The Animal Anal Alarm™

So, I have cats. Like dogs, cats sometimes like to lick you. This can be pleasant and invigorating. But when Fido jumps up on you when you return from work and plants a big wet kiss on your cheek or hand, somewhere in the back of your mind you're thinking: 'I wonder how long it's been since Fido gave a tongue-bath to his anus.' In fact, your dog may have just eagerly gulped down a family-sized portion of some other dog's -- or even his own -- fecal matter.

Why can't technology provide a solution to this problem? If you can wear something on your wrist that knows whether you're sleeping or how many steps you climbed, you should be able to invent some sort of accelerometer-GPS-quantum-gizmo that can tell when your pet last french-kissed the old bunghole. So as Fido closes in for the greeting, you sneak a peek at the digital collar display. If it reads '210 minutes', you're probably OK. If it reads '6 seconds', EVASIVE ACTION.

Who wants to help me kickstarter this and become a millionaire?


Koan 2.0 #56

Nara binzuru general

Legendary abbot Fu Schnickens ran into the gathering hall, ascended the Throne of Wisdom, rang the Bell of Insight, and spake thusly to the disciples: "Hats."

He then went on, speaking louder and louder:

    "Tiny hats.

    Tiny moist hats.

    Tiny moist sizzling hats.

    Tiny moist sizzling marzipan hats."

He then fell silent.

Five disciples immediately attained enlightenment. Two lost control over their bowels. One threw himself over the balcony, shrieking, and fell lifeless on the rocks below.

Verily, the wisdom of the Enlightened One is unsearchable!


'Oh Albania, Red Star that Burns Bright'

Probably the finest Canadian song praising the Communist Party of Albania you will hear today (h/t RM):

I wonder if there are any English-language songs praising East Germany?

If you're interested in the internecine squabbles of Canadian Marxist splinter parties in the 1960s -- and who isn't? -- you can find plenty of documentation here. One of the absolute must-read highlights, On the Question of Liu Shao-Chi:

While we might be disposed to be somewhat critical of [Sidney Rittenberg]'s speech for being poorly constructed, not too carefully prepared and containing some careless formulatons, we are in agreement with its basic content in criticizing and repudiating the bourgeois-reactionary line of Liu Shao-chi and upholding the proletarian-revolutionary line of Mao Tse-tung. However, the Belgian trio of Jacques Grippa, Rene Raindorf and Stephen Strulens who are of the opposite opinion, in reply to Rittenburg’s 40 to 50 minute speech inscribed a, reply that would fill a good-sized book.

The extreme length of this literary attack is largely caused by the authors’ ranging far beyond the limits of the Rittenburg speech which did not provide them with sufficient scope for the objective they had in mind. In order to correct this situaton Rittenburg is charged with not saying certain things, and the things which were not said provide the main basis for the attack.


Heat Drives Violence

A while ago I speculated on why Americans and Europeans perceive temperature so differently. I pointed out that the United States is a much hotter country than many Europeans realize. A recent study has suggested that there is a strong link between heat and violence: 

More specifically, for a degree Celsius of temperature increase (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), Burke says there could be a 20 percent increase in civil conflict in Africa. The impact of warming varies by region, however; some places are more sensitive to small heat increases than others. In the United States, the estimate would be lower: For 1 degree Celsius of warming, he'd expect about a 1 percent increase in interpersonal conflicts, a category that includes crimes like assault and robbery but also road rage and fights at baseball games.

...Richard Larrick, a professor at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, explained in an e-mail the psychological research linking heat with shows of aggression.

"Researchers in social psychology have studied the relationship between temperature and aggression for many decades," Larrick said. That includes studies looking at links between a day's temperature and people engaging in real world behaviors ranging from honking horns to committing violent crimes. "Research in the laboratory," Larrick continues, "allowed for tightly controlled tests to show that changes in temperature directly lead to more aggression." Such research has shown, he notes, that "heat changes the way people feel and think, increasing anger and making thoughts of aggression increase."

It is important to underscore that the temperature-violence relationship is not deterministic. In their meta-analysis, Burke and his colleagues liken the situation to "the rise in car accident rates during rainy days" -- the rain ups the risk of accidents overall, but each accident is still contingent on the individual situation and choices (and mistakes) of the drivers involved.

Similarly, warmer temperatures seem to shift the overall background risk for violent conflict -- but whether someone commits a violent act remains dependent upon the specific circumstances and the individual.


A Modest Proposal to End Love Locking on Bridges Forever

Everywhere you go in Europe, you see eyesores like this:

The-Pont-des-Arts-bridge-Lock-Bridge-April-2013-001-610x404

Ever since some moron decided that attaching pieces of metal to public walkways was a thing, the scourge has proliferated. There are so many locks on the Pont des Arts that its railing partially collapsed last month

Here's my proposed remedy, which I might turn into a kickstarter campaign.

