Dazzling Knowledge

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tpotdomescandal’s Top 10 TV shows

#9: Futurama

You knew there would be cartoons on this list, right? Futurama, a brainchild of Matt Groening, is about a pizza delivery boy named Fry who is cryogenically preserved until he is revived in the year 3000 in New New York. In the future, he gets work as a … delivery boy, and travels the cosmos with his new companions: Bender, a drinking, smoking, cursing robot; Leela, a one-eyed mutant (yeah, but I’d still make out with her); Dr. Zoidberg, a crustacean/humanoid physician whose poverty is matched only by his loneliness; Professor Farnsworth, a 150+ year old mad scientist; Hermes, the Rastafarian accountant; and Amy, the token Asian. Is this a funny show? Is the Space Pope reptilian?

The series was consistently funny and well-written and featured likeable characters (can’t you tell by my descriptions?). Honorable mention goes to some other Adult Swim cartoons: Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the Venture Brothers.

There’s lots of smoking and drinking on the show, mostly by Bender. Bite my shiny metal ass!

Here’s a good review of the show as a work of science fiction.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tpotdomescandal’s Top 10 TV Shows

#10: Big Love

Big Love is an HBO drama, currently between its second and third seasons. It has the two main characteristics of other critically-acclaimed pay cable dramas: terrific acting, and a view of the modern American suburban family represented by an extremely unusual and dysfunctional family.

Big Love is about a modern day polygamist, Bill (Bill Paxton), and his three wives, Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin), and Nicki (Chloe Sevigny). The show features drama, action, comedy, and romance as Bill moves among his interconnected worlds. There’s his public persona as a normal (monogamous) successful Mormon businessman, there’s his relationship to a shadowy compound of breakaway Mormon fundamentalists, and his family life, which itself is partially compartmentalized. One of the striking realizations is that, regardless of religious upbringing or personal background, fans can’t help but root for this family, and root for it in it’s current form. Nicki is a terrific character who is manipulative, passive-aggressive, and compulsive, yet strangely likeable (to me, anyway).

Family is a major theme of the show. I especially like how the show ends up touching on the concerns of everyday families, even though Bill’s is anything but an everyday family. Spirituality is very important in the show, which features Mormons, breakaway polygamist sects led by creepy “prophets,” and a genuine, albeit strange theology that permeates the lives of Bill and his family. There’s plenty of skepticism of the government, from the full-on defiance of the polygamist compounds, to Bill’s attitude that he just wishes he and his family would be left alone.

Big Love homepage.

Time review.

Tpotdomescandal’s Top 10 TV Shows

Over the next few weeks, I will be revealing my top 10 TV shows, starting at # 10 and ending with #1. I will include some information on the show and some reasons I like the show. I also plan to include some commentary on themes that I found to run through many of my favorite shows: family, drinking, spirituality, sports, smoking, and skepticism of government authority.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hard Evidence That Politicians Do, In Fact, Pay Taxes

This excerpt is taken from page 28 of an actual IRS document:

Publication 525: Taxable and Non-Taxable Income [IRS]

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Monday, April 07, 2008

US needs to scrap visa program for skilled workers

Paranoia over immigration is causing America to shut it's borders to even the most skilled of foreign workers, workers we need to maintain our competitive edge in the global technology economy. Meanwhile, other countries are getting wise:

England recently scrapped its Byzantine work permit program in favor of a Canadian-style point system that will allow entry to some skilled workers even before they get a job. New Zealand has a remarkable program that gives accredited private companies fast-track access to work visas that they can hand to foreign workers along with a job offer. Australia is considering modifying its skilled visa program along similar lines.

Even more radical is the blue card program that the European Union proposed last year to bump up its skilled workforce by 20 million over 20 years. The card will admit not only skilled workers – but their entire families – and give spouses the legal right to work in all 27 EU countries within three months of applying. By contrast, the U.S. Congress recently questioned even a relatively modest suggestion by Bill Gates to raise or scrap the annual H-1B visa cap. Astoundingly, this cap was lowered to 1990 levels four years ago.

Whole WSJ article here.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Bacteria Subsisting on Antibiotics

Crazy, scary superbug news from Science:

Antibiotics are a crucial line of defense against bacterial infections. Nevertheless, several antibiotics are natural products of microorganisms that have as yet poorly appreciated ecological roles in the wider environment. We isolated hundreds of soil bacteria with the capacity to grow on antibiotics as a sole carbon source. Of 18 antibiotics tested, representing eight major classes of natural and synthetic origin, 13 to 17 supported the growth of clonal bacteria from each of 11 diverse soils. Bacteria subsisting on antibiotics are surprisingly phylogenetically diverse, and many are closely related to human pathogens. Furthermore, eacha ntibiotic-consuming isolate was resistant to multiple antibiotics at clinically relevant concentrations. This phenomenon suggests that this unappreciated reservoir of antibiotic-resistance determinants can contribute to the increasing levels of multiple antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A new study confirms something I've always believed: that we don't actually do drink eight glasses of water every day.

