In spite of having lived and worked in Japan for a while, my command of spoken Japanese is pretty much limited to “Good morning,” “Thank you,” and “One beer, please.” So I don’t really know whether this game show event is the contest – or the prize.
Is it still Hump Day when it’s a short week? Well, close enough.
Here’s an interesting science-ey tidbit: On The Other Hand. Excerpt:
With almost complete certainty, I can predict that you, dear reader, are right-handed. If I were a betting man, I’d put money on it. I’d make the same bet if you were reading this in India or Iowa, Kansas or Kathmandu. And a hundred years from now, I’d make the same bet again.
I can be so sure of myself not because I am some prodigious prognosticator, but because about 90 percent of humans are right-handed. That phenotypic ratio—nine right-handed people for every lefty—is relatively stable, not just across cultures and geographic regions, but perhaps across the span of human evolution. The archaeological record suggests that hominins were predominantly right-handed as far back as 2 million years ago, and a 2010 study of the wear patterns on 32,000-year-old Neanderthal teeth found that this extinct cousin of Homo sapiens was likely about 88 percent right-handed.
Apparently since the right-to-left ratio holds up in antipodal locations like Australia, the Coriolis Effect is not responsible for the great skew in human handedness. Go figure.
How about you, True Believers? Yr. obdt. is among the aforementioned 90%, but loyal sidekick and hunting partner Rat is a southpaw, and I suspect he occasionally finds his right-handed 700 Remington awkward to handle in a hurry.
But there are occasional silver linings to everything. Some years back I found a nicely sporterized 1903 Springfield sitting on a gun show table, priced at the rather unbelievable $250, and finding no takers. It even had a rather old but perfectly clear Weaver 3X scope mounted.
“The damn thing has that left-handed stock on it,” the seller told me, “so nobody looks twice at it.” Sure enough, it had a nice blonde walnut stock with a cheekpiece – on what for me, was the wrong side of the stock.
I offered the seller $150. He accepted. I took the rifle home, took it apart, took a big cabinet rasp and scraped every hint of that cheekpiece off. After sanding the stock smooth and refinishing it with a nice linseed oil finish, I took the gun to the range and discovered it was a great shooter, easily putting five shots into an inch and a half with Federal 180-grain factory loads, with the old Weaver still in place.
Eventually I took the rifle back to a show along with the targets I’d shot with it and sold it for $375.
Opportunities are where you find them.
The Obama Administration is fond of claiming that the economy is recovering, but for the third year in a row, over 45 million people are on food stamps. Excerpt:
According to the Department of Agriculture’s most recently released data, the number of individuals enrolled in the food stamp program (known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) has remained above 45 million every single month for three years straight.
In May 2011, 45,410,683 individuals received food stamps. As of May 2014 (the most recent date for which data are available), 46,225,054 people were on food stamps. At no point between the two dates did the number of food stamp enrollments ever fall below the 45 million mark.
Food stamp enrollments have soared due to President Barack Obama’s categorical eligibility provisions, aggressive enrollment marketing, a bleak economy, and intense lobbying by large corporations who bag millions of taxpayer dollars as food stamp enrollments climb. Indeed, a report by the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) found that JP Morgan bagged well over half a billion dollars ($560,492,596) since 2004 processing the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards of 18 of the 24 states it holds contracts with.
Only last Friday we discussed where the food stamp program should be going, and how it should be administered. But on top of that discussion, there is one line above that is troublesome: “Food stamp enrollments have soared due to President Barack Obama’s categorical eligibility provisions, aggressive enrollment marketing…”
Why the holy living hell is the Imperial Federal government conducting “aggressive enrollment marketing” for food stamps? Who (aside from JP Morgan) is profiting from this explosion in transfer payments? Is it not enough that transfer payments have exploded right along with Imperial debt in the last six years – must we spend more taxpayer dollars to advertise these payments?
Is this the way to economic growth? No, it is not; not only no but hell no. This is the way to fiscal ruin.
