Saturday, June 30, 2007

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Brian

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Tracking Down the Speedo Man: Yo-Yo History

Brian
Part 6 in a series (previously, next)
Originally published in Unfiltered Magazine, Spring 2000, by Paul Schramski


3:35 – The last possible place we could imagine seeing him was the International Museum of Yo-Yo History. I peered in through the colored panes, but he was nowhere to be found. He must have been taunting us from some higher vantage point. He had led us on a wild goose chase over and under every crack of the city. what fools we had been to think we could find such an elusive man.

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Recipe Friday

Brian
It is summer in the northern hemisphere, which means, if where you are is anywhere like where I am, it is quite hot. And what better way to cool off on a hot day than with a cold drink? And who knows cold drinks better than the residents of tropical island nations like Cuba? Exactly. Which is why today's recipe is for
El Mojito Perfecto
A mojito is a Cuban rum-based drink with flavors of lime and mint. It was famously enjoyed by Hemingway when he was working on The Old Man and the Sea, but authorities have yet to conclusively link it to his suicide. The mojito is so tasty that you'll forget that there is alcohol in it, but there is, so don't drive, operate heavy machinery, or be underage when you drink it. The safety valve for mojitos is that, even though they are tasty enough that you could get drunk without realizing you are drinking, they are complicated enough to make that you'll become incapable of making any more before long.

For each glass you're going to make, acquire the following:
  • 1 lime
  • 5 mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
  • 1.5 ounces simple syrup (sugar and water, which we'll cover below)
  • Several cubes of ice
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • Enough club soda to top off the glass, maybe an ounce

You'll also have to have these handy:
  • 1 sharp knife
  • 1 tall, thin (highball) glass
  • 1 wooden spoon with a wooden handle (or special muddling instrument)
  • 1 small sauce pan
  • 1 juicer, if you've got it

To make simple syrup (and my version of simple syrup is as simple as it's going to get), combine equal parts water and granulated sugar (let's say 1.5 tablespoons of each) in your sauce pan. Heat this over medium on your stove, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved in the water. Don't let it boil.

Squeeze all the juice you can out of the lime. You should be able to get about an ounce from it. If you can't, start a new lime.

Add the mint leaves, powdered sugar, and ounce of lime juice to the bottom of your glass. Shove the handle-end of your wooden spoon into the glass and muddle the mint. Muddling means mixing up the mint with the sugar and lime juice in a mildly violent fashion. The goal is to tear apart the mint to a certain degree in order to release its flavors. When you can smell minty freshness coming from the glass, you know you've done it right.

Add 1.5 ounces of the simple syrup to the glass, then fill it with cubes of ice. Now pour in the two ounces of rum and add a splash of club soda—just enough to top off the drink, not more than an ounce.

Enjoy with friends (although I just told you how to make one mojito, you should probably make enough for everybody). And remember, as Cuban Spider-Man says, with great mojito comes great responsibility.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tracking Down the Speedo Man: Far Horizons Mobile Home Estates

Brian
Part 5 in a series (previously, next)
Originally published in Unfiltered Magazine, Spring 2000, by Paul Schramski


3:30 – Intrigued by his mobile lifestyle, I concluded that he would not be opposed to living in a Far Horizons Mobile Home Estates, which proved a bizarre land. White picket fences and petite green lawns characterized every square plot. Nutcracker mailboxes and elderly ladies glared at us on every corner. Brian chanted, "Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!" in hope that by clicking his red slippers he could return home. The tension lessened when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a bare male chest. It was pale and wrinkled. It could not be the Bikeman, only a half-naked man gathering his mail and smiling at his exposure. We fled, writhing in laughter and fear.


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Self-Mummification in Japan

Brian
During the Edo period, some Buddhist priests in northern Japan engaged in sokushinbutsu, a form of prolonged suicide by self-mummification that existed long before people began consuming the food from McDonald's:
The first step is a change of diet. The priest was only allowed to eat nuts and seeds that could be found in the forests surrounding his temple; this diet had to be stuck to for a 1000 day period, a little under three years. During this time, the priest was to continue to subject himself to all sorts of physical hardship in his daily training. The results were that the body fat of the priest was reduced to nearly nothing, thus removing a section of the body that easily decomposes after death.

In the second stage, the diet became more restrictive. The priest was now only allowed to eat a small amount of bark and roots from pine trees (mokujiki). This had to be endured for another 1000 day period, by the end of which the priest looked like a living skeleton. This also decreased the overall moisture contained in the body; and the less fluid left in the body, the easier to preserve it.

Towards the end of this 1000 day period, the priest also had to start to drink a special tea made from the sap of the urushi tree. This sap is used to make laquer [sic] for bowls and furniture; but it is also very poisonous for most people. Drinking this tea induced vomenting [sic], sweating, and urination, further reducing the fluid content of the priest's body. But even more importantly, the build up of the poison in the priest's body would kill any maggots or insects that tried to eat the priest's remains after death, thus protecting it from yet another source of decay.

