Archive | November, 2013

My First Big Mistake: Mortuary Assistant

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Simon Winchester shares his humorous story about the time he worked as a mortuary assistant.

via Lapham’s Quarterly

The victim of the first big mistake I ever made was a gentleman to whom I had never been properly introduced (and whose name I still do not know) but who was possessed of three singular qualities: he was alone in a room with me, he was without his trousers, and he was very, very dead.

Some context might be useful. It was the winter of 1962. I was eighteen years old and had taken a year off before going up to Oxford University. I also had a girlfriend far away in Montreal, and in the superheated enthusiasm of my puppy love, I had promised to visit her. The fact that I then lived in London and she three thousand miles away meant that fare money had to be amassed: I had to get a job, and one that paid well enough to allow me to get away to Canada as quickly as possible.

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NASA Plans To Grow Plants On The Moon

plants

The new balanced diet includes space fruits. The Independent reports:

NASA has announced plans to grow plants on the moon by 2015 in a project designed to further humanity’s chances of successfully colonising space. If successful, the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team will make history by seeding life from Earth on another celestial body for the first time, paving the way for humans to set up more permanent habitation.

NASA plans to deliver the payload via the Moon Express lander, a commercial spacecraft enrolled in the Google Lunar X Prize. Seeds will include Arabidopsis, basil, and turnips,” said NASA officials in a press release.

Partial gravity and lunar radiation will need to be accounted for, although the plants will travel with their own water reservoir and enough air for five days of growth. Cameras and sensors will monitor the plants and send data back to Earth.

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Confessions of a Right-Wing Shock Jock: I’m Not a racist; I Just Played One On The Radio.

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“Conservative, libertarian, independent”

Could this be a kook, a racist and a white supremacist calling in the cleaning crew to “white wash” his political image?

via Politico Magazine

In July, the neoconservative website Washington Free Beacon published an article with the headline “Rebel Yell: Rand Paul aide has history of neo-Confederate sympathies, inflammatory statements.” The subject was a peculiar one—a staffer for Sen. Paul (R-Ky.) who had worked as a radio shock jock with the nickname “Southern Avenger” while wearing a Confederate-flag wrestling mask.

The Southern Avenger had said some pretty atrocious things. He toasted John Wilkes Booth’s birthday each year and believed that Lincoln “would have had a romantic relationship with Adolf Hitler if the two met.” He worried about “racial double standards for white people” and that “a non-white majority America would simply cease to be America.”

That Rand Paul aide was me. I had written and said all of these things.

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Via The Poke: UK Government Announces Bold New Plan To Kill Everyone

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UK government to jump on the immanentizing the eschaton bandwagon?

Satire. Sort of.

via The Poke

Death News: The government has outlined far reaching plans to kill everyone in the UK, through high energy prices, dismantling the NHS and crushing debt.

Recent reports say that winter deaths went up by nearly 30% last year, a figure the government claim is a ‘significant start’ in their plans to kill everybody.

“We’ve made a promising start in reducing the numbers of old and poor people by making fuel so expensive, but these are still early days in our plan to kill you all,” said a senior government spokesman.

“We shall now focus on the rest of the population, by removing healthcare and making existence so expensive we hope many people will just choose to kill themselves instead of ploughing through this shit for another year.”

The government says that anyone struggling through the winter months should seek urgent advice, from a noose.

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The Bitcoin FAQ: What Newcomers Need To Know

bitcoinThe following is an excerpt from The Bitcoin Primer: Risks, Opportunities, And Possibilitiesmy new book on global digital currency Bitcoin.

I’m an early adopter of the technology, having become interested back in October 2012 when I had major Bitcoin angel investor Roger Ver on my podcast.

What is Bitcoin? What’s so novel about it?

Bitcoin is a peer to peer decentralized digital currency. It makes use of advanced elliptic curve mathematics and cryptography, as well as a globally replicated public ledger called the Blockchain.

There are several things Bitcoin accomplishes that was previously not possible with e-currency.

OK. What are those things?

Bitcoin makes it impossible (or near impossible) for double-spend transactions to occur — in other words, when money leaves your possession, it is no longer yours. This was a huge challenge with digital currency because when you send a friend a music file, for example, how do you make it so that the file no longer exists on your computer?… Read the rest

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Great Gifts! Save More! Don’t Wait! Special Buys! 1,800 Dead! Evil Scumsuckers Go Home!

