Archive for Entirely Too Cool

Doing it yourself

Expect this to become a cottage industry in its own right if the We Hate Those Awful Guns crowd winds up in utterly-undeserved ascendancy:

No Federal laws were broken, or even bent, during the making of this video.

(Via Pergelator.)

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Shaken, even stirred

Some of Taylor Swift’s detractors have pointed out that she tends to fall back on the same four chords. Then again, she’s hardly alone in so doing:

Sir Elton, I’d like to think, is properly amused.

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Tension, pressure, pain

All you need is this simple Pink medication:

I have become comfortably numb

The flip side of the literal video, perhaps.

(Via American Digest.)

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None taken

Singer Madilyn Bailey is one of the more successful musical artists on YouTube, but as anyone with a YouTube channel can tell you, some of the bozos out there work overtime to be hateful and condescending. And so she decided to splice some of her detractors’ comments into a song, with hilarious results:

And spelling, perhaps unsurprisingly, is not the haters’ strong suit.

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1911 BC

Handguns made from metal from a meteorite

Actually, the metal is even older than that, and not by a little either:

Two pistols made from a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite could fetch $1.5 million when they are auctioned later this month.

Constructed from part of the Muonionalusta Meteorite, which was discovered in Sweden in 1906, the working .45-caliber pistols offer an unusual take on the classic 1911 handgun design. Experts believe that the meteorite slammed into Earth about 1 million years ago, although the meteorite itself is thought to date back some 4.5 billion years.

Dallas-based auction house Heritage Auctions will be selling the pistols, either individually or as a set, at an auction on July 20.

I have to think John Moses Browning would have been pleased.

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Nothing for me, thanks

Been there, observed that:

It’s a tale as old as time: Boyfriend takes girlfriend out to eat, girlfriend claims she’s “not hungry” — and then proceeds to eat half of the boyfriend’s meal.

Social media users have dubbed it “date night food-theft” — and in Arkansas, there seems to finally be a solution.

My Girlfriend Is Not Hungry at Mama D's

A restaurant called Mama D’s, in North Little Rock, has been serving a menu item known as the “My Girlfriend is Not Hungry,” which adds “extra french fries to your entrée, and fried chicken wings (2) or fried cheese sticks (3).”

The restaurant has been cooking up the side dish for a while now, along with several other food joints across the country, but it only recently went viral.

(Via Ed Driscoll.)

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Hear, hear

And if you can’t hear, this is a good way to deal:

Silence, sometimes, is indeed golden.

(Via @LadygodivaLDN.)

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Dude looks like a lady

Which lady? A very specific lady, it appears:

Steven Tyler, post-menopause

Forgive us if we seem out of line.

(Swiped from Facebook.)

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Being memorable

Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck PhDThe young lady here — well, she’s twenty years younger than I am, anyway — could be memorable for how she looks, which is marvelous; how she busted [name of vital organ] earning a doctorate, which is laudable; or how she stuck to her gums, which is the subject at hand today:

A woman who refused to change her name has defied her bullies by earning a PhD and becoming a doctor.

Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck says she spent her life being made fun of because of her distinctive name. But instead of changing it she decided to be proud of the name she was given and refuse to let it hold her back.

The 46-year-old has used her experience to research black names and how they affect the education of children in the United States.

I’m guessing that black children with distinctive names have a tendency to catch all manner of flak from people who really need to calm down, be they classmates, teachers, or neighbors, though this isn’t something with which I have first-hand experience, since I didn’t actually attend a desegregated school until grade twelve. (If you’re keeping score, this was 1968.) I admit to having had entirely too much fun with some NBA types, particularly Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who brings out Declension Fever in yours truly; I couldn’t tell you what Kentaviousness entails, but dammit, he makes twelve million a year, and I do hope he’s having a great time.

And I’ll bet Caldwell-Pope was never told he ought to change his name, either:

Marijuana was nine years old when she first realised she had an unconventional name. At school in Wisconsin she says it wasn’t just the other children who commented on it but the teachers, too. “Tell them your name honey,” they’d say.

