Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry Christmas Puzzle

As you kidz all know, Mr. Spanky loves a good puzzle. Something to get the old neurons firing at 110%. Our brains need the exercise after playing Wii video games non-stop for three hours resulting in glazed eyes, slack jaws, twitchy fingers, and the beginnings of drool leaking out the sides of our mouths. First, go to the bathroom and clean up. Then come back and solve this puzzle! Many thanks to alert reader MO for providing this fun.

Mr. Spanky, displaying his generous nature for the season, will send to the first person to email in a complete list of correct answers a worthwhile prize. What is worthwhile? A page of Phunkidz stickers and 10 Moo cards to give away to your friends. It will definitely increase your cool factor around the school or at a minimum get you strange looks.

The following Christmas carols were written by government officials. Can you guess the original titles?
  1. My sole desire for the Yuletide season is receipt of a pair of central incisors
  2. Allow crystalline formations to descend
  3. The antlered quadruped with the cerise proboscis
  4. The event occurred at one minute after 11:49pm with visibility unlimited
  5. Ornament interior passageways with large sprigs of a berry-bearing evergreen
  6. Personal nocturnal hallucinations of an alabaster Dec 25th
  7. Jovial yuletide desired for the second person singular or plural by the first person plural
  8. Testimony of witness to maternal parent's infidelity with Kris Kringle
  9. In a distant bovine diner
  10. Exclamatory remark concerning a diminutive municipality in Judea Southwest of Jerusalem
  11. Are you detecting the same aural sensations that I am?
  12. Clappered inverted cups, electroplated
  13. The diminutive adolescent male who plays a percussive instrument
  14. May the Omnipotent Supreme Being bring respite to you, ecstatic distinguished males
  15. Pastoral woolies nocturnally observed in vigilance by herdsmen
  16. "Commence auditory reception" the announcing cherubs vocalize
  17. Who's that mystery kid?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Apple vs PC and the Mactini

The kidz in my household know that I've given up on PCs: the endless disk defragmenting, spybot cleansing, anti-virus scanning, not to mention the constant software hangs and crashes. As our PCs wear out I'll be replacing them with Macintosh computers. Is it because Mr. Spanky likes the svelte curves and sleek design of these Apple machines? No.

Underneath all that Appley glitter is a plain old Unix operating system. What's Unix? One of the oldest, most stable, and reliable operating systems on the planet. Yup, Mr. Spanky is a pragmatist. He's writing this blog on his MacBook and secretly smiling every time the kidz and wife throw their hands up in frustration because of Windoze. But, he still has to take out the garbage, which in this case means disk defragmenting, spybot cleansing, anti-virus scanning, and rebooting of those PCs. I don't give them more than another 4-6 months before I have to buy new ones...

N.B. Even though Apple has bowed out of being present at Macworld, they still keep on innovating. Witness the latest release of the Mactini, the smallest Mac ever.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Excavating an Ant Colony

Mr. Spanky has a heart for nature and the wonder that it holds. He also has a soft spot for insects mostly because they are otherworldly, inspiring, and gross a lot of people out which is just the sort of sadistic motivator that fills his life with joy.

Witness this short clip from the Science channel where a group of scientists attempt to map out an ant colony. Would they do this with a small camera attached to the head of an ant? Would they use modified endoscopic cameras on the end of a bionic arm? Would they carefully dig and expose the colony bit by bit, take measurements and construct a 3D computer model?

Don't be silly. That's too much work. They simply poured 10 tons of concrete down the holes, left it to dry for a month, and then dug it up. I'm sure the ants didn't mind.


P.S. DAY, no worries, there are no millipedes in this post.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hero Machine

We all love to draw and I know of some kidz with grand artistic ability that can sketch out lifelike masterpieces with a charred stick on damp toilet paper in the dark. Mr. Spanky is not too proud to tell you that he is a ham-fisted ween when it comes to drawing. His hands are more suited to the keyboard and mouse than the quill. But creativity and imagination are oozing from every pore of Mr. Spanky's sweaty brow. Is all lost?

