Zelda's exercises, November 12

My output from This week's Zelda's Inferno:

1) the "IQ test" exercise. In this one, we all make up multiple choice questions with some odd and interesting possible answers. We answer our own questions and those that others in the group pose, then write a poem based on the selected answers.

My questions:

why don't we see stars in the daytime? *they're afraid of the sun and hide / it's too bright to see them / we choose to ignore them / a government conspiracy

why is there a hole in the middle of a doughnut? to allow them to cook more evenly / *to symbolize the emptyness at the center of everything / cooks skimping on dough / a government conspiracy

staying healthy is good for you (duh)

MSNBC reports on a study showing that people who at mid-life have characteristics associated with being fit and active, have a good chance of being healthy in old age.

“There appears to be a lot we can do about modifying our risk and increasing the odds for aging more healthfully,” said lead author Dr. Bradley Willcox, a scientist at the Pacific Health Research Institute in Honolulu.

Seed: "Who Wants to Be a Cognitive Neuroscientist Millionaire?"

Seed features a piece by Ogi Ogas on how he used his knowledge of cognitive neuroscience to help his performance on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?

The first technique I drew upon was priming. The priming of a memory occurs because of the peculiar "connectionist" neural dynamics of our cortex, where memories are distributed across many regions and neurons. If we can recall any fragment of a pattern, our brains tend to automatically fill in the rest. For example, hearing an old Madonna song may launch a cascade of linked memories: your high school prom where it was the theme song, your poorly tailored prom outfit, your forgotten prom date, the stinging embarrassment when you threw up in the limo.

post-election journaling: America may just survive after all

Well, it seems America may just survive after all...

I had requested and received and absentee ballot, but found out almost too late that it had to be postmarked the day *before*, not the day of, the election. So I went over to the school and voted on the maybe-it-counts, maybe-it-doesn't, Diebold machine.

I had a test in my Nihongo class that afternoon, so I'm standing there in line for about 20 minutes, going over my note cards, muttering "muzukashi...difficult...omoroshii...interesting..." and hoping no one things I'm crazy...

Behind me in line, two older women, mid 60s to early 70s I'd say. Got into a little conversation, small talk, hearing an old lady at the polls tell me that they ought to kick the old guys in Congress out and let some young people in with some new ideas, well that made my day.

LA Times: "A clash of wills at 'Firecracker'"

Excellent story from the L.A. Times giving a first-hand account of combat in Iraq.

Sanchez: The rest of the squad was around the corner. It was just me and Kaminski. I turned back to make sure he was still there. I took a step, and I saw a big flash of light in front of my face, and I felt heat coming up. And I heard the boom. The next thing I know, I was laying facedown on the pavement. I didn't know what was going on, all the dust was everywhere. I just assumed I was dead.

Zelda's exercises, November 5

More Zelda's Inferno exercises:

1) free-write on the phrase: "the time he was buried alive"

the time he was buried alive, in sand at the beach by his older sister, who then went off and left him, just his face sticking out, getting sunburned, biting flies on his cheeks, that time seemed now to have been a foreshadowing of all of his relationships with women

the time he was buried alive in rose petals, tickertape, praise, buried in adulation, stuck in it unable to move

BBC: "Faking it as a priest in Japan"

The BBC reports on gaijin acting as "priests" in Japanese wedding ceremonies:

"I was living in Sapporo, studying Japanese, and I needed the money. It's far better paid than teaching in a language school," he said.

"Being a fake priest is big business in Japan - I've done a TV commercial for one company," he added. "In Sapporo, there are five agencies employing about 20 fake priests. In a city like Tokyo, there must be hundreds."

The fake Western priests are employed at Western-style weddings to give a performance and add to the atmosphere. These are not legal ceremonies - the couples also have to make a trip to the local registrar.

GOP goes "trivial and seamy" in negative campaining

E. J. Dionne runs down the Republicans' desperate, slimy, seedy, ugly campaigning this season.

...this year's campaign will mark the moment when Republican leaders who govern in the name of conservatism turned definitively away from hope and waged one of the most trivial and ugly campaigns in our country's history.

...

But this year Republican campaigners and their advocates in the conservative media have crossed line after line in sheer meanness, triviality and tastelessness. Conservative optimism and its promise of morning in America have curdled into the gloom of a Halloween midnight horror show.

stock-pumping via website cracking

The Motley Fool reports on a stock-pumping fraud scheme involving a clever use of compromised on-line brokerage accounts:

The new breed of brokerage account hacker isn't looking to milk your account dry. There are safeguards against that, since account redemptions would be delivered in your name to your home. No, a broker hacker is simply after the ability to pump up a thinly traded stock's price by selling your stocks and then using the proceeds to snap up shares of a targeted speculative stock in your account.

More voting machine madness

In another fine piece in Rolling Stone, RFK Jr. shows the state of security and reliability for computerized voting machines:

Georgia law mandates that any change made in voting machines be certified by the state. But thanks to Cox's agreement with Diebold, the company was essentially allowed to certify itself. "It was an unauthorized patch, and they were trying to keep it secret from the state," Hood told me. "We were told not to talk to county personnel about it..."

According to Hood, Diebold employees altered software in some 5,000 machines in DeKalb and Fulton counties - the state's largest Democratic strongholds. To avoid detection, Hood and others on his team entered warehouses early in the morning. "We went in at 7:30 a.m. and were out by 11," Hood says. "There was a universal key to unlock the machines, and it's easy to get access. The machines in the warehouses were unlocked. We had control of everything. The state gave us the keys to the castle, so to speak, and they stayed out of our way."...

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