02 February 2013

Weekend linkdump

Just a reminder that things I post in a linkdump should not be viewed as less worthy of attention than material getting a full post.  It's a mixture of things of interest only to a limited audience, or items with no pictures, or things so popular they aren't "TYWK", or stuff I want to store for perusing in detail or linking to later.  But mostly a linkdump allows me to get away from the computer.  Today to crank up the snowblower again, sadly...

The sum of all the numbers on a roulette wheel is 666.

If you're opposed to Citizens United but don't know what to do about it, you could start by signing Al Franken's petition to call for a Constitutional amendment to overturn it.

If "Planet of the Apes" had been made in Minnesota.

The "Wind Map" depicts a live representation of wind direction and velocity in the United States.  It's beautiful because it's in constant motion, and I wish I could embed it, but here's a screencap:

If you own or live in a house, you should read (or bookmark) this column about water shut-off valves.  You may need to acceess yours in a hurry some day.

"Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who opposes abortion rights, mutually agreed with wife to abort not once but twice."

The mysterious "bloop sound" that was once attributed to whales or unknown marine life, has now been ascribed to "icequakes."

A Wall Street Journal article explains how to make money selling mud as a beauty treatment.

Bdelliod rotifers have gone 80 million years without sex (longer than you), but still have managed to evolve into 400 species.

A brief history of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Someone is shooting and mutilating dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.

Twenty nerdy science-joke cartoons

Everyone knows how wait staff in a restaurant can get back at you if you mistreat them.  Here is an discussion of what can happen if you are not nice to a hotel clerk.

The former editor of the OED "covertly deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins and bizarrely blamed previous editors."

Godchecker is a website where you can look up information on 3,000 gods, including the one you believe in.

Are you Irish-Canadian or know someone who is?  Then you should bookmark "The Shamrock and the Maple Leaf, an exhibition of Irish-Canadian documentary heritage held by Library and Archives Canada. Here you will discover photographs, letters, books, music and other evidence of Ireland's vital influence on Canadian history and culture."

In 2005 "an Australian man built up so much static electricity in his clothes as he walked that he burned carpets, melted plastic and sparked a mass evacuation. Frank Clewer, of the western Victorian city of Warrnambool, was wearing a synthetic nylon jacket and a woollen shirt when he went for a job interview. As he walked into the building, the carpet ignited from the 40,000 volts of static electricity that had built up." [note: the veracity of this story has been questioned].

"Mexican waves are more likely to go clockwise in the northern hemisphere and anti-clockwise in the southern hemisphere, a researcher has claimed."

The director of renal transplantation at the University of Minnesota argues that people should be allowed to sell one of their kidneys.

Beer consumed in ancient Nubia contained a potent antibiotic (tetracycline), from contamination of the grain used in brewing the beer.

The marked answers on "bubble forms" on standardized tests can be analyzed "to catch students who hire proxies to take their SATs and teachers who change answers on their students’ high-stakes tests."  More on the subject here.

"Prison officials in the US state of Texas have abolished the traditional last meal request for inmates who are facing execution. The move came after a prisoner requested a huge meal then did not eat any of it, saying he was not hungry."

Canada's plastic $50 and $100 bills can melt. [maybe - see the Snopes article].

Bionic eye implants may offer progress in treating some forms of blindness.
For around $115,000, you get a 4-hour operation to install an antenna behind your eye, and a special pair of camera-equipped glasses that send signals to the antenna. The antenna is wired into your retina with around 60 electrodes, creating the equivalent of a 60-pixel display for your brain to interpret. The first users of the Argus II bionic eye report that they can see rough shapes and track the movement of objects, and slowly read large writing. The second bionic eye implant, the Bio-Retina developed by Nano Retina, is a whole lot more exciting. The Bio-Retina costs less — around the $60,000 mark — and instead of an external camera, the vision-restoring sensor is actually placed inside the eye, on top of the retina. The operation only takes 30 minutes and can be performed under local anesthetic.
All Zappo's employees can fly free on the company's private jets.