The third and last step of the process was to be entombed alive in a stone room just big enough for a man to sit lotus style in for a final 1000 day period. As long as the priest could ring a bell each day a tube remained in place to supply air; but when the bell finally stopped, the tube was removed and the tomb was sealed.
Link (via the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society). Similar practices were apparently observed elsewhere in the Buddhist ascetic world. No word yet on why the corpse in the picture appears to not really have any preserved flesh. Looks less like a mummy than an ordinary skeleton to me. Time to find some new poison lacquer sap.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tracking Down the Speedo Man: The Cemetery

Brian
Part 4 in a series (previously, next)
Originally published in Unfiltered Magazine, Spring 2000, by Paul Schramski


3:10 – Worried that our quarry had been gone for far too long, Brian and I left Speedway for the East Lawn Palms Mortuary and Cemetery on Grant Road. On our way, we passed two people on bicycles who rejected our questioning. We searched the cemetery grounds for any trace of our fugitive, but to no avail. He had to be alive somewhere.

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The Digestione at Coney

Brian
The ninety-second annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, to be held next Wednesday, July 4, at Coney Island in Brooklyn, is shaping up to be the most epic duel in the history of the "sport." American upstart Joey Chestnut, who recently broke the hot-dog-eating record, will take on Takeru Kobayashi, the six-time champion who is ranked number one in the world by people who rank such things. To complicate the matter, Kobayashi recently announced that he is suffering from arthritis of the jaw at a most inopportune time. The jaw, as I understand it, is an important organ for competitive eating. But Kobayashi won't let that set him back—he's going to participate anyway.

The Great White Bloat isn't sure he's buying the champ's claims of injury:
“I don’t know if it’s true or not,” said Mr. Chestnut, an undergraduate studying civil engineering. “All my friends and family they’re all saying don’t pay any attention to it. But it doesn’t make sense. Why would anybody say, ‘Oh I’m going to compete, but I’m hurt’? You could easily compete and if something went bad, then you could say something later.”
All this high drama has the New York Times' Sewell Chan comparing the run-up to this pan-Pacific bout to the hype for the Rumble in the Jungle or the Thrilla in Manila. Will an injured Kobayashi make it seven in a row? Is the arthritis a ruse, meant to stymie an adversary or lower expectations? Will the record be devoured once again? Will the mustard belt come home?

It's coming—the day America and Japan settle their score, the day thousands of children vow to devote their lives to competitive eating, the day two men consume over a hundred wieners between them in twelve minutes: July 4, 2007.

Get yer hot dogs.

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Knowing Which Way the Wind Blows in California Courts

Brian
A new law review article by Alex B. Long (PDF, via the Volokh Conspiracy) explores the instances in which courts rely on lyrics from popular music to elucidate a legal issue. He declares Bob Dylan the paradigmatic authority, in particular pointing to a California case seeking to understand when expert testimony is and is not required:
The correct rule on the necessity of expert testimony has been summarized by Bob Dylan: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." The California courts, although in harmony, express the rule somewhat less colorfully and hold expert testimony is not required where a question is "resolvable by common knowledge."
Jorgensen v. Beach 'n' Bay Realty, Inc., 177 Cal. Rptr. 882, 894 (Cal Ct. App. 1981) (internal citations omitted). "Subterranean Homesick Blues" is apparently the leading learned treatise on the subject in California courts, which frequently cite both Dylan and Jorgensen's use thereof (although they have yet to recognize "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Bob"). But as you learn early on in law, every rule—especially an evidentiary one—has an exception.

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Image credits: Still from "Subterranean Homesick Blues," courtesy Meme Huffer, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tracking Down the Speedo Man: McDonald's

Brian
Part 3 in a series (previously, next)
Originally published in Unfiltered Magazine, Spring 2000, by Paul Schramski


2:55 – Brian and I ducked into a nearby McDonald's. The gentleman in the first window stared at me in a puppy-like fashion as I asked him if he'd seen the Bikeman. He shouted, "Oh, yeah," as he threw change into my outstretched hand and slammed the window. At the following window, Susie cut me off with the arrival of hamburgers and giggled while she closed the window. Awestruck by the impoliteness and secrecy of McDonald's, I took off to gather more clues.

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Pedestrian Crossing

Brian
As a frequent Philadelphia pedestrian and occasional Philadelphia driver, I feel a profound hope that those who, like me, move about our fair city can learn a thing or two from this 1948 British public informational short about how to cross the street and how not to run over someone doing so. Except, you know, pretend the cars are driving on the right side of the road.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Real Estate Scam: Unauthorized "Open House" at Your Own House Listed on Craigslist

Brian
A woman in Los Angeles was browsing Craigslist when she was surprised to find a listing for an unauthorized open house the following Sunday at the vacant fixer-upper she had recently purchased:
Around 12:30 pm Sunday, Jessica's real estate agent calls, reporting he is at the house and nothing is happening. He can't stay -- he's got an Open House of his own to go to. All is well. But then, at 1:30 pm, the agent calls Jessica back. "A neighbor had called him and told him, 'The Open House is happening right now! There's a woman inside the house, she's got signs outside, and she's showing the house!'"

So Jessica, still in Rancho Mirage, calls the LAPD again with this update. Soon the agent calls her with another update: "Neighbors had been to the Open House, and they told him the woman is taking cash deposits from people! Multiple cash deposits!"

. . . .

