Saturday, 25 April 2015

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Chew on That

The next time you have a song stuck in your head, reach for the chewing gum. The very act of grinding it around your mouth might be enough to kick that annoying earworm out of your brain, scientists have claimed.

More at Tind

Viz Bits

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 20.51.47

So Prosecute Then

A column in which media personality Katie Hopkins described migrants as “cockroaches” and “feral humans” resembled pro-genocide propaganda, the United Nations has said.
In a strongly worded statement issued on Friday, the UN High Commission for Human Rights said tabloid “misinformation” about immigration was fed into a “nasty underbelly of racism” lurking beneath the migration issue.
“Under the guise of freedom of expression, [negative coverage is] being allowed to feed a vicious cycle of vilification, intolerance and politicization of migrants,” High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.
“This is not only sapping compassion for the thousands of people fleeing conflict, human rights violations and economic deprivation who are drowning in the Mediterranean. The nasty underbelly of racism that is characterizing the migration debate in an increasing number of EU countries has skewed the EU response to the crisis ... and could sadly result in further massive loss of life.”
In its statement the Commission argued that Ms Hopkins's column, published in The Sun newspaper, used “language very similar to that employed by Rwanda’s Kangura newspaper and Radio Mille Collines during the run up to the 1994 genocide”.

The Commissioner noted that both Rwandan media organizations were later convicted by an international tribunal of public incitement to commit genocide.
He noted that the media in Nazi Germany “described people their masters wanted to eliminate as rats and cockroaches” , adding: “The Sun’s editors took an editorial decision to publish this article, and – if it is found in breach of the law – should be held responsible along with the author.”
The Commissioner argued that “anti-foreigner abuse” in the press was impacting public opinion and distorting the EU's response to the Mediterranean crisis - and possibly increasing the death toll.
Ms Hokins said in the column that she did not care if migrants died on their crossing of the Mediterranean, that they were like "cockroaches", "feral humans", and that gunboats should be dispatched to prevent further arrivals.

The High Commissioner criticised “almost all” of the UK’s tabloid newspaper for fabricating stories about immigrants.
“Asylum seekers and migrants have, day after day, for years on end, been linked to rape, murder, diseases such as HIV and TB, theft, and almost every conceivable crime and misdemeanour imaginable in front-page articles and two-page spreads, in cartoons, editorials, even on the sports pages of almost all the UK’s national tabloid newspapers,” Mr Al Hussein said.
“Many of these stories have been grossly distorted and some have been outright fabrications. Elsewhere in Europe, as well as in other countries, there has been a similar process of demonization taking place, but usually led by extremist political parties or demagogues rather than extremist media.”
He added that migration was a valid topic for debate but that it should be discussed “on the basis of fact -- not fiction, exaggeration or blatant xenophobia”.
“History has shown us time and again the dangers of demonizing foreigners and minorities, and it is extraordinary and deeply shameful to see these types of tactics being used in a variety of countries, simply because racism and xenophobia are so easy to arouse in order to win votes or sell newspapers.”
On Monday the Society of Black Lawyers reported The Sunnewspaper to the Metropolitan Police over the column and called for it to be investigated under the 1986 Public Order Act’s incident of racial hatred provision.
An online petition calling for Ms Hopkins to be sacked has reached nearly 300,000 people.




