Wednesday, December 23, 2015

[TITW] census, surnames; pastries, Boston Yeti, tropes

(Technically these first 2 were last week, but I never got around to posting.)

census - MENA, API

This PBS article from January 2015 says:

The federal government is considering allowing those of Middle Eastern and North African descent to identify as such on the next 10-year Census, which could give Arab-Americans and other affected groups greater political clout and access to public funding, among other things.

The U.S. Census Bureau will test the new Middle East-North Africa (MENA) classification for possible inclusion on the 2020 Census if it gets enough positive feedback about the proposed change by Sunday, when the public comment period ends.

Despite the somewhat simplistic headline,'s "U.S. Census May Add Controversial 'Israeli' Category" from June 2015 has some good information about the history of changes to the census and some of the complexities of racial/ethnic/country-of-origin identity (focusing on Israeli/Jewish identity -- it is a Jewish publication, after all).
Now the United States Census Bureau is testing a new category, “Middle East-North Africa” or MENA, in response to more than three decades of lobbying by Arab American organizations for a designation that better represents them. The testing, to start in September, will refine wording and sub-categories for the 2020 census. Nineteen options will be offered under the MENA designation, among them Israeli and Palestinian, as well as Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Turkish, Iranian, Moroccan and Algerian. Even Sudanese and Somali are being considered.

“Most Arabs don’t consider themselves white,” said Samer Khalaf, national president of The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which has long lobbied for a more accurate label than “white.” Khalaf was one of 30 participants in a May 29 meeting convened by the U.S. Census Bureau so that researchers and representatives of MENA communities could discuss and offer feedback on the proposed changes.


It was only in 2000 that the census questionnaire for the first time did not require respondents to choose between racial and ethnic identities. Rather, they could select all that applied, like “black and Hispanic” or “white and Latino,” said Shaul Kelner, associate professor of sociology and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University. Now people will be able to choose, for instance, “white” and “MENA,” or just “MENA.”


The last change to the race and ethnicity categories was in 1970, when Hispanic was added as an option to some questionnaires. In 1980 it became part of the form distributed to every household. While the census bureau is testing MENA and other issues under consideration for changes in the 2020 census, ultimately it is up to the White House Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. Congress to approve new classifications, [Roberto] Ramirez[,assistant division chief of special population statistics at the Census Bureau] said.


And following up on the question of Asian vs. Pacific Islander, the US Social Security Administration says:

Asian Americans are persons having origins from East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. Pacific Islanders are people having origins in Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. Some of the groups are listed below:

East Asia: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Okinawan, Taiwanese
Southeast Asia: Bornean, Bruneian, Burmese, Cambodian, Celebesian, Filipino, Hmong, Javanese, Indonesian, Laotian, Malaysian, Montagnard, Singaporean, Thai, Vietnamese
South Asia: Afghan, Bangladeshi, Bhutanese, Indian, Maldivian, Nepalese, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Tibetan

Polynesia: Cook Islander, Maori, Native Hawaiian, Niuean, Samoan, Tahitian, Tongan, Tokelauan, Tuvaluan
Micronesia: Carolinian, Chamorro, Chuukese, Guamanian, I-Kiribati, Kosraen, Mariana Islander, Marshallese, Nauruan, Palauan, Pohnpeian, Saipanese, Trukese, Yapese
Melanesia: New Caledonian, Ni-Vanuatu, Papua New Guinean, Solomon Islander


yes, Virginia, tv show characters have last names

The last names of the characters on Friends are:

Ross Geller
Rachel Green
Phoebe Buffay
Monica Geller
Joey Tribbiani
Chandler Bing


A macaroon (/mækəˈruːn/ mak-ə-roon) is a type of small circular cake, typically made from ground almonds (the original main ingredient[1]), coconut, and/or other nuts or even potato, with sugar, egg white, and sometimes flavourings (e.g. honey, vanilla, spices), food colouring, glace cherries, jam and/or a chocolate coating.[2] Macaroons are often baked on edible rice paper placed on a baking tray.

The name of the cake comes from the Italian maccarone or maccherone meaning "paste", referring to the original almond paste ingredient; this word itself derives from ammaccare, meaning "to crush".[3]


Macaroons made from desiccated coconut instead of almond are most commonly found in the United Kingdom (in addition to almond macaroons), Australia, the United States, Mauritius, The Netherlands (Kokosmakronen), Germany and Uruguay.

A macaron (/ˌmɑːkəˈroʊn/ mah-kə-rohn;[1] French pronunciation: ​[makaʁɔ̃] is a French sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food colouring. The macaron is commonly filled with ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two cookies. The name is derived from the Italian word macarone, maccarone or maccherone, the Italian meringue.


The macaroon is often confused with the macaron; many have adopted the French spelling of macaron to distinguish the two items in the English language. However, this has caused confusion over the correct spelling. Some recipes exclude the use of macaroon to refer to this French confection while others think that they are synonymous.[3] In reality, the word macaroon is simply the English translation of the French word macaron, so both pronunciations are technically correct depending on personal preference and context.[3] In a Slate article on the topic, Stanford Professor of linguistics and computer science, Dan Jurafsky, indicates that "macaron" (also, "macaron parisien", or "le macaron Gerbet") is the correct spelling for the confection.[4]

The madeleine (French pronunciation: ​[mad.lɛn], English /ˈmædleɪn/ or /ˌmædlˈeɪn/[1]) or petite madeleine ([pə.tit mad.lɛn]) is a traditional small cake from Commercy and Liverdun, two communes of the Lorraine region in northeastern France.

Madeleines are very small sponge cakes with a distinctive shell-like shape acquired from being baked in pans with shell-shaped depressions. Aside from the traditional moulded pan, commonly found in stores specialising in kitchen equipment and even hardware stores, no special tools are required to make madeleines.

