Archive for Entirely Too Cool

True gritters

A resident of Doncaster, in South Yorkshire, would like to say a few kind words about the local public-works department:

“As an avid user of roads, footpaths and public spaces and an avid fan of traction, I’ve come to really like not falling over. Gritters do a really important job.”

Doncaster Council has recently added two new gritters, to keep the roads clear when the weather is terrible, and they asked the community for names for the machines — with some ground rules to be honored:

Hey, I liked “Gary Gritter,” though its namesake seems to have come to a bad end.

Be that as it may, the Council was happy with the vote:

The woman who came up with Gritsy Bitsy is quoted at the top of this article.

And it’s not like this is unfamiliar territory to Doncaster Council:

The new gritters will now join the council’s fleet of eclectically-named vehicles, Brad Grit, Gritney Spears, The Subzero Hero, Mr Plow and Usain Salt.

That name again is Mr Plow.

(Via Fark.)

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No more telephone tag?

If you hate corporate telephone trees as much as I think you do, you might find this exchange useful:

This probably won’t work everywhere, but you’ll feel better every time it works once.

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When a heart can be broken

This I was not expecting. Serbian “body illusionist” Mirjana Kika Milosevic, whom you’ve maybe seen before seemingly mutilating herself, was apparently commissioned to produce video footage for this song by singer Adil Maksutović:

“Ne kidaj mene od sebe” translates to “Do not bother me,” and there’s a definite Go Away feeling to Adil’s performance.

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Mom’s the word

Sherman, we’re going back to before I was born.

My mother at eighteen

You may be assured, this was an unscheduled trip.

In deepest Austin, Texas, cousin Linda, one of only a few Balagia family members of that generation who never, ever left, was going through boxes of old stuff, or old boxes of stuff, and turned up this tiny 2 x 2½-inch photograph, uneven sepia due to random storage, of a member of the previous generation, stamped JUN 15 1946.

My mom at eighteen, in the yard of the old Balagia house in the ATX. By then, I believe, she’d reached her full height of 5’3¼”, and woe betide you if you ever forgot that quarter inch.

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Select option #2

I doubt you could get away with this plate in the States:

But I’d dearly love to see someone try.

(Via @DancesWithBratwurst.)

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Professor Tom Lehrer turned out a number (actual number: 10) of didactic yet hilarious songs for The Electric Company back in the 1970s. Adverbially speaking, this was my favorite:

I went thirty years without hearing this, and hadn’t forgotten a word, though I did get two verses out of order.

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Lost in a Louisiana bayou

WDSU in New Orleans has been circulating this possibly apocryphal list:

Top Cajun Baby Names for 2017

KATC is the ABC affiliate in Lafayette, Louisiana, and the apparent inventor of the term “Acadiana.”

As for me, I only know of one Cajun baby, born to Doc Milsap and his pretty wife Hannah.

(Via Godpigeon.)

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It’s the thought that counts

Gestures like this are not wholly unknown, but they’re uncommon enough to warrant mention and even, occasionally, applause.

And yes, A. J. Hinch and Dave Roberts did embrace like that — exactly like that — at the end of Game Seven.

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Back to the basics of costume

“Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas, with Waylon and Willie and the boys.”

That’s Eric Johnson, the former NFL tight end, as Waylon, but who’s that playing Willie?

Jessica Simpson as Willie Nelson

Yep. That’s Jessica Simpson doing her best Willie. (And incidentally, she’s married to that Johnson fellow.) I think this may be the niftiest celebrity costume of the pumpkin-spice season.

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Costume of the year

They’re well done, they’re not “sexy” anything, and they’re still timely:

Take a bow, ladies.

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This ought to slow ’em down

Don’t you think?

3d zebra crossing in Iceland

Bored Panda reports:

In the small fishing town of Ísafjörður, Iceland, an exciting development in road safety has just popped up — almost literally. A new pedestrian crossing has been painted that appears to be 3D by way of a cleverly-detailed optical illusion.

Not only does the innovative design give foot-travelers the feeling of walking on air, it also gets the attention of drivers, who will be sure to slow down their speed once they spot the seemingly floating “zebra stripes.” Icelandic environmental commissioner Ralf Trylla called for its placement in Ísafjörður after seeing a similar project being carried out in New Delhi, India. With the help of street painting company Vegmálun GÍH, his vision became a reality.

Ísafjörður, in the far northwest of Iceland, has about 2500 residents.

(Photo by Linda Björk Pétursdóttir.)

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Curses, coiled again

Leaf springs these days are found mostly on big, bigger, biggest trucks: coil springs have almost completely replaced leaves, mostly to improve ride quality.

On the other hand, when’s the last time you saw a cat stuck in a leaf?

Just trying to get warm, probably.

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Utensil strength

The Japanese apparently care about this very much:

While certain cultures may equate the sound of noodles and moisture violently sucked between a pair of lips with, say, nails on a chalkboard or a wet dog farting, in Japan it is as commonplace as politicians shouting through megaphones in the middle of the street.

Which is not a Good Thing, as far as the Japanese are concerned.

