Category Archives: Bomble

Phone Spam Is No Fun

Over the past month and a half, I’ve been getting robocalls from Spanish-speaking telemarketers. As you can see below, at all hours of the day — violating the law.

Thankfully, I have Google Voice and can block callers, but that doesn’t stop them. They keep coming. It’s happened close to 50 times at this point, and the weird thing is that every call comes with the same prefix and area code as my own cell phone. I’ve tried calling the numbers back to be removed, but they largely don’t work and those that answer don’t speak English or pretend not to.

After the tenth call, I changed my settings to require callers to identify themselves…and that’s cut back on the spam a bit. I figure not all of the 10,000 people who could have a 202-527 phone number are spammers. I’ve submitted a complaint to the FTC, but the problem with regulating activity like this is that technology changes and regulators have a hard time keeping up.

Eat a dick, spoofers.

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My Nemesis, the Black Vulture, Comes to D.C.

I hate black vultures, and not because I generally hate birds — I have a professional hatred for black vultures.

Back when I was a hill staffer, constituents contacted the office I worked for through the local agriculture county extension agent complaining about black vultures eating their livestock. I know what you’re thinking. Don’t vultures only eat dead animals? No. Black vultures also eat live ones, especially cute newborns.

They team up in packs, take out the eyes and other aspects of the face of their victim, and boom — dinner is served.

Black vultures are actually protected by a treaty the United States stupidly signed with a bunch of other countries. The logic of course being that we wanted to give these non-endangered violent birds with few (if any) known predators a license to kill other animals across the globe while simultaneously protecting the non-endangered ones that are logos for outdoor clothing companies like Eddie Bauer.

And because it’s a treaty, it’s not easy to fix when the unintended consequences become clear. The Navy discovered this when the nutters at Earth Justice went after them for bombing masked boobies on a small island the U.S. owns. (Yes, really. Masked boobies.)

Coragyps-atratus-002Farmers and ranchers out in the district wanted to comply with the law (read: not go to jail for killing a bird that’s not a Bald Eagle), and asked our office to look into it.

So, I called Fish and Wildlife and asked what the deal was with stopping them from killing livestock. Would FWS come out and capture them? Send them to a vulture foster home? A vulture preserve?

Nope.

The FWS-proposed solution was they could go to a regional office and apply for a permit to kill one black vulture. After killing it, they instruct the rancher to hang it from a tree to scare away the other black vultures. (In retrospect, this sounds kind of racist.) The constituents weren’t pleased with this solution.

Short of withdrawing from the treaty, which won’t likely happen, that left them in kind of a pickle. Killing one of these without a permit can land you in the slammer for six months and a fine of $15,000. I couldn’t say this at the time to the constituents, but I wondered why they just didn’t kill the damn birds. After all, who would miss these things aside from wealthy liberal ornithologist city slickers, bureaucrats, and environmentalists?

It’s not like FWS has roving patrols of meter maids checking on the growing populace of  federally protected violent predators with no real predator to kill them. And it’s the middle of the country.

Anyways, the Washington Post reports that vultures, and by the photograph I’m nearly certain they’re black vultures, are now in Washington, D.C. — on K Street, no less.

I left the hill for the lucrative world of journalism and never heard if the vulture situation back west was really resolved. I emailed the local agriculture rep I once worked with, and he confirmed “We still have them here, just glad to share the over-abundance.”

The only known predators for black vultures are a few species of the eagle. And now that they’re in Washington, perhaps MetroBus can be added to the list of known predators.

It will be interesting to see if the black vultures become a problem in Washington. My guess is they’ll just be the butt of a “lobbyists are vultures” joke until they murder some hipster’s rescue dog at a dog park.

Only then will we hear the outrage.

 

Sudden Death Bullseye Cricket

Yesterday I created a new, faster take on the traditional dart game of cricket while horsing around at the FOE. (I’m sure somebody has already created a game like this, but here’s my variant.)

Here’s how you play:

On the very first throw, players are allowed to hit the Bullseye. If they miss, at any point between the first and last throw the dart strikes the Bullseye, they lose the game.

Game is to be played like ordinary cricket, except that one hit in a number category closes the number and opens it up for points. (For example, if on your first throw you miss the Bullseye and hit triple 20, you close it out and get two points.)

Subsequent points are not worth the value of the number. Any point in any number is always worth one point.

When a player has every number closed, they can shoot for the Bullseye.

To win, you must have every number closed and the most points.