On Your Marks

The following is an article from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader
the-great-car-raceIt involved only a half-dozen cars and 17 men, but this was one race that not only made history- it changed it.
Get a Horse
In 1908 the promise of the automobile was just that- a promise. The industry was in its infancy, and most people still relied on horses or their own two feet to get from one place to another. Skeptics were convinced that the automobile was just an expensive and unreliable gimmick. So how could anyone prove to the world that the automobile was the most practical, durable, and reliable means of transport ever invented?  Easy: Sponsor a race. But not just any race- it would have to be a marathon of global proportions, pitting the newfangled machines (and their drivers) against the toughest conditions possible on a course stretching around the world, with a sizable cash prize to the winner, say, $1,000. Then call it “The Great Race”…and cross your fingers.
My Car’s Better Than Yours
It’s hard to comprehend the hold automobiles had on the public imagination at the turn of the 20th century. A similar frenzy of technological one-upmanship occurred during the race to the moon in the 1960s, as industrial nations competed fiercely to be considered the most modern and up-to-date technologically.
When it came to cars, there had been a few rally-style road races but nothing on a truly global scale.  So the New York Times and the French newspaper Le Matin combined to organize a bigger, better competition designed to be the ultimate test of man and machine.  Starting in New York City, the racers would cross the continental United States and the Alaskan territory, take a ferry across the Bering Strait, then drive from Vladivostok across Siberia to Paris-a trek of 22,000 miles.
Few paved roads existed anywhere at the time, and much of the planned route crossed vast roadless areas. And with few gas stations in existence, just completing the course would require every ounce of stamina and ingenuity on the part of the car and the driver, but the winner would own indisputable bragging rights to the claim of Best Car in the World.
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines
race-startTo the cheers of a crowd of 250,000 people, six cars representing four nations pulled out of New York’s Times Square on February 12, 1908, to begin the great adventure. France had three cars: a De Dion-Bouton, a Motobloc, and a Sizaire-Naudin. Germany was represented by a Protos, and Italy by a Zust. All but the American entry- a stock off-the-line Thomas Flyer driven by George Schuster- were custom built for the competition. (The Thomas was a last-minute entry because the sponsors couldn’t bear the thought of a race of this magnitude not having an American representative.) All but the 1-cylinder Sizaire-Naudin had 4 cylinder engines ranging from 30-60 horsepower; the fastest, the Protos, could get up to 70 mph. The cars were heavy, boxy things, with open cockpits and no windshields (glass was considered too dangerous). Each team consisted of a principal driver, a relief driver/mechanic, and an assistant, usually a reporter who would travel with the team and send stories from the road via telegraph.
They’re Off!
great_race_snowImmediately upon leaving Manhattan, the cars drove into a fierce snowstorm that claimed the Sizaire-Naudin as the race’s first victim. The 15-horspower French two-seater broke down in Peekskill, New York, and was forced to quit. It had gone a mere 44 miles.  Snow dogged the remaining cars all the way to Chicago, slowing their progress to a snail’s pace. It took the Thomas Flyer eight hours to travel four miles in Indiana, and then only with horses breaking the trail in front of the car.
After Chicago, the cars headed across the Great Plains in sub-zero temperatures. To keep warm, the French Motobloc team rerouted heat from the engine into the cab (an innovation that found its way into future cars) but to no avail: The Motobloc had to quit the race in Iowa. Meanwhile, the winter weather had turned the plains to mud, which stuck to the chassis of the cars, adding hundreds of pounds of weight to each vehicle. Teams took to stopping at fire stations in every town they passed for a high-pressure rinse.
Unable to find usable roads across Nebraska, the drivers took to “riding the rails,” straddling railroad tracks and bouncing along, tie to tie, for hundreds of miles. (Blowouts were frequent.) A Union Pacific conductor rode along with the American team to alert them to oncoming trains. In especially bad weather, one team member would straddle the radiator with a lantern and peer ahead of the car.
When there were no train tracks, the cars used ruts left by covered wagons years before. They navigated by the stars, sextants, compasses, and local guides, when they could hire them. And if they had to stop for more than a few hours, the radiators had to be completely drained- antifreeze hadn’t been invented yet.
Taking the Lead
flyerAfter 41 days, 8 hours, 15 minutes, the Thomas Flyer was the first entrant to reach San Francisco, becoming the first car ever to cross the United States in winter.  The American team promptly boarded a steamer to Valdez, Alaska, the starting spot for the overland trip to the Bering Sea, and brought a crate of homing pigeons with them to send reports back to the States. Race organizers had hoped the ice across the Bering Strait would provide a bridge for the cars. But the Alaska leg had to be scrapped because the weather and driving conditions were even worse than they’d been in the United States. (The pigeon plan didn’t work so well, either. The first bird sent aloft from Valdez was attacked and eaten by seagulls.)
The U.S. team was given a 15-day bonus for their Alaskan misadventure and told to return to San Francisco to join the other racers on the S.S. Shawmutt, bound for Yokohama, Japan. At the same time, the German team was penalized 15 days for putting their car on a train from Ogden, Utah, to San Francisco. Both decisions would bear heavily on the race’s end.
Gentlemen, Restart Your Engines
Once they docker in Japan, the remaining competitors had to get their cars to the port of Vladivostok, Russia, where the race would officially resume. The Germans and Italians took another ship; the Americans and the French drove across Japan and took a ferry. It was too much for the De Dion-Bouton. After 7,332 miles, the French team threw in the towel, and only three cars were left: the German Protos, the Italian Zust, and the American Thomas Flyer. After another rousing send-off from a roaring crowd of spectators, the cars zoomed out of Vladivostok… and into the mud. The spring thaw had turned the Siberian tundra into a quagmire.
