Archive for Entirely Too Cool

He’s a lonely frog

Or at least, he has been:

A frog believed to be the last of his kind in the world has been granted a reprieve from solitude.

Romeo, known as the world’s loneliest frog, has spent 10 years in isolation at an aquarium in Bolivia.

Scientists say they have found him a Juliet after an expedition to a remote Bolivian cloud forest.

Five Sehuencas water frogs (Telmatobius yuracare) found in a stream were captured, with the goal of breeding and re-introducing the amphibians back into the wild.

The five frogs — three males and two females — are the first Sehuencas water frogs to be seen in the wild for a decade, despite previous searches in the Bolivian wilderness.

Clarence Henry was not available for comment.

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It’s not just Mickey

Mice in general seem to have a lot to say:

Rodents are chatty little creatures, and even if mice aren’t really hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings, as they’re portrayed to be in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, they do seem to speak in their own very high-pitched way. They have what University of Washington researcher Kevin Coffey characterizes as “a rich repertoire of calls” — around 20 of them.

But what could they be saying?

On Jan. 4, Coffey and his colleague, Russell Marx, published a study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology that delves into this mystery. Through a new software application they’ve developed called “DeepSqueak,” the duo has made several insights.

And why we don’t hear this:

Mouse vocalizations are largely in the high-frequency, ultrasonic range — much higher, around 100 kHz, than we can hear — and automated analysis tools until now have fallen short. Noise confuses those programs, they’re held back by static algorithms, and they’re slow.

Hence the Coffey/Marx apparatus, known familiarly as DeepSqueak. But what are these meeces saying?

For example, when two male mice are in contact, they squeak the same calls over and over.

Interestingly, should a female stop by, the vocalizations increase in complexity. While it could be they’re just trying to sound smart, the fact that this change of sounds is most pronounced when a male smells, but doesn’t see, a female suggests that the noises may have to do with courtship.

DeepSqueak has also identified vocal sounds that express happiness when mice are expecting a reward, such as sugar, or during play with other mice.

I suspect there may be very good reasons for Tom to fear Jerry.

(Via Jennifer Ouellette.)

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Go thou and do likewise

The legislature in South Carolina is considering this bill:

SECTION 1. This act may be cited as the “Defense Against Porch Pirates Act”.

SECTION 2. Article 1, Chapter 13, Title 16 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

“Section 16-13-182. (A) Notwithstanding another provision of law, it is unlawful for a person to steal a package delivered to a dwelling’s porch, steps, or the vicinity of any entrance or exit of a dwelling. A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of the felony offense of package theft and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five thousand dollars and be imprisoned for a mandatory minimum of five years, no part of which may be suspended nor probation granted.

(B) The penalty provided in subsection (A) is in addition to any other penalties for other offenses which may be provided by law. A person convicted of a violation of the provisions of this section is not eligible to participate in any type of pretrial intervention program.

(C) For purposes of this section, the term ‘dwelling’ means any house, outhouse, apartment, building, erection, shed or box in which there sleeps a proprietor, tenant, watchman, clerk, laborer or person who lodges there with a view to the protection of property, and of such a dwelling or of any other dwelling all houses, outhouses, buildings, sheds and erections which are within two hundred yards of it and are appurtenant to it or to the same establishment of which it is an appurtenance are deemed parcels. ‘Dwelling’ also means the living quarters of a building which are used or normally used for sleeping, living, or lodging by a person.”

SECTION 3. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.

I’m thinking such a measure would likely go nowhere here in Soonerland, on the basis that we’re locking up a prodigious number of people already and the Department of Corrections is always running out of money. Then again, it’s long been my belief that we just don’t exile enough people.

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Hey, it works up here!

There may be a place near you where 911 calls don’t work so well. Then again:

An astronaut accidentally dialled 911 from space.

Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers was trying to contact NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston when he accidentally called the number for the US emergency services, instead of dialling 9 for an outside line and then 011 for an international line.

According to Nederlandse Omroep Stichting, he said: “I made a mistake, and the next day I received an email message: ‘did you call 911?’ I was a little disappointed that they had not come up.”

In other news, there are Dutch astronauts, and actually, that’s kind of cool.

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Working dog

No mere shelter will hold her:

It isn’t quite the happy ending one might hope for, but you still cheer for her.