Fortunately, there is the Internet. That same medium that brings you the wise words of Mr. Spanky also contains awesome tools for those of us who are drawing challenged. Enter the folks at UGO and Hero Machine. This is slick Flash-based application that you can use to create and dress up monsters, heroes, and villains to your heart's desire.

Enclosed is a sample of a self-drawing before and after Hero Machine. Note that Mr. Spanky exactly looks like James Bond but with more hair.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Big Buck Bunny

Once again, Mr. Spanky scores a fine catch. This time, it's a free video titled "Big Buck Bunny" available for viewing and download in a variety of formats (including iPhone/iTouch).

BBB is a gentle soul, delighting in the flowers and butterflies until three rodent hoodlums spoil his fun. Something deep, deep inside him snaps and the forest is never the same.

This is an Open Movie project that is trying to promote an Open Source animation engine called Blender and Open Content Creation. The results look very professional!

Big Buck Bunny is (c) copyright Blender Foundation |

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wordle: Beautiful Word Clouds

Kidz, have you ever been looking for that perfect title page for your end of term paper? Fear not, the bold and daring eyes of Mr. Spanky come to your rescue. Alert sprite that I am, I found this very nifty cloud tool that will create a picture from the words of your prose: it's aptly named "Wordle".

What is a word cloud? Quite simply it is a graphical depiction of the word count in the supplied text where higher frequency words are shown larger than those of lesser frequency. For example, I've taken Jabberwocky, a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, and run it through Wordle as you can see above. If you want to know what a Borogove is, I recommend you read the Wikipedia link, it comes with a handy glossary.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Funny little shorts by some French animators, "Minuscule" shows us the power of cooperation and rivalry in the insect world. Released as a collaboration between Helene Giraud, Thomas Szabo, and the Disney Channel, they mix CGI animation and real world scenes to create a humorous potpourri of the world beneath our feet. The subtitle for the clips is "The Private Life of Insects" and the stories are charming.

There are 4 DVDs full of insecty goodness in 78 creepy crawly episodes. A perfect Christmas gift for children of all ages if you can actually read French and swallow the 40€ cost. The movies themselves contain no language and as such are universally understandable.

Now Mr. Spanky is more miserly than Mr. Crachet and doesn't like to tease so of course there's more: if you are an iPod owner you can go to the iTunes store, click on Podcasts->Video Podcasts->Comedy->Minuscule, la vie privee des insectes on DVD and subscribe to 20 (and counting) of those episodes for free!


P.S.: Warning, MA, there are spiders in these clips.

P.P.S.: to all you centipedes out there, break a leg!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Hovercraft is Clogged with Eels

Mr. Spanky is happy to report that he now has a Facebook page. I know that many of you kidz are thinking, "This is *so* embarrassing, it's like he just doesn't *get* his target audience. He should have *started* on Facebook." Once again you underestimate the sheer brilliance that Mr Spanky can barely contain in his shiny metallic little cranium.

I can now post to Blogger (i.e. my blog) and it automatically emails out to those of you that are on my mailing list. Simultaneously it posts to my Facebook page. This is just unprecedented genius. You can consume Phun Kidz in any form that you like! And I can be lazy or as adults like to say, efficient. If you are ever in the position where you want to know how to do what I did then send me an email. I will make you pay dearly. In the mean time go to my Facebook page and add me as your friend!

But enough jawing about my amazing skills. Let's get on to the interesting post of today. For those of you that are lucky enough to have an iPhone then you should know that the absolute killer app has arrived. And get this: it's free. As in no cost from the gearheads at Google. It allows you to perform a Google search by voice from your phone. I tried the voice recognition on a number of phrases: "Mediterranean food in Mountain View", "Starbucks in Willow Glen", and "She turned me into a newt". Amazingly, every single one of these phrases was turned from the croaking voice of Mr Spanky into flawless text for Googley consumption. More esoteric phrases like "My hovercraft is clogged with eels" caused it consternation, however. The big question, kidz, is how in the name of Gibil's flaming nethers does this work?

