Monday, November 28, 2011

NC lawmakers vote to repeal Racial Justice Act

NC lawmakers vote to repeal death row law :: WRAL.com


'Taliban' Stam: "We don't punish people because they're members of a group. We don't exonerate people because they're members of a group."

The thing Stam and his ilk just won't admit it is that we, as as a society, really do, in effect, punish people because they're members of a group. They've seen the numbers and they know it; they just don't care.

"Way out in the water / See it swimmin'?"

Your Brain Knows a Lot More Than You Realize | Memory, Emotions, & Decisions | DISCOVER Magazine


Image via Webscan


There is a looming chasm between what your brain knows and what your mind is capable of accessing. Consider the simple act of changing lanes while driving a car. Try this: Close your eyes, grip an imaginary steering wheel, and go through the motions of a lane change. Imagine that you are driving in the left lane and you would like to move over to the right lane. Before reading on, actually try it. I’ll give you 100 points if you can do it correctly.
Related personal anecdote: I have a friend that worked at a local market all through our high school years. He could tell just by looking at the bar code on a lottery scratch ticket whether it would be a winner or not. He looked at every one he sold, and every one that came back a winner until he learned to recognize the winners.

Science vs Religion Sudoku | Unreasonable Faith

Science vs Religion Sudoku | Unreasonable Faith

Image via Unreasonable Faith

And the particularly devout will point out you can see Jesus's image in the solution:

It's like my dad used to say, "You gotta bet the super."

Sad City Hartford: Do you remember Jai-Alai in Hartford?

I do remember. And, I'll be watching this with interest.

If you're going to have gambling, might as well make it sporting. #NC

Cherokee casinos cut deal to add games :: WRAL.com


via WRAL


The finalized deal will now be sent to lawmakers scheduled to meet in Raleigh through Tuesday. They don't have to approve the contract, but they're being asked to loosen gambling laws separate from the compact so the tribe could offer games like live poker and blackjack.
In the unlikely event I'm ever out that way, this would now be on my list of things to do when in western NC. Without table games -- not a chance.

Barney Frank's announcement elicits some predictable responses.

Did the Arab Spring precede another Summer of Love? (And will this be a Winter of Discontent?)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wojtek, Poland's 'soldier bear'



"He had a pay book. He didn't receive money, but was officially a Polish soldier," Mr Narebski says. Because of his size Wojtek received double rations. 
He says Wojtek liked play-fighting and boxing with his colleagues and asking for unlit cigarettes, which he would eat. Wojtek also had a liking for beer. "For him one bottle was nothing, he was weighing 200kg [440 lb]. He didn't get drunk." 
Mr Narebski says Wojtek was brought up not to be a danger to humans. "He was very quiet, very peaceful." However, he did take a dislike to a monkey and another bear, who had also been adopted by troops.
When I saw Brian Blessed's name when first skimming the article, the first thing that leapt to mind was that he must be playing the bear.

Brian Blessed, narrating, not portraying the  bear.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Heavy Rotation

Here's what's been getting the repeat play treatment on my iPod the last few weeks ...

The Decembrists - "The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid " 

Future Islands - "Before the Bridge"
Hot Lava - "Apple+Option+Fire"
Miniature Tigers - "Bullfighter Jacket"
Penny & the Quarters - "You and Me"
Goldfrapp - "Alive"
Superchunk - "Where Eagles Dare"
David Byrne and Brian Eno - "Home"

Portugal. The Man - "Work All Day"
Lykke Li - "Love Out of Lust"
The Veils - "The House She Lived In"
Modern Skirts - "Under Bridges and Overpasses"
Mates of State - "Palomino"

I signed up for Google Music yesterday and now my music library is in the process of uploading so I can have access to it all on my Android phone. This is huge. My iPod has been maxed out for a while; I've been having to remove songs to add new ones (yeah, yeah #FirstWorldProblems), but now, without having to get an iPhone, I can have access to all my music from any computer and while I'm on the go. It's pretty awesome. I love love my iPod and will keep it in my laptop bag, but now I don't need to think about getting a new one. I'm quite fond of Google Music here in the early going.

