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‘Game of Thrones’ Is Filming A Lot Of Peniscola

Peniscola from the beach (1985)

Peniscola from the beach (1985)

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.

penis cola

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.

Jon Snow on set in Northern Ireland

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via Watchers on the Wall and The Daily Mail

All Drug Use Has Been Decriminalized in Portugal Since 2001, And It’s Going Well

Before we get into details, a couple of clarifications:

  1. Yes, this includes the hard stuff, like cocaine and heroin
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Prevalence of drug use among all Portugese adults

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.

US incarceration rate over time

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.

See also:

via Business Insider, Policy.Mic, Washington Post, and The Associated Press

Lawyer Ads Weren’t Legal Until 1977

Toward the end of the fifth episode of Better Call Saul, Jimmy is talking to his brother Chuck about his right to advertise, at which point Chuck mentions that the practice “wasn’t even allowed until five Supreme Court justices went completely bonkers in Bates vs State Bar of Arizona“. And indeed, bar associations until that time had traditionally banned all forms of lawyer advertising — the thinking being that good work is its own advertisement through the word of mouth it generates and that discussing money matters was beneath the professionalism of a lawyer.

Chuck McGill explaining Bates vs the State Bar of Arizona, in the fifth episode of Better Call Saul

Chuck McGill explaining Bates vs the State Bar of Arizona, in the fifth episode of Better Call Saul

 

Well in 1976, an Arizona legal clinic which only handled basic legal matters placed an ad with prices for some services it provided, such as uncontested divorces and basic adoptions. The State Bar of Arizona sued them, and the Arizona Supreme Court found in their favor. But, the United States Supreme Court, having recently ruled that laws prohibiting pharmacists from advertising their prices were unconstitutional, took up the case and ruled that the same bans are unconstitutional for lawyers also. The thinking was that the rules were not only anachronistic, but that they constituted a disservice to the common man in that they prohibited the free flow of information.

It was an early ruling on the concept of commercial speech, which has since evolved quite a bit, and was most recently the reason behind the landmark ruling of Citizens United vs FEC, in which the ban against corporations spending money on political campaigns was lifted.

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From Wikipedia

The Original Plot of ‘Game of Thrones’, As Pitched In 1993

Three years before A Game of Thrones was published, a 44 year-old George R. R. Martin sent in the first 13 chapters of it to his agent, Ralph Vicinanza. With it, he included a three-page letter that laid out his vision for the series, which he had already named A Song of Fire and Ice. Pictures of the letter’s pages are below, but here are the salient points:

  • As is well-known, the series was originally supposed to be a trilogy — it since became (at least) a heptalogy:
    • The three books were to be named A Game of Thrones, A Dance with Dragons, and The Winds of Winter. The latter two names were eventually given to the 5th and 6th books, instead.
  • GRRM made it a point to say he had a strong notion of the plot and the fate of the main characters, but that he purposely didn’t want to know where the story was going, so he wouldn’t lose interest in writing it.
  • The overall plot was supposed to be comprised of three successively more serious conflicts, each being the focus of one of the books:
    1. The fight for the Iron Throne in A Game of Thrones
    2. The invasion of the Seven Kingdoms by Daenerys and her Dothraki horde in A Dance with Dragons
    3. The invasion of the Seven Kingdoms by The Others in The Winds of Winter
  • “I want the reader to feel that no one is ever completely safe, not even the characters who seem to be the heroes. The suspense always ratchets up a notch when you know that any character can die at any time.”
  • “Five central characters will make it through all three volumes”: Tyrion, Daenerys, Arya, Bran and Jon Snow
  • “Sansa Stark, wed to Joffrey Baratheon, will bear him a son, the heir to the throne, and when the time comes, she will choose her husband and child over her parents and siblings, a choice she will later bitterly rue.”
  • Robb Stark was supposed to maim Joffrey in battle, but then be killed himself — also in battle; no mention of the Red Wedding. Tyrion was then supposed to besiege and burn Winterfell instead of Theon
  • Before there was a Red Wedding, Catelyn was supposed to “die at the hands of the others”
  • Bringing a touch of incest to the “good” characters, Arya and Jon were to fall in love, but not do anything about it and instead remain tormented by passion “until the secret of Jon’s true parentage is revealed in the last book.” So, clearly Ned really is not Jon’s father, giving even more credence to R+L=J
  • Daenerys was supposed to kill Khal Drogo as revenge for him killing her brother, then run off into the Dothraki Sea, find the dragon eggs, hatch them, and use them to subdue the Dothraki and prepare to invade the Seven Kingdoms as their leader
  • After Tyrion “removed” Joffrey, Jaimie Lannister was supposed to kill his way to the Iron Throne and then blame Tyrion for all the murders. Tyrion would side with the Starks and fall in love with Arya, leading to a “deadly rivalry between Tyrion and Jon Snow”.

