All You Need to Know About the Government Shutdown

With the United States Federal Government in the midst of a shutdown, we examine what this means for the average citizen with a little Q&A …

Meetings

Speaker Boehner and President Obama share a joke about furloughed federal employees.

Q. What’s all this I’ve been hearing about a government shutdown?

A. Republicans and Democrats in Congress can’t agree on how to fund the government  so they’ve stopped funding everything that’s not essential until they can reach an agreement.

Q. That sounds pretty scary. Why can’t they agree?

A. Well, the Republicans don’t want to fund health care programs passed by the Democrats, and the Democrats don’t want to fund the rest of the government unless the Republicans agree to fund the health care programs.

Q. Why don’t they just fund the rest of the government first, and figure out about the health care programs later?

A. The President said he would veto any bill that doesn’t fully fund health care.

Q. President Obama said that?

A. No, President Clinton said that. Who’s President Obama?

Q. Wait, what?

A. President Clinton said he’d veto any bill that doesn’t fund health care programs.  I’ve never heard of this “President Obama.” 

Q. Um, what year do you think this is?

A. Ha! Just kidding. I got you for a moment there didn’t I?! You thought I was going to do this whole bit where I confused the 1995 shutdown with the 2013 shutdown, didn’t you?!

Q. Yes, yes. Very funny. 

A. That wasn’t even a question.

Q. Okay, fine. So who are you anyway?

A. Oh I just work for the feds. Got a lot of time on my hands suddenly. I thought I’d put it to good use by coming on here to prank you.

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Fiscal Cliff Doomsday Machine

“The fiscal cliff agreement created a set of economic events that were supposed to be so undesirable to both Republicans and Democrats that they would be certain to enact different and more palatable reforms in order to stop the nation tumbling over the cliff.” – Dr. Merkwürdigliebe, German Economist

Almost exactly like this, in fact:

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Gold Medals per Person

So America may have come top of the official 2012 Olympics medal table, both for gold medals and medals overall, but that only tells part of the story. If we adjust for the population of each country, a very different story emerges. The following table shows gold medals won at the 2012 London games per million citizens of each country listed. Minimum four gold medals for inclusion in the table, which means that we included the top twenty gold medal winning nations.

The conclusions?

  • Usain Bolt is making Jamaica look good.
  • New Zealand #2? Surely there must be some mistake?
  • Communism is better than capitalism (Cuba #5, USA #11).
  • Capitalism is better than communism (S. Korea #10, N. Korea #14)
  • China sucks.

2012 Olympic Gold Medals Won per Million Population:

How does Usain Bolt like his donuts?

  1. Jamaica, 1.48 gold medals per million population (0.36 if Usain Bolt had twisted his ankle during the opening ceremony.)
  2. New Zealand, 1.35 (Does anyone remember them winning anything?)
  3. Hungary, 0.80 (weight-lifting perhaps?)
  4. Great Britain, 0.48 (finally, one that actually makes sense.)
  5. Cuba, 0.44 (same population as Belgium, but five gold medals to zero. Too many waffles, not enough push-ups.)
  6. Kazakhstan, 0.42 (don’t mention Borat, don’t mention Borat, dammit!)
  7. Czech Republic, 0.38 (insert witty remark about Czech Republic here.)
  8. The Netherlands, 0.36 (maybe Ron Paul is right: unlock the potheads, unlock the medals… it worked for Phelps.)
  9. Australia, 0.31 (the sad sporting decline of this once proud nation [of convicts] continues.)
  10. South Korea, 0.26 (very dogged performances all round.)
  11. USA, 0.20 (poor performance? Or does the country simply have too many people? Maybe we should be blaming the immigrants…)
  12. France, 0.17 (after their recent presidential election, all of France’s Olympic funding was accidentally given to the Netherlands, which perhaps explains this relatively weak showing.)
  13. Russia, 0.17 (they obviously weren’t “Russian” fast enough.)
  14. North Korea, 0.16 (too many jokes, not enough space.)
  15. Germany, 0.13 (scheiße!)
  16. Ukraine, 0.13 (not yet a nation of radio-active superbeings, apparently…)
  17. Italy, 0.13 (don’t tell Merkel, but they tied with Germany.)
  18. Japan, 0.05 (they bring great dishonor on entire empire!)
  19. Iran, 0.05 (I ran too, just not as fast as the Iranians evidently.)
  20. China, 0.03 (Usually their strong suit, sheer weight of numbers counts against those inscrutable Chinamen this time…)
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Five Olympic Athletes With Impossibly Apt Names

1. Neva Getova – High Jump (competed for the Soviet Union at the 1972 Munich Olympics)

It looks like she did get over this time.

