Archive for Entirely Too Cool

The A-list for bees

An operation called “Killer Bees Honey” invites questions, most of them connected to that first word:

Like most Americans in our diverse nation, Killer Bee ancestry traces back to other continents.

In 1956, Brazilian beekeepers, faced with low honey productivity, imported African honeybee queens to breed with their own Old World bees. Apis mellifera scutellata, or just scutellata (Killer Bees), were the progeny. This cross-bred honeybee was a highly productive, albeit petulant, subspecies.

Underwhelmed with their new digs and despite stern warnings from their human handlers, rebellious scutellata escaped from “managed” labs and established large, self-sustaining feral populations throughout South America. Soon, scientists discovered that the Killer Bee queens reproduced at up to five times the rate of European queens. Plus, the local virgin European queens preferred scutellata males.

Never mind that. Are these really Killers?

Invariably, I’m asked if we really have Killer Bees. My answer: Yes and no. Recent analysis of honeybee mitochondrial DNA reveals that most bees in America possess a small percentage of scutellata genetics. My apiary’s Old World bees are mostly Italian and Carniolan. But when I’m stung, I see and feel the scutellata in them.

Fair enough. “Killer,” after all, is more noun than adjective, or so it seems to me.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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In which Shkreli is shkrewed

You gotta love this:

The man who sparked outrage last year by hiking the price of a life-saving drug may have met his match in some Australian schoolboys.

US executive Martin Shkreli became a symbol of greed when he raised the price of a tablet of Daraprim from $13.50 (£11) to $750.

Now, Sydney school students have recreated the drug’s key ingredient for just $20.

Daraprim is an anti-parasitic drug used by malaria and Aids patients.

The Sydney Grammar boys, all 17, synthesised the active ingredient, pyrimethamine, in their school science laboratory.

“It wasn’t terribly hard but that’s really the point, I think, because we’re high school students,” one boy, Charles Jameson, told the BBC.

The students produced 3.7 grams of pyrimethamine for $20. In the US, the same quantity would cost up to $110,000.

In response, Shkreli issued the following statement:

(Via Fark.)

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Mr. Hill goes to Washington

Meet Jackson:

Jackson Hill up a tree

Jackson is a fifth grader at Luff Elementary School in Independence, MO. He has been recognized as a student who has achieved academic excellence and possesses strong leadership potential and was nominated by his art teacher to attend the Junior National Young Leaders Conference (JrNYLC) to be held the summer of 2017 in Washington, DC.

Jackson is the older son of Russell Hill, the one and only son of, um, me.

This will cost close to $3000, so naturally, there’s a GoFundMe.

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Take away his name already

It’s the Daily Double!

Elapsed time: eight minutes.

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It’s Cobra-Matic!

I have no idea what that means, but we’ll find out:

Zenith Black Magic TV console

Great LBD, of course. Still, what’s with the Cobra-Matic?

This:

A lot to offer for 1951, I think.

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Mostly, it’s fast

Really, really fast:

Laser physicists in Munich have developed a method to record the change of states of electrons in atoms when they are struck by light. Those changes happen incredibly fast, in a period of time called, wonderfully, a “zeptosecond.”

The specific study was done on helium atoms, which have two electrons. When a light with enough energy strikes a helium atom, the energy is absorbed in one of two ways — either all of it by one of them, or half-and-half. Either way, one electron is ejected from the atom, and the new process, described in the story, can see that happen because of its “zeptosecond” shutter speed. The actual duration of a zeptosecond, if you are curious, is a trillionth of a billionth of a second — slightly less than the attention span of the modern media.

The time between the light turning green and the jerk behind you leaning on his horn is somewhat longer than a zeptosecond, though it doesn’t seem much longer.

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Saturday spottings (it Hast to be)

It began with a message from Jennifer Hast:

Alright, this is stupid. Let’s get together in real life. It should have happened already by now.

What are you doing this Saturday evening?

Well, yeah, I suppose it should have. I mean, we’re here in the same (almost) town, and we’ve traded imprecations for some time.

