Monthly Archives: July 2008


Pax Arcana

As erstwhile Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez furiously pedals his 10-speed down Landsdowne Street looking for the subway to Los Angeles, we gather in this great hall to offer our heartiest congratulations — nay, congratufugginlations — to those who made this all possible.

Congratufugginlations #1:
The Boston Red Sox

Manny’s not necessarily the most astute or well-spoken person, but you have to admit he had a point when he told ESPN Deportes that the Red Sox had made a mission out of painting him as a bad guy. Regardless of how sick the Sox were of his supposed “antics,” they play things differently when they want to justify a trade. First, someone leaked the Jack McCormick story to Sean McAdam — a convenient, if wholly uncharacteristic, departure from the team’s usual silence on personal issues. The Sox brass then turned up the heat, openly deriding Manny for his trade wishes. Manny responded predictably — by tanking it for a few games — and the furor grew. Congratufugginlations, Red Sox, you outsmarted Manny Ramirez. Maybe next time you’ll find a more challenging adversary, like a goldfish or a hamster or something.

Congratufugginlations #2: Manny Ramirez

Here’s the thing, Manny. At the beginning of the season, you knew the Red Sox were unlikely to sign you to an extension. They were either going to pick up your 2009 option (if you played out of your mind) or they were going to cut you loose (if you played badly). Both options blocked you from signing one last big deal. So you did the honorable thing and came out swinging — at baseballs. You played well, but not spectacularly. And you sent the message to the Sox that you either wanted a new deal or you wanted out of town. Then they publicly painted you as some kind of cross between Mata Hari and the Kraken. At this point, your only option was to eat a whole bucket of humble pie, play hard, and boost your trade value. You did the opposite. Now you play for one of the truly poorly-run organizations in all of baseball. But hey, at least no one watches Dodger games. Congratufugginlations.

Congratufugginlations #3: L.A. Dodgers

The Dodgers are one of baseball’s most storied franchises. Snider, Robinson, Larsen, Koufax, Lopes, Garvey, Valenzuela, Gibson, Hersheiser, Lasorda — all powerful and important names to baseball lovers. Then they ran Paul DePodesta out of town and hired Ned Colletti, who in the course of just a few seasons managed to basically ruin a proud MLB franchise while handing out sacks full of gold bullion to Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones, and Rafael Furcal. Even worse, Colletti is desperate to trade genuine, cheap, young talents Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp for overpaid sluggers. Why? Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown. Congratufugginlations, L.A. Dodgers, you only need Manny to hit 522 homeruns this year to be relevant.

Congratufugginlations #4: Red Sox Nation

A few years ago, when Boston won its first World Series in 86 years, a popular and stupid question to ask was how the legions of Red Sox fans would respond now that they had nothing to complain about. Four years later, the answer is clear. They would still complain about anything and everything that stumbled in front of their collective three-decker porch. And when Sox management spoon-fed the local media tales of Manny’s supposed clubhouse depredation, Red Sox Nation in the aggregate put down its steak bomb and its Marlboro Lights and turned on the anger jets — aiding and abetting the Sox effort to purge the second greatest hitter in Red Sox history from the payroll without taking a PR hit. Congratufugginlations, Red Sox Nation, and enjoy the 2010 season when suddenly David Ortiz is an orphan-kicking nihilist with ties to crack dealers. You heard it here first.


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MIT researchers have captured the Sun

Pax Arcana

In dramatic leap forward for humankind, researchers from MIT have announced that humans are almost as smart as plants.

Specifically, they say we are close to an inexpensive, efficient mechanism for storing energy from the sun — a process modeled on photosynthesis that could go a long way to saving us from the carbon-emitting power sources on which we now rely. Sound too good to be true? Yeah, it does, doesn’t it. But these guys are freakin’ serious about this:

“This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind,” said Barber, the Ernst Chain Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College London. “The importance of their discovery cannot be overstated since it opens up the door for developing new technologies for energy production thus reducing our dependence for fossil fuels and addressing the global climate change problem.”

And that’s from a guy who wasn’t even involved.

Here’s how it works: the scientists built a contraption that inserts a few doohickies mixed with some chemicals and compounds and shit into some water, then they hit the “Go” button and BAM! — clean energy, motherfuckers.

On second thought, let’s let them explain it:

The key component in Nocera and Kanan’s new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity — whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source — runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it’s easy to set up, Nocera said. “That’s why I know this is going to work. It’s so easy to implement,” he said.

The best part is that scientists say that every hour the Sun hits the Earth with enough energy to power the entire planet for a full year.

That’s awesome. I love this discovery. I love it so much I want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant. Man I miss 30 Rock. Am I still talking?

