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Archive for February, 2013

Then it got weird…

College Physics classes have certainly changed since my day:

A science professor at Columbia University on Monday began a quantum mechanics lecture by stripping into his boxers and eating a banana while rap music played in the background.

Then it got weird.

The professor, Emlyn Hughes, proceeded to redress himself in black, complete with sunglasses, and hug himself on stage at the front of the classroom, a large theater.

As Hughes sat in the fetal position, two “actors” dressed in ninja costumes walked onstage and placed white stuffed animals – lambs – on stools before the audience, according to a student-recorded video of the incident posted on Vimeo.com by “Bwog.”

The ninjas blindfolded the lambs, then a ninja impaled one of the stuffed animals with a long sword and banged it against the stool – right as an image of a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers on 9/11 started rolling on a large screen behind the performance.

Students in the video could initially be heard laughing and giggling and questioning the performance when it started, even squealing in shock with Hughes had first undressed.

“I am so confused,” one female student said on the video. “What is happening.”

Read the rest to find out…

Lesson: Dropping acid before lecturing just isn’t a good idea.

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This needs no further explanation. Just enjoy:

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book cover williams dread empires fall

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading widget” with the latest entry in my “I need a break from History and Politics, so give me spaceships and aliens” list. In this case, part one of  Walter Williams’ space opera trilogy, “Dread Empire’s Fall: the Praxis.”

I’m only a few chapters in, but, so far, it moves quickly and is very enjoyable, just the way good space opera should be. And the setting is a bit different: instead of a human-dominated galaxy or multi-stellar state, Mankind is just one species in a vast Empire (which, per the title, is about to fall apart) controlled by the lizard-like Shaa and governed under their brutal, totalitarian religion, the Praxis. The last of the Shaa has died, and things are about to get “interesting,” in the sense of the old Chinese proverb.

I’ll post a review when I’m done.

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"Stay on target!"

“Stay on target! The stars are right!”

The mighty Flying Squid Squadron!

Squids ‘can fly 100 feet through the air’

The oceanic squid can fly more than 100 feet through the air at speeds faster than Usain Bolt if it wants to escape predators, Japanese researchers said.

(…)

Yamamoto and his team were tracking a shoal of around 100 oceanic squid in the northwest Pacific 600 kilometres (370 miles) east of Tokyo, in July 2011.

As their boat approached, the 20 centimetre (8-inch) creatures launched themselves into the air with a powerful jet of water that shot out from their funnel-like stems.

“Once they finish shooting out the water, they glide by spreading out their fins and arms,” Yamamoto’s team said in a report.

“As they land back in the water, the fins are all folded back into place to minimise the impact.”

Can’t wait for when group inevitably lands on some loungers on a beach or boat deck. Hilarity, as they say, would ensue.

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The Americans TV

“The Americans,” the FX network’s recent entry into the espionage genre, presents both a daring risk for FX and a challenge to the viewer: Can you like and care about the fate of two protagonists who are spies for our deadly enemy and willing to do seemingly anything, no matter how vile, to further that enemy’s cause?

The series is set in 1981, soon after President Reagan’s inauguration, and centers around the lives and work of Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys), who live the all-American life: they own their own business, have a nice home in a great D.C. neighborhood, and are the parents to two nice children. And they seem like really good people.

And almost all of it is a lie. “Elizabeth” and “Phillip” are deep undercover Soviet spies working for the KGB. Their business is a front for their real work, their children have no idea who their parents really are, and they commit evil acts for a homeland ruled by a monstrous political system. Their work is so secret, they don’t even know each other’s real names and backgrounds. And yet the viewer (or, at least, me) finds himself liking Phillip and Elizabeth and rooting for them, worrying that their cover might be blown.

This is because both are genuinely good people: Phillip plays hockey with his son and takes him to games, while Elizabeth worries that her daughter is maturing too fast. And yet, when “on the job,” they are willing to seduce, blackmail, poison, and even kill for “Mother Russia.”

So far, two episodes have aired. The pilot concerns efforts to capture a Soviet defector and return him to the USSR for execution, and the risk posed by a new FBI counterintelligence agent and his family moving in just across the street. The second is built around their efforts to plant a bug on extremely short notice in the home of Defense Secretary Weinberger. These two episodes provide an amazing amount of well-conceived character development: we learn of a trauma in Elizabeth’s background that threatens her working and personal relationship with Phillip, while Phillip is revealed to be coming to like American life and is at least open to the idea of defecting, worried in part about the effect their continued undercover work will have on their children – particularly if they’re caught.

This show is not for children nor, I think, for teens. This is not a “dramedy;” while there are humorous moments, the story is deadly serious and R-rated. There is some nudity, the sex is moderately graphic, and the language explicit. And the moral confusion of good people who feel duty-bound to do awful things may be something young minds aren’t ready for.

That said, the first two episodes have been great and have me hooked to want more. Produced in part by Graham Yost (of “Justified” fame), I hope the rest of the season keeps up and that Elizabeth and Phillip continue on their mission for a good long time.

Highly recommended.

RELATED: Ron Radosh, an expert on the history of American communism and Soviet espionage in America, has his own review.

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And this is one reason you turn off cell phones when other people are around:

Sri Lanka prisoner caught by his ring tone

A Sri Lankan prisoner who tried to hide his mobile phone during a search of his cell was caught out when guards heard ring tones from his rear-end, a hospital official said on Friday.

The 58-year-old convict had to be admitted to the national hospital in Colombo where doctors later retrieved the handset from his rectum.

“The man had concealed the phone inside his person,” the official said, asking not to be named.

“Unfortunately for him, the phone rang at the wrong time and guards knew he had a phone at the wrong end.”

One wonders what his ring tone was. “Baby got back?”

And kudos to the guards for getting to the bottom of this.

 

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