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Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday links

Why Do Sneezes Come In Twos and Threes?

Death-Defying Photos Of Skyscraper Construction Workers Goofing Around.

Scots, wha hae - yesterday was Robert Burns birthday. Here's a bio, poems, Burns Supper instructions, and lots of haggis.

Gallery of awkward mascots.

The Origin and Trademarking of “Couch Potato”.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include 100 year old PSAs on movie theater etiquette, repairing a $12 million Monet after it was punched, processing 31 rolls of undeveloped film taken by a WWII soldier, and the history of horsemeat eating in America.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Obama reacts to Netanyahu invite: cartoon of the day

Embedded image permalink

via @AnneBayefsky

Who Would Win? A Fire-Breathing Dragon Or An AH-64 Apache Helicopter

From the Smithsonian Channel:
It's a battle of the beasts in this web-only original short! The mythic dragon takes on a lethal AH-64 Apache helicopter. Will a laser-guided missile, chain gun, or warhead have any effect on this fire-breathing legend?
Related to their Air Warriors series:

Scots, wha hae - Happy Burns Day! Here's a bio, poems, Burns Supper instructions,and lots of haggis

William Wallace
Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory!

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour;
See approach proud Edward's power—
Chains and slavery!

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave!
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart
Wha for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or freeman fa',
Let him follow me!

By oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!—
Let us do or die!

Robert the Bruce defeats the English at The Battle of Bannockburn
~Robert Burns, in the form of a speech given by Robert the Bruce (wiki) before the Battle of Bannockburn (wiki) in 1314, where Scotland maintained its sovereignty from the Kingdom of England. "Wallace" refers to William Wallace (wiki) (the character played by Mel Gibson in the 1995 movie Braveheart), who struggled unsuccessfully in the 1290s to do what Bruce at last accomplished in 1314. 

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

~Burns ("The Selkirk Grace") 

What an antithetical mind! - tenderness, roughness - delicacy, coarseness - sentiment, sensuality - soaring and groveling, dirt and deity - all mixed up in that one compound of inspired clay! 

~George Gordon, Lord Byron (wiki) (1788-1824) (of Robert Burns, diary, December 1813) 

"For my own affairs, I am in a fair way of becoming as eminent as Thomas à Kempis, or John Bunyan (wiki); and you may expect henceforth to see my birthday inscribed among the wonderful events, in the Poor Robin and Aberdeen Almanacks, along with the Black Monday and the Battle of Bothwell-bridge."

~Burns, from a 1786 letter to his early patron, Gavin Hamilton

Today is the 256th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns (wiki) (1759-1796), Scotland's beloved "prince of poets," in Alloway. Raised on a farm, Burns nonetheless read poetry as a youth, which inspired him to write verse of his own in the Scottish dialect. He first published his poems in 1786, hoping to earn enough money to emigrate to Jamaica, but their immediate success led him to remain in Scotland and become an (unsuccessful) gentleman farmer. 

Lionized in Edinburgh, he produced hundreds of lyrics, including such favorites as "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose," "Auld Lang Syne," "Comin' Through the Rye," and "My Heart's in the Highlands" - as well as such popular poems as "To a Louse" and "To a Mouse" ("The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/Gang aft a-gley.") You can find most of these poems here.

All over the world tonight, Scotsmen will gather to celebrate "Burns Night" with bagpipes, haggis, Scotch whisky, and well-lubricated recitations of their bard's characteristic poems.

Haggis, traditional at these celebrations, is the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep ground up, then boiled inside the sheep's stomach. Yum, right? 

These DIY haggis pops are much portable than the full version and probably equally yummy. Instructables member PenfoldPlant made them for a Burns Supper from nice, fresh sheep guts. He even cleaned and prepared the stomach itself, which serves as the coating of these delicious wonders. This step required careful work; he placed a ping pong ball in part of the stomach, then tied off and cut that part off the rest of the stomach. (H/T Neatorama)

The world's largest haggis is the size of a small car and contains:
1,537 lbs of select cuts of pork and pork offal

734 lbs of oatmeal

86 lbs of seasoning
51 lbs of onions
Here are 10 weird varieties of haggis, including haggis ice cream and potato chips.

