If you’re an Aaron Sorkin fan, you know he has favorite phrases and plot lines. He especially recycled a bunch between Sports Night and The West Wing which, for one year, he was writing at the same time. In fact, both of the last episodes of their first seasons were titled What Kind of Day Has it Been?
Writers are mere mortals after all, so stuff like this isn’t surprising, and in fact it’s kind of a signature they leave in their work. In the seven minute video below, some of Sorkin’s signatures taken from A Few Good Men, Malice, Bulworth, Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Social Network, and Tom Hanks’ 1993 Oscar Speech “for some reason”:
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Watchers on the Wall has had a lot of blog posts lately about Game of Thrones being interested in Peniscola, Spain. For example, they report that there was a casting call for babies there, because Peniscola is a perfectly valid place name. And in October, the town — whose name supposedly and inexplicably evolved from the word ‘peninsula’ — is due to host some 600 extras without tattoos, also for the Emmy record-slaying series. They will be shooting in the historic entrance to Peniscola, and two plazas, one at the foot of the famous Castle of the Moon Pope, pictured above.
Additionally, the Khaleesi will be shooting some scenes in the small town of 8,000 people, which is also called “The Gibraltar of Valencia” — though that’s not its official name for unknown reasons, as its official name is Peniscola. Again, it means “peninsula”… why, what were you thinking of? OMG, grow up! You are SO immature. I can’t believe this.
Also, Jon Snow is for sure still alive. The Daily Mail got a picture of him on set, all costumed up. He’s in Northern Ireland, not Peniscola.
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Yes, you thought right: there hasn’t been a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest since it was discovered by Western civilization. There have only been seven recorded in the region, averaging 6.3 in magnitude and killing 14 people total. And Seattle is the least likely metropolitan area in the US to have a natural disaster of any kind.
In fact, until 50 years ago, no one thought that earthquakes were much of an issue at all, in that area. But then, tectonic plate theory became mainstream and scientists noted that earthquakes and volcanoes were prevalent all around the so-called Ring of Fire: New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, Alaska, California, Mexico and Chile. Notice how we skipped right over the Pacific Northwest: the scientists noticed that too.
A very interesting article in The New Yorker tells us that these scientists then started drilling into the ocean floor off the coast of Washington state and found out that they could tell, from the stratification of the earth, when and how much land from the continent rushed into the sea — meaning, an earthquake had occurred, and how big it was. They went back 10,000 years and counted 41 major earthquakes, which means one happens every 243 years, on average. We know it’s been at least 210 years since there’s been one in that region, since Lewis and Clark went there in 1805. But how long has it been really?
Besides the ocean floor evidence for the year, we actually have some much cooler, and much more accurate data. There’s a “ghost forest” near the beach in Washington State, by the Copalis River. It’s called that because it consists of a bunch of dead trees standing in sea water. The theory had been that sea water got into the forest and killed off the trees but, in the late 1980s, two scientists figured out that they actually all died at the same time, in the winter of 1699-1700. So, due to that sudden onset, they theorized that an earthquake actually plunged the forest about six feet into the sea.
That’s pretty cool on its own, but then in 1996, they got historical confirmation: the Japanese have been keeping track of tsunamis for over 1400 years, and they knew that earthquakes caused them. But there was one “orphan” tsunami for which they felt no preceding earthquake: it happened on January 27th, 1700, and we now know that the reason they didn’t feel the parent is because the epicenter was so far away, off the edge of the Pacific Northwest. Ten hours after it shook, the tsunami it created had crossed the Pacific and hit Japan. It also turns out that the Native Americans of the region also have stories about entire tribes being wiped out long ago by the earth sinking into the sea, and canoes being flung into trees. It would’ve been the seventh strongest earthquake known to history.
So there you have it: the last earthquake to hit Seattle happened about a hundred years before Lewis and Clark, and 315 years before now. Subtract the average of 243 years from that, and you get an uncomfortable 72 years of the region being overdue for a big one. The most recent deadly quake the US had, was a 6.9 magnitude one near San Francisco, in 1989: it killed 63 people. The one that destroyed San Francisco in 1906 was 7.8 and killed 3,000 people — the most of any earthquake to hit the country. The one that hit Japan in 2011 was 9.0 and killed 16,000 people. It was the strongest one that country, which gets weekly earthquakes, had ever seen and the fourth strongest known to man. The one coming to Seattle could register 9.2.