‘Major discovery’ from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution [MIT]


Filed under science

Thursday trade deadline filler: Zombie Haiku

Pax Arcana

Padre and I have been a bit tied up today with fantasy football preparations meetings, and any Internet time is spent monitoring the ongoing silliness of the Manny Ramirez situation (my humble take: You have to be dumber than a fucking house full of boogers to think the Red Sox are better off without Manny in 2008).

To make it up to you, here is a video clip of zombies reciting haiku. Ahh zombies are scary we’re so frightened etc etc

Hat tip: Boing Boing


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Ancient Greek computer had an Olympic calendar widget

Pax Arcana

The Antikythera Mechanism is widely thought to be the oldest analog computer ever found. Hauled from the depths of the Aegean Sea in 1900, the computer was constructed of a series of interlocking gears of different sizes that worked together to reconcile the lunar month calendar with the solar year calendar.

Researchers used new 3-D X-ray tomography technology to identify the names of the months on the back of one of the dials. They were surprised to learn that the computer’s origin was likely Corinthian, and not Rhodesian:

The mechanism’s connection with the Corinthians was unexpected, the researchers said, because other cargo in the shipwreck appeared to be from the eastern Mediterranean, places like Kos, Rhodes and Pergamon. The months inscribed on the instrument, they wrote, are “practically a complete match” with those on calendars from Illyria and Epirus in northwestern Greece and with the island of Corfu. Seven months suggest a possible link with Syracuse.


Anyway, the cool part of the story is buried near the bottom. It turns out that while they were at it, the Greeks attached a separate dial for tracking the pan-Hellenic games, otherwise known as the Olympics. The four-year cycle was a “common framework for chronology” in ancient Greece, according to the researchers.

It is likely that some researchers will reconstruct the mechanism and demonstrate the power of ancient computers. Then the open source community will demand to see the specs on dial sizes and numbers of gear teeth. Then Apple will come out with a smaller, easier to use version that also stores 50,000 MP3s. Then Google will come out with its own Olympic calendar widget. Then someone will develop a Metonian calendar Facebook application. Then someone will coin the phrase “Web 2.Ω” and write a best-seller about how applying the ancient wisdom of Greek computer makers can improve your bottom line.

Man. I’m full of ideas.

Discovering How Greeks Computed in 100 B.C. [New York Times]

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The Red Sox are good for you

Pax Arcana

It appears that watching punchy ragamuffin Dustin Pedroia trot around the bases (and pump his arms like an officious schoolyard bully from Our Gang) is not only annoying to Yankee fans, but may also make Red Sox fans healthier. Or something.

Can D.P. cure your V.D.?

Freakonomics points to a three-year-old issue of a Blue Cross & Blue Shield publication called HealthDay that reports that Boston-area hospitals reported fewer emergency room cases during important Red Sox games during their 2004 championship season. Tracking both Nielsen TV viewership numbers and local emergency room visits, the researchers found an average of 31 emergency room visits per hour among all playoff games.

But the story gets more interesting depending on who’s winning:

The last games of the American League championship and World Series were the most watched, respectively, as the Red Sox showed off their winning ways. Between 55 percent and 60 percent of Boston-area households tuned in to each of these games, and during those times ER visits dropped about 15 percent below normal volume.

The fifth American League game — a Red Sox victory coming on the heels of a surprising late-in-the-game comeback in the series’ fourth game — also had strong viewership, and ER attendance during this game dropped to 5 percent below normal, the researchers found.

On the other hand, a Red Sox loss in the third American League game against the Yankees and their near-loss in the fourth game in that series provoked a drop in viewership. During those less-than-stellar Red Sox performances, visits to the ER rose to 15 percent above normal, the researchers reported.

The researchers say the most likely explanation is that people feeling ill will postpone their visits to the ER if there is an exciting game on the tube. Many doctors say this is in itself is a symptom of the growing trend of people using emergency rooms for convenience rather than emergencies. I say there are only two types of bagels worth eating — sesame bagels and everything bagels.

When Red Sox Are Hot, ER Visits Cool [HealthDay]


Filed under baseball

Wednesday Filler: Grammar Nerds

Pax Arcana

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Don’t eat that green shit

Pax Arcana

Late yesterday we received a warning that is bound to make Father Scott’s beard fall right the fuck off — the Food and Drug Administration says eating Maine lobsters can kill you.

OK that’s not exactly the story. The story is that state and local officials in Massachusetts and New Hampshire have discovered high levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) in tomalley from American (aka Maine) lobsters.

Oh yeah, tomalley is that green shit inside the lobster. Don’t eat that green shit:

The FDA advisory applies only to tomalley, the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of the lobster that functions as the liver and pancreas. Cooking does not eliminate the PSP toxins. However, studies have shown that, even when high levels of PSP toxins are present in lobster tomalley, lobster meat itself is typically unaffected.

