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.