Here is a typical run through and description of what is involved in a Burns Supper, which apparently is quite structured, and includes (but is not limited to):

Piping in the haggis

The haggis is the crowning glory of a Burns Supper and, suitably, is piped in to an upstanding audience. Traditionally the chef carries the haggis in on a silver platter behind the piper and is followed by the person who will address the haggis. 

The address to the haggis

The appointed speaker gives a dramatic rendition of Burns’ Address to a Haggis with a knife at the ready. After apologizing for ‘killing’ the haggis, they then plunge the knife into the haggis and slice it open during the line ‘An' cut you up wi' ready slight'’ meaning 'and cut you up with skill’. The recital ends with the platter being raised above their head whilst saying the triumphant words ‘Gie her a Haggis!’ to rapturous applause. The full address, in original version and modern translation is here - use it to follow along with the video.

Toast to the haggis

The speaker then invites the guests to toast the haggis and everyone, including the chef, raises their glasses and shouts 'The Haggis' before enjoying a dram. The haggis is then piped back out to be prepared for dinner.

The full meal, which always includes mashed neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes) and a lot of Scotch, is followed by several entertainers interspersed with stories of Burns' life.

A fictional wild haggis specimen, Haggis scotticus,
 as displayed in the Glasgow 
, next to a prepared example
Here's a faux "scientific" article on the problems with reproduction among wild haggis entitled Applications of ultrasonography in the reproductive management of Dux magnusgentis venteris saginati:
Dux magnus gentis venteris saginati is considered to be a Scottish delicacy; however, depleting wild stocks have resulted in attempts to farm them. Selective breeding has been successful in modifying behaviour, increasing body length, reducing hair coat and improving fank (litter) size. However, there are still significant problems associated with the terrain in which they are farmed. This article describes the use of ultrasonography in the reproductive management of this species and the introduction of new genetic material in an attempt to address these problems, with the aim of improving welfare and productivity.
And, last but not least, Mental Floss has 14 Scots Words from the Works of Robert Burns.

Based on Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email. If you'd like to be added to his distribution list, leave your email address in the comments.

Friday, January 23, 2015

German man went to court, won the right to pee standing up

There has long been a campaign in Germany to convert messy Stehpinkler - standing urinators - into Sitzpinkler - their more socially responsible brethren.

Many German homes have notices in the toilet asking guests to make use of the seat rather than risk unwanted collateral damage to the bathroom.

Others even go to the lengths of installing a device called a Spuk - a spook - on the underside of the seat which issues a warning to would-be standing pee-ers, with models even available in the voices of former Chancellors Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schröder.

So, in this particular case, apparently a landlord didn't want to return a security deposit because the tenant's aim was less than perfect and led to marks on the tiles around the toilet:
The man sued his landlord after he refused to pay back €1,900 of a €3,000 deposit, saying he needed the money to repair urine-related damage on the bathroom floor.
The landlord had brought in a "technical expert“, who had the unenviable task of confirming that wayward droplets were indeed the cause of the damage to the marble tiles.
While Düsseldorf judge Stefan Hank found the pro-sitting landlord's arguments "credible and understandable“, he said that he could not side with the landlord.
"Despite the increasing domestication of men in this regard, urinating while standing up is still widespread", he wrote in his judgement.
The landlord should have warned the renter of the floor's "sensitivity" to potentially damaging bodily fluids beforehand, the judge reasoned.

"Anyone who still practices this formerly dominant custom has to expect occasional clashes with - especially female - flatmates.

More here and here, via Arbroath

Video: Hitler Realizes He Was Short Swiss Francs

via zerohedge.

The New England Patriots Prevention of Fumbles is Nearly Impossible

Posting this here because the site keeps crashing.

The New England Patriots Prevention of Fumbles is Nearly Impossible

Posted on January 22, 2015

Yesterday I investigated whether or not the New England Patriots outperform expectations in bad weather. I had several recommendations to look at home and road data, as opposed to just home data. Mulling whether or not to undertake that further (time consuming) analysis, I watched this video:

I immediately noticed something that cannot be overlooked: the issue with ball security and fumbles. Then I remembered this remarkable fact:

The 2014 Patriots were just the 3rd team in the last 25 years to never have lost a fumble at home! The biggest difference between the Patriots and the other 2 teams who did it was that New England ran between 150 and 200 MORE plays this year than those teams did in the years they had zero home fumbles, making the Patriots stand alone in this unique statistic.