the-great-raceOnly a few miles out of Vladivostok, the American team came upon the German Protos stuck in deep mud. George Schuster carefully nudged his car past the Germans onto firmer ground a few hundred yards ahead. With him were mechanic George Miller, assistant Hans Hansen, and New York Times reporter George Macadam. When Hansen suggested they help the Germans out, the others agreed. The stunned Germans were so grateful that their driver, Lt. Hans Koeppen, uncorked a bottle of champagne he’d been saving for the victory celebration in Paris, declaring the American gesture “a gallant and comradely act.” The two teams raised a glass together, reporter Macadam recorded the moment for his paper, and the subsequent photograph appeared in papers around the globe and became the most enduring image of the race.
Human Obstacles
great_race-railroadRoad conditions in Siberia were even worse than they’d been in the western United States. Once again the cars took to the rails- this time on the tracks of the Trans-Siberian Railway. An attempt by Schuster to use a railroad tunnel could have been a scene from a silent-movie comedy, as the American car frantically backed out of the tunnel ahead of an oncoming train. There were other obstacles, too.  At one point, the American team was charged by a band of horsemen brandishing rifles. The Americans burst into laughter and drove right through the herd of riders, leaving the bandits in the dust.
Driving around the clock created other problems: The relief driver often fell out of the open car while sleeping, so the team fashioned a buckle and strap to hold him in- the world’s first seat belt. The length and rigor of the race took its toll as well, and tempers flared. At one point an exasperated Schuster threatened to throw Hansen out of the car and off the team. Hansen responded by pulling his pistol and snarling, “Do that and I will put a bullet in you.” Mechanic George Miller drew his gun and snapped, “If any shooting is done, you will not be the only one.” Finally both sides agree to holster their weapons and press on.
Italian Tragedy
By May the cars had been racing around the world for four months. The quicker German Protos had pulled ahead of the American Thomas Flyer, while the underpowered Italian Zust fell farther and father behind but pressed on, convinced that they’d catch up. Then disaster struck. Outside Tauroggen, a Russian frontier town, a horse drawing a cart was startled by the sound of the passing Zust and bolted out of control. A child playing near the road was trampled and killed. The Italians drove into Tauroggen to report the accident and were promptly thrown in jail, where they remained for three days, unable to communicate with anyone outside. Finally, the local police determined the driver of the cart was at fault for losing control of his horse, and released them. They continued on toward Paris in a somber mood.
And the Winner Is…
civtoryOn July 30, 1908- 169 days after the race’s start- the Thomas Flyer arrived on the outskirts of Paris, smelling victory. The Protos had actually gotten to Paris four days earlier, but because of the Americans’ 15-day bonus and the Germans’ 15-day penalty, everyone knew the American team had an insurmountable margin of victory. Or did they? Before the Americans could enter the city, a gendarme stopped them. French law required automobiles to have two working headlights. The Flyer had only one; the other had been broken back in Russia (by a bird). A crowd gathered. Parisians, like thousands of others around the world, had been following the progress of the Great Race for months in the papers. They were anxious to welcome the victors at the finish line on the Champs-Elysees.
Schuster’s crew pleaded with the gendarme, but he wouldn’t budge. No headlight, no entry. A frustrated Schuster was about to set off an international incident by attacking the gendarme when a bicyclist offered the Americans the headlamp from his bike. Mechanic Miller tried to unbolt the light but couldn’t pry it off. The solution: They lifted the bike onto the hood of the car and held it in place by hand. The gendarme shrugged his shoulders and waved them on. A few hours later they crossed the finish line. Victory at last!
A New Era Begins
model-tThe celebrations lasted for weeks, long enough for the Italian team, weary but unbowed, to roll into Paris on September 17 and take third place. The Great Race was officially over. The drivers and their crews became national heroes in their home countries. When the Americans got back to New York, they were given a ticker-tape parade down Fifth Avenue and invited by President Theodore Roosevelt (the first U.S. president to drive a car) to a special reception at his summer house on Long Island. Today the Thomas Flyer is on display in Harrah’s Automobile Collection in Reno, Nevada. Munich’s Deutsches Museum has the German Protos. The Italian Zust was destroyed in a fire only months after the race, but the ultimate fates of the cars involved didn’t matter. All three finishers had proved that a car could reliably and safely go anywhere in the world at any time, and under any conditions. No other form of transport could make the same claim. With the conclusion of the Great Race, the Automobile Age had officially arrived. That same year, Henry Ford put the Model T into full production on the assembly line, and the world has been car-crazy ever since.
In all the hoopla after the race, the race sponsors “neglected” to hand over the $1,000 prize money to the Thomas Flyer team. It wasn’t until 60 years later, in 1968, that the New York Times awarded the prize money to George Schuster. By then, he was the only member of his team still alive.
uncle-johnsThis article is reprinted with permission from Uncle John’s Endlessly Engrossing Bathroom Reader. This 22nd edition of the wildly popular Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series is jam-packed with their trademark mix of humor and interesting facts. Where else could you learn about the lost cloud people of Peru, the world’s first detective, and the history of surfing?
Since 1987, the Bathroom Readers’ Institute has led the movement to stand up for those who sit down and read in the bathroom (and everywhere else for that matter). With more than 15 million books in print, the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series is the longest-running, most popular series of its kind in the world.
If you like Today I Found Out, I guarantee you’ll love the Bathroom Reader Institute’s books, so check them out!

