Archive for Entirely Too Cool

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.

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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.)

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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.)

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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.

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Handy crapparatus

For lack of a better description:

I have no idea what this contraption is for, and I strongly suspect I don’t want to know. Belly Bandit’s usual business is post-partum shapewear.

(Via Jessica Stone Levy.)

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I believe he can be saved

Note: It’s only September, fercryingoutloud. Don’t go smashing any pumpkins.

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I don’t want to work

I just want to bang on the drum all day:

Oh, and if you came in looking for Todd Rundgren:

Someone really needs to teach that bird how to play this.

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Meanwhile at the Summit

Now kicking for the Lee’s Summit North Broncos, number 95, Nick Havlik:

Nick Havlik prepares to split the uprights

Mr. Havlik is the son of this righteous babe. Lee’s Summit is southeast of Kansas City, Missouri. It is not actually named after Robert E. Lee.

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Chiron high

“My name is Juan Pablo Montoya. I drive Bugatti. Prepare for speed.”

Juan Pablo Montoya at the wheel of a Bugatti Chiron

Deadpan howler from Wikipedia:

The Chiron’s top speed is electronically limited to 420 km/h (261 mph) for safety reasons.

Meanwhile, do not assume that this is the outer limit of the car’s velocity. Our driver here doesn’t:

[T]he company will disengage the limiter for all record attempts — just like it did with the Veyron. The problem is that nobody knows exactly how fast it will be until drivers start pushing the envelope. Assumedly, it will be faster than its predecessor. Bugatti upgraded the vehicle’s turbocharged 8.0-liter W16 to 1,500 horsepower and 1,180 pound-feet of torque, whereas the Veyron Super Sport only had 1,200 hp and 1,106 foot-pounds. On the downside, the new car is about 330 pounds heavier.

Realistically, we don’t see Bugatti encountering much trouble as it tries for speed records. The automaker is already promising a 0-to-124 mph time of 6.5 seconds and 0-to-186 in under 13.6 seconds — the latter of which is about a second quicker than the old Veyron’s best. But there is a big difference between paper and practice.

For this run, veteran racing driver Juan Pablo Montoya hustled the vehicle up to 400 kph (249 mph) in a scant 32.6 seconds before swapping throttle for brake. Slowing to a halt took another 9.3 seconds, which isn’t bad for about one-third the speed of sound. Montoya also bested his own personal speed, set behind the wheel of an Indy car, with the Chiron and says he’s looking forward to next year’s world speed record attempt.

“I think I’m probably too old for 300 horsepower.” — Me, after returning a borrowed Infiniti Q50 with a turbo V6.

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Thinking out of the mailbox

As one of those weird people who buys stamps online, I maintain an account with USPS.com, which costs me nothing but subjects me to random emails. This latest, however, introduces a possibly useful feature:

Your My USPS® account was recently upgraded to include Informed Delivery® — a new feature that gives you the ability to see a digital preview of your incoming mail. Informed Delivery allows you to view images of the exterior, address side of your household’s letter-sized mailpieces on a computer, tablet, or mobile device. As part of the upgrade, you can receive a daily email containing images of your mailpieces that are arriving soon. Select the box below and use your unique code [redacted] to start your notifications. Your code is unique to your account. For security purposes, the code and link will expire Saturday, September 30, 2017.

Informed Delivery will completely replace the existing My USPS application in September. You will still have access to all benefits of your old My USPS dashboard, including USPS TrackingT and the option to leave delivery instructions for incoming packages. In the near future, both mail images and package tracking information will be included in the optional daily email.

Here’s the FAQ for the service. I might actually get some use out of this.

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The latest and greatest buzz

The Fark headline was exactly what was called for: “I like my coffee like I like my women, COVERED IN BEES.”

Emily Mueller and 20000 beesAnd now, a woman covered in bees:

Real talk: art direction of the standard maternity photo shoot has taken a cynical seat on a clichéd chair in our collective consciousness, right alongside the wedding photo shoot and prom photo shoot. But we celebrate expectant parents and beaming couples, trite or not, for capturing important milestones because we love our friends, are happy for them and it’s the right thing to do, dammit. Still, the relentless barrage of shoots coming at us in our social media feeds has made it too easy to picture precisely what poses will be captured for each milestone. If you say “maternity shoot”, I hear “husband or young kids kissing belly bump in staged adorable fashion”, not “the harried buzz of 20,000 bees as they swarm the abdomen of an expectant mother”. By gum, that changes today.

In stupendously unorthodox fashion, Emily Mueller of Akron, Ohio just broke the wheel on the baby bump reveal photo, by adding tens of thousands of bees. Surprisingly, she did keep one hallmark of the photography genre: the serene smile of the matriarch contemplating her role as life giver. Whatever your take on the apiary aesthetic, Mueller gets points for smiling calmly while buried beneath thousands of potentially sting-crazy insects. Should you be looking to differentiate yourself from the reproductive rabble and ace a boss photo, do take notes. Also, I openly hope that something will happen to make that baby be born with bee powers.

What might “bee powers” be, anyway?

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Legend repeats itself

You probably know how this goes:

Legend has it that King Arthur first received Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake in Dozmary Pool after rowing out to receive it.

After being mortally wounded he asked to be taken there so he could return the sword to her.

After three attempts, his loyal follower Bedivere cast it into the water and the Lady of the Lake’s arm rose to receive it.

Matilda Jones and a four-foot swordAnd now, as Paul Harvey would have said, the rest of the story:

A seven-year-old school girl had a legendary holiday after pulling a giant four-foot sword from the Cornish lake where Arthur threw Excalibur.

Matilda Jones was wading through water waist-deep at Dozmary Pool when she stumbled across the blade underwater.