My globally-renowned scientific acumen tells me that if the toxins are so weak that they can affect one part of the lobster’s body while sparing the others, they present little danger to humans. Let’s take a closer look at what PSP does to you:

Symptoms of PSP include tingling and/or numbness of the mouth, face or neck; muscle weakness; headache; and nausea. In extreme cases, when large amounts of the toxin are consumed, these symptoms can lead to respiratory failure and death. Symptoms usually occur within two hours of exposure to the toxin. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention.


OK, really — don’t eat that green shit!

FDA Advises Against Consumption of American Lobster (Maine Lobster) Tomalley []


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Afroninja has a movie now

Pax Arcana

If are reading this post on the Internet (as opposed to our poorly-planned monthly microfiche subscription plan) you’ve probably already seen this clip of a guy successfully completing 80% of a backflip, then getting right up and swinging dazedly at the last remnants of his self-respect with a pair of nun chucks:

The clip, called “Afroninja” on YouTube, has been viewed an estimated 80 million times according to Wired. The, um, star of the video — actually an audition tape — says he was just jet-lagged and “opened” too early on the backflip:

I had flown back from Hong Kong [in 2004] where I was working on Ultraviolet to audition for a Nike commercial with [NBA basketball player] LeBron James. I was jet-lagged, but I got up there, did a back-flip, but opened a little early, came down and knocked myself silly — as everyone in the world has now seen. But what most people don’t know is that I rested, let a few other people audition, got back up and did a 540 and 720 [-degree, spinning high kick] and booked the job.

And that’s not all. He also booked Marla Gibbs (Florence from “The Jeffersons”) to co-star in a movie loosely based on the clip. Mr. Afroninja himself (real name Mark Hicks) wrote, directed and stars in the movie. Here he is describing his approach:

The story is directly based on the clip, which plays a very, very large role in the film. It’s about the fourth time I’ve re-created that clip — I’ve done it for an HP commercial, for this movie, for the Weezer video…. We wanted to attack this thing the same way it got popular, by utilizing the internet as much as possible. Our plan of action is a viral-marketing approach, along with the traditional ways of marketing and selling movies. We’re working with several distributors to get the film out in October and on DVD.

I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say that Afroninja: Destiny, is likely to be recognized as the greatest achievement in the history of global cinema ever. Don’t believe me? Check it this clip and consider your mind blown:

All I know is, we could use a few more like him in the Brotherhood of the Flying Shark Vikings.

‘Afroninja’ Turns Bungled Stunt Into Big-Screen Destiny [Wired]

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The call was coming from inside the house

Pax Arcana

One of the surest ways to define yourself as a political or media blogger is to regularly assault the MSM (MainStream Media) for being either derelict of duty or outright in the tank for whatever political side you argue against.

The Huffington Post, a political Web site with only 12 million or so more readers than Pax Arcana, even offers a regular feature called Unearthed: News of the Week the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report in which political scion Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and some guy you’ve never heard of bring you the important news that slipped through the cracks.

Except that it doesn’t. As pointed out by Dan Mitchell in a letter to the Romenesko journalism forum, nearly every story reported on the site linked to a mainstream news outlet. Meaning all those “overlooked” stories weren’t overlooked at all. In fact, they were, you know, reported:

This could be a great service if the column actually “unearthed” anything – which would take some work and perhaps even actual reporting. But, incredibly, nearly every single item they post is based on, and actually links to, a mainstream media story. They cite stories by The New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN, and many other mainstream media outlets as proof that the mainstream media isn’t covering those stories.

It’s beyond bizarre. These men are not merely doubting reality — they are using reality itself to cast doubt on reality.

Mitchell pointed this fact out in the comments section of the site, but his comment was deleted.

In the old days, it was the print guys who complained about the TV guys taking all the credit for stories. Back in my newspaper days, I once saw a local TV reporter walking down Main Street of the town I covered doing a story I’d done the day before. In her hand was a copy of my article with little notes on it. Obviously the station didn’t credit me or the newspaper for, you know, coming up with the story in the first place and doing all the reporting. But as newspaper people we accepted that as part of the game.

It’s easy to forget in the Internet era, when stories and images bounce from place to place like Plinko disks, that almost without exception those stories were generated by paid professionals working for established news-gathering organizations. Call them names if you want to (trust me, they can handle it) but let’s not all forget where our bread is buttered.

Unearthed: News of the Week the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report [Huffington Post]
When smart people turn into blithering idiots [Romenesko Letters]


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New York cops love bicyclists

Pax Arcana

To protect and serve, with the meaty forearms of justice.

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