Archive for: November, 2008

Holiday cards for 'geeks'

Nov 29 2008 Published by under Silliness

I'm still in holiday mode and not in scienceblogging mode, but I'll hopefully be back in the swing of things next week.  In the meantime, via Americablog, I present 'Christmas and holiday cards for geeks'.  A sample:

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Happy Turkey Day!

Nov 27 2008 Published by under Animals

I'm using the day as an opportunity to get some work done on my textbook.  We managed to eat our Thanksgiving dinner without kitten interference, as they were too tired to notice.  Later, however, the fiancée got up to make a turkey sandwich for her mother, and kitty chaos resulted:


First only three of the kitties demanded food, but soon Simon hopped up on the island to get in on the action:


Soon after, the kitties pounced, and the pictures of the horrifying aftermath are not for the faint of heart...

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Lafcadio Hearn's Oriental Ghost Stories

Nov 26 2008 Published by under Horror

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) was a very interesting fellow.  Reading through his Wikipedia entry, he was definitely not one to run with the crowd.  He was raised in Dublin, but moved to Cincinatti, Ohio at the age of 19.  Though he started out in poverty, he quickly rose through the ranks of the news business through his writing.  He married Alethea Foley, an African-American woman, in Cincinatti, an act which was actually illegal at the time.  He moved to New Orleans at the age of 27, where he wrote about the local culture.  Eventually he went to the West Indies as a correspondent, and ended up in Japan in 1890 and quickly fell in love with the country and its people.  He became a Japanese citizen, married a local woman (presumably the marriage to Foley didn't last), and adopted the name Koizumi Yakumo.

Hearn's (I mean, Yakumo's) writings introduced the western world to Japanese culture and history, and he is still highly regarded in that country.

Among those writings, Hearn compiled a number of books of ghost stories from the Orient, among them: In Ghostly Japan (1899), Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1904) and Some Chinese Ghosts (1887).  Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural compiled a volume of these tales together as Oriental Ghost Stories; though it's been sitting on my shelf for a while, I finally gave it a read this week:

Some thoughts about this lovely volume of spooky tales from the East below...

Continue Reading »

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Swoop bowling!

Nov 25 2008 Published by under Sports

This is my busy class day today, so I don't have time for a detailed post.  However, a friend of mine sent me a video of his recent skydiving exploits, which he refers to as 'swoop bowling'.  I present the video, with the disclaimer (for my fiancée) that this isn't something I would do:

I have to say, it's nice to see my old home DZ again, even if only in a video!

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How good is your civics knowledge?

Nov 24 2008 Published by under [Politics]

Via Daily Kos, I learned that there was a U.S. government civics test given to elected officials by the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI.  The results were pretty embarrassing:

US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

It's easy to laugh at such results, but how did I fare?  I took the test, and scored 90.9% (30 out of 33 correct).  To be fair, some of the questions seemed more historical than really 'need-to-know' civics (like a question concerning FDR's battles with the courts over the New Deal).  But there's really no excuse for getting less than 50% on a test like this.

How do you, the reader, compare?  Take the test here.  Feel free to post your scores in the comments -- if you dare!

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The perfect metaphor for the D's response to Lieberman

Nov 21 2008 Published by under [Politics], Silliness

Of course, we're all familiar with how boldly the Democrats stood up to Joe Lieberman, the man who campaigned not only for the Republican presidential candidate but also numerous down-ticket Republicans.  In the end, the Democrats welcomed him back with the same powers and privileges, even though he's quite likely to use those powers against them in the near future.

The last 20 seconds of the following video gives a good impression of what the negotiations were probably like:

Try to imagine the Democrats as Ted and Lieberman as Dr. Kelso. If you like, you can also imagine Dr. Cox as Obama, but that's stretching the analogy a bit too far, I think.

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Copernicus found?

Nov 20 2008 Published by under Science news

This is cool.  Via Americablog, I learn that researchers believe that they have identified the grave of Nicolaus Copernicus -- by comparing the skeleton to two hairs found in one of the astronomer's books!

Copernicus (1473-1543) was the Polish astronomer who first introduced a scientific cosmology placing the Sun as the central point of motion, rather than the Earth.  This heliocentric theory opened the door for modern astronomy and following work by such important scientists as Galileo.

Copernicus was known to be buried in Frombork Cathedral and in 2005 remains were found in the cathedral floor which were suspected to belong to the esteemed astronomer.  Recent DNA investigation on the hairs in one of his books and the suspect skeleton confirmed the identity.

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X-rays from Scotch tape?

Nov 20 2008 Published by under Physics

One of the joys of physics, and science in general, is that even seemingly mundane objects occasionally yield physical surprises.  A great example of this made the news about a month ago: the observation that, under the right circumstances, x-rays can be generated by the peeling of Scotch tape!  The phenomenon is an extreme example of the phenomenon of triboluminescence, and I thought I would take a closer look at the research results, which appeared in Nature.

First, a quick but important notice:  THERE'S NO REASON TO WORRY ABOUT USING STICKY TAPE AT HOME!  As we will note below, the x-ray effect is only significant when tape is peeled in a high vacuum.  Such a condition obviously does not occur without special preparation.  So the wrapping of Christmas packages can continue without fear.

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Zoe's sidesliding technique

Nov 18 2008 Published by under Animals

In lieu of more substantive blogging, I present this video of our cat Zoe:

She's developed her own lazy version of playing, in which she slides along the ground on her side after a toy instead of actually getting up to chase it.  The other day the fiancée got Zoe going, so I snapped some video of the action.  Look for her sideslide to come into play increasingly, starting at about the minute mark.

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A Skeleton at the Helm, edited by John Richard Stephens

Nov 17 2008 Published by under Horror

The post-Halloween season is a good time to snoop around for bargain Halloween books at Barnes & Noble, and two weeks ago I stumbled across a very nice collection of classic horror stories set on the high seas!  The collection, A Skeleton at the Helm, was just published this year and is a wonderful hardbound book that's a steal for only $10.00:

As one would expect from the nature of the collection, the stories are all old tales that are otherwise publicly available, but it is nice to have them together in one place for reading enjoyment.  Stories come from such greats as Poe, Bram Stoker, Washington Irving, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Hope Hodgson, and even Winston Churchill!  The book also comes with a nice introduction by the editor, which includes a discussion of real terrors of the sea which are just as chilling as the stories themselves!

From the discussion, it is easy to see why lots of myths and dark legends were spun about ocean travel: the sea is a frighteningly dangerous and unpredictable place, even in modern times.  Rogue waves can snap or overturn the sturdiest oceal vessel, and their origins are still a subject of debate.

A Skeleton at the Helm has been added to my collection of quality hardcover horror books.  If you like getting a chill from more than a stout ocean wind, I recommend it!

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