Martin Luther King Day 2016

martin luther king

It’s Martin Luther King Day here in the U.S.. To this day, it remains a somewhat controversial holiday; while Ronald Reagan signed it into law in 1983 and first observed as a federal holiday in 1986, many states resisted the idea until 2000. Some refused to mark the holiday, and Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi prefer to throw in Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s name into the mix, which is kind of like declaring the Fourth of July “Al-Qaeda Day / Independence Day”.

Over at The Root, Felice Leon looks at what’s been gained and lost over the thirty years since MLK day became a federal holiday. Among the losses, there are:

For gains, she lists:

Yes, not all of the gains are just about black people, but civil rights in general, and that’s a key part of Dr. King’s legacy, for which I, as a force of darkness (my preferred replacement phrase for “person of color”) living in the U.S., am grateful.

Happy MLK Day!


“Star Wars Monday” post #1: Kylo Ren and “Bug Out Bob”

It’s January 18, 2016, which means that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been in theatres for a month. To celebrate, I’ll be making a few Star Wars-related posts here, and I hope you enjoy them. Please note that there may be some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want me to give away some crucial plot points, perhaps it’s better if you stop reading now.

Kylo Ren and “Bug Out Bob”

'Bug Out Bob

Bug Out Bob is a disturbing-looking stress toy, but he’s kind of fun to squeeze. Kylo Ren, who has sever anger management issues, could benefit from having Bug Out Bob in a number of situations…

Animated cartoon graphic of Kylo Ren squeezing his stress toy slowly while at his station on the Star Destroyer.

Animated cartoon graphic of Kylo Ren squeezing his stress toy at a medium pace on Starkiller Base as Rey runs loose in the background.

Animated cartoon graphic of Kylo Ren squeezing his stress toy very quickly as he lies bloodied and with his face slashed in the snow.

Found via kelgrid.


Christ, what a Trump

satan cartoon 1

The comic above is a pretty good summary of Trump, or if you’re Canadian, his low-rent doppelganger Kevin O’Leary.

It would appear that the maxim still holds: any New Yorker or New Yorker-style single-panel cartoon retains its comedic value if you replace its caption with “Christ, what an asshole”.

satan cartoon 2


“Vlad the inhaler” turns your asthma into BADASS-thma

Inhaler done up to look like Vlad the Impaler.

“Piggy” from Lord of the Flies could’ve used one of these.


Filipino man sets new world record for extinguishing candles with farts (and no, it wasn’t me)

This guy’s sphincter control is nothing short of mind-boggling. On my best Taco Bell day, I could do two candles at most. In case you were wondering, the Tagalog word for “fart” is utot (ooo-TOT).


The “Poverty Solved!” graphic about the Powerball $1.3 billion jackpot is wrong [Updated]

your math is way off

There’s a graphic about the record-breaking Powerball jackpot that’s going around the internet. Given how bad at many people are at math, I can’t tell whether it was originally intended as a joke or not. It reads:

Powerball 1.3 Billion
÷ U.S. Pop 300 Million
Everyone receives 4.33 mil
Poverty solved!

It sounds nice and inspiring, but it isn’t true. Some people will say it’s because redistribution of wealth doesn’t work and will only make things worse, and we can argue that point another time. I’m arguing that it isn’t true because the math is wrong. Here’s why:

  • The Powerball jackpot is 1.3 billion dollars. A billion is 1,000 times a million, and 1.3 billion is 1,300 times a million.
  • The U.S. population is slightly over 300 million, which is another way of saying 300 times a million.
  • Dividing 1,300 million (the Powerball prize money) among 300 million people (the U.S. population) is exactly the same as dividing 1,300 by 300, which is the same as dividing 13 by 3: $4.33.

It won’t fix poverty, but it will buy every American a Grande-sized Starbucks drink or the Sausage McMuffin with Egg meal at McDonald’s. It’s not the American Dream; it’s more of an American snack.

Update: The “British billion” explanation

10 to 9th vs 10 to the 12th

A number of people have read my article and suggested that perhaps the poster used the wrong form of “billion”, because there are two:

  • The modern form, where a billion is 1,000,000,000 — written as 1 followed by 9 zeroes, and also expressed as 109 or “ten to the ninth power”.
  • The archaic British form, where a billion is a million million, or 1,000,000,000,000 — written as 1 followed by 12 zeroes, and also expressed as 1012 or “ten to the twelfth power”. It’s why some people in the UK still use the form “thousand million” to refer to what we in North America call a billion.

Even if the Powerball jackpot was 1.3 British billion dollars, simple order-of-magnitude estimation shows that you won’t give everyone in the US a million bucks. Divvying that amount (on the order of 1012) among the US population (300 million, which is on the order of 108) can at most yield an amount of 104, or $10,000. If you run the actual numbers, it gives each American $4,333. That won’t lift America out of poverty, but it could give each and every American a new laptop, tablet, and smartphone.


Experience your incredibly slim odds with the LA Times’ Powerball simulator

i've got a golden ticket

With a $900 million jackpot for Powerball — that’s a U.S. lottery game playable in 44 states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — I found myself waiting in line to pay for my drink behind an assortment of ticket buyers at my local shoddily-constructed convenience store. Tickets are $2 each, and I saw the people ahead of me dropping $10, $20, $50, and in one case, a whopping $68. You may scoff at these sums, but these people couldn’t: they weren’t spending “walking around” money, but what was probably grocery money.

A couple ahead of me were arguing about whether or not blowing $40 on Powerball tickets was a good idea. “You got a chance of like, what? One in a million? Or two million?” she said, but he wouldn’t be swayed.

“Yeah, it’s one in a million,” he retorted, “but what if I’m that one?

Mathematically, “but what if I’m that one?” is a nonsensical response, but it appeals to that part of our brains that also gloms onto other nonsense like “things happen for a reason,” “juice cleanses remove the toxins from your body”, “vaccines cause autism”, and “hey, let’s go to Olive Garden!”  For a lot of people, those ideas just make a sort of intuitive sense.

If you know someone who’s about to blow money that they can’t afford to lose on Powerball, point them to the Los Angeles Times’ Powerball simulator. It lets you enter your six lucky numbers (or let the computer create a random “quick pick”), pick an amount of money you want to spend on tickets, and simulates a lottery while tracking what you spent, and how far ahead or behind you are. In the screenshot below, you can see that my idea of spending a simulated $200,000 on Powerball rather than pretending to invest it in index funds isn’t working out very well:

powerball simulator

Give it a try and truly experience what slim odds are like. The odds of winning $1 million are slightly better than one in 12 million, while the odds of winning that $800 million jackpot are one in almost 300 million.