As you speak into your phone, your voice is transmitted to a hundred thousand monkeys on a secret Google monkey farm in some desolate spot in the world like Meat Cove, NS. Each of them wears a headset that shouts your voice into their pea size brains. They are trained to punch a phonetic keyboard with all the basic English sound clusters in response to bananas that hang temptingly from the ceiling. The results are averaged and sent back to Google in order to perform the search. Or something like that.

In reality your voice is transmitted to the Google servers and they use some Text-To-Speech software to break it down and guess what you said. The technology has been around for quite some time and has improved steadily over the years. Google has no doubt scaled it to handle the volume of translations needed. I suspect that they've also allowed the software to learn from mistakes as well. If the speech is not translated exactly the way you want then there is a little drop down with other possible variations that you can select. I bet that once you select a variation then the software "learns" where it made a mistake. See neural nets for what I mean by "learning".

Conceivably, this technology could go both ways. You might eventually be able to utter into your iPhone in English and have your speech broken down to text and then translated to Hindi and spoken using Text-To-Speech software. Just like the Pomegranate. I took the liberty of running the English phrase "Mr. Spanky couldn't see more than that because of the fog and rain." through Google translation services into Hindi and then back to English: "Mr than that Spanky because of fog and rain could not see more." Clearly we still have some way to go.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Who is Mr. Spanky?

Alert reader SO phoned me within minutes of my last post about the Pomegranate to let me know that that said phone is, get this, a FAKE. It's a teaser that the province of Nova Scotia has put on to let people know that a phone that has everything doesn't exist but there is a place that does. I've been to Nova Scotia. There's lots of trees. And a lighthouse and a ferry. Mr. Spanky couldn't see more than that because of the fog and rain. According to maps of Canada, it has interesting places like "Meat Cove", "Dingwall", and "Tatamagouche". Those places alone are worth a trip. A free limited edition Mr. Spanky Phunkidz T-shirt goes to the first reader that takes a picture of themselves in any of these fine places.

As a result of SO's quick thinking the highly coveted Mr. Spanky sticker sheet is on its way to blustery Canada (not in Nova Scotia) where her two sons can plaster them on foreheads, inside cupboards, and under the toilet seat in order to greet visitors with the handsome metallic visage of Mr. Spanky himself.

I have also taken the narcissistic liberty of creating MOO cards for Phunkidz, featuring my visage, to hand out, for free, to those last few children who may not have heard of me. This no more or less than a charitable attempt to spread the joy of Phunkidz. This has prompted concerns about exactly who Mr. Spanky is given his unusual name. Suffice it to say that there are some people with very sad and twisted minds, kidz, and it makes me feel depressed about the state of our society just thinking about it.

Speaking of your parents, here's the real deal on Mr. Spanky. Mr. is a reference to the fact that I'm am older than you. Spanky is one of the best characters in the The Little Rascals, a black-and-white children's show put on during the mid-1950s. He was the brains and enterprising leader of a down-and-out group of children that ran around causing mischief. In this photo, Spanky is shown on the right. His mother is credited with giving him his memorable nickname which originated from her repeated warnings of what he would get should he venture into trouble.

You might now be thinking, "I get the Mr. and I get the Spanky but why the wind-up robot picture?" Robots are generally cool--especially if they are hurling fire balls and slashing at each other with spinning blades of death. 'nuff said.

You might also be thinking, "Is Mr. Spanky really that old that he was alive during the 1950s? Shouldn't he be dead or at least in a wheelchair with a catheter bag? He probably smells like the monkey on the left-hand-side of the above photo." Simple answer here: no. I'm now thinking that you ask too many questions and probably have homework that you are neglecting.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pomegranate: the phone of phones

There are many people that own what they consider to be the phone of phones, the iPhone. Mr. Spanky has succumbed to the marketing spin and carefully polishes the shiny black carapace and wipes the smudges off the glass of his iPhone on an hourly basis. It's sad--there's no doubt about it.

