Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finally, A Lotto Worth Playing

As of last count, the Mega Millions jackpot is at $540 million. Finally, a lotto worth playing. An article from the Boston Herald reports that one convenience store is selling tickets at the rate of 10 per person. This is a clear indication that the astute lotto players are coming out to play a lotto that's finally worth some real money.

In the article, one man says that if he wins he will donate $130 million to "needy families, single parents that are homeless and anyone with kids. I would also take my family to Disney World, and I’d give the employee that sold me the ticket a $2 million tip." I appreciate the man's sentiment, but what are those people going to do with only $130 million?

Likewise, the tip is a nice gesture, but frankly I've found that no amount of tipping is going to encourage consistency in the lottery ticket selling business. In other service industries, better service generally results in better tipping which in turn reinforces the incentive to provide great service. Lotto ticket sellers are a different breed, seemingly selling winning tickets at random. Personally, I would advise all winners to withhold tips until some motivated individuals establish themselves as quality ticket sellers.

Another article in the Kansas City Star proclaims "Mega Millions ticket buyers feeling lucky". This is unfortunate as it increases the chances of a split. If the high luck factor results in just a single split, you can only count on $270 million if you win . . . and that's pre-tax. Thanks, but no thanks.

That's really all there is to say at this point, however as a final note I wanted to pass along an insightful thought from a woman who was quoted in the Star article: “I feel like somebody is going to win,” she said. “If not, it will go up even higher. Then it will be a real frenzy.” That is so true. Sometimes in life a certain thing will happen, but other times a different thing will happen.

I think she's right about the possible frenzy, too. If this thing passes the $750 million mark I will strongly consider buying a ticket. If, however, anyone wins the jackpot before that point - congrats, at least it's something.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Amusing Email Conveys Mixed Messages

I received an email today from Save The I originally opted in to their mailing list after learning about the whole net neutrality issue. At the time, I remember reading about how major Internet service providers were supposedly petitioning the government to pass regulations that would allow them to exert undue influence over people's access to certain websites. I think I even signed a petition and emailed my representatives.

Since that time, I've completely shunned my civic responsibility by promptly deleting all subsequent emails. I would feel guilty, but with the current state of affairs in general I think that the "hit rock bottom, riot in the streets, launch nukes, hit reset button on society" plan is probably the best way forward. As such, I'm doing my part by allowing the last few acts of exploitation to take place until society gets that last nudge over the edge and the B.Y.O.AK-47 party commences.

Anyway, this particular email was entitled, simply, "Bieber". Some love him, some post comments about how they hate him on every other music video on YouTube, but it seems that no one can ignore Justin Bieber, including me.

The email opened with the following questionable assertion:

Justin Bieber is pissed off about Internet censorship and you should be, too.

I say "questionable" because my first reaction upon hearing that Justin Bieber opposes something is to support it. The email went on to talk about the "Stop Online Piracy Act" or "SOPA" and included some ACTUAL BIEBER QUOTES:

Bieber called SOPA "ridiculous." He added that "people need to have the freedom... to sing songs," and that any member of Congress who supports this bill "needs to be locked up — put away in cuffs." 
We’re not so sure about the handcuffs. But at the very least Congress should kill this bill.

By the way, the bold type was theirs. Overall, I felt the email was ineffective and that it sent conflicting messages. First of all, telling people that Bieber is pissed about something is likely to make the majority of people embrace whatever that something is short of cannibalism or rational thought. Secondly, they tell me that I should join Bieber in being pissed, but after the only quote of Bieber raging they include a bold disclaimer intended to mitigate the severity of his comments.

There is one positive thing I took away from the email though. Bieber is pissed, and that's something we can all appreciate.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Speaking of Nazis, Let's Discuss Dogs

First, a director sympathized with Hitler in Cannes. Then, a dog nursed baby ligers in a Chinese zoo. Now, in a bizarre instance of synchronicity, a new book reveals that Nazi scientists tried to create an army of talking dogs.

