24 June 2010

Is it Just Me...

...or is there something disconcertingly eccentric about this backyard scene?

A voice in my head says I should mention it's in NKy.

21 June 2010

The Second

Have you ever wondered who decided how long one second is... Ever wonder if there is an actual definition of "one second?"

I didn't think so.

But there IS a definition. It is, after all, the fundamental unit of time and the one science uses to measure everything. In the good old days, when women covered their knees and listened to their husbands, scientists defined the "second" in terms of the time it took for the earth to rotate once on its axis, commonly known as "a day."

1 hour = 1/24 day
1 minute = 1/60 hour
1 second = 1/60 minute

So a second was 1/86,400th of a day. Unfortunately, the length of a day changes over time so this definition was not precise enough. So in 1967 a group calling itself the General Conference on Weights and Measures (also the name of my new band) came up with this jaw-droppingly precise new definition of a "second," the one which is used by the world today:

The duration of 9,192,631,770 cycles of microwave light absorbed or emitted by the hyperfine transition of cesium-133 atoms in their ground state undisturbed by external fields.

Aaah, that clears it up!

17 June 2010

Judicial Activism I Can Live With

My interweb meanderings landed me quite a gem this morning. The excerpt below is from a real court document filed in Tennessee district court. The judge in the case came up with a surprisingly savvy, stereotype-stripping solution to review evidence, which in this case is... well, I'll let this quote speak for itself:

Clearly the issue of who took the pictures of the Plaintiff and her friends dancing on the bar is highly relevant...

Background: the plaintiff and her friends went to the Coyote Ugly Saloon and claim they were convinced to get up on the bar and dance. The plaintiff fell and hit her head and filed suit against the bar. The bar unsuccessfully tried to subpoena the plaintiff's friends' photos which were posted on Facebook. Check out the judge's manifestly progressive solution (emphasis mine):

The Defendant’s mishandling of the Facebook subpoena was the cause of a major delay. Plaintiff’s counsel could have helped resolve the matter by clearing up the issue of the various witnesses, who are friends of the Plaintiff, to produce the various photos on Facebook. Their resistance does raise the specter with the defendant that there is something there they want to hide. Clearly the issue of who took the pictures of the Plaintiff and her friends dancing on the bar is highly relevant, and Plaintiff is in the best position to quickly resolve this. The failure to cooperate by both counsel has lead to this unfortunate delay.

In order to try to expedite further discovery regarding the photographs, their captions, and comments,
the Magistrate Judge is willing to create a Facebook account. If Julie K. and Michael V. will accept the Magistrate Judge as a “friend” on Facebook for the sole purpose of reviewing photographs and related comments in camera, he will promptly review and disseminate any relevant information to the parties. The Magistrate Judge will then close this Facebook account. If this option is chosen, Plaintiff is required to notify the Magistrate Judge’s law clerk within fourteen (14) days of this order to set this up and provide the email addresses of Ms. K. and Mr. V. in order to locate their accounts on Facebook.

13 June 2010

Medical Marketing Enigma

You probably won't die because of "complications" at this clinic...

But if you die anyway, at least your loved ones can conveniently walk next door for your tombstone. What could be simpler?

09 June 2010

...And Don't Jaywalk, Either

"Bicycling on sidewalk is illegal... take a lane"

06 June 2010

Best College Basketball Team Names

I've always thought Earlham College's "Hustling Quakers" was a funny name. Earlham is a Quaker (i.e. pacifist) school so they didn't want any references to animals that hunt, maul, rip, etc. Basically, any reference to predation or general ass-kicking was off the table. And so "hustling" it was.

But "Hustling Quakers" wouldn't come close to making the cut for this list.

I knew about UC-Santa Cruz, but none of the others.

03 June 2010

On the Matter of Wendell Young...

One of the criticisms regarding why Laketa Cole would choose Wendell Young to replace her on Council is that Young was a weak campaigner and fared poorly in previous election attempts.

I'm not sure that is a good argument. In order for it to be a valid reason to oppose Wendell Young, there has to be a correlation between good campaigning and good statesmanship. There is no such correlation; an individual's ability to govern or legislate has nothing to do with how well he or she campaigns. Furthermore, since election victory is so closely associated with fund raising, this argument is basically assuming that the best fund-raisers make the best officials.

Of course, the "flaw" in my thinking is that I'm thinking like a citizen and not a member of the Democratic Party, i.e. I want the best Council member, not the most re-electable.

In one sense, choosing Wendell Young is a great call. Why not give a seat to someone who, based on what we know, would be a moderate and reasoned Council member? Do we really want to choose local officials based on how well they take to TV cameras, shaking hands and waving in parades?

It reminds me of Warren Rudman's excellent book Combat, in which he writes about some of his experiences in the Senate. One item was David Souter's election to the Supreme Court. At the time, Souter was New Hampshire Attorney General and Rudman specifically mentioned how key it was that, in New Hampshire, the AG is appointed, not elected. Whatever it takes to be a politician, Souter had none of it. He would have never been AG if it required campaigning. He was given the job on pure merit. If that were not the case, he would have never been the AG and never subsequently nominated for the Supreme Court.

Imagine what kind of Supreme Court we would have if it required campaigning. Holy shit.

Of course, there is a solution to Laketa Cole's problem, and if she manages to think like a normal person for half a day, she might do the sensible thing and nominate Greg Harris. He is not untested like Young and is an experienced campaigner and has increased his name recognition. Moreover, he brings so much to the table, it is rather ridiculous NOT to nominate him...

...unless you're a small-minded person who thinks placating Lincoln Ware and his ass-clown posse is more important than experience, knowledge, commitment, vision, intelligence and public support.