Archive for January, 2008

Jan 30 2008

Scientists Discover Source of Seasonal Flu Strains; Thousands Book Flights to Kick Crap Out of Him

Published by under Science

Most people don’t know how annual flu vaccines work — or, frequently, don’t work — or, for that matter, why we need to get flu shots every year, when most other vaccines last for multiple years or decades. I’ve found out who to blame.

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Jan 29 2008

One Frenchman Beats A Hundred Monkeys

Published by under Crime,Technology

Proving that computers radically increase the efficiency with which people can commit world-shattering screwups, one 31-year-old French guy banging on a keyboard managed to aerosolize $7 billion of his bank’s assets.

This is remarkable, not least because the French are notoriously averse to any sort of serious, sustained effort at pretty much anything other than the courtship of former supermodels or protesting the removal of 35-hour work week limitations. So either this Jerome Kerviel guy was an unusually industrious Frenchman, or technology was the force-multiplier that enabled this market-crashing trainwreck.

As is sometimes the case, a seemingly unrelated news story occurring at about the same time as the above event provides a good illustration of the magnitude of this event. I am referring, of course, to the recent headlines about a Japanese chimpanzee who proved better at memorization than an international memory expert.

This naturally led me to wonder how Monsieur Kerviel might stack up against a competing monkey for monetary-destruction skills.
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Jan 27 2008

Public Service Marketing = Demonize the White Guy

(Non-humorous screed alert!)

Alright, this one was so damn subtle it almost slipped by me. But not subtle enough!

Currently, there is in at least one East Coast market a radio ad campaign for “Wireless Amber Alerts.” One ad features someone who is obviously supposed to be a police dispatcher making a radio call for an Amber Alert — the abducted child is said to be something like a “six-year-old African American girl.”

The suspect?

A “Caucasian male, 30-35 years old, blue shirt, black jeans, 180 pounds…”.

I’m in favor of the Amber Alert system, and I think the addition of the Wireless Amber Alert text messaging system is a great idea — in fact, I went to the web site to sign up for it.

Then I heard the above radio ad again, a few times.

And I thought, wtf?

Why, exactly, was this particular racial combination (African-American victim; Caucasian suspect/offender) chosen to be the example for the Wireless Amber Alert ad? How often, based on actual statistical evidence, is that particular racial combination of the suspect/offender and victim present?
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Jan 21 2008

World’s Most Horrific Piano Chord…

I know you’ve heard the commercials — you’re driving along, listening to the radio, and suddenly some guy says in an incredibly matter-of-fact voice “Hello, my name is Stan O’Hanlahan…”.

And then the hushed, minor-key Piano Chord from Hell plays: “*PLING*”

Stan O’Hanlahan then, incredibly matter-of-factly, spends the next thirty seconds describing an escalating odyssey into Disease Hell that begins with him talking about how he was a normal guy, just driving along listening to the radio, and segueing rapidly (but still incredibly matter-of-factly) into a series of health disasters, most always involving some form of cancer, and usually tossing in a tidbit of soul-crushing detail (“and then my eyes exploded” or “I tried to hug my daughter but my arms fell off”) that is clearly designed to freak you out, finally moving on to how the drug company selflessly developed a life-saving cure that brought him back to normal (with a realistic and lawyer-inspired note of caution, like “of course, this doesn’t work for everyone, and I still have no eyes/arms, but…”) while the music changes from the minor key to a major key, the joyous oboe kicks in, and some soothing woman comes on and breathes the drug company’s name gently into your ear a few times.
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Jan 19 2008

Pact with Satan? You Decide!

It is quite clear to me that there are certain individuals who have achieved a level of financial success, fame or recognition that cannot be explained by their actual level of intelligence, talent, diligence or any general merit — not even luck can explain it. By Occam’s Razor, then, there is only one remaining explanation.

They have formed a Pact with Satan.

Now, I’m not going after the easy targets. But there are a few about whom I have formed personal conclusions, which I occasionally feel the need to share.
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Jan 18 2008

“You Brought It On Yourself, Buddy…”

Published by under Accidents,Darwinism,WTF?

Substantially lowering the bar for the degree of care zoos owe their visitors, most recent news reports about the three guys who were attacked and/or eaten by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo seem to focus on whether the three guys were taunting the tiger.

Can someone explain to me exactly how this is relevant to anything?

I mean, if the Zoo is trying to defend itself against accusations of negligence by saying “heck, they would have been perfectly safe if they hadn’t pissed off the tiger,” isn’t that kind of overwhelmed by the fact that these guys were attacked and/or eaten by the freaking tiger?

I feel that this relatively important point is being lost in the chattering inquiry about whether the guys had smoked marijuana, were drunk, or had stood on the railing outside the tiger pit making faces and yelling at it.

If I had known that the various moats, pits, chains, fences and cages in zoos were just for show and the psychological comfort of human visitors — you know, maybe gentle suggestions to the animals that they might want to consider avoiding mauling the human visitors, rather than, say, things that actually prevented them from mauling the human visitors I can tell you that my zoo-visiting procedures would have been substantially different.

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Jan 16 2008

“Are We On For Lunch?” “Don’t Know – Let Me Check Our Contract.”

Published by under Politics,WTF?

Okay, this has been bugging me since I read it.

In the January 14 issue of The Weekly Standard (right-wing alert!), in their review of a book by Sally Bedell Smith, there’s a tidbit about Al Gore’s approach to his relationship with Bill Clinton:

“Looking ahead to his own run eight years later, Gore was determined to establish himself as a full partner to Clinton, negotiating a written contract before taking office that gave him a weekly lunch with the president, on which he insisted, plus authority on a wide range of issues–national security and foreign policy, as well as communications and the environment–in which he had shown expertise.” (emphasis added)

He negotiated a written lunch contract? Wow. That’s either brilliant or completely insane. You’d think if he were the amazing raconteur in person that his partisans claim he is, he wouldn’t need to legally bind someone to share a meal with him.

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Jan 16 2008

Like We’re Not Fat Enough Already?

Published by under Health,Technology,WTF?

So now I’m aware of at least one business that is installing the equivalent of “SpeedPasses,” as made by this company, at their cafeteria cashiers. It’s as if it’s been so much effort to get food in this country that we just had to do something to eliminate any conceivable inconvenience: “My god! These people are starving! You can’t expect them to find cash and get change, or wait to sign a credit slip, before they get their food. That would be cruel! They’re practically wasting away!”

So now you can practically run by the cashier (or, given our obesity rates, move at a nice fast waddle) on your way to jam down your hamburger. Helpful this is?

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Jan 14 2008

72 Virgins? 72 Grapes?

Okay, this should be causing a leettle more controversy than it’s stirred up – according to a reputable scholar of the Koran (who has to publish his scholarship anonymously because he’s reluctant to be stabbed, shot, or blown to bits), it’s possible that the Koran promises martyrs not 72 virgins, but rather 72 grapes – white raisins, to be precise.

This would, I expect, be somewhat of a letdown. Consider:

*KABOOM* “Hello? I am here!”

“Gee, welcome. Here’s your fresh fruit plate.”

“Um, thanks. Say, where are my girls?”

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