Archive for July, 2012
23 Jul 2012

“I Built This”

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Via Theo.

23 Jul 2012

Rabies: Scary Stuff

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rabies virus

Several weeks ago, returning from shopping, as I proceeded along our driveway, I saw a skunk standing in broad daylight, right outside our fenced house compound. I slowed deliberately, intending to give the skunk a chance to scamper off, away from threatening human beings and cars. The skunk, however, failed to respond appropriately. It stood there, swaying a little from side to side, and then it began to stagger, not away toward the woods, but in the direction of a gate in the fence around the house area.

Not good, I thought. That skunk is sick, and it probably has rabies.

My dogs were outside, and if the skunk went under that gate, he could easily have run into them.

I hurriedly drove around the corner, and ran into the yard. Fortunately, both our dogs came to me immediately, and I was able to lead them into the house and safety. I’d been target-shooting recently with Karen’s 9mm Walther pistol, and it was the nearest available gun, lying ready for use on a handy shelf beneath the kitchen counter. I grabbed up the Walther and went back outside.

I walked down to the corner of the fence, and found that the skunk had not moved very far. It was still swaying. It still looked terribly sick.

Skunks present a pretty impressive hazard even without rabies, and I definitely wanted to be out of range of both deliberate and terminally-reflexive spraying, so I worked the slide and took aim from a good long 20 feet. I shot the skunk in the head with a 9mm bullet, but I had no desire to try disposing of it until it was absolutely certainly dead and completely inert, so I proceeded to empty the magazine into the animal’s head and neck region. The skunk quivered in response to the first shot, and subsequent rounds knocked it over and moved it a bit. After 10 rounds, I finally felt sure that it was dead, dead, dead, and completely past any kind of retaliation.

I walked back and got a shovel. I picked up the skunk on the blade of the shovel, got into my truck, and balancing the shovel on the car window with one hand, managed to carry the dead skunk outside the vehicle, back out our long driveway. I then carefully got out and pitched the skunk far into the uninhabited woods across the road. That placed it almost a quarter of mile from our house and much farther than that from any other homes.

Disposing of the sick skunk actually went very smoothly, but the possibilities were frightening. Our two dogs and two of our cats could have run into that skunk and been infected.

Alice Gregory‘s review of a new cultural history of rabies makes it clear that that particular disease is really far more awful than we normally realize.

“Ours is a domesticated age,” writes Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy in Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus
. Wasik is an editor at Wired and Murphy, his wife, a veterinarian. Together they have coauthored a sprawling chronicle of rabies, which until you get the numbers, seems like a willfully anachronistic topic. I did not know, for instance, that rabies is the most fatal virus in the world (only six unvaccinated people have survived, the first in 2004.) A fun party trick is forcing people to guess how many rabies fatalities there are each year. Optimists will hazard 100. Skeptics, 1,000. The real answer is 55,000, a figure so large it transforms your audience into a bunch of stoned teenagers marveling at the fact equivalent of a Big Gulp.

Wasik and Murphy’s subject might seem like a deliberately strange one, but they exercise nothing but user-friendly restraint when it comes to historical detail and medical explanation. It’s a rare pleasure to read a nonfiction book by authors who research like academics but write like journalists. They have mined centuries’ worth of primary sources and come bearing only the gems. My favorites were the archaic cures, some of which were reasonable (lancing, cauterization), while others were plain perverted. The Sushruta Samhita recommends pouring clarified butter into the infected wound and then drinking it; Pliny the Elder suggests a linen tourniquet soaked with the menstrual fluid of a dog. The virus comes up surprisingly often in literary history, too. A Baltimore-based cardiologist speculates that Edgar Allan Poe, who died in a gutter wearing somebody’s else’s soiled clothes, perished not of alcoholism, as has long been thought, but of rabies. In the most famous anecdote about Emily Bronte, she is bit by a mad dog while dawdling in a moor. Terrified of infection, she rushes home and secretly cauterizes the lesion with an iron.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that I live in Virginia these days, where vultures abound, and my property is actually infested by black vultures who try to hang out on the barn roof, nearby trees, and even occasionally the house.

