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Saturday, February 11, 2006
Around the World in 76 Hours
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:14 pm

Via CNN: Fossett breaks record; makes emergency landing.

Ok, adventure is cool and all, but I must confess to having a burning question: WHY?

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That’s Just Plain Weird
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:47 am

Via the BBC: Voodoo head found in air luggage

US immigration officials have arrested a Haitian woman after baggage screeners found a human head in her luggage at a Florida airport.

Myrlene Severe, 30, has been charged with failing to declare the head on a customs form and transporting “hazardous material”.

And her name is “Severe”-ya gotta love it.

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Voodoo head can’t ward off US Customs » OddJack, the Gambling Guide - Casino, Poker, Sports Betting, Horse Racing linked with [...] and blood of their messiah, which they intend to eat. [American Samizdat] That’s just plain weird. And by the way, the culprit’s surname is “Sever [...]
Saturday, February 4, 2006
Ferry Captain Allegedly Fled Sinking Ship
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:55 am

Via Reuters: Red Sea ferry survivors say captain fled

Survivors of the Red Sea ferry disaster said on Saturday the Egyptian captain had fled his burning ship by lifeboat and abandoned them to their fate, as hopes faded of finding some 800 missing people.

Some passengers, plucked alive from the sea or from boats after the ferry caught fire and sank early on Friday, said crew members had told them not to worry about the blaze below deck and even ordered them to take off lifejackets.


Rescue workers have recovered 195 bodies from the Red Sea and saved 400 people, but about 800 more, most of them Egyptian workers returning from Saudi Arabia, are missing.

If the account in the story is accurate, then this tragedy could have been averted had they turned the boat around once the fire broke out, and especially once it started to list. And I don’t think that the approved solution for averting panic is to simply tell everyone to take their life jackets off.

Sadly, it doesn’t appear that most of the passengers will found alive (via the NYT): Egyptian Ferry Sinks in Red Sea; 1,000 May Be Lost

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Friday, February 3, 2006
Red Sea Tragedy
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:47 am

Via CNN: Ship with 1,400 sinks in Red Sea.

So far only about 100 have been found alive.

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Thursday, February 2, 2006
Phil Sees His Shadow
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:12 am

Via WaPo Punxsutawney Groundhog Sees His Shadow

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, but it was hard to find a complainer in the crowd on Gobbler’s Knob, where the morning temperature was well above freezing and Thursday’s high was expected to hit 48 degrees.

There were a few boos at the groundhog’s prediction of six more weeks of winter, but most of the hundreds of revelers instead turned the event into an impromptu Pittsburgh Steelers rally.

Really, how does one know that the giant rodent in question saw his shadow?

I will say that Groundhog Day is a fantastic flick, Groundhog Days itself is a bit of a yawner.

Amusingly, Middle Son asked me this morning: “Dad, did that animal see its shadow”?

And, according to the story, it seems that the issue is really whether he casts a shadow or not:

The Germans believed that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow Feb. 2 _ the Christian holiday of Candlemas _ winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says spring will come early.

According to the Groundhog Club, Phil has now seen his shadow 96 times, hasn’t seen it 14 times and there are no records for nine years.

The last time Phil failed to see his shadow was in 1999.

Surely, then, the issues is less about the animal, than about the lighting conditions?

And now I know we can blame all of this on the Germans.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006
North v. South
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:58 am

Mike Munger explores the endless terrain of the linguistic differences between those from the North and those from the South.

One of my favorites:

R’s can’t be destroyed. Sure, northerners take R’s off of some words: cah. pahk. But they add them to others: idea(r). And it always turns out right: “I have an idea(r): Let’s take the cah and pahk it over at Donna(r)’s house.”

Which led to the following comment:

Many a time I have mocked my mom for her (mis)pronunciation of the Chicken Caeser Pita, or as she calls it, the Chicken Caesah Peter.

Along those lines, but not with R’s, is one I have never fully understood. A lawyer I worked for in college used to pronounce the word “Pictures”
“Picstures” (or maybe “pixtures”). As in “go take some picstures of product X for the patent application.” He was originally from Philly.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Ways Not to Cure Hiccups
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:27 pm

Via Reuters: Hiccups lead to two shooting deaths in Colombia:

A Colombian man accidentally shot his nephew to death while trying to cure his hiccups by pointing a revolver at him to scare him, police in the Caribbean port city of Barranquilla said on Tuesday.

After shooting 21-year-old university student David Galvan in the neck, his uncle, Rafael Vargas, 35, was so distraught he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide, police said.

Oh, my.

And that leads to the inevitable:

“They were drinking but they were aware of what was going on,” one witness said.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006
Lost in Translation
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:28 pm

I just spent some time on the phone helping my grandparents (who are in their 80s) hook up a DVD player to an ancient (technologically speaking) TV (with added complication that is hooked up to a DirectTV setup that requires watching normal programming via Channel 22).

After much back and forth and getting an RF Modulator hooked up, we finally got it to work.