Having a Doppelgänger is Kind of Scary

Friend and fraternity brother Greg Smith sent me this tweet earlier in the day:

Other people messaged me too, asking if it was me on the male-oriented website The Chive (warning: some images not appropriate for work.) In case you didn’t conclude as much, it isn’t me. I don’t wear skinny pants, would never wear those type of shoes, nor would I wear a shirt like that. According to a cursory google search, this freak-of-nature look alike lives, probably, in Seattle. Maybe that’s the left-leaning hipster clone of me. But it’s not me.

I’ve long been told that I look like Sean Hannity. Perhaps that’s because we tend to vote Republican, and yes, his hair (while black) is combed similarly. But he is not a dead ringer of a doppelgänger. Whoever this guy is, he definitely is my doppelgänger.

And it’s a little weird. Do you have a doppelgänger? Did you see them in a photo and think it was weird? I certainly do. It’s a scary thought to think somebody out there looks strikingly similar to you. I suppose twins get over this feeling pretty quickly, but then again, they apparently cause divorce. (Sorry, but it’s science!) So at least I don’t have that going for me.

P.S. — I don’t know/can’t explain the picture to you. Being a doppelgänger doesn’t give you insight into the mind of your doppelgänger.

P.P.S. — Sister Alison writes: “Showed the picture to mom, and she just mom-sighed and said ‘what is he doing? I mean, who is that girl?’ When I told her it wasn’t you, she straightened up and walked away ‘That is appalling.'”

Can Bill Nye Claim He Has a Ph.D. on His CV?

On John Oliver’s new show Last Week Tonight, Bill Nye starred in a cameo as a top expert on global climate change — at least as decided by bookers on television shows.

Which got me thinking — what is the etiquette on going by Ph.D. when you didn’t earn one?

Two friends who have attained a Ph.D. weigh in, with one saying: “Technically, honorary doctorates aren’t Ph.D’s at all” while another comments “His doctorate is on par with Kermit the Frog’s.”

What do you think? Is it fair for Nye to claim he has a Ph.D.?

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Bill-Nye-CV

Meet America’s Awesome New Missile

“In testing conducted at the US Naval Air Weapons Station in China Lake, CA from December 2013 – January 2014, a Brimstone-equipped MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) scored nine direct hits against stationary and maneuvering targets traveling at speeds as fast as 70 MPH, while launching from up to 7 miles away at altitudes as high as 20,000 feet – realistic “middle of the envelope” shot profiles.”

Perhaps That Guy Was Onto Something…

Yesterday in the Examiner, Joel Gehrke wrote about the horrifying prospect that Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) could chair the Senate Banking Committee if Democrats retain control of the Senate after the 2014 elections.

Brown’s views on economics (especially banking and international trade) are decidedly backwards and appeal to the misguided economic populists in Ohio that elect him and keep Ohio in an economic homeostasis that’s not as bad as Detroit, not as good as Pittsburgh, and far behind Texas.

One paragraph that Joel wrote jumped out at me:

Brown is working with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to craft legislation that would shrink the biggest banks in the country, and they have 10 other Republican allies, according to Business Insider. The Dodd-Frank bill was supposed to solve the problem of some banks being “too big to fail,” but it didn’t.

OccupyWallStreetNYC (which apparently still exists) tweeted this about Gehrke’s story:

Perhaps the folks operating their twitter account aren’t very familiar with the Dodd-Frank law (RAFSA), but Brown already sold them out by voting for it.

Read More →

KTLA Anchor Feels Earthquake On-Air

KTLA was on the air this morning in California when an earthquake hit. The anchor’s reaction is priceless:

earthquake

Thankfully, it appears there was no major damage.

Here’s the full video:

700,000 Armchair Olympic Judges Can’t Be Wrong

I am not a fan of petitions as a general principle, but this PR email from Change.org — which bills itself as “60,184,486 people taking action. Victories every day” — takes the cake of hilarity:

Hi  ____– I realize it’s very late, but this is breaking news: an Olympic scandal has taken over Change.org, with 700,000 people signing a petition in just 6 hours demanding an investigation into the winner of the women’s figure skating competition.

This is the most traffic we’ve ever seen on Change.org, coming in at 5x our previous record. The majority of signatures (about 90%) are coming from people inside Korea, with the other 10% or so coming from inside the US. Right now, we’re seeing nearly 100,000 new signatures every 15 minutes.

We’ve got a team of engineers keeping our site up and running despite the heavy traffic. You can check out the petition here: https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/international-skating-union-isu-open-investigation-into-judging-decisions-of-women-s-figure-skating-and-demand-rejudgement-at-the-sochi-olympics.

If you haven’t been following the scandal, many Olympics fans are furious that Russia’s figure skater, Adelina Sotnikova, won the gold over Korea’s Yuna Kim, despite Yuna’s incredibly strong showing that many commentators suggested should have made her a shoo-in for the top medal.

