January 11, 2009

Links: Extended Edition

1.  Religion bits:  Father John Neuhaus passed away, Gordon Cosby and The Church of the Savior transition "out of existence" (or depending on your perspective "out into existence"), Philip Jenkins on dying Christianities, the rapture index ticks up a notch (can you guess the category?), the Church of England adds a couple of timely new prayers, "A prayer on being made redundant," and "A prayer for those remaining in the workplace," both are here

2.  Crayon Physics Deluxe finally available (if you have a PC, sorry Pomeroy).

3.  "Bikers wear fruit shells to avoid helmet law", or the perils of regulation in a developing context:
Police in Nigeria have arrested scores of motorcycle taxi riders with dried fruit shells, paint pots or pieces of rubber tire tied to their heads with string to avoid a new law requiring them to wear helmets.

The regulations have caused chaos around Africa's most populous nation, with motorcyclists complaining helmets are too expensive and some passengers refusing to wear them fearing they will catch skin disease or be put under a black magic spell.

The law, which came into force on January 1, pits two factions equally feared by the common motorist against one another: erratic motorcycle taxis known as "Okadas," whose owners are notorious for road-rage, and the bribe-hungry traffic police.

Some bikers have used calabashes -- dried shells of pumpkin-sized fruit usually used as a bowl -- or pots and pans tied to their heads with string to try to dodge the rules.

Construction workers have set up a lucrative trade renting out their safety helmets for around 500 naira ($3.60) a day.

"They use pots, plates, calabashes, rubber and plastic as makeshift helmets," said Yusuf Garba, commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission in the northern town of Kano.

"We will not tolerate this. We gave them enough time to purchase helmets. Six months ago the price of helmets was below 800 naira so complaints about non-availability and high prices are no excuse," he told Reuters.

Helmet prices have since risen sharply as sellers cash in on demand.
4. Little housing crisis on the prairie:
Pa and Ma signed the papers.

Laura still didn't understand. "But, Pa," she asked again, "if we never pay off any of the principal, how will we build equity in the house?"

"Don't worry, Laura," Pa reassured her. "In a year, this house will be worth twice what we paid for it. And if we need cash before then I can always hew some equity out of an oak stump with my ax. Oak is good hard wood."

Then Laura felt better. Pa could make anything with his ax.

"You see, Laura," Pa went on, "Uncle Sam has made a bet with us. We have bet that housing prices will continue to rise at historic rates for the foreseeable future. And the government has bet that if real-estate values plummet, honest citizens like us will be too stupid to do anything but continue paying out our hard-earned 5-cent pieces for property that was never worth more than a fraction of its appraised value. Either way, we are going to win that bet!"

"Charles," Ma remonstrated. She did not approve of gambling, even in metaphors.

"But what if land values do drop?" Laura wanted to know.

Pa's blue eyes twinkled. "That can never happen, Half-Pint. Why, it's just as likely that all our crops will be ruined by a blizzard, or a prairie fire, or a horde of grasshoppers!"

Laura and Mary and Ma and Pa all laughed at that idea. Jack barked and barked. Mr. Edwards ran around his mule in circles, slapping at imaginary bees.
5.  Ethan Zuckerman on cyberwarriors in Gaza.

7.  Know your cuts of beef (and make Letterman proud).

8.  In a move of colossally bad timing (not to mention failure of foresight) for me, barring some intervention, many second-hand and thrift stores will be forced to stop selling children's clothes come February 10th.  WTF, mate?!  (see also, above article on Nigeria.)

10.  Good long piece in the New Yorker on international aid workers in Africa, worth a read for anyone thinking in that direction (via Scarlett Lion).


a conversationalist said...

On the most expensive book list, there is a category just for Harry Potter books. That just seems crazy....

Pomeroy Kinsey said...

I know, my heart is tearing over Crayon Physics Deluxe not being on Mac yet. I may have to just install it at work, play it on Parallels, watch my productivity fall to zero, and get fired. But that music is like a trance. I would love to watch you and conversationalist in a crayon physics-off to see who will be king. Since I can't draw my way out of a paper bag [ed: that's the worst fake-saying I've ever invented, btw], and cannot solve puzzles in general, I get quickly frustrated with games like this. But the music really makes it, and I suspect I'd stick with it.