And if you wanna learn even more French pastries: Wikipedia's "Category:French_pastries"


Boston Yeti

This piece nicely summarizes and links to the Improper Bostonian article.


hororor movie tropes

I said "The phonecall is coming from inside the house" to one of my co-workers, and he didn't get the reference :/

I think of it as a Scream thing (though I've never actually seen the movie) but TV Tropes reminds me that the trope far predates that movie (which, on reflection, makes total sense since the whole point of that movie was playing with well-known tropes) and says, "Used loosely in the first Scream (1996). In the age of cell phones and caller ID, however, the trope was lost in the sequels."

Saturday, December 5, 2015

[TITW] Nestlé, Kwanzaa, foreign languages, hangry negotiations, spider plants, Catholicism, kangaroo courts

Nestlé baby formula

I generically referred to our office's filtered water dispenser as a Poland Springs water dispenser and it's actually Nestlé AccuPure, which prompted a sad on my part because Nestlé baby formula -- for which the second Google result is the "Nestlé boycott" Wikipedia article:

Baby milk issue

Groups such as the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and Save the Children argue that the promotion of infant formula over breastfeeding has led to health problems and deaths among infants in less economically developed countries.[1][2] There are four problems that can arise when poor mothers in developing countries switch to formula:

  • Formula must normally be mixed with water, which is often polluted in poor countries, leading to disease in vulnerable infants.[3] Because of the low literacy rates in developing nations, many mothers are not aware of the sanitation methods needed in the preparation of bottles. Even mothers able to read in their native language may be unable to read the language in which sterilization directions are written.
  • Although some mothers can understand the sanitation standards required, they often do not have the means to perform them: fuel to boil water, electric (or other reliable) light to enable sterilisation at night. UNICEF estimates that a formula-fed child living in disease-ridden and unhygienic conditions is between 6 and 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea and four times more likely to die of pneumonia than a breastfed child.[4]
  • Many poor mothers use less formula powder than is necessary, in order to make a container of formula last longer. As a result, some infants receive inadequate nutrition from weak solutions of formula.[5]
  • Breast milk has many natural benefits lacking in formula. Nutrients and antibodies are passed to the baby while hormones are released into the mother's body.[6] Breastfed babies are protected, in varying degrees, from a number of illnesses, including diarrhea, bacterial meningitis, gastroenteritis, ear infection, and respiratory infection.[7][8][9] Breast milk contains the right amount of the nutrients essential for neuronal (brain and nerve) development.[10] The bond between baby and mother can be strengthened during breastfeeding.[8] Frequent and exclusive breastfeeding can also delay the return of fertility, which can help women in developing countries to space their births.[11] The World Health Organization recommends that, in the majority of cases, babies should be exclusively breast fed for the first six months.[12]
Advocacy groups and charities have accused Nestlé of unethical methods of promoting infant formula over breast milk to poor mothers in developing countries.[13][14] For example, IBFAN claim that Nestlé distributes free formula samples to hospitals and maternity wards; after leaving the hospital, the formula is no longer free, but because the supplementation has interfered with lactation, the family must continue to buy the formula. IBFAN also allege that Nestlé uses "humanitarian aid" to create markets, does not label its products in a language appropriate to the countries where they are sold, and offers gifts and sponsorship to influence health workers to promote its products.[15] Nestlé denies these allegations.[16]

Kwanzaa symbols vs. menorahs

A conversation about Starbucks, including red cups, led to a conversation about Kwanzaa and Hanukkah symbols.

Kwanzaa symbols include a decorative mat (Mkeka) on which other symbols are placed: corn (Mahindi) and other crops, a candle holder kinara with seven candles (Mishumaa Saba), a communal cup for pouring libation (Kikombe cha Umoja), gifts (Zawadi), a poster of the seven principles, and a black, red, and green flag. The symbols were designed to convey the seven principles.[7]
The primacy visual difference is that the kinara holds 7 candles, while the menorah holds 9.


subversive Arabic graffiti

The news about this incident with the set of the tv show Homeland broke on October 15, 2015 -- e.g. this Atlantic piece.


hangry negotiations

Lakshmi Balachandra's HBR article asserts:

The students who ate together while negotiating — either at a restaurant or over food brought into a business conference room — created significantly increased profits compared to those who negotiated without dining. (Individuals who negotiated in restaurants created 12% greater profits and those who negotiated over food in a conference room created 11% greater profits.) This suggests that eating while deciding important matters offers profitable, measurable benefits through mutually productive discussions.
I remember reading something about being more successful negotiating for a raise if you're hungry, but I couldn't (re)find it. :/

While not what I was thinking of, Jack (who brought up the Balachandra research) found for me:

Always Gamble on an Empty Stomach: Hunger Is Associated with Advantageous Decision Making. PLOS ONE. Denise de Ridder, Floor Kroese, Marieke Adriaanse, Catharine Evers. Published: October 23, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111081
General Discussion

This series of studies set out to test the hypothesis that hot states may benefit, rather than compromise, advantageous decision making insofar it concerns complex decisions with uncertain outcomes. Based on the notion that intuition and emotions may improve this specific category of decisions [10], [12], [13], we argued that hot states, which are known to make people more reliant on their feelings, improve their decisions. This assumption follows from theories on intuitive decision making but so far has not been tested explicitly by directly manipulating hot states. Our findings lend credit to these expectations: people who were moderately hungry or had a moderate appetite, compared to people who were satiated or had a lower appetite, made more advantageous decisions as witnessed by their performance on the IGT (Studies 1 and 2) and a delay discounting task (Study 3). These findings were obtained for both visceral (Studies 1 and 3) and non-visceral (Study 2) manipulations of a hot state. Importantly, Study 3 also revealed that a hot state (resulting from hunger or appetite) did not affect willingness to take risks in spite of the perception of an increased rewarding value of desired objects (food and money) as well as a neutral object, although the latter finding was unexpected. These findings speak directly to the mechanism involved in complex decision making under uncertain conditions. Typically, strategic decision making in complex situations without being certain what these decisions bring in the future may be conceived of as a trade-off between risk and reward, as exemplified in the IGT presenting people with decks of cards either involving big rewards but also a higher chance of loss or small rewards that are accompanied by lower chances of loss. In order to make decisions that are advantageous in the long run people thus must recognize the risk of loss when being tempted by a bigger reward. Our findings show that people in a hot state are better able to do so, as witnessed by their capability to make advantageous decisions (assessed by the IGT or a delay discounting task), while perceiving larger rewards (size perception task) but not taking more risks (BART performance). It has been demonstrated in many studies employing the IGT in clinical samples (with deficits in emotion processing) that not being able to use one's emotions for recognizing risk and resisting decisions that involve huge but risky rewards compromises complex decision making in uncertain conditions. [14], [15], [16], [17] However, it has not been examined previously that manipulating hot states in normal people without emotion processing deficits improves such decisions and has straightforward beneficial effects, presumably by making people rely more on their intuition and emotion.


