Friday, October 04, 2002

The Space Age began 45 years ago today, with the launching of Sputnik. NPR observed the event with this essay by Walter Cronkite.

Way to go, Spre!!

One nice thing about karma is the way it sometimes takes years to roll around, but roll it almost always does. I've never liked Sprewell, not since his attack on PJ Carlesimo. I'll never forget a call-in sports show I listened to shortly after that incident, where the guest was some sportswriter who kept insisting that what Sprewell did wasn't that bad, and in America everybody gets a second chance. One caller said that Sprewell should be expelled from the sport for life (which I still think should have happened), and the sportswriter angrily demanded if he though Sprewell should never get a second chance. The caller snapped back, "In any other line of work he'd be charged with assault." The sportswriter actually sputtered for five seconds....

Thursday, October 03, 2002

The world's funniest joke

"A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head.

"The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: 'My friend is dead! What can I do?'

"The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: 'Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead.'

"There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: 'OK, now what?"'

C'mon admit it, you laughed or at least you sniggered a little bit.

Any way this joke was selected by two million people during an experiment called Laugh Lab and as we all know two million people can't be wrong. Highlights from the study include:

  • Germans were the most likely to find all types of jokes funny
  • Canadians were the least amused of the 10 top responding nations
  • The British, Irish, Australians and New Zealanders favored jokes involving wordplay
  • Continental Europeans liked jokes with a surreal bent.
  • Americans and Canadians preferred jokes invoking a strong sense of superiority -- either because a character looks stupid or is made to look stupid by someone else.

Now finally someone has been able to tell me the reason why I find most American comedy to be so lame i.e. there's just not enough word play and it has a generally really sucky attitude (that's a joke son)

Phases of the Moon

So you want to know the date of the next full moon? Click here.

To work out the phases of the moon for any month and year, you might like to try using this handy little form:

Enter the month:
Enter the year:

If you're a plaintiff in a lawsuit, and you can't locate the defendent, one possible solution is to place an ad in the classifieds asking the defendent to come forward.

Thus, we have the placement of this ad in the International Herald Tribune and Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based Arabic newspaper:

Apparently there is a real, legal reason for doing this as opposed to simply hoping that Bin Laden will show up for court. But I don't know, it still seems...strange.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Arctic Europa

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 607 October 2, 2002 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon

Modeling of tidal processes on Europa, making use of observations recorded with the Galileo spacecraft, suggest that water could surge near the surface. This water would originate in the ocean thought to reside beneath the icy surface layer on Europa and well up in cracks caused by Europa's ongoing tidal battle with Jupiter. Thus the cracks might afford an avenue for an exchange of material and liquid between ocean and surface. According to Richard Greenberg(University of Arizona,, if living organisms existed at Europa they might be able to survive as close as a few tens of centimeters from the surface especially if they live in a crack where they could be bathed daily by water delivered by tides. Exploring for such biological samples would not then require deep drilling. The nearness of water on Europa would therefore be more like that in Earth's Arctic basin, with ocean lying beneath riven and relatively thin ice sheets, rather than the Antarctic, where lake water is surmounted by kilometers-thick glacier. (Greenberg et al., Reviews of Geophysics, 6 September 2002.)

But what does it matter if we know our First Amendment rights or not if they don't mean anything?

Two Diamondback (Univ. of Maryland student newspaper)reporters covering the IMF-World Bank protests were arrested Friday morning and manacled for 23 hours. Surrounded by hundreds of protesters in Pershing Park, Washington Metropolitan Police circled and arrested the entire group. Jason Flanagan and Debra Kahn were there as impartial observers, and despite the newspaper's efforts to release them, they were stripped of all their possessions - even their shoelaces. What follows is a first-person account of their arrest and detention.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

I love Gregg Easterbrook's "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" columns for In this week's installment, he had some readers use translation programs to translate football slogans and cliches into other languages and then back into English, with hilarious results. What follows is the translation, into Japanese and back, of the "Win one for the Gipper" speech from that Ronald Reagan movie.

The Original:

"Rock, sometime, when the team is up against it -- and the breaks are beating the boys -- tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock, but I'll know about it -- and I'll be happy."

Into Japanese and Back Into English:

"With victory for the Gipper in order, all things which one are obtained exactly to go out there the team it confronts that, it is broken, the eye when having struck in those which say the boy, the stone, once upon a time. I the stone do not know somewhere then it is but, you know concerning that, it is happy."

Heard this 10 or so days ago on NPR: the director of The First Amendment Center talking about their 'State of the First Amendment' survey.

Without Google (or similar aid), how many rights are protected in the First Amendment? Can you name them?

I'd love for you to post your answers here under comments before you go check out the Press Release.

49% of those surveyed said the First Amendment goes too far, and their number one public enemy is the press.

I really find this hard to believe. Sure, a lot of press might be stupid, but too free? I'm still astounded.

According to some researchers who used forensics analysis techniques, this is what King Tut looked like. (On a personal note, I was lucky enough to get to see the treasures from King Tut's tomb when they toured the United States in 1976. Of course, I was only five and had no idea of the significance, but I can remember some of those items to this day.)

Monday, September 30, 2002

My wife, Janet, and I, on occasion, drive down the New Jersey Turnpike through a section of oil refineries where the tortured geometry of the structures stands against the sky, and where waste gases burn off in eternal flames, and where a stench reaches us that forces us to close the car windows. As we approached it once, Janet rolled up the windows, sighed, and said, "Here comes Mordor."

--Isaac Asimov

"I think that New Jersey deserves the title, "Toll Booth Capital of the United States". You can't back out of your driveway in New Jersey without some schmuck in a hat wants fifty cents."

--George Carlin

Happy Birthday to that quintessential American roadway, the Jersey Turnpike, which is now 50. Listen to NPR's tribute here. It's been a long time since I rode the Jersey turnpike, and my memories are not particularly fond. But, a birthday is a birthday....

Collaboratory is one of the coolest community blogs ever.
Peter Horton
Septemeber 25th, 2002

Thanks, Peter.
Got a book in you? Keep it there!

Joseph Epstein, in this NY Times Op/Ed piece, cites a recent survey by a Michigan Publishing House that stated that 81% of US'ns feel they have a book in them, and that they should write it. Epstein then encourages people to do just the opposite. Looking at the possible reasons that people want to write books, namely a legacy, and the difficulty it is to actually write a book (and he doesn't even go into the difficulty of getting published), Epstein says that you shouldn't even try. I know we've got at least one aspiring writer on the collaboratory (Jaq). Any others? How does this influence or damage your aspirations? (via Arts and Letters Daily)

Sidenote: For an interesting look at the publishing world (along with a neat little mystery) check out James Michener's the Novel.