And so:

No, not that. Don’t be rude. Jennifer and hubby Michael and the resident teenager and an old friend descended on Fassler Hall in Midtown, to find this here old guy in a walker. Once I got my head around the fact that several of my medications prohibit things like beer, we spent about four hours getting to know one another and swapping improbable stories that nonetheless were totally true. Brewskis were ingested (not by the teenager or by me), and several pictures were taken. (The Hasts have matching Nikons, because reasons.) The food was highly non-nourishing and therefore delicious; I had their version of a Chicago dog (pickle, sport pepper, tomato, onion, yellow mustard, neon relish, celery salt), which was great fun, not especially neat, and reasonably priced. The atmosphere, of course, was boisterous, but hey, it’s Saturday night.

A splendid time was had by all, and we will have to Do This Again someday.

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Also meanwhile in the Wiregrass

An organization is born:

The Good Vibe Tribe began from a conversation between Mayor Mike Schmitz and Melody Hicks at a non-profit event one evening in June, 2016. The Mayor was discussing all of the negativity we hear every day on local, state and national levels, and he then began sharing unbelievable stories about so many individuals in our town that do kind and generous things without the expectation of recognition or reward. He asked, “Why can’t we hear more stories about these kind of people? The ones that give every day. The ones that often go unnoticed.” While the Good Vibe Tribe was born from the Mayor’s desire to recognize the compassion of so many of our residents, the Tribe will hopefully evolve into a community-wide effort to transform the City of Dothan through one random act of kindness at a time.

The Tribe is currently passing along this poster:

Poster by Good Vibe Tribe, Dothan, Alabama

Doesn’t seem all that difficult.

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And lo, the daylight was saved

Although it appears here to have been largely subsumed by mist:

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Stranded, so to speak

This little guy literally blew into the neighborhood this week:

TubShroom

Of course, I had to check its papers. The production was Kickstarted in late 2015, and they raised about five times the original goal. A single unit was offered to each backer who ponied up $17; the current retail price seems to be $12.99.

(A tip of the hat, hoping it doesn’t blow away, to Tricia Dameron Hines.)

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Some folks do recover

Wikipedia describes one possible cause of cauda equina syndrome:

CES can be caused by lumbar spinal stenosis, which is when the diameter of the spinal canal narrows. This could be the result of a degenerative process of the spine (such as osteoarthritis) or a developmental defect which is present at birth. In the most severe cases of spondylolisthesis cauda equina syndrome can result.

Ann Wheeler, CES suffererI know from spinal stenosis; I had some serious surgery to correct the matter. I did not, however, develop CES. Now I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should have:

A mother who was inspired by a near-death experience to get “body confident” and go on 20-mile hikes in just a bikini and boots is facing a backlash from other women.

Ann Wheeler, from Clayton-le-Woods, Lancashire, suffers from Cauda Equina syndrome — a rare spinal condition that can cause paralysis.

The 59-year-old claims that the post-op experience motivated her to take up walking and wild swimming as natural pain management as she believes it is as strong as traditional painkillers.

Surgery, you may be certain, sucks:

After undergoing a gruelling five-hour op five years ago, Ann explained she technically died after all her bodily functions shut down.

She explained: “A male nurse helped me get out of bed the following day, I said I didn’t feel very well and the next thing I was out. I remember a doctor working on my chest. When I came to he said ‘welcome back, you’re back with us’. I also remember going down a black hole — it was then my bodily functions had shut down. I turned my life around after that — it took six months to get me walking again but now I can walk 78 miles in three days.”

I’m not walking after four months. Maybe I should have had my bodily functions shut down.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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A woman of many phases

It wasn’t that long ago that we looked in on Lorna Burford of Raindrops of Sapphire and saw Tinker Bell looking back at us.

Lorna Burford as Captain AmericaAs far as I’m concerned, she can dress up as anyone she darn well pleases:

Not only is Captain America my favourite comic book character as you all know, but turning myself and these photos into a real life comic book was like a dream come true for me too. It’s taken hours to edit and do this entire shoot from start to finish, but I have to say that I’m incredibly proud of these photos and I haven’t had as much fun on a shoot as this!