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Youthful exuberance

O to be young and up on the roof once more:

Those of you programmed to despise her, get in line behind this guy.

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Quality controls

Rob O’Hara recounts a life lesson from years ago:

Loverboy was a film released in 1989 that starred Patrick Dempsey as a college-aged pizza delivery driver, moonlighting on the side as a gigolo. To request Dempsey’s dating services, all female customers had to do was order a large Loco pizza with extra anchovies. Loverboy may have been the first time I actually saw a pizza with anchovies on it. I certainly had never seen one in person. I understand that anchovies were one of the traditional Italian ingredients served on pizzas; that being said, nobody ever accused any of the pizza joints I worked for of serving traditional Italian cuisine.

The man who called Pizza Inn that evening wasn’t looking for gigolo services (at least I hope not). The guy was legitimately curious to know if we could serve anchovies on our pizzas. My boss must have heard me repeating the request back the caller — I may have even been laughing at the time. Before I had a chance to say another word, my manager had literally snatched the phone’s receiver from my grasp and taken over. After apologizing for my ineptitude, my manager told the customer we would gladly put anchovies on his pizza.

After finishing the order, my manager turned to me, and I’ll never forget what he said.

“Never tell a customer we can’t do something.”

Then he handed me five bucks and told me to get my ass to the nearest supermarket and buy a can of anchovies.

And you know what? This almost worked.


Do you, in fact, have any knights at all?

That’s SIR Michael Edward Palin to you:

Sir Michael’s honour means he is the first member of the Monty Python comedy group to be knighted.

But the 75-year-old, who became a CBE in 2000 for his TV work, is being recognised for services to travel, culture and geography following his career as a writer and presenter of documentaries that have taken him all over the world, most recently to North Korea.

He said to mark his latest achievement, he may “just have a quiet celebration, just myself and a glass of Horlicks and then go to bed.”

Horlicks, you should know, is a positively ancient malted-milk drink marketed by GlaxoSmithKline as a nutritional supplement, sort of like Ovaltine if it had never left the British Isles. Weirdly, Unilever announced it was buying GSK’s line of such stuff just this fall:

Horlicks is facing a challenge, even in India. The drink is losing its star status as the “healthy” morning and after-school drink of choice pushed by Indian parents on their children. In a worst-case scenario, it could wind up with the image it has in the U.K., its home market: a sleep-inducing bedtime drink for the elderly.

Happy slumbers, Sir Michael.

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Sanctuary much

Now this is how you do sanctuary right [warning: autostart video]:

A non-stop church service in the Netherlands — aimed at stopping an Armenian family from being deported — has become so popular it has issued tickets for the Christmas period to control numbers. The service has been going around the clock since October 26 — more than 1,400 hours.

Under Dutch law, police officers are not permitted to enter a church while a religious service is taking place. So, church leaders hatched the idea of meeting non-stop to prevent the Tamrazyans from being removed from the country. Since then, hundreds of pastors and volunteers have taken part in the service.

And it’s not like the family sneaked over the border late one night:

The Tamrazyans have lived in the Netherlands for almost nine years, but their claim for political asylum was rejected. The Dutch Minister for Migration, Mark Harbers, has so far refused to use his discretionary powers to intervene and allow them to stay.

“Just before Christmas, when we celebrate God’s humanity-loving and peaceful deeds, we feel strengthened not to forsake our responsibility for the Tamrazyan family,” Rev. Theo Hettema, chair of the Protestant Church The Hague, said in a statement.

(Via Dawn Summers.)

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Seven weeks until Valentine’s Day

I don’t speak a word of Arabic, but this seems awfully romantic just the same:

Charmaleena makes jewelry in Jeddah, on the Saudi coast of the Red Sea.


Elusive flutterby

Animals do not, as a rule, want to be trapped:

Until, of course, they do.

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Last year I gained about a frog and a half

zoomorphic weight

What we have here:

Zoomorphic weights were widespread in the ancient world. Weights in the shape of frogs and toads were rare in the Near East, but they do occur in Egypt. This frog weight is dated to the second millennium BC on the basis of the four-line Akkadian inscription under its throat: “a frog [weighing] 10 minas, a legitimate weight of the god Shamash, belonging to Iddin-Nergal, son of Arkat-ili-damqa.” The mina was the Mesopotamian unit of measure, weighing about 500 grams (18 ounces).

