Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | February 9, 2013

Links Old and New

Some of these links are old, but if you haven’t read them yet, they’re like new to you.

1. From airports all over the world: 23 Awkward Sleeping Positions of People at Airports. (H/T: Steve Saideman.)

2. “The German Emperor’s lower passage was blocked by the French for years and years.” A history professor has compiled excerpts from several decades’ worth of freshman papers to produce an essay on modern history. The final product is hilarious. “The Popes, of course, were usually Catholic.” “Louis XIV became King of the Sun.” “History, a record of things left behind by past generations, started in 1815.” And: “An angry Martin Luther nailed 95 theocrats to a church door.” (History and humanity might have been better off if that last one were true.)

3. A six-year-old makes guesses as to the contents of several classic novels based on nothing but the covers and titles. My favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird: “It’s about a guy that tried to kill a mockingbird but he couldn’t because the bird was magical. And the bird lives in different trees because he’s trying to hide from him but the man keeps hitting leaves that look like the mockingbird, but he never shoots the mockingbird. And guy is really bad but the bird is really good.” And Catch-22: “I think it’s about baseball. A person who likes to play baseball but also takes care of a plane.”

4. An intrepid player decided to continue a game of Civ II, off and on, for a decade, pushing the game to 3991 AD. The result is a stable, horrific three-empire stalemate: “the world’s three remaining nations have been embroiled in military conflict for 1700 years. 90 percent of the world’s peak population has died due to nuclear conflict, and Vikings wield ICBMs.” This is my favorite part (emphasis added):

A couple of in-game millenia later, the landscape is mostly “inundated swamp land,” as the polar ice caps have managed to melt 20 times. Engineers are constantly building roads for armies that get annihilated the next turn by enemies, and feeding the military beast means the warring nations have no time to clear the swamps or nuclear fallout. The lack of sustainable farmland has led to a starving, miserable world population suffering under Communist and Theocratic control. “I was forced to do away with democracy roughly a thousand years ago because it was endangering my empire,” Lycerius writes; his Senate kept overruling him when he wanted to declare war on the Vikings.

(A chilling vision of things to come? Let’s hope not.)

5. Not really a surprise: Mack Wolford, a serpent-handling Pentecostal pastor from West Virginia, was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. According to the Washington Post:

Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford was known all over Appalachia as a daring man of conviction. He believed that the Bible mandates that Christians handle serpents to test their faith in God — and that, if they are bitten, they trust in God alone to heal them.

He and other adherents cited Mark 16:17-18 as the reason for their practice: “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The son of a serpent handler who himself died in 1983 after being bitten, Wolford was trying to keep the practice alive, both in West Virginia, where it is legal, and in neighboring states where it is not.

6. Why North Korea Gets Away with its Stunts. Short version: because South Korea wants to avoid escalation, and therefore holds back its allies. South Korea is very vulnerable even to conventional attacks from its northern neighbor.

7. Canada and Denmark seem to have reached a settlement over a barren island between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, near the Arctic Ocean. (I guess they can stand down the war footing.)

8. A 1956 letter from C.S. Lewis on writing.

9. Yes, the GRE is flawed (and so are other standardized tests), but what would we use in its place?

(Image: the Korean peninsula at night, 2012. Source: NASA.)

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