Octopodial Chrome

Stuff that Made Sense at the Time

The Personal Weblog of Bob Uhl


Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Cats or Dogs?

Cats or Dogs is a neat little site which asks you repeated questions, and calculates correlations over responses. E.g., it has found that those who prefer black over white are 41% more likely to prefer coffee over tea, while those who prefer white are 38% more likely to prefer tea—which is a statistically significant result. Even better, those who prefer beards are far more likely to prefer Calvin & Hobbes to Peanuts. This proves how much more intelligent we are (which is also indicated by how much we prefer beer) .

As you answer the questions, it periodically shows you statistical results; it will also ask for questions to add.

Interestingly, people are 2.1 times as likely to prefer brunettes over blondes. I knew I wasn’t the only one!

Lubbock Trades Safety for Dollars

It seems that Lubbock, Texas valued revenues over lives: the city installed red lights cameras at intersections with too-short yellow timings (in at least one case, an illegally short timing). Too-short yellow lights cause death and property damage, but in conjunction with red light cameras they are an excellent money-raiser. Once again we see that traffic law enforcement is really just another way of taxing—and of depriving citizens of their lives and property as well.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Much Ado About Nothing

I can’t believe that this story is getting so much press coverage (on CNN & Good Morning America and at Business2.0). Brief recap: the Delta Zeta sorority chapter at DePauw University has been declining in membership, becoming so small that it’s in danger of being shut down. So the national sorority reviewed the members and tossed several out of the sorority house (not out of the sorority). Big deal, right?

Apparently not, for you see, the national sorority committed an unforgivable sin: it cast out the ugly girls. This makes sense: the function of a fraternity or sorority is to provide alcohol for young men and women unable to purchase it for themselves in a pleasant atmosphere accompanied by suitable musical entertainment and in the presence of the opposite sex—i.e. to throw parties. If the members of the group are not attractive, not enough attractive members of the opposite sex will attend their parties; why then would an attractive member of the same sex join? It very quickly becomes a vicious circle.

Fraternities and sororities which don’t recruit die, and amazingly quickly. I saw twice it when I was at Austin College, in both cases following an identical pattern: a poor pledgeship year followed by a year with relaxed standards; that same year the more-attractive seniors graduated, leaving a frat/sorority with a drastically reduced average attractiveness; the following year no-one went to their party and no-one pledged; and that was that.

The Delta Zetas really had no choice: had they not replaced the unattractive girls with attractive ones in the sorority house, their parties would have been less attractive to boys, and hence less attractive to freshman girls—and thus in a year or two there would have been no more Delta Zeta chapter.

No matter how much lip-service the Greek system pays towards friendship and comradeship (and they are certainly present), the glue which holds it all together is partying. And everyone wants to party with the prettiest & the handsomest. Thus it always has been, and thus it ever shall be.

Cigarettes Cannot Ignite Petrol

ATF researchers have found that cigarettes will not ignite petrol, despite all their efforts to make it happen. If a cigarette cannot ignite gasoline, one wonders how it is supposed to start a forest or house fire. Could it be that cigarettes were simply blamed for spontaneous ignition, electrical fires and arson?

Friday, 23 February 2007

The Glamour of Flight

Great pictures of ’60s airline stewardesses. That was back when the airlines could hire young, attractive women. Nowadays we get women who started in the ’60s, and gay men. Why oh why couldn’t I have been born forty years earlier?

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Shoot Two, Kill One, Go on Paid Vacation

A cop in Maryland shot two deliverymen, killing one a month ago—and all that’s happened is that he’s been put on paid leave. Someone please tell me how this is right.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Keep a Stiff Upper Lip!

A recent news release:

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats that have raised their security level from Miffed to Peeved. Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to Irritated or even A Bit Cross. Londoners have not been A Bit Cross since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from Tiresome to A Bloody Nuisance. The last time A Bloody Nuisance warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

Also, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from Run to Hide. The only two higher levels in France are Surrender and Collaborate. The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ’s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

Italy is on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased its alert level from Shout Loudly and Excitedly to Elaborate Military Posturing. Two more levels remain: Ineffective Combat Operations and Change Sides.