She waits by the phone for a while, and then gets a call from an LAPD officer. "He says, 'I'm inside the house with the woman and she's claiming she's legit. She says she works for a realty company and she's showing the house.' Then the cop asks me, 'How can you prove you're the owner?'"

"My Dad says, 'You have the title! Tell him you have the title!' So I say, 'I have the title, I'll fax it to you!'"

The police officer tells Jessica he's going to have to call his supervisor and ask for guidance -- he's never been in this situation before, and he'll call her back.
Link. The mysterious agent managed to get away before police were able to gather evidence of her breaking into the house. The detail about the open house being slated for Sunday makes me wonder whose house this woman was showing on Saturday.

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Image credits: "House for sale, too," Transguyjay, courtesy
Flickr, acquired via Creative Commons license.

Tracking Down the Speedo Man: The Fire

Brian
Part 2 in a series (previously, next)
Originally published in Unfiltered Magazine, Spring 2000, by Paul Schramski


2:15 – These men gave us little information to go on, so we followed our instincts. Signs in front of a collapsing strip mall read, "Honk if you like low prices." I honked quite a few times, and then circled back around to honk for emphasis. This act did very little to scare the Bikeman out of hiding. We kept driving until we caught sight of some smoke. Like pack rats drawn to metal, we dodged down alleys and cut across avenues until we found the source. Several firefighters attempted to put out an old wooden fence near the Wildcat House. The entire neighborhood watched the spectacle. Unless the Bikeman was a pyromaniac, he had very little to do with the fire. Disappointed by the lack of the Bikeman's presence thus far, we retraced our steps down Speedway.

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Chimpanzee Martial-Arts Army Prepares for Domination

Brian
While you've been watching So You Think You Can Dance, this chimp has been preparing to kick the ever-loving crud out of you:

(Via This Just In.)

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When Diplomatic Parking Immunity Attacks

Brian
A study (PDF) last year by American economists demonstrated a significant correlation between the degree of a country's corruption (as measured by surveys) and its diplomats' willingness to park illegally in New York City. Since diplomats enjoy diplomatic immunity, they need not pay parking fines, but some of them have proven more interested in taking advantage of this immunity than others. While the representatives from twenty-two nations, including the United Kingdom, Japan, and Canada had no violations over a five-year period, Kuwait averaged 246.2 violations per diplomat, followed by Egypt, Chad, Sudan, and Bulgaria.

A new report by the BBC displays a similar trend in London, where diplomats seek to avoid fines imposed for shirking the city's congestion charge. Japan, which had been dutiful in New York, breaks into the top four in London, joined by corruption all-stars Nigeria and Sudan. But the worst offender of all? The United States:
The US embassy - along with many others - has refused to pay the congestion fee on the grounds that it is tax; and therefore diplomats are exempt from paying it.

It has led to stinging criticism from London mayor Ken Livingstone, who branded US ambassador Robert Tuttle a "venal little crook" for his refusal to pay.
Link (via Freakonomics Blog). Shall we judge ourselves by the company we keep?

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Image credits: "DSCF4939," se5 Forum for Camberwell, courtesy
Flickr, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
A historically racist organization inducts a dozen new young women.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Tracking Down the Speedo Man

Brian
Part 1 in a series (next)
Originally published in Unfiltered Magazine, Spring 2000, by Paul Schramski

I had seen him weeks before, riding down Speedway Boulevard. His leathery skin glistened in the midday sun as he pedaled, half naked, up a paved incline. Called the "Bikeman" by some, he has become one of the most recognized faces in Tucson, but who is he?

1:45 – My friend Brian and I took off after this very question. Driving eastward we met homeless men at many lights and gave them donations or bought newspapers in exchange for information. Many remarked that they had seen him, though none could remember when. These men seemed shocked at our inquisitiveness, but were pleasant in their remarks. The Bikeman was an apparition they saw daily causing them to question their sanity and sobriety. He mocked them like some Saharan mirage.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

May We Suggest . . .

Brian
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. This John Ford film has John Wayne as a cowboy and Jimmy Stewart as a Philadelphia lawyer, not to mention Lee Marvin as the title's ironically named villain. Yet it gets no love these days. It seems every Western has to tear down the myth of the West and reinvent the genre, and this is no exception, but it at least it excels at what it sets out to do. Plus it comes equipped with a complex message. Watch it as a truly insightful allegory of the tension between law in a democratic society and man in a state of nature. Or, you know, for John Wayne shooting at people.

Using literally literally. I've grown a lot in the past few years when it comes to relaxing my English usage sticklerness, but I'm sticking to my guns about literally. It's got such a good original meaning: "Despite what I'm saying being a cliché, I mean that you should take it in its nonidomatic, plain-meaning sense." Instead, it's used all the time (and yes, has been for some time) to signify "I understand that what I'm saying is a cliché, and I do mean it figuratively, but I want to generically intensify it so that you don't dismiss it as a mere cliché." If you've got to adverb it up, please use actually or really, which are perfectly suitable in their generic senses, instead. If we don't preserve literally, how are we going to know when somebody truly does explode with emotion?

Key lime pie. Mrs. Good Reverend made this twice recently, and I must say it clearly deserves a comeback. It's fruity, it's pudding, it's pie—it's got everything you could want in a dessert. Except chocolate. But you can't have chocolate every time, can you? I'm so hungry right now.

