Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tips On Pirating A Video Game

1. Do not pirate a video game. Please. The developers need to eat.
2. If you give developers money for games you like, they can make more games you might like.
3. The developers can put anything they want into a game.
4. Often, developers build copy protection into a game. Sometimes very creative copy protection. We covered this back in 2010.
5. That said, if they are creating a game about game creation, and call it Game Dev Tycoon, you had better believe they're putting copy protection into it.
6. If you pirate a game called Game Dev Tycoon, you really deserve what happens next.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The World Is Just One Awesome Filmmaker

My trip prep is gearing up and I don't have a huge amount of time to devote to research for here. So I think what I might do today is relay a couple videos.

Really awesome videos. All by the same guy: German filmmaker Gogol Lobmayr. He's made a series of three videos over the years which he calls the 'Fascinating Nature' series.

This one, the original 'Fascinating Nature', was made in 1996.

Lobmayr struck again in 1999 with the 53-minute 'Colors of Earth'.

In 2004, he made 'Seven Seasons'. Budget another hour and a half.

He's currently at work on a fourth project called 'Wonderful World', slated to run 100 minutes. Hooray for that.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Random News Generator- French Polynesia

Normally the tiny island nations prove frustrating for me when their number comes up in the RNG. Often there is very little going on. On French Polynesia, though, we actually have election coverage, as they happen to be in the middle of legislative elections.

So here's how things work there. There's a multiparty parliamentary system in place (as in, you vote for the party and then they pick the names), but the first of two rounds- which took place last week- is effectively a qualifying round. Your party has to get 12.5% of the vote in order to be eligible for seats. If you get between 5% and 12.5%, you're allowed to align with a party that did get over 12.5%. Below 5%, you're SOL. Round 2 is when the qualifying parties actually divvy up the seats. One-third of the seats (19 of them) are given to the party that comes in first; the other two-thirds (38 seats) are handed out proportionally. The president is the leader of the ruling party.

In this particular election, three parties crossed 12.5%, and only one other crossed 5%. The leader, with 40.16% of the vote, is Tahoera'a Huiraatira. with runner-up incumbent Union For Democracy clocking in at 24%.

Round 2 is May 5. This guy has the second round as today; he messed up there but otherwise has a pretty decent writeup. Oscar Temaru is currently president, and it's not much of a surprise that he's headed for defeat as, while he's been president five times, the reason he's been president five times is that he's been ousted four times, and heading towards a fifth. Two of those times, he's been replaced by a man named Gaston Flosse; Flosse currently represents French Polynesia in France's Senate.

A main difference between the two is their stance on French Polynesia's relationship with France. Temaru would like for French Polynesia to declare independence, while Flosse has no problem with French Polynesia remaining a dependency. The global recession kept tourists from stopping by, and subsidy money from France has helped keep the place afloat; as a result, independence has been seen by voters as not a very hot idea right now. Flosse, for his part, has already been given a four-year suspended prison sentence for corruption in February which is currently under appeal and has suspected involvement in the 1997 murder of a Tahitian journalist hanging over his head, but if the first round carries over to the second, the voters will seemingly take the corrupt maybe-murderer over ill-timed independence.

Until they want the independence over the corruption again. Give it another election; they might change their minds.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Curvature Of Space Or Something

In the everyday world, there really isn't too much difference between a scientific theory and a law. Both are used to describe well-documented explanations for how the universe operates; the main difference is that a theory leaves room for itself to be disproven by someone else; the word 'law' is saved for things scientists consider effectively settled once and for all.

Thus, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which holds that light can be deflected by gravity. It's a theory because of quantum mechanics, deemed incompatible. I'm going to straight-up admit that I don't know what the hell words I'd be writing, even though I can tell this is kind of important for all the sciencing going on out there and really should pass it along, so let's just leave it at the fact that scientists found a neutron star orbited by a white dwarf, which they figured might be enough to cause the theory to break down because black holes make it break down and this was also really tiny and really heavy, they used a telescope at European Southern Observatory in Chile to look at it, and it didn't. Because of... reasons.

You're really better off clicking the links than listening to me try and stumble through it. Honestly, it is way over my head.

Friday, April 26, 2013

That's Not Very Peaceful Or Friendly

In 1904, Chile and Bolivia signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship that resulted from the War of the Pacific, which ended in 1883. Chile beat Bolivia, and Bolivia, which until then had a Pacific coastline, lost it and became the landlocked nation you know and often immediately forget about today. (Peru was also involved. Chile took some coastline from them too.)

