Racing the tube

It is interesting the kinds of challenges that people set for themselves. Via Pepe Jimenez, here is a video of someone in London getting off the underground train at one station, running to the next station, and getting on to the same train again. I am not sure what it proved, that he is a fast runner or that the trains are slow, but it is an impressive feat and fun to watch.
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Do some wait staff actually do this?

In an interesting article on the practice of tipping, Aaron Stern described the origins of the practice.

Tipping dates all the way back to the eighteenth century, when patrons would give a few coins to their waiter/struggling scrimshaw artist “to insure promptness.” It’s worth noting that the concept of “promptness” back then was quite different from what it is now. In 1760, if your server took more than twenty minutes to bring your food, you were within your legal rights to “wallop him smartly on his person with a blackjack or billy club.” Whereas today you really need to be waiting for at least a goddam hour before you can administer a wallop in good conscience.

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Film review: 13th (2016)

I recently watched the powerful Netflix documentary 13th that deals with the scandal of mass incarceration in America. Directed and co-written by Ava DuVernay (who also directed Selma), it is a searing indictment of the war on black people that has been conducted by the criminal justice system. The numbers are staggering. With just 5% of the world’s population, the US has 25% of the prison population. 2.3 million people are locked up and in addition another 3.5 million are either on probation or on parole, meaning that about 2.5% of the entire US population is on the wrong side of the law.
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Oh, boo hoo!

Former governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina vigorously pushed through the infamous bathroom bill HB2 in his state that banned transgender people from using the bathroom that corresponded to their gender presentation. That triggered a nationwide backlash, with organizations canceling events in that state. He then narrowly lost his re-election to a Democrat, which meant that he had to find other work. Now he is whining that people are being mean to him because of his actions while governor and that it is hurting his job prospects.
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The Republican health care proposal

The replacement plan for the existing Affordable Care Act, called the American Health Care Act, has been rolled out by Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives. It is abundantly clear that it is an assault on the poor that the main winners are the rich, particularly the very, very rich. This plan has enabled Ryan to finally unleash his inner Ayn Rand, of whom he is an ardent devotee and his love for whom he has tried to conceal up to now.
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The search for dark matter continues

I wrote last month about recent reports on the failure of two major experiments named LUX and PandaX-II to directly detect dark matter and what that might mean for the prospects of alternate theories to explain anomalous gravitational effects. Of course, concluding that dark matter is non-existent is a tricky call since we don’t really know what it is made of and the negative results so far may well be due to the lack of sufficient sensitivity of the detectors or that dark matter is made of something quite different from what the detectors are designed to register.
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US war crimes in Yemen continue

Iona Craig has a horrifying account of the deadly carnage that was recently unleashed on the Yemeni village of Al Ghayiil due to a botched raid by US forces. According to reports, the target of the attack, a senior al Qaeda official, escaped. The media here has largely focused on the death of a US Navy Seal whose widow was used as an applause line during Donald Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress. As usual, Trump has tried to have it both ways, falsely claiming that the raid was a success because of the valuable intelligence received and thus he should get credit for it, while blaming the soldier’s death on the false claim that the planning for the raid was approved by president Obama before he left office. Of course, mutually contradictory claims do not faze the administration of a pathological liar.
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