“Marijuana is unusual and then you add Pepsi to it and the comments just didn’t stop and they still don’t stop,” she told the BBC.

“They would ask to call me Mary, and at first that was fine until I won a school spelling bee. I came home with my certificate, and my mum hit the roof when she saw the name on it read Mary Jackson.

“She told me never to let them call me Mary ever again and then she went up to the school and demanded they change it. She wasn’t playing.”

For now, “Doctor Vandyck” works fine.

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Hauling becomes electric

It started out as a perfectly ordinary Tesla Model 3. But then:

Elon Musk says that the official Tesla truck would be out by the end of the summer, barring catastrophe. Unfortunately, barring catastrophe is not one of Musk’s strong points.

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But does it mulch?

The rules say only that it must be able to cut grass:

Inasmuch as the speed trials were conducted on a straightaway, I presume that optimizing the turning radius was not a priority.

(From Motorcyclist via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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This anaconda don’t want none

And she don’t need none, either:

Staffers at the New England Aquarium last winter were setting up for an after-hours event near the Amazon rain forest exhibit when they made an unexpected discovery.

Anna the anaconda — 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms), 8 years old and 10 feet (3 meters) long — had given birth to a litter of baby snakes.

Aquarium staff notified the resident biologist, who scrambled into the tank and found three live babies and about a dozen stillborn.

On its face, anaconda birth isn’t unusual. Anaconda have no trouble reproducing in aquarium settings, and the snakes living in this Amazon exhibit were no exception.

If left to freely breed, green anaconda like Anna can have dozens of babies at a time, which is precisely why staffers at this Boston aquarium had taken great care to keep male and female snakes in separate tanks.

By design, Anna’s roommates were all female. She had no contact with males.

And yet, she had still, somehow, become pregnant.

Was it magic? Divine intervention? A secret, late-night reptile tryst?

Not some weird reptile dysfunction at all, in fact:

The staffers immediately suspected a rare reproductive strategy called parthenogenesis, which means that a female organism can self-impregnate. (The word itself is of Greek origin. Its translation means “virgin birth.”) The phenomenon is far more common in plants and insects, but it has been documented in some lizard, shark, bird and snake species.

Just once before, at a zoo in the United Kingdom in 2014, had scientists documented a parthenogenesis case in green anaconda whose young were born alive.

None of this, however, is necessary to explain Baby Shark.

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Putting the squeeze on them

His name was Robert R. Taylor, and you may have one of his creations in your house: Taylor, who had numerous successes (and the occasional flop) as an inventor/entrepreneur, gave us SoftSoap, the hand soap with the pump sprayer. And apparently the key to its success was that little pump:

Before launching SoftSoap, Taylor had made a crucial observation — there were only few companies in the United States at the time that actually made the kind of pumps needed. Of these companies, only one produced enough pumps suitable for mass-production on the scale envisioned here. And since there also wasn’t much in the way of a suitable international company that would be able to provide what was needed here quickly and at a competitive price, in effect, this left only a single choice for anyone wanting to sell liquid soap en masse using such a pump system. Thus, Taylor’s idea was quite simple — buy literally every pump the company had available for the foreseeable future. How many would he need to buy? It turns out about 100 million to keep the company (Calmar) busy at full capacity for about a year.

The problem was he didn’t have the required $12 million (about $37 million today) to place such an order. So he had to wait until after the product was launched and hope that it was a massive hit to give him the money he needed before his competitors decided to make their own copy-cat product.

Outrageous as it was, the plan still could have backfired:

[W]hen the time came, he also had no way of knowing whether Calmar would agree to the contract. If Calmar didn’t, there was a very real risk that one of the bigger companies would eventually sign a contract with them that would do to Taylor what he was attempting to do to everyone else — stop them from getting the needed pumps for a little while.

And while you might think agreeing to a massive contract that would see them working at full capacity for the foreseeable future would be a no-brainer for Calmar, consider that this would force them to get rid of all their other business contracts to service one, relatively small, company.

