News-ish

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I’m really sick of hearing about swine flu. According to the CDC there have been 141 reported cases in the US, and one death. Meanwhile, “regular” flu affects 25-30 MILLION people each year, and 30,000 to 40,000 deaths each year in the US (source). As of last June there were 304 million people in the US. So roughly .00005% of the people in the US have swine flu, while about 10% will get regular flu this year. Can we all agree it’s not that big of a deal get back to living our lives? And news outlets, please, shut the fuck up.

If all the statistics don’t convince you, check out this cartoon. It perfectly summarizes the power of fear and hysteria to overwhelm rationality:

Pooh Flu

via BoingBoing

McDonalds is in mourning over the death of the inventor of the Egg McMuffin
Herb Peterson, inventor of McDonalds’ Egg McMuffinAll of the McDonalds family is in mourning after the death of one of their beloved visionaries. Herb Peterson, the man who invented McDonalds’ most popular breakfast sandwich, the Egg McMuffin, died on Tueday at age 89.

The rebellious Peterson created the Egg McMuffin at a time when McDonalds didn’t even serve breakfast. While McDonalds president Ray Kroc liked the idea, Peterson was reprimanded for serving breakfast behind the company’s back. That’s the sort of thanks he got for creating the idea that now accounts for at least %20 of McDonalds’ sales.

Now, personally I hate the Egg McMuffin. If I’m going to eat breakfast at McDonalds it’s probably going to be the artery-clogging yumminess that is the Sausage McGriddle. That being said, I salute you Mr. Peterson, for giving us overeaters a morning outlet for our compulsive eating!

via CNN

The writers/cast members of The Office are of course on strike with the Writer’s Guild of America. In this video they attempt to explain some of the reasons for the strike, in their own humorous way.

Hokie Nation Mourns
I apologize for the break from our usual music, movie, and television stories, but I don’t feel much like writing about those things today. Both Aaron and I have ties to Virginia Tech (I’m a member of the class of 99 and Aaron got his Masters there). I lived in West AJ, the dorm where the first shooting occurred and two students were killed, my freshman year. As such the shootings have hit very close to home for me.

Blacksburg, Virginia is an quiet college town. When I was in school we used to joke that you can’t buy underwear in Blacksburg; you have to go to Christiansburg, a neighboring town a few miles away. Big news simply does not happen in Blacksburg.

This horrific incident has left many more questions than answers. Who was the gunman and what was his motive? For that matter, was it the same gunman in both shootings? It seems likely, but police haven’t confirmed it yet. How much planning went into this? The gunman at Norris Hall killed 30 people, and wounded many more. How much ammunition did he have? Police have reported that the doors of Norris Hall were chained shut from the inside and that the gunman was wearing a bulletproof vest. What does that mean as far as planning? If it was one gunman, where was he for the two hours between shootings. Were the decisions of the campus police and school administrators correct given the information they had?

When a tragedy such as this happens it’s natural for people to react in many different ways. Some become empathetic for the victims and their families. Some become angry at the people who carry out such acts. And some people see such situations as vehicles for change.

You can’t stop crazy people from doing crazy things. At this point it appears today’s shootings were the actions of one deranged individual. An isolated incident, not a pattern. This incident does not indicate a need for more security. It does not show that video games, music, or movies are adding violence to our culture. It does not indicate the need for stricter gun control. Or less gun control. It simply shows the capacity of people for evil. No amount of security guards, metal detectors, surveillance cameras, or other Orwellian measures will prevent all such incidents from happening.

I applaud Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum for his steadfast insistence on not releasing any information until it has been thoroughly validated. While I understand that individual reporters have a responsibility to ask him for information he cannot confirm, I am disappointed at the media culture that confers that responsibility. Modern media coverage of “big stories” involves an immediate scramble for any scrap of information, reliable or not. Good journalism practice takes a back seat to being the first to report information, or, less cynically, to give an information-hungry public all the answers immediately. Unfortunately the nature of incidents like these is that there is little reliable information available at the outset, and the media’s zeal for reporting anything they think may be credible leads to more confusion as people are left to sort out the fact from the fiction. I, for one, would rather information be slow and credible than fast and possibly incorrect.

My deepest condolences go out to the victims and their families. Also my thoughts go out to fellow Hokies everywhere. This is a difficult time for us all. Let’s hope that a return to normalcy can come swiftly both on the campus and around the nation.

Image via Flickr

Just a reminder that the deadline for submitting entries to the PCWEI Header Contest is January 31st. Time’s running out!

Details here.

Just a quick reminder about the PCWEI Header Contest. Submissions are due Jan 31st. Full details here.

Iwao TakamotoIwao Takamoto, creator of Scooby Doo and other characters for Hanna-Barbera, died of a heart attack Monday. He was 81.

Takamoto was responsible for bringing Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Vilma, and Daphne to life (and presumably many old bankers who would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids…) while working for Hanna-Barbera in the late 60s. He also created characters for other Hanna-Barbera shows, including Mutley from Wacky Races and Astro from The Jetsons (hmm…I’m beginning to see a theme here…)

The Great GazooPerhaps his oddest creation was for Hanna-Barbera’s smash hit The Flintstones: The Great Gazoo. Gazoo was an alien who had been banished from his home planet for creating a weapon to destroy the universe. He was visible only to Fred, Barney and children, because they were the only ones that believed in him. He could fly and apparently teleport. Pretty plausible, right? Gazoo was part of Hanna-Barbera’s last ditch effort to keep The Flintstones on the air, and he failed.

Takamoto’s death comes exactly three weeks after the death of his old boss, Joseph Barbera.

So we’ve got PCWEI up and running, and people are actually starting to read it, but we’ve still got the same crappy header I put up on day 1. So here’s my challenge to you, the loyal PCWEI readers: Create a new header image for the site. The winner will get a copy of:
Lost - The Complete Second Season
(or a $30 Amazon.com Gift Certificate, whichever you prefer).

Rules and guidelines after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

From CNN.

A German Tourist planning and a 4 week vacation in Sydney, Australia accidentally booked his trip to Sidney, Montana. You would think that once he landed in Portland, Oregon that he might have figured this out, but no he had to land in Billings, Montana to realize the mistake. Now I haven’t been to Australia but I’ve been to Billings, MT quite a few times and I think it’s safe to say that neither place looks remotely like the other.

Sure people make directional & traveling mistakes all the time but the magnitude of this mistake is amazing! We’re not even talking the same hemisphere here! According to the article the tourists thinking they were going to Australia where it is currently summer only packed warm weather gear. Something tells me they weren’t prepared for beautiful wintry eastern Montana where the average temperature in December and January is in the high 30s.

Billings, Montana
Billings, Montana (note the lack of water)

Sidney, MT
Sidney, Montana (note the lack of a famous Opera House)

Sydney, AUS
Sydney, Australia…..

Not even close.