Archive for the ‘super fun facts’ Category

Oh also, check out my kickstarter!

July 27, 2012

I am not sure how, but WordPress stats show that this blog still gets like 50 hits every day! There was one post that was featured in the “City Room” section of the New York Times website years ago, so maybe that accounts for it. In any case, maybe some of you random folks out there would care to take a look at my kickstarter project and donate a couple bucks. Thanks!

PSA: Cell Phone Radiation

March 4, 2010

The latest Environmental Working Group PSA seeks to raise our awareness of radiation generated by cell phones, and proffers a number of interesting recommendations.

My favorite is #3: LISTEN MORE, TALK LESS
According to EWG, “Your phone emits radiation when you talk or text, but not when you’re receiving messages. Listening more and talking less reduces your exposures.”

But if you refrain from talking, won’t your unfortunate conversation partner talk even more, to fill in the awkward gaps? Is their health less important than your own? Of course, if they’re in the know, they’ll also try to keep from talking…aaaand hilarity ensues.

Perspective

March 27, 2009

Over 25,000 children die every day around the world.

That is equivalent to:

* 1 child dying every 3.5 seconds
* 17-18 children dying every minute
* A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring almost every 1.5 weeks
* An Iraq-scale death toll every 16–38 days
* Over 9 million children dying every year
* Some 70 million children dying between 2000 and 2007

(Source: globalissues.org)

Various analyses indicate that the major causes of death are hunger, sanitation, preventable disease, etc.

Let’s say (and believe me, this is a hypothetical [to quote Office Space rather obliquely]) that you’re going through some kind of emotional turmoil about something, or someone. Simply pause, take a few deep breaths, and remember that the world is such an unbelievably fucked up place that nothing you do or care about really means much anyway. Sounds a little dark, I know. But that’s just the way things are.

On a recent trip to the majestic Pacific Northwest, I befriended a Buddhist nun who reminded me of the simple and profound pleasure of breathing. Ultimately that’s all you have to go on…and that too is transient.

Arundhati Roy has also provided some words of strength, life tips that I like to think about — which is why I placed them on the top right of this page. She’s witnessed and examined much more of the world’s general fucked-up-ness than you or I can imagine, and she’s analyzed the insidious structure and functions of our lovely global capitalist system to a depth that I can’t really fathom. And yet she retains an essentially positive outlook on all this gruesome reality. I have to respect that.

Disruptive Civil Technologies

February 25, 2009

So I was rummaging around for topics for an upcoming “IR of East Asia” presentation and I found this website where you can look over declassified National Intelligence Estimates. NIEs are like studies that the 3-letter intelligence agencies use to present information to the rest of 3-letter intelligence agencies…so you get the low down on what the State is worrying about.

The funniest one here is “Disruptive Civil Technologies: Six Technologies With Potential Impacts on US Interests Out to 2025“. (PDF)

Said six technologies are:

  • “biogerontechnology” — i.e. technology for slowing aging and extending the human lifespan
  • energy storage materials — batteries and whatnot
  • biofuels and bio-based chemicals
  • clean coal technologies
  • service robotics (!)
  • “the internet of things” (IoT) — i.e. household items being perpetually connected to the internet

They proceed to go through and break down all the ways that each one could impact the world with respect to US dominance. Who knows if any of this will come to pass — I’m particularly skeptical about “clean coal” — but I think the whole idea of the report is intriguing, like they’re setting the scene for some kind of pulp science fiction novel.

The annual Global Trends report is also worth looking at, though it’s less goofy and it gets usually some press when it comes out, so you probably know about the findings already.

The Boys in Green

October 24, 2008

So I’ve been furrowing my brow upon this Green revolution stuff, not only because of the strong capitalist bent to it and the glaring lack of political feasibility, but also because I hear about it so much — and as a rule, whenever something crosses that threshold of being in my face all the time, I start to find it annoying.

HOWEVER last night in class I saw a terrific presentation by the incomparable Scott Sklar of the Stella Group which executes renewable energy projects for industrial and commercial interests worldwide. This man gave me a much needed positive vibe about the notion that possibilities exist for our future.

Check it out: the military is always on the cutting edge of new technology, and they’re *great* at getting public funding in this country. So I thought what Mr. Sklar had to say about current military projects particular interesting — since they tend to end up in the public sphere and thus the market for consumer goods (like our fair internet).

Did you know that 80% of combat deaths in Iraq are due to soldiers traveling in convoys, hence making easy targets of themselves? And of course what are they carrying in the vast majority of these convoys? Fuel!

Did you know that the military has been one of the prime movers in the development of PV-nanotechnology that can be used in dyes? You will be able to generate energy for your house by painting it with this stuff — they’ve even been able to print it on paper to make little flexible polaroid-sized solar cells. Absolutely insane.

Did you know that they make portable solar powered water purification systems? (These will come in handy in the battlefield as well as in turmoil following natural disasters, the incidence of which we can expect to go up!)

Did you know that there are also a lot of folks within the DOD who are advocating for the strategic importance of “distributed energy” — finding ways to generate energy in a de-centralized, renewables based way?

There are the same people (though military man McCain is obviously not part of this group) who worry about nuclear power and our insanely inefficient power grid as national security risks! Our energy grid needs to be more flexible, like the cell phone network — which, by the way, depends on cell towers 20% of which operate off of solar energy!

Did you know that they already sell backpacks with little solar panels embedded in them, so you can charge your laptop while you walk around?

And finally: Did you know that the solar and wind industries are the third largest employers in Germany and Spain? You can’t keep military prowess and hence global hegemony while the economy suffers…so I think there’s a faction in the Pentagon pushing for this move towards renewables. And these people tend to have quite a bit of political clout. And hell, if there’s anything that People’s Liberation Army over in China likes to do, its try to get our technology…

Here I am a peacenick quasi-anarchist and its *the military* that get me excited about the move to green energy…absolutely insane!