And now, without further ado, the actual photographs of the letter’s pages:

GRRM letter, page 1 GRRM letter, page 2 GRRM letter, page 3

 

The pictures were apparently taken at the London headquarters of HarperCollins, which publishes the A Song of Ice and Fire series in the UK and has the letter up on a wall, behind acrylic, in a “George R R Martin Room”. That paragraph that’s blacked out has piqued the interest of Reddit, where an effort to decode the text using methods that would make a spy jealous has made this much progress so far:

Decoded redacted paragraph from GRRM letter

 

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From reddit, via HappyPlace

Pope Francis Doesn’t Know The Difference Between Evolution And Intelligent Design

On October 27th, Pope Francis gave a speech to the Vatican’s science academy, on the occasion of unveiling a bust of the previous, still living Pope Benedict VXI. In it, after praising Pope Benedict, he talks about evolution briefly, and how the theory is not incompatible with Catholic faith. The entire text is printed below, but these are the relevant parts that were used in virtually all of the extensive English media coverage:

“When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything. However, it was not like that. He created beings and left them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave each one, so that they would develop, and reach their fullness.”

“The Big-Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

Even without actually reading the whole context, it’s obvious that he’s not really talking about unguided natural selection. Phrases like “He created beings” and “evolution presupposes the creation of beings” very clearly show that he doesn’t think all life on earth descended from the Last Universal Ancestor through the various mechanisms in the Theory of Evolution, but rather that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause”, which is the very definition of Intelligent Design.

Pope Francis: evolution in nature is not in contrast with the notion of creation

One of the extremely few news sources that picked up on this was CNET, which included this paragraph along with its report:

The pope’s views differ radically from those of some eminent scientists, such as Stephen Hawking. Hawking recently made it clear that he dismisses the idea of God. He said: “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation.”

The other error that should’ve been caught by just by simple common sense is a translation one, which would have had the Pope supposedly say — emphasis added — that “God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life.” Now, regardless of anything else, we can surely all agree that the Pope thinks God is a divine being. Him saying otherwise really should raise an alarm, but maybe every reporter thought that now that he’s cool with science, the Pope is coming out of the atheist closet, too.

The actual Italian word translated as “divine being” in that quote is “demiurgo”, which — and this is where the incompetence really becomes obvious — has a very good English translation: demiurge. If you’re not a student of philosophy though, the term probably bears no meaning, so it generally gets translated into “creator”, with a small c. It comes from Plato, and it refers to an imperfect being that did his best to bring order to the chaos that the universe used to be, and who fashioned what we know the universe to be. However, the universe is still flawed because it was made from flawed materials.

Later, in Gnosticism, the term was used for a similar being, except that he was malevolent, and was trying to keep humanity from knowing the true, benevolent God. Thus, everything material was created by the demiurge and was bad, and everything immaterial, or spiritual, was created by God and that’s the world which Gnostics tried to learn about — the term Gnostic meaning “learned person”. Clearly, a person like the Pope — very knowledgeable in philosophy and heretical religions — meant demiurge, and not divine being.

But back to the main issue, about evolution and creation. If there’s any doubt that Pope Francis was actually talking about intelligent design, here’s the entire paragraph of his speech on the matter, in which he says that creation has been going on for millenia until it became what we know it to be, and the world did not arise out of chaos. In other words, evolution has been guided the whole time, and the Big Bang was too.

“You are addressing the highly complex topic of the evolution of the concept of nature. I will not go into it all, you understand well the scientific complexity of this important and decisive question. I only wish to underline that God and Christ walk with us and are present also in nature, as the Apostle Paul affirmed in his address at the Areopagus: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything. However, it was not like that. He created beings and left them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave each one, so that they would develop, and reach their fullness. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time that He assured them of his continual presence, giving being to every reality. And thus creation went forward for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia until it became what we know today, in fact because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives being to all entities. The beginning of the world was not the work of chaos, which owes its origin to another, but it derives directly from a Supreme Principle who creates out of love. The Big-Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

The entire transcript, in Italian, can be found at the official Vatican News network, and a (correct) English translation can be found at Zenit, a Catholic news agency.

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From Zenit and NEWS.VA

A Can Of Soda A Day Keeps Your Last Years Away

Researchers from UCSF looked at roughly 5,000 adults with no diabetes or heart problems and asked themselves how sugary beverages affect lifespan. They analyzed drinkers of normal, sugary sodas, of sugary flat drinks, of diet sodas, and of 100% fruit juice drinks. To figure out lifespan, they looked at telomeres, which are endcaps on chromosomes, and which have been shown to correlate with how long a person lives. Those with shorter telomeres tend to age faster, die earlier and have more cancer. And it turned out that people who drink sugary sodas regularly, have shorter telomeres.

Warning label on a can of soda

Diet sodas didn’t seem to have any correlation with telomere length, though there are other problems with them. Non-carbonated sugary sodas had no correlation either. Regularly drinking fruit juice correlated with longer telomeres, though eating the actual fruit, instead, has the added benefit of healthy fiber. But for sugary sodas, extrapolating additional aging from how much the telomeres were shorter, the study found that drinking 8oz per day (about two-thirds of a can) shortened lifespan by 1.9 years, and 20oz shortened it by 4.6 years — the same amount as smoking.

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From American Journal of Public Health, via Time

‘Twin Peaks’ Is Returning in 2016!

