Little Bunny Foo-Foo

December 14, 2013

Make that ‘Little Bunny YuTu’:  Good luck to ‘Jade Rabbit!! China has achieved the first soft landing on the Moon in 37 years!

The 500 people who live in Awra Amba, Ethiopia, do things a little differently, by design. The village has a mill, where grain is crushed into flour, a textile factory, a café, a tourist hostel, and two stores that cater to people from outside the village. Yet the people of Awra Amba do not follow organized religion, and that can make waves with neighboring communities. Let’s hope they don’t weigh the same as a duck, eh?

Here’s chapter and verse on a more-or-less comprehensive list of things banned in Leviticus. Some seem awfully petty. A number of them are punishable by death.

‘Rudolph’ is non-canonical. Death to the Rudolphite heretics! And the adventures of a philosophically inclined mailman.

This Khmer Rouge history lesson by Spalding Gray still fascinates me.

Walt Disney as a complex character of his times with some kinks and warts. In The Wayward Canary, from 1932, Minnie Mouse seems to own a lighter with a swastika on it, for some reason.

Traditional Catalan nativity scenes include a figure you don’t see in the States much.  He is known in Catalan as the caganer. That translates most politely as ‘the defecator’ – and there he is, squatting under a tree with his trousers down.

There’s so many similarities between the mythology of faeries and ETs, it’s like they were one and the same critters.

Nifty rocket launcher, it’s like a lazy-susan of deathThis is sooo coool, but it needs Ron Popeil to really sell it!

Did you know mammoths still walked the earth when the Great Pyramid was being built?

Here’s some early incarnations of some iconic toys.

When do the action figures arrive? Google has officially acquired Boston Dynamics, makers of robots as cool as they are terrifying. We are ordered not to fear them.


Field De-Bugging

December 11, 2013

The Martian desert gets real, real BIG when you’re in the middle of it, all alone. You try talking a probe down with a  lag of over 10 seconds sometime… it’s bloody awkward!

The NSA, along with British intelligence agency GCHQ, developed extensive methods to track gamers on World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Microsoft’s Xbox Live network, the Guardian reports today. According to Nick Yee, a Palo Alto researcher who worked on the effort, “We were specifically asked not to speculate on the government’s motivations and goals.

Augmenting Memory With A Neuroprosthesis. Once again I am beaten to my prize: DAMN YOU, MONKEYS!!!

Thanks For Scooping My Poop Hand Sanitizer! “If your lazy cat could talk, they might thank you but instead would probably tell you that you’re blocking the tv or explain that back when cats lived in the wild, they didn’t scoop their own poop”.

¡ Ted Cruz Is A Man Of Great Virility And Stamina !  Read (and color!) all about it in the Ted Cruz to the Future™ – Comic Coloring Activity Book!!!

Reactor down after explosion at Arkansas nuclear plant. No radiation is believed to have been released after Monday morning’s fire. Nothing to worry about except ‘Arkansas’ and ‘nuclear’ appearing on the same page (I’m  half-hillbilly, so I can joke about this).

Around the world, there are buildings that are decorated and built almost entirely with human bones. They form eerily symmetrical patterns, and turn death into an architectural flourish. No, this isn’t the decor at the Arkansas nuclear plant, but….

Spider webs DO actually reach out to get you thanks to electrostatic glue and they are Evil.

Cat food, corn syrup, and neurotoxin! There’s a Reason They Call Them ‘Crazy Ants’… “They literally come in waves of just millions,” Mike told me.  “It would make most people want to keel over and die.” Are they really attracted to electricity, or is it just good at killing them? 

Mosquitoes can smell your ankles! Studying the mosquito’s sensory pathways helps scientists find new repellents. Know your enemy as yourself!

Oh, great, a winter-hardy cockroach reaches NYC.

Don’t forget the ‘holiday’ to-do list, GOP-style!


Nothing is Beyond Our Reach

December 8, 2013

US Spy Agency Boasts ‘Nothing Is Beyond Our Reach’ With New Logo. The ACLU suggests the NRO “may want to downplay the massive dragnet spying thing right now. This logo isn’t helping.” Besides, it could distract from the Cephalopodmas Season!

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have found certain fungi possess the ability to ‘photosynthesize’ ionizing radiation, like inside the Chernobyl containment structure.

Meet The Tiny Rock That Could Start World War III.

The solstice isn’t for more than a week, but the earliest sunset of the year is already upon us. How’s that possible?

