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A good week for news surfing

Published February 13. 2010 09:00AM

While most of us spent at least one day snowbound this week, I came across some items that I thought would be interesting to discuss this week.

Like most folks I use Google quite a bit in my daily web searches for almost anything I'm interested in learning. This week though I came across a new engine called Wolfram|Alpha at This search engine is geared toward mathematical and scientific inquiries and provides a wealth of specialized information. Enter a date and it provides all the major information about it including how long ago it was and significant events in the timeline.

For example, I was born on December 24, 1967 and when I wrote this column and searched on that date I learned that it was 15,390 days ago, there was 9 hours and 12 minutes of sunlight that day and Hamid Karzai was ten years old. He's the current President of Afghanistan. If I enter the date interval from December 24, 1967 to September 11, 2001, I can see that I was 33 years, 8 months and 18 days old on that tragic day.

Entering my first name, David, I learn that it ranks 14th in male names in the United States. About 1 in 134 people are named David with about 16,060 new Davids being born each year. There are 3.14 million of us alive in the United States and most of us are 50 years old although I'm on the uphill side of that curve.

Where it really shines though is in the mathematics and science information. Do you want to know what a logarithm is then enter "log" and it gives you the entire mathematical explanation? Interested in fractals? Type it in and see what you learn.

Curious to know the origin of the word "curious"? The entire entomology of the word is traced back to its first recorded use 670 years ago to its Latin origin as well as providing synonyms and rhyming words.

The engine provides empiric information for all sorts of knowledge throughout the mathematical, technological and scientific world including practical information for everyone. Do you know how large a pilot hole for a number eight screw in a piece of soft wood should be? About 0.07 inches while the shank of the screw is 0.1719 inches. Carpenters may already know that, but I did not.

Check it out if you have any interest in science, math, engineering or technology or are curious. It's pretty cool and direct with no ads or distractions.

Speaking of distractions White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs fumbled his cheap shot at former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin when he took a jab at her putting some crib notes on her hand. He looked really petty over something stupid, especially when one considers that most people himself included use notes when speaking to the public.

Some people - we won't mention Barack Obama by name - won't speak without being spoon fed an entire speech over a teleprompter. All this did was show that Gibbs can't resist taking a cheap shot at someone who is likable and has been smeared by Democrats and moderate Republicans alike.

Once in a while I write about conspiracies and I find it interesting how public images which are easily manipulated have been created and distorted since the 2008 election. As an example, Palin was brought into Senator John McCain's campaign allegedly as a "breath of fresh air" and to prove that McCain was going back to the roots of the Republican party. She was heralded as a true conservative as was shown in her term as Alaskan governor.

Unfortunately, image is a great deal of the package and while most people believe she was way out of her league and crashed and burned on her own, I think there is something to the theory she was set up to be removed as a threat to moderates in the party. It was pretty amazing to me how McCain could herald her as his chosen one in the fall and once the election was over and he lost, his staff tossed her to the curb with the garbage and aired in public several stories designed to make her look like a buffoon.

The roasting continued to this day with the latest incident being this crib note scandal. It may be exactly what it seems to the world, but in politics there is a grand chess game and nothing happens randomly or by chance.

That clip of the Thanksgiving Day incident, the clothing scandal and the bad interviews all could be engineered by someone quite easily to negate what some could have viewed as a true grassroots threat that conservatives could regain control of the party.

Speaking of grass, the oddball story of the week I found is occurring "Down Under" in Australia. Apparently farmers there are being overrun with rabbits and the government has developed a novel solution to handle the pesty creatures in South Australia. They are telling farmers to get rid of them through any means possible including dogs, bulldozers, fumigation and the best idea is high explosives.

Yes, the Australian government is recommending sending all of those fluffy little bunny rabbits to Kingdom come with explosives such as ammonium nitrate and poison gas. I'm sure PETA will have a field day destroying this country's agriculture too.

This story just brings to mind those lovable and hilarious sequences from "Caddyshack" where Bill Murray as a groundskeeper does battle with a clever ground hog culminating in the frustrated Murray detonating the entire golf course with C4 to get rid of him.

Watch this movie if you need a laugh this week and til next time….

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