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July 5th, 2008:

Maintenance window

I’m having some maintenance done on the site this evening, hopefully including an upgrade to Movable Type 4.12 and a new look with a few new features. As such, you may not be able to see much on this page overnight and into the morning. All should be up and running before noon tomorrow. Check back tomorrow and see what you think.

Holiday weekend link dump

Some links to get you through the weekend…

A look back at a time when the US knew how to make the US look good.

Don’t cut your kid’s hair. Pay for a real haircut, save yourself the angst.

Look out, Gay Talese! Screen shot here if needed.

“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, by the Ukelele Orchestra of Britain (via).

What does Obama believe in?

Conservapedia versus science. Science wins.

From the IOKIYAR files.

A good time was had by all at the Houston Votes event.

What do Congressional candidates think about science? I’m glad someone is asking.

Is voting behavior inherited? I don’t know, but I love studies done on twins.

Help Darcy Burner. And as long as you’re in that frame of mind, please consider helping Brian Beutler.

Can you drive 55?

I’m not sure if the country is emotionally ready to discuss this in a rational manner, but like it or not, it’s out there.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to look into what speed limit would provide optimum gasoline efficiency given current technology. He said he wants to know if the administration might support efforts in Congress to require a lower speed limit.

Congress in 1974 set a national 55 mph speed limit because of energy shortages caused by the Arab oil embargo. The speed limit was repealed in 1995 when crude oil dipped to $17 a barrel and gasoline cost $1.10 a gallon.

[…]

Warner cited studies that showed the 55 mph speed limit saved 167,000 barrels of oil a day, or 2 percent of the country’s highway fuel consumption, while avoiding up to 4,000 traffic deaths a year.

“Given the significant increase in the number of vehicles on America’s highway system from 1974 to 2008, one could assume that the amount of fuel that could be conserved today is far greater,” Warner wrote Bodman.

Warner asked the department to determine at what speeds vehicles would be most fuel efficient, how much fuel savings would be achieved, and whether it would be reasonable to assume there would be a reduction in prices at the pump if the speed limit were lowered.

There’s no question that lower speed limits would conserve oil; whether that would lead to a reduction in the price of gasoline is less certain, since unlike 1974, the problem here is global demand, not supply. But it would assuredly make for sound public policy on many levels. Will anyone who has a re-election in their future get on board with Sen. Warner? My guess is he’ll be a loner on this, but maybe I’ll be surprised.

And for you kids who don’t remember the 55 MPH era, here is what was its national anthem:

There’s just so much awesomeness packed into that video, I can barely stand it. I must concede that lowering the speed limit would directly correlate with more Hagar-like driving, but that can be dealt with as needed. What’s your opinion of Sen. Warner’s proposal?

RIP, Jesse Helms

Former Senator Jesse Helms is dead.

Former Sen. Jesse Helms, who built a career along the fault lines of racial politics and battled liberals, Communists and the occasional fellow Republican during 30 conservative years in Congress, died on the Fourth of July.

He was 86.

[…]

In 1993, when then-President Clinton sought confirmation for an openly homosexual assistant secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Helms registered his disgust. “I’m not going to put a lesbian in a position like that,” he said in a newspaper interview at the time. “If you want to call me a bigot, fine.”

[…]

He defeated former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt in 1990 and 1996 in racially tinged campaigns. In the first race, a Helms commercial showed a white fist crumbling up a job application, these words underneath: “You needed that job … but they had to give it to a minority.”

“The tension that he creates, the fear he creates in people, is how he’s won campaigns,” Gantt said several years later.

If you have nothing nice to say about someone, you shouldn’t say anything. That’s all I have to say.

Now that’s a prank

I’d never heard of this before, but it’s very cool.

t was probably the most ingenious student prank of all time.

In June 1958, Cambridge awoke to see a car perched at the apex of an inaccessible rooftop, looking as if it were driving across the skyline.

The spectacle made headlines around the world and left police, firefighters and civil defence units battling for nearly a week to hoist the vehicle back down before giving in and taking it to pieces with blowtorches.

The shadowy group of engineering students who executed the stunt were never identified and the mystery of how they did it has baffled successive undergraduates and provided fodder for countless tourist guides.

Now, 50 years on, the group have reunited to disclose their identities and reveal how they winched an Austin Seven to the top of the university’s 70ft-high Senate House.

The photo of the car on the roof is so bizarre, it’s like a Magritte painting. The schematic of how the pranksters got it up there are truly impressive. Check it out, and ask yourself why you never did anything that cool in college. Thanks to Dwight on Twitter for the link.