Even worse, it turns out getting a moon-sized project back on track requires the personal presence of a Sith Lord. Let me assure you, if your project’s success depends on hiring someone whose first name is Darth, you’ve got a problem. Not just because Sith Lords are make-believe, but also because they’re evil.
“We should be like 1900; we should be like 1940, 1950, 1960,” Paul said. “I live on the gulf coast, we deal with hurricanes all the time. Galveston is in my district.
“There’s no magic about FEMA. They’re a great contribution to deficit financing and quite frankly they don’t have a penny in the bank. We should be coordinated but coordinated voluntarily with the states,” Paul told NBC News. “A state can decide. We don’t need somebody in Washington.”
The dead bodies were so numerous that burying them all was not possible. The dead were initially weighted down and dumped at sea, but when the gulf currents washed many of the bodies back onto the beach, a new solution was needed. Funeral pyres were set up wherever the dead were found and burned for weeks after the storm. The authorities passed out free whiskey to sustain the distraught men conscripted for the gruesome work of collecting and burning the dead. More people were killed in this single storm than the total of those killed in all the tropical cyclones that have struck the United States since.
“Then Dr. Thompson asked the cyclists to race against an avatar, a figure of a cyclist on a computer screen in front them. Each rider was shown two avatars. One was himself, moving along a virtual course at the rate he was actually pedaling the stationary bicycle. The other figure was moving at the pace of the cyclist’s own best effort — or so the cyclists were told. In fact, the second avatar was programmed to ride faster than the cyclist ever had — using 2 percent more power, which translates into a 1 percent increase in speed. Told to race against what they thought was their own best time, the cyclists ended up matching their avatars on their virtual rides, going significantly faster than they ever had gone before.”—
“SIR – I must object in the strongest terms to the use of the oxymoronic neologism, “bottomless shallows”, in a Banyan column. Please inform your Mr Banyan that oxymorons must be stamped out wherever found, and are particularly galling in a newspaper of your standing and heritage. I am certain that Messrs Samuel Johnson, Walter Bagehot and Henry Watson Fowler are all spinning in their respective graves at this slight, albeit at different speeds. You know well how lapses like this affect school truancy, foment social disorder and encourage a preference for margarine on one’s scones. Sin not again.”—An Economist reader reminds us of our responsibilities. And rightly so. (via theeconomist)
What if the government had simply decided to turn the other cheek and forgive those who sought to attack it, not seven times, but seventy times seven? What if the grief and mourning that followed 9/11 were allowed to foster a nonviolent ethics of compassion rather than a violent politics of revenge and retribution? What if the crime of the Sept. 11 attacks had led not to an unending war on terror, but the cultivation of a practice of peace — a difficult, fraught and ever-compromised endeavor, but perhaps worth the attempt?
Not actually from the article, but a poem written by Jane Hirshfield after 9/11
The Dead Do Not Want Us Dead
The dead do not want us dead;
such petty errors are left for the living.
Nor do they want our mourning.
No gift to them--not rage, not weeping.
Return one of them, any one of them, to the earth,
and look: such foolish skipping,
such telling of bad jokes, such feasting!
Even a cucumber, even a single anise seed: feasting
Darwin’s idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind. The power of a scientific theory may be measured as a ratio:
the number of facts that it explains divided by the number of assumptions it needs to postulate in order to do the explaining. A theory that assumes most of what it is trying to explain is a bad theory. That is why the creationist or ‘intelligent design’ theory is such a rotten theory.
What any theory of life needs to explain is functional complexity. Complexity can be measured as statistical improbability, and living things are statistically improbable in a very particular direction:
the direction of functional efficiency. The body of a bird is not just a prodigiously complicated machine, with its trillions of cells - each one in itself a marvel of miniaturized complexity - all conspiring together to make muscle or bone, kidney or brain. Its interlocking parts also conspire to make it good for something - in the case of most birds, good for flying. An aero-engineer is struck dumb with admiration for the bird as flying machine: its feathered flight-surfaces and ailerons sensitively adjusted in real time by the on-board computer which is the brain; the breast muscles, which are the engines, the ligaments, tendons and lightweight bony struts all exactly suited to the task. And the whole machine is immensely improbable in the sense that, if you randomly shook up the parts over and over again, never in a million years would they fall into the right shape to fly like a swallow, soar like a vulture, or ride the oceanic up-draughts like a wandering albatross. Any theory of life has to explain how the laws of physics can give rise to a complex flying machine like a bird or a bat or a pterosaur, a complex swimming machine like a tarpon or a dolphin, a complex burrowing machine like a mole, a complex climbing machine like a monkey, or a complex thinking machine like a person.
Darwin explained all of this with one brilliantly simple idea - natural selection, driving gradual evolution over immensities of geological time. His is a good theory because of the huge ratio of what it explains (all the complexity of life) divided by what it needs to assume (simply the nonrandom survival of hereditary information through many generations). The rival theory to explain the functional complexity of life - creationism - is about as bad a theory as has ever been proposed. What it postulates (an intelligent designer) is even more complex, even more statistically improbable than what it explains. In fact it is such a bad theory it doesn’t deserve to be called a theory at all, and it certainly doesn’t deserve to be taught alongside evolution in science classes.
“Now I’m wondering if I avoided ‘The Wire’ because its central themes — drugs, corruption, urban decay — were realities that I simply wanted to ignore. Instead of being haunted by a show like this, it was easier and safer to skip it entirely. Most people feel this way, I’m guessing; it’s the only conceivable reason why five times as many people would watch “The Sopranos” instead of a show that’s better in every way. See, when most Americans dabble in inner-city TV shows or movies for our ‘taste’ of street life, we’re hoping for the Hollywood version. We don’t want despair and decay, we want hope and triumph. We don’t want the zero-sum game of drug dealers killing each other, we want The Rock coaching juvie kids and turning their lives around in two hours. We want them to win the big football game, we want the movie to end, and we don’t want to think about these people ever again.”—
“Then, next thing you know, one of those doors opens and a few thousand of them walk in. And then it’s like, “fuck,” because you remember that people took time off work, took the time to bring their kids, took the time to take the time, basically, in the face of all those denied entries, to do something heartfelt and decent and genuine anyway.”—