The International Court of Justice has been officially informed that Bolivia would like that coastline back. Bolivia always has wanted it back; it never got rid of its navy, though now it just patrols lakes and rivers. Chile's reaction has been to openly laugh it off on the grounds that, dude, we've been under this treaty for how long now and we're just supposed to hand the land back?

That is about the reaction you ought to have too. Bolivia's chances of pulling this off are about the same as the Marlins selling out the rest of the season. In fact, if they reclaimed the coastline they had before the war- a portion that includes the city of Antofagasta- it would split Chile and the northernmost section (containing Arica and Iquique) would become an exclave. But it's worth at least noting that they've filed it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

More Than You Care To Know About Cashews

There's a halfway-decent chance that if you eat cashews, at least some of them have come from Tanzania. As of the most recent available data in 2010, they rank 9th in world production (though they're sliding down the rankings as the cashew trees age). It's also one of Tanzania's main cash crops, making up about 5% of the country's GDP. Farmers depend on the crop and the proceeds from selling it to get themselves out of poverty. (And you know what 'poverty' means in African terms.)

So when the co-op to which the farmers in the southeastern district of Liwale have sold their cashews suddenly pay them less than half the amount they had previously agreed to on claims that the world cashew market had fallen- which it has, but it just fell along with the rest of the global economy and that was four and a half years ago- one might expect the farmers to not take it well. In this instance, with some 5,000 farmers having been kept waiting for full payment since October (they were supposed to get paid in two installments; the first was paid last year and the second installment is what they're waiting on), 'not take it well' can be taken to mean 'riot in the streets, hunt down and burn 24 buildings, making sure the houses of government officials they figure could have gotten them their money are among them'. The officials targeted were members of the ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (or CCM). There are 19 reported arrests; no casualties.

The matter has been exacerbated by the fact that cashew nut processing factories are failing to find funding, and existing factories are being converted to warehouses. The collateral that banks are asking to fund the construction of factories is getting to be too high for investors to afford. As a result, processing has been outsourced and India, a riser in cashew production and currently second behind Nigeria, is taking advantage.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

You Were Not Told There Would Be No Math

Don't worry. Today's quiz is pretty simple. You'll just be asked to name the first 28 numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. That, in case you weren't any good at math, is a sequence of numbers in which each number in the sequence is the sum of the previous two.

You're gifted the first two numbers, 0 and 1. You just need to get the next 26.

Oh, did I mention there are only two minutes on the clock?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Ruin The Alamo For You

I presume you know about the Battle of the Alamo. You'd better (at least my American readers had better). 1836, Davy Crockett, James Bowie, the Mexicans slaughtered the Texans, the later Battle of San Jacinto saw the Texans get revenge with the 'Remember the Alamo' battle cry. Symbol of San Antonio, Ozzy Osbourne peed on it once.

The question I'd like to ask you today is simple: why did the battle take place?

Well, the obvious answer is that it was part of Texas' attempt to declare independence from Mexico. But why did they declare independence is the main question here. The region was not only becoming increasingly disillusioned with changes in Mexican policy brought about by Mexican president Anastasio Bustamante and later successor Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, but on top of that, Texas was increasingly being settled by American immigrants who were making up a larger and larger proportion of the population and eventually took control of the conversation.

Remember Texan sensibilities in the 1830's. Or more to the point, remember Texan sensibilities in the 1840's.

Santa Anna was a dictator and chased repeatedly into the hills over the years by angry Mexicans. Texas wasn't the only place in Mexico to see an anti-Santa Anna uprising. But they were the only one to declare independence. The straw that broke the camel's back was Santa Anna abolishing the Mexican Constitution of 1824 in 1835. However, not everyone was in favor of the constitution in the first place. Texans were fighting for all sorts of issues. There wasn't really any one major factor. Independence, hatred of Santa Anna, various personal factors, there were plenty of reasons Texas had and plenty of reasons the fighters at the Alamo had.

But it can be established that one of those reasons was slavery.

The Constitution of 1824, among other things, abolished slavery in Mexico. That statute took effect five years later in 1829, though Texas was allowed one extra year. It's plain to see what side of the issue Texas took, as when they were participating in the Civil War, they fought for the Confederacy and didn't actually enter the Union until after the close of the war. Those American immigrants had mostly come from the south. A quarter of Texas was slave-owning, and they wanted slavery back.