Earthquake magnitudes are logarithmic, so a 7.8 earthquake is 8x stronger than a 6.9 one, and a 9.0 earthquake is 16x stronger than the 7.8 one. To find out how much stronger one earthquake is than another, take 10 to the power of the difference between them; for example: 10**(9.2-6.9) = 199.53. This means that the one coming to Seattle could be 200x stronger than the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. (By the way, did you know the Richter scale has been obsolete since the 1970s? The above, and generally all earthquake measurements, are actually stated in the Moment Magnitude scale.)
And to be clear, this is not fringe science: FEMA officially believes that there’s a 37% chance of an earthquake with magnitude 8.0 to 8.6 hitting the Pacific Northwest in the next 50 years; a 10-15% chance it will be in the 8.7 to 9.2 range. Because the area is horrendously ill-prepared for an earthquake, it will kill 13,000 people, destroy the local economy (including Amazon and Microsoft headquarters) and take almost two years to repair the infrastructure.
However, all of this might actually not happen until after the year 2160: before the earthquake in 1700, the previous two were in 1310 and 810, which makes 390 and 500 years between them. In fact, the average period between the last five earthquakes in the area was 460 years: almost twice the length of the 10,000 year average. Maybe they’ve just slowed down over the past couple of millenia, or maybe we’re overdue for quicker ones. In any case, move over San Andreas Fault: the Cascadia Subduction Zone is the new thing to fear.
via The New Yorker
With normal cooking, your pot or pan sits on a source of heat (gas, electric coil, etc) and then gets hot itself and heats the food inside it. This is known as thermal conduction: heat is transferred from the source to the pot touching it. Induction cooking, on the other hand, uses a — get ready for this — electromagnet to heat the pot up without ever touching it. Seriously. Electromagnetic induction is actually used in all kinds of other things: generators, transformers, motors, and wireless chargers, to name a few.
The best thing, aside from it being wireless? The cooking surface stays cool! It will heat up a little from the hot pot sitting on it, but the whole idea is that an electromagnet zaps your pot, and only your pot, to whatever temperature you want. It is literally the coolest stovetop ever. You can put a book on the stove and put the pot on the book, and the pot will heat up, but the book won’t.
But wait, there’s more! It’s also faster, more precise, and more energy efficient than normal cooking. Ah-mazing. Pick your jaw up. Here’s a video of it in action:
Crazy futuristic technology, right? Nope: it was invented a hundred years ago. One hundred. Companies like Westinghouse and Sears sold these in the 1970s and ’80s, but somecrazyhow, they never took off. Maybe humanity can only handle one awesome new cooking thing at a time, and the microwave won.
In any case, these are available for sale right now, at this moment. You can find them on Amazon starting at like 60$ for the small, portable ones. It boggles the mind. The one catch — you knew there’d be one — is that you have to use cast iron pots, or other cookware that responds to magnets. But that’s ok, because cast iron is in right now anyway. Right now, in the future that snuck up on us with augmented reality and wireless cooking.
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Season 2 of True Detective isn’t exactly terrible, but it’s definitely a big step down from the near-perfection of season 1. Largely, this is due to the writing: the plot is horribly complex, some of the characters are not written for the actor playing them — most notably, Vince Vaughn’s, who just doesn’t work as the gangster philosopher — and generally, a lot of the dialog is just stilted. Below, some of the most accidentally funny, cringe-worthy examples of 7th grade writing:
Before we get into details, a couple of clarifications:
- Yes, this includes the hard stuff, like cocaine and heroin
- It’s decriminalization, not legalization: drug use is still illegal, but it’s treated as a civil matter rather than a criminal one. More like traffic tickets and contracts rather than burglaries and murder.
- Making, trafficking and selling drugs are still criminal acts; the only thing that’s been decriminalized is possession for personal use, which is defined as a 10 day supply.
Now that we know the parameters of the situation, how has Portugal’s social experiment gone so far? For the most part, things have somewhat improved, and definitely nothing bad happened. Before the 2001 law went into effect, Portugal had a pretty bad drug problem, and a really bad problem with HIV caused by drug use, via infected needles. Since then, continued drug use has decreased by a third, drug court cases by two-thirds, the number of addicts has been cut in half, drug-related HIV cases have plummeted, and so have deaths by overdose.
However, the fear in the United States isn’t that re-classifying drug use from a criminal act to a health problem won’t decrease deaths, court cases and health problems. It’s that drug use will go up, because why wouldn’t it? Depending on who you ask, people either aren’t smart enough or restrained enough to not do drugs without the threat of a jail sentence. (Nevermind that half of American prisoners are there for drugs, and that the 40-year War on Drugs has been a trillion dollar failure.)