Moral Quandaries Department: The NFL has turned down an ad for a maker of modern high-capacity human-hunting rifles! So what’s a gun-nutter to do?? Wheel out the language of the civil rights movement of course: “There was a time when a black man couldn’t kiss a white woman on TV. That day has passed”! Another blow for freedom, y’all! Freedom and stray bullets.

Gene therapy scores big wins against blood cancers. A trixie reprogramming of T-cells.

This could get good! Westboro Baptist Church Will Fly To South Africa To Picket Mandela’s Funeral. I’m betting on “promptly killed and bodies mutilated by angry mob”, how about you?

The Neuroscientist Who Discovered He Was a Psychopath. “I got to the bottom of the stack, and saw this scan that was obviously pathological,” he says, noting that it showed low activity in certain areas of the frontal and temporal lobes linked to empathy, morality and self-control. When he looked up the code, he was greeted by an unsettling revelation: the psychopathic brain pictured in the scan was his own.

Who gets the prize for most deranged statement this week? Limbaugh? Palin? Santorum? Maybe the RNC? 10 Biggest Doozies From the Right-Wing Wackosphere This Week.

The existence of the RQ-180 has been long rumored. It’s probably been flying for a few years now, but you weren’t supposed to know that; the existence of this secret project, based out of Area 51, was revealed Friday by Aviation Week.

Mercy, MERCY!!!!

December 7, 2013

Experiments to Do With Your Baby. Seems fair-play to me, since the little tykes are experimenting on you their every waking moment. And, really, someone put those words in that order in print, then signed their name to it? That’s the part I don’t get. They gonna shank you just for that title.

STEERING SUNSHINE USING ELECTROFLUIDIC CELLS, OMG, I’M GEEKING OUT!! …but-  wait!— If we do this, just hand over an automated, distributed-network solar energy-gathering power nanogrid system, will ‘they’ still need us?  Just a mesh of modules based on a cellular-level analog of an amoral machine intelligence that optimizes for performance, for output I mean, what could go wrong? A minor network expansion to ‘It‘ might look a lot like a war to us, especially since all of our data-streams flow through ‘It‘. Will ‘It‘ use discrete persuasion, or just push us like pawns on a playing-field?

Still Zappadan! Cue Frankie!

Louie Gohmert. Just… Louie Gohmert. -<heavy sigh>-

Hey! Someone’s Been Siphoning Data Through a Huge Security Hole in the Internet! WTF???

Meet Trevor Paglen: he takes pictures of secret things using long lenses.

Let’s take just a real quick peek at Chernobyl’s “Elephant’s Foot”, just to keep it all real, okay? Still lethal after all these years.

When Rick Santorum is Your Best and Brightest… -<heavy sigh>-

How to Pirate A Vinyl Record, And How Vinyl Records Are Made.  Materials science to the rescue!

Ambitious Failure and the Knights of the Sci-Fi Ghetto

December 5, 2013

Hoo! and Ha!! Mysterious Universe gives us an appreciation of the flawed masterpiece that was the movie adaptation of “Tank Girl”.  “Ambitious failure is worth a hundred mediocre play-it-safe blockbusters”.  

And, yeah, speaking of Malcolm McDowell, nominations are open for the  “Knights of the Sci-Fi Ghetto“. Does anyone else remember David Warner’s “Quest of the Delta Knights“? Or Donald Pleasence in “The Mutations“? Films like these make you a working actor!

This Is Chest Hair. In The Shape Of A Cat. Oh, the horror!

This Canadian Mountie fights for the right to smoke (medical) cannabis in uniform. Nothing to see here!

Published in 1547, A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursetors describes the complex hierarchy of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells in 16th century England. Dark Tongues: The Art of Rogues and Riddlers, by Daniel Heller-Roazen, is a much later work taking a crack at the cryptolects (secret languages) of beggars, rogues and other tradesmen.  For instance, a specialized dialect of Jewish cattle-traders called Loshen-Koudesh, appears to have persisted into the 20th century Orange County, N.Y.

Paleofuture looks back on how newspapers wrote about the Internet in 1988. The rear-view mirror effect, reversed sorta.

The Satanic Temple is planning to donate a monument for the Capital grounds in Oklahoma City, next to the 10 Commandments rock. Hey gang! I’ll chip in! We sacrifice to Thee, Oh First Amendment!!

Faith, baby! Almost naked, with no food or fresh water, Harrison Okene survived almost 3 days inside an air pocket in a sunken tug boat under 100 feet of water.

2,000 dead mice equipped with cardboard parachutes have been air-dropped over a United States Air Force base in Guam in order to poison brown tree snakes.

