Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Zooming into the future with new technology

March 8th, 2013 · Comments Off

Technology and money by betsythedevine
Technology and money, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

I have been co-teaching a course on the ways technology changes our lives. If you read research from even a few years ago, nobody had a clue how smartphones and cloud computing would create amazing new products and kill many old ones.

Case in point: the sophisticated in-dash navigation equipment for cars is being displaced by cheaper more flexible stuff whose brainpower comes from a smartphone.

I am also impressed by the way regulation does not keep pace with invention. Putting a display on the windshield is known to create problems of divided attention, as well as focus issues that cause people to misjudge size and distance of things past the windshield. Such displays are blamed for many airplane hard landings, because pilots imagine the ground is further away than in fact it is. There is no way people should be popping new displays onto car windshields, but there is no law against it, and the pressure against new laws will be a whole lot stronger than the pressure for them until the innovation generates a lot of dead people
lawmakers can point to.

This is my photo of an article in Popular Science, which owns all the rights to it.

Comments OffTags: Wide wonderful world

Goodbye to 2012

December 30th, 2012 · Comments Off

Christmas cookies about to happen by betsythedevine
Christmas cookies about to happen, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Not long ago this rolled-out cookie dough was a blank slate waiting for Christmas inspiration. Soon it became a close-packed array of differing choices — then actual cooked cookies, frosted ones, and small good feelings in tummies.

Not a bad metaphor of the year 2012, or perhaps of 2013, coming so soon.

Comments OffTags: food · Wide wonderful world

Cancer Treatment Centers of America, aka FreedomWorks funder

December 27th, 2012 · Comments Off

Last-minute mailer from NH Republicans by betsythedevine
Last-minute mailer from NH Republicans, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Following up on TPM story about scary gun-toting Tea Party meltdown of entiitled-rich-guy vs entiitled-rich-guy that was solved by an infusion of million$ to buy Dick Armey out as the power behind “grassroots” Tea Party group FreedomWorks. I was curious about where those millions of cash came from…

Dick Stephenson runs Cancer Treatment Centers of America. If you google for reviews of their centers you find similar comments from AZ and IL. Their target customer seems to be someone with terminal cancer and a boatload of medical insurance.

There is a business model suggested here, very intriguing and hypothetically very profitable. If your insurance company sold you a policy that has a limit of 1 million dollars on it, they really don’t expect you to spend those all before dying. Few patients do. But now, enter from offstage left, a savvy corporation dedicated to getting paid every single dollar your insurance said you could get. So sad for the insurance company’s expectation the insurance-buyer would be too naive and incompetent to collect the insurance they were promised … so profitable for somebody like Richard J. Stephenson, who now has millions and millions in profits to spend to push US election results his way …

Comments OffTags: Editorial · politics · Wide wonderful world

The Christmas tree, the pooping dinosaur, and the #slutvote

November 7th, 2012 · Comments Off

"On Vacation" sign accuses Obama of neglecting national security

Amateur anti-Obama sign says “On Vacation/Out to Lunch/Playing golf, basketball, pool, cards, etc/No time for National Security/I’ve got important business to do/The View, David Letterman, McDonalds …”


Wedge issues and election “red meat” filled the airwaves in 2012. The GOP paid millions of dollars to conmen to rile up their “base” to the point where they turned off many people who might otherwise have voted Republican.

You can’t stir up your base to a hot lather of racist fantasy and then expect them to shut up about it. Your supporters will support you in their own language, and unaligned people who hear them are going to shudder to hear our President denounced as lazy, or as a baby killer, or as the “Butcher of Benghazi.”

When I was in first grade, I loved to draw pictures on my dad’s old shirt cardboards from the dry cleaner. These had a shiny white side, ideal for crayon coloring, and a dull gray side, useful for sketching out ideas. The best drawing I ever made was a Crayola Christmas tree, on the shiny side, loaded with bright red balls and yellow stars. I proudly brought it to school to show off to my teacher and was mortified when she asked me, “Betsy, what have you drawn on the other side?”