Until now. The Pomegranate offers an eclipse-like leap in technology, usefulness, and coolness that leaves the iPhone looking like a doughy backwoods hillbilly who's had one too many sips of moonshine. There is one problem, however, as it only brews drip and not espresso. I'm sure the 2.0 model will fix this oversight.

I will be busily saving my shekels for this one, Kidz. Once acquired, I will be handing down my iPhone to my children who, although thrilled to have an iPhone, will have a deep yearning that is unfulfilled as they see me "pom"-around. It's just the way that I go about teaching the kids about the value of money and hard work. I'm sure that Dr. Spock will write a thesis one day on this brilliant parenting technique.


N.B. Alert Kidz will note something odd about the Pomegranate. First one to email Mr. Spanky with the correct answer will get a sheet of Mr. Spanky stickers suitable for sticking on your favorite people, pets, and possessions.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ba Ba Ba Ba Bup

Mr Spanky is always looking for the next BIG thing. The thing that will turn media on its head and create a new genre, the next invention that will change the way humanity lives and brushes its teeth, the idea that causes small minds to explode just thinking about it.

This is not one of those things. Ba Ba Ba Ba Bup is an M & G production. I can only hope that it becomes a mind worm and causes massive downloads to occur from YouTube paralyzing the internet. Bwa ha ha ha ha!


Monday, October 27, 2008

Nerd of the Year Award

Ok, I consider myself technically literate and pretty handy with a screwdriver in the right circumstances. I can talk acronym soup with the best of them. The term "nerd" is considered a badge of honor in my dictionary. It goes without saying that this next story is the paragon of nerdiness, the paramount proof of nerddom. Can you tell that in my heart I'm jealous of this dude's skzillz?

A fellow calling himself TheRealPfhreak, recently uploaded a video of the game that his girlfriend was playing called Chrono Trigger. Unbeknown to her, he had hacked the game to create a special mountain just for her to explore. As she traveled up the mountain it relived their special moments together culminating with a visit by a knight in shining armor that proposed to her by name. As she turned to him to ask how the game knew her name, he was down on one knee with with a ring in hand. Her first words were "You are such a nerd."

Her next word was "Yes".


Friday, October 24, 2008

Piglet Squid

The world is full of the strange and amazing, something that Mr Spanky thrives on. There are days when what you see and learn about this little blue and green ball of dirt just makes you feel like a mote of dust in the wide expanse of the universe. A pimple on a flea on the rear end of the dog star Sirius. A mite between the toes of the grand elephant Noogoo who flies through the galaxy by sounding his great trunk of ion propulsion. Or something like that.

Then there are days where creation just shows you that it doesn't take itself seriously. Enter the Piglet Squid. This avocado-sized cephalapod was discovered by the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, CA in 2006. It's official name is Helicocranchid squid but that's not nearly as fun as its common name. It looks like it got a hair cut at Mr. Spanky's barber, after the barber had an all nighter and didn't have any coffee, and still had those little sandy bits in the corner of his eyes that made it difficult to see, not to mention the hand tremor caused by a headache that is pounding like the incessant beat of a Taiko drum operated by a sweaty little guy hyped up on too many CocaColas. But I digress.

I'm sure the girls that see Mr. Piglet here will want to take him home and cuddle him (although you would need to be 330 feet underwater in order to do so). The boys are still figuring out what would happen if you dropped him like a water balloon off the school roof onto their math teacher. Tentacles, slime, squid juice, and algebra just don't mix.

Enjoy the press release.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Your Very Own Roman Siege Engine

On the list of Things-That-Mr Spanky-Wants-To-Own-But-Just-Doesn't-Have-The-Money-For there is a new entry. In Roman times, when you were upset with a neighboring city or just wanted to conquer a town in Gaul you would work with your army and build several siege engines. These were large machines designed to hurl enormous stones at high velocities and generally cause a lot of havoc. Sort of today's version of a cruise missile but much less expensive. Recently, some enterprising souls built their very own gigantic ballista and threw around these stones and then decided that they needed the garage space and so they are selling it on eBay! Phunkidz, this is opportunity knocking. Although my wife might disagree, I definitely know that I could use one of these. It's a man thing.
  • Neighbors playing rock music at 2am and carrying on? No problem.
  • Bully down the street picking on kidz? Covered.
  • Mr Sanchez's cat leaving doo doo on your front lawn? Bring it on.
Of course, Mr. Spanky is only jesting. It is never a good idea to throw large rocks via ballista at your neighbors and fellow human beings. Especially if you are going to get caught. The ballista is not exactly a streamlined getaway vehicle.