Who you gonna call when you need a really artistic, custom cave carved by hand?

U.S. fast food workers strike for higher, living wages. The executives giggle and order another round of champagne.

Merry Zappadan, all!

Selecting for Extremophiles

December 2, 2013

Missed delivery note of the future, thanks to Amazon Prime Air.

SPACE BUGS! Say hello to Tersicoccus phoenicis, “isolated in two different clean rooms, and nowhere else”. It’s so genetically novel they are calling it a new bacteria genus. And it’s prossibly already hitched a ride to Mars.

Theres a nice bit on selecting for the uber-woodchuck. NPR interview with William Alexander  about his book, The $64 Tomato.

China’s “Jade Rabbit” lunar rover is on it’s way! Packed with a ground-piercing radar, cameras, spectrometers and plutonium-powered heaters, the rover lifted off at 1730 GMT (12:30 p.m. EST) Sunday.

The new ‘flying jellyfish’ drone video just reminds me of a film I saw in health class as a child.

For the first time, genetic information has been copied inside a simple synthetic cell designed to mimic primordial life. Happy/scared time!

Sorry, but for a great number of reasons humans aren’t at all likely to be chimp-pig hybrids as a kooky paper claims. PZ Meyers has thoughts on the MFAP Hypothesis. The peer-review process hangs it’s head in shame!

South Park provides this amazingly concise explanation of evolution:

Humans are extremophiles too, my friend! Listen to Rick Santorum make a First Amendment argument in favor of religious discrimination and be amazed!

Here’s a mashup of GOP trogs citing the Bible to deny climate change, featuring Oklahoma’s gift to comedy, Sen. James Mountain Inhofe. Kind of explains a lot, don’t you think?

And Jeb Bush confirms he hasn’t the honesty or reasoning skills to be president by accusing that Socialist Kenyan president of closing the Vatican Embassy in retaliation for Catholic opposition to the ACA. Ironically, the process of moving the embassy from its current location to the compound at the U.S. Embassy to Italy began under Jeb’s brother, President George W. Bush and will save $1.4 million a year. IT’S TRANNY!

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, this little amusement for you:

Winter Wonderland Waayyy Down South

November 30, 2013

A short post today. Thanksgiving has passed, hope you all survived it. My thoughts turn to the Long Cold Time ahead. I’ve got glass-blocks to set to close the hole in my bathroom wall, and glass blocks make me think of ice cubes, and ice cubes make me think of partying at the South end of the world.   

The Amundsen-Scott Station is the National Science Foundation’s permanent Antarctic base. While the NSF has recently labored to gentrify Amundsen-Scott and tone down the wild Polie culture that once ruled there, here’s a look back on the bad old days: “Soused at the South Pole“.

During the winter of 2000, Amundsen-Scott was the scene of an unusual case of poisoning. The Men’s Journal details the mysterious case of Rodney Marks and the background of selecting individuals for over-winter duty (think “a rare and delicate balance of good social skills and an antisocial disposition – basically, loners with very long fuses”).

The Gorgeous, Dangerous World Below Antarctic Ice. A dispatch from the continent’s artist-in-residence.

Drunk History Celebrate the history of Antarctic exploration, as told by drunks in Antarctica: 

Dead Parrots and Southern Fried Boneheads

November 25, 2013

Maine ‘Mystery Beast’ could be a ‘Chimichanga’! Run for your lives!

The United States and five other world powers announced a landmark accord Sunday morning that would temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program and lay the foundation for a more sweeping agreement. Now, the hard part: the Obama administration must convince U.S. lawmakers to back the plan. Let the games begin!

According to the Department of Defense’s Military Sexual Assault Report for 2012, an estimated 26,000 members of the United States military were sexually assaulted in that year.  Of those sexual assaults, 53 percent (approximately 14,000 in 2012) were attacks on men.

Monty Python adds four dates after their reunion show sells out in 43.5 seconds.

‘How does a plant make their food? Do they use a microwave?’: The failure of science education in the United States.

Southern fried boneheads have been arrested in connection with a fire that destroyed the LeBeau Plantation house in St. Bernard Parish. The men were apparently looking for ghosts at the mansion, which has long been the subject of ghost stories in St. Bernard. When no ghosts emerged, the group set the mansion on fire. Drugs and alcohol were involved, along with just being a bunch of dumbasses.

An Ex-Cop’s Guide to Not Getting Arrested. Rule #1: stay invisible. And don’t burn buildings down. Sheesh!