After the Alamo, pretty much every pre-existing reason got wiped from the record and the Alamo itself became the reason. As a play to convince the slave population to support Mexico over Texas, Santa Anna spared the slave of one of the Alamo fighters, a slave named Joe, who also fought. (A number of noncombatant women and children were also spared to spread the word of the Texan defeat.) Joe, upon his return to Texas, was questioned about the events at the Alamo, and after giving his account, he was then sent back to his master's farm while Texas reared up to take revenge at San Jacinto.

How Joe truly felt about the whole affair appears largely beside the point, but we know that on the first anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, Joe made a break for it. Texas remembered the Alamo so well that a $40 reward was offered for the return of the runaway slave.

They never caught him.

Monday, April 22, 2013

CISPA: Not Dead Yet

Last week, CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, passed the House of Representatives. What's CISPA? PC Mag will let you know, but in short, CISPA would allow social-media sites to share your private information with the US government even if you're not a US citizen. (Obama has said if it reaches his desk, he intends to veto.)

As a measure of protest, Anonymous- you know, the hacker group borne of 4chan- has called for another Internet blackout like the one from January 18, 2012, aka 'that day Wikipedia shut down'. A blackout is seriously miles past my coding capabilities, as my coding capabilities amount to 'if you notice that line of Blogger icons obscuring my name in the 'About Me' section, yeah, I don't know how the hell to fix that'. But I can certainly make it the topic of the day. As utterly useless as the Senate is in the name of the people filibustering every nice thing that comes down the pike, it's still worth badgering them anyway.

I should note that I've taken down the 'Stop SOPA' banner from the top right, as it's become outdated. In its place has popped up an organization called Fight For The Future, and their activism arm, the Internet Defense League. As soon as I figure out how in blazes to do so, I'll be putting some sort of icon to that effect up somewhere around here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

John Jacob Jingleheimer Vlk

These days, soda-bottle promotions tend to take the form of the bottle cap containing a code you go to a website and punch in. It's a relatively new innovation in the field. Until then, you needed to redeem the actual cap for whatever purpose- as a game piece, as a de facto buy-one-get-one-free coupon, you get the idea. A lot of the time, the contests would take the form of a collection contest: you needed a certain set of caps to win whatever it was was being offered. I remember in some years they'd have a promotion leading into March Madness where they'd print up all sorts of NCAA basketball teams and if you had a cap naming the one that won the title (or an instant-win 'wild card' cap), you won a jersey. The thing is that there are a whole bunch of colleges and most of them have no prayer. I'd get this little pail and just pile in every cap I could get my hands on (whether it was from a bottle of mine or not), and it'd fill up with the likes of Northern Arizona and Maryland-Baltimore County and Appalachian St. and I'd get excited when someone actually halfway decent turned up. I hit paydirt twice, once with a wild-card cap and once when UConn won.

I would not have had a prayer back in 1983, when Pepsi ran the 'Name Game' promotion. The idea here was that the various letters of the alphabet were printed on what in this case were the cans, and you needed to collect a set capable of spelling out your own last name. Accomplish that and Pepsi would pay you $5 per letter. Clearly, there needed to be a way to limit the prize money handed out, and the obvious way to do that here was to not print very many vowels. So spelling 'Allermann' would get me $45, but the odds of that were slim, because not only do I have a long last name, I need to go find two A's and an E.

This was not a foolproof method, though. I point you to professional poker for one really good example. Anyone who's fairly familiar with professional poker would know the name Evelyn Ng. That's consonant N followed by consonant G followed by a $10 bill.

And that is exactly what happened to Pepsi. Ng wasn't as common a last name back then as it is now, but 'Ng' wasn't the last name they had to worry about anyway. Their nemesis- or perhaps namesis- was a Czech immigrant from Pittsburgh named Richard Vlk. Vlk was a diabetic who didn't- and couldn't- drink Pepsi, but that didn't stop him from seeing easy $15 paydays right in front of him. Since he couldn't drink Pepsi, he put out the word via classified ads to anyone that did drink Pepsi that if they had a V, L and K on hand, if they sent him the caps, he'd split the proceeds with anyone that did.

He wound up with 1,393 sets. At $15 each, that works out to $20,895. Giving a 50/50 split to each of his partners, that would give him $10,447.50. Vlk did not recall making a single one of the sets himself.

Pepsi gave him the money.