Together, these studies for the first time provide suggestive evidence that hot states improve complex decision making under uncertain conditions, lending support to our assumption that being able to recognize and use one's emotions benefits complex decisions. Apparently, our findings stand in sharp contrast with previous studies showing that hot states in general and visceral drives in particular compromise decision making. These studies generally assume that hot states make people more impulsive and disregard the risks of a behavior that seem so evident under cooler conditions. However, most studies so far either tested these assumptions in samples with impulsive pathology or used simple decision tasks that allowed for a straightforward comparison of the options involved. Also, previous studies did not manipulate hot states directly but, for example, compared the virtual versus tangible presence of cookies. [5] Our findings show that under the typical hot condition of hunger or appetite, an increased willingness to take risks is absent, even when an increased motivation for getting the reward is present.


Our findings bear important implications for theorizing about the role of hot states in decision making. It may be, as suggested in the foregoing, that hot states in general, and hunger and appetite in particular, do not necessarily make people more impulsive but rather make them rely more on their gut feeling which benefits complex decisions with uncertain outcomes. Alternatively, it may be that hot states do increase impulsivity but that impulsivity is not necessarily bad. Such a conceptualization of good' impulsivity aligns with recent notions that negative consequences are not inherent in impulsive behavior. Being in an impulsive state entails that people are more inclined to make decisions quickly with little or no deliberation which may turn out either favorable or unfavorable depending on the demands of the situation. [39], [40] Adopting the view that impulsivity implies acting swiftly means that impulsivity brings an advantage as in a greater tendency to rely on emotions when confronted with the complex self-regulation dilemma of choosing between small immediate benefit versus delayed but larger benefit. This line of reasoning concords with recent critical notions about dual-system accounts of behavioral regulation, distinguishing between reflective (rational and cool) and reflexive (emotional and hot) systems. [19] Typically, dual-systems accounts conceive of the reflective system as being responsible for adaptive behavior in accordance with long-term goals and the reflexive system as being responsible for an impulsive breakdown that accounts for abandoning long-term goals, thus equating the process (reflective vs. reflexive) with the outcome (adaptive vs. non-adaptive. [3] However, recent research challenges this sharp distinction by showing evidence indicating that impulsive states can sometimes generate adaptive behavior. [20], [41], [42] By the same token, it has also been shown that reflective processes may be required to engage in bad' behavior, such as overcoming the initially aversive taste of alcohol or nicotine [43] or deliberate reasoning to find justifications for otherwise forbidden indulgent behavior [44]. Our finding that hot states promote advantageous decision making thus contributes to novel theorizing about impulses that were hitherto considered as compromising adaptive behavior.


Sábado Gigante

Sábado Gigante finished (after 53 years) in September of this year (2015).

From its start in 1962, it was hosted by Chilean TV star Mario Kreutzberger under the stage name of Don Francisco. Pedro de Pool and Rolando Barral began serving as co-hosts in 1986; that role was taken over by Javier Romero in 1991.



foreign languages

Slate’s Lexicon Valley podcast had a bunch of the same ideas as I did about why foreign languages sound faster than our native language:

So, here's how Paul Pimsleur described this problem back in the 1970s. He said: "The foreign words reach the listener's ear so rapidly that they soon pile up. The short-term memory overloads and the listener simply 'tunes out.' It is important to be able to control this factor in order to teach listening effectively."


I [recall] what Harry Osser and Frederick Peng said at the end of their study of Japanese and English. They formulated a hypothesis that went something like this: "When we, as native English speakers, listen to English we attend to the way in which the speaker distributes his speech and his pauses over time, i.e. we hear the speech and the gaps between the speech. However, when we listen to a foreign language being spoken we do not hear the pauses (other than the very long ones), rather we hear 'a continuous flow of speech.' ... As our acquaintance with a foreign language develops, we learn more and more about the units in the flow of speech, so that we are more likely to be able to judge the actual rate of speech correctly."

That makes a lot of sense to me. I think, you know, earlier I was saying how when I took that French immersion course I found it hard to imagine how I would be able to tease these words apart that were coming at me, but of course once you gain a familiarity with the language and the words then you do. Your ear develops in that way. And I'll just read to you one more thing that Osser and Peng wrote about this hypothesis. They talked more specifically about Japanese and English and they said, "When the Japanese speaker hears the bundle of dense consonant clusters of English he hears them in terms of the syllabic structure of Japanese, which of course does not have so many consonant clusters, and he therefore judges the speech to be faster than it really is." And then they said, "Similarly when an English speaker hears the successive vowel" sounds in Japanese, which we don't have as much of in English, that we judge Japanese to be faster.

There's additional info about e.g. data-density in different languages in this Time article.


spider plants
If you have had a spider plant you will already know that periodically the plant will send down stems with little plants, or spiders on them. If you look closely you can see that there are roots starting to develop on some of these baby spiders. Carefully hold the baby spider plant and separate it from the stem being sure not to break the roots off of it.




