Author Archive | Virtually Yours

Patrick Stewart and the Snotbots: Make It Blow!

Captain Kirk once saved some whales, and now Captain Picard is asking you to join him in continuing that noble mission. How? By donating to this Kickstarter campaign which will help fund a new research project involving drones that will hover over whales when they come up for air and collect the mucousy spray which is expelled from their blowholes. This spray contains a wealth of biological data, both about the whales and their environment, but has been difficult to obtain up till now. The Snotbots will initially be deployed over three different oceans, and your donations will help launch them…

Via NBC: Drones that collect whale snot could help marine biologists do research — and Sir Patrick Stewart wants you to fund the technology. The drone is called Snotbot. It works by flying above a whale breaching the surface of the water and collecting the mucus that is expelled from the animal’s blowhole.

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Piketty on National Debt: “Germany has never repaid.”

Via Daily Kos:

In a blistering interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit, Piketty [the famed French economist and author of the best-seller, Capital in the Twenty‑First Century] blasts Germany and it’s history of repayment of debt over the years, and it’s attitudes toward its fellow EU neighbor, Greece. In brief, he tells the interviewer in no uncertain terms that Germany never repaid their loans; yet they hold others to a higher standard of responsibility.

ZEIT: But shouldn’t they repay their debts?

Piketty: My book recounts the history of income and wealth, including that of nations. What struck me while I was writing is that Germany is really the single best example of a country that, throughout its history, has never repaid its external debt. Neither after the First nor the Second World War. However, it has frequently made other nations pay up, such as after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, when it demanded massive reparations from France and indeed received them.

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No Honor: Humbling Words from a Descendant of Confederates

Bill Starr can trace back his family lines in South Carolina to before the Revolution, and he pulls no punches when it comes to talking about the Confederate flag and its legacy of violence. He was interviewed by Story of America while waiting in line to pay his respects to Clementa Pinckney, the pastor and State Senator who was murdered last month by Dylann Roof:

According to Starr: “All of these memorials need to come down. I would like to see a memorial which says that all of these men were murdered by the slavocracy. I’d like to see an end to Confederate Memorial Day. I’d like to see an end to all of these streets named for Confederate generals. I’d like to see a monument here to the 1st South Carolina Infantry, who were black soldiers who fought for the Union. Or to men like Robert Lee Smalls or Denmark Vesey, who fought for freedom.

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Equality by Lot: A Brief Animated History of Sortition

This short animated clip offers a succinct history and explanation of how the ancient Athenians came to use sortition (the selection of random citizens through lottery to fill government roles). It questions whether or not such a system could be used in today’s modern world. Could this ancient practice help eliminate greed and corruption from the political arena by restoring the integrity and efficiency of the democratic process? As America gears up for yet another brutal election cycle, these are worthy questions to be asking…

This clip comes courtesy of the fantastic blog, Equality by Lot, and they have also transcribed the video:

What did democracy really mean in Athens? – Melissa Schwartzberg

Hey, congratulations! You just won the lottery. Only the prize isn’t cash or a luxury cruise. It’s a position in your country’s national legislature. And you aren’t the only lucky winner. All of your fellow lawmakers were chosen in the same way.

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The Abuse of Satire: Garry Trudeau on Charlie Hebdo and Free-Speech Fanaticism

via Gary Trudeau's Biography

via Gary Trudeau’s Biography

Garry Trudeau (author and illustrator of the long-standing comic, Doonesbury) was recently honored with the George Polk Career Award at Long Island University, and he used the opportunity to talk about Charlie Hebdo, free-speech fanaticism, and our growing culture of “punching down.” Trudeau is no stranger to controversy – his strip has been censored numerous times throughout its many decades – so it’s interesting to hear his take on these issues:

The Muhammad cartoon controversy began eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against “self-censorship,” one editor’s call to arms against what she felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority—her charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful.

Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful.

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Stephen Hawking sings Monty Python’s “Galaxy Song”

Via CNN:
Famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking has partnered with the silly lads of Monty Python to recreate the signature "Galaxy Song" from their 1983 film "The Meaning of Life."
... In it, fellow scientist Brian Cox rails against the inaccuracies in "Galaxy Song" when a fed-up Hawking, who has ALS, zooms up in his wheelchair and knocks over Cox. Hawking continues singing the song in his signature computerized voice. The scene is derived from a filmed bit that Monty Python uses during its live shows. "Galaxy Song" song was written by Python member Eric Idle, along with John Du Prez, and is "an intricate and informative lecture on the enormity of the Universe fashioned into a bewitching and, above all, highly amusing pop song," according to the comedy troupe's site.
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Pussy Riot’s First English Single: “I Can’t Breathe”

Via HuffPo:

Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina told The Guardian that they wrote the song after taking part in protests against police brutality in New York last December.

The song, inspired by Garner, is dedicated to people “around the globe who suffer from state terror — killed, choked, perished because of war and state sponsored violence of all kinds,” Pussy Riot wrote on the video’s YouTube page.

“Those words are his, but we hope they can also stand for us and for many around the world, for all who can’t breathe because authorities act with impunity and feel invincible and above the law in using power to humiliate, intimidate, hurt, kill and oppress,” the musicians told The Guardian.

“We’ve known, on our own skin, what police brutality feels like and we can’t be silent on this issue.”

The video, shot in Russia, shows Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina wearing Russian riot police uniforms and being buried alive.

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Cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo: Should We Nominate Them for The Darwin Awards?

On Wednesday night, Jon Stewart said something during his opening monologue on The Daily Show which has continued to bother me and nag at my conscience: “Our goal tonight is not to make sense of this because there is no sense to be made of this.” There is plenty of criticism which has been leveled against both Stewart and Colbert in the past, but I find his unwillingness to acknowledge the underlying factors which contributed to this slaughter to be particularly disturbing. Earlier today, I came across this superb article by Maria Bustillos, titled “How Much Did We Need This Blasphemy?” I can only hope that Stewart gets a chance to read it, and that he might consider amending his monologue with something a little more thoughtful and nuanced:

It is unsurprising in the extreme that the most hawkish, pro-Iraq War, pro-Bush and anti-Islamic conservatives are now falling all over themselves to defend Charlie Hebdo.

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Mummy Dearest: The Resurrection of Peter Wald

Frank and Julia

Frank and Julia


Here lies the curious tale of the resurrection that, well…wasn’t quite.

Peter Wald’s family truly believed he would rise from the dead.

They believed it because they had prayed for it, every single day, while his corpse lay rotting for six months in an upstairs bedroom of their Hamilton home.

When neighbours asked about her husband, curious about the 52-year-old man’s seeming disappearance, Kaling Wald would tell them he was “in God’s hands now.”

On Monday, Kaling, 50, pleaded guilty to failing to notify police or the coroner that her husband had died due to a sickness that was not being treated by a doctor. It’s the first known case of its kind (involving the resurrection belief) in Canada.

For more gruesome details concerning the discovery of the corpse, read on here.

What disturbs me the most about this story, however, is the way in which the authorities avoided the elephant in the room (clearly this woman is mentally ill) and also, the impact which this unhinged environment has had upon her poor kids…

As assistant crown attorney Janet Booy put it, the devout Christian woman’s faith had “tainted and warped her better judgment.”

Okay, so far so good.… Read the rest

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