spoke…it was as if the all powerful Oz had spoken. Doris from the Outer Hebrides by Ron Gilmore, via Flickr. Doris took a shortcut through the fern grove!!Especially with Greenspan, I mean that guy was the equivalent of verbal Dow Jones Industrial Average “pusher” in that whenever he opened his mouth…he spewed economic commentary uppers or downers.

Anyway, if this is not a big deal…then just forget about all that shit and continue with the post. As it is, the thread is late this morning. I got distracted finding images of sheep on Pinterest. Oh well, you know what that means…another dump. Link dump that is….

The latest news:

Two Men Abducted, Drowned in Philadelphia River, Third Man Escapes, Police Say – ABC News

The bodies of two men who had been bound were found today dumped a Philadelphia river, while a third man who had been repeatedly stabbed narrowly escaped the abductors believed to be responsible for the double homicide, authorities said.

The survivor, a 20-year-old man, was taken off the street by four or five men early this morning and thrown into the back of a van, police said.

He was then stabbed about nine times, in the torso and legs, Philadelphia police said, and his hands were tied behind his back with duct tape and his ankles were bound as well. Duct tape was also placed over his mouth, and once in the van, he realized there were two other people in the van who had also been bound, police said.

Valais Blacknose SheepAll three were taken to the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park, where they were thrown into the water, police said, noting that the two other people were tethered to some kind of weight and drowned in five to ten feet of water.

This is a new story obviously so no real info as of yet…cops say they may have surveillance video of abduction.

And you may be one of the millions without internet service: Time Warner Cable Suffers Massive Outage

Time Warner Cable suffered a nationwide outage on Wednesday morning, leaving many users unable to access the Internet.

The company issued a statement to Mashable, acknowledging the outage and reporting that much of its service had been restored. TWC said the service outage was due to an issue with its “Internet backbone” that occurred during routine maintenance.

At 430am ET this morning during our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services. As of 6am ET services were largely restored as updates continue to bring all customers back online.

sheepish by karena goldfinch on FlickrTWC outage leaves 12M people without Internet access — and it’s only going to get worse

On Tuesday, Time Warner Cable agreed to pay the Federal Communications Commission $1.1 million for failing to disclose a “substantial number” of outages affecting its customers. Now today, the company announced that it is suffering from multiple outages affecting 12 million people.

Making matters worse is that many of those consumers probably didn’t have much choice when they signed up for the service, given Time Warner Cable’s effective monopoly in a number of its markets. As I wrote when I compared its service against the only other option for Internet service in my area,

The problem is, there are no options for someone living in the boonies. If they want to connect to the Internet they have to use something like [Finger Lakes Technologies Group, a regional Internet provider]; there are no other options. [...] So far as choices go, it’s clear that people who live in small towns like this one are totally screwed.

This is a problem all across the country. Many people have access to just a handful of ISPs, many of which are regional offerings that pale in comparison to their national counterparts, which enjoy a monopoly on the high-end service market in many of the places they operate.

8fcbafa0f238f79808e0fe22f6071cf6That problem will only be made worse if Time Warner Cable is allowed to merge with Comcast and become what Netflix called the “nation’s largest onramp to the Internet.” The combined company is unlikely to care much about leveling the playing field and allowing other ISPs to give consumers more options for Internet service. It’ll just amass as much power as it can.

Does that seem like a company that’s going to solve problems that lead to outages affecting 12 million people around the United States? Hell, even with the scant competition they have now, both Time Warner Cable and Comcast have done little to make their services better. As I wrote in May, the companies are the least-liked in every industry in which they operate. (Surprise!)

We have this problem with Windstream being the shitty internet service monopoly here in Banjoville.

Next: Why Israel’s bombardment of Gaza neighborhood left US officers ‘stunned’ | Al Jazeera America

The cease-fire announced Tuesday between Israel and Palestinian factions — if it holds — will end seven weeks of fighting that killed more than 2,200 Gazans and some 69 Israelis. But as the rival camps seek to put their spin on the outcome, one assessment of Israel’s Gaza operation that won’t be publicized is that of the U.S. military. Still, even though the Pentagon shies away from publicly expressing judgments that might fall afoul of a decidedly pro-Israel Congress, senior U.S. military sources speaking on condition of anonymity offered a scathing assessment of Israeli tactics, particularly in the battle for Shujaiya.

Eduardo GageiroOne of the more curious moments in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge came on July 20, when a live microphone at FOX News caught Secretary of State John Kerry commenting sarcastically on Israel’s military action: “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.”

Rain of high-explosive shells

The secretary of state’s comment followed the heaviest bombardment of the war to that point, as Israeli artillery rained thousands of high-explosive shells into the neighborhood of Shujaiya, a residential area on the eastern edge of Gaza City. A high-ranking U.S. military officer told this reporter that the source of Kerry’s apparent consternation was almost certainly a Pentagon summary report assessing the Israeli barrage, on which the Secretary had been briefed by an aide moments earlier.

Irving Penn - A young Berber shepherdess of the Aït Yazza people in the High Atlas, with a newborn lamb.According to this senior U.S. officer, who had access to the July 21 Pentagon summary of the previous 24 hours of Israeli operations, the internal report showed that 11 Israeli artillery battalions —a minimum of 258 artillery pieces in all, according to this officer’s estimate — had pumped at least 7,000 high explosive shells into the Gaza neighborhood, which included a barrage of some 4,800 shells during the seven-hour period marking the height of the operation. Senior U.S. officers were stunned by the report.

Twice daily throughout the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) operation, a select group of senior U.S. military and intelligence officers at the Pentagon received a lengthy written summary of Israeli military action in Gaza. The reports — compiled from information gleaned from open sources, Israeli military officers with whom U.S. officials speak and satellite images — offered a detailed assessment of Israel’s battlefield tactics and the performance of its weaponry, a considerable portion of it supplied by the United States.

Although these reports shy away from offering political judgments on the operation, a number of senior U.S. military officers who spoke about the contents of those daily reports with this reporter were highly critical of some of the IDF’s tactics, particularly in the Israeli ground invasion of Shujaiya. An official spokesman at the Pentagon declined to comment on the contents of this article.

65d7b88498df7aae340ab92e8d434944More at the link.

50 years later, SNAP proves its continuing vitality | Opinion | McClatchy DC

Even as SNAP policies and procedures change with the times, the program’s core mission remains the same. When the Food Stamp Act was passed in 1964, it aimed to provide better nutrition to low-income households while benefiting our agricultural economy. Fifty years later, research shows SNAP is still doing just that.

For example, SNAP benefits boost the economy by creating markets, and spurring economic growth and jobs in urban and rural communities at grocers, superstores, farmers’ markets, military commissaries, manufacturers and farms. And because SNAP benefits are so urgently needed, they are spent quickly – 97 percent of benefits are redeemed within the month of issuance – and therefore have great positive economic effects. Moody’s Analytics and USDA estimate that the economic growth impact of SNAP ranges from $1.73 to $1.79 per $1 of SNAP benefits.

“Leapsheeping Lambs” by Roeselien RaimondOne component of SNAP that needs to change and hasn’t is the amount of the monthly benefit allotment. While we know the program is capable of reducing food insecurity, improving the health and well-being of recipients, and ultimately saving taxpayer dollars on avoided healthcare costs, it could work much better. Current benefits are based on assumptions developed in the 1930s for emergency diets. That plan is now woefully outmoded on every front from nutrition to practicality. Multiple studies, including the USDA’s own analysis of a recent (temporary) boost in benefits, show the value of a healthier allotment.

OSheep at Stanton Drew by elaine's life in images on Flickrver the course of any 50-year period, change is inevitable. Since August 1964, SNAP’s strength has been recognizing and responding to those changes. Today, the program’s mission is as necessary as it was 50 years ago: providing relevant, vital help to boost nutrition, economic security and health among seniors, children, people with disabilities, and unemployed or low-income working families. This is an anniversary worth celebrating.

Black Agenda Report is out, and here is their coverage of the “events” at Ferguson | Black Agenda Report

bc9ea1ec82f69b079338d510cc7d8751Did y’all see the latest in ironic pro-gun nut death by gun shot? DEATH BY MISADVENTURE | Gin and Tacos

On Tuesday a 39 year old firearms instructor was fatally shot near Kingman, AZ when the nine year-old girl he was instructing on the use of an Uzi submachine gun lost control of it…while it was on full automatic. This resolves once and for all the question of whether it is a good idea to give a nine year old girl who appears in the linked video to weigh about 20 pounds (note: the video shows only the events leading up to the fatal incident, but does not include the incident itself) a submachine gun set on full auto. The facility, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, caters to the vacationing yahoo crowd:a8f7be7a6c29bdbc291eb3f61896b6df

KINGMAN, Ariz. — An instructor who was shot by a 9-year-old girl who fired an Uzi at a northwestern Arizona shooting range died Monday night at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

The girl fired the weapon at the outdoor range that caters to heavy tourism traffic along U.S. Highway 93 between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Highway signage and Internet advertising beckons visitors to stop in, fire a machine gun and enjoy a meal at the Bullets and Burgers enterprise at the Last Stop, about 25 miles south of Las Vegas.

The instructor had, among others, the following hilarious pro-gun images posted on his Facebook wall (h/t Balloon Juice)

a5f4ebc59149f626d77d94a1c1c14bb4Go to the link to see the images and commentary that this man had posted on his wall. It is the typical shit…

What about a look at what makes Houston…colorful? Immigrants reshape Houston, America’s most diverse metropolis | Al Jazeera America

In the past 20 years, Houston — that most Texan of Texan cities — has come to look more and more like the taxi drivers. Between 1990 and 2010, Greater Houston added more than 2.2 million people (PDF) and now boasts a population of more than 6 million (the city proper has 2.2 million residents). The metropolitan area has eclipsed New York and Los Angeles to become the most racially and ethnically diverse in the United States.

4240f24bd326893a797d4327d5d943e9A joint report published last year by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas (PDF) found that Greater Houston scores highest on the Entropy Index, which measures diversity according to the presence and relative proportions of the four major racial groups (white, black, Hispanic and Asian). All five Houston counties have become more diverse over the past two decades, with increased numbers of Hispanics (from 21 to 35 percent) and Asians (from 3.4 to 6.5 percent), a stable population of blacks (about 17 percent) and a decrease in whites or “Anglos” (from over 50 to under 40 percent), though rates of residential segregation remain high.

Oh boy, it is really getting late…here are the rest in real quick dump format:

A lamb jumping over a trough, 1950Video shows police shot Ohio man ‘on sight’ as he leaned on toy gun in Walmart, attorney says

Dueling demands in Walmart shooting case | WDTN

Scarlett Johansson designs shirt for Planned Parenthood | TheHill

Archaeologists Discover 15 Previously Unknown Monuments Buried Around Stonehenge

Jon Stewart Goes After Fox in Powerful Ferguson Monologue | Mediaite

ec7c81f2b4f070513900f2313f8e5f3a– Another Ferguson? Young Black Man Shot In Chest With Hands Cuffed Behind Back. Police Say Suicide.

The Emmys Censored the Punchline of That Last Robin Williams Bit

Ferguson Police Officer Justin Cosma Hog-Tied And Injured A Young Child, Lawsuit Alleges

50 Shades of Grey: Harmful to Your Health? | Care2 Causes

It’s being hailed as a “provocative new study” worthy of Christian Grey himself — a group of researchers have just published an article in Journal of Women’s Health claiming that women who read “50 Shades of Grey” are at a higher risk for domestic abuse, disordered eating, a high number of sexual partners and even binge drinking. But don’t throw your romance novel to the curb just yet: The study is another example of the good old “correlation does not equal causation” trope.

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During the study, a group of scientists surveyed 655 18-to-24-year-old women online, a third of whom had read some or all of the ’50 Shades’ series. They asked them questions about their personal sexual practices, their experiences of partner victimization such as sexual and psychological abuse, and binge drinking. When they adjusted their findings for age and race, researchers learned that women who had read at least the first book in the series were more likely to report partner victimization, cyberstalking, fasting and using diet aids. 5b03d93e5435018f1fdedd169a22f7caWomen who had read all three books in the series were also more likely to report having five or more sexual partners in their lifetime. Their conclusion? There is an association between reading the series and negative health outcomes for women.

At the Guardian: The 100 best novels: an introduction | Books | The Observer

They are at week 49: The 100 best novels: No 49 – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (1925) | Books | The Observer

You can see the past weeks here: The 100 best novels | Books | The Guardian

A border collie herding sheep at the Rockefeller Center, 1948. Photo for LIFE magazine by George Silk.Now for the article that explains the title of this post: BBC News – ‘Two simple rules’ explain sheepdog behaviour

The relationship between a shepherd and his sheepdog has always seemed almost magical, but scientists now say it can be explained by two simple rules.