What I had sketched on the gray side was a stegosaurus — no problem, except that, dissatisfied with what I had done, I had editorially crossed him out and then added poop to his tail end and throw-up from his mouth. It had not occurred to me that when I asked my teacher to look at my Christmas tree she would also catch sight of my very embarrassing dinosaur.

The GOP/Karl Rove/PAC wise men created a myriad of pooping dinosaurs from partisans that they whipped up to furious anger against Obama. In a world of social media and cellphone cameras, those pooping dinosaurs will never again be invisible. The GOP needs an infuriated angry base much less than it needs a lot more intelligent un-hating voters who just want to see our country on the right path. Because my pooping dinosaur was never as embarrassing as the #slutvote diatribe recently posted by the Christian Men’s Defense Network.

Changing their ultra-divisive campaign tactics would also be a lot better for our country.

Text clipped from #slutvote blogpost

Part of blogpost by Christian Men’s Defense Network blaming Romney’s loss on the “slut vote”

Comments OffTags: Editorial · politics

Reading the signs in NH: What signs?

November 6th, 2012 · Comments Off

NH Home Depot, home of white male demographic? by betsythedevine
NH Home Depot, home of white male demographic?, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

The Home Depot parking lot in Nashua, NH — I turned my car in here to search for bumper stickers, figuring here if anywhere I would find Romney’s wheelhouse supporters, the male and the white. To my surprise, I saw not even one Romney sticker. Not one. Check these cars yourself, and I looked at quite a few more cars.

I saw one Obama sticker in this lot, just one, and no more. And as I continued up Rte 93 to my old home town Manchester, as I drove around Manchester, as I drove north again to Concord, NH, what I saw everywhere was no bumper stickers.

From the many “yard signs” (mostly not in people’s yards but on stretches of roadside) you might get the idea that NH is enthusiastic about this election. But what I am seeing is that people are mostly sick to death of being pestered by partisans and pollsters, just want this thing OVER.

I have seen more yard signs for Republicans by far, but a Vietnam veteran I met in Manchester (who was holding a big sign for Carol Shea Porter) told me his Obama yard signs just keep getting stolen.

Comments OffTags: New Hampshire! · politics · Wide wonderful world

Oh man, how stupid could I be?

October 30th, 2012 · Comments Off

Wham! oh wait .. oops? by betsythedevine
Wham! oh wait .. oops?, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Would you believe that I actually imagined that longtime GOP shill David Brooks aka (on Twitter) as @nytdavidbrooks was sincere in his many NYT columns expressing doubt about Mitt Romney, praise for Barack Obama?

Now, it happens that I am married to a certified (by the MacArthur Foundation and other folks) genius, who, when I expressed to him my fond hopes, argued that David Brooks would never endorse Barack Obama. All we were seeing, according to Frank Wilczek, was a momentary feint, a pretended diversion, from a GOP shill who would head back to show his true colors before the election. And boy was Frank right!

Well, duh Betsy, now that October is here, GOP’s concern trolls are opening raincoats, and what are we seeing? Could it possibly be that they are taking the path laid out by Karl Rove, pretending to be sadder but wiser previous Obama people?

Yes, that’s what we’re seeing.

In August: “Romney was a precocious and gifted child. He uttered his first words (“I like to fire people”) at age 14 months, made his first gaffe at 15 months and purchased his first nursery school at 24 months. The school, highly leveraged, went under, but Romney made 24 million Jujubes on the deal.”

In September: “Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater.”

In October:”if Romney wins, we’re more likely to get bipartisan reform… He has more influence over the most intransigent element in the Washington equation House Republicans. He’s more likely to get big stuff done.”

Comments OffTags: politics · Wide wonderful world

The Woman Who Bought …

October 10th, 2012 · Comments Off

The Woman Who Bought ... by betsythedevine
The Woman Who Bought …, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

The woman who bought The Woman Who Died A Lot, a lot. That would be me. I had pre-ordered Jasper Fforde’s latest Thursday Next novel ages ago from Amazon.com. When I saw it was already out in an English edition, I quickly ordered it from Amazon.co.uk. I got home last night to find both editions had just been delivered. Hurray! Oh, whoops, was I supposed to be unpacking now?

