Monday, August 23, 2010

Franzen's new 'Freedom' earns critical praise

Freedom Freakout: The Woes of Being Loved Too Much

President Obama obtained a copy of Freedom Friday while vacationing on Martha's Vineyard. But instead of delight, it seems that "Publishing Panic"...MORE >

In "Casablanca," the police chief tells an aid to "go arrest the usual suspects"

Egypt arrests officials, guards over stolen Van Gogh

AFP – Mon Aug 23, 3:27 pm ET
An undated picture released by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture...

CAIRO (AFP) - Egypt on Monday arrested a senior culture ministry official blamed for lax security at a museum from which a Van Gogh was stolen and also boosted security at the country's entry and exit points.

How to "stay safe" on DC Metro for Beck rally ridiculed

Heck, looking at any subway map represents a challenge


As Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally nears, preparations need to be made which is why a Tea Party blogger from Maine posted some directions on how to stay safe in our nation’s capital. With all due respect to him, they’re pretty much ridiculous. Unsurprisingly, liberal bloggersare having a field day with the post.Rachel Maddow, especially, was having a good time and could barely get through a segment on it without riotous laughter from herself, her guest, or her crew.

Some funny; some scary; some obscene

Google Earth
PHOTOS: The Most Mysterious Google Earth Sightings Ever

How dare that planet get in the way of that meteor! The noive!

WATCH: Jupiter PELTED By Rogue Meteor

Can't get too much Michael J. Fox

Michael J FoxMichael J Fox 'to make TV return in The Good Wife'

Anne Frank tree toppled by high winds and rain

The chestnut tree which once comforted Anne Frank

The 150-year-old horse chestnut that brought comfort to Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis in World War Two has toppled in high winds and heavy rain.

The tree, whose trunk was diseased and rotted, snapped a metre (3ft) above the ground, and crashed into neighbouring gardens in Amsterdam.

It smashed into a brick wall and sheds, but nobody was believed injured.

The Anne Frank House museum, which gets a million visitors a year, also escaped unscathed during Monday's poor weather.

"Someone yelled: 'It's falling. The tree is falling,' and then you heard it go down," museum spokeswoman Maatje Mostart told the Associated Press. "Luckily no one was hurt."

Must be owned by a man


Flying along: Japanese artist opens up the seas with a boat shaped like a giant zipYasuhiro Suzuki has created a boat designed to look like a giant zip, with the wake it leaves behind in the water meant to represent the teeth of the fastening.

"Macho Booze Infused"...From Paris

Hey boys. Tired of slogging into the office every day? Tired of your life as an attorney? How about opening a "Butch Bakery?"
According to an article in Marie Claire, Manhattan real estate attorney David Arrick left his law career and opened "Butch Bakery," a cupcake company with "masculine ingredients like beer, bacon and Kahlua... He topped them with chocolate discs patterned in camouflage or plaid."
I think we're all asking the same question: "Since when was Kahlua considered a macho/masculine ingredient?"

When the Boston papers get on your case and your a Dem, well that is bad.

Highest Paid Women in Sports

No. 1: Maria Sharapova


Income: $24.5 million

Age: 23

The top-paid woman in sports signed an eight-year contract extension with Nike this year that could be worth as much as $70 million, thanks to royalties from her own tennis line and a line of bags and shoes through Nike subsidiary Cole Haan.

No. 2: Serena Williams


Income: $20.2 million

Age: 28

Williams won two Grand Slams and a record $6.5 million in prize money in 2009. Last August Williams and sister Venus became minority owners in the NFL's Miami Dolphins.

No. 4: Danica Patrick


Income: $12 million

Age: 28

Patrick's part-time move to Nascar has been a bit bumpy, as her average finish was 30.5 in her first six starts. She remains one of racing's biggest stars with 10 personal sponsorship deals.

Political Cartoons by Eric Allie

O’s Muslim Problem

Hard on the heels of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, significant numbers of Americans think President Obama is a Muslim. The uncomfortable fact for the White House is the more the American people get to know Mr. Obama, the more they think he is a follower of Islam.