In $15 increments.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Let's Go Look At Kitties Now

Are we about done? Can we have a normal day again now where the world's not blowing up? We can? Awesome.

It's possible that your kid might have a child-protection alarm in his possession, or that you might know someone whose child does. I don't know. Watertown isn't really the kind of town where you generally need to do that. But the idea is, for anyone who doesn't know, that if your child feels through whatever circumstance that they're being threatened by someone or are otherwise unsafe, they have this little alarm with a button on it they can push, and that sets off an ear-splitting noise that's supposed to get help to come running in the direction of said ear-splitting noise.

The reason I bring this up is that you can now have a Hello Kitty version of said alarm. As I wrote back in 2010, towards the beginning of this blog's life, you can have Hello Kitty damn near anything.

The man from Hello Kitty Hell, given a link back in 2010, is still at it, by the way. He has most recently been made aware of a Hello Kitty tiara, running $30,000.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Is Anyone Seriously Following Anything Else Right Now?

Yeah, I'm listening to the Boston police scanner too. When it's not getting overwhelmed by traffic.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kicking You While You're Down

So... Boston... the explosion in West, TX last night... the fact that background checks that 90% of the country supports got filibustered and one of the filibusterers responded to those vowing consequences at the voting booths with, "That's the beauty of a six-year term"... this has been a really crappy last couple days.

It will not thrill you to hear that you can now buy memorabilia of said last couple days on eBay.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One Day Later

I've been struggling with what to put together here today. In the aftermath of a tragedy, I prefer to wait until later on in the process to put my thoughts together, rather than doing so when emotions and adrenaline run high. I'm uncertain of too many things. But when I noticed that Chris Higgins of Mental Floss put together a quote page, I decided to let that be the lead. Because the quote page is from Mister Rogers.

Granted, the only thing that's certain is that nobody is certain. Take one of the many, many sympathy notes out there, that of Taylor Swift:

"Sending all of my love to Boston after a day of sadness and confusion and not knowing what to say. I just don't understand."

Not understanding is perfectly okay. I don't. You don't. Not even the authorities understand right now. Many people never will. As of now, only one person on Earth is sure to understand: the attacker that planted the explosives. The only other people that might understand are those whose minds are twisted in the exact same way as the attacker. As time goes on, we'll try to figure out why this happened; we'll hunt the person down and we'll get answers. But many will never be able to see things from the angle necessary to understand, and many more will simply refuse to do so.

One thing that is quickly becoming understood is that this is being classified as an act of terror. That's probably the right place to put it from a legal standpoint. But I would hesitate to call this 'terrorism' and the attacker a 'terrorist' even if those are the most accurate words. Terrorism carries a sick glory to it, and terrorists get their names remembered much more easily than others who have done wrong. What word you use to describe the person is up to you. Attacker. Criminal. 'That Idiot'. Anything but 'terrorist', and especially anything but their actual name. Save the names for the victims (so far two of the three dead have been identified, 8-year-old Martin Richard and 29-year-old Krystle Campbell) (UPDATE: the third is 23-year-old Lu Lingzi), and the people that did whatever they could to keep the inhumanity to a minimum. The first responders. The runners who became impromptu first responders. The runners who, after 26 miles, kept on running right to the hospital to donate blood. Joe Andruzzi, a former NFL offensive lineman shown here carrying a woman to safety. Carlos Arredondo, photographed helping one of the victims to safety while holding a tourniquet around his leg, and probably the single man who will be the unofficial 'face' of everyone that helped that day along with Andruzzi.

We do want the attacker's name. As I type this, a $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to arrest and conviction. But that's the only reason we should want the name. After that, it should be forgotten.

And then those of us who can must carry on. Acts such as this are designed to make you too afraid of horrific injury or death to be able to go enjoy life as you know it. This particular act was carried out at possibly the most joyous location on the single most joyous day on Boston's social calendar: Patriots' Day, the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. If one cannot find joy there, they cannot find joy in Boston at all. That above all else is what we must hang on to. Our lives cannot be allowed to collapse into a state of perpetual fear of what might happen anywhere we choose to seek joy.

The London Marathon is coming up this Sunday. The Red Sox return from a three-game series in Cleveland to face the Royals on Friday night.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Massachusetts Red Cross could use donations, if you're so inclined.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Explosions In Boston

You are absolutely not wanting to be here, at this blog, at the moment, considering what has just gone down in Boston. As of right now, all I know is that a pair of explosions went off at around the finish line of the Boston Marathon, with runners on course. (It came at about the 4:09 mark of the race, well after the top finishers had crossed the line.) People have been hit, people have been injured, and really it's your usual post-incident muddle of chaotic reports right now and it'll be a little while before we find out what exactly happened.

