Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What City Has the Most Bridges and Why Is This Fact Unfindable on the Web?

I am a trivia fanatic. I grew up glued to College Bowl, Jeopardy and almost memorizing the '70s version of the Guinness Books of World Records.

When I was younger and had a better memory, it was easy to memorize trivial facts because they are facts. Tom Hanks won the Best Actor Oscar for Forrest Gump the year after winning one for Philadelphia. Easy. The Union beat the Confederacy in the Civil War. Clearly a fact though some people might still argue that particular one.

I do a little work for a company that gives tours of Pittsburgh. I know one trivial fact about Pittsburgh we always said was "Pittsburgh has the second most bridges in the world after Venice." Makes sense. Both are cities with rivers/canals and loads of bridges that go over them. I visited Venice in 1974, and saw many, many tiny bridges that were walkways over narrow canals all over town. The next year, I moved to Pittsburgh to go to college and saw a very different landscape - bridges over much wider rivers, and bridges that went between the many ridges and hills in the area.

But yesterday I was talking to a woman from Hamburg, Germany who was insistent that Hamburg had the most number of bridges of any city in the world. I really don't know anything about Hamburg, so I tried to look it up online...And found it was really hard. Because the first "fact" about "most bridges in a city" was from ask.com - and it was completely wrong. Ask.com claims that Pittsburgh has the most bridges of any city - more than Venice, even - 446. Venice only has 409. So Pittsburgh has more bridges than Venice.

But, after digging a little more, I found that Hamburg has at least 2300 bridges. Maybe it's a geographically huge city, because that's a lot of bridges.

So vis a vis bridges, Hamburg was #1, Pittsburgh was #2 and Venice was #3.

But then someone said "What about Amsterdam?" so I looked - and Amsterdam has 1281 bridges.

So that means ask.com is at least doubly-wrong about the number of bridges; Hamburg is #1, Amsterdam is #2, Pittsburgh is #3 and Venice is #4.

Ask.com has no obvious place to send corrections.


And I am curious about this, so if you know about a city that has at least 400 bridges and a way online to verify this fact, send it to me and I'll keep a running tally here.

Cities with the Most Bridges

last updated 2/18/2014

Hamburg, Germany: 2,300
Amsterdam, Netherlands: 1,281
New York, New York, USA: 788
Pittsburgh, PA, USA: 446
Venice, Italy: 409
. . . Seattle, WA, USA: 149
. . . Cities that probably have loads of bridges but I can't find a specific number:
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Live in Southcentral PA & Know a Person with a Dark-Colored Ford Ranger XLT Pickup with Recent Damage?

Just read of a tragic gun murder in Pennsylvania, yet another example of crazy people having access to guns.

If you live in southcentral Pennsylvania, northcentral Maryland or northeastern West Virginia, and you know someone with a dark colored Ford Ranger XLT pickup with damage on the driver's side from ramming another car on 1/5, you may know a murderer.

CNN's coverage of this story.

Please share this information around if you live in the region - you may know someone who'd murder a random motorist, and who may be connected to one or two other shootings in the region over the last few months. You can help find the murderer of Timothy Davison if you share the CNN story with others, and if you be on the lookout for a dark colored Ford Ranger XLT pickup.

Of course, if you do know a gun owner who owns this kind of truck, talk to the cops. Don't try to be a hero or, for that matter, accuse an innocent person of a murder.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Remembering the Newtown Kids on the First Anniversary of Their Murders

  • The 1st anniversary after the #newtown murders - remember the kids shot that day, as the NRA-owned Congress does not care - WE DO! #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Emilie Parker who would've been 7 on 5/12, wanted to be Hermionie Granger for her birthday. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Charlotte Bacon, in whose memory a Kindness Award was started. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Jesse Lewis who wrote "Nurturing Healing Love" on a chalkboard at home before he was murdered. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering the rambunctious Noah Pozner whose twin sister was in another class. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering red-headed Daniel Barden whose dad taught him Jingle Bells on the piano on his last morning. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Olivia Engel, who was a Daisy Girl Scout. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Josephine Gay, who loved the water and whose parents set up a fund for autistic children. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Dylan Hockley whose parents included a reading of Goodnight Moon at his memorial service. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Madeleine Hsu who loved dogs and wearing pink. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Catherine Hubbard who loved animals. Her parents asked for donations to an animal center. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Chase Kowalski who loved sports & played baseball. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Ana Marquez-Greene, who sang via video during her funeral. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering James Mattioli who always loved to sing. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Grace McDonnell who loved the beach. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Jack Pinto who was buried in a NY Giants jersey. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Caroline Previdi whose favorite charity was The Toy Chest at her church. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Jessica Rekos who wanted cowboy boots for Christmas. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Avielle Richman whose Dad had been blogging about her adventures in 2012. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Jonathan Wheeler who wanted to be a paleontologist. #WeAreNewtown
  • Remembering Allison Wyatt, an artistic girl who shared with strangers. #WeAreNewtown
  • We should never forget the children of #newtown, particularly on the anniversary of their murders. Write your representative - better gun laws save lives. #WeAreNewtown