The Germans also increased their alert state from Disdainful Arrogance to Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs. Two higher levels remain: Invade a Neighbor and Lose.

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual and the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

Lastly, the Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish Navy can get a really good look at the Old Spanish Navy.

Sadly, more true than funny…

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

A Prayer for Soldiers During War

Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes has penned this prayer for soldiers in time of war, which I can recommend.

Being a 70s Man

The Retroist has a bit on how to be the perfect 70s guy. It turns out you need easy listening, a roaring fireplace, lots of hair and oblivious-to-reality confidence.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Drug-rape Exposed as Myth

Remember all the press we’ve seen about Rohypnol and such over the last decade? A British study has found that binge drinking is the real culprit.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Introducing...the book

Some old-fashioned tech support for you:

Computer users are so like this…You mean that matters?

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Samuel Adams Unveils New Beer Glass

It looks like Sam Adams has come up with a new style of beer glass. It looks a little odd, but I think I could grow to love it. Bit pricey, but in a few years the price should come down somewhat.

Hokey Spokes

Hokey Spokes are LED light bars that attach to one’s bicycle’s spokes; the communicate with one another and are configurable to display pre-set patterns or custom text messages. I really want a set—I’ll get ’em to spell out Cyclists have a right to the road too! or something similar…

Naval Homecoming

Here’s an excellent little slideshow:

I remember when I was a very little boy how excited I was to go see dad’s ship arrive, because I’d get to the see the sky purple. I’m not certain why, exactly, I thought this (I’ve never seen a purple sky in dawn), but for some reason that’s what I thought.

For those of you with little knowledge of navy life, I should point out that those dads holding very small kids—they’ve never seen their children before. Imagine what it’s like to leave your pregnant wife (and in the old days, there were no instantaneous communications: my parents mailed cassette tapes to one another), and then one day while working to be notified that you have a new boy, or a girl—and you know that you won’t see your newborn child for months and months. Now imagine what it’s like to finally see your kid for the first time. Must be pretty cool.

Brewing Calculators

This weekend while in the middle of brewing I discovered these nifty brewing calculators which allow one to estimate colour, alcohol percentage, bitterness, efficiency, priming and so forth. Very cool—and 100% webbed, so usable to anyone with a browser.

Monday, 12 February 2007

The Peril of Praise

Apparently, telling a kid he’s smart leads him to avoid work. In on study, children were given a test, then either told they were smart or that they must have tried hard; then they were given a choice of two second tests, one being harder than the other. Those praised for effort overwhelmingly chose the difficult test; those praised for intelligence chose the easy one. The theory is that when a kid is told he’s smart, he thereafter tries to avoid looking anything but smart, and does so by avoiding the possibility of failure and embarrassment. In a later round, kids were given deliberately difficult tests, which they failed: the effort group assumed that they hadn’t tried hard enough, and applied themselves; the smart group assumed that they weren’t smart after all and were miserable.

Yet another way in which the self-esteem cabal has ruined education. By praising kids for being innately talented, it has set them up for failure.

Cyclists' Life Worth $80

A driver in Florida struck and killed a cyclist. His punishment? $80 and 4 points from his license. So much for justice!

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Pictures from a Homeless Kid

A fellow befriended a homeless kid and gave him a camera; some time later he got an envelope with these pictures. Impressive—some of them are really, really good.

What's Noka Worth?

Noka chocolates are the most expensive in the world ($309–2,080 per pound). But are they worth it? The Dallas Food blog examines what exactly goes into Noka chocolates, and discovers that they’re really nothing particularly special; you can find similar and better chocolates for less than a tenth of the price!

The article’s also fascinating for the details of the chocolate trade. I’d never known that there was so much to know, and that it was so complex a subject. This might be an excellent new hobby…

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Exercise Just a Placebo?

A Harvard study has revealed that many of the beneficial results of exercise are due to the placebo effect. Apparently, a group told that their lifestyle provided sufficient exercise had lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and had better physiometric stats a mere four weeks later.

I am strong, and handsome, and perfectly fit…

Horse: It's What's for Dinner

Joel Stein read about the rather idiotic attempt to ban the sale of horsemeat, and decided to try some. His verdict? Pretty Awesome.