Based on the desire to incorporate full season data (not just home games, as a team theoretically bring “doctored footballs” with them on the road) I performed the following analysis:

I looked at the last 5 years of data (since 2010) and examined TOTAL FUMBLES in all games (as well as fumbles/game) but more importantly, TOTAL OFFENSIVE PLAYS RUN. Thus, we can to determine average PLAYS per FUMBLE, a much more valuable statistic. The results are displayed in the chart below. Keep in mind, this is for all games since 2010, regardless of indoors, outdoors, weather, site, etc. EVERYTHING.

(click to enlarge)

One can CLEARLY SEE the Patriots, visually, are off the chart. There is no other team even close to being near to their rate of 187 offensive plays (passes+rushes+sacks) per fumble. The league average is 105 plays/fumble. Most teams are within 21 plays of that number.

I spoke with a data scientist who I know from work on the website, and sent him the data. He said:

Based on the assumption that fumbles per play follow a normal distribution, you’d expect to see, according to random fluctuation, the results that the Patriots have gotten over this period, once in 16,233.77 instances”.

Which in layman’s terms means that this result only being a coincidence, is like winning a raffle where you have a 0.0000616 probability to win. Which in other words, it’s very unlikely that it’s a coincidence.

I actually went back and researched 5 year periods for the entire NFL over the last 25 years. The Patriots ratio of 187 plays to 1 fumble is the BEST of ANY team in the NFL for ANY 5 year span of time over the last 25 years. Not was it just the best, it wasn’t close:
2010-2014 Patriots: 187 plays/fumble
2009-2013 Patriots: 156 plays/fumble
2006-2010 Colts: 156 plays/fumble
2005-2009 Colts: 153 plays/fumble
2007-2011 Patriots: 149 plays/fumble
2008-2012 Patriots: 148 plays/fumble
2010-2014 Texans: 140 plays/fumble
2004-2008 Colts: 139 plays/fumble
2006-2010 Jets: 135 plays/fumble
1999-2003 Chiefs: 134 plays/fumble

There are a few key takeaways. First and foremost, the 187 plays/fumble dwarfs even the rest of the best seasons the last 25 years. Second, the Patriots have been at the top of the NFL since 2007.

Ironically, as my study yesterday showed, the Patriots performance in wet weather home games mysteriously turned ridiculous starting in 2007. In 2006, they went 0-2. From 2007 onward, they went 14-1.

The next obvious question becomes, where were the Patriots in this statistic pre-2007? Take a look:

(click to enlarge)

As you can see, the Patriots won their Super Bowls having a below average rate of fumbles lost given today’s average of 105 plays/game. But in 2007, something happened to propel them to a much better rate (you’ll remember, that just so happened to be the same year they went 16-0 in the regular season). But even looking at these numbers, its clear how insane the 187 number is: they are almost running 100 MORE plays without a single fumble as compared to the 2002-2006 period when they won 2 of their 3 Super Bowls.

To further illustrate how these numbers are astonishing, the below graphics lay out clearly how far off the Patriots are from the rest of the league. Its evident to the eye how far removed they are from the norm. Whether we look at a histogram laying it out, where the Patriots and their 187 plays/fumble is far from the “bell shaped curve”:

(click to enlarge)

or the same chart as above, this time displaying color bands as we move away from the 105 plays/fumble average. You can see the darker red band contains all teams but the bottom 3 and the top 3, and that the bottom 3 are very close to the darker red band. Meanwhile, the Patriots are really in a league of their own:

(click to enlarge)

Could the Patriots be so good that they just defy the numbers? As my friend theorized: Perhaps they’ve invented a revolutionary in-house way to protect the ball, or perhaps they’ve intentionally stocked their skill positions with players who don’t have a propensity to fumble. Or perhaps still, they call plays which intentionally result in a lower percentage of fumbles. Or maybe its just that they play with deflated footballs on offense. It could be any combination of the above.

But regardless of what, specifically, is causing these numbers, the fact remains: this is an extremely abnormal occurrence and is NOT simply random fluctuation.