Not really a blue Monday, but some traditions are too good to ignore. And speaking of totty, thanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links! Make sure to check out the extensive Rule Five linkfest.
No links or news today – off here in a few minutes to enjoy a (for once) work-free Labor Day. But it’s worth noting that here we are on the first of September already, in the ninth month of a year that seems like it has only just begun. Where the hell does the time go? Upon a time it seemed the summer lasted forever, or as close as made no difference.
Within the next few weeks the aspen will be turning in the high country. Elk will start to bugle, the sage country mulies will be shedding antler velvet, and gangs of yearling grouse will be fattening on berries and grasshoppers, making them toothsome and ripe for the frying pan.
The year may be going by too quickly, but there is one consolation – some of the best eating of the year is coming up.
Here’s something yr. obdt. has been saying for years: Bring Back the Welfare Stigma. Excerpt:
At one time, public assistance was looked upon as a moderate failure—not an irredeemable sin or uncorrectable wrong, but something you wanted to avoid if possible. European socialists realized a long time ago that such well-intentioned opprobrium served to weaken the dependent bond between citizen and state, which is why you can find single mothers on 20 years of welfare across the pond: continental leftists figured this game out a long time ago, well before the sad sacks at Richmond Public Schools. If you want to see the future of American welfare in the hands of people like Superintendent Bedden, look to Europe, where many countries have de-stigmatized their way into astronomical debt levels and widespread, chronic citizen helplessness.
Here’s a relative excerpt from my own Animal’s Manifesto:
It is not the proper role of government to shield people from the consequences of their bad decisions. There will always be a need for a modern, prosperous society to care for the truly helpless, such as people disabled through no fault of their own, children with no adults to care for them, and so forth. But the lazy, the indigent, the irresponsible – they have no moral claim on the fruits of the labor of the industrious. Government, and only government, has the power to tax – to claim a portion of your resources with force of law, with the implied threat of armed force if you try to abstain. In our age of ever-increasing welfare entitlements, that government has claimed a portion of every taxpayer’s proceeds toward just such a shield – requiring the industrious to toil longer and harder to support the indigent.
To add to that – yes, there should be some stigma attached to taking a handout from the taxpayers. Food stamps, for example; here are some conditions recipients should face:
- Do away with the EBT cards. Food stamps should be a variation on their original form – large, paper, clearly marked “Food Assistance Voucher.”
- And vouchers they should be, limited to only certain items. Bulk rice, beans, potatoes, lean chicken, ground beef, and so on. No prepared foods, no frozen foods, no soda pop, no candy. And for those who cry “you can’t tell people what they can and can’t eat,” the only reply is “if they are spending other people’s money, we sure as hell can.”
- Locations should likewise be strictly limited. No convenience stores, no oven-ready pizza places, no premium meat shops. Only traditional grocery stores – Safeway, Kroger, Super Walmarts and the like.
As stated in the Manifesto and many other times in these pages, it is not the role of government (read that: the taxpayers, and read that: productive citizens) to shield people from the consequences of their own bad decisions.
The linked article concludes:
Those who have truly fallen on hard times deserve our genuine sympathy, and we should not snarl at them for turning to as easy and accessible a source of relief as government welfare. Yet we should also avoid making needy people feel comfortable being dependent upon the government. To do so is would not be merely bad public policy—it would be disingenuous and harmful to poor people, who more than anything need the mental and emotional drive to be free from government dependence.
Hear hear! And add this to a long, long list of bad policies to come out of the Imperial City in the last couple of decades.
Well, that solves that mystery; First Observation of Death Valley’s Sliding Rocks. Excerpt:
A dry lake in Death Valley, called Racetrack Playa, is home to the famous “sailing stones.” These large rocks, some of which weigh up to 700 pounds, leave behind long trails in the dirt, indicating that something — or someone — has been moving them. (See photo above.) But how?