Carved from diorite or andesite in Mesopotamia ca. 2000-1600 BC. From the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

(From Uncertain Times via TYWKIWDBI.)


It don’t mean I’m blind

Corner of Emerson Lake and Palmer

As it happens, there is a musical trio called the Emerson, Lake and Palmer Project, and why shouldn’t we have an ELP tribute band?

Oooh, what a lucky band they are.

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Marx explained

Well, he didn’t explain it to me:

(Suggested by Nancy Reyes.)

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Genuine nightmare fuel

At least for me, if I spend any time pondering its origin:

Megalodon tooth passing through whale vertebra

Maybe I won’t think about it anymore.


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We can dress real neat

And I can act like an imbecile:

Current status of pants: totally removed.

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Tuning the musical fruit

Perhaps we can file this under “more than we wanted to know”:

Scientists often hope to break ground with their research. But a group of Australian researchers would likely be happy with breaking wind.

The team developed an ingestible electronic capsule to monitor gas levels in the human gut. When it’s paired with a pocket-sized receiver and a mobile phone app, the pill reports tail-wind conditions in real time as it passes from the stomach to the colon. The researchers, led by Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh of RMIT University and Peter Gibson of Monash University, reported their invention in Nature Electronics.

And we want this why, exactly?

The authors are optimistic that the capsule’s gas readings can help clear the air over the inner workings of our intricate innards and the multitudes of microbes they contain. Such fume data could clarify the conditions of each section of the gut, what microbes are up to, and which foods may cause problems in the system. Until now, collecting such data has been a challenge. Methods to bottle it involved cumbersome and invasive tubing and inconvenient whole-body calorimetry. Popping the electronic pill is a breeze in comparison. And early human trials have already hinted that the pill can provide new information about intestinal wind patterns and gaseous turbulence from different foods.

I’m convinced. Remind me to buy these guys a beer, and maybe some broccoli.

DOI: 10.1038/s41928-017-0004-x.

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Miku is your co-pilot

Hatsune Miku, recently wed (in holographic form) to a Japanese fellow, has a new gig:

Miku and a Honda

The “Let’s Drive with Miku!” project includes a customized Honda S660 automobile with integrated support for osoba, a smartphone application for iOS that allows voice-interaction with fictional characters. With osoba, the Miku-mobile will comment on subjects such as mileage and fuel levels as well as providing maintenance reminders for oil changes, tire rotations, and so on.

Of course, the tiny S660, out of Japan’s kei-car class, isn’t sold here, but:

American Honda Motor Co. president Tetsuo Iwamura was quoted as saying “I would personally fight for it,” to come to the United States if the US market asked for it.

One can only hope.

(Via @Joanna Blackhart.)

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Well, I’ll be doggone

First class stamp featuring Marvin GayeThey’re putting Marvin Gaye on a first-class stamp, and if you ask me, it’s high time they did:

With this new stamp in the Music Icons series, the U.S. Postal Service honors Marvin Gaye (1939–1984) — the “Prince of Soul” — one of the most influential music performers of his generation. The stamp design features a portrait of Gaye inspired by historic photographs. The stamp pane is designed to resemble a vintage 45 rpm record sleeve. One side of the pane includes the stamps, brief text about Gaye’s legacy, and the image of a sliver of a record seeming to peek out the top of the sleeve. Another portrait of Gaye, also inspired by historic photographs, appears on the reverse along with the Music Icons series logo. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp pane with original art by Kadir Nelson.

A sudden flash: M.P.G., as good an exemplar of what Berry Gordy called “The Sound of Young America” as ever existed, would have been 80 next year. He is still greatly missed.


The Mystery of the Cubic Crap

The wombat is the one and only marsupial that can literally shit a brick, and we’re starting to understand how they do it:

[H]ow the animals produce the awkward-shaped blocks — and they can pass up to 100 per night, presumably with some trepidation — has proved a harder one to work out. Scientists who find themselves intrigued by the phenomena have made little progress beyond ruling out the nagging suspicion that the animals possessed square anuses.

“My curiosity got triggered when I realised that cubical feces exist,” said Patricia Yang, a postdoctoral fellow in mechanical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “I thought it was not true in the first place.”

In a new study, Yang and her colleagues have had a fresh crack at the problem. To gain new insights into the mystery, they studied the digestive tracts of common wombats that had been euthanised after being struck by cars and trucks on roads in Tasmania.