From Dangerous Minds‘EEFING’: CAN YOU HANDLE HILLBILLY BEATBOXING? I knew I hadn’t just imagined this!

Your Brain on Poverty: Why Poor People Seem to Make Bad Decisions. Could this explain why the poorest states keep voting for the GOP/Tea Party candidates, thus making things ever worse for themselves?

A British academic believes she has identified the precise spot of the elusive Hanging Gardens of Babylon… only it wasn’t exactly in Babylon.

More on Public Transportation in Tulsa

I found an interesting discussion at Stack Exchange on public transit bus efficiency. An analysis of the average  BTUs/passenger-mile figures for U.S. cities shows:

  • Cars: 3,437 BTUs/passenger-mile
  • Buses: 4,348 BTUs/passenger-mile

This is aggregate data for all buses in all cities in operation, with some cities doing better than the average, others considerably worse. Passenger-miles are a summation of (passenger_n * miles_n) for all passengers (1 passenger mile = 1 passenger travelling 1 mile, 2 passengers travelling 0.5 miles, etc).

The state of Oklahoma shows something over 5,500 BTU/passenger mile for buses, reflecting the outcome of running empty buses on routes at times of low ridership. Running ‘behemoth buses’ at any time other than high-load times is obviously a complete waste of money. Smaller, more flexible vehicle options (such as jitneys) would address this problem while cutting costs and improving service.

Considering that the busses used by Tulsa Transit carry sticker prices somewhere between $300,000 and $500,000 each, maybe its time Tulsa Transit, INCOG and the powers that be get their heads together and come up with a transit plan that makes more sense than just throwing more ‘behemoth buses’ at the problem? I mean, if they really want a sustainable, working public transportation system. That IS what they say they want, isn’t it?

It’s probably good GM’s gas-guzzling “Leisure-Mobile” never got made, or Tulsa Transit would want to run it.

Science Girls to the Rescue!

November 22, 2013

Okay, I’m super-pumped over GoldieBlox science stuff for girls! I’ve still got serious phosphene burn from past exposure to the “Pink Aisle”, and if we can spare just one generation of kids (and their parents) from that…!

I’ll always look back fondly on President Jimmy Carter (our only nuclear physicist president, so far). Remember when he put solar panels on the White House?
Remember how President Ronald Reagan had the solar panels removed (and gutted the research and development budgets for renewable energy) just to be a total dick?
At least one of the removed White House solar panels ended up in a museum… in China, where they know the value of renewables.
It’s okay though: President Barak Obama is putting new solar panels back where they belong. At least until the next far-right mutant slithers into the White House.

Here’s ‘progress’ I’m going to ignore: an electrode that can simulate synthetic tastes (salty, sweet, bitter and sour).

Archaeologists have unearthed what may be the oldest — and largest — ancient wine cellar in the Near East. Discovered in a ruined Canaanite palace in Tel Kabri, the site dates to about 1,700 B.C. 

Indonesian researchers have just discovered the remnants of a torpedoed Nazi sub off the main island of Java just west of Indonesia.

Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims, especially those appearing in the mass media.

Who knew? The Stuxnet cyberweapon came in two variants, one far more stealthy than the other.

Give It an Honest Re-Think, eh, INCOG?

Tulsans tend to get pretty worked up about “change” in the abstract. Witness the public debate wasted over essentially minor changes in the recently revamped municipal trash/recycling program: you’d have thought we were granting the vote to cats but not dogs or something. Whether it’s just the hardened arteries of a population that thinks of any change as a change for the worse, or those with a vested interest in the status quo trying to keep their petty fiefdoms untouched, resistance to change sure gets in the way of problem solving in Tulsa.

Improving public transportation should be one of those “totally good” things, right? Fewer ozone alert days, you can read while someone else does the driving, increased access to Our Fair City, etc.  As a pre-teen I used to be able to buy a day-pass for the bus for the price of a soda and take the bus to the Central Library and back or just ride the “Super Loop” around the city all afternoon if I wanted to. The bus worked for me, but I wasn’t depending on it to get me to work or school on time.

Recently, INCOG released their latest plan for improving public transit, labelled “FastForward”The plan has  the Peoria-Riverside core as its principal focus, calling for 9 new buses, improving wait times to only 15-20 minutes and business development incentives within a 10 minute walk to the bus line. FastForward might be a small step in the right direction, but the “large bus” model is why public transit in Tulsa never seems to get any better.

