links for 2010-01-27

  • You know that ridiculous quasi-British accent affected by people from the northeast back in the mid-1900s? Most of those people are now very old or dead—Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn both talked like that. It turns out that's called "Mid-Atlantic English," aka a "boarding school accent." Or, as I think of it, "talking like an asshole."
  • Global warming denier / TV weatherman Anthony Watts enlisted an army of volunteers to take photos of over a thousand weather stations throughout the country to prove that increases in global temperature are really because of poorly-sited thermometers. After months of gathering data, the final analysis shows exactly the opposite: that poorly-sited stations record temperatures that are 0.14°C *cooler* than well-sited stations, yielding an overall error of 0.03°C, a negligible amount, but still the opposite of Watts’ claim. That's gotta be awkward for him.
  • Remember the CIA operative who said in 2007 that waterboarding Abu Zubaydah just once caused him to crack and tell everything he knew, preventing "dozens of attacks"? He admits that he doesn't actually have the faintest idea if that's true, and doesn't have any first-hand knowledge about CIA torture procedures. Now, as always, we're left with the inescapable truth that torture just doesn't work.
  • After less than a year of existence, the Fox News-backed Tea Party has returned to its roots: they're holding a lavish $549/plate dinner (your choice of lobster or steak) at their National Tea Party Convention at the Opryland Hotel, with Sarah Palin paid $115,000 to address the crowd. But they might be getting a bit ahead of themselves: apparently these folks don't have that kind of scratch, or at least not that they're willing to part with to hear Palin. But, hey, that's what it's like in the first year after starting a political party. After all, who can forget the debacle that was the Democratic-Republican Party BBQ in 1793?
  • Here's an exciting new theory: that evolution is just a phase life is going through, and that the norm is the swapping of genes taking place between different living creatures of different species (as we think of them), rather than between generations. And the guy who has put forth this theory is no slouch—he's the guy who added the Archaea division of life to what was a bifurcated eukaryotes/bacteria system.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

6 replies on “links for 2010-01-27”

  1. Hey, are you calling Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn assholes?

    FWIW, Grant was actually born in England, and didn’t come to the US until he was like, 20. My understanding is that his family wasn’t especially wealthy, either; he grew up making his living as a low-class stage performer in the UK equivalent of Vaudeville. Also, his birth name was “Archibald Leach” — quite understandable that he changed it.

    Hepburn was from Connecticut, though, and went to Bryn Mawr, so she makes for a more accurate example of that accent. I wouldn’t call her an asshole, though.

  2. No, I’m just having a little fun. :) I am puzzled by Grant’s accent, because it’s not a British accent—it’s that “Mid-Atlantic English” accent. (Oh, hey, I just noticed that somebody has pointed out the same thing in the first paragraph of his Wikipedia entry.) I think that accent announced membership in the upper class; it may well be that he had to adopt it in order to get cast as the sort of character that he did so well at.

    But, really, when faced with somebody talking like that, wouldn’t it be hard to avoiding saying “What’s your deal? Why are you talking like that?”

  3. “But, really, when faced with somebody talking like that, wouldn’t it be hard to avoiding saying “What’s your deal? Why are you talking like that?””

    I totally had to work with a guy who affected that accent for a charity event. He was wearing a double breasted sport coat, with these gigantic gold buttons that had seahorses on them (really. I, um, “accidentally” borrowed his jacket when he left the room so as to take a better look). And he was on his second marriage–he was going to get married after this charity event I was working on getting together. And he spent the entire night we were stuck at the office, stuffing envelopes* he told me about how he had a house that he had designed in the Bahamas, and how he and his wife were going to honeymoon there, and how it was going to be soooo rough on them, because that house “only had a small staff of eleven servants,” and “the main house”** had “well, obviously, a (insert faux British laugh here), much larger staff to support our needs.”

    Those of you who are so unfortunate as to have met me know that I am a terribly adept mimic. If we’ve met, I can almost guarantee that I can copy your accent (and if I don’t like you, I’ve probably done so.) So I spent the rest of the evening affecting his accent to his face whenever I had to talk to him. My friend/client had to leave the room at one point so she wouldn’t laugh.

    Oh, and the women (who were all really tough former soldiers and/or women with extensive military background) all became “girls” to this jerk. Oy.

    *A task at which he failed miserably. To this day, I have no idea how he couldn’t manage to fold a piece of paper and put it in an envelope, but this dude couldn’t do it. I guess he’d never had to work before.

    **I almost asked him “as opposed to the big house? What is this, a plantation?” But I would have lost my sweet consulting gig for that one.

  4. “And he spent the entire night we were stuck at the office, stuffing envelopes* he told me about how he had a house that he had designed in the Bahamas”

    Editing fail. In my defense, I said something about his job that I took out from the first half of that quasi-sentence. He does know how to use the Internetz, after all.

  5. I have to chime in here, too. Criticizing Kate Hepburn is fightin’ words. I named my first daughter in honor of her. She’s among the top 10 women I would liked to have had a least one date with, even an innocent lunch.

  6. Genevieve’s anecdote for some reason reminds me of the faux-millionaire persona adopted by Tony Curtis in “Some Like it Hot” … a much funnier story if you read it imagining the Cary Grant parody accent throughout, with the character wearing a yachting cap.

    reportedly, Jack Lemmon’s retort “Now-boddy taawks like that!” was ad-libbed.

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