Researchers have used GPS data to reveal the mathematical secrets of how sheepdogs do their job.

The new model helps to explain why one shepherd and a single dog can herd an unruly flock of more than 100 sheep.

It could be used to help develop “shepherd robots”, for controlling crowds or cleaning up an oil spill.ce2d03bff1e703b2b3fce681272fc1ea

The first rule: The sheepdog learns how to make the sheep come together in a flock. The second rule: Whenever the sheep are in a tightly knit group, the dog pushes them forwards.

NERC fellow Dr Andrew King of Swansea University helped to design backpacks fitted with highly accurate GPS technology. These trackers were attached to a flock of sheep and a sheepdog.

“What’s so interesting about this is how simple the rules are,” Dr King told the BBC.

“At the beginning we had lots of different ideas. We started out looking from a birds eye view, but then we realised we needed to see what the dog sees. It sees white, fluffy things. If there are gaps between them or the gaps get bigger, the dogs needs to bring them together.”

Sheep Bridge by Mountain Mike on FlickrAccording to Dr King, sheepdogs are making the most of the “selfish herd theory” to bring the animals close together and move them where they want.

“One of the things that sheep are really good at is responding to a threat by working with their neighbours. It’s the selfish herd theory: put something between the threat and you. Individuals try to minimise the chance of anything happening to them, so they move towards the centre of a group.”

A colleague, Dr Daniel Strombom from Uppsala University in Sweden, used the GPS data from the collars to develop computer simulations. This enabled them to develop a mathematical shepherding model.

The algorithm displays the same weaving pattern exhibited by sheepdogs. It helps to solve what has been called the ‘the shepherding problem': how one agent can control a large number of unwilling agents.

John Hooper. The Shepherd, 1982.The research was published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Read the rest at the link…and how they are working to use this information in other ways.

This made me look for a couple of more sheepy links:

Shrek the runaway sheep is a shear celebrity – Telegraph

29 Apr 2004

Shrek, the New Zealand merino sheep which spent the last six years on the run from his owners, finally had his long-postponed encounter with a pair of shears last night.

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Shrek the sheep is shown before, during and after being sheared

 

The woolly creature was shorn of his 15-inch long, 59lb fleece during a live television broadcast.

Viewers around the country watched eagerly to see the wool carefully snipped away by a former world champion shearer, Peter Casserly.

Despite his years as a hermit, Shrek was as meek as a lamb and co-operated fully.

“He is probably looking forward to getting this lot off,” Mr Casserly said confidently as he got to work.

 

And from 2012, Shepherds around the world – in pictures | World news | theguardian.com

They used to be an important part of the global economy but with the increase of estates the need for shepherds has declined. However, the tradition does still exist in many parts of the world

 

That one is just a gallery…so go and enjoy it.

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Sorry this is so damn late!

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Saturday Reads: A li’l bit of This and That

Good Morning!

I thought I’d just try to put up a bunch of interesting articles that I’ve read recently, so I’m pretty sure there’s no theme here.  I guess we’ll see as I meander into each of them.

Economics started out as the study of Political Economy. Many of its early thinkers were definitely more essayists than researchers using data and vintage-science-picture-5statistical methods to look for trends.  The study of what we call frictions–or things in markets that cause them to stray from a perfect model—has been really important since we’ve learned to use data to empirically test theoretical models and constructs.  It’s interesting to go back to many of these early philosophical writers and notice that their gut feelings–as expressed in their essays–are as germane now as they were then. Karl Polanyi critiqued early market Capitalism in the 20th century in “The Great Transformation.” Polanyi argued that the idea of an efficient market economy was basically as utopian as its Marxist counterpoint.  Two sociologists have written a book that revisits the Polanyi critique.  Is the Free Market an impossible Utopia?  This is from an interview with the two researchers.

Polanyi’s core thesis is that there is no such thing as a free market; there never has been, nor can there ever be. Indeed he calls the very idea of an economy independent of government and political institutions a “stark utopia”—utopian because it is unrealizable, and the effort to bring it into being is doomed to fail and will inevitably produce dystopian consequences. While markets are necessary for any functioning economy, Polanyi argues that the attempt to create a market society is fundamentally threatening to human society and the common good In the first instance the market is simply one of many different social institutions; the second represents the effort to subject not just real commodities (computers and widgets) to market principles but virtually all of what makes social life possible, including clean air and water, education, health care, personal, legal, and social security, and the right to earn a livelihood. When these public goods and social necessities (what Polanyi calls “fictitious commodities”) are treated as if they are commodities produced for sale on the market, rather than protected rights, our social world is endangered and major crises will ensue.

Free market doctrine aims to liberate the economy from government “interference”, but Polanyi challenges the very idea that markets and governments are separate and autonomous entities. Government action is not some kind of “interference” in the autonomous sphere of economic activity; there simply is no economy without government rules and institutions. It is not just that society depends on roads, schools, a justice system, and other public goods that only government can provide. It is thatall of the key inputs into the economy—land, labor, and money—are only created and sustained through continuous government action. The employment system, the arrangements for buying and selling real estate, and the supplies of money and credit are organized and maintained through the exercise of government’s rules, regulations, and powers.

By claiming it is free-market advocates who are the true utopians, Polanyi helps explain the free market’s otherwise puzzlingly tenacious appeal: It embodies a perfectionist ideal of a world without “coercive” constraints on economic activities while it fiercely represses the fact that power and coercion are the unacknowledged features of all market participation.

tumblr_n30dq5LmdH1qbn5m1o3_500I have another study for BB.   This one was published in the July issue of Cognitive Science.  The authors found that children who are not exposed to religious stories are better able to tell that characters in “fantastical stories” are fictional.  Children raised in a religious environment even “approach unfamiliar, fantastical stories flexibly.”  

In “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds,” Kathleen Corriveau, Eva Chen, and Paul Harris demonstrate that children typically have a “sensitivity to the implausible or magical elements in a narrative,” and can determine whether the characters in the narrative are real or fictional by references to fantastical elements within the narrative, such as “invisible sails” or “a sword that protects you from danger every time.”

However, children raised in households in which religious narratives are frequently encountered do not treat those narratives with the same skepticism. The authors believed that these children would “think of them as akin to fairy tales,” judging “the events described in them as implausible or magical and conclude that the protagonists in such narratives are only pretend.”

And yet, “this prediction is likely to be wrong,” because “with appropriate testimony from adults” in religious households, children “will conceive of the protagonist in such narratives as a real person — even if the narrative includes impossible events.”

The researchers took 66 children between the ages of five and six and asked them questions about stories — some of which were drawn from fairy tales, others from the Old Testament — in order to determine whether the children believed the characters in them were real or fictional.

“Children with exposure to religion — via church attendance, parochial schooling, or both — judged [characters in religious stories] to be real,” the authors wrote. “By contrast, children with no such exposure judged them to be pretend,” just as they had the characters in fairy tales. But children with exposure to religion judged many characters in fantastical, but not explicitly religious stories, to also be real — the equivalent of being incapable of differentiating between Mark Twain’s character Tom Sawyer and an account of George Washington’s life.

Archaeologists have found an 8000 year old skull containing residual brain matter. Girton Laboratory

Archaeologists in Norway have found what could potentially be an 8,000-year-old human skull – which contains traces of brain matter.The finding at a site in Stokke, Vestfold, could shed light on life in the Stone Age, a period that lasted roughly 3.4 million years, and ended between 6000 BC and 2000 BC.It was among a number of discoveries unearthed during the excavation, The Local reported.

It is too early to tell whether the bone remains are those of a human or an animal, but early tests have dated the skull to around 5,900BC, placing it within the prehistoric Stone Age period.

Gaute Reitan, dig site leader, told NRK that the “one of a kind” skull contained a grey substance that appeared to be brain matter.

But he said it was not possible to confirm if it belongs to a human.

mad-scienceThe Guardian reports that the Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists are scurrying to cover up their guilt in the shoot down of the Malaysian commercial jet killing hundreds of people.

The OSCE was trying to gain access to one part of the large crash site but the commander of a rebel unit, known as Commander Glum, blocked them. After the warning shot, the OSCE convoy departed.

There is also confusion over the black boxes and other devices apparently salvaged from the plane. A rebel military commander initially said he was considering what to do with them, while another rebel leader, Aleksandr Borodai, contradicting his colleague, said the rebels had no black boxes or any other devices.

The Ukrainian interior ministry added to fears of a cover-up when it released video purportedly taken by police showing a truck carrying a Buk missile launcher with one of its four missiles apparently missing, rolling towards the Russian border at dawn. The video could not be independently verified.

Other material on rebel social media sites was being deleted, including pictures showing the alleged capture of Buk missile vehicles by rebels from a Ukrainian air base last month.

Rebels said the boast on the social media site on Thursday that a plane had been shot down was not put up by them but by a sympathiser who mistakenly assumed it was a Ukrainian military plane that had been shot down. But in a separate posting a rebel leader also claimed that a plane had been brought down. “We warned you – do not fly in our sky,” he said. That too was removed.

A Nato intelligence specialist quoted by the military analysts Janes said the recordings “show that the Russian ‘helpers’ realise that they now have an international incident on their hands – and they probably also gave the order for separatists to erase all evidence – including those internet postings. It will be interesting to see if we ever find this Buk battery again or if someone now tries to dump it into a river.”

Video footage allegedly taken on Thursday appeared to support the idea that pro-Russia separatists had been to blame. It showed a Buk battery seemingly being moved in the rebel-held area between Snizhne and Torez close to the crash site. A still picture allegedly shows a missile in vertical launch mode beside a supermarket in Torez. However, the location has still to be established.

Ukrainian intelligence has published a tape said to be a recording between rebels and Russian intelligence in which they realise there has been a catastrophic blunder. One recording is said to be between a rebel commander, Igor Bezler, and a Russian intelligence officer in which he says: “We have just shot down a plane.” A second recording from an unidentified source puts the blame on Cossack militiamen.

Defence analysts with Russian expertise shared Power’s scepticism that Russia-backed rebel groups would have had the expertise to fire the missile and suggested it was more likely to have been Russian ground troops who specialise in air defence, seconded to help the rebels.

At the Pentagon, officials said a motive for the operation had yet to be determined, as had the chain of command. One said it would be “surprising to us” if pro-Russia separatists were able to operate the Buk missile battery without Russian technical support. The Ukrainian military confirmed it has Buk batteries but said it had none in the area the missile was fired.

Nato had Awacs surveillance and command-and-control planes flying in the Baltics around the time of the crash, but Pentagon officials did not think the aircraft picked up indications of the disaster.

Bob Latiff, a former US weapons developer for the air force and the CIA and now a professor at Notre Dame University, said he leaned towards a belief that it was a case of mistaken identity on the part of those who pressed the button.

“A radar return from an airplane like this would look very similar to that from a cargo plane, as was initially claimed by the separatists. If radar was all they were using, that is a shame,” he said. “All airliners emit identification signals which identify the aircraft and provide other information like altitude and speed. They also operate on known communications frequencies. It doesn’t sound like the separatists were using any of this.

“My guess is the system’s radar saw a return from a big ‘cargo’ plane flying at 30,000 ft or so and either automatically fired, or some aggressive, itchy operator fired, not wanting to miss an opportunity.”

Latiff said that if they had only one radar, as Ukrainian officials suggest, it would have been pointed at the target. A second, rotating one would normally have been part of a battery to pick up other planes in the immediate vicinity, but he said even that would not have established whether it was a commercial plane and there would normally have been communications equipment to pick up signals showing the plane was non-military.

Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military specialist at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said he regarded the tape recordings as genuine, as well as postings on social media pointing the finger at pro-Russia separatists or Russia itself.

But getting evidence would be very difficult. He said: “A decision has been made on the Russian side to hide their tracks. It will be hard to find the battery.” Satellites might have been able to catch something, but the trail from the missile would have been very short, Sutyagin said.

So, I still can’t discern much of a pattern here but I just found all these links very interesting.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!  Quelle Surprise! Pop Culture is still Misogynist, Racist, and Homophobic!

Pige-Manga-BWI found some interesting reads over the weekend so I hope you’ll enjoy them!   They are all sort’ve stories that actually reflect a lot of the things that fascinate and entertain me.  I love strategy games and have been playing them on line for quite some time  Actually, it’s been since the early 1990s when most of the games were simply text oriented.  I also love animation art, and books, and of course, music. So, here’s a little bit on that and a little bit of stuff that has to do with social justice too.  If I do a have a consistent train of thought here it is that so much of what should be entertaining and could be informative can sow bad seeds.  I’ve a few examples where the pop and geek culture are taking on hard topics. Some are  successful and examining crucial human stories.  Some rely on the same old misogyny, racism, and homobigotry.