From my admittedly cursory reading of the “FastForward” plan I saw no sign that anything smaller than the usual ‘Behemoth bus’ was even considered. That shows a demonstrable lack of vision… or something worse. This is why public transportation in Tulsa has gone from ‘sucky’ to ‘suckier’.

Observe the standard Tulsa Transit bus:

Though they’ve added some bike carriers and are converting the fleet to natural gas, they are still big expensive buses that are mostly empty most of the time. Too expensive, they are to few and too far between, which makes the wait times too long.  In the words of Tulsa City Councilor G.T. Bynum, “We’re wasting millions of dollars to provide a lousy service”. Who wants to stand in the heat or dark or rain for even the “improved” 15-20 minute wait time? 

You DO want public transportation to work, don’t you? Then get that wait time down to 5 minutes! Consider the idea of using a greater number of smaller, cheaper jitneys! It’s way more cost-effective to keep more of them on the road to reduce wait times, even during off-peak hours. During rush hours, go ahead and run those stanky old buses (the only time they are efficient is when they’re full).  Jitneys offer the flexibility to deviate slightly from the published route for the comfort and convenience of passengers, making the service friendlier for all.  

What could possibly go wrong with shifting to jitney service? Well, if Houston’s experience is anything to learn from, the jitney doesn’t have many friends, taking fire from both “big bus” partisans and cab companies alike

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to consider alternatives that haven’t already failed (and failed consistently) here. Maybe if all the workable options were actually presented to the potential riding public (and they made their voices heard) Tulsans would get the public transportation system they deserve, instead of just the bare minimum required to say we have public transit at all.

Jitney bus in RishikeshFilipino-style 'Jeepney'

Sometimes the Name Says It All

November 13, 2013

Britain has more than it’s share of really bad place and street names.

Last Laugh Department: German media report that Heinrich Mueller, head of the dreaded Gestapo, was buried in a Jewish cemetery in 1945.

Contrary to popular belief, the biggest reason for the rise in U.S. health care spending is not an aging population or patient demand, but rather the increasing price of drugs, procedures and hospital care, a new study finds. Cough-<nationalize the gougers>-cough! 

In other quack medicine news,  a weight-loss ‘dietary supplement’ called OxyElite has been pulled off the shelves after over 50 cases of serious liver damage or acute liver failure among its users.

Show of hands: who is shocked by this? A new study finds that many pills labeled as ‘herbal supplements’ are little more than powdered rice. Americans spend an estimated $5 billion a year on dubious ‘herbal’ preparations.

Stuxnet, the first real 21st Century cyber-weapon, wasn’t content to just muck up Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges. It’s infected a Russian nuclear plant, according to Russian anti-virus guru Kaspersky, and there’s not much to prevent it from infecting the International Space Station, what with all those infect thumb-drives floating around. The ISS has already seen infection by the W32.Gammima.AG worm. Is this why NASA is switching to Linux?

Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky nails his scrotum to the ground in Red Square to protest ‘apathy, political indifference and fatalism of Russian society’. Okay, so some Russians make more sense than others.

A culprit has been fingered in the mysterious mass die-offs in the North American elk population. Nope, it’s not Bigfoot.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has voiced his own doubts about the ridiculous conspiracy theory that Lee Harvey Oswald acted as a lone gunman.

Despite being considered extinct for nearly 80 years, an intrepid group of British naturalists from the Centre for Fortean Zoology has set out to find proof that the thylacine (AKA ‘Tasmanian tiger’) is still alive and kicking. 

The oldest big cat fossils ever found  have been unearthed in the Himalayas – from a previously unknown species “similar to a snow leopard”.

Respect The Hamster-Ball of Personal Space: enjoy reading “Dr. Carmella’s Guide to Understanding the Introverted“.

“Tulsa: Where ‘Good Government’ Just Doesn’t Pay!”

T-town is in for another three years of scandal-plagued government with the re-election of Dewey  F. Bartlett yesterday. I’d like to wish him good luck, and his pants a higher ignition temperature, this time around! The good news from last night is that the infrastructure improvement projects all passed, so maybe the ‘street-crater slalom’ will get a little less challenging.

This is one of those elections that left me wishing for a “None of the Above” option on the ballot. More than $4 million was spent on the mayoral campaign, and I found both candidates unworthy. Why should we have to get stuck with lemons like this? Voters should be able to say “Sorry, try again!” and call for a fresh slate of candidates.

Sandia’s Multi-Modal Vehicle concept is just weird enough to love. Look for something like it under your X-mas tree (or circling your compound) in the near future!