Archive for Entirely Too Cool

Obviously five believers

If I’m known for anything in blogdom — and who says I am? — it’s got to be my post-titling prowess, which is either a major accomplishment or a major embarrassment, depending on who’s doing the critique. I find it delightful that even real scientists doing serious research aren’t above this same sort of shenanigans:

Five Swedish scientists have confessed that they have been quoting Bob Dylan lyrics in research articles and are running a wager on who can squeeze the most in before retirement.

The game started seventeen years ago when two Professors from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, John Jundberg and Eddie Weitzberg, wrote a piece about gas passing through intestines, with the title “Nitric Oxide and inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind”.

I don’t think I could have resisted that one myself.

Another competitor:

Kenneth Chien, Professor of Cardiovascular Research has also been quoting his idol for years and his fellow scientists recently got wind of his articles which include: “Tangled up in blue: Molecular cardiology in the postmolecular era”.

I have no idea how old these guys are, but surely there’s enough Dylan material to last them until that hard rain starts to fall.

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A different swing altogether

The explanation isn’t any more complicated than this:

When Han Solo was about to be placed in carbonite, he told Chewie to take care of Princess Leia. What happened after that was almost a love story for the ages. Almost.

Um, yeah. Almost:

If there’s anything I love as much as my favorite songs, it’s my favorite songs as filtered through Star Wars. And these are the same folks who did this one:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Mean Equestria girls

When the first Equestria Girls feature arrived last year, I noted that “I’ve already seen Mean Girls.” Nothing in that frothy little film, however, prepares you for the blackened hearts and overwrought costumes of the Dazzlings, whose origin is not from around Canterlot High, but from an Equestrian adaptation of Greek mythology, and whose song can turn anyone’s soul to the Dark Side.

Inasmuch as they didn’t have to spend half the running time explaining things, Rainbow Rocks is a far better film than its predecessor, and while there is the usual wagonload of sight gags and unexpected cameos and fanservice, there’s a nicely unfolded plot (so to speak) paced with precision, and packed with more (and better!) songs. But the best thing here, I think, is the redemption of Sunset Shimmer, once a villain, still working on being accepted as a friend; Sunset is the one character in the humanized-pony universe that is proving to have staying power. (Flash Sentry, maybe not so much.) If they’re going to keep turning out EqG stories at this level and on this budget — apparently Rainbow Rocks was distributed on Blu-ray disk — Hasbro and DHX will have pulled off a remarkable double play with a single set of characters.

We got only the one showing in town; it sold out some time before last night. (I’d ordered an online ticket on Wednesday.) About 10 percent of the crowd was doing some level of cosplay. And everyone duly hung around through all the credits, as they should have. There is, of course, a hashtag: #Ready2RainbowRock.

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Let’s beat those Romulans

I may actually see this come to pass in my lifetime.

Or, more precisely, not see this:

Invisibility cloaks have been getting a lot of press over the years. That’s not only because Harry Potter put his fictional cloak to such good use, but also because researchers have been using high-tech metamaterials to create structures capable of bending light around an object to keep it hidden.

The invisibility device developed by researchers at the University of Rochester bends light as well, but not in the ways that magical cloaks or metamaterials do.

“We just figured a very simple way of doing that can just be using standard lenses, and things that we normally find in the lab,” physics professor John Howell said in a video explaining the setup.

Which you can see, so to speak, at that first link. The gobsmacking aspect of it is that I can almost comprehend it with my limited knowledge of optics — which suggests that it’s not too far away from some sort of real-life (so to speak) implementation.

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This is Spinal Tape

Says so right on the package, in fact:

Spinal Tape by Copernicus

Otherwise, it’s a fairly standard two-inch-wide packing tape, on a 25-meter roll (kinda Smalls), but it’s suitable for packing jobs of typical Tufnelity.

Copernicus, the manufacturer thereof, also offers DNA and Botany versions of the same tape, all at around $13 list.

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Doing it from Pole to Pole

When’s the last time that happened?

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An Arr-free zone

“There is no point,” says Roger, “to Talk Like A Pirate Day.”

This, of course, is true. However, it does give me the opportunity to trot out a favorite comedy bit: “The Pirate Alphabet,” from Michael Nesmith’s 1981 comedy video Elephant Parts, which I still have on LaserDisc.

You’d be surprised how many of these letters aren’t R.

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First cud is the deepest

Looks like Ronald Reagan called this one right on the nose:

Argentina’s National Institute for Agricultural Technology (INTA) has invented a way to convert cow flatulence into usable energy, and it involves putting a plastic backpack on a cow.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, cow flatulence and burping, accounts for 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year in the United States, that’s 20% of total US methane emissions.

Yeah, but how much is that per cow?