UPDATE: It was suggested that I look at ALL fumbles, not just fumbles lost. With that said, let’s look there:

First, it should be noted (as the tables above show) that teams playing indoors fumble the ball less frequently. Reasons are many, foremost the ball won’t be wet from precipitation, damp from late night condensation, and a variety of other reasons. Which is why, if you look at the very first chart I posted above, you’ll see the teams who fumble the MOST/play are generally colder weather teams who play outdoors (PHI, DEN, BUF, PIT, WAS, NYG, KC, NYJ). Whereas at the other end of the spectrum, aside from the Patriots in their own world, are HOU, ATL and NO, all dome teams.

The below graphic looks at ALL fumbles over 5 year periods the last 25 years. I planned to cut this off at JUST the top 10 teams, but all we would have seen were the Patriots and dome teams. Top 15 would have accomplished the same. So I had to expand to the top 25 team periods. As you can see, of the top 25 team-periods, 17 are dome teams, including 11 of the top 15. First, let’s look at the chart, then we’ll look at comparisons to average:

(click to enlarge)

As is apparent, the Patriots are the only outdoor NFL team the last 25 years to average 70 plays/fumble or better, and they did it from 2007-2014 (four, five year periods). Its simply uncanny, as the statistics above similarly showed.

Over the last 25 years, indoor teams averaged 43 plays/fumble (in all games they played that season, regardless of site, understanding that half their games would be played indoor sans-weather).
Since 2000, they improved to 46 plays/fumble.
Over the last 25 years, outdoor teams averaged 41 plays/fumble.
Since 2000, they improved to 43 plays/fumble.

The Patriots averaged 73 plays/fumble the past 5 years, almost 70% better than the 43 plays/fumble that outdoor teams averaged since 2000.

Next, lets look only at the current 5 year period:

The league average plays per fumble from 2010 thru 2014 was 50 plays/fumble.
For indoor teams, the average was 55 plays/fumble.
For outdoor teams, excluding the Patriots, the average was 46 plays/fumble (9 fewer).

The Patriots averaged 73 plays/fumble, almost 60% MORE than outdoor teams, and almost 50% MORE than the league average the past 5 years.

(click to enlarge)

Since we now can clearly in the data, both near term and long term, that dome-based teams (who play at least 8 games out of the elements) have an advantage in the fumble department, we can exclude them from comparisons to the Patriots.

If we do, I can produce a chart identical to the one at the very top which looked ONLY at fumbles lost. This one looks at ALL fumbles, whether lost or recovered. I think the point still remains:

(click to enlarge)

If this chart looks nearly identical, it should. The Patriots are so “off the map” when it comes to either fumbles or only fumbles lost. As mentioned earlier: this is an extremely abnormal occurrence and is NOT simply random fluctuation.


Warren Sharp of is an industry pioneer at the forefront of incorporating advanced analytics and metrics into football handicapping after spending years constructing, testing, betting and perfecting computer models written to beat NFL and college football totals. A licensed Professional Engineer by trade, Warren now works as a quantitative analyst for multiple professional sports betting syndicates in Las Vegas and has parlayed a long-term winning record into selections for clients which move the Vegas line and beat the closing number with regularity.

Video: X-Ray Camera Reveals How Hamsters Fit So Much in Their Cheeks

The hamster, it turns out, is the rodent version of the Weasleys’ bewitched tent in Harry Potter or Dr. Who's TARDIS: It’s bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside. As the X-rays in this video show, hamsters’ cheek pockets extend all the way to their hips!

Friday links

Oregon Was Founded As a Racist Utopia.

Repairing a $12 Million Monet After It Has Been Punched.

31 Rolls of Undeveloped Film from a Soldier in WWII Discovered and Processed.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include the story of the separate grave of Stonewall Jackson's left arm, a robot learning to cook from youtube videos, the invention of the crime of jaywalking, and an explanation of what people say vs what they mean.

PSAs on movie theater etiquette from 100 years ago

These lantern slides on silent movie theatre etiquette from the 1910s show that inconsiderate audience members have existed since the dawn of cinema. 
Most early movie theaters had only one projector so “etiquette slides” were used to divert the audience while reels were being changed. These glass slides often featured lighthearted instructions for proper behavior while viewing a film.

I don't get this one - what else would you use?

From Old Hollywood, via Boing Boing.