Monthly Archives: March 2008

Who did the most to help victims of Hurricane Katrina? Wal-Mart

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency fumbled about, doing almost as much to prevent essential supplies from reaching Louisiana and Mississippi as it could to facilitate it, Wal-Mart managers performed feats of heroism. In Kenner, La., an employee crashed a forklift through a warehouse door to get water for a nursing home. A Marrero, La., store served as a barracks for cops whose homes had been submerged. In Waveland, Miss., an assistant manager who could not reach her superiors had a bulldozer driven through the store to retrieve disaster necessities for community use, and broke into a locked pharmacy closet to obtain medicine for the local hospital.Meanwhile, Wal-Mart trucks pre-loaded with emergency supplies at regional depots were among the first on the scene wherever refugees were being gathered by officialdom. Their main challenge, in many cases, was running a gauntlet of FEMA officials who didn’t want to let them through. As the president of the brutalized Jefferson Parish put it in a Sept. 4 Meet the Press interview, speaking at the height of nationwide despair over FEMA’s confused response: “If [the U.S.] government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn’t be in this crisis.”

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Burt Rutan: a Capitalist Space Race

Source: TED Video

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"The Anticapitalists: Barbarians at the Gate" – Larry Sechrest

(You can skip to the lecture’s beginning at 5:40.)

By the way, the introductory quote is from Ayn Rand’s 1970 essay “The Comprachicos.” The text is:

Observe also the intensity, the austere, the unsmiling seriousness with which an infant watches the world around him. (If you ever find, in an adult, that degree of seriousness about reality, you will have found a great man.)

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Why not just put everyone in padded rooms?

After banning kitchen knives, the next logical step for the U.K. is to add padding to lampposts to prevent “walking and texting” accidents.

Before you start laughing at the British Nanny State, check out this ruling of the 2nd Appellate Court in Los Angeles, which forces home schooled kids to attend public school on the grounds that:

“. . . the educational program of the State of California was designed to promote the general welfare of all the people and was not designed to accommodate the personal ideas of any individual in the field of education.”

In other words, the State of California will not tolerate any non-conformist, individual thought. If the parents do not comply, the state will certainly seize the children and place them in a state-approved parental program, since the State of California does not intent to accommodate any personal ideas in the field of parenthood either.

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Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Invictus, by William Ernest Henley

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Seeing with sound

In the quest to find an electronic cure for blindness, some researchers are experimenting with brain-computer interfaces. While promising, this is an expensive and long-term solution. Another innovative approach is seeing with sound, which uses an inexpensive home-made setup to project a sonic representation of images to the user. I downloaded a free copy of the software to give it a try – and it works. I was able to quickly memorize the “sonic shape” of my face, and move the webcam around to focus on my face without looking at it. I was even able to tell how far away my face was by the duration of the signal. The sounds are the same whether you are “viewing” images on a computer screen or reality.

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