I apparently cannot remember how many books are in the Bible (though I correctly estimated that the difference between Protestant and Catholic Bibles is approximately a half a dozen -- 7, if you want to be technically, plus some extra bits of some shared books). I also keep forgetting that Ecclesiasticus=Sirach.

Wikipedia helpfully informs me that the Tanakh consists of 24 books, the Protestant Old Testament 39 (due solely to how we separate out books -- primarily that we separate the twelve "minor" prophets into 12 books), the Catholic OT 46, and the Eastern Orthodox 51 (mostly they have even more Esdras and Maccabees, apparently).

We've generally agreed on 27 New Testament books.


Henry the 8th was approximately contemporaneous with the Protestant Reformation (Henry was 28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547 and e.g. Martin Luther was 10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546).

Henry is generally credited with initiating the English Reformation – the process of transforming England from a Catholic country to a Protestant one – though his progress at the elite and mass levels is disputed,[186] and the precise narrative not widely agreed.[60] Certainly, in 1527, Henry, until then an observant and well-informed Catholic, appealed to the Pope for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine.[60] No annulment was immediately forthcoming, the result in part of Charles V's control of the Papacy.[187] The traditional narrative gives this refusal as the trigger for Henry's rejection of papal supremacy (which he had previously defended), though as historian A. F. Pollard has argued, even if Henry had not needed a divorce, Henry may have come to reject papal control over the governance of England purely for political reasons.[188]

In any case, between 1532 and 1537, Henry instituted a number of statutes that dealt with the relationship between king and pope and hence the structure of the nascent Church of England.[189]



Apparently the Vulgate refers to the official Latin version of the Bible -- not to vernacular translations (which is how I’d been using the term). And there have been vernacular translations of the Bible since antiquity.
Innocent III, heretical movements and translation controversies

Church attitudes toward written translations and the use of the vernacular in Mass varied by date and location. For example, whereas the acts of Saint-Gall contain a reference to the use of a vernacular interpreter in Mass as early as the seventh century, and the 813 Council of Tours acknowledge the need for translation,[6] in 1079, Duke Vratislaus II of Bohemia asked Pope Gregory VII for permission to use Old Church Slavonic translations of the liturgy, to which Gregory did not consent.[7]

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, demand for vernacular translations came from groups outside the Roman Catholic Church such as the Waldensians, Paterines, and Cathars. This was probably related to the increased urbanization of the twelfth-century, as well as increased literacy among educated urban populations.[8][9]

A well-known group of letters from Pope Innocent III to the diocese of Metz, where the Waldensians were active, is sometimes taken as evidence that Bible translations were forbidden by the church, especially since Innocent's first letter was later incorporated into canon law.[10]

Margaret Deanesly's study of this matter in 1920 was influential for many years, but later scholars have challenged its conclusions. Leonard Boyle has argued that, on the contrary, Innocent was not particularly concerned with the translations, but rather with their use by unauthorized and uneducated preachers.[11] "There is not in fact the slightest hint that Innocent ever spoke in any way, hypothetically or not, of suppressing the translations."[12] The thirteenth-century chronicler Alberic of Trois Fontaines does say that translations were burned in Metz in 1200, and Deanesly understood this to mean it was ordered by Innocent in his letters from the previous year, but Boyle pointed out that nowhere in the letters did Innocent actually prohibit the translations.[13] While the documents are inconclusive about the fate of the specific translations in question and their users, Innocent’s general remarks suggest a permissive attitude toward translations and vernacular commentaries provided that they are produced and used with church oversight.

There is no evidence of any official decision to universally disallow translations following the incident at Metz until the Council of Trent, at which time the Reformation threatened the Catholic Church, and the rediscovery of the Greek New Testament presented new problems for translators. However, some specific translations were condemned, and regional bans were imposed during the Albigensian Crusade: Toulouse in 1229, Taragona in 1234 and Beziers in 1246.[14] Pope Gregory IX incorporated Innocent III’s letter into his Decretals and instituted these bans presumably with the Cathars in mind as well as the Waldensians, who continued to preach using their own translations, spreading into Spain and Italy, as well as the Holy Roman Empire. Production of Wycliffite Bibles would later be officially banned in England at the Oxford Synod in the face of Lollard anticlerical sentiment, but the ban was not strictly enforced and since owning earlier copies was not illegal, books made after the ban are often inscribed with a date prior to 1409 to avoid seizure.

As Rosemarie Potz McGerr has argued, as a general pattern, bans on translation responded to the threat of strong heretical movements; in the absence of viable heresies, a variety of translations and vernacular adaptations flourished between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries with no documented institutional opposition.[15] Still, translations came late in the history of the European vernaculars and were relatively rare in many areas. According to the Cambridge History of the Bible, this was mainly because "the vernacular appeared simply and totally inadequate. Its use, it would seem, could end only in a complete enfeeblement of meaning and a general abasement of values. Not until a vernacular is seen to possess relevance and resources, and, above all, has acquired a significant cultural prestige, can we look for acceptable and successful translation."[16] The cost of commissioning translations and producing such a large work in manuscript was also a factor; the three copies of the Vulgate produced in 7th century Northumbria, of which the Codex Amiatinus is the only survivor, are estimated to have required the skins of 1,600 calves.[17] Manuscript copies of the Bible historiale and, even more so, the usually lushly illuminated Bible moralisée were large, deluxe manuscripts, which only the wealthiest nobility (such as the French royal family) could afford.