I have remembered the educators who tried to protect the children on Dead People Server.


Never forget that these were the senators who cared more about the NRA's opinion of them than the 90% of the public who wants better background checks. Here are the Twitter accounts of these senators:

@SenAlexander @KellyAyotte @SenJohnBarrasso @MaxBaucus @SenatorBegich

@RoyBlunt @JohnBoozeman @SenatorBurr @SaxbyChambliss @SenDanCoates

@TomCoburn @JeffFlake @SenThadCochran @SenBobCorker @JohnCornyn

@MikeCrapo @SenTedCruz @SenatorEnzi @SenMikeLee @SenatorFischer

@GrahamBlog @ChuckGrassley @SenOrrinHatch @jiminhofe

@SenatorHeitkamp @SenDeanHeller @SenJohnHoeven @SenatorIsakson

@Mike_Johanns @SenRonJohnson @McConnellPress @JerryMoran

@lisamurkowski @SenRandPaul @robportman @SenMarkPryor @SenatorRisch

@SenPatRoberts @marcorubio @SenatorTimScott @SenatorSessions

@SenShelbyPress @SenJohnThune @DavidVitter @SenatorWicker

Friday, December 13, 2013

Twitter Hashtag - #FirstThingIBoughtOnline

Started a Twitter hashtag in honor of this most commercial of seasons: #FirstThingIBoughtOnline: 3-year old cheddar cheese @CabotCoop 12/1994 What's the first thing you bought online? Stop by Twitter, use the hashtag and write about it!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Facebook Was Broken for Me Today (10/21/2013)

When I wake up, I check my mail, Facebook and Twitter. All was well this morning. Ran some errands and was back around 9am. Everything else was fine...except that I could not add comments to any Facebook page. Earlier, some of the pages also looked wrong, but that problem has since gone away. Very annoying. So if you're looking for me on Facebook, I guess you won't find me there today.


By about 10:30, the problem went away as mysteriously as it came. Other people have reported similar problems on Facebook today.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Never Forget: These Senators Voted for the United States to Default on Its Debts

As you consider who to vote for in future elections, remember these Senators voted for the United States to default on its debts.

@TomCoburn @JohnCornyn @MikeCrapo @SenTedCruz @SenatorEnzi
@ChuckGrassley @SenDeanHeller @SenRonJohnson @SenMikeLee
@SenRandPaul @SenatorRisch @SenPatRoberts @marcorubio
@SenatorTimScott @SenatorSessions @SenShelbyPress
@SenToomey @DavidVitter @SenatorWicker

Oh, and even though everyone knew there would be a vote last night, Inhofe did not vote at all, though he was reported to be sick.

Interesting but not surprising that the overwhelming number of Senators voting "No" (for default) represent former slave states.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thinking About Convention Codes of Conduct

In the "old days" (about 1976 or so), there was an informal Fannish Code of Conduct:

Do Good
Do No Harm
Throw a Good Room Party

At last night's Confluence meeting, we had a brief discussion about developing a code of conduct for Confluence and I said I'd help develop one.

Ideally, I'd like it to be what we had in the '70s - something extremely short, to just remind people to be adults.

There have been some harassment issues at Confluence. They haven't been quite as ugly as at other cons, but I know they have happened. People have the right to attend a con and if they feel unsafe, the con com should be told and the harasser should have his (or her) membership pulled.

Boskone's Code of Conduct gets pretty much to the point (and was vetted by at least one if not two lawyers):

http://www.nesfa.org/boskone/codeofconduct.html

I think some cons have codes of conduct that go on a bit long (even if I do agree with most of its points):

http://techdays.org/2013/03/code-of-conduct/

Both John Scalzi

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/07/02/my-new-convention-harassment-policy/

and Mary Robinette Kowal

http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/on-sexual-harassment-at-conventions-elise-matheson-speaks-out/

have written at length about Con Behavior/Codes of Conduct.