Close inspection revealed that the wombat’s excrement solidified in the last 8% of the intestine, where the feces built up as blocks the size of long and chunky sugar cubes. By emptying the intestines and inflating them with long modelling balloons, of the sort used to make balloon animals at children’s parties, the researchers measured how the tissue stretched in different places.

In work to be presented at a meeting of the American Physical Society’s fluid dynamics division in Georgia, the team explain how the last section of the wombat intestine does not stretch evenly, unlike the rest of the intestine. When measured around the circumference, some parts give more than others. This allows the intestine to deform in such a way that packs feces into 2cm-wide cubes rather than the usual sausage shapes. The findings were buoyed up by tests on pig intestines which found no such irregularities in how those stretched.

And why would such a feature evolve in the first place?

[W]ombats mark their territorial borders with fragrant piles of poo and the larger the piles the better. With die-shaped dung, wombats boost the odds that their droppings, deposited near burrow entrances, prominent rocks, raised ground and logs, will not roll away.

The only real disappointment here is that we don’t actually have a SpongeBob SquareAnus.

(Via Fark.)

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That side of Paradise

Gerard Van der Leun, Camp Fired out of Paradise, reports on what’s happening down the road in Chico, California:

In the 24-Hour Walgreens Pharmacy on East Avenue, the pharmacists have been working overlapping shifts since the fire swept over Paradise last Thursday. These people and their back up staff work seemingly rock solid for hours on end. They fill and file and dispense medications which people from Paradise do not have with them. This is a demanding and thankless and exhausting task. And yet — I am the witness — they have been doing this without letup. Many have come in from surrounding towns, from Redding, to help and to keep the medications needed by a town of 30,000 displaced into a city of 80,000. Yes, the Walgreens pharmacists are leaving it all on the field.

[Tuesday], after the banking holiday of Monday, there was what can only be described as a run on the banks. Not a hostile or panicked run on the banks but just an overwhelming number of people needing to get their money straight in one way or another … such as “My ATM card and my ID were melted in my wallet when my pants burst into flame.” Please understand that today in Chico that is a reasonable statement. And the bankers all showed up looking cool and formal and professional and competent and moved the vast lines of people through with all hands on deck and cleared up a myriad of money crises. One banker I spoke with came up from Santa Rosa on his day off to help the team. He was a sharp dressed man. He and the other bankers were leaving it all on the field.

They all were leaving it all on the field everywhere in Chico. From Penney’s in the Mall to the Birkenstocks Store downtown on Broadway. In big jobs, and in small jobs, there was a long train of people working at the top of their game no matter what their game was. It has been days of this now in Chico; days of there being no big jobs or small jobs but only the unremitting effort the people to help their fellow citizens no matter what.

And since none of the Acronym Agencies have really shown up yet, this has all been done without any real government organization. Instead, it has been like watching a spontaneous Humanitarian Olympics rise up out of the town itself; and once started it has become as self-organizing and self-sustaining as the fire itself. Today as I moved around Chico I saw a town, untouched itself by the flames, rise up to restore and rebuild the lives of their fellow citizens of Paradise; lives that the fire had stolen. And by the end of the day, you could feel, palpably feel, that Chico knew it would win. Chico was leaving it all on the field.

You know what’s scary? The sheer size of the Wikipedia page called “2018 California Wildfires.”

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Looking good for 60

Joe Sherlock turned up this shot of a truly wild 1958 Chevrolet:

Exotic paint job on '58 Impala

A 1958 Chevrolet Impala, exhibited at SEMA last week, is not what it seems to be. Looking like a bare-metal finish automobile decorated everywhere with etchings, engravings and machine turnings is actually a paint job.

Displayed by Kuhl Racing and Japanese paint and automotive parts producer Rohan, the car showcased the artistry of custom painter Takahiko Izawa, who is credited with the invention of “metal paint” and for his unprecedented technique of “engraving” an entire car body.

Izawa reportedly uses various stencils and spends hours applying and sculpting the painted surfaces to achieve an awesome 3-D effect. The result is spectacular. There are lots more photos at Jesse Bowers’ Just A Car Guy site.

Now I’m trying to imagine this same treatment given to one of those bat-winged ’59s.


The sound of peace

It didn’t last forever, or even for very long, but at the time, it seemed to be the best thing that ever could have happened:

A hundred years later, it would be well to remember how things can change in a matter of minutes.


