Archive for Entirely Too Cool

A bowl of chilly

Mathematician/actress Danica McKellar approaches the freezing point:

What this is supposed to do for you:

Brrrr.

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Tongue preservation

There are somewhere around 100 native speakers of the Seneca language remaining, mostly in western New York. Persuaded as I am that these languages ought to be preserved, I applaud small gestures like this:

Interestingly, Seneca has only 14 letters, if you count the colon as a letter, as they do. Three of them can also appear with umlauts, so at least they can have metal bands.

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Bees covered

GardeningMentor.com sent over a piece about bee gardening, and I’m fairly certain it will draw a reader or three.

In this passage, I learned a phrase I hadn’t heard before:

You should also consider the color and type of flowers you would like, the type of leaves, and the bloom time of the flowers.

If you have a bloom gap in your existing garden you can use the new plant to cover up that problem. For example, if you have a bloom gap in the months of July through October, you can fill this gap with the new bee-friendly plants you want to grow.

“Bloom gap.” News to me.

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Critters at play

And almost certainly enjoying it:

Works for our species, too, at certain stages of development.

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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My grandson, the Trojan

What can I say? The kid can act.

Gunner as Jonas, a Trojan

School plays, local community theatre — if there’s a role, he is there, Jack.

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Carbon dioxide in your stocking

I have to admit, I didn’t see this coming:

Researchers have used liquid metals to turn carbon dioxide back into solid coal, in a world-first breakthrough that could transform our approach to carbon capture and storage.

The research team led by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a new technique that can efficiently convert CO2 from a gas into solid particles of carbon.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the research offers an alternative pathway for safely and permanently removing the greenhouse gas from our atmosphere.

Current technologies for carbon capture and storage focus on compressing CO2 into a liquid form, transporting it to a suitable site and injecting it underground.

But implementation has been hampered by engineering challenges, issues around economic viability and environmental concerns about possible leaks from the storage sites.

RMIT researcher Dr Torben Daeneke said converting CO2 into a solid could be a more sustainable approach.

Hey, great! And then we can use that solid as a fuel, and … what?

(Via The Gilttering Eye. Citation: Room temperature CO2 reduction to solid carbon species on liquid metals featuring atomically thin ceria interfaces. Dorna Esrafilzadeh, Ali Zavabeti, Rouhollah Jalili, Paul Atkin, Jaecheol Choi, Benjamin J. Carey, Robert Brkljača, Anthony P. O’Mullane, Michael D. Dickey, David L. Officer, Douglas R. MacFarlane, Torben Daeneke & Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh. Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 865 (2019), https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-08824-8.)

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Harshing your melanoma

A drug that seems to work against skin cancer? As Glenn Reynolds would say, “Faster, please”:

For people with the deadly skin cancer melanoma, one dose of the drug Keytruda before surgery might stop the cancer in its tracks, according to a groundbreaking new study.

Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is a PD-1 inhibitor, an immunotherapy drug that triggers the body’s immune response to attack cancer cells. According to results of this study, the drug’s effects peak as early as seven days after treatment — much earlier than previously seen in other studies.

It even works on politicians:

Keytruda is the drug responsible for the remission of former President Jimmy Carter’s cancer in 2015. Carter, then 90, had melanoma that spread to his brain and liver. Treatment with Keytruda appears to have cured him.

And don’t ask the price:

The drug isn’t cheap, costing about $150,000 a year. Keytruda is covered by most insurance, including Medicare, but copays can be high, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The surgical option, though, isn’t likely to be any less expensive.

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News from Uncanny Valley

If she can’t rid us of Ron Burgundy, nothing will:

China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, unveiled its newest news anchor, Xin Xiaomeng. Why is this newsworthy? Well, because Xin isn’t a real person, but an ultra-realistic computer generated model powered by advanced AI technology.

The perfectly coiffed Xin Xiaomeng introduced herself to Xinhua’s viewers in a short clip, announcing that she will make her professional debut as news anchor in March. She was developed by the state-run news agency in collaboration with search engine Sogou, and her appearance and voice were inspired by those of a real-life Xinhua broadcaster named Qu Meng. In her introduction video, the perfectly coiffed AI news anchor spoke only in Chinese, and it’s unclear if she’ll be able to tackle English news reports as well.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Xinhua has already deployed male (sort of) AI anchors.

(Via Fark.)

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The sound of Uranus

No fart jokes, please. We’re talking the actual planet here:

Okay, it is a gas giant. Have it your way.