Japanese Manga is a way many creative people in Japan explore how they feel about a variety of things. This article is about a new manga book on the lives of the Fukashima plant workers.

A manga that describes the reality of daily life at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant through the eyes of a worker is enjoying popularity.

“Ichiefu” (1F), written by Kazuto Tatsuta, 49, first appeared in autumn 2013 as a serial comic in the weekly magazine “Morning,” published by Kodansha Ltd. Ichiefu stands for the Fukushima No. 1 plant among locals.

The comic was published in book form on April 23. The publisher shipped a total of 150,000 copies of the first volume, which is an unusually large number for a little-known manga artist.

Tatsuta said he changed jobs repeatedly after graduating from university. At the same time, he also worked as a comic strip artist.

It was when he was considering another job change that the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami occurred, triggering the nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant.

While seeking a better-paying job, Tatsuta also wondered what part he could do as a citizen of Japan to help. As a result, he began to work at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from June 2012 for a total of six months.

“Ichiefu” describes the situation at the plant in great detail. The descriptions of equipment, such as the masks and protective gear the workers used, and the procedures they took to measure radiation levels make readers feel as if they are there and reading actual worker manuals.

The comic also depicts intimate practices only workers there would know. For example, the workers always say “Be safe” to each other before starting their shifts.

Each of the workers was also required to stop working when his dosimeter issued a fourth warning sound.

I quit playing a few games last year that I had really grown fond of because of the rampant misogyny and homophobia of many of the white male manga-dark-warriorplayers.  I had repeatedly asked them to constrain their language, behavior, and what they posted.  I am fortunately playing a game right now where that’s not the case.  I am still one of the few female players in my alliance.  I believe I am one of two but I have found that I generally enjoy better game play if I am in an alliance where there are many openly gay men.  This NPR article summarizes a series of articles that are focused on white male privilege in the online game atmosphere.

In video games, sexism often comes in the form of male-dominated storylines and character archetypes. In the video game community, it takes a more menacing shape.

It ranges from attempts to silence female critics to the harassment of fellow players. Some harassment even goes so far as phone calls and rape threats, as one female game developer found out last year.

“The issue is often framed as a women’s issue, but sexual harassment, sexism and misogyny in gaming is not a women’s issue — it’s a gaming community issue,” says Jonathan McIntosh, a producer for the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Web series.

Last week, McIntosh wrote a piece for gaming website Polygon about what he calls the “invisible benefits” that males experience while playing video games. In the post, he lists 25 effects of “male gamer privilege.” Here’s a sample:

  • I can choose to remain completely oblivious, or indifferent to the harassment that many women face in gaming spaces.
  • I am never told that video games or the surrounding culture is not intended for me because I am male.
  • I can publicly post my username, gamertag or contact information online without having to fear being stalked or sexually harassed because of my gender.
  • I will never be asked to “prove my gaming cred” simply because of my gender.
  • I will almost always have the option to play a character of my gender, as most protagonists or heroes will be male by default.
  • If I am trash-talked or verbally berated while playing online, it will not be because I am male nor will my gender be invoked as an insult.
  • My gaming ability, attitude, feelings or capability will never be called into question based on unrelated natural biological functions.

So far, the reaction to his post — both in the more than 700 comments on the piece and elsewhere — has been relatively civil. As McIntosh pointed out on Twitter, he doubts it would have been as civil if he had been a female writer raising the same points.

“I’m saying the same thing that women have been saying for years,” McIntosh says. “There’s nothing in my piece that’s really new, it’s just that it’s coming from me. If my name was Joanna McIntosh … I’d be called irrational, I’d be called hysterical and I’d be called too sensitive.”

One other thing that I did not mention last week but I would like to mention this week is the rape scene between the Lannister twins in Game of Thrones.  The same scene in the book actually was rough but consensual.  

There’s been a lot of discussion, Internet rage, and general overall hoopla following Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, as the television show made the most shocking book-to-screen deviation to date. *Spoiler free for future books.*

Jaime and Cersei finally had their reunited love scene, and suddenly for book readers, Jeyne Westerling seemed like a small cinematic sacrifice to make in comparison. I don’t want to get into a philosophical discussion on whether or not this scene constitutes as rape. Smarter people than I have alreadydonethat.

What we have to work with in the scene is what the characters said and did because we can’t know how they felt. And whether or not the scene was intended to come across as consensual sex, the way the scene was cut by the director makes it definitive to the audience that it was not consensual. Cersei repeatedly said no while Jaime forced himself on top of her and answered that he didn’t care as his creepy voiceover carried out onto a shot of Arya staring at mountains. If that’s all we know about the scene, then yes, in the television show Jaime raped Cersei.

The “debate” about the rape has been nearly as upsetting as the rape itself.  I liked this take clearly stating that rape is not a “narrative device”.

In some ways, it’s useful for television shows to acknowledge the extent of sexual violence in our culture. These narratives allow necessary stories to be told. But the execution is too easy. From daytime soap operas to prestige cable shows, rape is all too often used to place the degradation of the female body and a woman’s vulnerability at the center of the narrative. Rape is used to create drama and ratchet up ratings. And it’s rare to see the brutality and complexity of a rape accurately conveyed on-screen. Instead, we are treated to an endless parade of women being forced into submission as the delicate and wilting flowers television writers and producers seem to want them to be.

download (9)I am still wondering why there seems to be a renaissance in misogny, racism and homobigotry.  You would think that the sports arena would have made better strides against racism given that teams and fans are fully integrated to the idea that there are players of many races.  However, it seems the real money and power behind the bread and circuses are still those rich, horrid, white men.  We talked about the Clippers’ owner last week.  There is, of course, more on that.

Deadspin has acquired an extended, 15-minute version of the conversation between Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his then-girlfriend V. Stiviano. If the original nine-minute tape acquired by TMZ left any questions about Sterling’s opinions regarding minorities, the audio here should remove all doubt that he’s a doddering racist with views not too far removed from the plantation.

The Clippers themselves showed some class this week in a protest that was priceless.  There will undoubtedly be more coming and hopefully the NBA can find a way to strip Sterling of the franchise.

The Clippers gathered at center court before a118-97 Game 4 loss in their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors and took off their Clippers warm-up shirts and left them there. They then warmed up wearing inside-out red shooting shirts that did not display the Clippers name or logo. During the game, players wore black arm or wrist bands and black socks.

In other news, water is still wet and Sarah Palin is still one of the dumbest people on the planet.  This is the money quote she gave the NRA: ‘Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists’.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) defended the controversial enhanced interrogation technique of waterboarding this weekend, and implied that the practice would still be commonplace “if I were in charge.”

“They obviously have information on plots to carry out Jihad,” she said at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual meeting on Saturday evening, referring to prisoners. “Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

The remark stands in stark contrast to the opinion of her former running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The former Republican presidential nominee, who spent more than five years in a prison camp during the Vietnam War, has repeatedly denounced the practice, which he says is torture.

In her speech, Palin praised the NRA, a group whose members “are needed now more than ever, because every day we are seeing more and more efforts to strip away our Second Amendment rights,” she said.

I am still waiting for some examples of how any government in the US is stripping away the second amendment rights.  I do, however, have thousands of examples of how women are losing their right to self determination.

My last offering this morning is yet another in depth article on the demise of the middle class in the USA.  Middle class Americans are an endangered species.

Wages for millions of American workers, particularly those without college degrees, have flat-lined. Census figures show the median household income in 2012 was no higher than it was 25 years ago. Men’s median wages were lower than in the early 1970s.

Meanwhile, many of the expenses associated with a middle-class life have increased beyond inflation. This includes college tuition, whose skyrocketing cost has laid siege to a bedrock principle of the American Dream: that your children will do better than you did.

recent poll conducted by the Washington Post and the Miller Center at the University of Virginia found that 40 percent of those calling themselves middle class felt less financially secure than they were just a few years ago. Forty-five percent said they worry “a lot” about having enough money stashed away for retirement, and 57 percent said they worry about meeting their bills. Less than half said they expect their kids to do any better.

Fewer Americans find themselves in the heart of the middle class with every passing year.

In the mid-1970s, the majority of Americans were in the middle, with 52 percent earning the equivalent (in today’s dollars) of $35,000 to $100,000. Today, according to census figures, the share of households earning under $35,000 is virtually unchanged, 35 percent. The shift has occurred in the other two categories. Households with incomes over $100,000 have doubled, to 22 percent, while less than 44 percent are in the middle cluster.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Little Big Men

0ebdc95ad82b06d8bea49b4849e78134Good Morning

This post is going to have a theme, can you guess what that is?

Our first “little” big man story, or should I say stories, of the morning…updates on the man from New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie. The little being in quotes because this dude’s future role in the GOP used to be about as big as his “big and tall” non-wrinkle pleated-front dress slacks. Now he is being booed, yeah…you read that right…booed, and you know for a man like Christie, that has to sting like hell.

Gov. Chris Christie Booed Twice in One Week at Super Bowl Events | Mediaite

3729011e942d087aae0a96f0bd8f00dbFor the second time this week, Governor Chris Christie was met with scattered boos when he took the stage for an event leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium. The first incident occurred on Monday night, when Christie appeared alongside New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in Jersey City.

As Al Sharpton, who aired video footage from the event on PoliticsNation Tuesday night said, “It was a dramatic contrast to what we saw three months ago” when he was reelected in a landslide.

No kidding, video at the link.

Well, a lot has happened since the first and second booing. That being the news that Christie knew what was going on with the bridge…as told by former BFF David Wildstein.John Gutmann, 1935

Okay, you know I am joking with the BFF thing right? The NY Times had the story here: Christie Linked to Knowledge of Shut Lanes

Read all the stuff there, I know Dak and Boston Boomer have covered it too.

Then we have the backlash from Christie himself.

Chris Christie attacks N.Y. Times, David Wildstein – Mike Allen and Maggie Haberman – POLITICO.com

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after a low-key initial response to Friday’s explosive allegations about his involvement in a bridge-closing scandal, mounted an aggressive defense late Saturday afternoon, attacking The New York Times and a former political ally in an email to friends and allies obtained by POLITICO.

“Bottom line — David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein,” the email from the governor’s office says, referring to the former appointee who reignited the controversy.

30461ca47ed89bcf41c64db627d7fb0dI think the best part of this move from Christie is the title of this email his office sent out:

The subject line of the 700-word email from the governor’s office is: “5 Things You Should Know About The Bombshell That’s Not A Bombshell.” It offers a harshly negative portrayal of Wildstein’s character and judgment.

Sounds like one of those quickie news articles from USA Today.

Read the rest at that link to Politico, I have another link about the email here from TPM, I just wanted to use this picture: Christie Hits Back: Bridge Official Will ‘Say Anything To Save’ Himself

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The full email is below.

Christie Email

This email goes back to an incident in Wildstein’s past…when he was a 16-year-old kid for Christ’s sake.

Geezus….go look at the full email, it is priceless.

Worse Than I Realized by Josh Marshall at TPM:

It speaks for itself that Wildstein is out to save himself. He is not sitting on a reputation for integrity and truth-telling. So the wisdom of doing anything more than saying Wildstein is trying to save himself and lacks credibility is highly questionable. The end product here reads like it’s coming from a team or a person who is flailing and grasping at straws.

If I’m a Republican power player reading this to a get a read on what’s actually happening, what’s likely to happen next week or next month, I think I come away thinking things are considerably worse than I realized.

18f25a5ddcf4c15866f1d40653b3b49fOne more Christie link: Chris Christie should resign if bombshell proves true: Editorial | NJ.com

Forget about the White House in 2016. The question now is whether Gov. Chris Christie can survive as governor.

David Wildstein, the man who ordered the George Washington Bridge lane closures, is now pointing the finger directly at Gov. Chris Christie, saying the governor knew about the lane closures in September when they occurred.

That directly contradicts Christie account at his Jan. 13 press conference when he made this statement: “I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it… I first found out about it after it was over.”

If this charge proves true, then the governor must resign or be impeached. Because
that would leave him so drained of credibility that he could not possibly govern effectively. He would owe it to the people of New Jersey to stop the bleeding and quit. And if he should refuse, then the Legislature should open impeachment hearings.

Well, moving on…to another New Jersey little “big” man…Danny DeVito.  Esquire Interview -The Serene Beauty of the Five-Foot Fury of Asbury Park Guy just needed a job, and instead he became Danny DeVito. And the word big is in quotes for Danny because the man is just fucking awesome and bigger than anything you can possibly imagine.