Link to Ballista Video

There are some great scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy that show siege engines at work. I highly recommend that you watch for the trebuchets mounted on the walls of Gondor as they hurl large chunks of masonry out into the orc armies and squish them like little pesky ants. Excellent movies.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Arrrrr: talk like a Pirate


This Friday, September 19th, is "International talk like a Pirate" day. This historic holiday was invented by John Baur (Ol' Chumbucket) and Mark Summers  (Cap'n Slappy), and popularized by humor columnist Dave Barry.

Celebrate by wearing an eyepatch, donning a peg leg, or teaching your parrot to say "Keelhaul! Keelhaul!". I don't recommend taking a hook, sword, pistol, or cat o' nine tails to school, though. The establishment frowns on this sort of thing and if it gets out that Mr Spanky planted this thought in your Phun-filled mind then I'll never hear the end of it.

If you're having trouble with your "Arrr!", "Ye scurvy bilge rat!", or "Swab the poopdeck, me hearty!" I recommend that you get professional help. The folks over at Wikihow have an extensive tutorial that is mandatory if you want to avoid embarrassment. 

If you're a fan of Instant Messaging, the folks over at Meebo will make things easy for you. Simply log in to your IM account through Meebo and then type "pirateon" to start. It will handily translate your banal messages into fearsome Pirate Speak. 

Remember to growl and scowl often!

P.S. Post-it note cartoon by Doug Savage's brilliant Savage Chickens.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Squirrel Melts

Here's a great piece on how to live off the land. Are those pesky squirrels harassing you day and night? Is their chittering driving you insane? Here's how you can have your peace and a snack for the big game.

I love it when she says "let's put his cute little butt in there" as she tosses the squirrel into the pot.

You should also know that squirrels are good for putting out forest fires and protecting your beer. Don't pull the trigger too soon.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Stop Motion Animation: Spaghetti Western

My loyal readers know that as small things amuse small minds so does the wacky and crazy amuse Mr Spanky. 

This is whimsical piece of stop motion animation. It's a very laborious art where each frame of a film has to be set up, photographed, and then the next frame set up, etc. You may have seen this technique in movies like Wallace and Gromit where clay is used for the actors. 

In this 1 minute 41 second film, this means that at roughly 20 frames per second, we're looking at 20 x 101 = 2,020 different scenes. Ouch! Let's assume that each frame shot takes 20 seconds (or more) to set up, that is, move things into the scene, re-arrange them, take a practice photo, and then a final shot. If that's the case, then this movie took approximately 11-12 hours just to shoot. That most likely doesn't include the time to think up this gem, try out some ideas, and final finishing. One word here: dedication.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Itsy Bitsy Spider

Simulation is the cure for all fears! This is for MA. A virtual spider to help eradicate her arachnophobic hysteria. I enjoyed setting the slides all the way to the right or left to see what happened to the tarantula. Also check out the "Something for Cats?" link on the left-hand side.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Evolution Meets Global Warming


I'm always ready to leap on the most interesting scientific and natural news and make them know to my loyal readers.

In a bizarre twist of fate, evolution meets global warming in a rush to preserve the noble hunter of the north, the polar bear. Polar bears are increasingly affected by the loss of ice and are now literally changing their coats to compensate. By rolling in tundra lichen and algae pools, the bears better blend in with the melting landscape. Lately, scientists have been seeing births of cubs where the fur is already stained green, and they speculate that the plant dyes are being transfered directly in utero. It's really edifying and slightly humbling to see evolution at work.