I'm just going to chuck you to someone able to give you better updates, namely a livestream of NBC News in Boston.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I Have Some Follow-Up Questions

Today I have a poll for you. Nothing bigger. Just a poll. But the results of it are a little surprising. A firm called Infosecurity Europe commissioned a survey of 1,000 residents in London and asked which of five household utilities they least live without: heating, the Internet, TV, the washing machine, or water.

Coming in last was the washing machine at 4%, which makes sense; you need water to run the thing, right?
TV came in fourth at 8%, which also makes sense, because the Internet does more, and besides, you need water to sustain yourself to enjoy either one.
Heating came in third at 18%... well, okay, I might have had it in second, because it's kind of hard to be on the Internet if you're freezing to death, but I guess if those South Pole researchers can be on the Internet... all right.
Second was of course the Intern...

...wait, what do you mean 'water came in second'?

By a margin of 38-32, the Internet was deemed more important than water. Let's not take this straight at face value, though; let's recall everything we've learned from 538 over the years. First off, this was the organizer of a tech security conference that commissioned the survey, so we have to be concerned about bias. We also ought to note that other questions in the same survey could have primed the results: the survey as a whole was meant to gauge the importance of the Internet to the average person. Other questions asked how long people thought they could go without the Internet (not long), whether they could live without an Internet connection (27% said no, up 10% from a year ago) and what the most stressful thing is at work (suddenly losing the Internet connection). If any of those other questions came before the most-important-utility question- and we don't know whether they did- they could easily have skewed the answers given to where people just went 'Internet, Internet, Internet' over and over. It's perhaps worth repeating the question with another pollster, such as Reuters.

Not as an online poll, though.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday Afternoon News Dump

One thing I've recently been kicking around doing is going onto the website of the Library of Congress and looking up random bills in the pipeline. The theory here was that it's tougher to hide a bill by not mentioning it if someone could just call you out on it on a total whim.

Apparently the Senate is way ahead of me. Last night in the Senate, S. 716, scaling back the STOCK Act from last year- which required online disclosure of federal employee financial statements in order to combat insider trading- was introduced and passed in both houses of Congress by unanimous consent (meaning no recorded vote), and sent to President Obama, before the text of the bill could even make it online. The bill has garnered such lovely phrases as 'sweeping', 'taking a hatchet', and 'guts'. Basically, under the provisions of the STOCK Act, the files are produced on paper and copied into a PDF file. Under the bill now on Obama's desk, for everyone but the President, VP, Congress, Congressional  candidates and people subject to Senate confirmation- and there are trainloads of people in Washington who aren't in those categories, such as Congressional staffers- they could be produced on paper and then just filed in a basement somewhere, available to anyone who can physically travel to Washington DC, hunt down the correct basement and sift through all the paper files to find the one individual piece of paper in the entire world that has the information they're looking for. And that would still qualify as making it 'public'.

Of course it was passed on a Friday.

Friday, April 12, 2013

What Is TED?

It's TED talk day, and today's speaker, who talked in February in Seattle, really needs no introduction. So here you go: the one, the only, Ken Jennings, reflecting on getting his butt kicked by the IBM computer Watson.

Also, there's an update regarding the news item from yesterday regarding Roger Gorley. Namely, Roger's daughter, Amanda Brown, provides here her fuller account of what happened. Among other things, Amanda accuses the police who arrested Gorley of having changed his handcuffs four separate times because they thought being gay rendered him an HIV risk.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Couple Of Same-Sex Marriage News Items

Uruguay's legislature's lower house has voted in favor of same-sex marriage by a margin of 71-21. Their upper house voted 23-8 in favor last week; the measure is expected to be signed into law within the next two weeks.

In case you're counting, Uruguay becomes the 12th nation to legalize it nationwide. The others are Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa and Sweden.

Meanwhile in Lee's Summit, Missouri, Roger Gorley has been in a civil union with his partner Allen for five years, and a hospital in Kansas City issued a restraining order against him preventing him from being at Allen's bedside anymore after the hospital refused to verify that the two have joint power of attorney. The police led Roger from the hospital in handcuffs.

