Monday, February 27, 2006

Teeth, Conspiracy, Blackface, Pastries, and Dennis Kucinich

“Trivia is a game played by those who realize that they have misspent their youth but do not want to let go of it.” –Edwin Goodgold.

I am a Wikipedia junkie. I can’t get enough. It is so convenient in format and so comprehensive in scope that it draws me back, time and time again, a moth to flame. I would estimate that a sickening proportion of my time goes to reading Wikipedia on any topic I can think of. Occasionally, I learn interesting things. You too may have an interest in such things, so I present to you the first in a series of miscellaneous trivia that has piqued my curiosity.

1. George Washington’s dentures were not made of wood. He mostly had teeth made from other teeth, including those of other humans, elk, and hippopotamus. He also had a set made of lead.

2. So we all know that Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton. We also know of his conspiracy to create a nation in the Southwest United States and in Mexico. What I didn’t know was that Andrew Jackson was ready to help him in the conspiracy, in the event that Spain declared war.

3. Cartoons are weird and apparently rooted in the old, not-so-politically correct tradition of the minstrel show. Old cartoons unapologetically have the main characters primarily in black face, and aping the plots of actual minstrel shows. This wasn’t just a fringe thing: This is Disney and Warner Brothers, Mickey and Honey Bunny.

4. So in the tradition of liberty cabbage and freedom fries, the Danish (most beloved of pastries) has been renamed in some Islamic countries. It is now known as Roses of the Prophet Muhammad. You may have gotten that from the news, but Wikipedia adds the even better fact: Danes don’t call the pastries Danishes. In Denmark, the pastry is known as Viennese bread, after the itenerant bakers who introduced it to Scandinavia.

5. Dennis Kucinich is apparently a Slovenian-American. With a Croatian father. Who knew?
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Friday, February 24, 2006

The Definitive Truth, explained

“I am dumbfounded that there hasn't been a crackdown with the libel and slander laws on some of these would-be writers and reporters on the Internet.” -- Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite is known as “the most trusted man in America”. If he thinks people on the Internet are defaming crackpots, then by God, they are defaming crackpots. Also, Walter Cronkite eats babies. Breakfast and dinner. Not lunch. For lunch he eats tuna sandwiches. Don’t question it.

Perhaps I should explain myself. On the other hand that’s probably a waste of time. Maybe I should explain this thing you are reading. Or, you could guess what it is.

The title may not be entirely sincere.
I may not entirely care about “accuracy”.
I like unsubstantiated, tasteless claims.
Conversely, I like my clams substantial and tasty.
I mention Walter Cronkite for a reason.
There will be sundry things here.
There will be information about George Washington’s teeth.
Recommendations as well.

Have you guessed it?
That’s right! It is “The Definitive Truth”: A completely ridiculous endeavor by a completely ridiculous person that is here to deliver shit that you might actually care about.

Oh yeah, and I mention Cronkite’s quote because of this:

Yeah, that’s right, Uncle Walt loves irony. But not more than me. Since you can’t trust Cronkite, I instead offer to you The Definitive Truth.

PS: Suck on it, Walter.
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Facebook Statistics on Political Involvement at UNC

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." --Benjamin Disraeli

In this case we are interested in the third. I’m a university student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a place that Bob Novak reportedly told Paul Begala only cares about two things: “basketball and liberalism”. However, looking at the statistics provided by the Pulse feature of Facebook for Chapel Hill, and admitting beforehand this is decidedly unscientific, I found some interesting things.

Namely that while there may be more liberals than conservatives at Carolina, the majority of both males and females refrained from identifying themselves as either liberal or conservative (59% of males and 53% of females), preferring to not list political ideology (the most popular option amongst males and females) or identifying themselves as moderate, libertarian, apathetic, or other.

The other finding deals with a census of listed clubs or organizations and Facebook groups. At Chapel Hill, the College Republicans are the sixth most listed club or organization (215 individuals), with the Young Democrats not even appearing on the top ten (171 individuals). While relatively surprising considering that more of the student body identifies as liberal than conservative, this actually is in line with national trends: the nationwide aggregated Facebook club statistics show College Republicans as the second most popular club in the nation with College Democrats coming in tenth. The interesting part deals with Facebook group membership.

UNC College Republicans has 610 members while Unc Young Democrats has 283 members, not even half the numbers of the Republicans. Maybe there are more liberals, but they don’t seem to be aligning themselves with the Democratic organizations on campus, while the Republicans seem to have been able to do a better job of getting (at least nominal) involvement from the conservative population on campus. The idea that Young Democrats is not successfully getting the involvement of even the identified Democrat population of campus is evidenced by the huge membership of other groups. Democrats are Sexy...Who Ever Heard of a Great Piece of Elephant? has 745 members, more than UNC College Republicans and ridiculously more than Unc Young Democrats.

Clearly, there are some obvious sources of error in these findings, but the general trends that are pointed at seem to have a grain of truth in them and gibe with common sense. Below is a list of the collected data for your pleasure and use.

Facebook Statistics
Taken between 12am and 1 am on Friday, February 24, 2006

5% very liberal
19% liberal
18% moderate
15% conservative
2% very conservative
2% libertarian
4% apathetic
5% other

30% didn’t respond

6% very liberal
26% liberal
17% moderate
14% conservative
1% very conservative
1% libertarian
1% apathetic
2% other

32% didn’t respond

Listed under clubs and organizations
College Republicans 215 listed (Ranked 6)
Young Democrats 171 listed (not in top 10)

UNC College Republicans has 610 members
Unc Young Democrats has 283 members
Democrats are Sexy...Who Ever Heard of a Great Piece of Elephant? has 745 members
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