Archive for Entirely Too Cool

Meanwhile, a couple of miles away

Of late, Western Avenue has been known for medium to upper-crust eateries and cute little shops and brick walls.

The walls have been addressed here:

The final touches were applied late Sunday, in preparation for Taste of Western Thursday evening.

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LaserJetsam

This is the next step beyond the infamous PC LOAD LETTER:

I think I’m in love.

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They did the Mash

And boy, did they:

The formal release of this track (and fourteen others) is still a couple of weeks away, but hey, that’s why there’s a video out now.

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Evolution in action

Species survive because they adapt. The Gulf Coast is not likely to run out of birds any time soon:

On our first evening here, we dropped into a local supermarket to pick up a few essentials. When we came out, we noticed a flock of small birds hopping from car to car. They were carefully inspecting headlights, radiator grilles, etc. for dead insects and eating all they found. It was very businesslike behavior. Thinking about it, it was entirely logical, of course. Many people drive hundreds of miles to get here, and accumulate lots of dead insects on the front of their vehicles in the process. What better source of food for a hungry bird? I wonder how long it took them to learn to look there?

We’re not exactly a tourist destination here in the Big Breezy, so our major example of bird adaptation can be seen most easily in big box store parking lots: roughly four-and-twenty black birds for every dropped bag of popcorn. Ground Zero might be the Crest Foods store at 23rd and Meridian: not only does it sell a lot of to-go stuff to people who will actually eat it walking back to their cars, but in front of it are a Burger King and an A&W/Long John Silver’s combo.

Then again, we’re not talking picky diners here:

Crows have been reported to eat over 1000 food items, including insects, worms, berries, birds eggs and nestlings, small mammals, bats, fish, snakes, frogs, salamanders, animal dung, grain, nuts, carrion, fried chicken, hamburgers, Chinese food, french fries, and human vomit.

Then again:

They can be weirdly picky though — an experiment showed crows prefer French fries in a McDonald’s bag over those in a brown paper bag. To top it off, a nestling can eat 100 grasshoppers in 3 hours.

You can’t tell me that a crow can’t recognize the Golden Arches.

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The cubist at your door

I’m guessing that she walked down Picasso’s street, and she could not resist his stare:

Picasso-esque Halloween costume

Nor did she call him names, either.

(From the Facebook page of KS107.5 in Denver.)

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Or you can wait and pay less

Sprig is a San Francisco eatery that isn’t really an eatery: everything is cooked at HQ and then delivered to your door in (usually) five to ten minutes.

Except, of course, when it can’t be. Their solution to this is elegantly simple:

Previously where you may have seen “out for now,” we will now be testing dynamic delivery fees. Dynamic delivery fees will adjust up or down throughout Sprig’s service based on how busy things get and how far away a delivery is. While delivery fees will go up during the rushes — like at 8pm in the Marina — they will also decrease when things are slower, meaning you may even see free delivery!

Why are we testing dynamic delivery pricing? Because it will enable us to continue to provide fair compensation for our hard-working Sprig Servers as we continue to expand. Furthermore, it makes Sprig more reliable for you — so you can get a Sprig meal right when you want it, straight to your desk or door.

Laura Northrup at Consumerist sees the sense in this:

I know that I tend to tip delivery drivers more when it’s, say, Super Bowl Sunday, or the busiest pizza times on Friday nights. Sprig’s plan is to take that system and make it mandatory. If customers don’t want to pay the higher fees, they can just wait until the sustainable and organic feeding frenzy is over: one option within the mobile ordering app is to receive a notification when delivery fees fall again.

Me, I’m very much the Apple Bloom type: “But I want it NAO!” And I’ll pay to get it.

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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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