Um, okay, I totally made this story up. It's important that we treat everything we see and read on the Internet with skepticism. Any story that you see like this should put you immediately on alert. Are there other sources (e.g. news sites, Wikipedia, etc) that are carrying this story? Does the story make sense from what you've learned in school or heard others say? Do you know a subject matter expert that you could talk to that could confirm the facts? I also always check out to see if it has been registered as an urban legend. No sense in forwarding stuff to folks and ending up propagating falsehoods. It makes you seem unreliable and, well, stupid or at least naive. 

Even worse are those idiots that make stuff up like this in the first place. Wait! Oh, I think I just dissed myself.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Picture of the Summer

Hi Phunkidz, 

It's been a long while and I have to admit that I didn't let you know that I was going to be on a summer break. It's back to school (boo!) and back to blogging for Mr Spanky (yeah!).

As an apology, I'm giving you a picture of the latest in farm machinery that will delight the carnivore in all of us: the cow sharpener. Tired of blunt-headed bovines? Just attach the cow sharpener and let the gears grind your callous cow into hearty hamburger over night! 


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nerf Wars

I mentioned the Nerf Vulcan in a previous post. I want to let those of you that did not get me one for Christmas that it is still on my list. I know it was an oversight on your part and I'm still in the process of forgiving you. My sister has recommended potato therapy, which consists of a bag of potatoes, an open grassy area, and a baseball bat. I can't talk any more about it as I start to tear up at the thought.

Included here for your viewing pleasure is a splendid piece of viral media depicting a Nerf Office War. Note the use of the Vulcan towards the end that tears the enemy team to pieces and the brilliant saving shot by the sniper to take out the machine gun nest.

I wish my work was that phun!


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Steve Irwin After Burn

Crikey. It's a dead guy in full color! Mighty Illusions, whom I've mentioned before, has an interesting illusion today that shows a performance problem with our retinas that is ascribed to a phenomenon known as persistence of vision. Basically the real world, at the nanosecond level, is a bit faster than our millisecond chemical detection systems. Another great example of "good enough" evolution.

In this illusion the Crocodile Hunter himself, Steve Irwin, is shown in black and white, after a few seconds, the picture is shown in negative color, and it is then switched back to black and white. Due to that slowness in our wetware, Steve now looks like he's in full color! You need to stare at the white dot on the crocodile's belly to make this work.

There's another great link that shows this persistence problem in a simpler setting. The rotating pink dot turns green and finally all the pink dots disappear. It's very disconcerting.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jawdropping Concept from BMW

You've got to take a look at this video from BMW that talks about designing the car around a frame and then covering the superstructure with, get this, fabric. Just seeing the headlights get exposed gave me goosebumps. Autoblog has a full write up including over 80 high rez images. Yow!

The BMW GINA Light Visionary Model that was seen via video being installed in the BMW Museum in Munich last week has finally been revealed, and the futuristic design study shows how BMW designers are thinking outside of the box when it comes to the materials that make up a car and also how the car relates to the driver...


Monday, June 9, 2008

J K Rowling Addresses Harvard Grads

J K Rowling, the author of the fabulous Harry Potter series was asked to perform the commencement address at Harvard University recently. It's an amazing speech and not only good for those graduating students but for most people that live in privileged first world nations. I'm a great fan of her work as it is the quality and depth of the world that she has envisioned and then subsequently written about with consistency and clarity that impresses.

On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination...


Monday, May 19, 2008

Mighty Illusions

Today is National Illusion Day. Well, no, it's not really. But it should be. If there was ever a need for a day like National Illusion Day it's today. Of course, there's always April 15th, tax day, in which there's the illusion that your tax dollars were yours in the first place and, in the hands of the government, will do untold good for the nation/state but that's different.

I found a great video out on the site Mighty Optical Illusions (a little over-the-top but often has good stuff). It's a demonstration of 10 popular optical illusions in two minutes.


