Friday, September 10, 2010

Link roundup

1. What happens if you release 100 cats in an Ikea store? Who knows, mostly the video shows closeups of people watching the cats.

UPDATE: My mistake, there's a commercial featuring the cats in action.

2. Michael Lewis looks at Greece's disastrous economic situation, which he blames on corruption and lax oversight. His focus is on a monastery reminiscent of the the one in Neal Stephenson's Anathem:

Knowing nothing else about the Vatopaidi monastery except that, in a perfectly corrupt society, it had somehow been identified as the soul of corruption, I made my way up to the north of Greece, in search of a bunch of monks who had found new, improved ways to work the Greek economy. The first stage was fairly easy: the plane to Greece’s second city of Thessaloniki, the car being driven along narrow roads at nerve-racking speeds, and a night with a lot of Bulgarian tourists at a surprisingly delightful hotel in the middle of nowhere, called the Eagles Palace. There the single most helpful hotel employee I have ever met (ask for Olga) handed me a stack of books and said wistfully how lucky I was to be able to visit the place. The Vatopaidi monastery, along with 19 others, was built in the 10th century on a 37-mile-long-by-6-mile-wide peninsula in northeast Greece, called Mount Athos. Mount Athos now is severed from the mainland by a long fence, and so the only way onto it is by boat, which gives the peninsula the flavor of an island. And on this island no women are allowed—no female animals of any kind, in fact, except for cats. The official history ascribes the ban to the desire of the church to honor the Virgin; the unofficial one to the problem of monks hitting on female visitors. The ban has stood for 1,000 years.

This explains the high-pitched shrieks the next morning, as the ancient ferry packed with monks and pilgrims pulls away from the docks. Dozens of women gather there to holler at the tops of their lungs, but with such good cheer that it is unclear whether they are lamenting or celebrating the fact that they cannot accompany their men. Olga has told me that she was pretty sure I was going to need to hike some part of the way to Vatopaidi, and that the people she has seen off to the holy mountain don’t usually carry with them anything so redolent of the modern material world as a wheelie bag. As a result, all I have is an Eagles Palace plastic laundry bag with spare underwear, a toothbrush, and a bottle of Ambien.
3. A woman fell into a wasp nest and was stung 500 times:
Rescue crews had to deal with yellow jackets even inside the ambulance, and once the unidentified woman was taken to Sturdy Memorial Hospital, hospital staff then had to handle yellow jackets in the emergency room.

*Buy Anathem at Amazon (it's like Harry Potter, but with string theory).