Well, it turns out that at least the Portugese know to stay away from drugs even if they get to keep their freedom. The above graph shows that definitely more people tried drugs since they’ve been decriminalized: the lifetime prevalence — how many people have ever tried drugs — went up about half as much by 2007, then declined a bit by 2012, but it still stayed above the 2001 figure. But the other numbers show that people only tried drugs while they were newly legal: by 2012, the amount of people that had tried drugs in the past month or the past year had both gone down from before decriminalization. So while experimental drug use went up, regular use went down.
This is probably because people know drugs are bad without any government threats, the same way they know that jumping out of a plane, even though it sounds like fun at first, ends up poorly. Yet, with proper precautions and supervision, thousands of people jump out of planes each year and walk away to live to tell about it.
But if it’s going so well for Portugal, why don’t more countries try decriminalizing personal drug use? Well, a few have:
- Uruguay never criminalized it, and is in the process of opening government-run marijuana shops
- The Czech Republic did the least they could under the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs: small amounts for personal use are only a misdemeanor, subject to a small fine.
- The Netherlands are famous for not enforcing drug laws for ‘soft’ drugs, such as marijuana
- In Argentina, the Supreme Court declared laws against personal drug use as unconstitutional, but this has been largely ignored by the government.
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This is dialog from a 2009 Family Guy episode (season 7, episode 14) called “We Love You, Conrad“:
Brian: Bruce Jenner is a man
Stewie: No, Brian. That’s what the press would have you believe, but he’s not. Bruce Jenner is a woman: an elegant, beautiful, Dutch woman.
And a decade before that, in 1996, Married… With Children showed the Bundys’ boyish-looking next door neighbor, Marcy, being mistaken for Bruce Jenner. This is from the 25th episode of season 10, “Torch Song Duet”:
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Spoiler alert: the below contains spoilers through the third season of Vikings.
Over the past three years, Vikings has gotten better and better every year. Its story lines are consistently good, but it’s grown in scale from a Viking villagers attacking an English monastery, to a Viking king laying siege to Paris. And the show tries to be historically accurate: as a PopSugar interview with an expert tells us, the costumes, hair styles and characters all fit within the Viking culture, even if some of it is the stuff of legends. The series even has a lot of dialogue in authentic languages of the time: Old Norse, Old English, Old French, none of which sound anything like their modern counterparts.
But how about the timeline and the characters? How do they compare to real history? The article gets the crux of it:
the show is both radically compressing and extending eras
The first raid portrayed in the series, in the second episode of the first season, is the infamous first Viking raid ever recorded, in 793 A.D., at the monastery on the East English isle of Lindisfarne. (The sunstone they used to navigate is thought to be real, too.) The attack was as shocking, if not more so, than the show makes it seem. To the British, the Vikings were demons.
Lindisfarne was located in what at the time was the Kingdom of Northumbria, and in the next episode, we meet its king, Ælla. Here is the first glimpse of the mangling of the timeline: in history, Ælla dies in 867. He looks to be in his 40s in the series, but let’s say life was hard back then and he was 25: that would mean he lived to be 100. However, Ælla does play a prominent role in Norse legend, particularly in one of the Norse sagas about Ragnar Lodbrok, The Tale of Ragnar’s Sons (possible future spoilers) and it makes sense that they included him in the show.
We’ll get back to Ragnar himself — as well as the rest of the Vikings — a little later but first, let’s look at the events of the second season because here, the series jumps forward four years and expands in scope quite a bit. In the second episode, the Vikings, now accompanied by King Horik, land in Wessex and we meet King Egbert. The historical Egbert lived from 770-something to 839.
If we count from the known raid of Lindisfarne, the series would be in 797-798, which would put Egbert in his late 20s, when he was in exile. However, he looks like he’s in his 40s, with his grown son, another historical figure named Æthelwulf, being in his late 20s. In the seventh episode, Egbert and Ælla, whose kingdoms are separated by Mercia, propose an alliance against the Vikings and Mercians, and seal it by wedding their children, Æthelwulf and Judith. It is believed that the real Ælla did have a daughter, but she was named Æthelthryth. However, the real Æthelwulf was indeed married to a Judith in order to form an alliance, but she was Judith of Flanders, and the alliance was with West Francia.
In the eighth episode, we meet a Princess Kwenthrith of Mercia, who seems to want to be either Queen Cynethryth or Princess Cwenthryth. If we have to pick one, it’s probably the former, who lived in late 700s, and was actually queen. However, neither of these women fought a civil war or ruled alone, as Kwenthrith in the series did, and so she seems to be largely fictional. The real Egbert did defeat Mercia though, in the late 820s, and was briefly the 8th and penultimate bretwalda, or ruler of all Britain. His grandson, Alfred the Great, was the last bretwalda. Incidentally, in the series Alfred is the name that Egbert gives to Aethelstan’s bastard child with Judith.
