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Acheivement Stickers

What have you achieved today?

I can identify different nets for a closed cube!

Hmm. I think I might need to set the bar lower.





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Today’s Weird Photo Juxtaposition




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Little Reds Riding-Hood

Little Red Riding Hood has been one of those weird coincidental things that keeps popping up in my life lately.  All of the following are interesting and aesthetically pleasing, and at least tangentially related to the story.

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I’ve always wondered why the call letters of WDBQ begin with a W, not a K.

If you’re not from Dubuque, then you don’t know that WDBQ is your AM radio station of choice for play-by-play of the local high-school basketball games, reruns of classic old-time radio plays and series, and updates on how pork bellies are trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Okay, not so much any more, because pork-belly futures are no longer traded.

But when I was a kid, that’s what you heard on WDBQ, along with a surprisingly-eclectic mix of country, folk, and big band music. We had a radio permanently tuned to WDBQ on top of the fridge in the kitchen, and the kitchen was also where the family computer was located, an Apple IIGS. I whiled away many an hour listening to a football game or old episodes of Fibber McGee and Molly or X X X Minus Minus Minus One One One while playing Orgeon Trail or Lode Runner or Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?

And often I’d puzzled over the W in WDBQ, because, as you likely have noticed, radio stations east of the Mississippi begin with ‘W’, while radio stations west of the Mississippi begin with ‘K’. And Dubuque is just barely, but most certainly, west of the Mississippi, and all the other Dubuque radiostations (KLYV 105, KDUB, KDTH) all began with ‘K.’ I thought, perhaps that, WDBQ certainly a venerable institution, may have originated from an earlier time before the W/K dichotomy emerged, but I was always plagued with the uncertainty of not knowing.

So imagine my delight when Strange Maps featured some maps of the K/W dichotomy.

It turns out that the K/W divide is as old as four-letter call signs themselves, which were first assigned in 1912.  But the original K/W line was originally further west than it is today, only shifting to the current Mississippi border in 1923. ‘W’ stations west of the Mississippi were allowed to keep their original call sign.  A-ha, I thought, WDBQ must be older than 1923.

But no!  It turns out that WDBQ was founded after 1923, but received an “[e]xceptional grant of a request to deviate from the general rule.”

Why was the request made? Did “WDBQ” just have a certain ring to it? And why was it granted? Was the FCC powerless before the poetry of the rhyming of “W” and “Q”?

So, there’s a partial answer, but a tantalizing mystery remains.

(Title courtesy of Wikipedia, which is always there for you when you need a lists of things you would never think of making a list of, but which are always gratifying to find when you need them.)

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Some things you should read by Mallory Ortberg.

Some satire about how society tells women what to put into their bodies: So You’ve Decided to Drink More Water and The Moose Cleanse.

Funny and strangely poignant: Signs You’ll Never Read in Your Office’s Communal Kitchen

Completely amazing and beautiful: A Wizard Has Stolen Your Heart


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Is it worth it to try to reduce gun violence?

It was a disquieting experience to listen to these two podcasts in quick succession:

Freakonomics Radio: How to Think about Guns

This American Life: Harper High School, Part One.

The conclusion of the first podcast is that, in absolute terms, widespread availability of guns doesn’t really cause that many problems in society. Mass shootings are shocking and disturbing, but they are also very rare. Many more people are injured and die in car crashes. By and large, the people who are hurt and killed by guns are mostly the people who spend a lot of time around guns, and those of us who go through our lives without interacting much with guns have little to fear.

They discuss the difficulty of removing guns from circulation, and quote the impressive-seeming statistic that any given gun only has a 1:10,000 likelihood of being involved in a shooting each year, so removing any given gun is unlikely to affect the overall problem.  (It seems to me that this astonishing figure has more to do with the ridiculous saturation of guns in America than how dangerous guns are inherently.)  The basic conclusion is: getting rid of guns would be hard, so we should put society’s resources into other means of preventing injury and death.

The This American Life episode brings into sharp relief the fact that the dangers of guns are not shared evenly across society. The burden falls disproportionately on the urban poor. TAL paints a stark picture of a what it might be like to live your life, day in, day out, in a state of constant fear of gun violence.

I was thinking of making this post before today’s events in Beloit, but it seems especially relevant now.  I was struck as events unfolded that if this event had happened in a different part of town, I probably wouldn’t have heard about it—and if I’d heard, I wouldn’t probably have cared very much. Because this kind of thing happens—though not usually to people like me.

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A couple things that make me think of His Dark Materials

I’m reading The Subtle Knife, second book in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman, kindly loaned to me in the form of the omnibus edition by David K.  It’s great reading, in large part because Pullman is a master of atmosphere.   I get very vivid mental pictures of all the people and places. (I’m a little afraid to watch the Golden Compass film for fear i won’t look as good on screen as it does in my head.) So here are a couple of things I’ve stumbled across lately that matched my mental imagery:

Viewing Falling Stars from Balloon

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