It felt like the proper thing to do to put those two items next to each other.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Who The Hell is Dennis Hedke?

I am going to link you to a PDF file of Kansas state House Bill 2366. The reason why I do this should be apparent very quickly; if not, it's only two pages and the second page doesn't have very much to it.

Actually, you know what, screw it. I won't even make you click. It's a relatively small chunk of text. I'll just copy/paste the whole thing.
Session of 2013
By Committee on Energy and Environment
AN ACT concerning the use of public funds to promote or implement
sustainable development.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Kansas:
Section 1. (a) No public funds may be used, either directly or
indirectly, to promote, support, mandate, require, order, incentivize,
advocate, plan for, participate in or implement sustainable development.
This prohibition on the use of public funds shall apply to: (1) Any activity
by any state governmental entity or municipality;
(2) the payment of membership dues to any association;
(3) employing or contracting for the service of any person or entity;
(4) the preparation, distribution or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet,
publication, electronic communication, radio, television or video
(5) any materials prepared or presented as part of a class, course,
curriculum or instructional material;
(6) any current, proposed or pending law, rule, regulation, code,
administrative action or order issued by any federal or international
agency; and
(7) any federal or private grant, program or initiative.
(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of
public funds outside the context of sustainable development: (1) For
planning the use, development or extension of public services or resources;
(2) to support, promote, advocate for, plan for, enforce, use, teach,
participate in or implement the ideas, principles or practices of planning,
conservation, conservationism, fiscal responsibility, free market
capitalism, limited government, federalism, national and state sovereignty,
individual freedom and liberty, individual responsibility or the protection
of personal property rights; and
(3) to advocate against or inform the public about any past, present or
future governmental action that is violative of this act.
(c) For the purposes of this section: (1) "Municipality" shall have the
meaning ascribed to it in K.S.A. 75-6102, and amendments thereto; and
(2) "sustainable development" means a mode of human development
in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the
environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but
also for generations to come, but not to include the idea, principle or
practice of conservation or conservationism.
Sec. 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its
publication in the statute book.

Yes. A bill in Kansas' pipeline to make sustainable development illegal. Straight-up illegal. If you're asking yourself right now, 'who the hell would want to make such a thing illegal', it really should not surprise you-- depress, sure; surprise, no-- that the legislator that introduced it, Dennis Hedke (R-Wichita), is a geophysicist with extensive ties to the oil and gas industry. The Kansas legislative session's already closed shop for the year without it hitting the floor, though there's still next year's session.

If you'd like to learn more about Hedke, he put a book out back in 2011, with a Google Books preview here. To answer your question, yes, of course he named it something like "The Audacity of Freedom". Pretty much the very first passage I randomly scrolled to in the preview, on page 129, has him calling for opening up Montana and North Dakota to fracking (something that has since happened). Subsequent random scrolls led to anti-Muslim sentiment (on page 65, he claims some sort of tipping point to be reached when the Muslim population of a country crests 10%), the midst of an other-countries-won't-reduce-carbon-emissions-along-with-us-so-what's-the-point argument, itself in the midst of a larger climate-change-denial argument (I scrolled to page 110), a "corrected" graph showing rising global temperatures to be not a big deal (page 155), and on page 32, the actual quote- this book was completed shortly after the death of Osama bin Laden, mind you- "If the Muslim religion (Islam) did not exist, would we be having a War on Terror?" These were just random haphazard scrolls up and down the preview pages. That all came without any real hardcore digging.

Just so you have a primer on this guy. Something tells me you've already heard quite enough.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Non-Standard Airport Codes

As you know, airports are given three-letter codes. Los Angeles International has LAX, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta has ATL, John F. Kennedy in New York has JFK. Most of the time they're pretty simple, usually abbreviating the city (ATL- Atlanta, PHX- Phoenix, MKE- Milwaukee). Sometimes, though, they are not.

Those codes had to come from somewhere, though, so let's go ahead and talk that today: if not the city or the airport, what are those abbreviations actually abbreviating? (We'll stick to the United States. Canada snapped up pretty much anything available with a Y in it.)