However, after all of that they noted that they had the DVD player working, but the name of the movie was onscreen, but it was frozen and wouldn’t do anything. It was, of course, the menu for the disc, but when one is used to only VHS tapes, the concept is quite foreign. It took me a second to realize that there was no reason they should intuitively know what to do with such a menu (and the fact that the DVD player’s remote was improperly setup didn’t help). At any rate, it just struck me as to the degree that as society has become more technologically driven that we acquire a “language” of sorts linked to the way the world works. And just like picking up human languages, the older one gets, the harder a time one has with the techno-language, especially if one is from a generation wherein there was never any initial training in “techno” in the first place.

If one finds a DVD menu foreign, it is no wonder that hooking up the darn thing is difficult. Indeed, in having such conversations, I am frequently struck by the number of assumptions that I make about various electronic devices that someone who isn’t conversant in “techno” would never make, and the difficulty one has in explaining the item-much like trying to explain an idiomatic expression from one language to another. It is rarely a straightforward thing.

And thank Goodness for the internet, as I was able to pull up the manual for their DVD player and a picture of the RF Modulator while I was talking him through the process-otherwise I would never have figured out his remote control problem.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Today’s Methods Lesson: Causality
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:15 pm

Willian Saletan at Slate notes a study that has been publicized today about the correlation between lack of sexual activity and having a tv in one’s bedroom (Boob or Tube? Does bedroom TV kill your sex life? By William Saletan. However, Saletan asks a salient question that any good social scientist should ask in such a study:

The study did not make clear whether 1) putting a TV in your bedroom makes you have less sex or 2) having less sex makes you put a TV in your bedroom.

Remember: correlation isn’t causation!

Meanwhile, I guess he didn’t have a tv in his bedroom: Scientists discover most fertile Irish male

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:04 pm

BTW, if anyone has sent me an e-mail that I haven’t responded to as yet, please know that I am not ignoring you. Between dealing with my computer troubles from last week and various other factors I am simply behind.

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The Phantom
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:26 am

Via the BBC: Phantom musical surpasses record

I have never been to New York City, but I did see the Phantom of the Opera in Los Angeles (I think at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion) around 16 or so years ago, with Michael Crawford playing the Phantom. I went with my then-fiancée, a friend of hers, and the now-Permanent Guest Blogger, Steven L.

It was fantastic show, and I am not surprised that it has now surpassed Cats, which I have never seen I must confess, as the longest running show on Broadway. NPR’s Morning Edition had a nice story about the Phantom this morning.

Speaking of Cats, that reminds me of a bit Letterman used to do years ago where he would sing the following lyrics to the tune of Memories from Cats:

Midnight, and the kitties are sleeping
all alone by the fire
while the birdies are cheeping

It may not translate to print, but for some reason, that used to crack me up. Partially it was the way he sang it.

Ok, back to work.

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The Florida Masochist linked with To glance behind
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:18 am

I have decided that the word “mainstream” (which is subjective to being with) has lost all meaning in the context of judicial nomination hearings. Senator Schumer has long politicized the word in this context and now Senators Graham Cornyn have decided to up the political ante.

As such, it has become a word that I almost cringe to hear out the mouths of Senators in this context.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2006
Mining Tragedy
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:34 am

Via the BBC: US mine ‘rescue’ turns to tragedy

Families of 11 US miners found dead have expressed anger and disbelief at communications failings which led them to believe their loved ones were alive.

Relatives were celebrating a “miracle” when they were told only one of the 12 West Virginia miners had survived.

My word-if there was any way to make this situation worse, that was it.

My heart goes out to the families, what a terrible thing to happen.

And they thought that the men were alive for three hours:

Families had been celebrating news of their menfolk’s survival inside a local church for nearly three hours before they were told the truth.

Based on the NPR report it sounds like it was either an overly-optimistic assessment or a miscommunication. Regardless, it doesn’t sound as if the situation was handled well.

At least one man made it out alive.

Via WaPo: 12 Found Dead in W.Va. Coal Mine:

The first joyous announcement, of a “miracle,” was the result of a “miscommunication,” a mining company official said. The second tragic announcement, from the same official, came at roughly 2:00 a.m., interrupting and then silencing the church bells, the whoops of joy and the preparations for reunion with loved ones, who they thought had somehow escaped death 13,000 feet into the earth.

On how the incorrect information got out:

Officials and rescue supervisors were gathered at a command post near the mine when the voice of a rescue worker crackled loudly over a speaker phone, saying they had found 12 miners and were checking their vital signs.

Somehow, Hatfield and everyone else in the room who heard the call believed they were being told the men were alive.

Word spread rapidly to the relatives. It is unclear who was the first to tell them, though Hatfield at one point said they learned as the result of a “stray cell phone call.”

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The Florida Masochist linked with Tragedy at Sago- Lets pray instead of blame
Monday, January 2, 2006
Wow: Rain.
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:40 am

At the Rose Parade. That’s a new one (or, at least, it has been so long since the last time it rained that it qualifies as a new one).

Having lived in SoCal, I know that it is taken as almost an article of faith that it won’t rain on the Rose Parade, so no doubt some of the parade organizers were freaking out this morning.

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Sunday, January 1, 2006
A Question…
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:21 pm

While really a biological question, it is one that has certain existential overtones:

Exactly how much mucus can a human body produce?

I mean, gee-freakin’-whiz already.

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