Rumors of Mr. Obama's purported Muslim identity spread in January of 2007 and were tied to Hillary Rodham Clinton operatives. The Obama camp responded that "Barack Obama is not and has never been a Muslim. Obama never prayed in a mosque. He has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim and is a committed Christian who attends [The Rev. Jeremiah Wright's] United Church of Christ." That seemed definitive.

But in a February 2008 interview with the New York Times, Mr. Obama said the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, is "one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset." He then recited it, "with a first-class [Arabic] accent." The opening of the Adhan contains the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith, proclaiming, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the prophet of God." Stating this before two Muslims is the traditional requirement for joining the Islamic faith.

Adding fuel to the fire is Mr. Obama's family heritage: born of a Muslim father and raised by a Muslim stepfather. Under Shariah law, having a Muslim father makes one a Muslim, though this custom has no legal standing in the United States.

Obama's 'Problem Is He Was Born a Muslim,' Rev. Franklin Graham Says
The influential Evangelical leader Rev. Franklin Graham said President Barack Obama was “born a Muslim” since the religion is “passed through the father’s seed,” in a CNN interview Friday.

World's Largest Amateur Space Rocket Set To Launch

World's Largest Amateur Space Rocket Set To Launch

The non-profit firm known as Copenhagen Suborbital left port with the Heat1X-TychoBrae rocket on Friday, towing the rocket and its launching pad to a spot in the Baltic Sea. If everything goes as planned, the rocket will rise to about 93 miles above the earth — about halfway to the International Space Station — where a capsule with a test dummy will float back to water.

The team, founded by Peter Madsen and Kristian von Bengtson, started testing their rocket designs and engines in February. Their goal is to eventually build a large enough rocket to support a manned flight; even with a test dummy, the Heat1X will still be Denmark's largest rocket launch ever. (Madsen oversaw the construction of the firm's submarine — the same one that towed the rocket and pad to the launch site.)

Foreclosure Study Shows Dramatic Value Drop

"Foreclosed homes sell for less, not just a little bit less, but much less than comparable homes sold in the same area at the same time but voluntarily outside the foreclosure process," explains Harvard Professor of Economics John Campbell. "In fact, the discount on average is about 27% which is really a very large number."
Read more:

4 times more likely to have an accident with Driver’s Ed. The problem of experts?

Driver's ed crash stats stump lawmakers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Indiana lawmakers say they are puzzled by a study that shows teenagers who take driver's education classes are more likely to crash than those who do not take the classes.

The Indiana BMV released the study that it says shows current drivers under 18 who took driver's ed had nearly four times the crashes than those without the training.

Asparagus, garlic and artichokes 'could help fight obesity and diabetes'

Eating vegetables such as asparagus could help fight obesity and diabetes

Eating vegetables such as asparagus could help fight obesity and diabetes Photo: Andrew Crowley

Scientists are examining whether a diet rich in certain types of fibre can suppress hunger and improve the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels.

Foods such as garlic, chicory, asparagus and artichokes are known as fermentable carbohydrates, which are thought to activate the release of gut hormones that reduce appetite.

From Jody

Ecclesiastes 10:2 The heart of the wise inclines to the right,  but the heart of the fool to the left.

Political Cartoon by Michael Ramirez

So what are the Moslems in NY up to? Name calling it seems. Sort of an improvement.

Mosque Planner: Opponents Go 'Beyond Islamophobia'...
Ground Zero Imam Says U.S. Worse than al Qaeda...

The Palestinians Have A Plan That Does Not Include Peace


August 22, 2010: After much cajoling by Western nations, and promises of generous bribes, one of the two Palestinian factions (Fatah, in the West Bank) agreed to resume face-to-face peace talks with Israel. Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas got his key allies (mainly those on the Executive Committee of Palestine Liberation Organization) to go along with this only because he promised to get Israel to halt the construction of new settlements in the West Bank for as long as the talks last. A ten month Israeli moratorium on such settlements ends next month, when the new talks begin. Abbas told the Israelis that the talks would stop if they began building new settlements.