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Image credits: "Cock and Pussy," matty!, courtesy Flickr, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes; "Key Lime Pie," Mrs. Maddog, courtesy Flickr, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

An Older 'Whole Nine Yards'

Brian

Those devoted to projects like the Oxford English Dictionary are obsessed with antedating—searching out and pinning down printed uses of words and terms that appeared earlier than the earliest known uses. Now one of the most elusive turns of phrase, "the whole nine yards," just leapt back by three years to a 1964 article in the Tucson Citizen about the peculiar lingo of the Gemini space program:
"'Give 'em the whole nine yards' means an item-by-item report on any project."
Link. This lends credence to the military-origin theory, but it doesn't definitively explain what the nine yards refer to literally. We may never learn in our lifetimes how the phrase originated . . . or will we?

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Image credits: "Polaroid Transfer Yardsticks," Ms. Flower Legs, courtesy
Flickr, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How to Chat in a Chatless Disney Online Game

Brian

When Disney launched its own massively multiplayer online role-playing game for kids, Toontown Online, one of the features it was most concerned about was chat. As long as there as the potential for tweens, teens, and anyone pretending to be them to sent instant messages to one another, there was the potential for strangers to harass kids. So they limited the ability to communicate in the online world:
[Y]ou select a subject and then from a submenu of sentences, each automatically customized to the correct context. Selecting "I need to find ...", would magically insert the names of the items you have quests for. For all walk-up users, all interactions would be via SpeedChat.

They added a method to allow direct chat between users that involves the exchange of secret codes that are generated for each user (with parental permission). The idea is that kids would print them out and give them to each other on the playground. This was a great way for Disney to end-run the standard - since Speed Chat was an effective method of preventing the exchange of these codes, and theoretically the codes had to be given "in-person", making the recipient not-a-stranger. Sure, some folks post them on message boards, but presumably those are folks who 1) are adults, or 2) know each other, right? In any case, as long as no one could pass secret codes within Toontown itself, Disney feels safe.
Link (via Schneier on Security). But on a medium that is all about interactive communication between friends and strangers alike, blocked chat won't stay blocked for long. Savvy juveniles soon developed a system of signs and codewords to pass along their secret code within the game so that they could chat with anyone they wanted to:
Around you may see toons who have alot of picture frames at their toon estates, they are usually looking for secret friends. This is how to do it! So, lets say you wanted to make secret friends with a toon named Lily. Your "pretend" secret friend code is 4yt 56s.
  • You: *Move frames around in house to form a 4.* "Okay."
  • Her: "Okay." She has now written the first letter down on a piece of paper.
  • You: *Move Frames around to form a y.* "Okay."
  • Her: "Okay." She has now written the second number down on paper.
  • You: *Move Frames around in house to form a t* "Okay."
  • Her: "Okay." She has now written the third letter down on paper. "Okay."
  • You: *Do nothing* "Okay" This shows that you have made a space.
  • Repeat process
Link. The Toontown kids aren't quite as ingenious as the inventors of Nicaraguan Sign Language, but they sure are resourceful.

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Tennessee Crop-Circles Were "Not Man-Made"

Brian
Crop-circle researcher Jeff Wilson, whose job sounds fun, has concluded that the crop circles that appeared in a wheat field outside Knoxville last month were not of human origin:
The nodes of the wheat were analyzed and found to show unnatural elongation, Wilson said. Furthermore, the stems of the wheat showed evidence of "expulsion cavities" usually not created by natural means but reproducible through the application of heat such as might be produced by microwaves.

The area within the circle also showed higher-than-average levels of radiation and electromagnetic activity. These characteristics have been noted in other plants where crop circles have been found, he added.
Link (via the Anomalist). Of course, by "not man-made," Wilson really means "not just made with wire and wooden planks" a la the Bower and Chorley hoaxes. It still could have been hoaxers armed with lots and lots of these.

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The Purple Planet

Brian

To make a red planet purple, you'd have to add blue, which is what Mars would have looked like when a third of its surface was covered with one huge ocean:
Researchers have long thought they saw the remnant of an ancient seabed on its surface, but they had a hard time explaining what happened to the oceanfront property. There were features that looked like remnants of shorelines, but they varied so much in elevation that it was hard to explain how they could have bordered the same sea.

Now a team of U.S. and Canadian researchers have explained these variations and drawn the outlines of the ocean that existed more than 2 billion years ago. They report in Nature that these features look like shorelines that were warped when the planet’s spin axis shifted.

. . . .

“What we don’t know is what caused the poles to shift on Mars and what happened to the water,” says the lead author, Taylor Perron of Harvard, who worked with colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley, the Carnegie Institution and the University of Toronto. “The ocean may have been gradually converted into water vapor, moved to higher elevations, and flowed beneath the surface. There could be a large mass of water deep within Mars.”
Link.

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In with the New

Brian
I just updated the ol' Blogroll down there in the right sidebar. Check out the new kids in my neighborhood:
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And Now We Pause for Will Smith Solving a Rubik's Cube in Under a Minute

Brian
On French TV no less.

