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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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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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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The Jewish Council for Education and Research made a pretty funny video to encourage young voters who have Jewish grandparents in Florida to fly there and convince them of voting Obama: "The Great Schlep".

(Naturally, don't take it too seriously).

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So there is this guy, who says he has eaten 23.000 big macs over the course of 36 years and obviously, kept all the receipts.

If these were the presidential elections, I would demand a recount, but in dubio pro reo and all, let's assume he is right. Of course I wanted to know how many big macs that totals per day, so I entered into Google:

23 000 / (36 years)

and what did I get back? Obviously, big macs per second:

By the way: Using more conventional units, this totals between 1 and 2 big macs a day.

PS: Random fact I am sure none of you wanted to know, Heinrich Hertz, the guy whose name became the unit of frequency "hertz", was a professor at University of Karlsruhe (my home uni), where he discovered the electromagnetic waves.

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When I went to Giant Eagle earlier this week, I got a two DVDs from the Redbox DVD rental machine in front of the store, as I felt like watching a movie and they only charge 1 dollar plus tax a day, which is really cheap. Sadly, one of the DVDs was so badly scratched that my drive wouldn't even read it: After a few unsuccessful tries at spinning up the disc, it spit it right back out -- though my DVD player isn't even usually that picky about what it eats (I'll spare you the reference to Americans and their fast food).

Sure enough, I called customer service (1-800-REDBOX3, in case you were wondering) and they apologized, marked the disc as "to be removed from circulation" and gave me two codes for free rentals in return.

So I took back the discs, and got two new ones -- only to notice that one of them was, yet again, looking like somebody had used it as a coaster:

Though they gave me another replacement code, I decided to try something different to satisfy my urge for movies and TV shows: I signed up for Netflix.

The idea of finding a new movie in the mail box when I come home from work sounded appealing to me. So I already put 20 discs into the queue which, considering I have the 1-DVD-at-a-time-plan, will probably take ages to go through, but we'll see how it goes. Another cool feature is their "watch instantly" collection, but I may blog about that some other time.

I wonder what my readers use to get to their movies? Let me know in the comments.

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Hah, that's great: The initiative to rename a "wastewater treatment facility" in San Francisco to "George W. Bush Sewage Plant" made it onto November 4ths ballots.

Read more here: SFist: Breaking News: George W. Bush Sewage Plant Renaming Qualifies for November Ballot.

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Interesting, I just noticed that what is known (and has been for like a decade or so) as the "Opel Astra" in Europe is sold here in the US under the Saturn brand name, making it the Saturn Astra:

Both Saturn and Opel are brands under the hood of General Motors, so there's no big surprise here. What's more interesting is that 4-dollars-a-gallon seem to be making American car buyers interested in smaller European-style cars quite a bit more than they used to.

Also, the very same cars (sold under the same or a different brand name, doesn't matter) are much more affordable over here. The abovementioned Astra can be bought for 18.000 US dollars on this side of the big pond, while you'll have to cough up 20.000 Euros (that's about 30.000 dollars) easily for the same car in continental Europe.

The usual excuse for higher car prices in Europe used to be "the European customer wants higher quality than the American one" -- when the very same car is concerned though, this argument is hardly convincing.

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Heute in meinem Postfach:

Mit Wirkung vom 11.07.2008 wird keine Werbekostenerstattung mehr für den DVD-Verleih gezahlt, da der Verleihservice eingestellt wird.

Wie es aussieht, klappt Amazon seinen DVD-Verleih zu, und übergibt das Geschäft an den britischen Verleiher "LOVEFiLM". Dazu auf der Amazon-Webseite:

Frage: Warum überträgt Amazon sein Geschäft an LOVEFiLM? Antwort: Genau wie ist auch LOVEFiLM bestrebt, Ihnen den besten Kundenservice zu bieten. Durch unsere Investition in LOVEFiLM werden wir noch besser Kundenwünsche befriedigen können. LOVEFiLM bietet Ihnen einen umfassenden Katalog mit zehntausenden DVDs von Neuerscheinungen bis hin zu seltenen Titeln.

Ich bin gespannt, wie sich der DVD-Verleih per Post in Deutschland weiterentwickelt. Wie wohl die Marktanteile zwischen Amazon/Lovefilm und verteilt sind?

Preislich sind die Anbieter exakt gleich, nur bietet Amazon/Lovefilm zusätzlich günstigere "1 DVD pro Monat" Anlockangebote an.

Die Unterschiede sind also nicht groß, ganz im Unterschied zu den USA, wo sich die beiden "großen", Netflix und Blockbuster, mal mehr mal weniger friedlich um die Vorherrschaft auf dem Markt prügeln, auch beim Preis: insbesondere bei den "großen" Verträgen ist Netflix günstiger, die Anfängersparte geht hier jedoch an Blockbuster. Letztere rühmen sich zudem damit, dass man DVDs in deren Verleihläden tauschen kann, was Netflix nicht vorweisen kann. Das ist natürlich ein Zeitvorteil (insbesondere bei der bisweilen seeehr langsamen Post in diesem Land), andererseits fangen auch Amerikaner an, bei 4 Dollar je Gallone Sprit den 8-Zylinder öfter mal in der Garage stehen zu lassen.

Ich dachte immer, DVDs per Post sei nicht so der Bringer in Deutschland, weil man immer persönlich zum Postkasten laufen muss und seine Rücksendung nicht einfach dem Postboten mitgeben kann. Alles in allem scheint das Geschäft aber dennoch ganz interessant zu werden.

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Oh, hello! The MSIE team sent us another cake. This time, sadly, I wasn't around to taste it, but it looks much nicer than the old one! Internet Explorer just started getting color, it seems like!

Here it is, photo courtesy of robcee:

I hope it tasted as delicious as the first one!

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