The goal of the peace talks is to work how to establish an independent Palestinian state. Israel agrees with that goal, but the Palestinians don't, at least among themselves. That's why these peace talks tend to go nowhere. The latest talks are doomed by the fact that many Palestinians in the West Bank openly oppose them, and the Islamic radical group Hamas, that runs the Gaza Strip (which contains 40 percent of Palestinians) refuse to cooperate in the talks. Hamas and Fatah controlled media both talk of destroying Israel, not making permanent peace.

World’s Great Swimming Pool. From Yvonne


Don't go off the VERY deep end... Infinity pool 55 STORIES above ground opens in Singapore in dazzling new £4bn resort!

He'll definitely want to make sure he doesn't swim too close to the edge. This man is the first lap swimmer in the world to enjoy such a view - 55 stories over the city of Singapore . The £4billion Marina Bay Sands tourism development opened in the city yesterday, and the 150-metre long pool


Sort of tells the story

World’s Longest Traffic Jam

Longest Traffic Jam Ever?A 60-mile-long traffic jam on a major Beijing highway's entered day nine, with stranded drivers taking to playing chess on their cars as local vendors organize roadside shops like in a Cortázar short story. What's causing this potentially month-long jam?

In short, increased traffic on the highway mixed with maintenance and construction. Britain's Sky News reported the snarls have been commonplace since May as a result of a spike in the number of trucks using the roads, with the daily peak reaching about 17,000.

More on names

I was curious about when English surnames became fixed in time by inheritance rather than being individual descriptors of convenience which were only used for one's lifetime.

First, we have to go back to the pre-surname era. In pre-medieval England, the population was so small, and most villages so tiny, that, if your name was Merthin, everybody around knew who you were. Then the Norman Conquest Frenchified England. Many or most of the colorful old Anglo-Saxon given names (like Aldwyn and Odelia and Theomund)  disappeared and were replaced with names of French origin like these four:

It has been estimated that almost 50% of the male babies born by 1200 A.D. were using just four common first names: William (15%), Robert (12%), Richard (11%) and Henry (10%). Such percentages show the need, even by the Middle Ages, for a second name of identification. As a result, patronymic naming conventions came into play whereby sons were named after their fathers, and sometimes even after their mothers.

As with traditional Scandinavian names, patronymic surnames are not fixed but are labels of convenience: they change with each generation. "Which John do you mean?" "Oh, John Robert's son.") Robert Richardson's son John becomes John Robertson. (Shifting surnames, of course, persists with women still generally taking on their husband's surname.)

The Medieval Warm Period saw a rapid growth in the English population, with the growth of market towns and cathedral towns, often with thousands in population. Descriptors became necessary: John (who lives on the) Hill, William (the) Carpenter, Jack (who came here from) Aisnley, Roger (the) Knight. By late Medieval times, descriptive (but not fixed) surnames were fairly universal except in small farming villages. These were, generally speaking,

Place names
Occupation names
Descriptive or nicknames

Thus we had Christian (given) names, and descriptive, non-hereditary surnames. As best I can tell, literacy and record-keeping led the way towards fixed surnames around or slightly before 1500 (although they were probably implied before that among the land-owning aristocracy: eg William, Lord of Westmoreland's sons were probably forever Westmoreland in some way unless the King punished you by taking your land away, or cutting your head off.) As Wiki says:

In Britain, hereditary surnames were adopted in the 13th and 14th centuries, initially by the aristocracy but eventually by everyone. By 1400, most English and Scottish people had acquired surnames, but many Scottish and Welsh people did not adopt surnames until the 17th century, or even later. Henry VIII (1509 - 1547) ordered that marital births be recorded under the surname of the father.

Why your surname really means nothing

(Surnames Part 1 here)

Your surname means next to nothing genetically or geneologically. Furthermore, if you are of English or French descent, you are almost certainly some sort of relative of Charlemagne.