(Via Neatorama.)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sit-Down Urination Will Be a Thing of the Past

Brian

"As a frequent traveler, I often worry about the conditions I'll face along the way. I was almost reduced to tears at an airport in a third world country when I saw that the toilet facilities for women were nothing more than holes on the floor. And unfortunately, conditions at our own airports and on airplanes aren't always as pristine as they should be. With My SweetPee, I now know I'll be able to face whatever challenges lie ahead with ease and dignity. Thanks for thinking of the special needs of the female 'road warrior.'"
 - Marie


"I was getting ready for my very first hiking trip, and something started to bother me; how and where would I go to the bathroom on the trails? The guide said, 'Don't worry, you will go behind the tree and sometimes your pants or shoes will get dirty or wet.' Then a friend of mine told me that she never travels without 'My SweetPee' so she gave me some to try. How wonderful! It was so simple and made my trip 'worry free.' Now I always have 'My SweetPee' in my pocket or purse. I don't leave home without one!"
 - Annie

I want one (thanks, Ian).

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Kontraception Komics

Brian
Read the whole story from those wacky sixties here (via BoingBoing).

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Grace Weston's Surreal Photography

Brian
Oregon photographer Grace Weston arranges toys to form scenes that can be funny and haunting, sometimes both at once (via Neatorama). Her work is like a photographic version of Magritte.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
Borough Council "discussed liability issues the borough might face if people formed a line in the street while waiting for their weiner [sic]."

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Name Britney's New Album

Brian

Britney Spears wants you, her devoted fans (Oh, that's not you? Sorry, my mistake), to name her upcoming album. Anastasia suggests Shorn, Pantiless, or Rock Bottom. How about MILF? Or, rather, MINLWLF, or MISWFETSHGD. Or, since we all know the real reason behind this new project, let's just call it IOU.

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Happy Father's Day

Brian

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Images credits: "Dad Trike," capnpitz, courtesy Flickr.

Awesome

Brian
First half: kind of awesome.
Second half: the awesomest thing to come out of Japan since mochi ice cream.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pluto Isn't Even the Largest Dwarf Anymore

Brian
It seems like only yesterday Pluto was bumped from a planet to a dwarf planet. But back then it was still considered the largest dwarf planet! Which is kind of like being the youngest octogenarian. Now astronomers bump Pluto down even further with news that Eris nee Xena is a hair bigger:
The key to finding Eris' mass was its tiny moon, Dysnomia. Brown and Schaller used Keck and Hubble to capture images of the moon's position over time.

. . . .

The researchers also calculated the total mass of the pair—about 1.27 times that of Pluto—and revealed that the objects are made of around 70 percent rock, making them as dense as Pluto and Triton, a moon of Neptune.

. . . .

"And since the mass of Dysnomia is insignificant compared to Eris ... we really are just calculating the mass of Eris."

. . . .

[Caltech's Michael E.] Brown's work on the region helped spur the International Astronomical Union to make the decision to distinguish between planets and dwarf planets.

With that, Pluto became the ambassador for all of its neighbors in the Kuiper Belt: planetary science's next frontier. But ambassador is a step down from Pluto's planet status and even its more recent conciliatory title, "King of the Kuiper Belt."
Link (via Fark). So what will Pluto's new title be? I vote for god of the underworld.

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Image credits: The Dwarf Sebastián de Morra, Diego Velásquez, 1644, Spain.

Borat Will Rend Your Soul

Brian

(Via Neatorama.)

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JMOL Cats

Brian
Yes, it's only a couple posts old, but what a couple posts they are. If you are a lawyer or student of the law and you think the LOLcats phenomenon is the cat's pajamas, you've love JMOL Cats.

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Match the Nickname to the Poker Hand

Brian
In Texas hold 'em, each player is dealt two "pocket" cards at the start of a hand. This means there are 169 possible combinations of cards a player could be dealt—many more than that taking the various suit permutations into account. Some of these hands have earned nicknames over the years. Can you figure out which nickname fits which hand?

Hands are listed high card first, which isn't necessarily the order that gives life to the nickname. Feel free to guess in the comments, but no posting URLs.

1. Darth Vader
2. Dolly Parton
3. Elvis Presley
4. Flat Tire
5. German Virgin
6. Jack Bauer
7. Jack Daniel's
8. Jackson Five
9. Jesse James
10. Kid Dyn-o-mite
11. Luke Skywalker
12. Prom Night
13. Rin Tin Tin
14. Roger That
15. San Francisco Busboy
16. Sigfried and Roy
17. Union Oil

A. KK
B. K9
C. QQ
D. Q3
E. JJ
F. J7
G. J5
H. J4
I. T4
J. 99
K. 96 suited
L. 95
M. 76
N. 54
O. 44 black cards
P. 44 otherwise
Q. 42

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

We Should Be Playing 'Six Degrees of Rod Steiger'

Brian
At least, he's an easier network center than Kevin Bacon.

Let's see, off the top of my head: Steiger was in In the Heat of the Night with Sidney Poitier, who was in Sneakers with David Strathairn, who was in The River Wild with Kevin Bacon.

Beat me in the comments.

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Readymade Hebrew Script

Brian
Oded Ezer's Tybrid: Hebrew typography springing forth from lobsters, forks, and office chairs (via Neatorama).