So, based on Egbert’s age and the events, the story seems to not take place as much in the late 790s as the 820s. (Egbert’s son, Æthelwulf, is first mentioned in history in 825 as heading a large army, so he had to be at least in his 20s by then, which matches up with the TV character.) If we leave Ælla and Kwenthrith out, and pretend the attack on Lindisfarne wasn’t the famous one in 793, we can almost say the series takes place in the 820s.
Almost, because the events of the third season would disagree. Noting that there’s no jump in time like the four year one in the previous season, Kwenthrith’s uncle, Beorhtwulf, dies in the battle in the first episode, and she poisons her brother, Burgred, in the fourth one. In reality, both of them were kings of Mercia for decent amounts of time: the former from 840 to 852 and the latter from 852 to 874. This not only really upsets the correspondence with the series, but also puts the story even later, in the mid 800s. The invasion of Paris introduces even more confusion.
First, we meet Count Odo, who in reality, fairly successfully defended Paris from the Viking siege of 885-886. However, all other signs indicate that the siege portrayed is the one from 845, because it:
- was the first Viking siege of Paris, and this seemed to also be the case in the series
- was led by Ragnar
- better matches the battle tactics used
- occurred during the reign of the Frankish emperor Charles the Bald, who was the grandson of Charlemagne, as mentioned in the series
- Charles the Fat ruled during the 885-886 siege, and he was great-grandson of Charlemagne
- Charles the Bald was named so ironically, because he had lots of hair, just like in the series
- Charles the Bald had a daughter, as in the series, while Charles the Fat did not
- ended with a raid inside the city and the payment of 5670 lb of gold and silver, as shown in the series
So it’s pretty clear that aside from Odo’s presence, who was not yet born then, the siege depicted is the one in 845. In the season three finale, Ragnar pretends to convert to Christianity and then die, uses his coffin as a Trojan horse to get into the city, fights his way to the gates, and lets his army in. In reality, they didn’t need to do that to get into the city, and that story is actually attributed to Ragnar’s son, Björn Ironside, who did the same thing to get into what he thought was Rome, but was actually Luna.
Finally, Charles the Bald marries his daughter Gisla to Rollo, in order to secure an alliance with the Vikings. This is interesting for two reasons:
- Remember Judith of Flanders, who married Æthelwulf? She was Charles the Bald’s daughter. It’s strange that in the series, they named his wife Judith and made it a diplomatic marriage, but with the wrong kingdom
- Charles the Bald did not have a daughter named Gisla but his grandson, Charles the Simple, is believed to have had one named Gisela, whom he did give to Rollo — in 911
Which brings us to the Vikings themselves and some history, which may or may not turn out to be spoilers of later seasons of the show:
- The actual Rollo lived from about 850 to 930, and apparently had nothing to do with Ragnar. He and his army eventually settled in Normandy — which took its name from the Normans, meaning North men
- Incidentally, Rollo is the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror, and thus an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II and many other European monarchs.
- King Horik ruled the Danes from 827 to 854
- It’s not known which historical figure Ragnar was, if he even existed, but legend has it that the Great Heathen Army, which conquered much of England starting in 865, was led by his sons and constituted to avenge his death
If that’s true, that would mean Ragnar was born in the early 800s, and could’ve laid the 845 siege to Paris. But there’s no way much else in the timeline makes sense:
- King Horik died 9 years after the siege of Paris in real life, but before it in the series
- The historical King Egbert died in 6 years before the siege, but he’s still alive in the series
- Rollo was born 5 years after the siege, Odo 7
- The situation with the Mercian monarchy in no way represents reality
However, we do get a sense that even though people and events have been shifted both backwards and forwards through time, the story does take place in the mid-early 800s. The two firm historical dates we have are the raid on Lindisfarne in 793 and the siege of Paris in 845. Given they both can’t be true, and based on the other events in the series, fixing it to the latter seems more “correct”.
So in that case, Lindisfarne has been pushed forward in time almost 40 years; Egbert and Æthelwulf about 10 years; Ælla and Ragnar are about where they should be; Horik has been pulled back 10 years, and Rollo and Odo about 40; Gisela, almost 70.
Which is actually not a bad way to do the series: it takes about a century from the height of the Viking Age, compresses it down to a few years, and tells the most interesting stories, with compelling characters that shared a history, even if they weren’t actually contemporaries. Portraying that much history in one series would be very hard without a device like this. And actually, our historical sources from back then are so shaky, that who knows if what we think we know actually happened that way.