According to the INTA experimentation, tubes run from the backpack into the cows’ rumen (or biggest digestive tract). They extract about 300 liters of methane a day, which is enough to run a car or a fridge for about 24 hours.

I’m guessing really large fridge or really small car.

I’m still not buying ketchup as a vegetable, though.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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A two-octave range

I have always wondered — since the early 1970s or thereabouts, anyway — just how it was that Bernie Taupin could churn out the words first, and only then would Elton John come up with a melody to fit them.

I need no longer wonder:

(Via Maureen Johnson.)

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A ray of light in Sacramento

There exists an asinine little bit of legal smugfuckery known as the Non- Disparagement Clause, usually sneaked into the smallest available type way down the page(s) in the contract you don’t have time to read in the first place. Examples thereof:

First there was the lawsuit of KlearGear.com’s non-disparagement clause, which tried to slap customers with $3,500 penalties if they complain about a purchase in a public forum. The clause was buried two pages deep on the site’s Terms of Sale, where no reasonable person would be expected to find it. A customer sued the site after being hit with the fee and the retailer was ordered to pay $306,000 in damages.

More recently, a customer of a very sketchy site called Accessory Outlet sued because its Terms of Sale … include a non-disparagement clause that charges customers $250 for even threatening to complain online or to issue a credit card chargeback.

This sort of crap is now illegal in the Golden State:

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed off on a piece of legislation that will make it illegal to try to enforce one of these silly clauses against a California consumer starting in 2015.

Violating the California law will result in penalties of up to $2,500 for the first instance, and up to $5,000 for each subsequent violation. If a customer can prove that it is [a] “willful, intentional, or reckless violation” they can be awarded a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000.

The other 56 states should do likewise at their earliest convenience.

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Acts to grind

If you’ve ever told yourself “I just can’t get into opera,” here’s a handy guide to make it easier for you:

Anatomy of Operas

(Via the Facebook page of San Francisco classical station KDFC.)

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There was always the need

Even if Londoners of the Thirties didn’t know @jack:

I wonder how, or if, they checked it for spam.

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Future dark

Carly Simon, 1972: “You flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia / To see the total eclipse of the sun.”

Yours truly, 2017: I’m driving my Infiniti (or whatever) up to Kansas City to see the total eclipse of the sun:

This is truly a great American eclipse because for the first time in 99 years, totality will sweep the nation from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Nearly everyone in the 48 contiguous states can reach this total solar eclipse within one day’s drive.

I have family in the Kansas City area, and it’s right on the edge of totality. It’s a win/win proposition all around, and I’m sure Carly won’t mind.

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And I’ll bet it was cold

A remarkable archaeological find:

What is believed to be the only wooden toilet seat to be found in the Roman Empire has been unearthed at Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall… There are many examples of stone and marble toilet seat benches from across the Roman Empire but this is believed to be the only surviving wooden seat, almost perfectly preserved in the anaerobic, oxygen free, conditions which exist at Vindolanda.

Ancient Roman toilet seat

Said Dr Andrew Birley, director of excavations at the Vindolanda site:

“Now we need to find the toilet that went with it as Roman loos are fascinating places to excavate as their drains often contain astonishing artefacts… Let’s face it, if you drop something down a Roman latrine you are unlikely to attempt to fish it out unless you are pretty brave or foolhardy.”

Discoveries at Vindolanda from latrines have included a baby boot, coins, a betrothal medallion, and a bronze lamp.

But one discovery has yet to be made:

Archaeologists now hope to find a spongia — the natural sponge on a stick which Romans used instead of toilet paper, and with over 100 years of archaeology remaining and the unique conditions for the preservation of such organic finds a discovery may be possible.

Judging by the photo, the seat was found in the Down position.

(Via TYWKIWDBI.)

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But fourteen’s not mad about me

I adore the sonnet form. I can’t write in it to save my life — the one time I came up with perfect meter and reasonable scansion, I discovered I’d done only thirteen lines — but I adore it just the same.

And this won’t change my mind, either:

Taylor Swift's We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together in sonnet form

(Via Fillyjonk.)

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Almost none more black

I mean, you’ve got to go to actual black holes to get much blacker than this:

What we call the color of an object is just whatever wavelengths of light it doesn’t soak up, rocketing into our corneas and telling us something about its properties. Most things, even things that are very dark, still reflect back some light, imparting useful information. You can see creases even in the blackest velour.

But a material called Vantablack, being refined in labs now, traps light so completely that practically none escapes. The substance captures a full 99.96 percent of the light that hits it, which the human visual system perceives as deep, textureless blackness. Even when it’s applied to aluminum foil and then wrinkled, the part covered with Vantablack looks just as flat as can be, with no discernible silvery creases. It’s eerie, to have the physical world line up so poorly with expectations. It’s also potentially very valuable — making it look like there’s nothing where there’s really something is a long-time goal for defense departments.