His parents sent him to board at a prep school in the upper-crust suburb of Summit, New Jersey, fifty miles north and inland. He was the baby by more than a decade to two sisters, and as the only boy—the DeVitos had suffered the loss of two children, including a son, years before Danny came along—he was their prince. His father, Daniel Sr., preferred paying tuition to bail money.

“My father was a good man,” DeVito says. “He supported his family. He always worked hard. He had a candy store, a luncheonette kind of thing, when I was born. Then he had a pool hall. That didn’t really do very well. It was small—five tables—and couldn’t really compete. But he loved to play pool.”

One of the classic experiences I had with my father was we drove from Asbury to see a guy named Mr. Blatt. Mr. Blatt had pool tables—probably had other sports equipment, too. I don’t know. All I know is we drove up to New York, I think—November, December—in one of his Oldsmobiles. He always had an Oldsmobile. It was like paradise for a kid going into this place, and he ordered five slate-top four-and-a-half-by-nine tables, which fit—just fit—in the little store he rented. And he picked out the felt, he picked out the balls, the cue balls, the chalk, the counters for the straight pool counters, pill bottles for pill pool. Picked all this stuff out. I was twelve, maybe.”

That’s a big deal for a boy that age.

“Yeah, a real big deal. And on the way home, it started snowing. One of the biggest blizzards that we ever had. And we were stuck without chains, on the way back to the shore, in the middle of it. No cell phones—you’re at the mercy of humanity. And people stopped. Somebody stopped, and they had an extra set of chains and fixed my father up. He never was slow with the duke, my father”—an old-school nod to the timeless practice of greasing the right palm in return for a solid—”so it worked out good.”

Which is a wonderful story, don’t you think?  That made me think of this scene from Throw Momma From the Train:

Please go read the entire interview, it is a great long read. I’ve caught up on lots of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes I’ve missed over the years. That is one funny show.

e878a32e5e478ba5a419d16b238b0dc6In other news that seems fitting for something out of the circus, this article by Zach Beauchamp:  The Inside Story Of The Charlatan Who Duped The Nation’s Top Conservatives | ThinkProgress

On New Year’s Eve, I learned FEMA’s “Dirty Little Secret.”

It was the title of a fascinating email, one that had somehow dodged my spam filter. The message was suffused with breathless concern about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recent order of “420 million survival meals;” such provisions are apparently “the #1 most critical item in a crisis.” You see, “FEMA knows that if you control the food supply, then you control the people.”

Normally, such paranoid ramblings merit nothing more than a quick delete and a sad shake of the head. But the New Year’s note stood out because of the source. I was being alerted to FEMA’s nefarious plot by no less than National Review, the nation’s most important conservative magazine.

“Please find this special message from our sponsoring advertiser Food4Patriots,” the publication wrote. “This important support affords us the continuing means to provide you with National Review’s distinctly conservative and always exceptional news and commentary. We encourage you to patronize our sponsors.”

Since being added to National Review’s subscriber list, I had received four emails from the venerable publication selling me on Food4Patriots’ plan to “make darn sure your family won’t go hungry or get herded into a FEMA camp” by purchasing the dehydrated food they’re hawking. Indeed, Food4Patriots is deeply ensconced in the conservative movement, placing its ads in both more mainstream outlets (Fox News, Townhall.com) and fringier sites (Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, RedState, WorldNetDaily).

Food4Patriots is a lucrative enterprise. Its parent company, Reboot Marketing, took in $11.8 million in 2012, an astonishing 1,428 percent increase over its 2009 revenue.

But the company’s skyrocketing revenues came on the back of some (arguably) really shady practices. In fact, when I wrote National Review’s editor and publisher to give them a heads up about what I learned about the company, they promptly suspended future Food4Patriots ads.

Oh it is good…fascinating stuff, and it is a long read so go refill that coffee.

843d34af3ec04fdeb8f6e9a6bc6362d8Another link for you, this is an update to something I don’t think we have mentioned on the blog before so first the back story. Sam Bee interviewed Peter Schiff, an asshole CEO. Who goes on to tell Daily Show viewers the ‘mentally retarded’ could work for $2: ‘You’re worth what you’re worth’ | The Raw Story

The investment broker and talk radio host told Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee that lifting the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, as President Barack Obama announced he would do by executive order for federal employees, could have devastating effects.

“There’s a law in economics, supply and demand, that you learn in Econ 101, and if you increase the price of something, you decrease the demand,” Schiff said. “The higher you make the minimum wage, the more jobs are going to be destroyed.

The CEO of Euro Pacific Capital argued that government programs, not low wages, were trapping Americans in poverty, and claimed that paying workers twice as much would double the cost of some goods – such as fast-food hamburgers.

“I do like to taste the tears of poverty in my milkshakes,” Bee said.

Schiff said those workers already earn enough.

“Did you ever go into a McDonald’s or Burger King?” he said. “I don’t really eat there, but they don’t seem desperate and hungry to me. They’re young kids, they seem to be enjoying themselves mostly.”

People don’t go hungry in a capitalist economy, Schiff claimed.

“It’s socialism that creates, you know, scarcity, that creates famine,” he said. “In a free market, there’s plenty of food for everybody – especially the poor.”

Schiff argued that eliminating the minimum wage law would allow more people entry to the workforce, and Bee asked him to identify someone whose work might be worth just $2 an hour.

“You know someone that might be? Maybe someone who is – what’s the politically correct word, you know, for mentally retarded,” Schiff said. “I believe in the principles this country was founded on.”

“I’m not going to say that we’re all created equal,” he said. “You’re worth what you’re worth.”

e006fb9d73724c77aad8e8710ad04350Well, the video is something you need to see, it is at the link. Go watch it.

Okay that was crazy, wasn’t it?

Now, check out what the dude is saying now: Investor Peter Schiff digs himself in deeper after ‘Daily Show’ remarks about the ‘retarded’ | The Raw Story

Radio commentator and investment adviser Peter Schiff , who was recently interviewed by The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee for a segment on the minimum wage, is very upset that he has been pilloried for using the not very politically-correct expression “mentally retarded” on air. During the episode, when prodded by Bee to explain who might be willing to work for $2 an hour, Schiff responded,  “You know someone that might be? Maybe someone who is – what’s the politically correct word, you know, for mentally retarded. I believe in the principles this country was founded on.”

Responding to public criticism about his star turn, Schiff has taken to his blog to express his displeasure with The Daily Show by pointing out that that Samantha Bee didn’t assist him with his answer and that he had delivered a four hour long disquisition on the free market and pay rates that somehow didn’t make it onto the half-hour long  satirical news program.

b26982af32a2d9f6a2c98435ffe5c297It is like some kind of canyon he is digging here.

Mr. Schiff  pointed out that  “Of the more than four hours of taped discussion I conducted, the producers chose to only use about 75 seconds of my comments. Of those, my use of the words ‘mentally retarded’ (when Samantha Bee asked me who might be willing to work for $2 per hour – a figure she suggested) has come to define the entire interview.” He then added,  “I just couldn’t remember the politically correct term currently in use (it is “intellectually disabled”). Assuming she knew it, Bee could have prompted me with the correct term, but she chose not to.”

Mr. Schiff then went on to further clarify that there were were two groups who would probably be happy to work for $2 an hour: the more appropriately named ” intellectually disabled”  and  “…unpaid interns who tend to value work experience and connections more than pay. ” He then pointed out that the Daily Show staffer who booked him for the show and attended the interview had  “… been thrilled to start there as an unpaid intern.”

Turning back to the “intellectually disabled”, Mr. Schiff added that if they “…can’t perform work that produces a minimum wage level of output, then no employer seeking to make a profit could afford to pay that person the official minimum wage. ” and that “Many of the jobs they perform may seem mundane to those of normal intelligence, but they are often the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. I pointed out that if the federal minimum wages were to apply to them, a great many of those opportunities would vanish. Others may disagree, but I believe a job for such a person at $2 per hour is better than no job at all.”

Some of his best friends are retards, oops… “intellectually disabled.” WTF is wrong with these people?

daab3814f86be30205d0781a9a71a933Just a few more links for you today, in dump fashion.

Postal Service Banking: How the USPS Can Save Itself and Help the Poor | New Republic by David Dayen

One of the key messages of tonight’s State of the Union address will be President Obama’s willingness to bypass Congress to create jobs and reduce inequality. As luck would have it, yesterday a new government report detailed an innovation that would preserve one of the largest job creators in the country, save billions of dollars specifically for the poor, and develop the very ladders of opportunity that Obama has championed as of late. What’s more, this could apparently be accomplished without Congressional action, but merely through existing executive prerogatives.

What’s the policy? Letting the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) offer basic banking services to customers, like savings accounts, debit cards and even simple loans. The idea has been kicked around policy circles for years, but now it has a crucial new adherent: the USPS Inspector General, who endorsed the initiative in a comprehensive white paper.

I have read this whole article and I don’t know what to think of it. Dak? Any thoughts?

This op/ed is only here because of the spelling topic of the thing…not the repeal Obamacare stuff…okay. Correct Spelling, Canceled by Phil Kerpen

As an American, I laugh at those archaic British spellings. Colour? Honour? Their inferiourity, if you will, is obvious. Centre? Theatre? Ridiculous. Most of these barbaric forms were corrected in America hundreds of years ago. Yet one galling Britishism is appearing on my computer screen all too frequently of late: “cancelled,” with a gratuitous extra l.

133581 600 Correct Spelling, Canceled cartoons
Randall Enos / Cagle Cartoons

Does something about Obamacare drive otherwise reasonable people to write about health plans being “cancelled” instead of “canceled”? Does the prospect of intrusive government involvement in health care cause us to regress? Is it subconscious deference to British and Canadian expertise at imposing socialized medicine? Whatever the cause, it needs to stop.

f734859e318878ec2ee90f8ac299fbccI don’t know, I usually have to go back and correct my spelling of flavour to flavor. Anyway,

Google’s Ngram feature searches the vast library of books Google has digitized. A search for “traveller” and “traveler” shows the British version remained dominant in America throughout the 19th century, but by 1915 the single l version overtook it and is now dominant. Merriam-Webster even touts “traveler” as an example of a Noah Webster triumph.

It took longer for “canceled” to triumph over “cancelled,” according to Google Ngram. The single l version didn’t take the lead until 1942, and they remained competitive for the next 40 years before “canceled” took the lead for good in 1983. As of 2000, the most recent year covered by the Google data, the now-standard American version was used over 73 percent of the time. The double l monstrosity appeared destined to finally disappear. In 2010, the Associated Press helpfully reminded the world that their style guide says “canceled” has one l.

Yet lately it seems everywhere I look there are American publications going British on this word. It’s baffling. If we are slouching towards a British-style health care system, we should at least spell the canceling of all those health plans in the correct American fashion.

3862148307_6d6daa3819This leads me to a little wordplay: World Wide Words Newsletter: 1 Feb 2014 Give the mitten

Q From Michael Thomas: I was recently working an acrostic puzzle and came upon the clue, “to break up with a loved one”. The answer, which I had never run across, was give the mitten. Could you explain the history of this phrase, please?

A It’s new to me, too, Mr Thomas, as it probably is to readers, since it is now extremely rare. The meaning has often been the one you give (in the American Civil War, a soldier who received a Dear John letter was said to have been given the mitten) but it could also often mean that a woman had rejected a unwelcome admirer out of hand. It occasionally meant that a student had been expelled from college or a workman had got the sack.

It’s known to be at least 170 years old. It has sometimes been taken to be North American, as the examples that were written down first — in the 1840s — are from works by Thomas Chandler Haliburton of Nova Scotia, who had a keen ear for the vocabulary of his times. However, as it is also recorded in Britain and Canada during much of the nineteenth century, it is probably an older British idiom that emigrants had carried abroad. In support of this, at the end of the century, the English Dialect Dictionary noted it as a British regional or dialect expression in the form to send one a mitten, to reject somebody or to cast them off.

Oh why didn’t we know this when Mitt was running for Prez…we could have used that as a slogan. Let’s send Mitt a mitten.  More at the link.

Back to the little big man theme: The Extreme Emotional Life of Völundr the Elf

An illustration of Völundr.Elves have been a fixture in the European mentality for a long time in fairytales and legends and, recently, in the most popular novels and films of our age. In this article, my aim is to determine the function of elves in Old Norse narratives from the thirteenth century by concentrating on the figure of Völundr, the protagonist of Völundarkviða, who to my mind is the most important Old Norse elf. The poem portrays his marriage to a southern swan-maiden who later leaves him. He then retires into solitude, hunting bears, and counting his rings until he is captured and enslaved by the avaricious King Níðuðr. The poem ends with Völundr’s gruesome revenge on the king and his family.