BNA (Nashville International, Nashville, TN): Formerly known as Berry Field, so B for Berry and NA for Nashville.
CVG (Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International, Hebron, KY): Well, it's in Kentucky, so Cincinnati couldn't get the nod, and they can't use CIN now anyway, as Carroll, Iowa took it. CVG is an abbreviation of the closest decent-sized city on the Kentucky side, Covington.
EYW (Key West International, Key West, FL): You know how radio call signs in the US start with W and K? The FCC wants those starting letters reserved for radio, so pretty much anyone in the lower 48 with a city name starting with K or W has to pick something else. Which is a problem for, among others, Key West. They ended up shifting one letter down, to make kEY West. (Not a unique solution; Norfolk International in Norfolk, VA uses ORF.)
EWR (Newark Liberty International, Newark, NJ): N's out of play too; the Navy took it.
IAH (George Bush Intercontinental, Houston, TX): HOU was out of play, and the rules say you can't have two airports with the same second and third letters within 200 nautical miles of each other. So the pre-Bush name, Houston International Airport, got the nod as a rearranged acronym. (HIA is available, though.) GBI is out, as some random airfield in the Bahamas took it, and airports usually don't change codes anyway, as they become . This will also explain the existence of, among others, BWI, DCA and IAD in the Baltimore/Washington area.
LAX (Los Angeles International, Los Angeles, CA): Airports didn't always have three-letter codes. They had two-letter codes. In the early days, that was all the airports felt they needed; many just copied the two-letter code from the National Weather Service. When it became necessary to go to three letters, some airports- Los Angeles included- just tacked an X onto the end and plowed ahead. Portland International in Oregon (PDX) and Sky Harbor in Phoenix (PHX) did the same thing.
MCI (Kansas City International, Kansas City, MO) Originally to be known as Mid-Continent International.
MCO (Orlando International, Orlando, FL): Formerly McCoy Air Force Base.
MSY (Louis Armstrong New Orleans International, New Orleans, LA): Named for Moisant Stock Yards, itself named for John Moisant, a pilot from the infancy of aviation whose plane went down in a New Orleans cemetery in 1910. The land was named for him; that's where the airport is now.
OGG (Kahului Airport, Kahului, HI): The other half of a very common flight connecting it to Honolulu (aside from island-hopping, Kahului is increasingly used as a go-between from Honolulu to the mainland). OGG is an homage to Bertram J. Hogg, who... well, someone had to make those first commercial flights between the islands.
ORD (O'Hare International, Chicago, IL): Formerly known as Orchard Field.
SNA (John Wayne Airport, Orange County, CA): The airport, while in an unincorporated ares, has its mailing address in Santa Ana.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Latest Symptom Of Global Warming


What does turbulence have to do with global warming, you ask? Very simple. Global warming causes the climate to go increasingly haywire as more carbon dioxide is introduced into the atmosphere. You feel it on the ground, of course, but it also plays games up where airplanes hang out. Among other things, the jet stream speeds up, which churns up the air and creates a less-smooth path for planes to fly through, meaning they get thrown around more. It shouldn't cause a lot of crashes, but what it will do is make less-comfortable flights, damage the planes, injure more passengers who don't have their seatbelts on and crack their heads on the roof of the cabin, and force flights to get rerouted more often.

According to the Guardian, by 2050, flights between Europe and North America are projected to undergo turbulence twice as often as now, with the intensity of turbulence projected to rise by anywhere from 10-40%. And let's be clear: that's for turbulence in good weather. That doesn't take into account turbulence during storms, which as we've long since established are likely to get stronger and more common.

'So just avoid the turbulent bits and fly in the smoother part of the atmosphere', you say? If they knew how to do that, they'd be doing it already. Scientists haven't yet really figured out how to tell where turbulence is likely to happen. They're working on it, and the people at British Airways have a dim understanding, but nobody's really got it pegged yet. Besides, rerouting to smooth areas would make for longer flights, more delays, more spent fuel, and as a result of all that, higher ticket prices.

Speaking of prices, the source report, from Nature Climate Change, is here if you've got $32 on hand to read it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Random News Generator- Israel

...oh, this is gonna be a laugh and a half. I'll just get to flame-proofing my hard drive then.

...hey look! Wildflowers! Here's a story about wildflowers! Don't we all want to save the wildflowers? Oh, all right, here goes. You nature-hater. Innocent little wildflowers who never did anything to you.

In case one isn't aware, the United States is pretty much the only external supporter of Israel. Back in November, when the United Nations voted to grant Palestine observer status, the vote was 138-9. That's closer than the usual margin, as Canada, Panama and the Czech Republic joined the usual contingent of Israel, the United States, and a smattering of Pacific micronations (in this case the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau). That's not a statement as to my opinion regarding the whole Israeli/Palestinian affair; simply a statement of the numbers. This is so the surprise is deadened a bit when I tell you that the Teachers Union of Ireland voted unanimously on Thursday to instigate an academic boycott of the Israeli academic community. They've compared the action- and Israel's policies toward Palestine- to those surrounding South Africa's apartheid years and are acting as such.