They and I have reached a modus vivendi in which they know that when I say: “Get going!” they had better take off and fly somewhere else, or very soon .22 Long Rifle bullets are going to come whistling rather near them.

They commonly sit at the top of some tall Locust trees at the end of our driveway. They were not there when I disposed of the dead skunk, but they had already completely cleaned up that skunk by late afternoon (when I went out to get the mail).

Vultures are immune to rabies.

Via The Dish.

22 Jul 2012

Tweet of the Day

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Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

22 Jul 2012

The Worst System Except For All the Others


Hat tip to Jose Guardia.

22 Jul 2012

Iowahawk Reads From the Liberal Bible

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Iowahawk‘s new translation of the Apocryphal Book of Barack.

31 The Lord Govt was in wrath, and said, “For I am the Lord Govt, creator of Eden! 32 I gave unto you the roads and bridges, and schools and cops, brought unto you of gentle showers of Tarp and Stimulus and rivers of Subsidy, I am the purifier of the waters, cleanser of the air, without which you and your profits would not exist. Thus all that thou have created is created by Us. Thus ye shall render unto Govt what is Govt’s, and this is the Word of your Lord.”

33 At these words, Solydra and Gm and Seiu and all the Cronyans and Laborites dropped to their knees in trembling fear and supplicated themselves before the Lord, presenting Him golden gifts of contributions.

34 Then the retailer said to Govt, “And who created you?”

35 In righteous anger did the Lord Govt again rise up and said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Tri-Delts and the Dekes, I am and have always been! I am the great cosmic turtle on which you and the entire economy rest.”

36 “And on whom do you rest, turtle?” said the retailer in blasheme.

37 “Do not mock me with your knowledge trickery, harlot!” said the Lord Govt. “I am turtles all the way down.”

21 Jul 2012

1880 Time Map of US Politics

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Detail of 1880 “Conspectus of the History of (US) Political Parties,” an attempt to represent graphically just over a century of American politics.

Susan Schulten
introduces this interesting antique item at Mapping the Nation.

I had never heard of a “conspectus,” which is a nineteenth-century term meaning “a comprehensive mental survey.” And that is exactly the idea. I have only reproduced the image here, and left out the extensive narrative that was designed to be laid out under the chart, which lists political events, Supreme Court decisions, and acts of Congress.

In fact, there’s so much detail that I wonder about the purpose of the chart. Perhaps the point was to collapse the chaos of change into a single view, one where a party’s power could be traced over time. The appeal seems to be to capture an overall state of change, of flux. Notice how much the chart resembles a a river. The metaphor is useful — the wider the river at any spot, the more “powerful” the party at that time. I’m particularly impressed by the representation of the turbulent 1850s, when the Whig Party disintegrated and the Republican Party was founded.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

20 Jul 2012

This Video of Australian Hurdler Michelle Jennecke at Barcelona Went Viral Recently

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20 Jul 2012

Feisty Hedgehog

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20 Jul 2012

Red Pill, Blue Pill

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James Delingpole, at the Telegraph, is offering readers an economics red pill.

The red pill – for those who haven’t seen The Matrix – is the one which shows you the world as it really is rather than cosy, fantasy confection of the popular imagination. The red pill is not for the fainthearted because it involves confronting painful, ugly reality rather than living the dream.

Let me give you an example of what taking the red pill entails. It’s a report from last year by the Boston Consulting Group showing that the amount of household, corporate and government debt which needs to be eliminated stands at $21 trillion. The cost of dealing with this “debt overhang” will entail the loss (ie confiscation by the government) of one third of the wealth of the asset-owning classes. Some time in the next few months, weeks or years, we’re all going to be taking a 30 per cent hair cut.