Comments OffTags: England · funny · Wide wonderful world

First Nobel gold for Higgs? 10 chocolate coins

October 6th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Nobel gold chocolate coins by betsythedevine
Nobel gold chocolate coins, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Back in 2005, Uppsala Castle hosted a gala physics dinner where two MIT physics professors, Frank Wilczek and Janet Conrad got into some jokey trash talk about the existence (or not) of Higgs particles. Years later, neither one could clearly remember all the details, but one scribbled notepad recorded details of a bet between Frank and Janet about when, whether, and at what energy, a Higgs particle would be found.

Frank bet Nobel chocolate medals, at 100 to 10 odds, that CERN would find a Higgs before the end of 2012 with a mass less than 150 geV. And in July 2012, ATLAS, CMS, and Fermilab all announced finding the same Higgs-like signature at about 125 geV. So Janet conceded and gave Frank his prize: 10 golden Nobel chocolates, at another lovely festive event at Uppsala Castle.

And I even got one of these pieces of chocolate for having suggested the second Uppsala Castle Higgs particle party, as recorded in this YouTube of Frank’s talk there.

Although Frank was dubious about this party idea, I sent email to Uppsala physicist Antti Niemi, asking if he didn’t think Uppsala might enjoy being part of the end of this story — and the rest was history, by which I mean hard work by Antti and by Uppsala University’s Tord Ekelof to bring this idea to fruition. A very good time was had by all the participants, including an audience of about 500 people who came to hear talks by Tord, Frank, Janet, and Fabiola Gianotti, the head of ATLAS at CERN.

→ 1 CommentTags: Frank Wilczek · funny · Science · Wide wonderful world

Obama is my guy, and I am proud of him

October 4th, 2012 · Comments Off

I am really annoyed by the news bytes today that Obama “lost” to Mitt Romney in their debate. How sad that our current President has things to keep him at work on his day job besides debate prep and likeability-enhancement coaching.

Obama is my guy. I am proud of his work, even though I have often disagreed with him and screamed and hollered about his long efforts to work with Republicans whose only game plan was to make him look bad. News flash, dear Barry, if you are reading this, they don’t want our country’s problems fixed by you! They did their focus-group-directed best for the past four years to make things get as bad as they could possibly make them.

But did you stay classy? You did. I would not have, I admit this, but you did. And in spite of your self restraint, which at times drove me to frenzy…

Did you get our country out of not one but two wars? You did. And how about “Obamacare”, as its foes call it, a new health care law that is already saving lives? You did it. How about Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen, now on the Supreme Court? You did that too. How about Osama Bin Laden? You finally caught him and then got our young soldiers out of that unwinnable horrible war.

For these reasons and more, you are my guy, Barry Obama, and I hope to heck that you win. And all the PAC dollars being poured into long ads about how we should be disappointed in you and therefore (incredible non sequitur) cast votes for Eddie Haskell, er, I mean Mitt Romney … holy baloney, talk about total insanity. As in maybe, oh your wife’s scrambled eggs weren’t unmatchably yummy this morning, why don’t you divorce her and marry somebody who hates your kids and would like to spend your total salary on Swarovski crystals and Jimmy Choo platform shoes?

Obama is my guy, and I am proud that he is.

Comments OffTags: politics

Cake for a whirlwind wedding?

September 25th, 2012 · Comments Off

Cake for a whirlwind wedding? by betsythedevine
Cake for a whirlwind wedding?, a photo by betsythedevine on Flickr.

Not far from our Copenhagen hotel is an open-air market, where some of the stalls have evolved into covered small food shops, including a bakery, Sweet Valentine.

I love the artfully artless thrown-on looking frosting of this wedding cake. Of course, such insouciantly slapdash visual effects can only be created by someone very skillful. Similarly, the tousled bedhead hair that looks amazing on young Julia Roberts probably took her hairdresser an hour to create — nor would the same look, even crafted by the same hairdresser, look expensively elegant if I were to go downtown wearing it.

Comments OffTags: food · funny · Wide wonderful world