P.S. For those of you that like the Dragon illusion, there's a printable foldable version here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


No, these are not some smutty photos of sticks without bark, these are the marvelous wondrous Nudibranchs (pronounced nudi branks). The word "nudibranch" comes from the Latin nudus, naked, and the Greek brankhia, gills. So the Romans, after a little wine and undersea sport, must have concluded that they were some sort of naked fish. No wonder Rome burned! These are gastropod mollusks: a type of sea slug.

Normally, I'm not much of a slug or snail man. Snails in my garden usually get the boot (as in squish) or are tossed over the fence onto the golf course (long story). There are great debates about snails, especially in gardens, but the nudibranchs are more like Slugs of the Sea.

These nudibranchs are downright beautiful with eye popping color. True to form, National Geographic has a brilliant slide show of the weird and colorful little guys, entitled Living Color. They're carnivorous and will pretty much will eat whatever they can get their hands, um, appendages on including others of their kind.

Oh, did I mention that they are toxic? Enjoy!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tesla vs Karma

I just caught wind of this new electric car by Fisker called the Karma. Get it?! Car-ma. Hahaha. It's not as far along in production as the Tesla Roadster but it has two features that beat the Tesla hands down: four seats and a hybrid engine. It also comes with a price tag of $80K (still stratospheric) but better than the $92K Tesla wants. Oh, it also looks just as cool. Oh, and I can fit G and S in the back and their fencing bags into the trunk. Definitely an important feature for the chauffeur called Dad.

The hybrid engine is only designed to be used when the charge on the car runs down. Range is about 50 miles which handles an average day of commuting. The engine is an inline 4-cylinder so you're not going to get a lot of power out of it, it's going to help to supplement the charging of the batter.

You still have to plug it in at night (standard 120V or 220V) and if you can't find that shady spot in the school parking lot you can let the solar cells on the roof recharge the battery!


Now, one would imagine that Fiskar and Tesla would be slave driving their engineers and trying to get their cars out the door as fast as possible in order to establish a beachhead in this brave new market. Nah, they're suing each other. Here's the counter-suit. Hopefully, they haven't lost sight of the greater mission of saving the planet.

Update on CNET about Fisker and their plans for a more reasonably priced sedan.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bugs in Your Brain

Did you ever think about your brain as a type of hardware/software device? There are a couple of fun Scifi books that talk about wetware, software/interfaces for your brain. I think the analogy is apt because your brain exhibits a characteristic that is prevalent in the software business: bugs.

A software "bug", according to the American Heritage Dictionary is a defect in the code or routine of a program. Software is incredibly complex in many cases and errors can creep in that make a program behave unintentionally. Some of these bugs are fairly benign and some can be severe. In Windows these severe bugs can result in the BSoD or the Blue Screen of Death.

Your brain, evolved over thousands of years, has organically grown up with some bugs. These bugs are not severe enough to hamper our evolution but they do make for some interesting phun! In an effort to provide some publicity for this blog I am taking advantage of a bug in your brain to plant a subliminal message. Click on the image on the right to see what I mean.

Now I wish that I was smart enough to have made this up on my own. The reality is that this illusion was part of a clever ad campaign for the Comedy Channel. The culmination of this ad campaign was this hilarious picture. Note the clothes on the bench.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Roadkill Plush Toys

I'm sure he meant well. Perhaps it was a stab at realism. Perhaps it is some sort of new brand of Brit humour. Of course, Phunkidz, it got my attention. It's weird, it's wonderful, it's RoadkillToys!

Roadkill is a new designer toy boutique, creating original toy characters.

We make toys with a twist. Toys as dark as the inside of a heifer. And they all have one thing in common. They’ve been run over. We’re calling it Squash-Plush.


Well, what do you think? Would you want one of these cuddly gut-busted tire-tattooed mammals? Shown at the right is Twitch the Raccoon. There's also Grind the Rabbit, Splodge the Hedgehog, Pop the Weasel, and Fender the Fox. What animal would you choose to see next? I'm thinking of a big one: Mush the Moose.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Science Fiction becomes science fact

I tend to read a variety of books: business (management, marketing, trends), historical fiction, biographies, and science fiction. Over the last few years, I've made sure that M and G (my phunkidz) get a taste of the latter. Many of the classics by Philip Dick, Larry Niven, David Brin, and newer ones by John Wright are exciting looks at the future. Often the author will take a premise (like making physical copies of yourself in Kiln People) and extrapolate the effects on society. The premises themselves are usually based on stretching some aspect of today's technology in some way. 

