Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Harmonica at Carnegie Hall...

Via my mom:

A Handy Method...

A Romanian auto body mechanic at work:

Translated, the video's uploader said:
A handy method, which does not know any difference between the original and new paint.
All righty then...

Proof Positive...

Californians elected Nancy Pelosi to the House of Representatives multiple times, continuously since 1987.  Most recently, 85.1% of her district voted for her.

Frequently Ms. Pelosi does something to add to my sense of wonder at her election.  The fact that Californians (in San Francisco) continue to elect Ms. Pelosi is proof positive of something.  I'm not entirely sure what it's proving, but I'm absolutely positive it's something bad.

Now she's done it again.  Consider this statement she made on Valentine's Day, on the subject of a proposed cut in Congressional pay:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she opposes a cut in congressional pay because it would diminish the dignity of lawmakers' jobs.

"I don't think we should do it; I think we should respect the work we do," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "I think it's necessary for us to have the dignity of the job that we have rewarded."
You likely already know that Ms. Pelosi is one of the wealthiest members of Congress (her net worth is about $58 million, primarily through her husband).  She keeps getting re-elected.  She was the House Majority leader, and is now the House Minority leader.  You'd be forgiven for thinking “She must have something on the ball!”

Then you read her statement.

You try to parse her statement.

You try to figure out what it's even attempting to say.

You have to conclude she's an idiot.

What else could explain her apparently belief in the dignity of a member of Congress – the most despised politicians in America? 

Or her belief (if my attempt to parse her sentence is on the mark) that members of Congress deserve some kind of reward?

She's an embarrassing idiot, or better, an obliviot.  And my fellow Californians keep re-electing her, every two years.  That definitely proves something.  And reinforces my already firmly settled inclination to get the hell out of Dodge...

Another Benefit of Growing Up on a Farm?

A few years ago scientists observed something interesting: people who grew up on a farm had a much lower incidence of allergies and asthma.  They speculated that rolling around in the dirt, exposure to animals, etc. exercised the farm kid's immune systems from an early age, and that delivered a lifelong benefit.  Back in the '80s, scientists discovered (to their vast surprise!) that peptic ulcers weren't primarily caused by stress, but rather by a bacterial infection of the stomach.  However, most people carrying this bacteria don't develop ulcers; their immune systems fight it off.

Now scientists have discovered a link (not proved causal yet) between the lack of certain “good” intestinal bacteria and autism.  We get “infected” with these intestinal bacteria through things we ingest (eat).  We like to think that we ingest only our food, but any parent can tell you that kids will ingest all sorts of non-food items.  For farm kids, that includes things of a much wider variety than the typical city kid.  Scientists studying autism have noted that the incidence amongst farm kids is significant lower.  Which leads me, naturally, to speculate that the farm kids' wider, er, ingestive range increases the chances that they'll be infected with the good intestinal bacteria – and therefore have a lower propensity to autism.

Wouldn't that be interesting if autism turned out to be as easy to deal with as peptic ulcers turned out to be?

Russian Dash-Cams...

When the meter flashed across Russian skies yesterday, its passage was captured by dozens of dashboard cameras (dash-cams) mounted in the cars of ordinary citizens.  If that meteor had flashed across American skies, I doubt there would be even one such video – I don't believe I know anyone with a dash-cam.  So why are they so apparently common in Russia?

One search on Google and I had the answer.  In a word: evidence.  An excerpt:
In Russia, everyone should have a camera on their dashboard. It’s better than keeping a lead pipe under your seat for protection (but you might still want that lead pipe).

The conditions of Russian roads are perilous, with insane gridlock in cities and gigantic ditches, endless swamps and severe wintry emptiness on the backroads and highways. Then there are large, lawless areas you don’t just ride into, the police with a penchant for extortion and deeply frustrated drivers who want to smash your face.

Psychopaths are abundant on Russian roads. You best not cut anyone off or undertake some other type of maneuver that might inconvenience the 200-pound, six-foot-five brawling children you see on YouTube hopping out of their SUVs with their dukes up. They will go ballistic in a snap, drive in front of you, brake suddenly, block you off, jump out and run towards your vehicle. Next thing you start getting punches in your face because your didn’t roll up your windows, or getting pulled out of the car and beaten because you didn’t lock the doors.

These fights happen all the time and you can’t really press charges. Point to your broken nose or smashed windows all you want. The Russian courts don’t like verbal claims. They do, however, like to send people to jail for battery and property destruction if there’s definite video proof. That is why there’s a new, growing crop of dash-cam videos featuring would-be face-beaters backing away to the shouts of “You’re on camera, fucker! I’m calling the cops!”

Dash-cam footage is the only real way to substantiate your claims in the court of law. Forget witnesses. Hit and runs are very common and insurance companies notoriously specialize in denying claims. Two-way insurance coverage is very expensive and almost completely unavailable for vehicles over ten years old–the drivers can only get basic liability. Get into a minor or major accident and expect the other party to lie to the police or better yet, flee after rear-ending you. Since your insurance won’t pay unless the offender is found and sued, you’ll see dash-cam videos of post hit and run pursuits for plate numbers.
I've visited Russia dozens of times on work-related trips, but somehow I'd never run across this little facet.  Perhaps its a very recent development, though, as the cost of dash-cams has come down a lot in the past few years (there are many under $100 on Amazon now).  Knowing Russia reasonably well, I can confidently predict that there is a thriving market in fake dash-cams there :)

Floating Hell?

The news this morning is full of stories like this one, with passengers on the Carnival Triumph calling it a “floating hell” over the past five days since a fire disabled the ship.  One passenger (as of this morning) has already filed a lawsuit over the experience.

I read three or four stories in an attempt to understand exactly what was so “hellish” about this cruise.  It appears to me that at their very worst, conditions on the Carnival Triumph were considerably better than conditions at their very best on the USS Long Beach, the U.S. Navy ship that I served four years on.

Now mind you, I'm not saying that I think the Carnival cruise lines are blameless (on this question I really have no idea).  I believe those passengers are fully entitled to compensation for their ruined vacations.

But “hell ship”?


If conditions had really been as awful as the news reports of returning passengers imply, then there would be numerous passengers in the hospital (or the morgue).  Instead, the passengers are going home, safe and sound.  Uncomfortable?  I'm sure.  Unpleasant?  Quite likely.  Hellish?  I don't think so.

Buck up, Americans.  You're making us look like coddled sissies to the rest of the world...