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Whale Caught in Alaska Had Survived a Shooting in the Late 1800s

Brian
A bowhead whale killed by hunters off Barrow, Alaska, last month had survived over a century with an antique weapon lodged in its neck:
The bomb lance fragment, [on the far left in the photo,] lodged a bone between the whale's neck and shoulder blade, was likely manufactured in New Bedford, on the southeast coast of Massachusetts, a major whaling center at that time, Bockstoce said.

It was probably shot at the whale from a heavy shoulder gun around 1890. The small metal cylinder was filled with explosives fitted with a time-delay fuse so it would explode seconds after it was shot into the whale. The bomb lance was meant to kill the whale immediately and prevent it from escaping.

. . . .

The whale harkens back to far different era. If 130 years old, it would have been born in 1877, the year Rutherford B. Hayes was sworn in as president, when federal Reconstruction troops withdrew from the South and when Thomas Edison unveiled his newest invention, the phonograph.
Link (via BoingBoing). Almost as cool as finding an atlatl lodged in Darwin's tortoise.

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And Now We Pause for Bob Dylan, Harry Dean Stanton, and Peter Himmelman Singing Hava Nagila on a Telethon

Brian

(Via growabrain.)

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RIP Mr. Wizard

Brian
Children of an earlier generation will remember Don Herbert, the legendary televised science teacher, from Watch Mr. Wizard, but to me Nickelodeon's Mr. Wizard's World will always be the standard. To this day I can't see Rodin's Thinker without hearing "hmm—ah ha!"

The experiments I most vividly recall are the one where he stacks the books overlapping in a staircase fashion until the top book's inside edge is past the bottom one's outside edge, the vacuum pump that sucked liquid up the side of a building, and, of course, the enduring celery-in-the-food-coloring trick:
You can see water go up the stem to the leaves of a plant by trying this experiment. Cut off an inch of the bottom of a celery stalk with leaves. Put the celery into water colored with ink. In about an hour the leaves and stem are streaked with color.

Cut off another small piece from the bottom. Notice the colored spots along the cut end. These are the ends of little tubes through which the water rises in the stalk. Cut the stalk lengthwise and follow the tubes up to the top.
Link (PDF). To mark the passing of the great Don Herbert, let's all stick a stalk of celery (with leaves) in a glass of inky water today.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hiccupping Jennifer Mee Runs Away from Home

Brian

Florida teenager Jennifer Mee, who had consistent hiccups for five weeks earlier this year, and whose hiccups then mysteriously went away and then mysteriously reappeared, ran away from home this past weekend but was found less than a day later:
The hiccups that forced her out of school have only been sporadic recently, [Mee's mother Rachel] Robidoux said.

Mee had been upset after a disagreement with her stepfather over a Myspace.com account they didn't know about. They disconnected her cell phone service as punishment.
Link. So she sounds like a typical Gen Y teenager with typical teenager-parent issues, and it's kind of unfair to make fun of her. But she has the hiccups a lot! Which is interesting and funny. You can run away from a disconnected cell phone, Jennifer, but you can't run away from your diaphragm.

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Did You Know . . .

Brian
If you were a general, like in the army, a good name for your blog would be "Generalizations?"

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Kutztown University Cracks Down on Robot Supporters

Brian
A student at Pennsylvania's Kutztown University claims to have been arrested in April by campus police for carrying an "Equal Rights for Robots" sign:
I decided to try to liven the mood after the Life and Liberty Ministries began to upset students. They came on campus with signs that featured aborted fetuses, lists of people who will be going to hell, and catchy phrases such as “JESUS OR HELL”. . . . .

I decided not to simply let them upset people, so I went to the bookstore and purchased a posterboard and sharpie marker and made my own sign. It said “Equal Rights for Robots”, a saying I thought no one would be able to take the wrong way. The protesters had been on campus for about two hours at this time, and the whole time the police were protecting them from the students. . . . .

[W]ithin about two or three minutes a police officer came over to me and told me to come with him. I was dropped off at the police area, searched and taken to the local precinct where I was held for an hour and a half. One of the protesters was held there with me, but I do not know why he was arrested.

I was charged with Disorderly Conduct with intent to “alarm or annoy” and in the citation it says I was “warned repeatedly” to stop. Neither is true, and when I pointed this out to the officer who wrote it out for me he said something along the lines of I don’t care and made a comment along the lines of tell it to the judge. I plead not guilty and face a three hundred dollar fine or up to 90 days in jail if found guilty.

. . . .

[A]ccording to one student who spoke to school officials right after my arrest, the school had me arrested because “We didn’t want any jokers.”
Link (via Rocketboom). This strikes me as a pretty clear case of content-based discrimination. Don't arrest the Jesus-hates-abortions-and-homosexuals protesters, but do arrest the equal-rights-for-robots protester across the way? Clearly the antirobot lobby has gotten to the Kutztown campus police department.

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Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
The state Emergency Management Agency urges North-Central Pennsylvania to brace for impending hurricanes. Elsewhere in the country, the feds are trying to catch a weather-report hoaxer. Coincidence?

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Air Force Abandons Plans to Drop the Literal 'Gay Bomb' . . . or Does It?