When the time came, however, Calmar agreed. Naturally, this sequence of events has gone down in history as one of the most ballsy “bet-the-company moves” ever.

And, just as Taylor had planned, when the larger companies tried to release their own take on SoftSoap, they quickly realised that they couldn’t at first because some mysterious, freshly smelling, large penis owning individual had called dibs on almost every suitable pump in the United States set to be produced for the next year.

In the States, the financial industry has been known to refer to a person who pulls off a stunt like this as a Big Swinging Dick, so the penis reference is not gratuitous, or not too gratuitous anyway.

And there’s a bottle of Taylor’s soap beside my bathroom sink, and another in the men’s room at the office. I assume there’s also one in the women’s, but I am disinclined to take a look for myself.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Adhere today

Some research techniques are downright pricey. Others, not so much:

Researchers have managed to grow large numbers of blood-forming stem cells in the lab using a surprisingly simple ingredient found in glue. And when injected into mice, the cells started producing key components of blood.

“The finding is very unexpected and exciting,” says John Dick, a stem-cell biologist at the Prince Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada.

If the technique can be applied to humans, it could be used to grow blood stem cells for use in people with blood cancers such as leukemia whose immune systems have been damaged by chemotherapy. The approach could also provide a safer way to treat people with blood disorders, such as sickle-cell disease, who currently have to undergo a risky procedure before receiving a bone-marrow transplant.

This sort of thing has been on researchers’ lists of desiderata for years:

Researchers have been trying for decades to grow in the lab large numbers of “hematopoietic” blood stem cells (HSCs), which regenerate themselves and give rise to other blood components. But until now, none had been able to produce the number needed to reliably engraft — or start producing blood cells — when reintroduced into the body.

Stem-cell biologist Hiromitsu Nakauchi, who leads teams at the University of Tokyo and Stanford University in California, reports in Nature on 29 May how his team managed to successfully engraft HSCs in mice1. The researchers first expanded a cluster of mouse HSCs to almost 900 times its original level in just a month, then transplanted them back into a different set of mice, where they thrived and developed into blood components. “This has been my life goal,” he says.

Okay, what’s the trick?

Researchers looking for ways to grow HSCs in large numbers in the lab had tried using growth factors without much success. But Nakauchi found that the reason the cells weren’t surviving was impurities in the medium in which the cells were being grown, a human blood protein called albumin. These impurities, mostly proteins released by immune cells, were stopping the cells from growing, says Nakauchi. “How much money, time, and effort has been wasted because of those impurities!” he says.

Nakauchi screened a bunch of polymers that he thought could replace albumin, and found that a synthetic compound called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), often used in glues, did the trick. PVA has also been used to culture embryos and embryonic stem cells. “It’s quite easy. People can go to Safeway and get glue,” Nakauchi says. Laboratory versions of PVA work better than those from the supermarket, he says, and the polymer, which is used in tablet coatings, is deemed non-toxic by regulatory agencies.

Cite: Nature 570, 17-18 (2019)
doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01690-w

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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This LAN is your LAN

Don’t ask Wi, try their Fi:

Possible wireless-connection names

(From Bits and Pieces via Miss Cellania.)

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And don’t forget those accessories

Or Cousin Hank down in Arlen will never forgive you:

(Suggested by Gail Hapke.)

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Learning together

Every now and then, a hopeful sign appears in the distance:

Not many people get to study in the same class as their parents, but a Somali mother and her youngest daughter did just that. Mother Falhad Ahmed Mohamud and her daughter Amina Mohamed recently graduated from a university in Virginia together with Masters degrees in IT.

The family came to the US as refugees in 1980, but her husband returned to Somalia and was killed in fighting. Falhad raised their two daughters Amina and Sofia on her own, working to ensure their education.

Brief video at the link.

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Array O’ Fish

Those wonderful folks who brought you the Internet now propose to put carp to work, or something:

The latest project from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) aims to improve military intelligence by using a range of aquatic creatures — from large fish to humble single-celled organisms — as underwater warning systems.

