By the way, when he refers to "Ohio", he means the state's unique relationship to voting machines.

(via killefit)

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In response to yesterday's vice presidential debate, Aden Renkai came up with the following, fabulous litte flow chart that describes pretty well how it went down from Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's point of view--in fact, probably better than I could describe it with words... "Darn right!"

[via bb]

Critics say, she was doing pretty well, and it seems, her constant references to her family made a good impression too. However, considering the expectations towards her had been lowered to a mere "do no harm", her real merit was in not costing McCain the presidency on the spot. That makes it almost forgivable that instead of answering the moderator's questions, she went back to energy politics over and over again (we get it, you would like to drill for more American oil). Almost. <!--more--> Biden (or O'Biden, as Palin called him once), on the other hand, didn't say many surprising things either, as he decided not to address Palin (not to lose "hockey moms'" votes across the country), and instead fought against his absent adversary McCain. More interesting than what he was saying though was his signature grin: I couldn't help but wonder, where did I see that before?

Later, it struck me: Joe Biden, much like Ronald Reagan a few decades earlier, was an actor before he entered the world of politics. His only, but famous role:

The Cheshire Cat in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The winking Palin, by the way, led to a lot of amusement in the lecture hall I watched the debate in: It was grotesque that she behaved so similar to her Saturday Night Live parody (that has recently virally bubbled up on the internet):

The question is, who is whose parody? Palin - Fey or vice versa?

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This morning, I got a kick out of looking at the origins of the license plates I came across while walking to school. To my surprise, there were quite a few, which is why I share the list with you (in alphabetical order, not by preference ;) ):

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia

And two that don't come from a US state:

Ontario (Canada) and a US federal license plate ("For government use only")

That's a total of 16 different origins. Not bad for a single walk!

Also, if you'd like to see the history of how license plates looked in your state then and now, I found the website that has a pretty comprehensive picture collection that's worth checking out.

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Mr. McCain is correct that there appears to be a growing gap in height between North and South Koreans, likely due to poor nutrition and impoverished living conditions. (...) While the conditions for North Koreans are troubling, Americans have a similar height gap to worry about, and it also appears to be due to a lower standard of living, poor health care and inadequate nutrition. Last summer, the journal Social Science Quarterly reported that Americans are, quite literally, falling short of Europeans.

New York Times columnist Tara Parker-Pope on the irony that in the first presidential debate, John McCain pointed out the height of the North Korean people (in comparison with South Koreans) as a sign of how bad life there is--while his own American citizens quite literally "fall short" of their European counterparts, for different political, but similar biological reasons.


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This xkcd comic is just way too cool to be left unblogged:

Needless to say, due to its ginormous size I needed to cut off the middle part (one of the beauties of its CC-by-nc license), so make sure to click on the picture to see it in all its beauty.

Randall Munroe made a map of the observable universe, from top to bottom, on a logarithmic scale. I love the details ("Eris: All hail discordia!"--Eris is the Greek goddess of strife, or Cory Doctorow in a balloon, or Pluto (not a planet, neener neener)...). It's also cool how funny the buildings look due to the scale.

It's also available as a poster!

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Gotta love Amazon recommendations. Apparently, it found out due to my viewing history, that I am interested in stem vowels:

What they did not explain is how the Belgium they came up with that (I know for a fact that I did not search for that), and more importantly, how it is even possible to develop an interest in stem vowels.

Then again, I am not a linguist, so maybe I am just an utter philistine when it comes to the beauty of stem vowels. Who knows?

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On occasion, living in a Jewish neighborhood makes for some interesting observations. The local synagogue (calling itself a temple, thus, according to Wikipedia, giving the hint that it's a conservative congregation) seemed to be packed tonight, judging by the amount of cars parked around it, in observance of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah.

In front of it: Two Pittsburgh cops, observing the passers-by.

I wonder why? Is the social climate here particularly hostile against Jewish citizens? That was not my impression, so far. But possibly, it's similar to the presence of policemen that I saw in front of the New Synagogue in Berlin a while ago (hey, at least the ones in Pittsburgh don't carry automatic guns). While today's German society as a whole is not prone to antisemitic tendencies, just in case some douche nozzle has a strong form of historic ignorance, there is protection in place anyway.

Come to think of it, I recently saw apparently anti-judaistic Christian missionaries quite obtrusively trying to convert the local Jews to Christianity, by walking around on the main street with transparents and forcing flyers onto innocent bystanders. (Interestingly, their targeting specifically orthodox jews for their evangelization efforts goes into the same--heavily criticized--direction of Pope Benedict's recent change to the Catholic Good Friday Prayer for the Jews, though I doubt these missionaries were Catholic. But I am digressing).

Anyway, sad if they need the police to keep such people off their backs.

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OSU vs. USC "OSU vs. USC" by michelleface on flickr

OSU Beavers fans rushing the field after the game Oregon State University vs. University of Southern California.

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History has shown again and again that a vice president must be ready to assume command of the ship of state on a moment’s notice. But Ms. Palin has given no indication yet that she is capable of handling the monumental responsibilities of the presidency if she were called upon to do so.

From a New York Times opinion on the capability of Sarah Palin to become Vice President of the US.

Related: CNN commentator Jack Cafferty calls Palin "pathetic":

For me as an international observer, this is all very scary: Does the international community want such a pilot, just one 72-year-old heartbeat away from flying the world's biggest "jet"? I think politicians across the globe are praying these days for this not to happen.

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Forbes has an interesting list of "the world's 100 most powerful women". Number one on the list is:

German chancellor Angela Merkel.

I am really glad to see that. When she first came to power, it was not at all clear how well she would handle her job as a chancellor, between parties that couldn't disagree more on lots of key issues, and on an international stage that has shown to be more complicated to deal with than ever. And while she had proven her determination for power for decades before, as she stepped out of the shadow of former chancellor Helmut Kohl (whose protégé she once was) and established her own political reputation, that of course didn't guarantee her success once she actually made it into office.

Since then, Merkel has done (almost) surprisingly well, both in interior politics as well as internationally, and has, in my opinion, proven to be a good leader of one of the strongest economies in the world.

That being said, Germany still has a long way to go in equal opportunity for women: The wage gaps between male and female employees in Germany are still among the widest in Europe. We'll see how efforts like Elterngeld will affect this. Still, having a woman chancellor doesn't magically solve all your social problems, just in case you were wondering...

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