Völundarkviða is the tenth of twenty-nine poems in the Codex Regius ms of the Poetic Edda. Few Eddic poems have suffered less from scholarly neglect: a recent bibliography lists over 100 studies, not counting editions. There are grounds for this attention. To take one, Völundarkviða is usually classified as a heroic rather than mythological poem and shares common characteristics with some of the more ancient heroic poems in the Elder Edda, and yet it stands among the mythological Eddic poems in the manuscript between Þrymskviða and Alvíssmál.

Over the weekend I saw this man was buried with his Harley Davidson, did you see it?

American biker buried ‘riding’ Harley-Davidson in clear box – Americas – World – The Independent

An American biker has made his final journey on his beloved Harley-Davidson and been buried astride the motorbike in a clear box.

It was Bill Standley’s wish to share a grave with the 1967 bike, which took him travelling around 49 out of America’s 50 states.

His body was dressed in full riding gear and positioned on the Harley in a see-through box, which was driven to the cemetery on a trailer before being lowered into the extra-large plot.

Work on the unusual coffin started six years before Mr Standley’s death, aged 82.

He built the plastic casket that would hold him and his motorbike himself with his sons, and bought three burial plots next to his wife.

Damn, talk about taking it with you. There is a video report at the link, if you need to see it. The photo is enough for me.

And finally another twist on our title, but this features little big men and women…

Alrighty then.  Y’all have a wonderful day, and since it is Superbowl Sunday…I guess we’ll see you around the blog later on.  In the meantime, what are you reading about this morning?


Sunday Links: In dump fashion

cc60aaa8dc776eb2454d8d6aa0819803Good Morning

Wow, last night I watched this cult movie called The Baby…oh boy…I kept asking myself, wtf? But like some sort of twisted train wreck, I could not look away.  Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies: The Baby (1973): or, You Oughta Wean Him, He’s Old Enough

That link will give you an excellent review of this “Horrible Old Movie” as Dr. Paul Bearer would say…holy shit. That was disturbing. One thing however, I bet it is David Vitter‘s favorite flick!

Reading synopses, reviews, and open-mouthed shock reactions for Ted Post‘s 1973 weirdo exploitation romp The Baby, I had somehow got the idea that at least part of the movie’s shock value was inherent in the reveal of its premise–a social worker goes to the house of an eccentric family to assess the needs of their “special” youngest member, only to discover that the “baby” she thought she’d be caring for is in fact a thirty-year old man in an oversized crib and diapers. Therefore I worried that, since I knew the premise going in, much of the effectiveness of that shock reveal would be diffused.

Parishioners, I was happily misinformed–not only about how much the flick’s effectiveness relies on that shock reveal (hint: it doesn’t), but about that knockout premise’s centrality to the plot as a whole. Yes, there’s a thirty-year-old man with the brain of a pre-verbal infant who sleeps in a gigantic crib and occasionally needs his nappy changed, but surprisingly that’s just a small part of what makes the movie tick. It’s merely the soup base, if you will, to which Post and writer Abe Polsky add a variety of savory exploitation ingredients–some diced, some chunky, some pureed–to arrive at a delicious Mad Movie stew.

Anyway, that just blew me away. So much that I am only able to give you a dump of my own this morning. A link dump that is…

fdc6426b9cc94e5b895aa6f2a0618aaeA lot of these links are things I have saved up over the last few weeks, so you may have seen them already.  They are in no particular order, honestly I am too “weirded” out to get them organized in a decent way.

I thought this is kind of cool, especially for those of you who..like me…get a kick out of letters and words: Artist Transforms The City Of Chicago Into A Giant Typography Playground

It’s strange to think that although we encounter letters and numbers all the time, the little guys are normally confined to a page or a screen. That is, until one bold MFA student dared to take her ABCs out of the two-dimensional world and into her environment — the urban playground of Chicago.

In the “no shit” department: Dollar Stores Are Getting Too Expensive For Many Americans  I won’t quote from that article, it’s all been said here before.

This next link is awesome: ‘Aviatrix’ Is My New Word | Dr. Mae Jemison

Tenacity. Daring. Talent. Courage.
Aviatrix Amelia Earhart had these qualities in abundance. Aviatrix was the term for women who flew “flying machines” at the beginning of powered flight. The word bothered me greatly years ago, as aviatrix, a feminization of aviator, seemed to make their accomplishments parenthetical. But I think of it differently these days as I understand the women of that era were different than the men — they had to be “more” and overcome extraordinary barriers to participate in this new adventure.af1730bf2feff48c8e50c5820f3256ba

Amelia Earhart is perhaps the most well known of a genre of incredible women whose life stories offer inspiration, vital insight and critical lessons for us today. (I am a bit chagrined that I did not recognize much of this until after becoming a NASA astronaut and the world’s first woman of color in space.) Earhart learned to fly at a time when flying was dangerous and society considered women less capable than men in almost every sphere of life. Earhart became an international sensation as she set flying records solo and as part of a team. And she continued to strive for more until the last.

Similar elements mark the career of black aviatrix Bessie Coleman, while other aspects diverge due to racial discrimination rampant during the era. Coleman is the first American of any gender or ethnicity to receive an international license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale in 1921. Coleman traveled to France to learn to fly because no one in the United States would teach her — no one white, and not even black men! Earhart was the 16th woman to get FAI license in 1923. While Coleman had to learn French and travel to France, Earhart rode to the end of the bus line and then walked four miles to lessons. Working as a manicurist, Coleman saved money and gained sponsorship to pay for lessons and travel. Earhart worked to save money for lessons while getting some help from her mother. They were both tenacious just to get the opportunity.

c7f5185bdf6dbe4a5c1ea6d320318437From Aviatrix to crazy-ass holidays: What crazy national day falls on your birthday?| studentbeans.com

Christmas is great and all but it’s so boring – EVERYONE celebrates Christmas. So we decided to have a look at some unconventional & weird days we could fill the calendar with. First stop, the internet. Unsurprisingly we were not disappointed. Though some of these may be a little obscure (give them a quick Google if you’re unsure), they are all genuine national days somewhere in the world.

My birthday “national day” of April 13… Blame Somebody Else Day…hot damn, that is a great birthday present if you ask me!

bcb654bb79fb2708cafe9b8548764f34As you can see, the artwork for today’s post features winter sports, only a couple of weeks til the winter games in Sochi. Did y’all see this: IOC’s Mario Pescante Rips U.S. For Including Openly Gay Athletes In Official Delegation To Sochi

Here are a few other news stories on the Olympic Games:

Few Americans heading to Sochi Olympics | Travel | The Seattle Times

U.S. ready to ‘extract’ citizens from Sochi Olympics: Hagel – World News

Warning to U.S. athletes: No Olympic uniform outside Sochi venues – CNN.com

And…an update of sorts on the Philippine Heroes of the Night | Dr. Laura Stachel

ba87ce0fca420df828cc1176cb7998f7Moving from Russia, to the Philippines to Cuba: The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Havana’s Remarkable Architecture

Okay, what makes this next link so funny is that Boston Boomer had a similar link in her post yesterday. It is a quiz…and no, I did not put mine in here because she did. Like I said up top, I have had these things saved for a while. LOL

Which American Girl Doll Are You

I took the quiz and got Samantha. But who the fuck is Samantha?

  1. You got: Samantha!

    Samantha is basically the Samantha of the American Girls: you’re fabulous and you don’t give a damn about what anyone thinks of your life and who you spend your time with. But that doesn’t mean that you’re clueless, and not generous, oh no. You know that with great power comes responsibility.

1fc2acb68a218a03ec87c9991d650c22So I went and looked up who this chick is…List of American Girl characters – Wikipedia

Samantha Parkington, 1904

Samantha is an only child growing up during the Edwardian period (although American Girl designated her as Victorian). Orphaned at age five and raised by her wealthy Victorian-era grandmother in fictional Mount Bedford, New York, Samantha befriends a poor servant girl named Nellie O’Malley. Eventually Samantha, Nellie and Nellie’s young sisters are adopted by Samantha’s uncle and aunt. The themes of Samantha’s books include women’s suffrage, child labor, and classism.

What Your American Girl Doll Says About the Rest of Your Life | The Hairpin

1dcc381116dddb1ce517c5475ef45c49I never had one of these, they weren’t around in the 70’s, but then…neither did my daughter.

Check out what these American Girl shits are all about now: How American Girl Dolls Have Changed Since the ’90s:entertainment:glamour.com

American Girl dolls ain’t what they used to be, guys. I fell into an AG hole this morning while investigating the latest doll of the year (yes, “investigating”—I’m suspicious of her), and what I found was shocking, just shocking. Kiss the days of historical paperbacks in burgundy plastic goodbye, because the American Girl dolls/fans of today have other kinds of fun in mind. I officially now have a beef with the following:

Isabelle, the Girl of the Year, has ombre hair.
isabelle-american-girl
Except it’s not ombre hair (which is already kinda done—make her a teen vampire while you’re at it, AG). It’s just pink streaks. So: You’re welcome, moms everywhere, whose daughters will be dipping their ponytails in various colored substances this year.

Isabelle also sounds like she might be terrible when she grows up.
isabelle-studio-american-girl
Not to stomp on any dreams, but Isabelle’s collection includes a studio where she can “design and dance.” She’s a designer and a dancer. I’m sorry, but I don’t think we should be teaching girls to grow up and go to parties calling themselves “designers slash dancers.” That’s how people end up on The Bachelor. In my day, American Girls were either stable hands or blacksmiths! (At least, that’s how I remember it.)

And yet, you know, don’t aim too low either.
snack-cart
Nothing says “We’ve decided to spend all the college money on your brother” like buying your daughter a snack cart they can play-pretend they work at!

08e08e4e6c762615bf67b5b08d6b1550I wonder if that hot dog cart comes with a bikini thong uniform…well, my guess is the bikini is extra.  (Y’all remember this: Thong-clad Hot Dog Vendor Blasts Critics – Sun Sentinel December 19, 1990)

More map goodness for you: POLL: How Americans Feel About The States – Business Insider

After seeing an excellent poll that asked Europeans what they thought of other European countries, we talked to our polling partner SurveyMonkey Audience to expand the questions and try it on Americans, to see how they felt about other states.

The results were hilarious, informative and tell you everything you need to know about the dynamic between the states.

We asked respondents — 1603 of them — to answer each question with a state that wasn’t their own. The poll was carried out using SurveyMonkey’s Audience feature, which was more accurate predicting the 2012 election than numerous traditional pollsters.

The following maps show that data. Look under each map for details when it comes to the color scale. The darkest color had the highest number of votes, the whitest color had next to none.

3b99bc77b71a82909dde4654b12712bfThe Oscars are coming up…moviemorlocks.com – Stunning Visuals, Editing and Sound!

The Oscar nominations for 2013 came out recently and I was once again put in mind of the different technical categories and how misunderstood they are because when most craftsmen and artists do their job and do it well, the result is a seamless vision.  If it’s not, it’s jarring and there’s a problem.  As a result, we often associate great technical work with what we can see as obvious: Great cinematography is often interpreted as great, sweeping visuals; Great editing as lots of intricate cuts; Great Sound as the sounds of explosions or music.  But, honestly, it’s about so much more.

One of the best authors, I think, has a new book out: Roddy Doyle, Master of Working-Class Family Drama – D.B. Grady – The Atlantic I love his Barrytown Trilogy, and this is yet another book about the Rabbitte family. (The Snapper is my favorite.)

5bcdcaf22b12bff41e1d7737110756c8I know you all saw this news headline: As Seen in ‘Goodfellas’: Arrest Is Made in ’78 Lufthansa Robbery – NYTimes.com Know what the defense said about Vincent Asaro, this is funny…they said the fact that he was still alive proves he had nothing to do with the crime. Wow.

More art, this is some cool ass ink: The world’s most spectacular tattoos revealed | Mail Online

Then you have the latest news out of lower Manhattan, oh this pisses me off: 9/11 Museum Admission Fee – The 9/11 Museum’s New Pricing Plan – Esquire

So you want to take your family of four to the 9/11 memorial? You want to mourn or talk to your young kids about what happened at the site? That will now be $96, please.

Late yesterday, the foundation behind the 9/11 memorial quietly voted to charge a $24 admission fee to the soon-to-be-open underground museum at the site. The above ground memorial will continue to be free, victims’ families will not pay, and there will be discounts and three free hours a week.

Sure, the admission fee is in line with other museums in the city (the MoMA is $25 for adults, for example), but you’re certainly not paying to look at art. You’re paying to grieve and learn about the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Ground Zero is already a dark tourism site. Now someone’s just making a buck off that fact.

Assholes…so not only did they make the memorial an underground ridiculously damp embarrassment of remembrance to the dead, a design that the families and most of NYC did not like…but now they are charging folks to go and see it? Yeah, assholes is to nice a name to call them.

I’ll end this post with another gallery…The week in wildlife – in pictures | Environment | theguardian.com

Strange weather has confused many species in this week’s pick of images from the natural world

Week in wildlife: Divers swim with dozens of West Indian Manatees

Divers swim with dozens of West Indian manatees as the animals congregate around a freshwater spring north of Tampa, Florida. Local temperatures dropped below freezing, redirecting the animals to the warm springs at the Crystal River national wildlife refuge

I’ve never seen so many manatees in one place before…

Enjoy your day and stay warm, what are you reading about today?


Sunday Reads: Byzantine Werewolves, Engraved Roman Penises, and Walter White’s Obit

e53014b786ae1ed609b6c661ac9dc99eGood Morning

Who needs strange headlines when the news of the past week has been crazy enough?

This morning I want to stay away from links about the Shutdown and stick with things that don’t deal with DC assholes. It does not mean I will not post an article about rich misogynistic, anti-Semitic assholes…have you seen the latest crap out of Hobby Lobby? Hobby Lobby Boycotts Jewish Hanukkah And Passover (UPDATE)

Hanukkah comes early this year. But it apparently never comes to Hobby Lobby.

The national craft store owned by conservative billionaire Steve Green seemingly refuses to carry merchandise related to Hanukkah because of Green’s “Christian values,” and some Jews are taking offense.

“I will never set foot in a Hobby Lobby. Ever.” wrote Ken Berwitz, the New Jersey blogger who brought the Hobby Lobby Hanukkah flap to light in a Friday (Sept. 27) blog post.

Berwitz’s outrage has spread to other bloggers who are taking Hobby Lobby to task as a store that courts the general public, but refuses to stock anything related to Judaism — even in communities with significant Jewish populations.

It really should not come as a surprise, I mean if Hobby Lobby won’t provide birth control for its women employees, of course it goes without saying they would have a “fuck the Jews” attitude.

Green owns more than 550 Hobby Lobby stores nationwide, all of which are closed on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. He is also known for his lawsuit against President Obama’s health care law, which he says tramples on his religious liberty by forcing him to insure employees for medical services he objects to on religious grounds. Many legal experts agree the case has a good chance of landing at the Supreme Court.He’s also known for holding one of the country’s largest collections of ancient biblical artifacts, including what’s believed to be the oldest known copy of a Hebrew prayer book. In unveiling the book on Thursday, Green dated the item to 840 C.E., declining to use the more Christian-sounding 840 A.D. so as not to offend Jews.

The Hobby Lobby Hanukkah controversy began when Berwitz learned that on a recent shopping trip his wife’s friends could not find anything related to Hanukkah at their local Hobby Lobby store in Marlboro, N.J., though it was stocked with Christmas items.

According to Berwitz, one of the women asked about bar mitzvah cards, and a Hobby Lobby salesperson replied: “We don’t cater to you people.”

That story prompted Berwitz, who own a market research company and writes the “Hopelessly Partisan” blog, to call the Marlboro store and ask why it seemed to be ignoring Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, which begins on Nov. 27 this year. He wrote that he received the following response:

“Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values.”

Berwitz told Religion News Service that he then called Hobby Lobby’s corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City, and the company confirmed that it does not stock items for Hanukkah, and did not give a reason. When he asked whether the company carries Passover merchandise, he was again told no.

2afca07234dcfc5ff98375052fd3e448Well, I guess the backlash from this bad anti-Jewish PR made Mr. Green reconsider his “fuck the Jews” stance on carrying Hanukkah items in his stores:

UPDATE: 10/4 6:20pm

Hobby Lobby has promised to begin to sell Jewish holiday items in areas near large Jewish populations.

UPDATE 10/4/13 10:15am: Hobby Lobby President Steve Green has issued the following statement on behalf of the company:

We sincerely apologize for any employee comments that may have offended anyone, especially our Jewish customers and friends. Comments like these do not reflect the feelings of our family or Hobby Lobby. Our family has a deep respect for the Jewish faith and those who hold its traditions dear. We’re proud contributors to Yad Vashem, as well as to other museums and synagogues in Israel and the United States. We are investigating this matter and absolutely do not tolerate discrimination at our company or our stores. We do not have any policies that discriminate; in fact, we have policies that specifically prohibit discrimination. We have previously carried merchandise in our stores related to Jewish holidays. We select the items we sell in our stores based on customer demand. We are working with our buyers to re-evaluate our holiday items and what we will carry in the future.

So the only group of people getting discriminated against at Hobby Lobby now is Women! Yeah, lets say it loud…

at Hobby Lobby, we value our customers and employees and are committed to:

  • Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.
  • Offering our customers exceptional selection and value in the crafts and home decor market.
  • Serving our employees and their families by establishing a work environment and company policies that build character, strengthen individuals and nurture families.
  • Providing a return on the owner’s investment, sharing the Lord’s blessings with our employees, and investing in our community.

8538805e764801a5f5be01865ea46371Unless you are a woman…than…fuck you!

Alright, enough with that Hobby Lobby dick.

I am going to stick articles about with women….and add the all important subject of poverty and domestic violence for just a moment.

You are well aware that the Shutdown pretty much is the GOP giving the “fuck you” to poor women and children on the WIC program: Colbert on the Government Slimdown | BobCesca.com | Liberal Politics Blog and Podcast | We Cover the World

Fox News is calling it a slimdown, which is a great name ’cause you know who’s really going to slim down? The 9 million women and children who will lose supplemental nutrition from the government.

Put that quote from Colbert into perspective: Women and Poverty, State by State | National Women’s Law Center

More than one in seven women, nearly 17.8 million, lived in poverty last year. Poverty rates were particularly high for families headed by single mothers – more than four in ten (40.9 percent) were poor. More than half (56.1 percent) of poor children lived in female-headed families in 2012.

With women as primary breadwinners in more than 40 percent of families today, women and their families simply cannot afford to make do with less.

Click on a state below to see how many female-headed families are living in poverty, plus:

  • The share of all women living in poverty
  • The share of Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American women living in poverty
  • The share of children and of women 65 and older living in poverty

You can also download the data for every state, and see more of NWLC’s analyses of the latest data on women and poverty.

Map

Go to the link to see all the info from each state. Mississippi has the highest poverty levels across the board.

Here is another map for you, States With The Most Natives – Business Insider

Are the people who live in your state predominantly people who were born in that state, or did they come from somewhere else?

Seth Kadish at the brilliant Vizual Statistix Tumblr has come up with this great visualization which answers just this question, using Census data.

The redder an area is, the more likely it is that residents of that county were born in that state. The whiter an area is, the more likely it is that residents came from somewhere else.

Not surprisingly, parts of Florida, Nevada, Arizona and around DC are filled with people who came from somewhere else. Parts of Texas, Louisiana, and the upper-Midwest are among those places inhabited by original residents.

residents born in a state

Click the image to see it larger!

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month: AAEC – Political Cartoon by Terry Wise, Ratland Ink Press – 10/02/2013

Cartoon by Terry Wise -

How to Tell if Someone You Love is in an Abusive Relationship – and What to do About It | Care2 Causes

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so today we wanted to do our part to spread a little information about a topic that, despite being incredibly common, too often ends up getting swept under the rug. While most of us want to help victims of domestic violence (Republican politicians notwithstanding), one of the major reasons this important issue often goes ignored is that friends and family simply may not know how to spot an abusive relationship. Even if you have doubts about your loved one’s home life, you may not know how to bring up the issue or the best way to help out.

Remember, while most domestic violence situations involve women being abused by men, it can happen to anyone, gay or straight. Don’t assume that just because your friend doesn’t fit the “typical” mold of an abuse victim that nothing is wrong.

Be sure to read the rest of that article at the link above and forward it to some of your friends.

Now for some fun links.

Hey, the twin panda cubs are getting ready to be named! Check it out:

http://www.zooatlanta.org/media/image/TW_Sept-25_panda_cubs2013_130924_cub_b_a_table_ZA_6738_600.jpg

Voting begins soon to name the giant panda twins

Zoo Atlanta has partnered with Good Morning America on an official voting contest to name the twin male giant pandas born to Lun Lun on July 15, 2013.  The contenders for the five sets of names for the 2-month-old duo were announced by Good Morning America on October 3, 2013. Voting will begin online through Good Morning America  on Wednesday, October 9, 2013.  The winning names will be revealed during the cubs’ 100 Day Naming Celebration on October 23, 2013.

Name options for Zoo Atlanta panda cubs announced | www.wsbtv.com

The twin giant panda cubs at Zoo Atlanta, the only twins ever to survive in the U.S., are hitting all of their developmental milestones as they approach 100 days since their birth.

Like all giant pandas, they were born nearly hairless, pink, blind and not much larger than a cell phone. Now, they have developed their characteristic black-and-white coats and weigh nearly 30 times their birth weights, tipping the scales at around 7 pounds. Their eyes have opened and they are responding more to their environment and to one another, the zoo said. Plus, the cubs are slowly starting to show off their personalities to keepers.

Channel 2’s Wendy Corona visited the cubs at Zoo Atlanta to see how they’re developing.

The pandas are affectionately known as “Cub A” and “Cub B” until their 100-day birthday, a milestone date in the Chinese tradition, when pandas are named.

“Cub A has been kind of the more vocal cub,” said Zoo Atlanta’s Curator of Mammals Dr. Rebecca Snyder.  “Especially when he’s with Lun Lun.”

During our visit, he was sound asleep.  Then there was his brother, the more awake Cub “B”.

“I think he’s momma’s boy.  He just wants to be with Mom,” said Dr. Snyder.  The calmer, more quiet one.  Knowing this about their personalities might help you help Zoo Atlanta in deciding their names.

Since their July 15 birth, the adorable duo has charmed zoo staffers, who have been nursing the pandas around the clock when they are not with their mother, 15-year-old Lun Lun. In the wild, a giant panda mother would typically rear only one offspring at a time, which is why the zoo staff has been swapping the cubs between Lun Lun and a specially designed box.

Five sets of names were provided by the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China’s Sichuan province, and Zoo Atlanta is teaming up with Good Morning America” to put it to a public vote, which kicks off Oct. 9.

Watch “GMA” for more panda news and check back here to vote for your names on Oct. 9 on GoodMorningAmerica.com.

There is video at the wbtv link, here are the names, I like number 5 the best:

1. Mei Lun and Mei Hua
(Pronounced May Loon and May Hwaa)

In English, the names mean Lun Lun’s twin cubs born in the USA.

2. Mei Lun and Mei Huan
(Pronounced May Loon and May Hwaan)

These names stem from an ancient Chinese idiom, “Mei Lun Mei Huan,” which was used to describe constructed buildings that are tall and magnificent. It has come to mean something indescribably beautiful and magnificent.

3. Tian Lun and Tian Le
(Pronounced Tee-an loon and Tee-an luh)

These names come from the Chinese idiom, “Tian Lun Zhi Le,” which means the joy of family life or family happiness. In this context, the cubs’ names would mean, “Lun Lun and her twin cubs are enjoying heavenly gifted family happiness,” according to the staff at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

4. Lan Tian and Bi Shui
(Pronounced Lan tee-an and Bee Shway)
The names, meaning blue sky and clear water, are derived from another the Chinese idiom, “Lan Tian Bi Shui,” which is used to describe beautiful scenery.

5. Da Lan and Xiao Lan
(Pronounced Dah Lan and Sheow Lan)

The literal meaning of these names is bigger one (“Cub B”) and smaller one (“Cub A”) of the Atlanta-born twins.

Sting is putting together a Broadway show: Sting’s ‘The Last Ship’ Concert Series at the Public Theater

[image]
Andrew Spear for The Wall Street JournalAt the Public Theater, Sting aims to stir interest in ‘The Last Ship’ with a series of 10 concerts featuring songs and characters from the show.

With a run of concerts at the Public Theater, Sting is putting more pieces in place for the launch of a Broadway musical called “The Last Ship.” To compose the score, the former Police frontman drew on characters and imagery from the doomed shipyard in his hometown of Wallsend, England. The musical, which Sting is developing with a squad of theater elite, starts a tryout run this summer in Chicago before opening on Broadway next fall.

Sting is hoping to prime interest in the musical with his 10-concert series at the Public, which ends on Wednesday. During the intimate show, which also features vocalists such as cast member Jimmy Nail, Sting plays acoustic guitar and sings in a thick brogue, voicing various characters. He is accompanied by a small band that includes fiddle and accordion players. Between songs that blend Broadway anthems with folk sounds from the British Isles, he tells anecdotes from his childhood and the process of creating a musical.

This week, after the release of the companion album “The Last Ship,” Sting’s first set of original material in eight years, the singer paused to discuss songwriting, his accent and the spotty track record of rock stars on Broadway.

Read the interview at the link.

Oh, now for some cool pictures…real old pictures. Photographs Taken With Kodak’s First Commercial Camera Are Now 125 Years Old

Remember when Kodak created its first commercial camera, a nifty invention that boasted the slogan “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest“?

kodak

Woman in a rowing boat, about 1890. Collection of National Media Museum/Kodak MuseumYou probably don’t, because this feat happened 125 years ago when George Eastman introduced the second Kodak camera ever made. The contraption looked almost nothing like the devices we’re used to, but it brought photography into the homes of everyday people with, well, the press of a button. And a fairly reasonable price of $25 — a cost that amounts to around $600 today, according to Design Taxi.

Thanks to a little UK-based institution known as the National Media Museum, we’re able to look back on history and peruse some of the very first amateur photographs ever taken. Snapped with the Kodak No. 1 (the first Kodak camera was simply named “Kodak”), the images provide a striking, black-and-white glimpse into life in the 1890s.

There are some amazing pictures in that Huffpo link…look at them and enjoy them.

Now for the last few articles of this morning’s post.  Halloween is later this month, with the crazy things going on this week, it seems like it has come early. Anyway, this first link is a bit on werewolves.

How the Byzantines dealt with Werewolves

A new article explores how Byzantine doctors treated people those suffering from lycanthropy, a mental disorder where a patient believes he or she is, or has transformed into, a wolf and behaves like one. This disease is the basis for the legendary werewolves.

In “Lycanthropy in Byzantine times (AD 330–1453),” four scholars from the University of Athens examine the writings of six Byzantine physicians to see what they believed lycanthropy was and how it should be treated.

More at the link, go and read it.

Engraved Penises Reveal Birth of Italian City : Discovery News

Two penises engraved on a 2,000 year old stone may shed light on the foundation of the city of Aosta in northern Italy, revealing its deep connection with the Roman emperor Augustus.

Named Augusta Praetoria Salassorum by the Romans — who captured it from the local Salassi people in 25 B.C. to control strategic mountain passes — Aosta boasts several monuments dedicated to Augustus.

“But the newly discovered stone tells even more about Aosta’s connection with the Roman emperor. It reveals the city was built under Augustus’ sign during the winter solstice,” Giulio Magli, professor of archaeoastronomy at Milan’s Polytechnic University, told Discovery News.

[...]

Carved on both sides, the block features two very clear figures on one side — a phallus and, over it, a spade — and some partly damaged reliefs on the other. There, a phallus is again represented. Over it, a plough and a partly eroded character which appears to be a Capricorn.

The plough and the spade openly hint to the sulcus primigenius, the original trench plowed to mark the perimeter of a new city in the Roman foundation ceremony. Related to the god Priapus, the phallic effigies most likely had an “apotropaic” function, evoking some sort of protection from evil forces.

“The chunk of mud has certainly preserved the stone from damage and censorship,” Bertarione said. “In medieval times the evident phallic figures would have been erased since they were regarded as obscene pagan symbols.”

And finally, ‘Breaking Bad’ anti-hero Walter White gets spoiler-filled obituary in Albuquerque newspaper

A group of die-hard “Breaking Bad” fans have posted an obituary notice for the show’s anti-hero Walter White in a local paper in New Mexico, made famous by the cult series.

David Layman, coincidentally a science teacher like White, was among 10.3 million viewers who tuned in to last weekend’s final episode of the series about the central character’s transformation into a drug lord, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“I’ve been a humongous ‘Breaking Bad’ fan since the beginning,” Layman told the Albuquerque Journal, which published the obituary on page 4, with a small photo.

“I was actually in the pilot, and putting the obit in the paper was fitting, because the series was based in Albuquerque and it provides some of us some closure.”

[...]

The short obituary reads:

“White, Walter, aka ‘Heisenberg,’ 52, of Albuquerque, died Sunday after a long battle with lung cancer, and a gunshot wound.

“A co-founder of Gray Matter, White was a research chemist, who taught high school chemistry, and later founded a meth manufacturing empire.

“He is survived by his wife, Skyler Lambert; son Walter ‘Flynn’ Jr; and daughter Holly. A private memorial was held by his family. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to a drug abuse prevention charity of your choice. He will be greatly missed.”

Innit great?

Well, that is it for this Sunday’s reads. Y’all have a good day and take it easy…see you in the comments later on, until then…ciao!


Sunday Reads: Someone throw me a lifeboat?

12a1bf95197ac350395e31d539a1c17dGood Morning

Well, I don’t know where that title came from, well actually I do. I am watching Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Lifeboat. (Damn, what an opening for a film…Lifeboat (1944) — (Movie Clip) Those Nazi Buzzards)

Such a good film.

I have plenty of links for you this morning, here they go, in link dump fashion.

Let’s start with the GOP…

The title of this first link by Lawyers, Guns and Money says it all: House GOP: Never Waste A Crisis By Neglecting to Punish Women!

Another predictable demand has been added to the GOP’s ransom note:

House Republicans have added a measure aimed at limiting contraceptive coverage to the spending bill coming up for a vote Saturday night, a spokesman for Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, told CNN.

A senior House leadership aide confirmed that development.

The so-called “conscience clause” would allow employers and insurers to opt out of preventative care for women which they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds. That prominently includes birth control, which most insurers are required to provide for free under current Obamacare rules.

Yeah, that is just another twist of the screw.  Not that any of this will pass, which brings me to this next article from Business Insider: How A Government Shutdown Will Hurt The Economy

After you take a look at that overview, you can read a refresher of Idiot America, including an excerpt of a FDL interview with Charlie Pierce when the book first was published: The Three Great Premises of Idiot America Take Center Stage

These are good times for those who practice wingnuttery and those who observe them. With the release of the latest IPCC report on global climate change and the ever-more-likely crash and burn that is the Congress of the United States and its handling of the budget and its apparent willingness to refuse to pay the bills that they have incurred under past appropriations, the wingnuts have a feast spread before them to dine upon, as demonstrated by the speechifying of Ted Cruz on the floor of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.

Sadly, we can’t simply enjoy our popcorn as we watch: wingnuttery exacts a cost, either in the idiotic policies and practices they foist upon society (see almost anything enacted at the urging of the NRA), or in the time and energy that must be wasted to beat back these idiocies (see Krugman, Paul “the Shrill One”). No, popcorn is not an option.

It’s no surprise, then, that my thoughts have been turning to Charles Pierce.

Four years ago, the inestimable Mr. Pierce put forward The Three Great Premises of Idiot America:

1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it.

Every Sunday morning, The Three Great Premises of Idiot America are trotted out on the Sunday morning talk shows, and this weekend should be an excellent proof of Pierce’s wisdom. Again, see “Cruz, Ted.”

Some of you may remember this quote from Pierce:

At the FDL Book Salon chat with Charlie when the book first came out, watertiger asked a question that has only become more urgent over the last four years: “How do we extract ourselves from this ‘perception is reality’ paradigm? Is there a way out?” Charlie’s answer, likewise, has become ever more urgent as well:

WT, I’ve given that a lot of thought and the best answer I can give is that we, as citizens, simply have to do better at self-government. We have to distinguish between entertainment and information. Our powers of discernment have to be sharpened. And, it should be said that, at many of its highest levels, my business has fallen green-room-over-teakettle on this very question. Any journalist who accepts “perception is reality” as axiomatic is committing professional malpractice. Our job is to hammer the reality home until the perception conforms to it.

If only…

But here is an idiot for you, from No More Mister Nice Blog: CONGRESSMAN CULBERSON’S ANALOGY: OUTRAGEOUS, BUT NOT COMPLETELY INACCURATE

Yes, this is appalling:
During a meeting of the House Republican Caucus, Congressman John Culberson (R-TX) compared the relentless Republican effort to defund Obamacare to the heroic efforts of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who overpowered terrorists who had gained control of the plane.

https://twitter.com/BenjySarlin/statuses/383999610865602560

I don’t agree with the rest of this post, about the tweet being not “completely inaccurate.”

But the analogy isn’t entirely off base.

Remember what happened on the “Let’s roll” flight, United Flight 93? A lot of ordinary people died, and a target in D.C. was spared. The target was apparently the U.S Capitol, where Congress works.

As a result of what the Republican are doing now, a lot of innocent ordinary citizens will be harmed. You know who probably won’t be harmed? Members of Congress. They’ll still be paid. And most of them probably won’t lose their seats — only three House Republicans lost seats in 1996, after the last shutdown.

Ordinary citizens suffering while members of Congress are spared? Yes, there are some similarities between then and now, even if they’re not the ones the congressman had in mind.

That is a stretch to me. Because the assholes in Congress are acting like terrorist holding the US economy hostage…as this cartoon from Luckovich so perfectly illustrates: 9/29 Luckovich cartoon: Kindred souls | Mike Luckovich

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While we are on the topic of terrorist, did you see the cover of this weeks Newsweek? Newsweek Cover About Female Suicide Bombers Features Tampon Dynamite

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Newsweek Pakistan’s latest cover story is on the rise in female suicide bombers. And, so, naturally, this week’s cover features the words LADY PARTS emblazoned over the image of tampons with lit fuses where the removal string would normally be. That’s some TIME-level trolling, Newsweek. Kudos, I guess.

The good news is that Newsweek’s bombpons cover allows you to tick off several squares on Deliberately Provocative Magazine Cover Bingo. The bad news is that everyone on staff cringed when we saw it.

Alright, now for the links associated with women…

Study: Everyone hates environmentalists and feminists – Salon.com

Why don’t people behave in more environmentally friendly ways? New research presents one uncomfortable answer: They don’t want to be associated with environmentalists.

That’s the conclusion of troubling new research from Canada, which similarly finds support for feminist goals is hampered by a dislike of feminists.

Participants held strongly negative stereotypes about such activists, and those feelings reduced their willingness “to adopt the behaviors that these activities promoted,” reports a research team led by University of Toronto psychologist Nadia Bashir. This surprisingly cruel caricaturing, the researchers conclude, plays “a key role in creating resistance to social change.”

Writing in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Bashir and her colleagues describe a series of studies documenting this dynamic. They began with three pilot studies, which found people hold stereotyped views of environmentalists and feminists.

In one, the participants—228 Americans recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk—described both varieties of activists in “overwhelmingly negative” terms. The most frequently mentioned traits describing “typical feminists” included “man-hating” and “unhygienic;” for “typical environmentalists,” they included “tree-hugger” and “hippie.”

Another study, featuring 17 male and 45 female undergraduates, confirmed the pervasiveness of those stereotypes. It further found participants were less interested in befriending activists who participated in stereotypical behavior (such as staging protest rallies), but could easily envision hanging out with those who use “nonabrasive and mainstream methods” such as raising money or organizing social events.

Go to the link and read the summary of some of the results…it really is interesting. Especially when you consider the recent poll using the Obamacare vs. Affordable Care Act.

This by Scott Lemieux at LG&M: Why David Gilmour’s Sexism Matters (And Criticizing it is Valuable Free Speech)

Some good news out of Florida: Retrying the “warning shot” case – Anderson Cooper 360 – CNN.com Blogs

Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. She tried to use the “stand your ground” law in her trial. But a judge just ordered a new trial. The panel debates what role the controversial law may play in the retrial.

For a smooth move to the science part of the post…there is this story about women dancing ballet: The ballerina brain could hold a key to treating chronic dizziness

Years of training cause structural changes in a ballerina’s brain that help her stay balanced in the pirouette, said a report Friday that may aid the treatment of chronic dizziness.

Brain scans of professional ballerinas revealed differences from other people in two parts of the brain: one that processes input from the balancing organs in the inner ear, and another responsible for the perception of dizziness.

Most people, after turning around rapidly, feel dizzy for a period thereafter.

This is because of the fluid-filled chambers of the ear’s balance organs, which sense the rotation of the head through tiny hairs that perceive the fluid swishing about. The fluid continues to move for a while after the spin — which creates the perception that one is moving when still — hence the dizziness.

Ballet dancers can perform multiple pirouettes with little or no feeling of dizziness — a feat that has long puzzled researchers.

The pirouette sees a dancer execute one or more full-body turns on the toe or ball of one foot.

“Ballet dancers seem to be able to train themselves not to get dizzy, so we wondered whether we could use the same principles to help our patients,” Barry Seemungal from Imperial College London’s medicine department said in a statement on the study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

For the study, Seemungal and a team spun 29 ballerinas around in a rotating chair in a dark room, and did the same with 20 female rowers of similar age and fitness levels.

The women were asked to turn a lever on a small wheel attached to their chair in rhythm with the spinning sensation they experienced after the chair was brought to a halt.

For the dancers, the perception of spinning lasted for a”significantly” shorter period, said the study.

