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The most obvious example of the trouble caused [by the 1872-73 horse flu outbreak] was in Boston. A major fire broke out on November 9th at the height of that city’s crisis. Eventually several city blocks burned down and twenty people were killed, and all the while the Boston Fire Department was reduced to firemen and volunteers pulling the fire engines. Though likely not the main cause for the fire’s spread (Boston’s fire regulations for buildings were archaic even by 1872 standards), it was the one image that stuck in the mind of people describing the blaze for years to come. Meanwhile, in Arizona, the end of the war between the United States and the Apaches was delayed for a little while as US cavalry and Apache fighters were reduced to walking into battle. There is some argument that in this one circumstance only the horse flu jumped into humans, adding one more line to the New World’s depressing litany of plagues post-1492. Whatever actually happened, the US Army recovered faster than its adversary, and by April of 1873 the Apaches’ resistance started to collapse. Small bands of them began surrendering at an ever-increasing pace, and by the end of the year the bulk of them sued for peace and were hemmed into a reservation. — “The Great Epizootic,” Paul Drye, Passing Strangeness
[U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu:] When a structural engineer starts to lay out an HVAC [heating, ventilation and air control] system this computer design tool can actually instruct this person actually how to do it much more efficiently. How to design a much more efficient building. [It] should be open source software, so companies can add to that and put whatever they want on it but then you get this body of programmes, computer aided design programmes, as a way of helping design much more efficient buildings. Now if we develop this with China together so that this intellectual property is co-owned, co-developed, free to be used by each country… what’s in it for the United States? First, I’m not so sure we have an edge on this technology, secondly… the buildings in China will be enormous; the infrastructure of cities equivalent to at least one U.S. population the next couple of decades… So that becomes a laboratory for actually testing a lot of these design concepts. So I think Europe also should be doing this. In fact in my opinion it should really be a deep connection; a connection where you’re there at the construction site, you’re there in the design, you’re actually sharing at that level and then you’re sharing in the experience that, once the building is built, how efficient is it? — “Steven Chu: Open source software can reduce need for coal plants,” Kate Mackenzie, Financial Times
Oprah Winfrey’s platform for celebrity pseudoscience; British science writer Simon Singh’s battle against the chiropractors (more); Pennsylvania state legislative staffer/furry wanted to wear panda costume and perform sex acts with boy
Quadrophenia was immediately alluring as a narrative, before I had heard a minute’s music. The title was strange and edgy, somehow combining “schizophrenia” with “quadraphonic”– the latter all the rage, then– as if music could be a kind of vivid sickness. Then my brother dropped the clumsy needle on to the vinyl, and the huge, customised Goodman loudspeaker he had wired up to the old Leak valve amp exploded– exploded with music. And nothing has changed in 30 years. The sound comes thinned and compressed through its digital codes, the amplifier is cleansed of its noisy, tardy valves, but the music still has tremendous power. The Who playing at full throttle is, for me, one of the indices of life. Or perhaps I should say that hearing the Who is both a way of registering life and a way of shaking a fist at it. Townshend’s angry, metallic guitar chords seem to slice into the softness and hypocrisy we wad ourselves with; John Entwistle’s extraordinarily mobile, perpetually restless bass-playing seems like the steps of a man who is running away from something (even though he was famous for staying perfectly still when playing live, while the band erupted into gymnastics around him); Keith Moon’s wildly exciting drumming, both precise and slightly drunken, seems like a form of dedicated vandalism, a desire to play the drums and smash them up at the same time; and Roger Daltrey’s singing is often barely indistinguishable from shouting. That, to me, is what rock should sound like: a concentrated, furious laboratory of focused energy. — “The kids are alright,” James Wood, The Guardian
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”