Brian
Berkeley's Sunshine Project and San Francisco's CBS affiliate have discovered a military report outlining mid-nineties plans to build an aphrodisiac-laden chemical bomb that, when dropped on the enemy, would cause them to get all queer and freaky:
Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 that military leaders had considered, and then subs[e]quently rejected, building the so-called "Gay Bomb."

. . . .

As part of a military effort to develop non-lethal weapons, the proposal suggested, "One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior."

The documents show the Air Force lab asked for $7.5 million to develop such a chemical weapon.

"The Ohio Air Force lab proposed that a bomb be developed that contained a chemical that would cause enemy [soldiers] to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresist[i]bly attractive to one another," [the Sunshine Project's Edward] Hammond said after revi[e]wing the documents.
Link (via MetaFilter). KPIX's story, though riddled with spelling errors, is verified by this military report (PDF, also curiously riddled with spelling errors; scroll to the top of page 2) on the Sunshine Project's site. Some top-notch reporting here at the Good Reverend has uncovered a lost George Bush–Tony Blair press conference detailing the political and tactical motivations behind the plan to develop the gay bomb:

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Friday, June 08, 2007

And All It Wants Is for You to Love It

Brian
Attention, citizens of Philadelphia: this creature is apparently loose and naked in our fair city.

Egad. Nightmares for me tonight.

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Mini Recipe Friday

Brian
This is not a full Recipe Friday today because (1) I don't have the time or inclination to write out a whole recipe and (2) I've been wanting to revisit one of my old recipes anyway.

A year and a half (!) ago I posted the recipe to a good marinara sauce. Since then I've tweaked it a little to make it a great marinara sauce. So next time you want to make a sauce, follow that recipe, but with the following revisions:
  • Don't even bother with green onions. Use a real onion. And use a whole one, not just a half.
  • Add the sugar earlier: pour it over the onions when they are sautéeing in the oil. The idea is that it will bring out their sugars and sort of half-caramelize them (although you are not using that much sugar, and no butter).
  • Rather than cutting up the whole tomatoes, squeeze them in your hands until they are mashed up. This will require pouring the contents of the can into a bowl, because you probably can't fit your fists into the can. Remember to wash up first.
  • When you add the tomatoes, also add a six-ounce can of tomato paste. This will make the sauce thicker.
I'm really hungry right now. I want this sauce to spring spontaneously from the computer screen and feed me. But that would never happen. Darn reality.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Random Movie Quote Thursday

Brian
I've been coming to this circle for about five years
and measuring it.
The diameter and the circumference are constantly changing,
but the radius stays the same.
Which brings me to the number five.
There are five letters in the word Blaine.
Now,
if you mix up the letters in the word Blaine,
mix 'em around,
eventually you'll come up with Nebali.
Nebali—
the name of a planet in a galaxy way, way,
way,
way far away.
And another thing.
Once you go into that circle,
the weather never changes:
it is always 67 degrees
with a 40 percent chance of rain.

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Sneak Peek at Lost's Script-Flipping Season-Four Format Change

Brian
The final scene of last month's season finale revealed that everything we thought we knew about Lost was only the beginning and turned us on our head and all that. Luckily the good guys at This Just In (via YesButNoButYes) have a preview of what the radically reformatted Lost will look like:

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What Relationship Does Deborah Tannen Have with Scooter Libby?

Brian
Scooter Libby was sentenced today to two and a half years in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice, but just as significant a development in the case—for the media, but not really for Libby—was the release of dozens of letters from high-profile figures inside and outside the administration in support of Libby's character. As Swampland's Ana Marie Cox points out, one of the most interesting released letters comes from Deborah Tannen. The letter is noteworthy not so much for who Tannen is (she's a professor of linguistics and gender issues at Georgetown) or even for what we can read in it as much as for what we can't read in it, namely, the partial line of text that is blacked out:
In sum, my experience as his XXXXXXXXXXXX has left me with an unalloyed sense of Scooter as a person of unusually large complements of generosity and kindness toward acquaintances and devotion to family . . . .
What could their relationship be, and why must it be hidden? Luckily, the letter was typed in a monospace font, which yields a significant clue: everything blacked out, including any internal spaces, is eighteen letters long.

My guesses so far:
  • personal therapist
  • sometime concubine
  • pilates instructor
I'd be happy to hear any other ideas, wildly speculative or otherwise.

UPDATE
Georgetown grad Maggie suggests a much more plausible alternative: next-door neighbor.

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A Dodo's Tale

Brian
On July 4, 1862, Reverends Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Robinson Duckworth, lecturers at Christ Church, Oxford, took the dean's three young daughters, Lorina, Alice, and Edith Liddell, on a boating trip down the river Isis. The girls begged to hear a story to pass the time, so Dodgson adopted a fictional version of ten-year-old Alice as his protagonist and began to tell a meandering, episodic fantasy. In the telling of one early scene, in which Alice encounters a group of animals and the entire party engage in a caucus race, each of the real-life boaters became a character: Lorina and Edith were a lory and an eaglet, respectively, and Rev. Duckworth was—what else?—a duck.