The researchers also looked at the women’s brains with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans.

They found that the part of the cerebellum which processes the signal from the balancing organs, was smaller in the dancers. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that governs body movement.

“It’s not useful for a ballet dancer to feel dizzy or off balance,” said Seemungal. “Their brains adapt over years of training to suppress that input” — allowing them to continue dancing after spinning around in a pirouette and complete a performance without losing their balance.

“If we can target that same brain area or monitor it in patients with chronic dizziness, we can begin to understand how to treat them better.”

And light sabers: Scientists ‘bind light together’ to create new state of matter resembling lightsabers

The physicists were exploring the properties of photons – an elementary particle that is the most basic constituent of light and all other types of electromagnetic radiation – when they managed to create molecules formed from photons bound together.

The discovery is startling as it goes against what scientists have previously believed to be the signature quality of photons: that they are massless particles that do not interact with each other. The capacity to create molecules out of photons has been described by the physicists involved as “pushing the frontiers of science”.

“Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless, and that they do not interact with each other,” said Harvard Professor of Physics Mikhail Lukin in a press release published at phys.org.

“What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules.”

“It’s not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers,” Lukin added. “When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”

And a segue to history…artsy stuff: Landmark study explores Hispanic Baroque while reinventing digital humanities research

Inspiring everything from Las Vegas to Lady Gaga, Hispanic Baroque is every bit an influence on modern day trends as is hip-hop and hipsters. And yet, tracing the cultural complexity that Hispanic Baroque has spawned for centuries has proven an unenviable task. Until now.

A landmark study by The Cultureplex Lab at Western University has explored Hispanic Baroque like no previous research project of its kind. By combining traditional research tools of the humanities with complex data analysis from the sciences, Cultureplex Lab principal investigator Juan-Luis Suárez and his team have developed new methodologies which have ignited research capabilities of this ever-influential cultural phenomena (and all other research for that matter), figuratively – not literally – transporting the game-changing study through space and time.

A stitch in time- via Medievalist.net

…the local mayor of Mayenne was well aware of another, less obnoxious Norman tradition: their fondness for strip cartoons. He commissioned a bande desinée to tell the story in pictures of Mayenne and our spectacular discoveries. The result was entertaining and educational propaganda: Mayenne was placed at the centre of French history, yet demonstrated itself as a model of European co-operation Those who lived in Mayenne could be proud of their town; those who did not should pay it a visit. The grand-daddy of all strip-cartoons, the Bayeux Tapestry, was made over 900 years earlier. It is a remarkable survival, that was recorded in 1476 in the Inventory of Notre Dame Cathedral in Bayeux as: ‘a very long and very narrow strip of linen, embroidered with figures and inscriptions representing the Conquest of England, which is hung round the nave of the church on the Feast of Relias’.

The Tapestry (or, more accurately, embroidery) has been subject to scholarly scrutiny for a couple of hundred years, so one might be excused for believing that the last word had been uttered and that we know all about it. Not so – Bayeux Tapestry scholars seem to reinvent the object of their desire almost every decade. But the answers to their questions remain elusive. Who commissioned the tapestry? Who made it, where and when? Where was the Tapestry first displayed? Was the message of the Tapestry outright Norman propaganda or a more evenhanded attempt at Anglo-Norman reconciliation? Even that great English myth, supposedly familiar to all schoolchildren, King Harold’s arrow in the eye, remains a matter of debate.

Click here to read this article from Minerva

Another article from Medievalist.net: From Flax to Linen: Experiments with flax at Ribe Viking Centre

The archaeological record shows that linen was an important part of Viking Age clothing. Linen cloth developed gradually from being virtually nonexistent in Scandinavia at the start of the first millennium AD, to being an important part of fashion during the Viking Age a thousand years later.

The importance of linen is also very visible among the many re-enactors of the period, and every self-respecting ”leisure Viking” will own at least a shirt or a skirt of linen. Re-enactment is also done professionally, as part of the tourist related activities in Visitor centres and museums across the country. Ribe Viking Centre is such an open-air visitor centre, recreating authentic milieus from Ribe and its nearest surrounds during the Viking Age. The centre also works as a teaching institution, where young people, for which the normal school system is not currently a viable option, can get a different kind of schooling experience, and therefore be helped further on in the educational system. Both staff and pupils on Ribe Viking Centre are therefore dressed as “Vikings” during the tourist season, where they work with different crafts across the site, recreating a living experience of the Viking age, at least in aspects. In this they make a valuable regional contribution to the tourism industry as well as playing an important role in social and educational aspects of contemporary society. From the University side, we have gained much respect for the professionalism and success with which both tasks are handled on an everyday basis at the Viking Centre.

The main parts of the garments worn at Ribe Viking Centre are made from linen. Visitors to the Centre will therefore be met with a vision of the Viking Age, where linen is a very dominant part of the fashion during the period. But it this true? Or possibly one should better ask: What kind of effort would such an extensive use of linen represent? One thing that we did notice during our work at the Centre was that while visitors could readily appreciate the effort behind the buildings and the crafts shown at the centre, the clothing was a more invisible factor, even though the making of clothes must have been an important part of life in the Viking Age. The work presented in the following helped illustrate just how important it must have been.

Click here to read this article from the Ribe Viking Centre

Tonight is the season finale of Breaking Bad, two sweet links for you:

From Cult Series To Game-Changer: ‘Breaking Bad’ Goes Out On A High via Deadline.com

‘Breaking Bad’ Predictions: What Do You Think Will Happen In The Series Finale?

Those are both long articles, as for the one about the predictions, my own prediction follows that of :

Anthony Breznican, Entertainment Weekly

The great thing about “Breaking Bad” is that creator Vince Gilligan and his team of subversive, demented scribes have always managed to give fans exactly what they want, while also surprising them. (I knew, for example, that Gus Fring’s number was up, but I did not see THAT particular moment coming.) So in trying to predict what the final episode will bring, it’s hard to divorce it from what I hope it will bring. There’s a big machine-gun in play. Someone is going to get mowed down while saying hello to Walter White’s “little friend,” and the most likely victims will be Big Head Todd and the Monsters, a.k.a. the neo-Nazis who executed Hank, enslaved Jesse, and slaughtered his would-be girlfriend Andrea. But their reign of terror is not over yet. Before Walt gets to them, they will exact a little more agony on his existence.

Finally, we have the specter of Gray Matter, raised in the last episode after lying dormant for many seasons. Will Walt finally right the injustice of his lack of credit for the creation of this tech giant? Who cares! Nobody — except Walt, and that’s all that counts in his world. I could see his old partners going down in a hail of gunfire as he starts his final kamikaze mission.

Last week, we saw jittery Lydia (seriously, does she drink only decaf tea?) urging Todd to tidy up the Skyler situation with extreme prejudice. This is a big, big “Breaking Bad” no-no. When you slaughter innocents, that’s awful enough (and one could argue about whether Skyler is really a bystander anymore). But the even bigger sin is hypocrisy. Remember when Walt ran down the drug dealers who were targeting kids? It was one of his bravest, most self-sacrificial moments. But then the very next season, Walt was slipping poison to little Brock as a means of manipulating Jesse. This is when he crossed over into straight-up evil-doer territory, and that — truly — is when he began earning all the horror that has fallen down around him. Lydia once begged Mike (now enjoying his retirement in Belize) to spare her life while her daughter played in a nearby room. He spared her, and now she is pointing Todd’s gun at another woman, another mother, and telling him to pull the trigger. I expect her to die horribly, but not by the ricin capsule. That would be too fast, and too easy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her karmic payback come at the end of Walt’s smoking M60, probably while she begs for her life. Gilligan emphasizes violence in the abstract. Count on seeing one very bloody pair of Louboutins.

Todd will go down trying to protect her. This psycho’s puppydog crush gives him a kind of misguided honor he lacks in almost every other circumstance. After casually offing the innocent (there’s that word again) dirtbiking kid Drew Sharp, and blowing Andrea’s brains out last episode, we — I — need to see this guy suffer. He’s too shallow a human being to suffer as mightily as a Walt or Jesse, so I think his comeuppance will come in the form of futility. He’ll do some grand, selfless gesture of gallantry to protect Lydia and will be unceremoniously wiped from the Earth. Or, she might sell him out, push him in front of a bullet meant for her. Whatever the case, his death will bring a moment of comic relief to the finale. At least, I hope so.

Skyler … Skyler, Skyler. She, Walt Jr. (now going exclusively by Flynn, I’m guessing) are not going to have an A-1 day. I think Gilligan will spare the toddler Holly. This is a ruthless show, but he has broken the audience’s heart so often, especially in this last run of shows, I have to believe he will cut us some slack on the baby. Flynn, however … He took a bold stand against his narcissistic old man. He’s one of the few, unadulterated good-guys on this show. That makes him ripe for death. The death of their eldest, honest, and somewhat naïve son will be the ultimate punishment for the Whites. I’m guessing he will die sacrificing himself to save his mom and sister — a noble death, one that means something. The opposite of Todd, in another words. He will face it boldly and unafraid (the exact opposite of his old man.)

If Skyler survives, she will go forward in pieces. Walt …? Death isn’t a punishment for Walt, it’s a release. I’m not sure there is a punishment great enough for him. It’s far too late for him to be redeemed, but I do think Gilligan and Co. will find a way to at least make him penitent. We have not seen Walt be truly sorry. I’m not even sure what that would look like in a mind as twisted as his. He thinks of himself as a king, and kings liked to be buried with all their belongings. Walt’s belongings, apart from the money he lost to the neo-Nazis, are his family. He has always considered himself above them, their keeper, and it would not surprise me to see him engineer a reunion with them (if, say, Walt Jr. survives). That ricin tablet? I can envision a scenario where he seeks to bury himself alongside his family, taking all of them with him. Don’t drink or eat anything he “cooks” for you, White family!

There is a chance Jesse will be spared this reckoning and escape with his life – such as it is. But probably not. One thing we haven’t seen in this show is a large meth explosion. Since he is being forced to cook for the Nazis, engineering that kind of blast – even if it kills him, too – might be one way of cleansing the earth of these motherf*ckers.

Oh, and as October is just around the bend: Haunted October 13 Film Guide (TCM, 10/1-10/19) – Bright Lights After Dark

October is the best month in the world: you can wear your cool jacket and sweater combo, but you’re not freezing cold yet, there’s no ‘family’ holiday looming at the end of it to undo what sanity you’ve managed to accrue over the last 11 months, there is only the looming darkness of Halloween and Daylight Savings, the merciful twin blanket set of disguise and darkness.

And of course, there’s the horror movies. The speeding darkness and chill draws ghosts and candelabras, witches, demons, and monsters to our cinematic desires like a magnet. And TCM is there.  As are we at the Bright Lights After Dark, where we turn those bright lights way, way, way down, all the better to scare you.

But Halloween isn’t the time for just any kind of horror movie, not the time for giant bugs, Godzilla, radio active waste, torture porn, serial killer procedurals, etc., but the horror of the past… of the unconscious, the Freudian Gothic, of long dead relatives rising from their tombs to drink the blood (and, if they’re played by Paul Naschy, fondle the breasts) of the living. It is the time of murderous devolved cannibals in the basement fed by Lon Chaney, or Lovecraftian mutants fed by Boris Karloff who doesn’t really need that wheelchair because he’s grown his own ghost legs. It is the time for Vincent Price, 70s ESP pre-slasher cycle variants, and for old school Universal Lugosi films, and 60s Hammer Chris Lee films. And TCM has them.

Rather than just list them all, blah blah, I decided to pick out the best, rarest, most worthy dozen and just present the date / time of their showing/s, and a link or few words of descr. attached to a movie poster (unless the poster is weak)…. I skipped all the ‘essentials’ casual fans are familiar with already, such as Bride of Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead, and The Wasp Woman. I want to point out the late night/early morning rarities, the ones worth recording.

All times listed Eastern Standard…. the best Standard in the world.

You go and check that list out!

Ending with Hitch, have y’all ever seen this sculpture over in London?

Hitchcock's Head. A statue of Alfred Hitchcock's head at the Gainsborough Studiosapartments. http://www.concretecentre.com/main.asp?page=513

It is located where Hitchcock filmed most of his movies in England: Gainsborough Studios.

Now there are condos/flats built that surround this Buddha like statue of Hitchcock’s head, check out this one listed for almost one million dollars: 2 bedroom apartment for sale in Gainsborough Studios London, N1, N1

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Isn’t he wonderful!

Damn, if I won the lottery I think I’d have to buy one of these condos, sight unseen…

Y’all have a great day, and post some links and thoughts in the comments.

(BTW, you want to see a cool review of Lifeboat? Take a look at Tired Old Queen below.)