Among his other brilliant initiatives, Hitler opened a number of “animal talking schools” so that dogs could be taught to read, write and speak. Here is an excerpt from a Time article detailing some of the supposed accomplishments of the canine pupils:

An Airedale terrier named Rolf became a mythic figure of the project after teachers said he could spell by tapping his paw on a board (the number of taps represented the various letters of the alphabet). With that skill in hand, he mused on religion, learned foreign languages and even asked a noblewoman, "Can you wag your tail?” Perhaps most outlandish is the claim by his German masters that he asked to serve in the German army because he disliked the French. Another mutt barked "Mein Fuhrer" when asked to describe Hitler. And Don, a German pointer, is said to have imitated a human voice to bark, "Hungry! Give me cakes!" in German.

With respect to the late Terence McKenna, I think these events signified the end of Timewave Zero. As if this dog school business wasn’t enough, the article keeps shelling the reader with mind bombs (yes, mind bombs):

Germany's love of dogs may have blinded the Nazis to the outlandish goals of their project. "Part of the Nazi philosophy was that there was a strong bond between humans and nature. They believed a good Nazi should be an animal friend," Bondeson says. "Indeed, when they started interning Jews, the newspapers were flooded with outraged letters from Germans wondering what had happened to the pets they left behind."

I’ve heard of people liking their dog more than their neighbor, but this just takes the concept of animal favoritism to absurd extremes. It seems the Nazis were kind of like a twisted version of PETA on steroids, although some would argue that no qualifiers are necessary in that comparison.

In its conclusion, the article blasts the reader in the face with a final bizarre factoid:

Hitler, a well-known dog-lover, had two German Shepherds named Blondi and Bella. He killed Blondi shortly before killing himself in 1945.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lars Von Trier

An analysis of Lars Von Trier’s “controversial” press conference remarks

 "I hope you enjoy my film. I will now discuss my thoughts on Adolf Hitler in a lengthy and incoherent tangent - is that a problem?"

Lars Von Trier recently caused an uproar at the Cannes film festival because of statements he made during a press conference. In this post, I will analyze some key statements in an effort to discover the source of the controversy.

“I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, you know, because my family was German.”

Von Trier references the fact that all Germans are Nazis. Nothing controversial yet.

“What can I say, I understand Hitler.”

Proverbs 10:13 says, “Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding, But a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.” Clearly, Mr. Von Trier is a wise man. Understanding is a positive trait that should be commended, not condemned.

“I think he did some wrong things, but I can see him sitting in his bunker.”

I totally agree with Von Trier here. The fact of the matter is that people sometimes do wrong things. Cursing in traffic, cheating on a boyfriend or girlfriend, starting a world war and systematically murdering millions of innocent people - these examples serve as reminders that people make mistakes.

As for the second part of the statement, I can also see Hitler sitting in his bunker. With so many Downfall parodies gracing the Internet in recent history, I doubt anyone would have a problem imagining this scene.

[Kirsten Dunst laughs uncomfortably] “There will come a point at the end of this.”

This quote is impressive because it suggests that Von Trier may have some precognitive abilities. While he never really arrived at a cogent point in his speech, there was a significant event after the press conference in which organizers banned Von Trier from the Cannes film festival. But still I wonder, why?

“I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit.”

This quote appears controversial at first glance, but upon closer inspection it really isn’t. Von Trier says that he sympathizes with Hitler a little bit. Certainly, at some point in his life, Hitler caught a cold. We all know how annoying it is to suffer through congestion, a runny nose and constant sneezing. Therefore, we can all sympathize with Hitler a little bit.

“I am of course very much for Jews, no not too much because Israel is a pain in the ass.”