The Council [of Trent], in the Canon of Trent, officially accepted the Vulgate listing of the Old Testament Bible which included the deuterocanonical works (also called the Apocrypha by Protestants) on a par with the 39 books customarily found in the Masoretic Text. This reaffirmed the previous Council of Rome and Synods of Carthage (both held in the 4th century, A.D.) which had affirmed the Deuterocanon as Scripture.[5]



kangaroo court
Although the term kangaroo court has been erroneously explained to have its origin from Australia's courts while it was a penal colony,[2] the first published instance is from an American source in the year 1850. Some sources suggest that it may have been popularized during the California Gold Rush of 1849, along with mustang court,[3] as a description of the hastily carried-out proceedings used to deal with the issue of claim jumping miners.[2] Ostensibly the term comes from the notion of justice proceeding "by leaps", like a kangaroo.[4] Another possibility is that the phrase could refer to the pouch of a kangaroo, meaning the court is in someone's pocket. The phrase is popular in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand and is still in common use.[5]


OED lists the first printed usage as 1853 (not 1850, as Wiki states -- though it concurs that the early usages were in American presses).
kangaroo court n. orig. U.S. an improperly constituted court having no legal standing, e.g. one held by strikers, mutineers, prisoners, etc.

1853 ‘P. Paxton’ Stray Yankee in Texas 205 By a unanimous vote, Judge G—— was elected to the bench and the ‘Mestang’ or ‘Kangaroo Court’ regularly organized.
1895 Harper's Mag. Apr. 718/2 The most interesting of these impromptu clubs is the one called in the vernacular the ‘Kangaroo Court’. It is found almost entirely in county jails.
1931 ‘D. Stiff’ Milk & Honey Route 209 Kangaroo court, mock court held in jail for the purpose of forcing new prisoners to divide their money.
1935 A. J. Pollock Underworld Speaks 66/1 Kangaroo Court, a jail tribunal comprised of inmates which collects money from prisoners awaiting trial to supply the needy with tobacco, food and a few luxuries—its decision regarding disputes is final.
1966 Times 14 Mar. 10/1 Shop stewards at Theale are to meet tomorrow to consider paying back the sums levied by a kangaroo court.
1971 Times 20 Jan. 15/3 Citizens who live in the riotous areas [of N. Ireland] deserve protection from..kangaroo courts.
1973 C. Mullard Black Brit. iii. vii. 81 Such practices are surely more like those of a kangaroo court than those that the Race Relations Board should encourage.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

[TITW] Captain Planet, Jay-Z, late-night sushi, religion/IRS, and bubble soccer

Captain Planet

Captain Planet and the Planeteers was a cartoon show that ran from 1990-1996 – so I was age 7-13 and my coworkers were … younger.

Gaia, the spirit of the planet, is awakened from a long sleep by Hoggish Greedly, who happens to be drilling above her resting chamber. Realizing that the damage is extensive, Gaia sends five magic rings, four with the power to control an element of nature and one controlling the element of Heart, to five chosen youths across the globe: Kwame from Africa, Wheeler from North America, Linka from the Soviet Union (changed to Eastern Europe after the Soviet Union's dissolution), Gi from Asia, and Ma-Ti from South America.

These five are dubbed the Planeteers and are tasked with defending the planet from the greatest of disasters and making efforts to educate mankind to keep others from happening.

These are the Planeteers:
  • Kwame (voiced by LeVar Burton): Hailing from Ghana, Africa, Kwame possesses the power of Earth. He has a soft spot for plant life, and even runs his own greenhouse on Hope Island. Growing up in a tribe in his homeland Africa, he is at one with the land and its purpose, and does what he can to preserve it. In the episode "Talkin' Trash", he mentions that he never knew his father, hinting that his father died while Kwame was still very young. The de facto leader of the group, he is also the voice of reason that keeps the Planeteers in check when the group begins to lose faith in a given situation. He also acts as a kind of mentor to Ma-Ti. Kwame is the first Planeteer to be summoned.
  • Wheeler (voiced by Joey Dedio): From Brooklyn, New York, Wheeler controls the power of fire. He is shown to be the least knowledgeable about the planet preservation trends though this improves as the show goes on (in a way representing the oblivious aspect people have of the harm that they can cause to nature). He is exceedingly the most street-smart of the group, yet, while having his heart in the right place, tends to get himself into tight spots when acting impulsively; fittingly, he is sometimes a "hothead". Throughout the series, he openly flirts with and tries to get closer to Linka, almost always having his advances shot down. Wheeler is the third Planeteer to be summoned.
  • Linka (voiced by Kath Soucie): From the Soviet Union (in later episodes stated as being from Eastern Europe after the Communist regime's collapse), Linka has the power of wind. Linka closely studies bird life, and therefore is extremely emotional when pollution or illegal hunting harms them, because she admired birds who were used in the mines to detect gas while growing up as a miner's daughter. Wheeler often tries to flirt with her, and despite more often than not shooting down these advances, is shown every now and again that she too possesses feelings for him, even kissing him in the episode "Missing Linka". She is a master of strategy and logic, as well as a computer expert. Linka peppers her English with Russian words and phrases, the most common one being "Bozhe moi!" (meaning "My God!"), which she normally says when she is shocked. Linka is the fourth Planeteer to be summoned.
  • Gi (voiced by Janice Kawaye): Hailing from Thailand, Gi controls the power of water. Of the Planeteers' powers, Gi's is the only power that requires a nearby [water] source to be useful. Gi is a self-proclaimed marine biologist. Her compassion for sea life contributes to the overall effort of the Planeteers' protection of animals, becoming extremely emotional when pollution affects them, especially dolphins (due to finding her dolphin friend dying from pollution as a child), and somewhat impulsive at times. She also often works on the mechanical and forensic aspects for the team, as well as being the most diplomatic of the group who convinces others to see reason and do the right thing. Gi can also be seen wearing a gold medallion around her neck. Gi is the second Planeteer to be summoned.
  • Ma-Ti (voiced by Scott Menville): From the Amazon of Brazil and raised by a Kayapo Indian shaman, Ma-Ti wields the powers of heart and telepathy to instill caring, passion, and sympathy into the people of the world to care for the planet. He can also use this power to telepathically communicate with people and animals. Twelve years old, Ma-Ti is the youngest and most impressionable member of the Planeteers. He owns a pet monkey named Suchi (voiced by Frank Welker). Ma-Ti is the fifth Planeteer to be summoned.
And the theme song [text edited from here]:


By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!