Twin Peaks opening shot credits
Every Twin Peaks fan’s wildest fantasy came true today, and it all started with simultaneous, twin tweets a few days ago by the show’s co-creators, David Lynch and Mark Frost:

 

Those tweets reference the line at 3:33 into the dream sequence from episode 2:

 

The hashtag is from the same episode:

The Internet then immediately remembered this quote:

“When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry we must always pay strict attention!” Special Agent Dale Cooper

And so, after letting that sit over the weekend, Showtime announced today that they have picked up a limited, nine episode revival of the series. It will air and take place in 2016, which is 25 years after the end of the 1991 series, per what Laura Palmer says 40 seconds into this clip from the series finale:

All nine episodes will be written, produced and directed by the co-creators. And it looks like Kyle MacLachlan has already agreed to reprise the role of Agent Cooper:

 

Until 2016, here are all of the mentions of pie and coffee in the entire series:

Via The New York Times

Only 8 Countries Have Ever Won The FIFA World Cup

Since the first one in 1930, there have been 20 World Cup tournaments. (They skipped 1942 and 1946, for some reason.) And those 20 have been won by just eight countries — because five of them won it multiple times: Brazil five times, Germany and Italy four times each, and Argentina and Uruguay twice each. The one-time winners are England, France and Spain. Another way to look at it: five countries in Western Europe and three countries in South America.

640px-World_cup_winners

Map of World Cup winners

Those eight represent just 10% of the 77 countries that have ever made it into the tournament. Any way you slice it, it’s a very exclusive club and Brazil, Germany and Italy are the big wigs.

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From Wikipedia

Tim Howard Saves

America got knocked out of the 2014 World Cup today, in the round of 16, with a 2-1 loss in overtime, just like in 2010. But one great thing came out of the loss to Belgium and that was the amazing performance by our goalie, Tim Howard.

Tim  Howard: Department of Defense

Tim Howard

 

The rest of the USMNT (which either means US Men’s National Team or US Mutant Ninja Turtles) wasn’t having much luck in stopping the Belgian offense, but Tim Howard set a World Cup record by stopping 16 shots on goal in one match — more than any other goalie in the recorded history of the Cup. He also had the best goalkeeping performance in any single match this Cup.

Tim Howard plans to retire when his contract is up with the English team Everton in 2017, but hopefully he’ll come back to play with the USMNT at the 2018 World Cup, in Russia. In the meantime, the tournament is now officially a very localized event: the 8 teams left are the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France from Western Europe, and Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica from South America (or close enough).

world-cup-fifa-ghana-soccer-football-landon-donovan-south-africa-sports-ecard

@SavedYouAClick, Fighting Clickbait On Twitter

An eyecatching link on a website which encourages people to read on. It is often paid for by the advertiser (“Paid” click bait) or generates income based on the number of clicks.

-from Urban Dictionary

Clickbait headlines are quite possibly the worst thing to have happened to the Internet, ever. And like a virus, it keeps spreading, thanks to the success of terrible, terrible websites like Upworthy.

To fight this scourge, a Twitter guy (it’s gotta be a guy, right?) named @SavedYouAClick started reading a bunch of a clickbait articles and then posting awesomely sarcastic summaries of what you’d find in the article, were you to take the bait. Examples: (which are better understood by starting to read them at the RT, and then reading the beginning part)

Co-valedictorians RT @HuffingtonPost: Identical twins get school’s highest honor

Less than $6 per passenger. RT @cnni: Guess how much money airlines make when you fly. You might be surprised:

Run away. Fast. RT @businessinsider: A former Navy SEAL explains how to escape a dangerous situation

It’s called Drizly. RT @latimes: A liquor delivery app just launched in L.A.:

She’s pregnant again. Those are the details. RT @OK_Magazine: Breaking: @kourtneykardash is pregnant! Details:

LeVar Burton bringing back Reading Rainbow RT @Upworthy: That one time when a famous Hollywood person created a Kickstarter so kids can read

It’s not. It could give you a hand injury, though. @mashable: Why Texting Is Killing You

It’s a red panda. Cute, but not cutest ever. RT @Cosmopolitan: Is this the cutest GIF ~*eVeR?

Abandoned island near the Bronx. RT @HuffingtonPost: We’re pretty sure a visit to this island will give you nightmares

No. Just let it go. RT @GuardianUS: Does a spouse not liking Frozen qualify as grounds for divorce?

Water quality. RT @businessinsider: A chemist has uncovered the secret to brewing delicious coffee at home

Sexism. RT @Slate: What we found while lurking on an anonymous college message board for two years will disgust you:

Invaded Normandy. RT @businessinsider: Here’s how the Allies began to win World War 2, 70 years ago tomorrow

Because you’re not enjoying it. A study found they’re linked. RT @NYMag: Why you’re constantly exercising and never losing weight:

Wal-Mart sells a TON of CDs. RT @FortuneMagazine: Here’s why Pharrell and Robin Thicke played the Wal-Mart annual meeting for free

Florence. (It’s just a user poll). RT @mashable: What is the best summer vacation spot in the world?

It’s addictive.

@SavedYouAClick

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From Twitter, via FAIL Blog