Enough for one day

Daily Dose of Internet is a YouTube channel with nearly four million subscribers, each of whom gets about three minutes of random snippets each day. This sampling from September is fairly representative, I think:

That octopus is fascinating for reasons other than just being an octopus, I think.

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Where does the time go?

I can imagine this on my wall. Yours, maybe not so much — but I could be wrong:

freakishCLOCK by Sabrina Rossi

The deets you demand:

Industrial designer Sabrina Fossi advocates that it is minute differences and details that distinguish objects. This approach enables sharp and innovative designs: her FreakishCLOCK Wall Clock is certainly an outstanding product. The young designer’s goal is to minimalize the time concept. Instead of having a standard hours hand, the entire face of the watch is a spinning disk with a hole in the shape of the hours hand. This allows you to see through the disc, into the actual face of the watch, which has numbers written on it.

Having once incorporated a bar-clock mechanism into a three-gallon cardboard ice-cream carton when I was a kid, I can appreciate this off-the-wall, or rather on-the-wall, approach. And it’s only €99, which doesn’t seem unreasonable for something you’re going to look at many times every single day.

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In lieu of the usual goblin count

I’m in no shape to do the up-and-down, to the door and back, repetitive-motion thing these days. Let it be said, though, that I do appreciate when someone’s really put some work into her appearance. (Or, when feasible, non- appearance: ten years ago a couple of girls somehow managed to evade detection by me or my motion detectors until they were right up against the front door. I question no one who has mastered the fine art of invisibility.)

This, I am sure, would have left me screaming:

(Via HelloGiggles.)

Addendum: Apparently Instagram will allow an embed for only a short period of time. The URL still works if you paste it into the browser’s address bar.

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See the light

Welcome to the world, Hallie. Goodness, but you’re a tiny little thing:

A baby born weighing just 1lb 1oz (500g) is defying the odds, her mother has said.

Baby Hallie was born to Robyn Bryant and James Dury at 28 weeks after they were told to prepare for the worst.

During the pregnancy, Hallie’s legs and arms measured shorter than usual, leaving doctors concerned that she had a genetic issue.

She was delivered via emergency caesarean on Tuesday at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

This is the part that perplexes me:

Further tests showed that she had a number of complications, including a fused kidney, and Robyn, 23, and James, 27, were told Hallie could die in the womb at any time from 20 weeks.

Nobody ever wants a stillbirth. Said Robyn:

“I don’t think anyone expected her to be breathing when she came out but she proved them all wrong, and was screaming. I wasn’t prepared for her to be crying so I was blown away.”

Before my daughter was born, we were told to expect the worst: all the machines that go Ping! were in unhappy agreement. And when she emerged, she let loose a banshee wail that, if nothing else, indicated that she was having no trouble breathing.

The family expect to spend their first Christmas together in hospital, where doctors expect Hallie to stay until “at least January.”

Ms Bryant said: “We could have been so much worse off and she could actually not be here. We’re very grateful.”

Yes, indeed.

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Ginsburger to go

Gotta love this:

(Via snipe.)

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Whiz kids at work

And they’ve come up with something interesting:

The world’s first “bio-brick” made from human urine was unveiled by University of Cape Town (UCT) civil engineering masters student Suzanne Lambert on Wednesday.

Dr Dyllon Randall, Lambert’s supervisor and senior lecturer in water quality at UCT, explained that the “bio brick” is created through a natural process called microbial carbonate precipitation. “It’s not unlike the way seashells are formed,” Randall said.

Parts of the urine are combined with loose sand and a bacteria to produce an enzyme called urease which breaks down the urine to produce calcium carbonate through a complex chemical reaction.

The calcium carbonate turns the sand into “cement”. The bricks are made in moulds at room temperature — better for the environment, as regular bricks are kiln-fired at temperatures around 1400°C and produce vast quantities of carbon dioxide.

Some years back, US experimenters tried to come up with a similar, um, product, but their method required the addition of a specially-developed liquid.

And there’s a useful byproduct:

[S]ome 97% of the phosphorus present in the urine can be converted into calcium phosphate, the key ingredient in fertilisers that underpin commercial farming worldwide. “This is significant because the world’s natural phosphate reserves are running dry.”

Research continues.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Baby got down

And he’s pretty darn good at it, too:

(Via Fark.)