To better control prostitution, Zurich plans to approve "drive-in sex boxes." "The prostitutes who use the sex boxes will also have to take out medical insurance and buy a £26 licence in order to ply their trade. On top of that they will also have to feed five Swiss francs, about £3.30, into a roadside ticket machine each night when they clock on."

A new fish has been named after Barack Obama.  "Etheostoma Obama, is a relatively skinny orange and blue speckled fish topped by a brilliant fan-shaped fin, with bold orange stripes."

How to make "surprise balls" (a cool way to wrap up small gifts).

"An Eagle Mills, New York couple that lost their home to a fire last week, now has to pay $1,400 for the water used to combat the flames."

Some people claim to have become physically ill while watching the new Hobbit movie because of the unusual high-speed cinematography technique employed.

A Walk in the WorDs posted a list of linkdumps/linkfests.  By linking to his post, I'm promoting the process of "recursion."

A potentially rather valuable discussion thread at Reddit addresses the question "What is something you think everyone should have installed on their computer or laptop?"

Ever wanted to see the inside of a gold bullion vault?

It's now possible to search 15 years of the New York Times crossword puzzles, both for clues, and for their answers.  "Blog" for example, has been clued as a "post holder."

Helpful information for homeowners on how to prevent ice dams.

Impessive video: "After weeks of waiting, the filmakers witnessed 7.4 cubic km of ice crashing off the Ilulissat glacier in Greenland."  Related: watching meltwater rushing down a moulin.

A list of 80 real-life cheat codes.

"City buses across America increasingly have hidden microphones that track and record the conversations that take place on them..."

You can use Google Maps to look up mass animal deaths.

Historic photos from Cathedral Grove show how massive trees grew before humans arrived with saws. " Father's hollow trunk was so large that a person could walk erect inside it for 200 ft."

A possible answer to the D-Day pigeon riddle.

It's fairly commonplace to encounter videos of people solving scrambled Rubik's cubes blindfolder.  Here's one of a man solving an 8x8x8 Rubik's cube blindfolded.  The video is compressed from over an hour (about half of that study time) to show the entire process in about 7 minutes.

An article about flesh-eating beetles (dermestid beetles), with a video of their use in the laboratory.

"Brian Krebs reports on a terrifyingly real-seeming Point of Sale skimmer: a device that looks and feels just the thing you normally stick your credit-card into and then enter your pin into, which can print out a real-seeming receipt showing the transaction was approved by your bank. Instead, what this thing does is record your card number, PIN, and other information needed to replicate your card and use it to clean out your account."

A good (and presumably accurate) video explaining some misunderstandings in the public's understanding of the meaning of the terms "semi-automatic weapons" and "assault rifles."

How high can a tiger jump?  This high.

I enjoyed creating the embed image at the top, using the Pulp-O-Mizer, via Neatorama.

Enough for the day.  I'll close with this photo (cropped from the original), entitled "My mom told me that our new power strip wasn't working... Came to find this...":


  1. A "petition to call for a Constitutional amendment " --- This is brain dead. You don't amend the constitution to retract a specific supreme court case. Get a clue. Read how it's done and spend more than one second thinking about it. That's not to say money shouldn't be out, but this notion is beyond stupid and you should know that at a glance.

    1. The petition is being used as a gauge of public opinion - lighten up! This is a happy place.

  2. I can strongly second the opinion that knowledge of shut off valves are an essential part of home ownership. My brand new (like 1 week old) water heater suffered a catastrophic failure of the inflow and outflow couplings Tuesday. Bad event, but perfect timing - I was home and awake, it wasn't freezing, I still had internet so could google the make and model for the locations of the shut off valves, and the installers had raised the new furnace (which replaced a much larger model) rather than extend the ductwork down.

    I have now read the manuals for the new-new water heater, furnace, air conditioner, humidifier, and my old soft water tank.

    1. One more suggestion: mark the shut-off valves with colored tape and labels so that if someone else has to jump in (or if they call you on the phone) they can have a heads-up as what is what.

    2. Red and blue electrical tape (for hot and cold lines) are now in place. I'm taking pictures and labeling everything to put in my emergency file. I think it is time to write a user manual for the house.

