Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Funny

Freaky Friday News: October 2, 2015

Welcome to Freaky Friday News, the Rock Edition!  

Why do I call it that?  Because this week, everyone rocks!

John Oliver Rocks!

"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver tackles current events with truth, sarcasm, and a willingness to not only think outside the box, but to actually go outside the box.  This week, Oliver discussed the refugee crisis happening in Europe.  During this segment, we meet Noujain Mustaffa, a sixteen-year-old girl from northern Syria who needs a wheelchair because she has cerebral palsy.  Ms. Mustaffa acts as a translator for people because she speaks nearly perfect English, learning the language by watching "Days of Our Lives".

Hearing this, John Oliver contacted the show, told them about Ms. Mustaffa, and asked them for help with not only focusing attention on the plight of the refugees, but also to create something specifically for this special girl.  "Days of Our Lives" responded by having her two favorite characters reunite (the man was supposed to be dead), discuss the refugee situation, and mention Noujain Mustaffa by name.

John Oliver includes the clip at the end of his refugee segment, and I must admit I almost cried.  It is wonderful to see so many people work to make one girl happy.

U.S. Judge George H. King Rocks!

For the past 80 years, Warner/Chapell Music claimed to own a copyright on the song, "Happy Birthday to You".  While they never even tried to enforce the copyright for private use, movies that used the song had to pay copyright fees, to the tune of about $2 million a year.

Several artists filed a class-action suit against Warner/Chapell claiming that they did not own a valid copyright.  After researching the history of the song, last Tuesday Judge King ruled that Warner/Chapell does not own a valid copyright, making the song part of the public domain now.


Belgium Scientists Rock!

As the problems with climate change and pollution grow, several scientists are looking for new ways to create fuel, including a group of scientists in Belgium.  These people are studying panda poo for clues on how to use plant waste products, such as corn stalk, to create second generation bio-fuels.

Yes, I said panda poo.  Panda are genetically carnivores, but due to circumstances have adapted to eating bamboo.  The problem comes because panda's don't have an herbivore's digestive tract.  For example, cows have four stomachs; pandas have one.

So how do these black-and-white guys digest their food?

These scientists speculate that the panda has specialized microorganisms living in their digestive tract that break down plant material.  By collecting and studying the panda poo, they're hoping to identify the microorganism.

Go, Panda Poo!

Mealworms Rock!

Engineers at Stanford University, collaborating with researchers in China,  published a pair of companion studies this month about mealworms eating Styrofoam.    

Currently, the United States generates approximately 33 million tons of plastic trash annually, which includes 2.5 billion foam cups.  Most of this trash becomes pollution in our landfills and our oceans.  But what if we could convert plastics into biodegradable waste and carbon dioxide?

Enter the mealworm.  The larvae form of darkling beetles, the researcher fed a group of mealworms only Styrofoam for an entire month.  The worms not only survived, but thrived as well as the control group that was eating bran.  In the end, about 47.7%  of the plastic became CO2, 49.2% became fecal matter, and the rest was used to sustain the mealworm.

This study shows that we might have a way to contend with the massive amount of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, as well as all the plastics in our landfills.

Credited to Yu Yang

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Review: "Hell Bound" by Andrew P. Weston

Hell BoundHell Bound by Andrew P. Weston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Update: The book is available for pre-order right now on Amazon Kindle, and will be release on October 31, 2015.

"Hell Bound" by Andrew P. Weston delivers snarky, humorous, deep-delving fun through a narration reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Weston created a new version of Hell here, one in which the various rings reflect real world places, in which Dom Peringnon rules the crime underworld of Perish (Paris) with his 2nd in command, Al Catraz, in which Red Riding Hood aka Red Cap aka Strawberry Fields works as a special investigator, and in which the edges of Hell are illuminated by the light of Paradise.

The protagonist, Daemon Grim, acts as Lucifer's Grim Reaper in this universe. Grim hunts down bad guys both in Hell and on Earth, delivering these rotten souls to Hell for their punishment. In fact, the story begins with Grim on earth to retrieve the soul of a serial killer. Upon returning to Hell, the Undertaker, the man in charge of reassembling and reassigning souls, tells Grim that one of the souls he was supposed to retrieve is missing. This sets up the entire story, as Grim chases down one lost soul and discovers a conspiracy that might end Hell as he knows it.

I loved reading this book. In fact, I had trouble putting my Kindle down to do things such as laundry and dinner. Weston sneaks in humorous references everywhere, usually in the names of people and places. Also, the interweaving of the story was absolute genius! While most of the story was told from Grim's point of view, Weston also includes sections from other character's point of views (I can't tell you who, though, because of spoilers!) The narration flows smoothly from one character to another, and I never felt lost.

The only problem I see is that this book won't be available until March of next year, and who knows when a sequel will be available.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5, and recommend it to teens and adults who like a great story.

View all my reviews

Death of a Murderess

Kelly Renee Gissendaner - Age 46
From the Georgia Dept. of Corrections

Wednesday morning, just before 12:30am, the state of Georgia executed their first woman this century, Kelly Renee Gissendaner.  Eighteen years ago, Mrs. Gissendaner convinced her lover, Gregory Owen, to murder her husband, Douglas Gissendaner.  Mr. Owen then turned state's witness and signed a plea bargain.  He received life without parole in exchange for testifying against Mrs. Gissendaner.

Now, we know that Kelly Gissendaner is guilty as charged.  She has since admitted her actions and apologized for her behavior.  There is no question about that.

But I still wonder, is execution the right answer?  What do we as a society gain from her execution?

Supposedly, punishments such as imprisonment and execution act as deterrents, convincing people that it's better not to commit a crime.  Yet time and time again, studies show that these punishments do not act as deterrents at all.  Why?  Because most people don't think that they will get caught.  If they thought that they would get caught, they either wouldn't do the crime or (more likely) change their plans so as not to get caught.

That begs the question - what is the purpose of executions?

Morally, killing another person is wrong.  It doesn't really matter if it's Kelly Gissendaner killing her husband or the state killing Kelly Gissendaner.  Killing is still wrong.

Legally, there is no reason to execute people.  Executions don't act as deterrents.

Financially, executions cost between 2 and 10 times more that life without parole, even if the person lives decades longer in prison.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner - at the time of her arrest in 1997
So why then do we still execute people?

I have no answer to this question.  Logically, society should lock someone like Mrs. Gissendaner up with no parole, instead of hurting so many people with the execution:

  • The Gissendaners had three children, who now are orphans.  
  • Douglas Gissendaner's remaining family has been hurt as well.  Still screaming for revenge, the Gissendaners have been unable to accept his death and properly grieve for 18 years due to the looming execution.
  • Whoever performed the execution now has the blood of a woman on his or her hands, regardless of the legality of the action.
Many Western countries have done away with the death penalty as their society have grown more mature and realized the futility of the punishment.  

When will we, in the United States, realize that, too?