They're not the first nation to do this, though they are the second. While it's been considered and dropped in colleges in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, also citing South Africa, the first nation to actually see an academic boycott of Israel has been... South Africa. Specifically, it was kicked off in 2010 when the University of Johannesburg voted to boycott Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba; other colleges around South Africa followed suit later against Ben-Gurion and other Israeli institutions.

Two isn't really likely to do much- boycotts work best in numbers- but it does make it easier for other nations to do likewise later. It's tougher to be the first nation to take a stand, whatever it is, than it is to be the 61st.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Is Nullification Legal? (Idiots Might Be Surprised!)

No. No it is right the fuck not.

You honestly expected anything more elaborate or hedging? What's wrong with you?

Federal laws override state and local laws. That's a basic thing that keeps the country as a single functioning country and not just 50 squabbling state-nation-states. That is called the Supremacy Clause, and it is Article VI, Clause 2 of the US Constitution. Let's read:

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding."

 Attempts at nullification are pretty much a direct assault on the Constitution and as a result never survive a Supreme Court hearing. Nullification got smacked down in 1796, 1816, 1819, 1821, 1859, 1920, 1956, 1982, 1989, 2000, and especially 1958, when the Court straight-up said states have to enforce federal law- in that case, desegregation- even if they disagree with it.

Oh, and don't forget that little war we had in which one side was in favor of nullification and one side wasn't. The pro-nullification side lost.

But I guess we have to go through this again.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The X Factor

I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of the X-prize. The original usage of the phrase was in 1996, when $10 million was offered to whatever non-government entity could first build a reusable manned spacecraft and get it into space (defined as at least 100 km above the Earth's surface) twice within two weeks. In 2004, the prize was claimed by Scaled Composites and their project Tier One. Mike Melvill was the pilot of the first flight; Brian Binnie made the second flight. The two, as a result, became the first- and so far only- people ever to receive astronaut wings from the FAA as a result of a commercial flight.

The term 'X prize' has since been used to refer to any similar practice of putting up a cash prize for the first person to develop a desired technology, particularly those made by the X-Prize Foundation. For example, currently, another $10 million is being offered to the first person to bring them a tricorder. If you don't know what a tricorder is, that's the thing doctors use on Star Trek to figure out what's wrong with you.

Considerably further down the list of priorities, but no less important to the average person, is robocalls. Namely, how to stop them when the Do Not Call list can't or won't. So they put $50,000 up for the person who came up with the best idea as to how to stop auto-dialing telemarketers. The competition just wrapped up.

They got 798 entries. A lot of them involved Captcha. Three won; two shared the cash prize because the third winner came from Google. The technical aspects are only viewable by the judges, but we're able to see that:
*The first, called Nomorobo (which proved to be a very popular name for people's submissions), has calls go to both the phone and an intermediary database. If the calls are detected to be robocalls, the database answers the phone and immediately hangs up. If not, the database steps aside and lets the phone ring.
*The second sorts out phone numbers into a whitelist, blacklist and greylist.
*Google's idea basically involves crowdsourcing a spam filter that phones could refer to before they ring.

A lot of the submissions were rather more vindictive. Many involve sending robocalls back to the robocallers. At least one involved giving a telemarketer a blast from a fog horn. Another involved pressing a sequence of buttons on the phone to add $1 to the caller's phone bill (yeah, that would never be abused at all). Another involved people at a call center posing as consumers and making purchases to create a paper trail to prosecute with.

And then there was the man who suggested "block all calls- not a joke".

On the bright side, we could just text.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Election Day Again

First election day of the new cycle. Incumbent Patience Roggensack faces challenger Ed Fallone in a Wisconsin Supreme Court race. Officially it's nonpartisan, but unofficially, oh come on now Roggensack is the Republican and Fallone the Democrat let's not kid each other.

That's kind of today. Go get to voting.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy April Fools' Day

As your bit of April Fooling, and with most teams in action for the first time today, I present you with Real Madrid, last August, arriving in front of the Arizona Diamondbacks and reeling off Happy Gilmore swings.

Seriously, if you don't follow baseball, these are downright terrible hacks.