We’re still tracking down the details on the person behind the petition – mysteriously called “Justice Seeker” and allegedly from Sochi. We’ll let you know if they’re available for interviews once we know more. In the meantime, if you want people in-studio to discuss, we can have Change.org staffers on to talk about the rapid growth of the petition.

Let me know if you have questions or plan to cover – happy to help in any way I can. We’ll be up all night monitoring this!

You mean to say that 90% of respondents complaining about a Korean losing in the Olympics are from Korea? Now that’s news!!!! Commentators were proved wrong? You don’t say. You’re an advanced website and you don’t know who started the petition? This story has legs!

The email touts 100k signatures every 15 minutes, which is to say it’s an ineffective pitch. That doesn’t seem to make sense when you claim 700k signatures over 6 hours. At that rate, you’d have 2.4 million armchair Olympic judges demanding an investigation. Which is it?

And the poster is allegedly from Sochi? Totally not suspicious. It’s obviously an angry Russian who thinks Adelina Sotnikova didn’t deserve it? Come on.

Yoga Mats ARE Scary

Meet Vani Hari. She’s a self-described organic “food activist” who apparently hates chemicals in commercially produced food.

Today, it seems, she’s won a big battle with Subway saying it will remove an ingredient from its bread called azodicarbonamide. It’s super scary, guys, because it’s used in the production of Yoga Mats.

Vani’s blog/online organic food store, called “Food Babe” says this ingredient is DANGEROUS. The Chicago Tribune, regrettably, weighed in with the headline: “Subway removing yoga mat chemical from bread.” Which is like saying that Coca Cola is “removing a packing peanuts ingredient from soda” by switching from corn-based sugar to cane sugar. Or, as friend of the blog Jeryl Bier notes on Twitter:

StopUsingAzodicarbonamide1

Vani’s campaign against azodicarbonamide is a classic scare campaign, a common theme on her website. She urges readers “beware of MONSANTO Butter” because “Choosing the wrong type of butter can secretly ruin your health without you even knowing it!” And, she made it on television with LABEL GMOs signs during Tom Vilsack’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. A real go-getter.

Don’t worry, though, Vani’s blog has you covered with an “Organic, Non-GMO, Real Food, Weight Loss” plan that you can sign up for at the low, low price of $17.99 a month. Beware of people who immediately have the solution to the problems they are complaining about.

Vani is not a scientist or medical expert. (Nor am I, for that matter.) In an interview, she shared her unique take on appendicitis:

“One night, I felt a sharp, intense pain in my stomach. It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I discovered my appendix was going to burst and I needed to have surgery immediately to have it removed. Since that day, my life has been changed forever. They say having appendicitis is random, but I think that is just not true. I know my lifestyle of high stress and poor nutrition caused this horrible thing to happen to my body.

And a star was born!

Yes, lots of countries have banned azodicarbonamide because they’re fearful it could cause health problems. But the World Health Organization isn’t so sure those studies were done very well. They conclude in their evaluation of azodicarbonamide’s health effects that:

“The limited toxicology database and lack of exposure data make it difficult to adequately assess the risk to humans potentially exposed; hence, there is a need for further information.”

Website Food Navigator USA notes, correctly, that the FDA has deemed azodicarbonamide safe for human consumption. It also notes, incorrectly, that the WHO “linked the chemical to asthma and other respiratory issues, concluding that ‘exposure levels should be reduced as much as possible.'”

The World Health Organization did not link azodicarbonamide to asthma and respiratory issues regarding food consumption, as they suggest. Here’s the line from the report:

who

The key word, here is occupational exposure. Unless your job is to eat Subway sandwich bread, your exposure to azodicarbonamide is not occupational. I kid, but the azodicarbonamide skeptics at Undergroundhealth.com understand this, saying: “Even a chemical that produces a disease such as asthma in its raw concentrated form is not tuned to the natural state of the human metabolism and does not belong in our food at any ANY dosage.”

And I don’t agree with that logic because lots of airborne things can cause asthma. According to the NIH:

Many substances in the workplace can trigger asthma symptoms, leading to occupational asthma. The most common triggers are wood dust, grain dust, animal dander, fungi, or chemicals.

I suppose by the logic that fungi can cause occupational asthma, we should ban the consumption of mushrooms, too.

Azodicarbonamide should be celebrated, not scorned. It keeps bread fresher for a longer period of time. You know, like “eat fresh”? It saves consumers money that way. The smear campaign against it comes from people who also wrongly smear GMO crops that save millions of lives.

And yes, yoga mats really ARE scary. Hopefully they’ll remove the bread ingredients from them as soon as possible.

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Further Reading: A Canadian chemist from McGill University shares his thoughts here.