Try to find

July 8, 2008

anything categorically more awesome than the Brooklyn Public Library system.

Not only do they have books, CDs and DVDs from any of their 65 branches available for pick-up at whichever branch is most convenient for you, they also have literacy programs, job readiness and career guidance workshops, all manner of clubs, classes, and foreign language discussion groups…the list goes on.

The D-Train and I have been going to a Spanish discussion group at the Windsor Terrace branch facilitated by a volunteer every week for the past two months and although my grammar and vocabulary are still in the linguistic toilet, I am now confident enough that I had a pleasant, complete (albeit quite simple) telephone conversation in Spanish with the spouse of an Adult Ed student at work yesterday. Thanks in large part to the BPL.

Not only that! The BPL offers an extensive catalog of digital media that you can download for free! (and in complete accordance with the laws of the land.)

I have memorized my card number because I check my account so much.

I love you, Brooklyn Public Library.

Root Beer Revelation

June 26, 2008

I don’t usually read the Dining section of the NYTimes because I don’t have any money and I’m not a masochist. But today there was an eye-opener about root beer tasting, which made me want to recount my own experiences with the mysterious beverage.

As a kid I was raised on cola, encountering root beer only very sporadically at birthday parties or the like. As such I developed a vague but persistent distrust for the brew. I was (and am) addicted to sugar — and yet, as far as I was concerned, no soda should be this sweet! And what was that tangy aftertaste all about? The old timey medicine chest ring of the words “root beer” didn’t help things…exactly what “root” were they referring to? And what century did the root come from?

Finding no satisfactory answer, I embraced a staunch policy of avoiding the stuff. In situations of the absolute last resort, when even ginger ales or lemon limes were unavailable, I would not say no to a proffered Mr. Pibb or Dr. Pepper. But root beer was categorically out of the question.

Flash forward to high school. I was hanging out with a friend of mine and we had just made a trip to Jerry’s Subs and Pizza, where we each got cheese steaks of the insanely gargantuan size that only Jerry’s can furnish forth. When we got back to this kid’s house, he offered me a bottle of Stewart’s root beer. I was hesitant…

But I chugged it! Pure joy. I immediately chugged another one. It had the same root beer tang, but balanced with a happy hint of vanilla. I ended up drinking so many Stewarts’ that I didn’t have room for my continent-size heart attack sandwich. (I think I saved it for later, but that’s a waste in itself because the bread got soggy and the grease congealed…the fate of forsaken cheese steaks is not pretty) At any rate (here’s some free advertising for Stewart’s) my whole attitude about root beer was changed instantly and forever.

So Stewart’s being placed in the bottom slot of the NYTimes Top 10 list is a revelation: Wow. There are in fact better root beers out there!

— and I’m a try ’em.

ALSO It should be noted that the method of transmitting the root beer makes a huge difference. Root beer on tap is a beauty that bottles just can’t convey.

“making Bolivar’s dream real” — The Union of South American Nations

June 16, 2008

Well heck, I definitely did not know about this!

Most of South America has banded together into a singular economic force known as the Union de Nationes Suramericanas  — which the BBC is referring to as “Unasur”. The treaty was signed just weeks ago. Like the EU, “Unasur” is an attempt to integrate the infrastructure and economy of disparate countries, complete with a central bank and a parliamentary government to boot. Crazy!  

The president pro tempore is Michelle Bachelet, the democratically elected president of Chile, a socialist. This should be a big deal no matter where you are on the political spectrum , right? And yet this little AP blurb is all I could find on the NYtimes archives about it. Very strange.

As far as the potential importance of “Unasar” (that name really sucks),  Chomsky gave a talk on this topic back in 2006:

“This is the first time since the Spanish conquests, 500 years, that there have been real moves toward integration in South America. The countries have been very separated from one another. And integration is going to be a prerequisite for authentic independence. There have been attempts at independence, but they’ve been crushed, often very violently, partly because of lack of regional support. Because there was very little regional cooperation, they could be picked off one by one — That’s what has happened since the 1960s. The Kennedy administration orchestrated a coup in Brazil. It was the first of a series of falling dominoes. Neo-Nazi-style national security states spread across the hemisphere. Chile was one of them. Then there were Reagan’s terrorist wars in the 1980s, which devastated Central America and the Caribbean. It was the worst plague of repression in the history of Latin America since the original conquests. But integration lays the basis for potential independence, and that’s of extreme significance.”

That sounds like the right track to me.

fun facts

May 16, 2008

I have learned some wacky things lately. Check it out:

  • You eat more plants, you live longer. (for this and other food truths see Mark Bittman’s TED talk)
  • Jerry Springer used to be Mayor of Cincinatti (see this episode of This American Life)
  • According to NPR, all American plastics contain toxic chemicals that have been banned in Europe
  • The Uyghurs of Xinjiang, China enjoy a form of bagel known as girde nan, which is one of several types of nan, the bread eaten in Xinjiang. It is uncertain if the Uyghur version of the bagel was developed independently of Europe or was the actual origin of the bagels that appeared in Central Europe. (from Peter Hessler)
  • According to Islam, you have to wash yourself / your clothes if a dog touches you. And you’re not allowed to keep dogs indoors.
  • In China, however, there’s a widespread traditional belief that dogs are lucky. Dogs are able to see good fortune in your future, purportedly, so if a stray dog follows you home, it’s a happy omen! (these two are from my ESL group. I don’t know how we started talking about dogs…)
  • The U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s single biggest consumer of petroleum, using more of it every day than the entire nation of Sweden. See here