  1. Buy 10-15 bolt cutters. 
  2. Give them to the people who usually root around in public trash cans looking for deposit bottles to redeem for money.
  3. Promise these folks 50 cents for every lock they cut off and return to a central collecting point.
  4. Take the locks to a recycling center.

I bet this would have the entire bridge cleared in days, if not hours. There are lots of bottle collectors out there, they are extremely resourceful and persistent, and they have nothing but time on their hands.

You might ask: is this legal? I am sure it would be under American law. (How about German law? Help me out, readers!). Since the custom is apparently to throw the keys away after attaching the lock, whoever put the locks there has manifested an intention to permanently abandon the property. Or in less legal language, they've decided to throw away the lock in a public place. Which is littering, and is illegal. Removing litter is not only legal, it's a public service.

My proposal kills three birds with one stone: the bridge is cleared, the poor make money, and the metal gets recycled. I think I'll start a kickstarter project for this. Who's with me?


Order, Security, Cleanliness and Discipline

I hope you like the redesign. Until recently, Typepad only gave you two options: the center column could be either 500 pixels wide, or no border at all. I chose no border because 500 pixels is too narrow for many embeds and pictures.

Thanks to a recent upgrade, though, you can now have a broader main column, so I've done that. I also changed the banner, to reflect this blog's Signature Values™ of Order, Security, Cleanliness and Discipline. The recognition plaque comes from the former East Germany. During the last years of Communism, the government tried to compensate for empty store shelves and crumbling infrastructure by giving nearly every citizen a prize, plaque, or award of some sort.

It didn't work. Or did it?


Language-Beauty

Bernd Brunner, a native German speaker, reflects on how and why languages get a reputation for ugliness or beauty:

As far as I can tell, many people – including not only many Germans, but Americans – consider Italian to be the most beautiful language. Nasal French earns mixed reviews; some people find it elegant and sophisticated, while it sounds somehow stilted to others’ ears. Those who see fit to praise English – at least, if they’re from Europe – usually add in the same breath that “of course” they mean British English; specifically, the Oxford kind. Sadly, they forget that American English, especially as spoken on the East Coast, can express tremendous elegance and, yes, class. (And this judgment, of course, is quite objective). I think so, in any case, especially when I recall Bobbie Battista, the unforgettable, slightly and sexily cross-eyed former anchor for CNN International. It was a pleasure to listen to her, even when she was presenting terrible news from the first Gulf War. Anyway, you can make a mess of any language. It all depends on who is doing the talking and how he or she speaks – the speed, rhythm, and tone of voice. When some people open their mouths, the results sound more like yelling than talking. So isn’t it a little presumptuous to claim that one language is beautiful and another is ugly? Isn’t beauty entirely subjective? And what’s more: who actually knows every language and is in a position to make such a definitive judgment? The Japanese  – to take just one example of a non-Western culture – seem to see the whole matter differently. A friend who is a professor in Tokyo explained to me that Japanese people generally consider their mother tongue to be the most beautiful, but also have a high opinion of French and the Polynesian languages.

...In the beauty contest of languages, Danish, Chinese, and Arabic usually bring up the rear. As a nonlinguist with no need to fear for my reputation – at least my academic one – I freely admit that I can’t warm up to the sound of Danish, especially when compared to Norwegian or, even better, unbelievably musical Swedish. But I pull myself together and remember that some people find beauty precisely where others don’t. To use a musical analogy, talking about languages this way is a little bit like trying to compare Vivaldi and Shostakovich.

...Don’t judgments about a language’s beauty or ugliness generally depend on our personal experiences with people who speak it, and the associations it evokes? Brazilian Portuguese is considered especially soft and melodic – and it inspires thoughts of the bossa nova and Copacabana. Spanish calls up visions of flamenco, bullfights, and – maybe – especially attractive people, and Italian calls to mind great architecture and delicious food, wine and, yes, Mafia. Of course these are clichés, but they still play a role in our perception that we simply can’t ignore.

I think a more apt analogy than Vivaldi v. Shostakovich is any musical instrument played badly or well. American vocal fry is ghastly, but a well-modulated announcer (Bobbie) can be pleasant. Received Pronunciation British English charms even Anglophobes, whereas scouse or geordie are an acquired taste. German's reputed to be harsh and guttural (people think of ranting Hitler), but in the right hands it is hypnotically rhythmic and melancholy: 

In my personal league table Brazilian Portuguese comes out on top, because it's an instrument that just can't be played badly. It sounds playful and sexy even coming from a doofus like Ronaldinho: 

 

But pair it with a voice like Marisa Monte's, and you have the soundtrack to nibbana nirvana: