Tag Archives: controversial

a cat helicopter

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There’s a lot of strange stuff out there in the world and on teh internets.  That’s no surprise to you.  But this is one of the weirdest stories I’ve ever come across.

A Dutch artist named Bart Jansen had a cat named Orville (which is ironic, as you will see) who died after being hit by a car.  So he mourned for a while, then converted his dead cat into a helicopter.  This isn’t just art — it actually flies.  He calls it the Orvillecopter, and describes it as “half-cat, half-machine”.  (You could also call it the cat-mobile.)  It is literally a taxidermied cat with a propeller attached to each paw and an engine in his stomach, and it is controlled via a remote control.

The artist’s statement says he focuses on the meeting-point between technological progress and human error.  I suppose it’s better to wax philosophical about turning your dead cat into a helicopter rather than doing it just because you can.  Although I wonder if he came up with that saying before or after this art project.  Whatever…

The artist says about his cat “he received his wings posthumously” and “now he is flying with the birds — the greatest goal a cat could ever reach!”  (I’m sure there are more puns to be had at this, but that’s enough for this post.)

Of course this “art” has sparked outrage among some animal rights groups.  The owner clearly says no animals were harmed for this project, which technically is true.  Nonetheless, some people will get offended at anything.  At an art fair showcasing Orvillecopter, some anonymous animal rights activists wrote graffiti saying “Kill the animal killers”.  Apparently they don’t know the story.  That’s like those people (sometimes called trolls) who leave hateful comments without even reading the article.  Another activist said the artist should be thrown in a vat of manure when he dies.  So is the message that you should do something mean to someone if you disagree with them on ethical issues?  Isn’t that highly ironic (and hypocritical)?

Personally, I wouldn’t do this to a family pet.  But if he’s going to do it, he might as well go all out.  He should make the blades as transparent as possible and have the stand fold up underneath.  Then it would look like just a flying cat.  He could also consider mounting water pistols on it, to shoot people or animals while dive-bombing them.

If you want to see the Orvillecopter in action, flying around and terrorizing cows, here’s a video (which even features the theme song from Airwolf*):

* Some of you may not know about Airwolf.  It was a TV show in the ’80s that featured a secret high-tech military helicopter tricked-out for fighting criminals, who usually flew helicopters, too.  I don’t know if the show has aged well (I’ve never seen reruns of it), but as a kid, I thought it was cool.  There was cool music and sound effects, and there was usually real explosions.  There’s not enough TV sitcoms these days that feature explosions…  But I digress…  Here’s a brief introduction to Airwolf.

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taking your pet to church

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I heard there’s a church that lets you bring your pets to service now.  Apparently it’s been good for their attendance, but I have to wonder if they ever asked themselves: WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?  Seems like there’s quite a few potential issues, and by “potential” I mean likely will happen.  Let’s look at a couple of scenarios.

1) Animals like to explore and smell things.  So they’re going to want to wander around.  Not only would that be a distraction, but it would lead to #2.

2) Fighting.  Are cats and dogs going to suddenly get along because they’re in church?  I doubt it.  It’ll end up like a Looney Tunes episode where the dog is chasing Sylvester, who is chasing Tweety Bird.  It makes for a funny cartoon, but not so great in real life, especially during something as important as a church service.

3) Animals poop.  Well, to be fair, humans do too, but we usually go to a bathroom for such things.  It would be a huge distraction to have animals urinating and pooping all over the place.  Even if you had litter boxes, some indoor pets aren’t housebroken.  (I know, that seems inconceivable, but I know someone who keeps a dog inside who isn’t housebroken. I just don’t understand.)  Either way, poop is distracting, as well as unsanitary.

I could go on, but I figure that’s enough reasons why you wouldn’t allow people to bring their pets to church with them.  What do you think?

some say exercise won’t make you thin

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The blogosphere has been abuzz lately about an article in TIME magazine called Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin.  It is interesting, because we’ve joked about such things before, yet here’s an article in a credible magazine suggesting it.  But before we dig into it, let me mention that the author of this article exercises regularly and talks about how he isn’t losing fat, yet he weighs only 163 pounds.  Unless he’s abnormally short, that’s not a bad weight for an adult male to be at.   I don’t see how he could be considered fat or obese.  Actually, my “ideal weight” is supposedly 190-200 for my height, so 163 seems too skinny to me.  Anyway, let’s get to the article.

First, let’s start with the author’s premise for his hypothesis:

Like many other people, I get hungry after I exercise, so I often eat more on the days I work out than on the days I don’t.  Could exercise actually be keeping me from losing weight? ~ John Cloud

He also quotes some other experts who back his claim: “In general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless,” says Eric Ravussin, chair in diabetes and metabolism at Louisiana State University and a prominent exercise researcher.  That sounds extreme to me, but I’ll keep reading.

The notion that we eat more because exercise makes us more hungry and thus exercise makes it harder to lose weight sure sounds like something the “Important Doctor” came up with.  The article also mentions the idea that intense sessions of exercise may cause people to reward themselves by eating what they want.  I can see that — it’s much easier to justify a milkshake or snack if you’ve worked out.

Some scientists imply that it’s evolution’s fault that humans can easily get fat.  We don’t have much “brown fat”.  Rats, among other species, have a lot of it, which turns off their mitochondria (which are the cells’ power plants), so they don’t get an energy boost from eating too much — they just get warmer, which helps the calories burn effortlessly.  So for animals like that, it’s really difficult for them to get fat, even if they overeat.  In contrast, humans can barely overeat and yet gain weight, because unused calories get stored in regular “white fat” cells.

One example cited in the article explains why our compensation for exercise keeps us from losing weight:

A standard 20-oz. bottle of Gatorade contains 130 calories.  If you’re hot and thirsty after a 20-minute run in summer heat, it’s easy to guzzle that bottle in 20 seconds, in which case the caloric expenditure and the caloric intake are probably a wash.  From a weight-loss perspective, you would have been better off sitting on the sofa knitting.

Well, few people knit these days, but I think it would be fair to replace that part of the example with sitting on the sofa playing video games.  So there’s your proof that playing video games can help you lose more weight than running! (That definitely sounds like something from the “Important Doctor”.)

The article also says that self-control is like a muscle, that it gets weaker when you use it too much.  So if you force yourself to jog for an hour, your capacity for self-control becomes weakened, and you’re more likely to eat pizza than a salad.  (Although I’m always more likely to eat pizza than a salad, given those choices.)

Steven Gortmaker, who heads Harvard’s Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity, agrees that exercising makes you more hungry, therefore he’s suspicious of the playgrounds at fast-food restaurants: “Why would they build those?  I know it sounds kind of like conspiracy theory, but you have to think, if a kid plays five minutes and burns 50 calories, he might then go inside and consume 500 calories or even 1,000.”   One study has shown that exercise causes kids to eat an average of 100 calories more than they had just burned.

Of course, some sites have countered the TIME article, with one even saying it is an “Epic Fail”.  The TIME article makes some points, but we don’t have to give in to overeating because we exercise.  And I don’t think self-control is like a muscle from a physiological sense, but the analogy may work if you carry it out further.  The more you resist something, the stronger you get, instead of weaker — after a while.  For example, if you give up cokes, it may be hard for a few days, but eventually you don’t even miss them anymore.  (I know, because I gave them up.)

I reckon what all this debate results in is that you can find a study that backs up whatever lifestyle you want to live.   If you don’t want to exercise, then you shouldn’t, because it makes you gain weight.   But if you want to lose weight, well, it’s hopeless.  (Of course the last one isn’t true — but if you want to blame it on evolution or misinformation or whatever, there’s an excuse.)  To me, it still seems really simple — if you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight.  Maybe that seems too-good-to-be-true, but it adds up, if you do the math.