  3. The surprise balls are great! I'll be making some next time I have a good reason. :-)

  4. I can vouch for the melt-ability (!?) of Canadian bills. I was waiting in line at my bank late last year when a distraught-looking gentleman rushed in and dumped a handful of what looked like dried-up cat turds on a startled teller's counter.
    “These are six one hundred dollar bills that my wife put through the dryer", he gasped, shoving them at the teller. “They were in the pocket of my jeans!"
    The flustered teller just looked at him, wide-eyed, shrugged and said: "What do you want me to do?"
    The poor guy was busted - out $600 just because some penny-pinching government scammers thought it'd be a cool way to save a few bucks by printing our money on what is essentially slighter-thicker Saran Wrap. Way to go, Bank of Canada! I wonder how many other poor suckers this has happened to.

    1. Oh yes, the new plastic $20 bills have also recently been released. $10 and $5 due to be rolled out later this year. Apparently they're causing no end of headaches for vending machine operators too - and ticket machines for parking garages, etc. The machines are routinely rejecting them. Your tax dollars at work!

    2. Best response to the ludicrous urban legends circulating about these bills is good old Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/business/money/melting.asp

      If someone says bills melted in a dryer, or on a radiator, or in a car on a hot day, it's a story, no more.

      As to vending machine operators, they've long had to contend with occasional changes in coin shapes and weights, and bill designs, colours, paper weights and now size and material changes. This is no different than the past, and shouldn't be a reason not to make a currency change when there are other good reasons.

    3. Pfft! And you believe anything the Bank of Canada - a branch of a government dedicated to lying to its constituents - says? They denied there was a problem with the "twonie" (the $2 coin) for months until videos of people popping them apart started surfacing on news shows across the country.

  5. I followed the link to watch the video on the gold bullion. I've now spent the last 3 hours watching several of that man's videos. They're so interesting!

  6. By coincidence, I found that bullion fellow's youtube channel about the periodic table just a few days ago, and immediately told my daughter about it. She's just started physics and chemistry at school. It's great to have sites like that to help explain "stuff". And the wiki page about roulette was an eyeopener, Stan: who would have thought so much mathematics was involved? About the 666, no wonder there's a saying about that being the "number of the beast", ie Satan. After all, it's not just a handful of people who lose collectively millions of dollars/pounds/euros gambling, eh?

  7. A Wall Street Journal article explains how to make money selling mud as a beauty treatment.

    And not the only way to make money selling mud. The Lena Blackburne folks have been selling mud to pretty much every serious baseball organization for like 75 years now. Not a bad gig.

    1. Found it -


      Probably blogworthy, but I'm swamped. Tx, Steve.

  8. Always so much to explore when I stop by here and so very much in this post. I particularly want to thank you for the Pulp-O-Mizer. I quite enjoyed making one for my library blog and can see the potential for kids using it for projects at school.

  9. LOL on those "cheat codes". a collection of common knowledge, obvious tips, deliberately humourous tips (they MUST be, surely, deliberate!), ridiculous claims and urban myths (eg. the one where you use your skull to increase the power of the signal from your key to locate your car, which is ok because it's "non-ionizing radiation")

    1. Thanks, embeetee for the comments on the Canadian money and the static electricity; I've put addenda on those stories. But on this one, using one's skull to amplify the signal from a car key is not an urban myth; I've done it myself to lock my car from far away.

    2. I'm absolutely convinced it is an urban myth, Minnesotastan. My own weak knowledge of RF told me so on reading it, and I didn't go any further to find support for what is admittedly my own uninformed "common sense" reaction. I did a little bit of looking for knowledgeable/informed comments, but found confirmation bias misleading me; I was attracted to those who agreed with me and dismissed those who didn't. I'm interested, so will dig deeper when I have more time to investigate.

      Best regards

    3. Here's what I did. Parked my car in an open mall lot away from buildings etc, walked away while pressing the lock/unlock button on my key. When I was too far away for it to work, I placed it under my chin and pressed the button and it worked (for a significant additional distance).

      Of course my situation (or my head) may be anomalous. YMMV.