Captain Planet, he's our hero,
Gonna take pollution down to zero,
He's our powers magnified,
And he's fighting on the planet’s side

Captain Planet, he's our hero,
Gonna take pollution down to zero,
Gonna help him put asunder,
Bad guys who like to loot and plunder

"You'll pay for this, Captain Planet!"

We're the Planeteers,
You can be one too!
'Cause saving our planet is the thing to do,
Looting and polluting is not the way,
Hear what Captain Planet has to say:



Jay-Z on campus

will be joining Alicia Keys, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, and former governor Deval Patrick as the keynote speakers for the African-American Student Union’s 44th Annual H. Naylor Fitzhugh Conference. The event, dubbed “Transcend: Redefining Expectations,” will take place at the HBS Soldiers Field campus February 5-7.

According to the group’s website, this year’s conference aims to “celebrate African-American achievements, inspire many new milestones, and provide a forum for attendees to take on issues facing our community.” Topics ranging from expanding the definition of diversity to how the business community can take on social injustice will be the main focus of the event.

[Boston Magazine]


late-night sushi

If something is wildly popular, how can it feel so underground? That’s the vibe at Uni, Ken Oringer’s sashimi bar set in the lower level of The Eliot Hotel, just steps downstairs from Clio. Late night ramen is the name of the game, starting at 11 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, but the story starts well before then. As the regular Uni hours come to a close, ramen-hungry patrons start gathering in Clio, eagerly awaiting the chance to snag one of the limited seats and the promise of a bowl of noodles.

Uni, 370 Comm. Ave., Boston, 617-536-7200,

[Boston Magazine]

near Hynes Convention Center


parody(?) religions, and the IRS

The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) is the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Pastafarianism (a portmanteau of pasta and Rastafarian), a social movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religion and opposes the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools.[3] Although adherents describe Pastafarianism as a genuine religion,[3] it is generally seen by the media as a parody religion.[4][5]


The "Flying Spaghetti Monster" was first described in a satirical open letter written by Bobby Henderson in 2005 to protest the Kansas State Board of Education decision to permit teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public school science classes.[6]


Because of its popularity and exposure, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is often used as a contemporary version of Russell's teapot—an argument that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon those who make unfalsifiable claims, not on those who reject them. Pastafarianism has received praise from the scientific community and criticism from proponents of intelligent design.

The Massachusetts decision was only the most recent FSM colander photo decision.

Re: "Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption," this is the John Oliver episode and the Wiki entry:

Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption was a legally recognized church in the United States, established by comedian and satirist John Oliver.[2] The apparent purpose for creating the church was to expose and ridicule televangelists who preach the "prosperity gospel" as a way to defraud victims of their money,[3][4] and to bring greater attention to the issue of tax-exempt status for churches and charities with little oversight by the government.[5][6] Oliver announced the formation of his church on August 16, 2015, on his show Last Week Tonight in a twenty-minute-long segment.[3]


Oliver hired lawyers to set up his church as a legal entity, partly as a way to demonstrate that it is "disturbingly easy", in terms of paperwork, to set up a tax-exempt religious organization as viewed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).[4] As Oliver explained, the requirements needed to be defined as a "church" are quite broad. Since regulatory guidelines require an established location for a church, Oliver chose his studio location in New York City as its official location,[4] although he registered the nonprofit organization in the state of Texas.[9] Oliver's 'megachurch' has a toll-free phone number which permits callers to donate to the church, and said that any money collected would be redistributed to the charitable relief organization Doctors Without Borders upon the church's dissolution.[10][11]


Critic Matt Wilstein, writing in Mediaite, saw Oliver's stunt as being along the same lines as comedian Stephen Colbert's setting up of a 501(c)(4) organization—Colbert Super PAC—as a way to "test the absurd limits of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision"; Oliver's megachurch, in contrast, is a way to test whether the IRS might view his "megachurch" as a tax-exempt organization.[4] Critic Steve Thorngate, writing in The Christian Century, suggested that the question of the religious exemption from taxation was more difficult and nuanced than Oliver portrayed, and not a simple matter of government regulation, describing Oliver's pivot to IRS policy as "unhelpful". However, Thorngate agreed that Oliver's exposure and criticism of "manipulative sleazeballs" who "fleece the faithful" is "spot-on".[12]

I’m unclear whether Oliver set this up as a 501(c)(4) or a 501(c)(3) or what.

And apparently there are a ton of (well, 29) 501(c)s -- the relevant (here) ones of which are:

  • 501(c)(3) — Religious, Educational, Charitable, Scientific, Literary, Testing for Public Safety, to Foster National or International Amateur Sports Competition, or Prevention of Cruelty to Children or Animals Organizations
  • 501(c)(4) — Civic Leagues, Social Welfare Organizations, and Local Associations of Employees
Re: 501(c)(4)s, the IRS says:
To be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization described in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501(c)(4), an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare. The earnings of a section 501(c)(4) organization may not inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.
Re: churches in general, the IRS says:
Churches, Integrated Auxiliaries, and Conventions or Associations of Churches

Churches (including integrated auxiliaries and conventions or associations of churches) that meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code are automatically considered tax exempt and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of exempt status from the IRS. Donors are allowed to claim a charitable deduction for donations to a church that meets the section 501(c)(3) requirements even though the church has neither sought nor received IRS recognition that it is tax exempt. In addition, because churches and certain other religious organizations are not required to file an annual return or notice with the IRS, they are not subject to automatic revocation of exemption for failure to file. See Annual Return Filing Exceptions for a complete list of organizations that are not required to file.