From The Telegraph:
Scientists say there is no evidence drinking large amounts of water is beneficial for the average healthy person, and do not even know how this widely held belief came about.

Myth: Healthy people do not need eight 8oz glasses of water a day

Specialists in kidney conditions in America reviewed research on claims eight 8oz glasses of water help flush toxins from the body, preventing weight gain and improving skin tone.

Dr Dan Negoianu and Dr Stanley Goldfarb, of the Renal, Electrolyte and Hypertension Division at the University of Pennsylvania, said no single study indicated average healthy people needed to drink this amount of water - a total of 3.3 pints - each day.

"Indeed, it is unclear where this recommendation came from," they say in a review in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The researchers did find some evidence that individuals in hot, dry climates, as well as athletes, need to increase the amount of water they drink. Studies have also shown that drinking lots of water helps the body to clear salt and urea.

But no studies have found any benefit to the organs of increased water intake.

Drs Negoianu and Goldfarb also investigated the theory that drinking more water makes you feel full and curbs appetite.

Proponents say this may help maintain a healthy weight and fight obesity, but the evidence for this claim remains inconclusive, states the review.

No carefully designed clinical trials have measured the effects of water intake on weight maintenance.

Headaches also are often attributed to water deprivation, but there is little data to back this up, claim the scientists.

Only one small trial has addressed this question, and while trial participants who increased their water intake experienced fewer headaches than those who did not, the results were not statistically significant.

In addition, water has been touted as an elixir for improved skin tone.

The authors said that while dehydration can decrease skin stiffness, no studies have shown any clinical benefit to skin tone as a result of increased water intake.

The literature review by Drs Negoianu and Goldfarb reveals there is no clear evidence of benefit from increasing water intake. On the other hand, no clear evidence exists of a lack of benefit. "There is simply a lack of evidence in general," they explain.

On average, the body uses between 1.7 and 2.6 pints (one-1.5 litres) of water daily and more in high temperatures or when exercising.

This is replaced through drinks but a large amount is also contained in food, so it is not necessary to drink an equivalent amount to replace water levels.

Too much water can affect the balance of salts in the body causing "water intoxication", which can be fatal.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Another stupid idea from government

Remember when the government banned regular light bulbs so that we would all have to use crappy compact fluorescents? Oopsie!

What is it about government mandates that curse innovation to failure?
NBC’s “Today” show featured the bulbs on its “Today Goes Green” series Jan. 23, 2008, as one way average Americans can adjust their lives to be more “environmentally friendly.”
But what the media ignored or downplayed in the run-up to the ban was that CFLs contain mercury, a highly toxic metal infamous for its presence in thermometers. In the last two years, network news shows mentioned the CFL-mercury link only seven times. Four of the reports came after the incandescent ban had already been signed into law.

Each CFL contains about 5 milligrams of mercury. That’s enough for state environmental agencies to recommend complicated and expensive cleanups for accidental bulb breaks in homes.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection recommended a woman contact a hazardous waste cleanup company when a CFL broke on her child’s bedroom carpet, sending the mercury level to more than six times the “safe” limit. The crew estimated the cleanup would cost $2,000.

The Maine DEP no longer recommends such an expensive cleanup process, but now suggests a 14-point cleanup plan.

The 5 milligrams of mercury are also enough to contaminate 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels, according to a March 19 MSNBC.com article that “extrapolated from Stanford University research on mercury.”

‘The Cost of Good Intentions’

But even when the networks mentioned the mercury risk, reporters and other proponents of the bulbs downplayed the significance, especially before the federal law was passed to ban traditional bulbs.

Several NBC broadcasts characterized mercury in CFLs as a “small amount.” ABC’s “Good Morning America” called it a “tiny amount of mercury” on May 3, 2007. Unfortunately the “tiny amount” multiplied by the millions of bulbs now in use could mean a lot of contaminated water.

Whole thing here.

Reaon TV spot on immigration

Here's a short 5-minute video featuring Drew Carey talking about immigration. Nothing hard-hitting, but a nice summary of the history of immigration, fear of immigrants, and assimilation.

Beer contains female hormones

Last month, The University of Georgia scientists released the results of a recent analysis that revealed the presence of female hormones in beer.

Men should take a concerned look at their beer consumption.

The theory is that beer contains female hormones (hops contain estrogens) and that by drinking enough beer, men turn into women.

To test the theory, 100 men drank 8 pints of beer each within a 1 hour period. It was then observed that 100% of the test subjects:

1) Argued over nothing.
2) Refused to apologize when obviously wrong.
3) Gained weight.
4) Talked excessively without making sense.
5) Became overly emotional.
6) Couldn't drive.
7) Failed to think rationally.
8) Urinated frequently.

No further testing was considered necessary.
April fool!