Sourcing, because after all she’s a fashion blogger:

I got this costume from Escapade and I think it’s fantastic. It fits really well actually and is quite comfortable, but it doesn’t come with the boots, so I had some help getting hold of these thigh high pvc red ones from a friend and I think they suit the costume perfectly.

We’re only giving you the faintest hint of the look here, hoping more than usual that you’ll dial over and see the whole photoset.

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He’s on the Pill

Her pill is crammed full of hormones and can cause all sorts of mischief. His pill, maybe not so much:

Scientists have made a breakthrough which could be key to developing a male contraceptive pill.

The discovery uses a peptide which changes the way human cells work, “switching off” sperm’s ability to swim, to render men temporarily infertile.

And unlike that thing she takes, this concoction is pretty close to instantaneous:

Lead researcher Professor John Howl, of Wolverhampton University, said the new compound, made in the lab, had shown immediate results.

“The results are startling — and almost instant. When you take healthy sperm and add our compound, within a few minutes the sperm basically cannot move,” he said.

Guys being generally suspicious of the sorts of contraception for which they must assume responsibility, I suspect this product will eventually be sold in Buffalo, Bar-B-Q and Chipotle flavors.

(Via HelloGiggles.)

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A little bit downmarket

World Tour ’08 took me to Marfa, Texas, where I snapped this picture of an objet d’art posing as a retail store:

Simulated Prada store in Marfa, Texas

This week, my son Russell is in Alpine, Texas, about 30 miles east of Marfa, and he snagged this shot of an object somewhat less arty:

Simulated Target store in Alpine, Texas

Just for the hell of it, I ran a search, and while there are many 7-Elevens surrounding Beverly Hills, there are none in 90210. Or, for that matter, in 90211 or 90212.

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A wish was made

This is Angel Wings, the OC (original character) pony — you’ve already seen mine — of young Alexis Heule:

Angel Wings

You may also have noted that this same pony was a character in S06E24, “Top Bolt,” voiced by, yes, Alexis Heule. Sethisto explains:

When I first saw and heard Angel Wings in “Top Bolt”, I had the feeling that this was going to be the case. She is slightly different than your typical backgrounder, and fangirling over Dashie and Twilight is something a lot of us would probably want to do. Turns out there was a reason for it. A quick query over to Big Jim on Twitter revealed the real story… DHX has scooped up another kid from the Make-A-Wish foundation. Angel Wings was an actual little girl and fan of the show. And considering giant bows are the best thing ever, I can’t complain at all.

For “was,” read “is”: Angel Wings is still with us, for now.

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Please clap

Fashion blogger Lorna Burford (Raindrops of Sapphire) takes Halloween very seriously; in fact, she’s asking for costume advice in advance of the Big Day.

Personally, I think she’s going to have to work pretty doggone hard to beat her 2014 appearance:

Lorna Burford as Tinker Bell

Then again, I suppose I’ve always had something of a weakness for Tink.

(Greyscaled because I wanted to give you more incentive to look at her site, where she’s live and in colour.)

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Thank you for being a doll

For some inscrutable reason, this makes me smile:

Golden Girls action figures

Funko is selling this set, and apparently they nailed it:

Check out the amazing detail on the fabulous four. Blanche looking all sly and sexy in her red lounge wear, sweet, innocent Rose in a cute, pink wrap-dress, Dorothy having absolutely none of your shit as she sports sensible shoes and her signature dour expression. But it’s Sophia who steals the show with her infamous purse in hand, ready to smack someone upside the head. They’re all just too perfect.

I’m still trying to get my mind around the phrase “Blanche Devereaux action figure.”

Initial distribution will be at New York Comic-Con, but eventually these will be within the reach of us homebound types.

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Nothing to do, nowhere to go?