    4. Well this has taken me on quite a journey. Best I've found is this study (http://www-mobile.ecs.soton.ac.uk/home/conference/VTC10-Fall/DATA/02-05-02.PDF), which frankly is a bit dense for me (there, I said it!) but in essence says hold the fob vertically about shoulder (head) level, buttons to the side, to get the greatest range.

      However, antenna placement in the vehicle is a huge consideration, and will vary from car to car. Some use pairs, some use multiples, they're placed differently, they combine different antenna shapes and orientations... So some cars receive better if you hold the fob horizontally from the front of the vehicle but vertically if you are behind it.

      The takeways for me are:
      1) I was wrong, the signal is strengthened by virtue of being held in front of the body (presumably directionally, strengthened to the front only, but I haven't found confirmation of that)

      2) the skull and position of the mouth and touching the head with the fob are of no consequence

      3) you are almost certainly (but not necessarily) better off holding your fob vertically, buttons to the side, at head or shoulder level

      4) the design of the antenna(e) in your car, and your position in relation to the car and antennae will have significant but unknowable impact on your success in extending the range (which would help explain why people have varying experiences). You're probably best simply to experiment so you know what works with your fob and your vehicle.

      Thanks for making me learn something new =-)

  10. To the Australian static story from 2005:

    "Considerable Current" reads the sub-head part way through the story. current is amps, not volts. OK, that's a bit picayune, but it's actually the least egregious of the misapprehensions in this article.

    40,000 v is high but not at all impossible with static e, for example created by vigorously shuffling your feet on a carpet (esp in a very dry atmosphere). But static e is at incredibly low amps, which is why it stings but doesn't melt you when you touch a doorknob. You easily withstand voltage as long as the amps are low...and they are. It's current that is dangerous (so don't try low voltage and high amps), and it's current meeting resistance that generates heat.

    So the heat generated by his discharging 40,000v at very low amps is negligible. Plus it would be such an incredibly short timeframe discharge he wouldn't leave a trail of smouldering or burning carpet directly beneath him, much less five minutes after he left. Are we to conclude he discharged into the carpet, which somehow retained the current (ignoring the fact it's very low) and heat built up over time to create the fire??

    Plus if he had discharged the static e (leaving a trail of burning carpet behind him) there'd be nothing for firefighters to measure; it's discharged. When you have static e and touch a doorknob, you don't discharge a bit with the first touch, and a bit more with the second, and so on, you discharge it all at once.

    And what are they measuring with? A regular voltmeter would immediately dissipate the charge and consequently show no voltage on the meter. He's not *generating* voltage as he stands there to be measured.

    The whole thing is bunkum.

    1. Discussed here:


    2. General apology due to you, Minnesotastan. (Thanks, by the way, for that link; I hadn't seen that last night).

      Driving to work I was thinking about my posts last night, which I fear appear critical of you for posting these, though that wasn't my intent. For a couple at least, it was my intent *to the original story and author*.

      I think it's important that each of us maintain a healthy skepticism when reading articles in any media. Note I don't mean cynicism, and I don't mean we have to automatically question and critique everything we read, only that we must think about what we read and consider whether it merits ready acceptance or further thought, analysis and research. Esp with the Internet, it's too easy for simply ridiculous assertions to multiply and repeat as unquestioned fact. And I'm particularly sensitive about stories which involve basic science, often poorly reported and easily checked.

      However, I say here, and I say LOUD, what I've said before: I am awed and appreciative of the time and effort you spend, the far-reaching interests you demonstrate, and the results evident here on TYWKIWDBI. This remains my favourite blog, and I take every opportunity to tell people about it =-)

      Plus it is one blog where the comments are almost always thoughtful and respectful contributions as opposed to the invective that lands on most blogs and news sites which permit comments.

    3. No apology needed. I've heard from several people that unlike other blogs they cruise, at this one they often click to read the comments because they are so informative. Healthy skepticism is a welcome commodity here.

  11. Here's my entry for the pulp magazine cover meme:


    1. Nice - but I can't seem to access it via The Outer Hoard's homepage.

    2. Have patience! A blog post for it (and the other links in my queue) will be published eventually.

    3. Very good (and some interesting links there...)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...