When he later published the story and further adventures of Alice, Rev. Dodgson would adopt the pen name Lewis Carroll, but in the caucus race his avatar was the dodo:
First [the Dodo] marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle, ('the exact shape doesn't matter,' it said,) and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no 'One, two, three, and away,' but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out 'The race is over!' and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking, 'But who has won?'

This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, 'Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.'

'But who is to give the prizes?' quite a chorus of voices asked.

'Why, she, of course,' said the Dodo, pointing to Alice with one finger; and the whole party at once crowded round her, calling out in a confused way, 'Prizes! Prizes!'

Alice had no idea what to do, and in despair she put her hand in her pocket, and pulled out a box of comfits, (luckily the salt water had not got into it), and handed them round as prizes. There was exactly one a-piece all round.

'But she must have a prize herself, you know,' said the Mouse.

'Of course,' the Dodo replied very gravely. 'What else have you got in your pocket?' he went on, turning to Alice.

'Only a thimble,' said Alice sadly.

'Hand it over here,' said the Dodo.

Then they all crowded round her once more, while the Dodo solemnly presented the thimble, saying `We beg your acceptance of this elegant thimble'; and, when it had finished this short speech, they all cheered.
The dodo was an apt choice for Dodgson because of his name, especially when pronounced with his recurring stutter. But unlike the other birds representing the boating party, the giant Mauritian pigeon had been extinct for nearly two hundred years. Memory of the bird was fading, but upon the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland interest resurged and the dodo became the archetypal extinct animal—a reminder of man's effect on his environment.

People hunted the dodo, but it was their unintended acts that ultimately drove it to extinction:
What really finished the dodo off . . . were the rats that hitched a ride to Mauritius on some of the Dutch ships. They made a beeline for the shore when the vessels ran aground on the coral reefs, or sank.

For the rats, the dodo's eggs, just sitting there in the grass, were like Christmas and Easter all rolled into one. Young dodo chicks made a pleasant alternative menu.

Can the dodo be revived? Finnish photographer Harri Kallio snapped the above photograph on Mauritius in 2004. With his words in 1862, Dodgson revived the dodo as legend; now Kallio has attempted, with his art, to revive the dodo as fact:
Based on extensive research, Harri Kallio produced life-size sculptural reconstructions of the bird, as well as a visual photographic study of the actual dodo remains. The project culminated in photographic reconstructions of the dodo bird made with the models in their natural habitat of Mauritius Island. Research for the project was based on available historical and anatomical data, with an emphasis on art historical sources. The resulting photographic work is a visual interpretation of the dodos in the actual locations where they once lived—an imaginary encounter between the viewer and the dodos in seventeenth century Mauritius Island.

Of course, photo does not equal dodo. A model and an image are not the same as the real thing. Science may some day be able to bring the dodo back to Mauritius. Until then, what art has to offer is, to the dead bird, as faint a consolation prize as one's own thimble.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Looks Like Caruso . . . Just Uttered a Dramatic One-Liner

Brian
40 Dramatic Pauses
22 Expressive Donnings of Sunglasses
1 Horatio Caine

(Via YesButNoButYes.)

UPDATE
And if you like that, you'll love(?) David Caruso Revealed. The things I find in these comments.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Teenager's Photo Stolen for Porno Cover

Brian

Lara, a teenage photographer from the UK, had a self-portrait, which she took when she was fourteen, ripped off by a pornographer for the cover of a porno DVD:
As soon as I'd found out relevant information and I send a long and 'friendly' letter to TVX Films—to my suprise I got an abrupt e-mail back from the owner who claimed that 'his company does NOT steal pictures off the internet and he recieved it from a company they've been in business with for 25 years'.

I found it hilarious, since I still remember taking that photograph back in 2004, I even have one of the first prints at my local walmart store with the date on! AND my small watermark on the dress which had been removed on the dvd cover..
After a few e-mails I found it obvious that I wasn't getting anywhere and that the owner was definately a sleaze himself. This is what he said in reply to me, in big bold capital letters to make a statement—

"I’M SURE BY THE END OF THE MONTH YOUR FACE WILL BE HISTORY. WE HAVE STOPPED SELLING THE DVD UNTIL COVER IS REPLACED. WE HAVE FURTHER CHECKED OUT YOUR NAME AND ITS NOT LIKE IT’S A HOUSE WHOLE NAME. ACTUALLY, REMOVING YOUR IMAGE WILL HELP IMPROVE THE SELL OF THE DVD….. SO FAR IT BOMBED"

He also claimed I was 'scheming' and had set him up - placing the image on a public domain so companies can steal it and I can sue them... er, what? I actually had this image on only one website for a few years until I joined flickr - just DeviantART and it was clear that wasn't a public domain when underneath each of my picture there is a disclaimer CLEARLY stating the obvious (that's it's copyright)... and ALSO i had a bloody © symbol and my name written across my dress!!! Isn't that enough to warn anyone off anyway?

When I asked for compensation he said "AS FOR COMPSENSATION;YOUR SILLY!". and this was one of the end comments he made—

"THEY ARE REMAKING THE COVER AS WE SPEAK SO YOUR TEN SECONDS OF FAME WILL SOON COME TO AN END"

My so called ten seconds of fame was from a porno dvd? No thanks.
Link (via Consumerist). The video is being marketed by Hustler despite it not even barely being legal.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Brian

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