There’s a sign going up in Forest Hills in the borough of Queens that you just might want to see:

An intersection in Forest Hills, New York will be officially renamed “The Ramones Way” as a memorial to the legendary punk band. It [is] the intersection of 67th Avenue and 110th Street, right in front of Forest Hills High School, where the band’s original lineup met and would later become inductees into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

The street will officially be unveiled on October 23, following a proposal passed by the City Council July 14, according to councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).

(With thanks to Rob O’Hara, who quipped: “In other news, I still have to get off the interstate at Garth Brooks Blvd.”)

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Some hard-headed research

There are minor concussions, and there are major concussions. And they tend to look exactly alike out in the field, which makes this gizmo pretty useful:

“Did your brain slow down? How do we measure that objectively?” said Dr. Nancey Tsai, the creator of the Blink Reflexometer.

She said the device can answer those questions.

In the blink of an eye, she said the device can determine if there’s been any changes to the brain’s processing abilities. CEO Mark Semler and the team at the Zucker Institute of Applied Neuroscience in Charleston helped make the invention a reality.

“The computer logs 20 parameters per eye — all these different subtleties about the blink reflex,” said Semler. Through quick air bursts, the device measures the brain’s reaction time. Unlike other technology, this provides numbers.

Right now, it has one disadvantage:

The Blink Reflexometer is currently hauled around on a cart, but eventually, they’ll make it into a handheld device to use on the sidelines at both professional and high school sports.

It’s probably pricey, but hey: sportsball.

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At the corner of Sci and Fi

Well, not exactly, but the description sort of fits:

The intersection of Franklin and Vermont avenues may soon be known as “Forrest J. Ackerman Square,” thanks to an August motion by Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu (CD 4).

The square would honor Ackerman, a lifetime Angeleno best known for coining the term “sci-fi.”

Ackerman, referred to affectionately as “Uncle Forry” by friends and fans, founded and edited Famous Monsters of Filmland, a magazine that reportedly inspired such greats as Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson to become filmmakers.

Mark Evanier notes that the intersection’s connection to Ackerman is sort of tenuous:

Three of its four corners have nothing to do with him at all. The fourth is where his favorite place to dine — the House of Pies restaurant — is located.

I’ve dined at that restaurant — in fact, I dined there once with Forry — and I don’t see how it could be anybody’s favorite restaurant.

All the more reason for Ackerman to have adopted it, I suspect.

(Swiped from Roger Green.)

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A truly World Tour

I’ve done a few road trips in my day, often designated by the phrase “World Tour,” though none of them ever left the States (there were some close approaches) and the longest one was a commute short of 5,000 miles.

Proposed road trip from London to New York

Still, this gets me thinking:

Vladimir Yakunin is the head of Russian Railways and he’s got a big dream.

According to CNN, he is proposing a superhighway that will allow transportation from Nome, Alaska to Russia by crossing the Bering Strait. The highway will then take travelers to Moscow and ultimately end in London.

Dubbed the Trans-Eurasian Belt Development (TEPR), “a theoretical drive from London to Alaska via Moscow might cover about 12,978 kilometers (8,064 miles),” reports CNN. In total, if you traveled from New York to London, you would cover approximately 12,910 miles.

Downside: this glosses over the fact that the Bering Strait, at its narrowest point, is more than 50 miles across. Fortunately, it’s not necessary to build a single 50-mile span; the Diomede Islands sit in the middle of the strait. And while icebergs as such aren’t a threat, a six-foot-thick ice floe can play hell with a bridge.

Also downside:

Right now, the plans haven’t been approved, and with Yakinin estimating the cost to be trillions of dollars, no one has generously stepped up to foot the bill.

Quelle surprise.

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What happens in Las Pegasus

Further evidence that pony subsumes all:

Britney Spears in Las Vegas, and the pony equivalent in Las Pegasus

Even the timing — the MLP:FiM screen comes from “Viva Las Pegasus,” which first aired on 17 September — is exquisite.

(With thanks to Twilight Farkle.)