Matilda has a sister named Lois, who is four; it’s a toss-up whose eyes grew wider at the discovery of the sword. Or it might have been their dad, who had shared that bit of Arthurian legend with the girls just a few moments before.

Surely this can’t be Excalibur itself, can it? Mr Jones says no:

“I don’t think it’s particularly old. It’s probably an old film prop.”

I won’t tell if you won’t.

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Back from Never-Never Land

Okay, maybe not every genre, but this shows you just how protean “Enter Sandman” can be:

(If you’d rather, here’s a Beatlesque version.)

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Truly distinguished

All about the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride:

Our focus is on gentlemen who have been dealt a tough hand in life. In particular, we raise funds for research into prostate cancer and mental health programs as part of our mission to support men’s health globally. These funds are invested by our partners the Movember Foundation, the world’s largest men’s health organisation.

Based in Australia, Movember, whose signature event involves the growing of mustaches, has raised over half a billion dollars in 21 countries.

Jack Baruth will be riding:

I’ve signed up for the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride next month. It’s a great charity masquerading as a bunch of dickheads wearing suits on dorky motorcycles. I’m planning on wearing a Hickey Freeman pinstripe and riding my Honda CB1100. If you want to throw five bucks towards the cause, you can do it here.

I have done so.

Those of you who hate my guts can be reassured by the fact that it’s almost certain to rain this time of the year and that I’ll basically be spending two hours wrapped in three layers of soaking-wet wool. There’s also a reasonable chance that one of these hipsters who can barely ride a motorcycle by themselves, let alone in a group, will run into me and cut off my leg.

Hmmm. Maybe five bucks isn’t enough.

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Jive walkin’

He started a joke which set the whole world marching:

(I do not know if any of this footage was shot on the First of May.)

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This isn’t even its final form

But the concept is pretty sweet:

And hey, how can you go wrong with a Volkswagen Bus? My family had two of them. (I learned to drive in one of them, which is a great way to learn patience.)

This is what VW actually said:

Driven by popular demand, Volkswagen announced … it is planning on selling a production version of the award-winning I.D. Buzz concept electric vehicle in 2022 for the United States, Europe and China.

Now about that powertrain …

The first VW Bus sold in the United States in 1950 had all of 30 hp. The I.D. Buzz concept sports 369 hp from electric motors on each axle that also provide all wheel drive and the 111 kWh battery pack in the floor of the MEB chassis provide nearly 300 miles of estimated range. Using a VW fast-charge system, it can recharge about 80 percent of its energy capacity in 30 minutes at 150 kW.

Not ludicrous speed, but plenty fast for a giant box. MEB = Modularer Elektrobaukasten = a VW Group platform built specifically for electric vehicles. (Our second Type 2 — the Beetle, of course, was Type 1 — managed something like 47 hp.)

Then I look at that video again, and I think, “It’s all CGI. The guy’s interacting with a bunch of computer models.” And I’ll probably keep thinking that until I see one in the flesh — er, sheetmetal.

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In color where available

This dates to about 1965, or nine years before our thrifty-or-else family actually got a color TV. And yes, it was an RCA Victor.

1965 advertisement for RCA Victor color TV

Most of those sets were 21-inchers; the console with the stereo system says specifically it’s 25 inches. As always, the screen measurement is taken along a diagonal, since Pythagoras promised them it would be a bigger number.

And if you were alive in ’65, you might have seen these on the Big Three networks:

Of course, I got to see them in black and white.

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The joys of simulating Uranus

This sounds almost too weird to be true, and yet …

Scientists have long theorized that the icy giant planet Uranus could have diamond rain showers due to the immense pressure in its atmosphere but none have actually come close to confirming the idea since mimicking the harsh conditions of the planet is necessary.

A team of researchers, however, has recreated the atmospheric conditions of Uranus at Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and successfully observed a rain of tiny diamonds.

As hard as it must have been to create that artificial atmosphere, I figure the hail of diamonds was a satisfying payback, except for these minor details:

The researchers say that, considering its size, the diamond rains in Uranus are probably giants reaching up to a few million carats in size. However, there are also two things to consider with ice giant diamonds: the first is that it probably has impurities, and the second is that they’re not cut and polished.

Probably no jewelers this far from Earth, either.

(Via Darlene.)

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I want that one

And she gets it, too:

I have to figure that it will take that teensy dog a long, long time to wear out that big plushie.

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Never gonna give Foo up

I guess we could call this Rick Astley/Foo Fighters combination a RickGrohl:

From the Summer Sonic Festival in Tokyo, this past weekend. (There are some untoward words scattered through the audio, so don’t play this too loudly at work.)

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Maybe just a little more space

This is admittedly not my speed:

After looking at the pictures, I’m starting to wonder how they’re giving it away for a mere $1.75 million.

(Via Quinn Cummings.)

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N-word, indeed

I remember reading this when I was younger:

The line following that one got Dick Gregory hired by the Playboy Club in Chicago by Hugh Hefner himself, circa 1961:

Then these three white boys came up to me and said, “Boy, we’re giving you fair warning. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.” So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, “Line up, boys!”

At least once in the retelling, he specified where he kissed that chicken.

And then there was this:

The first time I was called “nigger” was in a little town called Mishawaka, Indiana, which just sounds like something’s going to happen. Guy yelled, “Get off the stage, nigger!” And I said, “Wow, did you hear that? He just called me the Lone Ranger’s horse, Trigger. That got a big laugh and then people were comfortable. I put it into my contract: Every time you say that I make another $50,000.

Trigger was actually Roy Rogers’ horse, but no matter. There was no one quite like Dick Gregory, and he kept doing live shows right up until the end. (Alas, he’ll never make it to his scheduled fall date at Oklahoma City’s Tower Theater.)

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