More Metal

Iron Man small
Marvel Studios today confirmed that the next instalment in the Iron Man franchise will focus on a battle between Tony Stark and Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the housewife’s choice of the Channel 4 News Team.
The film will open with a typical press interview around Tony Stark’s latest invention, which goes well until Krishnan brings up the thorny subject of Tony’s father, Howard Stark (the founding member of former weapons company, Stark Industries) – a topic which has sod-all to do with the invention that Tony is there to actually discuss.
Stark will then abruptly leave the interview but still retain his trademark likeability, quipping “it’s getting a bit too Diane Sawyer” with a charming smile, leaving Guru-Murthy embarrassed, seething with rage and swearing vengeance upon Stark.
“It’s going to be a hell of a ride” said Michael Mouse, Head of Marketing for Marvel Studios.
“I’m personally looking forward to the mid-film battle, where Guru-Murthy tracks down Stark in his coastal mansion and charges the front door with the Channel 4 News Tank, screaming ‘In today’s news: smug-faced science-bastard found crushed to death! HAHAHAHA!’.”
“It’s going to be very special.”
It is not yet known if any of the Avengers will be making cameos, but it has been confirmed that Jon Snow will be donning a black-leather cat-suit to assist Guru-Murthy, and at one point to challenge Stark’s assistant/girlfriend, Pepper Potts, to a fist-fight.
“I’m not sure whose idea that was,” sighed Michael Mouse, “actually I’m fairly sure Jon just showed up on set one day with the suit and refused to leave.”
“I guess he was just really keen to grapple around on the floor with Gwyneth Paltrow; but then, who isn’t?”

Been Meaning to Watch This

Encouraged by his Boyz n the Hood director John Singleton, rapper/actor Ice Cube decided to try to write a screenplay. His first attempt, with help from DJ Pooh, was Friday, the 1995 film that introduced the world to the comedic talents of Chris Tucker and Bernie Mac. The movie—about a day in the South Central life of Craig and Smokey, two stoners struggling to come up with $200 to pay a drug dealer—is celebrating a 20th anniversary on April 26.


With a $3.5 million budget, Friday was shot on 126th Street between Normandie and Halldale Avenues in Los Angeles. It was the street where director F. Gary Gray grew up. His childhood home is in the background when Deebo punches Red (DJ Pooh) for asking for his bike back.


When asked why he thinks Friday continues to resonate with audiences today, Gray told that "I think it’s because no matter where you’re from, you can identify with those characters. Everyone can identify with the bully, the neighborhood beauty that you had a crush on, and the troublemaking friend. It’s the same as Leave it to Beaver, if you look at what is familiar."


Gray started his professional career directing music videos, including TLC's “Waterfalls,” which won Best Video of the Year at the 1995 VMAs. He was also behind the camera for the award-winning videos for Coolio’s “Fantastic Voyage” and Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day,” which led to the motion picture collaboration with the rapper. After Friday made over six times its budget back at the box office, Gray directed the movies Set It OffThe NegotiatorA Man ApartThe Italian JobBe Cool, and Law Abiding Citizen. He also directed Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson” video.


He plays the man mopping the store floor.


Before he made his big screen debut playing craps with Smokey in the scene in which Deebo knocks Red out, Duncan appeared in commercials and worked security for Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, and Notorious B.I.G.


Wrestler-turned-actor Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr. had Crips head Eugene “Big U” Henley in mindwhen he portrayed the bike-stealing bully. After serving 13 years in jail, Henley is now a music event promoter and CEO of a youth-empowering community group.


But Gray fought for the far less known Chris Tucker, who impressed the director with his ability to improvise.


Because their laughter ruined takes, camera operators and other personnel were forced to take a break or avoid watching somehow.


"You can't make a movie high," Tucker told The AV Club. "Naw, I didn't stay in character, but it was a good movie to do. We had a lot of fun." In 2012, he told The Guardian that fans still regularly offer him pot. "They want to say they smoked with Smokey," Tucker laughs. "I'm so glad I don't smoke—I'd be high all the time."