Taking our surname topic this week a bit further into the math of geneology, one quickly realizes that the surname or family name one ended up with is close to random. After all, how many c. 1500 AD ancestors do you have (around the time when surnames became fixed and inherited), each one an equal contributor to your genetics? 

Well, just four generations ago, you had 32 living great-great-great grandparents (2 to the 4th power), all probably with different surnames. If you have a Mayflower ancestor, they were one of your mathematical 65,000 great-something grandparents 15 generations ago. The simple math, depending on the areas in which your 1500 AD ancestors lived, (your ancestry pool at a given time), indicates that I have up to a theoretical 4 million great-something grandparents who were living in 1500 (with ancestors doubling each generation of 25 years).

But, beyond the 4-10 generations back, those large numbers aren't possible, given the population pools in different local areas and the lack of mobility for most people at the time. (The population of London was around 50,000 in 1500. It is thought that the global population in 1500 was only around 300 million.)

Thus there must be abundant redundancy in our geneologies and tons of marriage and child production among cousins, in-laws, and other family members. This site, Redundancy in Geneology, takes a clear look at that subject.

The technical term for this is "pedigree collapse," wherein our ancestral cone has a narrowing due to various forms of inbreeding, as it were. That collapse may have peaked around the year 1200, and in New England, there probably was another mini-pedigree collapse due to the small size of the population in the 16-1700s:

Colonial Anglo Population of New England through 1700

1650: 33,000
1678: 60,000
1706: 120,000
1734: 250,000
1762: 500,000
1790: 1,000,000

Population growth after 1640 was largely internal, not immigration.

Another Interesting Chart

Cost of Government Day: Aug. 19
Cost of Government Day Thursday, August 19, was Cost of Government Day, as calculated by Americans for Tax Reform Foundation and the Center for Fiscal Accountability:

This is the day on which the average American has earned enough gross income to pay off his or her share of the spending and regulatory burdens imposed by government at the federal, state, and local levels.

In 2010, Cost of Government Day falls on August 19.  Working people must toil 231 days out of the year just to meet all costs imposed by government -- 8 days later than last year and a full 32 days longer than 2008.

Chart 1

Chart 2

Interesting chart

How Manly Is Your Cocktail - Credit: Column Five Media

This will get the DC tongues wagging

PAPER: Does Obama want to be re-elected in 2012?...

A Democratic congressional leadership staffer who had sat in on a number of closed-door meetings between President Obama and Democratic members of Congress:

“I know this isn’t true and sounds naïve, but listening to the president in these meetings, you’d think he really doesn’t care if he gets re-elected or not.”

Why CNN is doomed to 3rd place.

CNN is a reliable Democratic Party outlet, so it is no surprise that it puts the worst face on Americans' indignation over the Ground Zero Mosque. NewsBusters caught CNN in this justaposition, comparing today's anti-GZM protesters to pro-Nazi activists of decades past:


How's that for subtlety? In case you missed the point, CNN adds this photo, and others to the same effect:


Bottled Tea Beverages May Contain Fewer Polyphenols Than Brewed Tea


Scientists reported at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Boston, Massachusetts on August 22 that many of the increasingly popular beverages included in their study, beverages that account for $1 billion in annual sales in the United States alone, contain fewer polyphenols than a single cup of home-brewed green or black tea. Some contain such small amounts that consumers would have to drink 20 bottles to get the polyphenols present in one cup of tea.

28,000 murders and you have heard almost nothing about it.

Shootout on Mex border shuts El Paso highway...

REPORT: Mexican Police Help Murder -- Their Own Mayor!

Mexico has seen unprecedented gang violence since President Felipe Calderon stepped up the fight against drug trafficking when he took office in December 2006, deploying thousands of troops and federal police to cartel strongholds.

Since then, more than 28,000 people have been killed in violence tied to Mexico's drug war.

An example of why incumbents must go



The Former Chair of the Dem’s Party

Howard Dean: I can’t shake the feeling that Obama’s advisors are out of touch with the country

“The people around the president have really misjudged what goes on elsewhere in the country.”