If the price of this stuff ever drops below that of unobtainium, I think I want a jacket coated with it.

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It’s life, Ivan, but not as we know it

Well, actually, it does look sort of familiar:

The Russian press agency ITAR-TASS is reporting something so surprising that I’m having a hard time believing it: Cosmonauts have found microorganisms on the exterior of the International Space Station. Russian scientists are shocked by this discovery and can’t really explain how it is possible.

According to the chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission, Vladimir Solovjev, these findings “are absolutely unique.”

Which is more than merely unique, you know.

At this point the Russian space agency can’t really explain how sea plankton ended [up] on the International Space Station. They have discarded spaceships taking the microorganisms there. Their only explanation is that atmospheric currents may be lifting these particles from the ocean all the way to the station, 205 miles (330 kilometers) up in the sky — which seems absolutely nuts to me.

Like most unexpected life forms, this one turned up during cleaning. Solovjev, quoted by ITAR-TASS:

“We are conducting special works to polish somehow and put illuminators in order. This is particularly needed during long space flights.”

You don’t suppose this stuff was growing on the cleaning equipment, do you?

(Via Fark.)

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That’s one huge motherfocal

Seriously. This lens dwarfs any camera you’re likely to own:

The Canon 1200/5.6L USM … has been built on a special-order basis since 1993, and the ‘official word’ is there are “more than twelve, less than twenty” of them in existence. With a price tag equivalent to a pair of his-and-her sports coupes, they were produced at the rate of about 2-per-year and a delivery time of about 18 months. National Geographic magazine, Sports Illustrated, Canon Professional Services, and a few well-heeled enthusiasts are counted among the fortunate few who own these unique optics. A box of donuts says the Feds probably have a few squirreled away somewhere, but this is something we can neither confirm nor deny. What you get for your money is a monster lens with an angle of view of about 2° on a full-frame 35 mm camera.

The last of them is believed to have been produced in 2005. A couple of specs:

For the record, the Canon 1200/5.6L USM contains 13 elements (including 2 Fluorite) in 10 groups, stops down to f32, and has a minimum focus of 45.9′.

And there is actually one for sale, if you’re prepared to write a very large check:

It’s selling at MPB Photographic, which describes the second-hand lens as being in “virtually immaculate condition with barely a discernable mark anywhere on the barrel.”

They’re asking £99,000, which is about a one-third premium over Canon’s original selling price of, um, $120,000.

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Tanks for the mobility

So I’m sitting here, wondering if my knees are going to be acting up again next week, as they often do in the presence of serious damp, and it occurs to me: Why shouldn’t someone who uses a wheelchair be able to go way the hell off-road?

And this is why I’m thinking that:

The low-suds version — there are three in the line — packs a 16-hp electric motor. And it can take a 60-percent grade, something I can’t do walking these days. Yes, it’s expensive, and Medicare won’t pay for it. I don’t care. (Yet.)

(Via Autoblog.)

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Because terse

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This is not your grandma’s Bunny Hop

(Via neo-neocon, who’s actually witnessed one of these events, though not this one specifically.)

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An idea worthy of emulation

I am not, to my knowledge, located anywhere recognizable on the Autism Spectrum, but I can see serious value in this practice at any gathering larger than a hoof-ful:

Of course, if I show up somewhere with a blue badge, you may safely assume that somewhere down the line I messed up.

BronyCon starts Friday, 1 August, at the Baltimare Baltimore Convention Center.

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Your weekly dose of Hinky

Hinky Dinky Time with Uncle Michael

And this is why you ought to know about it this week, in my semi-humble opinion:

At 9:00 AM (Eastern time) on Friday, July 18th, 2014, please join Uncle Michael in a six-hour odyssey celebrating the history of the Warner Brothers “Loss Leaders.”

Beginning in 1969, Warner Brothers began selling samplers of music by artists on Warner Brothers, Reprise and other, associated labels. These samplers were comprised of a diverse array of artists and styles and were generally presented as double albums which sold for $2. They advertised on the inner sleeves of normal catalog product, in magazine ads, in promotional flyers and at point of sale displays. If you’re of a certain age, these come-ons were ubiquitous.

Listing and classifying these albums has been a side project of this site since the late 20th century. Uncle Michael and I had a longish discussion on what is, and what may not be, a Loss Leader in this context; be it known that I fully support his selections for the playlist, because the guy knows as least as much as I do on the subject, and maybe more.

If you’re not within broadcast distance of the Oranges — WFMU is licensed to East Orange, New Jersey, and its transmitter is located in West Orange — the stream is pretty much always available at wfmu.org.

Update: A darn good show, it was. This was the playlist.