Inevitably, there would come to be a de-slurping device:

It’s like those pricey noise-canceling headphones, only, um, yummier.

(Via American Digest.)

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The eternal need for speed

A note received from the surfer dudes who host this Web site:

Over the next week, we’ll be rolling out “OPcache” for domains hosted on your managed Virtual Private Server.

OPcache is a PHP accelerator that makes your site faster by keeping code in memory instead of loading it on every page request. Since code doesn’t have to be loaded from disk repeatedly, you’ll also see reduced CPU and memory usage on your VPS. That means you’ll be able to do more with less power!

OPcache replaces the outdated “XCache” option which was previously available on virtual private servers. Unlike XCache, OPcache is supported on all versions of PHP that DreamHost offers, so there’s no special configuration required to make it work.

XCache will not work with PHP 7 or newer versions, so it is no longer recommended.

Combined with PHP 7, OPcache can often double the performance of WordPress sites. We’re pretty excited about it, and can’t wait for you to experience the magic and wonder of OPcache for yourself!

Precisely seven days later, they brought this plan to fruition. I haven’t run any speed tests yet, but I do have a little widget to measure RAM usage. For the last couple of years, it’s been hanging between 35 and 40 percent of my allotment. Reading last night: 8 percent.

Gosh. Maybe I should go ahead and implement PHP 7. (I’m still on 5.6.)

Addendum: PHP 7.0 is in place.

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Every emotion possible

One of the staples of YouTube is the Restoration of Senses video: person deprived of one of the senses has it brought back through the miracle of technology, and you get to watch the person react. Usually pretty predictable, but rewarding in its own way.

Then comes something like this. Baby was born deaf; they’ve just fitted her with a hearing aid, and she has no idea what’s happening, or how she’s supposed to react.

A dizzying display of facial reactions, in just over a minute.

Miss Cellania opines:

She never takes her eyes off her Mommy, though, so you know she’s going be alright.

Sounds right to me.

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There’s always a way

Our favorite fix-it female takes on a non-automotive task this time:

As a commenter noted, it’s a lot easier to do this if you can fit inside the cabinet.


To go, so to speak

Okay, it’s not technically flushable, but otherwise it’s superior to the more familiar versions:

Note: Not tested on bears.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)



File this under “Why the hell not?”:

Northern lights enthusiasts have discovered a new type of northern lights, and named it Steve.

You might wonder what Steve means. At first it didn’t mean anything. It was just a name. Steve comes from the animated movie Over The Hedge. In the movie, the main characters were watching bushes rustle. Out came an animal that they didn’t know. So they named it Steve.

Inevitably, it was decided that there had to be some official justification for “Steve”:

Burcu Kosar, Research Scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, says researchers have now turned Steve into an acronym — Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.

But where did Steve come from?

Steve likely forms when electrically-charged particles from the sun collide with magnetic energy found in Earth’s atmosphere.

It streaks across the sky at a speed of approximately 21,600 km/h.

Steve also hits temperatures as high as 6,000 degrees Celsius, which is as hot as Earth’s core.


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Cob and pen, together again

I’m not sure Jack Handey is on the right track with this Deep Thought:

Just because swans mate for life, I don’t think it’s that big a deal. First of all, if you’re a swan, you’re probably not going to find a swan that looks much better than the one you’ve got, so why not mate for life?

I can’t speak for Jack, but I find the concept deeply satisfying:

And I suspect they do too.


Non-stop, of course

It’s the shortest regularly scheduled airline route on earth:

Loganair has numerous flights in and out of the Orkneys, but this particular route is the shortest. Schedules and fares are subject to change without notice.

Personal note: I once flew from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, a distance of about 110 miles. Took about sixteen minutes. Then again, this was before all the new methods of inconveniencing air travelers.

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Getting the jump on it

The Peach State seems to have found a nice, juicy improvement over one usually tedious governmental encounter:

When I went to the driver’s license, I had taken advantage of something Georgia’s DMV-equivalent calls “Skip-A-Step,” where you can fill out your renewal application paperwork online, as much as 30 days ahead.

My wait at the barber shop was longer than my wait to see the clerk and hand over the documents I needed to bring to convince them I am who they say I am. I think the haircut even took longer than the license clerk took in getting me processed and out of there.

This happened, as the cool kids say, unexpectedly:

I’d been dreading this renewal because it was the first time I would need to comply with the “SecureID” requirements, but this was a breeze.

We’re not likely to follow suit here in Soonerland: the legislature has long been hostile to compliance with Federal security standards of any sort.

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Kings of the world

Possibly the last visitors ever to the remains of RMS Titanic are already signed up:

Before it disappears again — and this time, for good — nine tourists will visit the RMS Titanic for the price of a first-class ticket on the 1912 voyage of the famously “unsinkable” ship.

The London-based travel company offering the May 2018 expedition, says the $105,129 price tag is the same — adjusted for inflation — as what passengers paid to be on the ocean liner’s one and only trip from Southampton, England, to New York more than a century ago ($4,350).

Um, “disappears again”?