“We’re trying to understand what these organisms can tell us about the presence and movements of all kinds of underwater vehicles in the ocean,” says Dr Lori Adornato, programme manager of the Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (Pals) project.

This doesn’t quite mean that they’re sending tuna out to chase submarines, but:

Living creatures react in various ways to the presence of vehicles. One of the most familiar is the phenomenon of bioluminescence — some marine organisms glow with light when disturbed. This is the focus of one of Darpa’s strands of research.

“If you have an organism like noctiluca present on the surface of the ocean and an underwater vehicle that’s close to the surface, you will be able to see that from the air because of the bioluminescent trail,” explains Dr Adornato.

You may know Noctiluca scintillans under the scintillating name of “sea sparkle.” And not only does it glow now and then, but it gives off a none-too-faint scent of ammonia.

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Where have all the monarchs gone?

Mexico, apparently:

One hopeful statistic: their numbers are up over the last couple of years, though still short of the population at the turn of the century.

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Now that’s composure

It would never have occurred to Ken Jennings, either:

Speaking of Mr Yankovic:

Released this very week in 1984, as it happens.

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There was a fungus among us

And we turned it against the bloodsuckers:

A fungus — genetically enhanced to produce spider toxin — can rapidly kill huge numbers of the mosquitoes that spread malaria, a study suggests. Trials, which took place in Burkina Faso, showed mosquito populations collapsed by 99% within 45 days.

The researchers say their aim is not to make the insects extinct but to help stop the spread of malaria. The disease, which is spread when female mosquitoes drink blood, kills more than 400,000 people per year. Worldwide, there are about 219 million cases of malaria each year.

These trials sound almost entertaining:

A 6,500-sq-ft fake village — complete with plants, huts, water sources and food for the mosquitoes — was set up in Burkina Faso. It was surrounded by a double layer of mosquito netting to prevent anything escaping.

The fungal spores were mixed with sesame oil and wiped on to black cotton sheets. The mosquitoes had to land on the sheets to be exposed to the deadly fungus.

The researchers started the experiments with 1,500 mosquitoes. The results, published in the journal Science, showed numbers soared when the insects were left alone. But when the spider-toxin fungus was used, there were just 13 mosquitoes left after 45 days.

As Glenn Reynolds would say, “Faster, please.”

Cite: DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw8737

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Because the South had balls

And they weren’t shy about using them, either:

The three lethal Civil War-era cannons pulled from the Confederate gunboat CSS Pee Dee were loaded for action when they were recovered.

That was maybe the biggest surprise for the conservators who confirmed the ship was ready to fight when it was scuttled in 1865 in the Pee Dee River near Florence as Union troops closed in.

The cannons, recovered in 2015, were restored and preserved in a four-year effort by the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston. They will be placed on exhibit outside the Veterans Affairs building in Florence at a date yet to be announced.

“Wait a minute. Why haven’t I heard about this mighty vessel?”

The ship might have been one of the South’s greatest weapons had it ever seen action. But it was finished in the desperate days of the Confederacy as the war drew to a close. While the Pee Dee likely never saw action, its guns had been powdered and primed. Conservators knew this because when they turned the key on a brass fuse it fizzed like a soda.

A 9-pound ball was loaded into the single Dahlgren cannon. The two Brooke cannons were loaded with forged grapeshot the size of billiard balls instead of the large, bullet-like shells they had been rifled to fire.

The neat, or un-neat, thing about grapeshot is that individual projectiles spread out after firing.

The Pee Dee was about 150 feet long and carried a crew of 90, plus that Dahlgren cannon, which bore “U. S. Navy” indicia, indicating it had been taken from a Union vessel.

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Moar power

Adventures with the Power Washer, starring Rob O’Hara:

After verifying that the bird’s nest was empty, I attached the super mamma jamma turbo nozzle to the wand, turned everything on, hit that nest with 2,000 PSI of water pressure and OOOH YEAH THAT MUDDER NESTER FLEW BABY! Again — would a $5 spray nozzle for our garden hose have cleaned up the nest? Maybe, but I’ll doubt it would have shot pieces 20′ into the air like this baby did.