It would be nice if our Code of Conduct could be something simple as:

Don't be a jagoff
A jagoff is a person who harasses others, feels entitled to make sexual advances, tries to make others feel uncomfortable. If someone tells you "No" or "Go Away" and you don't go away, you're a jagoff. If your behavior continues and is reported to a con com member, we can pull your badge and tell you to "Go Away."
So, don't be a jagoff, be an adult.

For folks from outside the Pittsburgh area, common definitions for jagoff.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Hate the Republican Shutdown? E-mail Your Tea Party Rep/Senator EVERY DAY

I live in a reddish area outside of Pittsburgh, so my Congressman, Tim Murphy and Senator, Pat Toomey are both pretty solidly Tea Party (though Toomey did vote for the Violence Against Women Act and did work with Joe Manchin to try to improve gun checks, so he very occasionally shows a little sense). We know politicians tend to lie, but Republicans seem wedded to the big lie. Most of the Tea Party claims that they are only hearing from the "Shut the Government Down" faction.

It is vital for the people who want the government re-opened to contact their reps, even if they're Tea Party types, frequently, every day if possible.

I have E-mailed Murphy and Toomey every day of the Republican shutdown. They need constant reminders that many people in every district want a progressive, properly funded country. I urge you to write to your federal legislators.

In addition, I tweet a message supporting Obama every day, and telling Boehner to let the Congress vote. Tweets are more symbolic than practical. But I think they are useful.

I'll keep a record of my E-mails and tweets here and will update it daily.

To E-mail any Senator, go to senate.gov. To E-mail any Representative, to to house.gov.


10/7

My daily E-mail to Tea Party Tim Murphy & Senator Pat Toomey:
Republicans keep claiming that the Affordable Care Act, which is still not completely implemented, has "failed." A year ago, Republicans kept claiming that Romney would beat Obama in the November election. How can we believe people who are that out-of-touch? I encourage you to ignore your Tea Party overlords and do what's right for the American people - stop the shutdown!

(And, at the same time that people are pounding on the ACA for some bad coding on the ACA Website, Toomey's Web crew continues to be so incompetent that they can't process the information from a single Webform with about 20 fields. So, again, I had to go into the Tea Party-infested Facebook page of Pat Toomey to submit my daily complaint.)

Tweets (OK, I'm guilty of a repeat here)
.@BarackObama, Democrats & some Republicans: Stay strong and DON'T BLINK. Americans have your backs. #BoehnerShutdown
.@SpeakerBoehner - it's clear if you had the courage to stand up to the Tea Party insurgency, the Senate's clean bill would pass. #DOYOURJOB


10/6

My daily E-mail to Tea Party Tim Murphy & Senator Pat Toomey:
Much as I do think the government must go back to work, I am glad you voted to pay furloughed Federal workers. Please fight for the people and get back to work.

[[Toomey's CAPCHA code was broken AGAIN so I had to go to his Facebook page...*sigh*]]

Tweets:
.@BarackObama, Democrats & some Republicans: Stay strong and DON'T BLINK. Americans have your backs. #BoehnerShutdown
.@SpeakerBoehner - it's clear if you had the courage to stand up to the Tea Party insurgency, the Senate's clean bill would pass. #DOYOURJOB


10/5

My daily E-mail to Tea Party Tim Murphy & Senator Pat Toomey:
The Republican shutdown continues even on a weekend, so I'm writing to you on a weekend to remind you that you don't just represent the Tea Party - you're supposed to be representing ALL of your constituents. Not everyone agrees with you; many of us care about the country, and it is only being damaged by your shutdown.

Tweets:
.@BarackObama, Democrats & rational Republicans - some of us write our TP reps daily in support of you. Stay strong, we have your backs.
.@SpeakerBoehner Thanks again for showing up you have no courage against the Tea Party insurgents-PERMIT A VOTE. #BoehnerShutdown


10/4

To Representative Murphy & Senator Toomey:
My daily reminder that not all of your constituents are Tea Partiers. In fact, many of us will never vote for another Republican after this Republican shutdown. Get back to work.

