Weekend Update!

Oh look! A rare Saturday news update! Let’s get to it!

– A teacher at an elementary school in Raeford, North Carolina forced a student to eat a school-provided lunch instead of the lunch he (or she) brought from home because it “wasn’t healthy enough”. School officials admit that the teacher went too far, but the fact that this even happened in the first place tells you everything you need to know about our Nanny State.

– I recently posted about a study which found that schools serving “healthy options” actually had higher obesity rates than schools that served traditional items like pizza and tater tots. Researchers aren’t sure why this is, although the obvious answer would be that kids forced to eat salads and baked fish for lunch go home and gorge themselves on junk food, while kids who eat pizza for lunch are less likely to do so. Now there’s evidence that vending machines in schools don’t cause obesity, either.

– And you can thank Jamie Oliver for much of this hysteria. However, this is kind of cool: he’s opening a new restaurant inside a former bank in Manchester, and during renovations hundreds of safe deposit boxes were found. Since the bank had changed hands several times, it was “too difficult” to find the box owners, so the Bank of England got out the power tools and found at least £1.1 million worth of treasure inside the boxes… including master tapes from Joy Division and New Order!

– Back to the Nanny State: some researchers now want to regulate sugar like alcohol. You didn’t care when they went after drug dealers, because you don’t do drugs. You didn’t care when they stripped away civil rights for DUI suspects, because drunk drivers are bad. You didn’t care when they went after Big Tobacco, because you don’t smoke. When ARE you going to care?

– Step off, Bhut Jolokia! The chile, once thought to be the hottest in the world, has been usurped by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion! To show you how hot they actually are, Bell peppers score a zero on the Scoville heat scale, while Jalapeno peppers come in at around 5,000 Scoville units (SU). Bhut Jolokia peppers usually come in around 1,000,000 SU, but the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion usually scores around 1,250,000 SU, and scientists have found occasional Scorpion peppers that exceed 2,000,000 Scoville units! I want some!

– One last food item: do you like K-Cups? Because if so, you’re paying $51/pound for your coffee!

– I hate the NBA, so it amuses me that the Charlotte Bobcats are on their way to becoming the worst NBA team in history.

– Here’s a heartwarming story: during Super Bowl Week, Pittsburgh Steeler Antonio Brown was in Indianapolis to watch the big game. Since it’s a week-long event, Brown had some time on his hands, so he tweeted his location, and a fan named Seth Paladin showed up. You’d think that Brown might sign an autograph for Paladin and maybe pose for a picture or two and that would be that. But, in fact, the two hit it off so well that they hung out most of the week! Brown invited Paladin to work out with him, and Brown went to a birthday dinner for one of Paladin’s friends. After dinner, Brown went with Paladin and his friends to an Indiana Pacers basketball game (Brown picked up the tab for dinner and the friends had the floor seats for the game). The two hung out for the next couple of days, and, when Brown discovered that he’d forgotten a pair of dress shoes for a dinner, he trusted Paladin with his credit card to buy him a pair! Read the amazing story here.

– From the “So Cute You’ll Scream” Department: here are some pictures of a new breed of chameleon recently found in Madagascar. They’re the smallest in the world, smaller across than adult male’s finger, and barely bigger than a match head. And, while this isn’t cute, scientists have also found fossils of a 760 million year old animal, the oldest known in the world. Oh, and fishermen in Karachi, Pakistan caught a 40-foot long whale shark: that’s longer than a school bus!

– The border between North and South Carolina was surveyed in 1772… and then largely forgotten about. But in the late 80s and early 90s the Charlotte suburb of York County, South Carolina began experiencing a building boom. Since many of the trees used to mark the 1772 boundary had been cut down or lost to old age, fire or winter weather, and since many of the boulders used for the same had been moved or broken up over the years, developers and builders began asking the states to clarify the border situation. Some folks got a real shock recently when they discovered that they actually lived in North Carolina instead of South Carolina! What’s worse, these folks can expect their income and property taxes to jump around 30% in most cases… although the official boundary hasn’t been finalized yet, and there’s some talk of “grandfathering” the new NC residents with SC tax rates. Knowing Bev Perdue, however, it seems much more likely that these poor folks will get a bill in the mail soon for 240 years of back taxes. Sigh.

– There’s a long standing Internet myth that the people who developed the mp3 format didn’t consider their work complete until the software could reproduce Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” perfectly. This is an exaggeration of sorts, although one of the developers was a big Vega fan and often used the song during testing. It’s just that “Tom’s Diner” wasn’t an official benchmark or anything. However, the myth’s been around for ages, and perhaps because of that Vega was recently asked to record the song on a circa 1890 Edison Cylinder. The linked article, which has a YouTube video of the process and result, is pretty neat.

– Speaking of rock stars, here’s a cool article with lots of pictures of 70s rock stars hanging out at their parent’s homes… back in the 70s. And speaking of the Internet, you need to read this short piece by Peter Sunde of The Pirate Bay: “[t]he problem here is that we’re allowing this dying industry to dictate the terms of our democracy.”

– And lastly, some cool pics from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and news of a truly odd black hole.

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