Learn Something New Every Day: Venus Flytrap Edition

The Venus Flytrap's Lethal Allure | Science & Nature | Smithsonian Magazine




Venus flytraps’ considerable eccentricities have confined them to a 100-mile-long sliver of habitat: the wet pine savannas of northern South Carolina and southern North Carolina. They grow only on the edges of Carolina bays and in a few other coastal wetland ecosystems where sandy, nutrient-poor soil abruptly changes from wet to dry and there’s plenty of sunlight. Fewer than 150,000 plants live in the wild in roughly 100 known sites, according to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Via Lost in Trees 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Not canon? Not interested. (An open letter to Mr. Yates, would-be director of a new Doctor Who feature film.)

Yates to direct bigscreen 'Doctor Who' - Entertainment News, Top News, Media - Variety
"Russell T. Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations, which were fantastic, but we have to put that aside and start from scratch," he said.
Dear Mr. Yates,

Sorry to to say it mate, but you're getting off on the wrong foot. I'm not one of those basement-bound internet trolls, obsessively and mercilessly attacking anyone who tries to do anything. But ...



I'm tempted to go on at length, but I'll keep it simple and brief:

  1. Continuity matters. Not canon? Not interested.
  2. The Cushing movies are an object lesson in how to fail at this. Take note.
  3. Look around at what others are saying. I'm seeing virtual unanimity on this. If you aren't listening, I'm trusting financiers are. Break from the established continuity and fans will ignore it. 
You can fill in a gap. By bringing back Paul McGann, for example. I suspect you could make the story about an unspecified future incarnation of the Doctor. You could use Matt Smith. There are lots of ways to do this (and make it your own vision) without divorcing it from the current production. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Bug Funeral, by Sarah R. Shaber (#Fuquay)

The bug funeral - Sarah R. Shaber - Google Books


Still stumbling and bumbling around searching for things related to Fuquay and came across this mystery novel  set, at least partially, in the area. The author clearly has driven down 401 from Raleigh into Fuquay.

It's available at my local library; think I'll give it a try.

Gourd Museum, Angier, NC



"I wish there was a place to see a variety of gourd things all in one place at any time, rather than just once a year at the gourd festival." "Somebody oughta start a museum!"
Guess what... Somebody did!
Was doing a little searching for attractions around Fuquay-Varina and came across this. I'm not a aficionado of the gourd or anything, but it's close enough to poke a head one of these days.

I've never really thought about what sort of quirky museum I would open if I were an opener of quirky museums with the land, building, time, and resources to take on the project. I think Dr. Who collectibles must have been done already. It might be fun to do one for jai-alai though. I've got a few cestas lying around, the odd program. and I think the interactive area would be a bunch of fun. Probably not in the right area for jai-alai though. I'm about as far from the current or former site of a jai-alai fronton as one can be on the east coast, about halfway between Connecticut and Florida -- the only states I know of that have (or had) live jai-alai.

In case you were wondering, my favorite quirky museum is the <strike>Mt. Horeb</strike> National Mustard Museum, which has apparently moved since my last visit.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gigantopithecus

Study finds diet of giant apes (Science Alert):


The extinct giant ape, Gigantopithecus blacki, is a species of large hominoids that dominated the Pleistocene of South China. Its massive mandible, large postcanine teeth and extremely thick enamel always spark people's curiosity about what a diet for this giant ape was. The precise diet and habitat of Gigantopithecus remains unknown so far.
I love the internet. Learning something new every day is exhilarating. Learning something new about 9 FOOT TALL PREHISTORIC APES THAT LIVED ALONGSIDE MAN is the bomb.

More at wikipedia and eurekalert.

Possible source of yeti legends? Perhaps unlikely, but fun to speculate.

Belmont ... so close.

Duke men's basketball squeaks by Belmont in season opener | Triangle Offense




This was the second game ever played between Duke and Belmont, and Duke's second straight one-point escape over the Bruins. In the 2008 NCAA Tournament, the No. 15 seed Bruins took the No. 2 Blue Devils to the wire, losing 71-70 in the final seconds.
How sweet would it have been for Duke to open with an L? So sweet. I was pulling for you, Belmont. You'll get'em next time.

Meanwhile, the other local powerhouse was out on an aircraft carrier having their way with the Spartans.

