Friday, December 8, 2006

The Lightning Round:
The Truth Shall Set You Free (Unless You Lie Like A Rug)

This week the Iraq Study Group came out with the conclusion most of us already knew: "stay the course" is a bloody mess. Some truths are obvious. Others require prosecutorial persuasion.

IT'S AN ACT. Pete Costello is accused of faking mental retardation -- or at least exaggerating it -- for 20 years. Along the way, his mom collected thousands of dollars in disability benefits.

From the AP:
In meetings with Social Security officials and psychologists, [Costello] appeared mentally retarded and unable to communicate. His mother insisted he couldn't read or write, shower, take care of himself or drive a car.

But now prosecutors said it was all a huge fraud, and they have video of Costello contesting a traffic ticket to prove it.
We at The Lightning Round are hearing the foundation of the Costellos' defense: "Those evil Democrats exploited us to further their welfare-state agenda -- just like they did with Michael J. Fox!"

HIS DIS-HONOR. The former mayor of Appalachia, Tennessee has pleaded guilty to 243 felonies, including corruption and vote rigging. According to the AP, prosecutors say Ben Cooper "masterminded a scheme to buy votes with beer, cigarettes and even pork rinds."

At most, he'll go to prison for a little less than two years as part of a plea agreement.

And then he'll start a job with Diebold.

GIVING IT ALL AWAY. Charity has its limits, at least for two of the worlds richest people. Unlike the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, which have long outlived their founders, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will spend all its money no later than 50 years following the death of the longest serving trustee, according to the Wall Street Journal.

After that, the needy of the world will just have to survive on Windows upgrades.

THE WHIFF OF DISCONTENT. The people behind the "Got Milk" campaign added cookies to the mix, specifically, the smell of cookies to several milk ads at bus stops in San Francisco.

From the AP:
The technology that creates the scent is very similar to that used in magazine ads. Scented adhesives are placed throughout the interior of the bus shelters, including under the benches.
But wouldn't you know, somebody had to complain. From KGO-TV:
But the company with the advertising contract for the city's bus shelters has ordered the strips be taken down.

Muni (the bus company) got complaints from advocates who worried the scent would taunt the homeless and also from people concerned about allergic reactions.
Taunting the homeless? With the smell of cookies?

Forgive me for sounding like Scrooge this time of year, but are there no bakeries, no restaurants? Establishments which emit the tempting taunting odor of food?

IT'S ABOUT NOTHING. British mathematician Dr. James Anderson says he's solved the problem of not being able to divide by zero by creating a new number: "nullity."

From BBC:
"Imagine you're landing on an aeroplane and the automatic pilot's working," he suggests. "If it divides by zero and the computer stops working -- you're in big trouble. If your heart pacemaker divides by zero, you're dead."
I didn't know a pacemaker needed to divide in the first place. But anyway, Dr. Anderson's solution isn't a solution to other math experts. Writes one commenter on the BBC site:
The "problem" of a computer with divide-by-zero errors is not a problem, it's a feature. It's not something you need to or even want to fix. You could easily design a computer that doesn't have an error in that situation if that's what you want. Replacing the error condition with a new symbol accomplishes nothing. The program still has to deal with the issue in order to present a real-world result to the user.
If you have ten apples and divide them among zero people, are you left with ten apples (because there's no people to divide them among) or none (because zero is nothing)? My high-school algebra textbook called division by zero "undefined" -- and now you see there's a good reason why it's undefined. How do you like them apples?

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