Initially spoken to the needy Felicia by an annoyed Craig, “Bye Felicia” is currently the best way to end a conversation with someone who is bothering you. Regina King, the actress who played Ice Cube’s sister Dana, didn’t realize the phrase came from the 20-year-old movie until last fall.


Angela Means Kaaya, obviously surprised by the popularity of "Bye Felicia," received a residual check for $1.17 in 2013. In 2014, she told Ebony, "The last thing, I think, me and Cube both thought was that this was going to be a part of America’s pop culture 20 years later. I’m cool with the ‘Bye Felicia’ thing, but I tell my son, ‘Don’t put it on my tombstone.’”


Kaaya's son, Brad, was the University of Miami Hurricanes’ starting quarterback last season. He won the ACC Rookie of the Year award for his efforts.


It featured the Dr. Dre single “Keep Their Heads Ringin',” which was certified gold. The soundtrack was kicked out of the top spot after two weeks by Hootie and the Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View. Ice Cube was pleasantly surprised to discover that Rick James’ “Mary Jane” had never been used in a movie before. “You usually don’t get the Isley Brothers and a fresh Dr. Dre song," Cube told BuzzFeed. "It was a really special labor of love.”


In what has been acknowledged as a purposeful nod to his Darrin “Doughboy” Baker character in Boyz n the Hood, Ice Cube rolls out of bed in the first scene of Friday in a black shirt, shorts, high white socks, and footwear—an outfit that is very similar to what Doughboy was wearing in the last scene of Boyz n the Hood.


Cube's 21 Jump Street co-stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum caught the rapper-actor cracking up watching Friday on a plane. He claimed he was only watching it to think of ideas for a potential fourth installment of the series, but admitted to Vulture that "the sh*t was making me laugh. It was funny."


When asked about his reluctance to return to Friday's two follow-up films, Tucker told The New York Times: “People are loving it, and why mess with it when people love it? Let that just live on.”


After Mike Epps filled the Chris Tucker-sized hole as Ray Ray in Next Friday and Friday After Next, Ice Cube said he wrote Tucker and Smokey into his script for Last Friday. Unfortunately, it’s stuck in “development hell.”

Lots of Trees

The Internet is a masterstroke of environmental genius. Where we now argue about inane television plot twists, write obligatory life updates to our relatives, and receive mundane corporate memos via email, Twitter, and blogs, we could be typing out pages and sending out letters. All that content that’s housed on the World Wide Web might otherwise be wastefully printed on reams and reams of high-quality tree pulp. But just how much paper are we saving? How long would the Internet be if it were printed out in one massive book?

George Harwood and Evangeline Walker, students at the U.K.’s University of Leicester, estimate that the entire Internet could be fit onto somewhere between 68.1 billion and 136 billion pages of A4 paper, if each web page could be printed onto 15 to 30 paper pages. Their research is published in the student-run Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics.

Harwood and Walker arrived at their figure using the number of indexed pages on the web (according to one site, 4.54 billion pages as of February 2015, when they conducted their research). However, this figure doesn’t encompass the so-called Deep Web, which is not indexed by search engines and is much larger than the searchable Internet universe.

So how much of the world’s trees would be needed to print out that much paper? Assuming that each page on the searchable web is only 15 pages long on paper and that each tree can be made into 17 reams of paper, it would require a little more than 8 million trees—or about 44 square miles of Amazonian rain forest. The whole Google-able Internet could rest in your hands if you could just mow down 0.002 percent of the Amazon and turn it into reams of paper! Time to start printing and binding all those cat videos, anyone?

Welcome- 3

Gretna, Virginia

Gretna, Virginia
Old welcome sign at Gretna, Virginia. (Source)

Tisdale, Saskatchewan (Canada)

Tisdale, Saskatchewan (Canada)
The small Saskatchewan town of Tisdale is taking another look at the slogan it has used for 60 years — "Land of Rape and Honey." The community of about 3,200 people is asking residents via a survey whether that brand still works in 2015.

Rape refers to rapeseed, which has a number of varieties, including canola. However, seeing the word on the Welcome to Tisdale sign has upset some people, who point out that, fair or not, it evokes sexual assault.

The Tisdale survey does not deal with that aspect of thecontroversy, but notes that today, organic rapeseed accounts for less than one per cent of the crops grown in the region. (Source)

Gravity, Iowa

Gravity, Iowa
The Taylor County town of Gravity claims one of the state's most popular slogans: “We're down to earth. If Gravity goes, we all go.” (Source)

Toronto, Ontario (Canada)

Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
Meanwhile in Canada… (Source)