In other Duke news, I see pretty nifty Google Map of the Duke campus via Google Maps Mania. I hope someone out in Storrs is working on of these. And, if so, that it will include a Gampel interior view:

Championship trifecta. (Will 2012 be the fourth leg of the superfecta?)



Platonic analysis arguing we ought to be wary of calls for limited government.

Are We a Democracy? - NYTimes.com:


Via IED


... [W]e rightly don’t trust ourselves this far — or even so far as to make frequent use of national referendums. Nor do we do a particularly good job of choosing competent and honest representatives. Rather, the essential function of our democratic elections is to guard against the worst abuses of power. Our democracy is not so much a positive force for good government as a protection against extremely bad government — ultimately against tyranny ...

Current calls for “less government” actually mean less power for elected leaders and for the bureaucracies that serve them and more power for the “oligarchy” of millionaires and corporations. Such calls also imply less power for the people (the democratic element), since, while elected leaders are directly responsible to those who vote, those whose power is based on wealth are not.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Upright Citizens Brigade Theater Opens in East Village with ... Ian MacKaye?!


Yes, that Ian MacKaye. (via)

Instead, a sold-out 7:30 p.m. show featured Ms. Poehler, Mr. Walsh and Horatio Sanz, a “Saturday Night Live” alumnus, among a team of comedians who improvised sketches in response to monologues performed by the surprise guest Ian MacKaye, who formerly fronted the rock bands Fugazi and Minor Threat. 
Responding to an audience member’s suggestion of the word “Medusa,” Mr. MacKaye recalled an incident when skinheads briefly overtook the stage at a rock show he played at a Chicago club called Medusa’s. That spawned skits about a janitor recruited to play Hamlet; an Appalachian folk band called American Taliban; and a balding middle-aged man who is mistaken for a skinhead. (“You people are strange,” Mr. MacKaye said from the stage.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

#Fuquay-Varina gun shop owner: Knight was polite, great with people (He left out "a dangerous lunatic.")

Fuquay-Varina gun shop owner: Knight was polite, great with people | NBC17.com:



FUQUAY-VARINA, N.C. --

The owner of the gun shop where Jared Knight got the weapons says he was stunned to find out what his employee was doing.

Knight worked part time on the weekends at Sovereign Guns in Fuquay-Varina.

And until he was spotted on
store surveillance video stealing a rifle from the back room, the owner thought Knight was a great employee.

In case you needed another reason to be concerned about gun shops in your town.

If you're not in NC, you may not have heard of Jared Knight. He's been in the news around here for being a dangerous lunatic with guns.

I wish I could say I was shocked to learn he was also studying to be a youth minister. What is it about that job that attracts sexual predators and unbalanced nutters? (As if it weren't a sign that someone may have issues with reality and morality when they are highly motivated to immerse themselves in magical mumbo-jumbo in a way that gives them unsupervised access to children whose parents insist they believe in fairy tales.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Showing you mine so you'll show yours. #NetflixQueue #GetYourMindOutOfTheGutter


I've tried The Wire once and returned it mostly unwatched, giving it another try soon based on overwhelming critical acclaim and cultural impact. The Altmans are long-standing "meant to watch but haven't got around to it yet"s, and I haven't moved Deadwood up because I love it so much and don't want it to end.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

RIP Andy Rooney (Not my favorite television personality, but respected for being a freethinker.)

Outreach & Events




CBS commentator Andy Rooney has frequently made irreverent comments in his "60 Minutes" commentaries, columns and books. In November 2000, he reminded readers: "The obituaries in the newspapers and on television [of Steve Allen] were well done but none mentioned what ended up being an obsession with Steve. He was a student of the Bible and a dedicated atheist intent on proving the Bible was a seriously flawed book that many people who profess to live by it, don't know or understand."
h/t Mark 

Iron Man 3 in #NC


EUE/Screen Gems via

According to the Los Angeles Times, Marvel considered filming in Los Angeles (where the first two were shot), Michigan and New Mexico. But executives were enticed by North Carolina’s 25 percent tax credit. (California offers a 25 percent tax credit, but excludes big-budget flicks like Iron Man 3.) Not to mention that EUE/Screen Gems boasts one of the largest sound stages in the world with Stage 10, a 37,500 square-foot-space with a 60-by-60-by-10.5-foot water tank. 
Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office, confirms that both the incentives and the sound stages played a role in Marvel’s decision. 
“It’s a large film which requires a lot of infrastructure and large sound stages,” Syrett says. “I guess all those things added up for us in the end.”