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Long before 4K

But not at all before JFK:

Said Miss Cellania:

From 1961. My parents held out for many years afterward, because they believed they already had a remote control — at least until the kids left home and stopped switching channels for them.

The brand — RCA Victor — isn’t mentioned until near the end, although you might have guessed from the reference to channel 4, which in those days was more often than not an NBC station, and RCA owned NBC back then. Perhaps more to the point, though, is a blatant case of Not Invented Here syndrome: Eugene Polley (1915-2012) built the first TV remote control in 1955 — for rival Zenith.

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Damntrak

Only the Japanese would do rail like this:

Unlike the country’s fabled Bullet Trains, Shimi-Shika loafs along at a modest 70 mph. Then again, you’re probably not in a rush:

Its 10 cars hold 17 spacious suites, some kitted out with cypress bathtubs and lofts. And that’s not the only thing that makes it feel like a five-star hotel: This train also sports a piano bar, two glass-walled observatory cars, and even a Michelin-accredited restaurant.

It holds up to 34 passengers, who are squired around eastern Japan for two to four days, paying anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 for a round-trip ticket.

Never catch on here. Not even in California.

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We’ll have no more of that

Her Majesty puts her foot down, and keep your damnable cameras away:

Queen Elizabeth II has given royal approval to a law that will make it illegal in England and Wales to take “upskirting” photos. The law, which takes effect in April, makes it a criminal offense to take pictures under a person’s clothes without permission.

It is the result of a campaign started by Gina Martin after a man placed a phone between her legs and took a picture of her at a London music festival in 2017. She reported the incident to police then discovered the man didn’t break any law, BBC News reported.

The bill had the backing of Prime Minister Theresa May, who praised activists advocating for a change in legislation.

And shortly thereafter, this PSA emerged from No. 10:

(Via @LadyJessMacBeth.)

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I was going for “tenacious”

After all, when I think of bulldogs, I don’t think in terms of agility.

But maybe it’s time I did:

Yeah, a border collie beat him. But a border collie is supposed to beat him.

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Now that’s a sturdy USB stick

Photo of a sea lion, photographer unknown

We may never know who took this picture of a sea lion on a New Zealand beach:

For more than a year a frozen slab of leopard seal poo sat in a NIWA freezer.

The poo, known scientifically as scat and about the size of two bread rolls, is as good as gold for leopard seal researchers. It can tell them what these Antarctic predators eat, a little bit about their health and how long they may have been in New Zealand waters.

It’s so valuable to scientific research that NIWA marine biologist Dr Krista Hupman and the team at LeopardSeals.org run a network of volunteer scat collectors up and down the country who gather the evidence and send it to her for analysis.

Two such volunteers were defrosting a sample when:

[T]hey discovered something large and hard. Concealed deep inside the scat was a USB stick.

And, well, what would you do?

[T]hey left it to dry out for the next couple of weeks in the hope they may be able to see what information it contained.

And, ironically, there are photos of sea lions at Porpoise Bay in the Caitlins and a video of a mum and baby sea lion frolicking in the shallows; the only clue to who might have taken them is the nose of a blue kayak.

If this sort of sciencing appeals to you:

There is information at www.leopardseals.org on what the scat looks like (thick puddles in varying colours), how to collect it (gloves and an ice cream container!), and how to say safe (keep at least 20m away from the animals).

I recommend Blue Bell ice cream: it’s pricey but it’s good, and it’s still packaged in half-gallon containers.

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You are just totally scrolled

The latest from Kika Studios makes even less sense after her explanation:

Whatever it was she’d set out to do, though, it’s pretty clear that she did it.

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Would you believe that?

The market for Elvis remixes has always been strong, and some geniuses somewhere figured that this was just the background for shuffle dancing:

“His Latest Flame,” a Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman confection, was first recorded by Del Shannon in the spring of 1961; the Elvis version appeared at the end of summer. So this summery video fits wonderfully well. (Can Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez do these steps? Of course she can.)

The dance somehow found its way to mainland China:

But as Mojo Nixon once pointed out, Elvis is everywhere.

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L’air du tech

I’m not quite sure this really qualifies as a falsehood, since the actual blades themselves — yes, there are actual blades — contribute so little to the airflow:

One of the tragedies of modern life is that Bernoulli’s principle cannot be made to work on the freeway: bringing up the speed will not even slightly reduce the pressure on the, um, carticles.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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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