Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Death = Swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Message in Peace

We first blogged about  George Carlin, appropriately enough, in a post about language, pointing you to the seven dirty words – verbatum transcript prepared by the FCC.  Dirty words keep changing – prior to 1900 the terrible seven would have been doggone, drat, forcryingoutloud, gee or jeepers, Jiminy Crickets (safe enough for Disney now), Odsbodkins, and the ‘sh’ words shoot and shucks.   Genius is a constant and lives on.

A Variety article on Carlin’s 50+ years in the business, a transcript of the Modern Man poem read on the Tonight Show, a Mother Jones article on a darker look at education from an HBO special, and finally, a deciphering of the bumper stickers on the hippie VW van, Fillmore, which Carlin voiced in the movie Cars, can all be found on the internets.

What was missing till now are Lia and Alan’s remarkable impressions of Carlin.  Below is Lia’s impression.

Here is Alan getting into makeup.

Applying the Makeup

And the splitting image.

A Splitting Image

Ballmer = Eggnostic

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

As Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer began a presentation at the Corvinus University in Budapest, a rude Hungarian (redundant) student stood up and shouted

Hey you! Microsoft has stolen 25 <billion> Hungarian Forint.  To the Hungarian people, give that money back. Right now!

He then threw 3 eggs – 1 on the floor, 1 on the wall, and 1 on the projector screen – before running out of ammunition, while Ballmer took refuge under the rostrum.  The student was asked to “Please leave” and “Very quickly” and “What were you thinking?” to which he responded the country pays while this guy has the nerve to be parading around here, and walked out exposing everyone to the back of his shirt proclaiming “Microsoft = Corruption.”

Following the “friendly disruption” Ballmer calmly continued his talk, wherein he was found by to be a surprisingly brilliant speaker.  In the Q&A he admitted to being egged before, in 1966 (no doubt on Halloween, when he would have been 10).

While the whole incident took place in broken English, Fake Steve Jobs is looking for a Czech translator!?  I am sure you’ve seen the original recording of the event posted on youtube – here is the Bono version.  Now we know who the Eggman is, but who is the Walrus?

WikiScanner = Vanity UnFair or UnBalanced?

Friday, August 31st, 2007

 All is Vanity

Self-interest in Wikipedia edits has been unmasked by a tool called WikiScanner (wiki, faq). It was created by self-described disruptive technologist Virgil Griffith (homepage).  I was able to use it to quickly find that someone at Fox News had altered Al Franken‘s page under the sub-heading Conflict with the Fox News Network (click below for before & after). 

Unfair or Unbalanced

But Fox is by no means alone. As reported on Colbert, someone at the NY Times added “jerk …” to George W’s wiki entry. Corporations enjoy politicking too. Someone at Land O’Lakes wrote:

The Republican Party of Minnesota is basically a front for the crooks, liars and religious zealots that strangly enough call themselves “human”.

For balanced vandalism, someone at the ACLU wrote slanders on Pope Benedict XVI’s page; and, no doubt in an exercise of freedom of speech, someone at the NAACP inserted “bugly wugly my ugly lugly” in the Declaration of Independence page.

Wired‘s Threat Level blog has an updated list where you can submit and vote for the most shameful wiki spins. 

 “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity“. – Ecclesiastes

Update: The Boston Globe has an article about this.

Clarification: ‘George W’ does not refer to George Washington.

Crises += PhDs – Math SATs

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Sputnik stamp     911 stamp

Khodayar Akhavi points out that education funding is nowhere near as generous after the 911 crisis as it was after the Sputnik crisis (which may have ended with Gene Cernan’s last footprint on the Moon). Nevertheless, PhD production in the U.S. seems to have picked up after both crises.

PhD Production

The College Board just released figures for the 2007 SATs.  I looked at the scores for Math in States where at least 40% of the student population took the exams, and compared the rankings for 1997 (left) to 2007 (right).  The rankings are color coded in quintiles, with legend Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Violet (Red the worst).  Making double jumps up in the rankings are NC, VA, and VT; double jumps down are MD and ME.  Maine should get a bye, since this year it forced 100% of its eligible students to take the exam.  IN, TX, and NV should get special mention as the only non-coastal States to have at least 40% SAT participation. 

Math SAT Rankings by State 1997 & 2007

Update: While SC as a State improved, Miss SC Teen has issues with geography & numericity.

Happy Birthday Mr. Pulitzer = “Read All About It!”

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Born on this date in 1847 in Makó Hungary on the Romanian border (a stone’s throw from Vallaj, where my dad was born), the son of a wealthy grain merchant of Jewish origin (like my paternal grandfather) and a German mother who was a devout Roman Catholic, young Joseph Pulitzer always dreamt (like many Hungarian boys of yore who were weaned on the children’s fantasy Hári János doc) of being a soldier.  After not qualifying for the Austrio-Hungarian Army nor the French Foreign Legion, he fulfilled his dream by coming to America and joining the Union Army in 1864.