Conspiracy theorists and others with active imaginations have implicated aliens (of course), powerful magnetic fields, or just plain old magic as the culprit behind the mysterious phenomenon. More serious speculators suggested dust devils or a combination of rain and strong wind. These explanations, however, are wrong.
Death Valley is an interesting place. Mrs. Animal, yr. obdt. and a couple of the kids visited there a few years back at the worst possible time – late July. It was 130+ F at Badwater when we got out and walked around the big salt flats and saw the shallow, simmering waters there.
It’s hard to describe that kind of heat; at some point superlatives fail to do the place credit. The only place I’ve felt comparable heat was in the late spring of 1991 in southern Iraq and northern Saudi Arabia. It’s the kind of heat that makes if difficult to breathe. Your lungs seize up, crying to you “Hey! This is way above operating specs! Don’t you know you can’t breathe this stuff?”
Give me southern Alaska and the never-above-70 climate any time.
But it’s an interesting place, made all the more so by the fact that the mystery of the sliding rocks is due to – yes, really – ice.
Still. If we ever visit Death Valley again, January sounds like about the right time.
Well, in the wake of the round of legalizations, you can now get pot soda. Excerpt:
A cannabis-infused fizzy drink is now on sale in the state of Washington as part of the ever-expanding US market for legal pot products.
Less than two months after recreational cannabis became legal in the west coast state, Washingtonians can now get their highs out of a soda bottle.
The drinks, called Legal, come in cherry, lemon and pomegranate flavours but are all infused with 10mg of liquid cannabis. The drinks cost around $10 (£6).
They are being marketed as a gentler alternative to smoking that could be attractive to those still wary about cannabis.
As marijuana becomes legal more places (as yr. obdt. suspects will happen) we’ll start seeing more of this kind of thing. In our own Colorado we are already seeing cannabis in a plethora of forms; in candies, in oils, in the inevitable baked goods (brownies and more) and in the traditional smokeable form.
The free market is a wonderful thing.
The linked article concludes:
For now the fizzy drinks will only be sold in Washington’s certified cannabis dispensaries but could one day be available on supermarket shelves.
Recreational cannabis became legal in Washington state in July, making it the second state to legalise cannabis after Colorado began sales in January.
Voters in Alaska and Oregon, Washington’s neighbouring state, will have their say on similar measures during referenda in November.
There is every reason to expect the measure will pass in Oregon. It may well pass in notoriously hands-off Alaska, too. This is a social trend that has legs. They may be a bit unsteady, but they are there.
Do Animals Have True Language? Excerpt:
From ultrasonic bat chirps to eerie whale songs, the animal kingdom is a noisy place. While some sounds might have meaning — typically something like “I’m a male, aren’t I great?” — no other creatures have a true language except for us. Or do they?
A new study on animal calls has found that the patterns of barks, whistles, and clicks from seven different species appear to be more complex than previously thought. The researchers used mathematical tests to see how well the sequences of sounds fit to models ranging in complexity.
In fact, five species including the killer whale and free-tailed bat had communication behaviors that were definitively more language-like than random.
Such studies are interesting because they may shed some light on how humans developed language, somewhere (probably) around the Homo ergaster/Homo erectus stage.
But there’s a big difference between a whale’s pattern of clicks and whistles and the works of Shakespeare – or Asimov. The bigger part of that difference, one that makes it a difference of kind rather than one of degree, is the capacity to grasp abstract concepts – symbology. Humans probably didn’t have that capacity until what anthropologist Jared Diamond calls the “Great Leap Forward,” about 30-35,000 years ago.
What’s that mean, pertaining to the study linked above? Simply this: while animal communications may well be more complex than we thought, they are still a quantum leap away from human-type language.
While I was never a big Jackson Five fan, here is one of the best scenes from what is almost certainly the best movie of the summer. If you haven’t yet, True Believers, go see a story of “a thief, two thugs, an assassin and a maniac.” Go see Guardians of the Galaxy.