Æons ago I spent quite a bit of time wandering around downtown Verdun trying to find a bistro which was purported to serve hamburger de cheval, but unfortunately I was unsuccessful. Some other day, perhaps.

Is This How We Treat Our Friends?

Back in 2005, the US government flew Afghani warlord Haji Bashar Noorzai to New York City. A confidant of Mullah Omar (himself an ally of Osama Bin Laden), Noorzai wanted to turn on him and be an ally of the United States. We picked his brain for a week-and-a-half—then we arrested him for drug trafficking. And as a result, his million-member tribe is useless to us, and it’s directly attributable to our idiotic War on Some Drugs—a war which will soon be the cause of us losing Afghanistan to the Taliban, and thus may lead us to lose the War on Terror. And of course, others with information which could help us catch Bin Laden are incredibly less likely to speak up. Thanks, DEA.

Mushrooms vs. Murder

From an article back in ’03:

Stephen Fletcher II tried to grow some psychedelic mushrooms in his Lawrence apartment.

Tremain V. Scott shot and killed a man at close range during an armed confrontation, then, according to an eyewitness, took the victim’s gun and shot him with it as he lay on the ground.

An autopsy showed the victim had been shot 18 times.

Both Fletcher and Scott are in their early 20s and have little or no criminal-conviction record, their attorneys say. So who’s facing the stiffer sentence?

Fletcher, by double.

I don’t take any drugs other than alcohol, nicotine & caffeine; I’m particularly interested in doing so. But whether or not you or I are illicit drug users, can we please all agree that sentencing a man to at least 11½ years in prison for trying to grow some hallucinogenic mushrooms for himself is insane and inhumane?

If you don’t agree, I’m quite willing to show you the door.

Why Steve Olson is No Longer a Republican

Essentially, his 19 year old cousin was facing a first-degree felony conviction for possessing some mushrooms. Yeah, that’s a first-degree felony—the only thing worse in the eyes of the state of Minnesota is murder. Pretty idiotic.

The Real History of the Crusades

Back in ’02, Thomas Madden wrote The Real History of the Crusades, which attempts to correct several popular misconceptions about the Crusades. If you take nothing else from it, take this: the Middle East was Christian; the Mohammedans conquered it; the Crusades were an attempt to reconquer it. Remember, too, the high points of Mohammedan expansion: Poitiers in France and Vienna in Austria, 324 leagues apart.

Thursday, 08 February 2007

The US Highway System

Here’s a map of the US highway system portrayed like a subway map. Not certain if it makes it easier or more difficult to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

Wednesday, 07 February 2007

Asimov on Intelligence

Isaac Asimov, brilliant as ever, on intelligence.

Tuesday, 06 February 2007

EPA Devises New Miles-per-Gallon Estimates

The EPA has revised its miles-per-gallon tests as well as the stickers affixed to cars with the information. Depending on the type of vehicle and the mileage being examined, the estimates are expected to drop 8–30%. The stickers themselves give a much better feel for the mileage of the car, listing both its ranking among other cars and an estimated annual fuel cost.

These new measures should give consumers much better information than we had previously. Of course, my car gets 35 mpg in the city and 42 on the highway, so I laugh at everyone…

Monday, 05 February 2007

The Hollywood Operating System

At last, someone has written down the previously-unwritten rules of the Hollywood Operating System we all know & love from the movies.

Friday, 02 February 2007

Thugs Destroy Homes, Steal Belongings

A video is running through the Internet depicting thugs destroying peoples homes and stealing their belongings. The twist is that these thugs wear uniforms: they’re police slashing the tents of homeless people, and taking their things to the dump.

Now, I can see that it would be annoying to have homeless folks camped in my front yard—but that yard is my private property. And it’s proper that they be kept out of otherwise-useful areas. But who cares if they’re living underneath an overpass? You can see from the video that’s it’s not a productive area.

Moreover, if they were actually breaking the law, the proper response would be to arrest, fine, detain, move or otherwise deal with them. The proper response is not to tear their homes to pieces. A tent is not cheap; in many cases that could be the single most valuable piece of property those folks own. And even in Florida it’s vital to keep the elements off of one; destroying a man’s tent is like stealing a man’s horse back in the Old West. And the punishment for the police who did this should be the same.


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