Land of the free.

Human trafficking 'is real, it's in North Carolina' :: WRAL.com




It’s something seen in made-for-TV movies – women, often from other countries, forced into prostitution, tortured and held against their will in brothels. But it's not just a movie storyline – it's happening in North Carolina.
 Not for the feint of heart.

A largely unconsidered consequence of capital punishment examined ...

Boston Review — Pamela S. Karlan: The Cost of Death:
Kouka, "Troy Davis"…
Troy Davis mural via Flickr
... [T]he concentration on capital cases comes at a cost. Ineffective trial lawyers, inconclusive evidence, inconsistent testimony, and impenetrable procedural thickets are hardly unique to capital cases. Nonetheless, the Court is far less likely to pay attention to these claims when the consequences to the defendant seem less harsh. Criminal law and procedure scholars such as Robert Weisberg of Stanford and Douglas Berman of Ohio State have described how the Court’s concern with death leads it to shortchange the constitutional claims of defendants facing lesser punishments. Berman has calculated that about one in ten thousand state felony sentences is a death sentence, yet the Court devotes more resources to reviewing death sentences than to reviewing claims in all other criminal cases combined. And while the Court has repeatedly considered whether a death sentence is proportionate to a particular class of crimes—for example, barring death sentences for non-homicide offenses or for juvenile or mentally retarded defendants—it has set virtually no limits on the severity of prison sentences. In the 40 years that the Court has been actively policing capital punishment, prison sentences have lengthened and the U.S. prison population has skyrocketed. With execution at the top end of the scale of punishment, a life sentence begins to look something like leniency, and other sentences are inflated in turn.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Maybe a lucky break we didn't get to the NC State Fair this year ...

NC State Fair Texas Fried Frito Chili
Fried chili at the 2010 NC State Fair
State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said Wednesday that he is “perplexed” by a growing E. coli outbreak linked to the North Carolina State Fair. 
At least 30 people were sickened after attending the fair, which officials have called the "probable" source of the outbreak, but health officials haven’t been able to pinpoint a common activity among them.
Had a good time last year at the Fair, but I like to experiment and try the fried whatever-probably-didn't-need-to-be-deep-fried foods.

On meat, pets, grief, and the our complicated humanimality.

Pet Lovers, Pathologized - NYTimes.com:


In popular culture, celebrities who take on animal causes are seen as a bit crazy — rich versions of the “crazy cat lady,” or dog-crazy Leona Helmsley. Not coincidentally, they are usually women. And, our relationships to the animals with whom (or rather which,to be grammatically correct) we live is given very little status in our society. Despite the proliferation of “cute” pet pictures and anecdotes on the Web, actual displays of affection toward one’s pet or companion animal, or grief expressed over their illness or death, is looked upon with ridicule.
I disagree with the assertion that grief over a pet's death is looked upon with ridicule. If there's anything that my facebook friends (myself included) do consistently it's commiserate and offer solace to friends who've lost a loved one, including a pet. I can't recall anyone ever saying to someone who just lost a cat or dog, "Get over it, dude, it was just an animal." Whether we're dog- or cat-lovers, we can even empathize across types because we know what it is to bond with an animal.

If anything, and here I know I risk sounding like a nutter, but I think people who get obsessive and mark anniversaries of a parent, grandparent, or some other loved one's death with chest-beating and moaning are the ridiculous. Everybody dies. Some die in old age, some tragically young; we grieve and remember them, but self-inducing depression and making a spectacle of yourself about it are things that make you look neurotic -- far more than the perfectly understandable feeling of loss after a pet's death.

We are animals. Naturally, we bond more closely with our friends and family than we do with animals of other species, consequently we will usually grieve more deeply for a human loved one's death. But, we are animals. We eat, breathe, sleep, excrete, play, seek shelter, procreate, and experience the world around us in ways that are far more like other animals than most are comfortable admitting.

This is all my long-winded way of saying maybe we should let ourselves grieve for our non-human, animal friends a little less self-consciously, and for our deceased human animal loved ones a little less pitiably.
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