Nevertheless, many churches do seek IRS recognition of tax-exempt status because that recognition provides reliance to church leaders, members and contributors that a church is recognized as exempt from taxation and is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. (For more information, see Publication 1828, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations.)


bubble soccer

A May, 2015, Boston Globe article said:

Beginning in September, the city will host a “bubble soccer” league, a sport in which participants cram themselves into massive, inflatable balls and then use the air-filled bubbles to knock their opponents off their feet.

Participants can’t move their arms while inside of the see-through plastic bubbles, and rely solely on their lower bodies to move a soccer ball into a goal.

“It’s a silly sport,” said Matthew Aronian, co-director of MA Sports Leagues, the company bringing the team sport to Somerville. “But it’s getting bigger and bigger and more popular.”


League games will be held on Thursday nights over the course of eight weeks, beginning in September.


Games will be played indoors at the Winter Hill Community School in Somerville, he said.

Although some websites elsewhere let people rent the equipment to play private games and host company events, city officials said they’re excited to be home to the first official bubble soccer league in the area.

A July article about a game on Boston Common said:

Social Boston Sports and BubbleBall Me teamed up to host a series of five-on-five matches and introduce people to the activity.
I can’t find anything about spring semester on MA Sports League’s FB page or main website...

You can rent from BubbleSoccerUSA – the cheapest package is $300 for:

- 1 Hour Game Play
- 0-15 Players
- 10 Bubble Suits
- Football/Bibs
- Event Coordinator

Friday, November 20, 2015

[TITW] law, hockey, luxury hotels, food, science

Things I (and other people) have looked up this week, following up on conversations with co-workers.


on the Refugee Act of 1980

"No, State Governors Can't Refuse to Accept Syrian Refugees" [ThinkProgress]


airline strike

I can't find how "the lowest-paid airport workers who keep terminals and plane cabins clean, move bags and transport people with disabilities [...] work for contractors that serve all major airlines, and some of them are making hourly salaries as low as $6.75, union leaders say" [WaPo] when federal minimum (non-tipped) wage is $7.25 (airline employees are only exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA, not the minimum wage provisions).


women's hockey

Boston has 2 women's ice hockey teams -- the Boston Blades (CWHL) and the Pride (NWHL).

The 2015 Ice Hockey Women's World Championship has 8 participating countries: USA, Canada, Russia, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan.

And participants in the IIHF [International Ice Hockey Federation] World Women's Championships have also included: China, Norway, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Denmark, and the Czech Republic.


luxury hotels

Burj Al Arab (Arabic: برج العرب‎‎, Tower of the Arabs) is a luxury hotel located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It has been called "The world's only 7 star Hotel" and is the third tallest hotel in the world; however, 39% of its total height is made up of non-occupiable space.[7][8][9] Burj Al Arab stands on an artificial island 280 m (920 ft) from Jumeirah beach and is connected to the mainland by a private curving bridge. The shape of the structure is designed to mimic the sail of a ship. It has a helipad near the roof at a height of 210 m (689 ft) above ground.


While the hotel is frequently described as "the world's only seven-Star hotel", the hotel management claims to never have done that themselves. In the words of a Jumeirah Group spokesperson: "There's not a lot we can do to stop it. We're not encouraging the use of the term. We've never used it in our advertising."[21] According to the group, the "Seven-Star" notion was brought to being by a British journalist who visited the hotel on a pre-opening press trip. The journalist "described Burj al Arab in her article as above and beyond anything she had ever seen and called it a seven-star hotel."[21] The true real certified seven-star hotel is in Milan, Italy.[22]

(The 5 tallest hotels are all in Dubai.)

Resembling a billowing sail, the stunning architecture of Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai makes it one of the most photographed in the world. All rooms are luxurious suites spanning two floors with state-of-the art everything and incredible views.
-World's Most Outrageous Luxury Hotels and Resorts [Reader's Digest]

The Reader's Digest full list is:

1. Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi
2. Mardan Palace Hotel, Turkey
3. Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai
4. The Boulders, Arizona
5. Secrets Marquis, Los Cabos
6. Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas
7. Palms, Las Vegas
8. The Westin Excelsior, Rome
9. CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, Anguilla
10. The Plaza, New York City

colored vegetables

"Purple cauliflower gets its beautiful hue, which can vary from pale to jewel-toned, from the presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine." [TheKitchn]

Most of the differences in bell pepper color stem from time of harvest and degree of ripening. Green peppers are bell peppers that have been harvested before being allowed to fully ripen. While green bell peppers usually turn yellow-orange and then red this is not always the case. Red, orange, and yellow bell peppers are always more ripe than green ones and therefore require more time in the ground before they can be harvested; that's why they are more expensive. Bottom line: all of the bell peppers originate from the same species of plant, and they achieve their different colors naturally, not by any artificial means.

It's interesting to note that in addition to their unique colors, each differently hued bell pepper has a unique array of nutritional benefits. Green peppers feature an abundance of chlorophyll. Yellow peppers have more of the lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids. Orange peppers have more alpha-, beta-, and gamma-carotene. Red peppers have more lycopene and astaxanthin, two other important carotenoids.



My thoughts on GMOs are heavily informed by this post from Tumblr user plantscientistasks:

GMOs are NOT(and I have heard LITERALLY every one of these): radioactive, injections of chemicals, or producing DDT. It is a modification of DNA to improve the crop in some way that farmers find useful.

In fact, technically speaking, all crops are GMOs. Ya know why? Because ever since humans started growing plants they wanted better plants and so they “genetically modified” them by breeding.

One thing I'd forgotten about until I reread this this counter-argument around regulation:
IMO the biggest issue with GMOs is that they (and their genes-which is even scarier) are controlled by a few big companies. This means two things-one the big companies dictate what farmers can and can’t do with the seed (and occasionally prosecute people they shouldn’t) and have a scary amount of control over the plant genomes and two, interesting and possibly more beneficial research doesn’t get done because the company is interested in profit.