While experimenting with the turbo nozzle I also blew paint off of one of Susan’s bird houses, and was able to blow leaves off of trees. So, yeah. The turbo nozzle has been retired. According to the manual, the turbo nozzle is only safe for cleaning concrete, brick, and masonry. I later shot the manual with the turbo nozzle and it destroyed it. UNLIMITED POWER!

Tim Allen would approve.

Next up was the orange (15°) tip. According to the manual, it is also approved for concrete and such, plus siding, gutters, fencing, decks, patios, lawn equipment, boats, and RVs. For every one of those surfaces it says “USE WITH CAUTION” but does a guy who would buy a 2,000 PSI power washer to remove a bird’s nest sound like someone who uses caution?

The main thing I wanted to see was if the orange nozzle would remove oil stains from the driveway, and the answer is … kind of. The stains were definitely lighter after spraying, but still obviously there. But a bigger problem arises when you start spraying your driveway. First of all, every concrete area you spray becomes super clean and white — which means all the areas you don’t spray stand out and look dirty. And second, for the thing to clean concrete you have to hold the wand pretty close to the ground, which gives a spray area of about a quarter. So if you want your entire driveway to be the same color at this point, bring a sandwich because you’re going to be there for a while.

I’m not entirely sure I could work the wand with one hand and hold a Schlotzsky’s with the other.

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All their ducks in a row

And that’s a lot of damn ducks, too:

This happened last week in Sirajganj, in northern Bangladesh.

“After a while, I imagined them descending into a tunnel to get back to the original side of the road, just so they could mess with people,” mused Miss Cellania.

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Built like a tank

Because it’s, well, a tank:

“Pure evil,” they say. Well, at least it’s pure.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Buzzworthy

One of the better ideas EPA has had lately:

The Environmental Protection Agency is pulling from the market a dozen products containing pesticides known to be toxic to a linchpin of the U.S. food system — the honeybee.

The agency announced [May 20th] [pdf] it has canceled the registrations of 12 pest-killing products with compounds belonging to a class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids, as part of a legal settlement.

For years, beekeepers and wildlife conversationalists alike have voiced concern that the widespread use of neonics, as the chemicals are commonly called, is imperiling wild and domesticated bees crucial to pollinating commercial fruit, nut and vegetable crops.

The Trump administration’s action was welcome news to some environmentalists. “Certainly we have a ways to go,” said George Kimbrell, legal director at the nonprofit advocacy group Center for Food Safety, whose lawsuit prompted the EPA’s action. “But it’s an important first step in acknowledging the harm they cause.”

The twelve pesticides are made by only three companies; one of them, Bayer, says that its two neonic products are not sold in the US.

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After coffee, no doubt

(Title inspired by Prince. From Everlasting Blort via Miss Cellania.)

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It’s a stretch

I grumble a lot about my reduced physical capabilities these days, and usually, right about the time I do, I end up with a video of someone with no arms who types faster than I do. For example:

On one level, I figure anyone over the age of four and a half is probably a better gamer than I am. Then again, I suppose I should feel better, knowing that current-day packaging is as much of a pain for her as it is for the rest of us.

Scratch that. I once had one of those fancy Razer meece; I actually bricked it trying to install a firmware update. Surely she’s never done that.

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For our future ink-stained wretches

If you were about to graduate from the Reed School of Media at West Virginia University, you might have been worried if maybe you’d signed up for a one-way trip to the downward spiral. Newspapers, after all, are under a lot of stress these days.

To persuade you otherwise, here’s Hilde Lysiak of the Orange Street News:

Yes, she’s serious. But then, she is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. And yes, she’s twelve years old.

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No need to thread

Long before there were cassettes, RCA caused this thing to be built:

For 1960, this was the bee’s knees. Or something. But gradually, things went from small to smaller to actually invisible. (See that MP3 over there? I didn’t think so.)

Warning: Running time > 20 minutes.

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