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July 31st, 2012 (Permalink)


Miners Refuse to Work After Death

Damn unions!

Source: Richard Lederer, Anguished English (1989), p. 94

July 24th, 2012 (Permalink)

Doublespeak Watch

"…[H]ow school districts (and other government agencies) describe budget cuts[:] Normal people assume a 'cut' means less money is spent. But that's not what bureaucrats mean. If a district spent much more, but less than it asked for, administrators consider it a cut."

Source: John Stossel, No, They Can't (2012), p. 194

July 21st, 2012 (Permalink)

Don't Get Up

You may have seen news reports about a medical study claiming that sitting too much can take a couple of years off your life. The Numbers ("Carl Bialik") Guy's latest column and "blog" post examine the study in depth:

…[R]eports that excessive sitting could subtract two years from oneís lifespan…may have been premature. The study didnít establish definitively that sitting causes early death, only that the two are linked.
…[T]he evidence so far all points in the same direction: that sitting more is tied to higher mortality. But that doesn't mean the act of sitting itself is deadly. Instead, it could be that people who spend more time sitting are less healthy to begin with, or that those who sit less are using that time in healthier ways such as exercising.

In other words, there's nothing in this report that justifies changing your behavior. For instance, Bialik briefly notes that some people have substituted standing for sitting. According to this line of thought, if you work at a desk job you should get a higher desk―or an adjustable one―and spend more time on your feet. However, standing may be no better for you, so far as this study shows, or even worse. What makes the non-sitters healthier than the sedentary types may be that they are not spending the time on their feet just standing around, but are walking or otherwise exercising. In other words, it may be getting more exercise that leads to longer life, rather than just standing in place more. So, get a treadmill and walk at your desk!


July 16th, 2012 (Permalink)

Contextomy Watch

Some people are acting offended by a remark made by President Obama during a recent campaign speech in Roanoke, Virginia:

If youíve got a business―you didnít build that. Somebody else made that happen.

Those who are getting up in arms about the comment apparently take Obama to be denying that business owners are responsible for their own businesses. However, the quote taken in context suggests a different interpretation:

Now, one last thing: one of the biggest differences [between Obama and Romney] is how we pay down our debt and our deficit. My opponent, Mr. Romneyís plan is he wants to cut taxes another $5 trillion on top of the Bush tax cuts. … Iíve got a different idea. … We can make some more cuts in programs that donít work, and make government work more efficiently. … Weíve already made a trillion dollarsí worth of cuts. We can make another trillion or …two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more. … There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back. They know they didnít―look, if youíve been successful, you didnít get there on your own. You didnít get there on your own. … If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If youíve got a business―you didnít build that. Somebody else made that happen. … The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

When the quote is taken out of context, the demonstrative "that"s in its second part appear to refer back to the business mentioned in the first part. However, in context it appears that the two "that"s refer back to the "American system" or, ungrammatically, the "roads and bridges" that Obama mentioned in the previous sentences. This is made even clearer in the video of the speech by Obama's tone of voice and body language.

So, Obama is not making the ridiculous claim that entrepreneurs do not create their own businesses, but the obvious point that business creators benefit from infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, made by others. As a result, Obama argues, businesses and the successful owe a debt to others that they can repay through higher taxes. You may not agree with Obama's conclusion, but surely this particular premiss is unremarkable.


July 6th, 2012 (Permalink)

Blurb Watch: To Rome with Love

Critic Claudia Puig gives the new Woody Allen movie To Rome with Love only two-and-a-half stars out of a possible four, yet a quote from her review shows up in an ad for the movie:

Blurb Context
"It's hard not to fall under the movie's spell and indulge in some picturesque escapism."
-Claudia Puig, USA TODAY
To Rome With Love is neither as captivating as Vicky Christina Barcelona or as enthralling as the time-traveling parts of Midnight in Paris. It's often frivolous and banal, though never tedious. It does offer moments of buoyant humor, farcical fun and consistently gorgeous cinematography. The story is as light as sorbetto, but the ancient city of Rome is such an enchantingly luminous place that it's hard not fall [sic] under the movie's spell and indulge in some picturesque escapism.


July 4th, 2012 (Permalink)

Independence Day Parade Puzzle

Larry, Curly, and Moe went to see the fourth of July parade. By the time they arrived, the parade route was so crowded that they had great difficulty getting close enough to see it. They were forced by the press of the crowd to stand in single-file, so that Moe―who was shortest―stood in front, and Larry―the tallest―stood in the rear, with Curly―of medium height―sandwiched in the middle. In that way, each of them would be able to see.

As they waited for the parade to start, a man came by with a bag full of patriotic hats. When he had started, the bag had been full of red hats, white hats, and blue hats. Now, as he informed the trio, only three red hats and two blue ones remained. Since each of the three were bare-headed, and the crowd was so tight against them that they couldn't raise their arms, the hat man pulled three hats out of his bag at random and pressed them onto their three heads.

As a result, none of them could see the color of his own hat. However, Larry could see the color of Curly's and Moe's hats; while Curly could see the color of Moe's hat. Moe couldn't see any of the three hats.

Curious, Moe called out: "Hey, Larry, what's the color of your hat?"

"I don't know", Larry replied.

"Curly, what color is yours?" Moe asked.

"Beats me", Curly replied.

What color was Moe's hat?


Solution to the Independence Day Parade Puzzle: Red

Since the hat man only had two blue hats left, if Curly's and Moe's hats had both been blue then Larry―who could see both of their hats―would have realized that his own hat was red. Since Larry didn't know the color of his hat, that meant that at least one of Curly's and Moe's hats was red.

Since Curly could see Moe's hat, if Moe's hat had been blue then Curly would have known that his own hat was red, since at least one of their hats was red. Since Curly didn't know this, it follows that Moe's hat was red.

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