Mar. 25, 2012: Facebook, the Final Four, and a Two-Foot Frankfurter

After two weeks of intense action on the court, the road to the Final Four is nearing its end. On the men’s side, Rick Pitino’s fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals rallied on Saturday to overcome the seven-seed Florida Gators, 72-68, punching their tickets to their first Final Four since 2005. The Ohio State Buckeyes followed by pushing aside the Syracuse Orange, taking down their region’s top seed in a 77-70 victory. This afternoon, the Baylor Bears will try to spoil the run of the tournament’s top-ranked team, the Kentucky Wildcats, while the Kansas Jayhawks hope to take advantage of a battered North Carolina Tar Heels squad in the evening. (North Carolina, the Midwest region’s top seed, looked particularly vulnerable on Friday, giving 13-seed Ohio University plenty of chances to beat them in an ugly overtime victory Friday night.)

On the women’s side, the undefeated Baylor Lady Bears easily shut down the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets yesterday, riding an 83-68 victory into the Elite Eight. On Monday they’ll face the Tennessee Lady Volunteers, who overcame a 14-point deficit on Saturday to escape the surprisingly threatening 11-seed Kansas Jaywawks. The rest of the Elite Eight is still being decided: the St. John’s Red Storm faced the Duke Blue Devils last night, while the South Carolina Gamecocks challenged the Stanford Cardinal to wrap up the evening. Today we’ll see Texas A&M vs. Maryland, St. Bonaventure against Notre Dame, Penn State vs. Connecticut, and finally 11-seed Gonzaga, the biggest Cinderella left in the tournament, against second-seeded Kentucky.

In the presidential primaries, Mitt Romney seems to be finally gaining some momentum among Republican voters, holding a 14-point lead over rival Rick Santorum in national polls after a big win in Illinois. This lead marks his largest advantage of the race. Still, Santorum hoped to rebound in yesterday’s Louisiana primary, and while the results are not yet final, he was expected to win the state easily given the highly conservative positions of most Republican voters there. Not that winning the lion’s share of the 20 delegates up for grabs in this skirmish will necessarily change the primary race in the long run, especially given how much party leaders want the race to end. As Gloria Borger of CNN pointed out, this is a tremendous political moment on a number of fronts:

So we’re at a point in the campaign where health care reform is about to go on trial at the Supreme Court, unemployment remains high and gas prices are skyrocketing.

As for the GOP presidential wannabes, they’re arguing over, um, an Etch A Sketch metaphor bungled by a Mitt Romney staffer.

Is it really any wonder that Republicans are tired of the drawn-out primary? At a time when their candidate should be challenging President Barack Obama for his role in creating the “new economy” you hear in every other commercial now — even if Obama would, in turn, call out the Republican-led Congress — the GOP candidates are instead squabbling amongst themselves over “silly” issues like this. Santorum and Newt Gingrich continue desperately seeking to tear down Romney, who at this point is the obvious party favorite across the country. By now, Romney is the only Republican candidate with any real chance of earning the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination before the Republican National Convention. Yet Santorum and Gingrich refuse to back down, creating openings for Democrats to attack the Republican front-runner, as well.

It is likely that Romney’s rivals are just holding out hope that Romney will fall short of a clear majority at the end of the process, which could prompt some back-room negotiation chaos and hope for surprise nominees. It’s happened before. Perhaps the most famous incident was in 1860: William H. Seward was the front-runner entering the convention, but he had failed to win the 50% of delegates required to earn the nomination. Those delegates eventually shifted their affiliations during the negotiation process, and after three rounds of voting, Abraham Lincoln emerged as the nominee.

Let’s move back to the present now, to a major personal concern that many entering the workforce now face. No, I’m not talking about paychecks or benefits. I’m talking about Facebook: specifically, the growing trend of employers asking for job candidates’ Facebook passwords as part of their standard background checks. Naturally, Facebook representatives are fighting back, using the Facebook Privacy blog as a platform to call out such employers and to warn them that they put themselves at risk with the practice — after all, if they find out that a candidate is a member of a protected group (like a senior citizen) and then don’t hire that candidate, they become easy lawsuit targets. It’s an ironic stand for a company that has generated more than its share of privacy fears, but as they try to wipe away any controversy before their initial public offering, lawmakers are taking notice. Senator Richard Blumenthal called password requests an “unreasonable invasion of privacy” and is writing a bill to ban the practice. We’ll see if the united front presented by Facebook and lawmakers will deter such practices, or if they will continue amidst the “if you don’t like it, look for work elsewhere” mentality.

As for this week’s “fun” story, we could talk about the 10th Arab Shooting Competitions in Kuwait, which mistakenly played the fake national anthem from Borat to honor a gold-medal winner from Kazakhstan. But that mistake is more pathetic than funny, when you think about it. You have to feel for the woman, who had her once-in-a-lifetime moment tarnished by Sacha Baron Cohen’s mockery.

No, we’ll take the high road and look at a two-foot wiener.

The meal of champions... and their extended families.

There lies the mighty “Champion Dog“: a two-foot, one-pound hot dog (before adding toppings, which could double its weight). It’s almost as long as a youth baseball bat, and about the same weight as one, too. The bun is basically a full-sized loaf of bread that has to be specially made to fit the unique dog. This monstrous meal, which the Texas Rangers will serve throughout its stadium this year, costs $26 and is served on a cutting board, not a plate. Naturally, this creation was not meant for a single diner — it was intended to be shared among at least three people — but that won’t stop some individuals from tackling the challenge alone.

This might actually top the Triple Bypass Burger we discussed last month… which, as you’ll recall, literally induced cardiac arrest. Yet it pales in comparison to the eight-pound StrasBurger (yes, eight pounds) which will be served at Nationals Park this year. This all-beef monster will be served with a secret sauce, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles, as well as a basket of fries and an entire pitcher of soda. Most estimates place the burger alone at 8,000-10,000 calories, four to five times an adult’s recommended daily calorie intake. So if eating a hamburger the size of a newborn baby sounds appealing, you know where to find this culinary terror.

The StrasBurger. With just as much meat as their star pitcher's arm.

Other articles of interest:
Sgt. Robert Bales charged on 17 counts of premeditated murder
French gunman’s ‘proud’ brother questioned
Woman to wed slain French soldier posthumously
Hong Kong 10-year-old arrested after violent youth soccer foul
Newspaper Finds Suspicious Test Scores Nationwide
Mercury poles give up hints of water ice
Planets hurtling near the speed of light? It’s possible, study says.
Giant black holes called cosmic ‘gluttons’
Debris prompts space station crew to seek shelter
Astronauts take refuge in escape capsules as space station threatened by debris
OMG! That’s a 45-foot paper airplane soaring over the desert
Merck Anticlotting Drug Shows Benefit and Risk
A Boy Allergic to Food
Dead Daughter’s Voicemails Erased by Phone Company
Post-Jobs Apple ‘has nobody to say no’
Apple and the risks of trading 29,000 times per second
Google quiet on social network privacy

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