The Titanic has been largely inaccessible to tourists. This could be one of the last chances to see it, as a 2016 study concluded decomposing bacteria could eat away the ship completely in the next 15 to 20 years.

“Fewer than 200 people have ever visited the wreck,” says Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, which made a custom submarine for the voyage.

Just the same, a second expedition is planned for the summer of 2019.

(Via Fark.)


Beyond mere turbulence

Welcome to Düsseldorf. Please fasten your seatbelts. And if you’re carrying a supply of Xanax, this is the time to take one:

We’ve all seen crosswinds. These winds went beyond merely cross; they were downright surly.

“Any landing you walk away from is a good landing,” says Gerard Van der Leun.

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Totally unlike Cheshire

“I know! I’ll build a robot cat with no head and no pesky paws!”

Surely you have some friends who will be creeped out by this, um, device.

(Via Boing Boing.)

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Happy birthday, little flyer

Sixty years ago today, the Soviet Union — remember them? — lofted a metal sphere, not quite two feet across, into a low Earth orbit, and managed to keep it up there for 1440 circuits, about 43 million miles, though by then it had long since ceased sending radio signals back to the planet.

CBS News — remember them? — put together this eight-minute report on Sputnik, (mostly) free of the kind of ginned-up panic that typifies television news today. Reporting from New York, Douglas Edwards, about two days after the launch:

“Get your ticket to that wheel in space while there’s time.” — Donald Fagen, “I.G.Y.”

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One pod, two peas

There was Jim, and then there was Jim:

James “Jim” Lewis, of Lima, Ohio, was adopted in 1940 just three weeks after he was born. He was named James by his adoptive parents, and had a dog named Toy. As a schoolboy, he enjoyed math and carpentry but never spelling. He went on to marry a woman named Linda. Later, he and Linda divorced, and he married a woman named Betty. He had a son named James Alan Lewis, worked as a security guard, drove a Chevrolet, and was an avid chain smoker.

James “Jim” Springer, of Piqua, Ohio, was adopted in 1940 just three weeks after he was born. He was named James by his adoptive parents and had a dog named Toy. As a schoolboy, he enjoyed math and carpentry but never spelling. He went on to marry a woman named Linda. Later, he and Linda divorced, and he married a woman named Betty. He had a son named James Allan Springer, worked as a deputy sheriff, drove a Chevrolet, and was an avid chain smoker.

They eventually met in 1979.

Upon hearing about the Jim twins’ uncanny resemblances, researchers at the University of Minnesota invited the pair to come to their facility for testing. The team of researchers had been performing an ongoing study of twins, hoping to discover if separation had any role in the “nature vs. nurture” debate.

Between 1979 and 1999, the team studied 137 pairs of twins, including the Jim twins, that had been reared apart from each other. Their research sparked more than 170 separate studies focusing on medical and psychological characteristics of twins.

Who would have thought an institution in Minnesota would be studying twins?

Rather a lot of twin studies have been undertaken over the years, and some of the findings might be considered startling:

[A] study commissioned by the editor of the journal Science looked at genetics and IQ. The Minnesota researchers found that about 70 percent of IQ variation across the twin population was due to genetic differences among people, and 30 percent was due to environmental differences. The finding received both praise and criticism, but an updated study in 2009 containing new sets of twins found a similar correlation between genetics and IQ.

Moreover, a study in 1990 found that genetics account for 50 percent of the religiosity among the population — in other words, both identical twins raised apart were more likely to be religious or to be not religious, compared with unrelated individuals.

Other studies found a strong genetic influence on dental or gum health.

Next time I run into Mary-Kate or Ashley, I’ll ask her what brand of gum she chews.

(Via American Digest.)

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The flowers are here

The last place my older sister (she’d have been 62 this fall) lived was out in the West Texas town of El Paso, which gets maybe ten inches of rain a year. “You ought to be here the day we get it,” says the local joke.

But it’s a veritable rain forest next to this place:

What are we seeing here?

“In a normal year, this whole place, the entire environment, including hills, slopes, and plains is gray. There is no greenery, no flowers. Absolutely nothing,” says the researcher with the University of La Serena. “But as soon as a little bit of rain falls, this marvel appears,” she says, pointing out everything around her.

It is the flowering desert, a natural spectacle that occurs every five or 10 years due to the unpredictable phenomenon of El Niño, which warms the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean. The evaporation of these warm currents on the coasts of Chile causes abundant rain in the Atacama Desert, which triggers the germination and flowering of more than 200 native plant species that have been hidden for years under gray soil, waiting for a few drops of water.

The last time they had such a display as this, I am told, was 1997.

(Via Fausta’s blog.)


I’m positive this is a bad idea

Once again, it’s the Little How To Girl, dealing with a dead battery:

Given the risks involved, I think it was probably a good idea not to let her do all the work herself.

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The Aussies have your back

So to speak:

(Via Edward Banatt.)

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Meanwhile, north of Havana

As the phrase goes, For a Limited Time Only, by which we mean Today Only:

Barry Manilow T-shirt based on a Metallica theme

Here’s the source. Other merch with this image can be had.