20 Jul 2012

How Viper Venom Works


Russell’s viper, Daboia russellii

Vipers kill their prey using hemotoxic venom, which essentially turns their victim’s blood into plastic. Solidified blood causes pain, massive swelling, paralysis, and necrosis in extremities, and when hemotoxic envenomation reaches the vital organs, death typically ensues.

This is what happens when a single drop of venom from a Russell’s viper (the deadliest Asiatic viper) is dropped into a petri dish of blood.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

20 Jul 2012

Small Business and the Government Hammer

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John Kass

Barack Obama’s Roanoke speech struck a deep personal chord for Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. Kass, born in the early 1950s, was the son of a Greek immigrant grocer who can remember very well exactly what government did for his family.

When President Barack Obama hauled off and slapped American small-business owners in the mouth the other day, I wanted to dream of my father.

But I didn’t have to close my eyes to see my dad. I could do it with my eyes open.

All I had to do was think of the driveway of our home, and my dad’s car gone before dawn, that old white Chrysler with a push-button transmission. It always started, but there was a hole in the floor and his feet got wet in the rain. So he patched it with concrete mix and kept on driving it to the little supermarket he ran with my Uncle George.

He’d return home long after dark, physically and mentally exhausted, take a plate of food, talk with us for a few minutes, then flop in that big chair in front of the TV. Even before his cigarette was out, he’d begin to snore.

The next day he’d wake up and do it again. Day after day, decade after decade. Weekdays and weekends, no vacations, no time to see our games, no money for extras, not even forMcDonald’s. My dad and Uncle George, and my mom and my late Aunt Mary, killing themselves in their small supermarket on the South Side of Chicago.

There was no federal bailout money for us. No Republican corporate welfare. No Democratic handouts. No bipartisan lobbyists working the angles. No Tony Rezkos. No offshore accounts. No Obama bucks.

Just two immigrant brothers and their families risking everything, balancing on the economic high wire, building a business in America. They sacrificed, paid their bills, counted pennies to pay rent and purchase health care and food and not much else. And for their troubles they were muscled by the politicos, by the city inspectors and the chiselers and the weasels, all those smiling extortionists who held the government hammer over all of our heads. …

One of my earliest memories as a boy at the store was that of the government men coming from City Hall. One was tall and beefy. The other was wiry. They wanted steaks.

We didn’t eat red steaks at home or yellow bananas. We took home the brown bananas and the brown steaks because we couldn’t sell them. But the government men liked the big, red steaks, the fat rib-eyes two to a shrink-wrapped package. You could put 20 or so in a shopping bag.

“Thanks, Greek,” they’d say.

That was government.

Read the whole thing.

1:17 video

20 Jul 2012

Relishing Obama’s Tank-Riding Moment

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Pat Sajak, at Ricochet, identified Obama’a Roanoke speech as the defining moment of the 2012 Presidential Election.

It’s as if President Obama climbed into a tank, put on his helmet, talked about how his foray into Cambodia was seared in his memory, looked at his watch, misspelled “potato” and pardoned Richard Nixon all in the same day. It’s fun to imagine the hand-wringing that must be going on within the White House as staffers try to figure out how to undo the damage their boss has done with his anti-entrepenurial riff. Defining moments in politics are strange beasts. Sometimes they’re only recognized in hindsight, while sometimes they throw the train off the tracks before a sentence has been completed. Sometimes their effect can be contained and minimized, while sometimes their effect on the political narrative metastasizes. This one is very bad for the White House.


Bill Jacobson
observes that the speech could very possibly cost Obama the election.

Obama has stepped in it big time, and we have Elizabeth Warren to thank. …

Obama has hitched his wagon to an alien ideology touted by a tainted candidate who might be too liberal even for Massachusetts.

I don’t think this is going away. It is a theme handed to Romney on a silver platter, a silver platter built, of course, on roads the rest of us paid for.

It is a game changer. And we have Elizabeth Warren to thank for it.

And the mockery is unlikely to stop anytime soon.

19 Jul 2012

“These Hands”

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Latest Romney Ad.

19 Jul 2012

“You Didn’t Do That”

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From Vanderleun.

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