I must admit that this quote was a little strange in that there was literally no pause in between “I am of course very much for jews” and “no not too much”. Ultimately however, the quote highlights the obvious point that if one disagrees with the policies of the Israeli government, one must discriminate against all Jews. Like Von Trier’s earlier reminder that all Germans are Nazis, this is simply a statement of fact.
“Ok, I’m a Nazi.”
Another quote that appears controversial, but is at best ambiguous. Remember, Oskar Schindler was a Nazi so clearly not all Nazis are bad. Further questioning would be required to really understand what Von Trier is trying to convey in this highly ambiguous and abstruse statement.

So there you have it, Lars Von Trier’s “controversial” press conference. If anyone figures out what all the fuss was about, please let me know.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

BBC News: Seal Whiskers Sense Fattest Fish...

According to an article from BBC Earth News, seals can track and identify the size of fish using only their whiskers.

In related news, the US Department of the Interior has hired Wilford Brimley* as a consultant on the migratory patterns of salmon.

*mandatory note: Beetus

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BBC Making Liberal Use of Quotes in Headlines

As I was browsing the BBC News headlines, I noticed that many of them included quotations. The following examples constitute my effort to make sense of this odd phenomenon.

Probe after ‘kiwi’ found in Russia

The term ‘kiwi’ <---(legitimate use of quotes) can refer to a bird, a fruit or a person from New Zealand. With quotes added, the meaning of the term becomes virtually inscrutable. Perhaps someone glued lint to a lime. Then again, it may have been a Russian doing a horrendous impression of a New Zealand accent. If referring to a bird, the reporter may have been praising or criticizing a chicken. It’s impossible to know which is the case because I don’t know whether ‘kiwi’ is a complement or a pejorative in the avian world.

France football quota talk ‘not illegal’

Whatever is meant here, it must be the opposite of ‘not legal’, which simply translates to ‘legal’. However, when someone employs quotations in discussing legal matters, it usually suggests that the topic in question is actually illegal.

Example: Invest your money with Drug Bribery Murder Capital and receive a guaranteed 100% return on investment in under a month! All of our operations are completely ‘legal’!

Therefore, it would seem that ‘legal’ refers to something that is, in fact, illegal. But does the same rule hold true for ‘not illegal’? This one is very confusing, but I have one theory on what it could mean. Perhaps the reporter didn’t understand French and therefore didn’t know what to write in the article. Drawing on her resourceful nature, the reporter crafted an article full of ambiguous terms, double negatives and quotes to produce a piece that made no discernible points in an effort to mask her ignorance.

The headlines in question

Japan ‘to review energy policy’

This one is a real accomplishment. If the quotations extended one more word the entire headline would apparently be ironic. As it is, the mention of Japan is the only concrete element.

So, what is Japan actually doing? My top three guesses are playing video games, sumo wrestling or shooting a game show that will blow my mind no less than five times when I eventually watch it.

Egypt tourism minister ‘jailed’

They’re talking about the tourism minister, so maybe this has to do with some kind of tourism promotion.

Possibility #1: A brochure features an image of the tourism minister behind bars along with a photo of the pyramids. A message reads, “Come to Egypt and see a real pyramid scheme!”

I made an 'effort' to create a conceptual image.

Possibility #2: The tourism minister appears in a TV commercial promoting Egypt as a tourist destination. The minister exclaims, “This is the perfect time to visit Egypt. Travel and lodging rates are so low, they are illegal under Sharia law!” The commercial ends with members of the Muslim Brotherhood apprehending the minister and throwing him in prison.

Tanks ‘near’ restive Syria city

This one is peculiar in that it couldn’t be more straightforward, yet quotes still appear. Upon further inspection, it is really an ingenious headline in that it protects the reporter from making an error. ‘Near’ is a relative term. We know for a fact that tanks exist and we also know that Syria exists and that it contains cities.

If tanks are on the border of a Syrian city, everyone would agree that the tanks are near the city. However, what about tanks located in the United States? Are they near a Syrian city? Relative to their distance from Mars, yes. Therefore, there will always be tanks near a Syrian city in some sense for the foreseeable future.