In 1872 he bought his first newspaper for $3000.  He became famous after he bought New York’s World, transforming newspaper journalism with pictures, cartoons, and a liberal editorial ethic.  He fought against the Spanish American war, a war bought and paid for by rival “yellow journalist” William Randolf Hearst.

Pulitzer stamp     newsies

He survived the “newsie’s” strike of 1899.  Newspapers were distributed by young orphans and homeless children for a meager 10 cents per hundred – and they would have to eat the cost of unsold papers!  This is all commemorated in the Disney musical mega-flop Newsies.

Nellie Bly

We all know about his endowment ($500,000) for journalism and literature prizes.  He also happened to mentor the entire field of journalism serving in the public interest.  He mentored Nellie Bly, who’s expose, Ten Days in a Mad House, was groundbreaking firsthand journalism.  We can thank Pulitzer for Pulizer prize winning editorial cartoons, such as the following by Mike Luckovich.  You may not be able to pick up a Pulitzer, but you can enter the 2007 Scientific Integrity Editorial Cartoon contest, or Science Idol – but hurry, the deadline is May 22nd.

science fish     food pyramid     turned the corner

Farms & Cents = Borlaug & Yunus

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

 Borlaug  Grameen Bank Borrower  Yunus 

The US Census Bureau has a Special Edition comparing data from 1915, 1967, and 2006 – when the US population was about 100, 200, and 300 million, respectively.  Aside from Wilson being president and John and Mary being the most popular names in 1915, what does it mean?

The table below shows how 8 factors compare relatively, using constant dollars and 1967 as a base.  Some are a surprise to me, e.g., we have a smaller percentage of the population being foreign-born today than in 1915.  The chart below illustrates how these 8 concerns weigh in relative to each other. 



In 1915 tuberculosis trumped everything.  The data suggests today our concerns (aside from war!) ought  to be milk prices over gas prices; aliens, legal and illegal but not extraterrestrial (too few or too many?); and not enough farms. 

Mohammad Yunus (autobiography) just won the Nobel Peace Prize - for developing micro-loans and starting the Grameen Bank helping Third-Worlders lift themselves by the boostraps – 12 years to the day of accepting the World Food Prize, created by another Nobel Peace Prize winner, Norman Borlaug (just published biography)- who founded the Green Revolution and probably saved the world from a Malthusian destiny.  In his 90s and still going strong, you can read and hear some of Dr. Borlaug’s views at an Ohio State University lecture.

25th Celebration = Freedom to Read

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Ban & Burn

On May 10, 1933, the year the Nazis took power in Germany, students, encouraged by their professors, burned mountains of “un-German” books{top left}. In his play Almansor (1821) the German writer Heinrich Heine wrote:

Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.

In 1982, about 50 years later, they were burning books in Minnesota{top right}.  That same year, 25 years ago, the American Library Association proclaimed the last week in September as a week to celebrate banned books{posters below}.  Google Booksearch chipped in this year with a search to find banned books in a library near you.

banned books posters

Bush in Budapest = 4 months early

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Oly távol, messze van hazám…
Csak még egyszer láthatnám.

Flag over Danube  Bush and President Solyom  October 23, 1956  Bush & troops  letters

President Bush visited Budapest today to commemorate the the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising.  He is 4 months early (history lesson from the book Anarchy, A Graphic Guide). 

It was October 23rd when the revolt began with demonstrations.  It was November 1st when Kádár János betrayed Hungary by “inviting” Soviet troops to assist putting down the revolution.  I remember my parents waking me in the  middle of the night to look out the window of our main street apartment to see a long line of those tanks entering Hungary – each with exactly one soldier seated on top carrying a flaming torch.  It wasn’t until my birthday on December 5th that we stepped outside our apartment for the last time and became refugees.  By mid-December the borders were effectively closed.  Over 200,000 Hungarians had fled their country of birth.

 The “Daily Dish of Cosmopolitan Budapest,” Pesticide said this about Bush’s visit:

Snow’s statement that Bush’s trip “about visiting the Hungarian government and paying homage to what they went through 50 years ago” seems just a little odd, given that the current government is pretty much the same party that fought against the heroic ’56ers. Not that this should really matter, given that it’s all about a “tone poem,” whatever the f*** that might be.

They also said this about protesting (Bush, not Voldemort!):

Go to the main protest against you-know-who, which will be starting at 16:00 on Szabadság tér (Freedom Square), conveniently right in front of the American Embassy. While we can hardly fault anyone for showing up to let off some steam at Uncle Sam, do make sure to note the big, ugly-ass Soviet monument while you are there, and remember that if it wasn’t for the occasionally boorish Yanks, you’d all be speaking Russian. Or, even worse, Hungarian.

Now go see the dokumentumfilm OLY TÁVOL, MESSZE VAN HAZÁM (in Hungarian). Or better, visit Budapest and use Bob Dent’s book Budapest 1956: Locations of Drama as your guide.