Daily Digest: Recounting, weight studies, tattoos, space-rocks

Mike Mullen

— First, in statehouse news, the number of rejected absentee ballots in the governor’s race is only about 3,000, the AP is reporting today. At the moment, Mark Dayton leads Tom Emmer by about 9,000, meaning that even if Emmer gained each of those rejected ballots, he’d still need 6,000 more votes to catch up. With more than two million votes cast, a margin of 9,000 votes is small, but probably perhaps not small enough for Emmer: Loyola Law School professor Richard Hasen told the AP that he’d never heard of that kind of gap disappearing: “To get such a large number, there either has to be some stack of ballots that were not counted, some major kind of technological failure or fraud.” Fraud, you say? So, how about it, “Big Bill” Thompson? Anything we should know about? — In on-campus news, the Daily Beast has an interesting read on what is called “weight studies,” a new branch of academia devoted to the study of body image in the United States. To be clear, this is not a scientific class, studying the effect of weight on the body, but a social one, studying its effect on the mind. Here’s a pretty indicative and heartbreaking paragraph about a class taught at George Washington University: “Most of Ms. Johnson’s students are female. A few are recovering from eating disorders; their cheeks are hollow and their scrawny arms droop like slack rubber bands. About a quarter of the class is slightly overweight.” In one interesting detail, it’s said by one expert that weight insecurity is keeping the overweight off campuses, saying, “The more elite a campus is, the fewer people you will see who are anything but ideal weight.” I would argue that those campuses just tend to draw more perfectionists, who are also, more than likely, on an Adderall-and-espresso diet. I won’t judge the worth of these classes here, but I just want to note that for years the University of Minnesota has rejected my suggestion for research: “Beautiful people, and a list of their phone numbers.” — From the Atlantic Monthly, here’s a fascinating story about some historial-political tattoos. It seems that young Turks (no, not like the phrase – like, actual young people from Turkey) are heading to tattoo parlors in high numbers to get ink that honors the country’s rebel founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. There is a pretty serious personality cult of Ataturk in the country, with his likeness splashed all over, and any defamation of his legacy outlawed. I suppose, with Ataturk more than 70 years dead, and Turkey still roughly as he left it, it’s not imprudent to get a tat like this. It’s certainly better than all those who rushed off to the parlor and now have to live with “GOLDWATER 64-ETERNITY,” or “THE UNITED STATES OF DUKAKIS.” Though perhaps we shouldn’t judge, as our own history has inspired such symbolic lunacy as the “Don’t Tread on Me” tramp stamp. (Right, that’s what Ben Franklin wanted when he drew that: freedom from tyranny, freedom from excessive taxation, and freedom from dignity.) — Finally, in universal news, NASA’s Deep Impact probe made a close pass to what is being described as a “space peanut” by the BBC. Deep Impact (which is, God help us all, I think named for that awful movie) made only the fifth close pass of a comet, whizzing by Comet Hartley 2 at about seven miles per second (!) as part of an extended mission, which also included bombing (!) an ice-dust-ball called Comet Tempel I. (Take THAT, space rock!) The “space peanut” is actually enormous, at more than a mile long, and at the moment is raw and unsalted.