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Though it doesn’t work on water

Hoverboard by MattelIt doesn’t actually work on land, either, come to think of it, but that’s not going to stop the WANT reflex:

We’ve all been demanding hoverboards ever since Marty McFly took off on one in 1989’s Back To The Future II, but now you could own the real thing.

The actual hoverboard used in the film is up for auction at Vue Cinema’s entertainment and prop store live auction, which takes place at Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush in October. It’s one of 375 lots of original props, constumes and production material from a host of movies.

Expected selling price: £15,000, or several gigawallets.

(Via Fark.)

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Expert timing

I remember both ends of this equation entirely too well:

I asked him if he remembered a particular Commodore 64 file, about fourteen seconds of the Carl Douglas dance classic “Kung Fu Fighting,” which used every single one of the 38911 bytes set aside for BASIC programs plus several K more. Of course he had, and he directed me toward this loop:

Now the C64’s SID chip was capable of more than the usual electronics bloops and bleeps — it was just this side of a full-fledged synth — but I had never imagined that it could do that. Now we have music files that use more disk space than used to be available on hard drives.

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Say yes to Z Dress

I might be excessively impressed by this, largely because I have no idea how difficult to live with it might be, but what I can see, I sort of like:

Z Dress Lookbook from Anastasia on Vimeo.

Then again, I used to own a couple of reversible ties. If you must judge me, judge me for that.

(Seen here.)

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Meanwhile among the Haligonians

What most of us Down Here know about Nova Scotia boils down to some vain guy flying his Learjet up thataway to see a solar eclipse. Obviously we’re not getting the whole story, so it’s time to dispatch a trusted emissary:

I must agree with all the locals that I’ve, that we’ve talked to, that Halifax IS CANADA’S BEST KEPT SECRET. In a week, we’ve explored the coastline, crept the forests, the very quaint city herself, Halifax.

I don’t know where to begin, to describe the reception that we’ve enjoyed so much while here: Warm, friendly locals, the staff here at Heritage Hideaway Inn, the (cheap) prices on everything, the ease in getting around … Leticia and I fly home next Saturday morning early, and there will be a part of me that doesn’t want to leave. I have felt relaxed from minute One here. These folks are the essence of “laid back”. It’s like they won’t be happy unless you, the guest is happy, too.

Then again, “most of us” obviously does not mean “all of us.” A local woman was once heard to say: “If I weren’t happily married and tied down with all kinds of material debts, I would run off to Nova Scotia with him.” More amazingly, by “him” she meant me.

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Would you like to swing on a star?

Well, you know, that kind of depends on exactly what we’re swinging on:

It might seem like some sort of troll, but “Putin Is A Dickhead” is now an officially registered star after a group of Ukrainian astronomers got together with some pro-Ukraine activists to cement Putin’s status in the cosmos.

Depending on who’s doing the translation, “Putin-Huilo” might conceivably mean the Russian strongman is something other than a “dickhead” — but certainly nothing nicer-sounding.

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Jenny sets the lineup

How could this possibly go wrong?

It is, of course, right and proper that the Designated Hitter, an abomination unto the Lord, is assigned the number zero.

The Tigers were not amused, however, and blasted Rays pitcher Erik Bedard for six runs on eight hits in two innings, pocketing an 8-1 win at home and dropping Tampa Bay further into the cellar. (Weirdly, the Rays have identical road and home records: they’re 19-25 either way.)

And no, that Squeeze song wouldn’t work: you’d have to send two players into the order twice.

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Mehcanized for your protection

The invaluable Nancy Friedman treats us to an explanation of the handy Japanese term “fukubukuro,” which turns out to be basically a Woot Bag O’ Crap that lacks actual crappiness.

Speaking of Woot, if you’ve been thinking that it’s been a lot less fun, or at least a lot more complicated, since Amazon bought them out, you’re not the only one who thinks so:

How come every time something simple gets popular, people want to make it more complicated? And less fun? And then eventually less popular? Like how raw, energetic rock ‘n’ roll turned into pompous, sluggish stadium rock. Or how superhero comics mutated into a baffling mess of retcons and reboots. Or how daily deals turned into … well, whatever the hell you call it when an online store has too much selection to be easy to use, but too little to find what you want.

That’s why the guys who invented the daily-deal thing are embarking on a grand experiment to bring it back. Back to its simple roots. Back to when one deal every day meant one deal, not a compacted mass of overstock matter plugging up the Internet like that stuff they found inside Elvis. Back to when a trained chicken could literally have done your shopping for you.

So saith Matt Rutledge, head honcho of Meh, which drew 147 percent of its Kickstarter goal in a mere four days. Mr Rutledge is also known for creating, um, Woot. And somewhere in the Mehzzanine, I sort of hope there’s a fukubukuro with a silly name.

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