2. Hup Schtepanjupp – Triple Jump (captained the Netherlands’ athletes at the 1924 Paris Olympics)

3. Chuck Speer – Javelin (competed for the United States of America at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics)

4. Sandy Foote – Beach Volleyball (represented Canada at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics)

5. Fleur O’Teene – Gymnastics (competed for the Republic of Ireland at the 1996 Atlanta games)

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5 Events That Did Not Make the Cut for the London Olympics

1. Synchronized driving: two athletes drive identical cars around identical race tracks at the same time while avoiding identically placed obstacles. The drivers are judged on how closely their laps match up. The degree of difficulty can be increased by selecting hard to control vehicles, including the Reliant Robin,  a 1978 Buick LeSabre, or any Toyota manufactured in 2010.

A “Reliant” Robin

2. Synchronized driving: two athletes hit one golf ball each down the same fairway from golf tees set 20 feet apart. Points are awarded for similar shot timing, ball trajectories, and the final position of each golf ball. The degree of difficulty can be increased if the golfers elect to be blindfolded, use a putter to strike the tee shot, or be paired with Jean Van Der Velde.

3. Synchronized deriving: two athletes simultaneously solve identical differential equations. A panel of international mathematicians awards points based on how quickly the two athletes arrive at the same solution. Additional points can be awarded if both athletes satisfy the Liebniz Rule at the same point in their calculations, though adherence to the Jacobi identity is a prerequisite for additional points to be awarded.

The 1786 Dowsing World Championships were a tense affair.

4. Synchronized divining: two athletes attempt to determine what score the panel of judges will award them by fashioning two dowsing rods into a pair of crude pendulums. Additional points can be awarded if the athletes simultaneously predict the same, correct, score. However, if any additional points are awarded they will render the original prediction incorrect and thus disqualify the athletes.

5. Synchronized, synchronized diving: two pairs of athletes, each in a different stadium, simultaneously perform dives. Judges pay no attention to discrepancies between the dives of each diver in a pair, but instead award points based on how similar the pairs of dives are to each other. However, video technology is not permitted and the judges must award points based only on their initial observation of each dive. The logistical difficultly that this rule presents are yet to be overcome by this otherwise hugely popular sport.

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Let America Play in “Euro” 2012

Why so exclusive, Euro 2012?

Yes, you heard right. The USA should be taking part in UEFA Euro 2012, the world’s second largest football tournament after the FIFA World Cup.

Euro 2012 kicked off today in Warsaw as co-host Poland began their campaign against the 2004 champions, Greece (I feel like Greece ought to be focused on some of its more pressing problems – like who’s going to pay the mortgage this month – but apparently they have time for one last hurrah before they become a wholly-owned subsidiary of der Bundesrepublik Deutschland).

Also participating are many of the globe’s strongest footballing nations: Spain, the Netherlands, France, England, Portugal, and our friends der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, to name just a handful. Because of what can only be described as geographical fascism, however, nations like Brazil, Argentina, and the USA are arbitrarily excluded from the Euro 2012 tournament. Continue reading

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Five Disclaimers You Don’t Want to See on Websites

1. dogadoptions.com: “Breed, size, and temperament of dog may differ from photo. No returns.”

2. thevatican.com: “Actual trespasses may not be forgiven.”

3. pyramidtrader.com: “Value of securities may fluctuate as we divert funds to pay off long-term investors who have become suspicious about our investment practices.”

4. greece.com: “Checks may not be honored.”

5. facebook.com: “See that little webcam above your computer screen? We’re watching you.”

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Delusions of Grandeur #3: The National Association of Realtors

Picture the scene: an implausibly wide-eyed child sitting on his grandfather’s knee on the porch of a white picket fenced house. Gramps is telling Little Timmy that Timmy’s mother grew up in that very same house. Just as you wrongly assume that you’re watching a Werther’s Original commercial, Gramps hits you with a wistful stare into the middle distance as innocent Little Timmy blurts “I’m gonna have a house like this one day.” What’s Gramps staring at? People across the street moving out! Then it hits you: R E A L T O R S!!!! And you throw up.

Don’t believe me? Try watching this without feeling at least a little bit sick:

That’s right: leave it to the realtors to take advantage of the housing crisis they helped create in order to remind us of how much we need them to cream a few thousand dollars off the top every time someone buys a house. Let’s compare and contrast their latest ad with some snippets from this TV spot they were running back in 2007, just as the housing bubble was set to burst. Continue reading

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Historical Email: Neville Chamberlain & Adolf Hitler

Recently released papers from the archives of Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office provide a fascinating insight into communications between the leaders of Europe’s three great powers and Italy in the build up to World War Two. In a surprise to many historians, the documents also reveal that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his French counterpart Edouard Daladier were using an early form of e-mail to communicate with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. 

What follows is an email conversation between the four leaders that took place immediately after the 1938 Munich Agreement, which ceded parts of Czechoslovakia to Germany on the understanding that Germans would renounce any further territorial claims beyond their eastern border. [Note that unlike today’s email systems, 1930s email would place the most recent messages at the bottom of the page, which was inconvenient at the time but makes for much easier reading on a website almost 80 years later…] Continue reading

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