Tweets:
To @BarackObama, Democrats & Rational Republicans - Stand strong against the tea party insurgency. We have your backs! #BoehnerShutdown
.@SpeakerBoehner Show you have courage against the Tea Party insurgents-PERMIT A VOTE. The Republican shutdown is now the #BoehnerShutdown


10/3

E-mail to Representative Murphy & Senator Toomey:
I watched a video where Republican Congressman Randy Neugebauer of Texas harassed a National Park Ranger, trying to blame the ranger for obeying the rules of the government shutdown. Aren't you at least a little ashamed to be in the same party as someone who who can't take responsibility for the actions of your party? Your party started the shutdown, and your party is the only group who can stop it. Get back to work.

Tweets:
To @BarackObama, Democratic & a Growing Number of Republican Reps: Stay strong for America & DON'T BLINK. More voters than have your backs
@SpeakerBoehner Stop being the Tea Party's lapdog! Do something for AMERICANS for a change - bring the Senate bill to a vote TODAY.


10/2

E-mail to Representative Murphy & Senator Toomey:
This is my daily reminder to you - I live in Pennsylvania and I do not believe the Republicans should either shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act or play games with the debt ceiling. Stop it and get back to work.

Tweets:
To President Obama, Democrats & an increasing number of Republicans: Stay strong against the extremists and DON'T BLINK. We have your backs


10/1

E-mail to Representative Tim Murphy & Senator Pat Toomey:
I will try to write to you every day of the Republican shutdown of the federal government, just to remind you that Americans are disgusted. I am opposed to the government being shut down because you Republicans don't believe in the Affordable Care Act. It passed. Get over it and move on.
As my friend Laura Anne Gilman says: To: every member of Congress. From: nearly every US citizen. Hand in your paychecks until you decide to work again.
If there's any part of government who most deserves to not be paid, it's the Congress, especially the Republican members.

Tweets:
President Obama, Democrats, & the few rational Republicans - Stay strong and don't blink. We have your backs against the American Taliban

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Think About This Country's Financial Obligations [[An Open Letter to Congress]]

I originally published this on Facebook on July 12, 2011 at 12:35pm. However, it pathetic that our "talk-lots/do-nothing" Congress has put us back in this position again so I'm republishing this short essay again.


Have you bothered to read the Constitution?

Do you know what the 14th Amendment means?

Third World countries default on their debts, but countries like America never should.

The debt ceiling needs to be raised, millionaires need to pay more taxes, tax loopholes need to be closed, the minimum age for Social Security benefits needs to be raised, and the government should not start wars it has no plan to pay for.

You should all be ashamed of your obstructionism, but, of course, you are not.


It is ironic these days that the "traditional enemies" of the US do not seem to be Iran or Russia anymore - it's the many obstructionist Republican members of the House (including the representative for our district, Timothy Murphy and one senator, Pat Toomey).
The only thing I'd change in this essay is "the minimum age for Social Security benefits needs to be raised." What I should have said was "the salary ceiling for Social Security should be increased to the first $500,000 of income."

Monday, September 16, 2013

In Praise of Police When They Protect and Serve and Not When They Murder the Public

I've been extremely troubled by a rash of police pre-emptively shooting people, generally black men. Isn't the slogan for police "To Protect and Serve"? How is the murder of men like Jonathan Ferrell protecting or serving anyone?

I blame poor education, bad training and entrenched racism for most of these shootings. Cops everywhere do not behave so stupidly. When cops are properly hired and trained, they can solve problems.

We had an incident at our house a couple of years ago when a drunk teenager, apparently looking for his girlfriend, chose our doorbell to ring at 4am. We went and talked to the kid, but he refused to go away (frankly, he was too drunk). We said if you don't leave we're calling the cops. He didn't leave, so we called the cops. A single female cop showed up within ten minutes and talked to the kid. She diffused the situation in a way we could not, not by shooting, tasing or arresting the kid, but by firmly talking to him. She figured out where he lived and brought him home. She protected and served, which is what cops ought to be doing. We declined to press any charges because she solved the situation.

I wish all Americans could rely on the police as we did. Jonathan Ferrell, apparently upset by having been in a car accident, did not have that opportunity.

2013.09.17 - In news reports about the North Carolina shooting, the cop pumped 10 bullets into Jonathan Ferrell. Sometimes, cops do accidentally kill innocent people, but shooting 12 times, at least 10 of those shots hitting their intended target? That was no accident.