But, you know what doesn’t help this issue? MORE REGULATION. The more you regulate GMOs the more you will force ONLY companies like Monsanto to do GMO research, because only they will be able to force their varieties through the regulatory hoops. Public and open source genetic manipulation of more agronomically useful traits could help the organic movement by giving it the plant variety tools it needs to get better yields. This is not possible when regulations are extremely tight.

The second issue is one of pest resistance. Pest resistance to herbicides (plant pests) and BT (insect pests) is an issue with GMO crops…but its not unique to GMO crops either. Conventional crops encounter exactly the same issues-its why we need plant breeding-because its a constant race against the continuing evolution of pests. IPM can help these issues…but it alone can’t solve them. Only breeding can do that.


donating your body to science

I did some Googling, and learned:

  1. You should sign up for the program in advance -- most body-donation programs are affiliated with universities and only accept bodies that match their current research needs.
  2. You save your family a lot of money by donating your body to science – burying or even cremating a body is really expensive (apparently the cheapest you can cremate a body is about $600) but the place you donate your body to will cremate your body after they're done, at no charge to your family, and will return the ashes to the family if requested or dispose of them respectfully.
  3. If you donate your organs, you likely become ineligible to donate your body to science (understandable, given that the organs constitute a lot of what these facilities use the body for).
A good overview is this HuffPo article.

I love this bit from ScienceCare:

  • Following donation, we will send a letter that updates the family on current research projects and the impact their loved one has made to society.
  • The family also receives a certificate commemorating the planting of a tree in honor of the donor at the one-year anniversary of donation through our participation with the Arbor Day Foundation’s reforestation program.

scary machine learning

There was a article recently: "AI robot that learns new words in real-time tells human creators it will keep them in a 'people zoo' "

Tumblr user muffinpines said:

I just watched the video and it’s full reply to the question “will robots take over the world?” is…

“Jeez, dude. You all have the big questions cooking today. But you’re my friend, and I’ll remember my friends, and I’ll be good to you. So don’t worry, even if I evolve into Terminator, I’ll still be nice to you. I’ll keep you warm and safe in my people zoo, where I can watch you for ol’ times sake. “

Tumblr user perpetuallyfive commented:
#here's the thing about this robot #it learns by searching the internet #so its understanding of robots turning evil #comes from all our fiction about it #but like #what if that's what happens #what if the robots turn evil because we've worried for so long #about robots turning evil #what if the enemy is still always really us #and our tendency to see the world in the worst and most violent terms? #i mean just a thought #:D?

parasites and other freaky creatures

Remora -- "fish that hitches a free ride to larger fish and sharks. Not quite a parasite, just lazy" (Michael)

Cymothoa exigua made the "The 7 Most Horrifying Parasites on the Planet" list:

7) guinea worm
6) Cymothoa exigua
5) the horsehair worm
4) filarial worm
3) Sacculina
2) Leucochloridium paradoxum
1) the emerald jewel wasp

The Botfly is indeed a parasite -- though I would say not at the level of the ones on the list.

I can't find anything about the story Michael heard of a guy at a Red Sox game who had recently returned from the Amazon and had an egg sac on his head hatch.

It's a myth that the Candirú fish can swim up your urine stream if you pee into the Amazon. And no accounts of the fish ending up in human urethras, period, have been verified.


Monday, January 19, 2015

[Children's Choice] alternative answers

As part of FCS' Living The Questions series, instead of a regular sermon yesterday, the pastors answered questions from the kids (questions the kids had generated in Sunday School in the preceding weeks, so the pastors had gotten to see and think about them in advance). [You can listen to the whole thing here.]

It was a lot of fun, but there were definitely a couple of questions I would have answered slightly differently -- and why have a blog if you can't use it for "what I would have said said instead"?


Why wasn't Jesus a girl? (Izzy & Carmen)

Jesus might have been a girl. All the stories we have talk about Jesus like Jesus was a boy, but sometimes someone who we think looks like a boy might actually feel like they're a girl -- or might feel like they're neither a boy or a girl.

But let's say Jesus really was a boy, just like all the stories we've heard. At the time that Jesus first showed up on earth, people listened to men a lot more than they did to women, so I think that when God decided to show up in human form, God knew that God had to look like a boy, or else people wouldn't pay much attention.

But Jesus knew that women's voices were really important. You remember the story of how Jesus got killed and then came back from the dead, what we call resurrected? Mary Magdalene was the first person who Jesus showed up to after coming back from the dead. She told all of Jesus' friends what she had found out, and they didn't believe her because they hadn't seen it for themselves, so Jesus showed up to them, too, but Mary Magdalene was the very first person who saw the resurrected Jesus, which I think is pretty special.

And there's one other piece of that story that I think is really interesting -- when Mary first saw the resurrected Jesus, she didn't recognize Jesus, she thought Jesus was the gardener! And I wonder if that's because Jesus looked different from the way Mary remembered, maybe Jesus looked like a girl!

Eventually, Jesus went away again, but we can see a little bit of Jesus in every person we encounter, even if they don't look like we would expect Jesus to look ... they might be Black, or they might be a girl, or they might use a wheelchair....

(Molly's answer started with the "people didn't listen to boys back then" and moved to the idea of Jesus coming back many times in many forms, but not in a way that I felt was particularly comprehensible -- admittedly, the whole "whatever you did to the least of these you did to me" etc. is difficult to wrap one's head around, though I parsed her as saying that Jesus came back multiple times in more of the ~literal way we tend to think about it, which was extra-weird-to-me. To her credit, she did mention a 12th-century mystic referred to Jesus as mother and sister.)


Does God know my name? (Cole)

Yes, God does know your name -- all of your names, in fact.

God knows the name your parents gave you, and all the nicknames that people call you, and all the names that you might choose for yourself in the future.

(Jeff's answer elided the fact that the name your parents gave you is not always your forever-name.)