Saturday, October 22, 2016

Almost Got It!

The above photo by Mike Mezeul II has the moon, a meteor, the Milky Way and erupting lava all in one shot. He took it in Hawaii's Volcano National Park, and had to risk getting pretty close to the lava to get everything in the same frame.

I would have been more impressed if he had gotten the moon, a meteor, the Milky Way, erupting lava and his thumb all in one shot. Because that's what most of us would have wound up doing.

Friday, October 21, 2016

You Know My Methods, Watson

Recently the National Football League has been kind of perplexed because fewer people are watching it. And they've been a little bit worried because they have TV deals that allow networks to charge for ads based on how many people watch. If those ratings numbers are lower than the deal promises, then the networks owe their advertisers some free space, which costs them still more money.

Some, as the Sporting News story notes, suggest that Americans are paying so much attention to the presidential election that they are watching news coverage instead of the games. There is no proof that these people are huffing paint, but the suggestion that people want to watch the two end products of this year's alimentary primary season makes one wonder.

A more realistic candidate for some of the loss is the number of people who "watch TV" via different streaming services, both legitimate and clandestine. The Nielsen people have as yet no good way to measure those numbers. Also, no few people are rather tired of the political noises athletes are making and the league's hypocrisy surrounding it -- Colin Kaepernick's police-as-pigs socks are OK, the Dallas Cowboys' request to wear a decal honoring Dallas police officers slain in an ambush is not, which brings up a six-letter question, "WTH, NFL?"

At Awful Announcing, another candidate is put forth: The 6:30 AM Pacific kickoff time for an upcoming Los Angeles Rams game being played in London. The NFL sticks a game in the 9:30 AM Eastern slot so it can open up another game window and increase its revenue. But when one of the teams in that slot is the Los Angeles Rams, that means that its main fanbase has to get up earlier than the chickens to watch their team play. And if you're a Rams fan living in Hawaii -- which you might be, since it's one of the teams closest to you geographically -- you could draw local law enforcement attention by cheering your kickoff too vigorously, since it'll happen at 3:30 AM your time. Broadcaster Al Michaels thinks oversaturation and stupidity like the gimmick "Color Rush" uniforms don't help.

You'd think that a sport which has been under scrutiny for safety and long-term health issues of current and former players would be doing some things to curry favor with its supporters, if for no other reason than to have someone argue their case from the barstools of America where public opinion is shaped. But the league seems to be concerned with only one set of fans: The deceased presidents and statesmen who adorn our currency. And if the way to get more of them is to sell a jersey that looks like kids' cereal no matter what that kind of move does to people who can't tell what's going on because their TV settings can't be adjusted to see what's going on, well, that's just too bad.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mishing Some Mash

-- Mundy Cruising has begun offering a new cruise on their luxury ship Crystal Serenity -- it will begin January 10 of next year and visit all seven continents over the next 357 days. That sounds pretty cool, but actually I'm interested in a cruise that begins Nov. 9, 2016 and ends January 20, 2021. I can't be the only one who would rather spend the next four years well away from whichever greedy septuagenarian wins our Sophie's choice of a presidential election.

-- Or you can end your misery more swiftly by spending two nights in Dracula's castle. The Air BnB offer includes hosting by one Dacre Stoker, whose great-granduncle Bram adapted the legend of Wallachian prince Vlad Tepes to create his 1897 novel. The company is staging a contest to win the visit. Importing garlic or placing your silverware in a cross position is apparently a disqualification.

-- According to a study, micro-managing kills more than productivity and spirit -- it may actually shorten the lifespan of those so burdened. Even otherwise high-stress jobs were less damaging to workers' health when those workers were given autonomy and decision-making capability. Going unmentioned, of course, is how deleterious micro-managing can wind up being for the micro-manager, who may find himself or herself facing angry employees who have lost the ability to understand that giving the boss an atomic wedgie is a poor career move.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Can't Top This

Paleontologists think they have answered a question about whether a mysterious and extinct species shown on different cave walls was real or just a variation in style.

As the headline at Big Think notes, they have discovered the long-suspected but heretofore unrpoven Higgs Bison.

I'll sign off with that one for the night.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Summa This, Summa That

-- It appears that in the eyes of some investors, the worthlessness of Twitter is more than metaphorical. It couldn't happen to a nicer platform that incites knee-jerk invective, gang-shaming and vile behavior hiding behind anonymity. Before you defend it, remember it is Donald Trump's primary choice for mass communication.

-- Along those lines, the Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria have released 21 of the 275 school girls they abducted in 2014. This means that a mere 30 months after lots of famous people tweeted pictures of themselves Looking Serious with a picture of the "Bring Back Our Girls" hashtag, Boko Haram has let almost 10 percent of them go. Social media activism costs nothing and accomplishes not much more than that.

-- Delta Airlines contracted with clothing designer Zac Posen to create new uniforms for Delta ticket agents, flight attendants and gate attendants. This means that the flight attendant who offers you three peanuts and a glass of water, the gate attendant who has no patience with how long it takes you to produce your boarding pass and the ticket agent who laughs when you ask why your connecting flight is seven hours late will all look really snazzy. The new uniforms won't actually go into service until 2018, which may prompt you to suspect that I will make a joke about them being delivered on a Delta flight. Consider it done.

-- There are 225 master's-degree-level programs in how to do college administration of some kind, according to a national association of school administrators. And there are 76 doctorate-level programs. The college placement office never had it so easy.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bring Me A Mouse. Now.

The Maine Coon Cat is the largest breed of domestic cat in existence, with the longest of the breed going 48 inches from nose to tail and the tallest standing 16 inches at the shoulder. Average weight for males is between 13 to 18 pounds, although most of them look much bigger because of the long fur.

Apparently, a laid-back and friendly attitude -- friendly for cats, anyway -- is a breed trait as well. Which makes sense. Most dogs that would want to chase one might find themselves learning how to climb trees themselves.

Maine Coons are also tend more towards "polydactylism," or extra toes -- a trait that can help feet stay on the surface of deep snow, but which leads me to this flight of silliness:
"Ah-ah. I know what you're thinking. Does he have six toes, or only five? To tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement. And seeing as how this is a Maine Coon Cat, the largest domestic breed in the world, and would take your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: 'Do I feel lucky?" Well? Do ya, Fido?"

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Check It Out

The Utne Reader excerpts a bit from the introduction to John Palfrey's BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter Even More in the Age of Google.

Palfrey's point is that if we see libraries only as places to acquire information, then the ubiquity -- if not accuracy -- of Google and Wikipedia make them both far more attractive. But libraries, as public spaces, offer their communities far more than a place to store the last known edition of Facts on File, Palfrey says.

I'd have to agree. We can read lots of studies that show how children from poor families read fewer books than children from wealthier families. But reading programs, especially during the summer, can get kids into the libraries and have them reading books their families might not be able to afford. And that's just one thing. Palfrey's got just under 300 pages of some others, apparently, which means I'm going to have to check that book out to see what some of them are. And when I'm done with it, I'll donate it to our local small library, which seems. oddly enough, to be lacking a copy.