28-weeks-later-robert-carlyle-on-the-runDoorbusters!  Stampedestarters!  Momtramplers!  Punchthrowers!  Abby Zimet writes at CommonDreams:

Okay, all done. After months of impassively, unthinkingly trashing each morning’s florid email from the black hole of greed and profiteering that is Walmart – “Map Out Your Black Friday Shopping Trip! New Value of the Hour! Save More With Home Value Bundles! – we just had one of those Network-inspired “I’m mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore” moments. It’s not just ’cause they sell something called “hamburger helper cheeseburgr macaroni” – though WTF? – and call it food, or even because they famously asked their own grossly underpaid workers to donate food to other grossly underpaid workers for a Thanksgiving dinner nobody will have time to eat anyway because they’ll all be working to feed the endless greed of the multi-billionaire Waltons, yet another reason for the welcome and overdue wave of strikes hitting them this week. It’s because of this: Many months after over 1,200 workers in Bangladesh were killed in the dual disasters of the Tazreen factory fire and Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, Walmart has refused to contribute a penny to international compensation funds to assist the families of the dead and the over 1,800 workers injured because it was “financially unfeasible” to do so; has blown off a meeting in Geneva where companies came to discuss such compensation; has offered to create its own safety scheme that critics say is so flawed, vague and unenforceable it’s virtually meaningless, despite the fact that one in five Walmart factories still fails safety tests, a figure that leads advocates to charge that Walmart did and still does have “blood on its hands”; and reportedly and with great fanfare offered $50 million in low-cost loans to Bangladesh garment factories to improve conditions – loan offers which Walmart claimed were met with several “no thanks,” but  which labor advocates in Bangladesh say were, in fact, never made, leaving them still waiting for any substantive change.

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Examining Natural Disasters

Aaron Dames writes for Divided Core:

The death toll from Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines on November 7th, currently stands at 5,500 people.  Haiyan was the fourth strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded and is the deadliest in Philippine history (the second-deadliest was Tropical Storm Thelma, which killed around 5,080 people in 1991).  To compare, here are some mortality figures from other large-scale natural disasters that have taken place in recent history.

Typhoon Bopha, Philippines, December 2012 – 1,146 dead
Hurricane Sandy, U.S Eastern Seaboard, October 2012 – 286 dead
Earthquake and Tsunami in East Japan, March 2011 – 15,800 dead
Earthquake in Haiti, January 2010 – 159,000 dead
Hurricane Katrina, Gulf Coast, August 2008 – 1,833 dead
Earthquake in Kashmir, Pakistan and India, October 2005 – 100,000 dead
Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami, December 2004 – 250,000 dead

In addition to the number of victims, there are certainly many other factors to consider when assessing the impact that natural disasters have on humanity.  The magnitude of a disaster can be measured in absolute terms, such as the aforementioned mortality rate, as well as the physical extent of the area affected, the volume of infrastructure destroyed, and the financial cost of reconstruction.

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Jeb Bush’s Vatican-Obama Conspiracy Theory

Jeb Bush tweetIt’s hard to remember sometimes, sitting in New York, that Jeb Bush is still capable of engaging the media, but apparently CBS Miami still has a soft spot for him, right down to his latest musings about President Obama, Obamacare, and the closing of the U.S. Embassy in the Vatican:

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has not typically been one to repeat wild conspiracy theories in the past. But that’s exactly what he did this week when he repeated a wild story making the rounds on the fringes of the right wing.

“Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican?” Jeb Bush tweeted. “Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.”

There are several factual problems with the statement made by Bush, namely the United State isn’t closing its Embassy to the Vatican.

No foreign country has an embassy in Vatican City proper because there isn’t room.

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Bizarre Christian Exorcisms Cast Out Muslim Devils

Egypt-Exorcisms-072158269842Coptic priests taking the old school approach to mental illness? I wonder if Bob Larson has access to a Mercedes.

via Vocativ

Possessed Egyptian Muslims are turning to Coptic priests to expel their demons the old-fashioned way—through the power of Christ

It’s 6 p.m. in Cairo’s Garbage City slum, and hundreds of people have gathered outside St. Sama’an Cathedral for the evening service. The crowd, which has been building for hours, is waiting patiently for Father Sama’an Ibrahim, the famous Coptic priest and founder of the church. It’s Thursday, which as everyone in Garbage City knows, is exorcism night.

The majority of the people gathered in this packed courtyard are not actually Christian. They’re Muslims who have come in the hopes that Father Sama’an can expel their demons. Groups of women in hijabs huddle together in silence, and every 30 minutes or so, a minibus arrives bearing more pilgrims. As darkness approaches, you can feel the anticipation in the air.

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