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Reach to exceed grasp

This spiffy little device from Ettore is called “Grip ‘n Grab”:

Grip 'n Grab Amazon photo

The physical-therapy folks hinted that they’d be ordering one for me, but I figured it wasn’t going to happen, until yesterday when one of them (the 32-inch version) showed up on my porch in an Amazon box.

It wasn’t from the therapists, though. It was an anonymous gift, with a brief paragraph from the unknown sender, including this:

This gift symbolizes what I would like to do: give you a hand in this difficult time.

I think I know who sent it, but I’m not going to nose around. And I’ve already paid this forward on behalf of an underemployed Twitter friend.

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One minute to autodestruct

Is this cool, or what?

The possibilities aren’t exactly endless, but they are impressive:

Phonetic recording allows producers of future Star Trek media to re-assemble individual syllables said by Barrett so the late actress can “say” entirely new things. Hopefully we’ll hear her in Star Trek: Discovery‘s LCARS System.

It would also be great if we could hear Barrett on our smartphone, much like Apple’s Siri voice. Custom smartphone voices are hard to get right now, but one day we might be able to download custom voices from the Apple Store. And it looks like [the] Roddenberry estate is trying to make one of those custom voices that of a Star Trek ship computer.

Um … WANT.

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Everything in numbers

This might be where things got a little bit out of hand: a digital sundial. Yes, really:

Then again, why the heck not?

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Beyond the little black dress

In fact, beyond much of the universe. This astronomer has an image from the Hubble Deep Field imprinted on her dress:

Hubble deep field dress

She swears she found it at Macy’s.

(Via TYWKIWDBI.)

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Honestly, I hadn’t heard

A St. Louis-area dealer group knows the word, or at least the syllable:

I caught a fragment of this between innings in a Cardinals game, and had to track it down. Of course I did.

Addendum: They also have a Chevy dealership in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

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Ready for Brace class

Not news: Irish wolfhound mother gives birth to seven puppies.

News: Two of those puppies are identical twins:

[S]omething was different about this delivery. When he started the procedure, [Dr. Kurt] de Cramer noticed that the wolfhound had an unusual bulging by her uterus.

At first, he thought the lump was excess fluid surrounding a foetus. De Cramer painstakingly extracted this foetus from the bulge by making an incision into the dog’s uterus.

That was when the real shock came. He found not one, but two foetuses. They were both attached with umbilical cords to the same placenta.

Five siblings followed in single file, connected to five separate placentas.

It is thought that identical twins are rare because, when two foetuses share one placenta, they do not get enough nutrients from the mother and are therefore less likely to survive.

For instance, identical twin foetuses have been reported in horses, but none have survived. A horse’s placenta is not efficient enough to transport oxygen for two foetuses.

Citation: DOI: 10.1111/rda.12746.

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Prepare for your head to hurt

Migraine-detecting dress designed by Grace BuckwalterIt’s kind of stylish in an early-80s TRON way, but it’s far more than eye candy:

[I]t’s sometimes difficult to tell when a migraine is coming on.

To help her mother, 15-year-old Grace Buckwalter decided to find a way to help detect a migraine before it starts. She has designed a dress that changes colors based on brain activity. Grace says, “It’s like a mood ring, but a dress.” Her efforts have resulted in a great deal of attention, including local television and TEDxLancaster.

How does it work?

The dress has a very special accessory, a headpiece that Grace borrowed from the game Mindflex. In Mindflex, the headpiece uses electroencephalography (EEG) technology to steer a Styrofoam ball through an optical course. With the dress, the headpiece interprets brainwaves, then transmits data through a circuit into a microprocessor. The microprocessor then emits light of different colors through optic fibers incorporated into the dress. There are six optic fiber bundles on the dress with colors scaling from red to blue to purple to green. Grace says that the meditation fibers turn red if the wearer is nervous and green if they’re relaxed.

Says Grace, the project took about 40 hours of work, at a cost of about $150. She will wear it at TEDxLancaster on the 10th of September.

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Goodness, that looks complicated

But I suppose it has to be. Watching a machine manufacturing lace is kind of startling:

Warren Meyer apparently visited the Lace Centre in Bruges.

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