That fact alone is why I believe Phunkidz need to get a good grounding in first-class Science Fiction. We need to dream about what is possible, how we can stand on the shoulders of the giants that have come before, and leap over that next technology hurdle. Imagination is one of the greatest tools that we as humans have. Synthesizing: taking what is now and mixing, matching, and extending into new ideas is what science is all about. Discovery and invention are not processes done in a vacuum. Science fiction is a good example of that process that Phunkidz can learn from.

Many of the problems that we have (e.g. limited energy, limited real estate, limited food supply) will continue to become greater and greater problems as our overall world population grows and we become increasingly globalized. Technological progression is not the only solution to the issues we will face but it is a necessary part of the solution.

With that, I would like to pass on to you a recommended reading list of Science Fiction that I found particularly fascinating (something for you to do this summer):
  • Ringworld series by Larry Niven--Engineering and space technology
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick--Can robots feel like people?
  • The Golden Age series by John C Wright--Nano technology and virtual realities
  • Kiln People by David Brin--What happens when you make copies of yourself?
  • Uplift Saga by David Brin--Intelligent beings are cultivated by superior species not evolved
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson--Hacking the brain
  • Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke--First contact with aliens
  • Enders Game by Orson Scott Card--Video gamers save the human race
  • Uglies by Simon Pulse--Bodyscaping as a right of passage

Feel free to drop a comment on the blog about other classics that you think are stimulating!

A note to any parents reading this blog. You should always have discretion when giving a book to your kidz. Read it beforehand and make sure you're fine with the content. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tastes Like Chicken

I've blogged about Savage Chickens before. Doug Savage writes out his cartoons on a Post-It note everyday. A single panel cartoon, usually with a chicken or two, is reminiscent of Gary Larson's cow fetish. Which makes Doug pretty much a genius in my book. He is also good at using the electronic medium he is posting to. Many of his cartoons are cross-referenced against older cartoons that are similar or part of a series or theme (e.g. robots). He's clever, he's funny, he's willing to throw stones at our collective stupidity: good role model for life, in my book.

If you find him as funny as I do, you can subscribe to his cartoons via your newsreader or by email.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Once Upon a Time

Phunkidz, if you've been reading this blog for a while you know that I'm always intrigued when someone does something clever. A twist on an old idea or something old dressed up as something new always piques my interest. Penguin books has released six "books" in interesting formats that are based on older books: a Google maps mashup, a girl's and her parents blogs, an interactive fairy tale, a live chat session, a series of infographs, and an adventure game like book coming on April 22nd.

These are loosely based on the The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, The Haunted Doll's House by M R James, Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson, Therese Raquin by Emile Zola, Hard Times by Charles Dickens, and Tales from the Thousand and One Nights. No doubt Penguin would like to boost sales of their classics--if you find the unusual versions interesting consider purchasing a book from Penguin.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Biomimetics: Inspiration From Nature

Nature can provide the best inspiration! Did you know that velcro was developed by a Swiss engineer named George after he finished picking burrs off of his dog? How about bubbling blowfish, wet wicking lizards, wall climbing geckos, whale tales, and self-cleaning lotus plants as design patterns for new inventions? National Geographic has penned a great article on how nature can provide ideas for us as humans. Check out the article here and fabulous photo spread here.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Refitting the Space Shuttle

To many of you Phunkidz, the Space Shuttle has been around since you were born. Ho hum. Send a rocket into space. The special effects in movies and video games causes us to underestimate and, indeed under appreciate, how complicated space travel really is. To get the space shuttle up into orbit takes thousands of people and billions of dollars worth of equipment and months of preparation. Ya can't just hop in, turn the key, and go.

There's a great picture show that details the preparation of the shuttle for launch from the assembly of the liquid fuel and solid fuel boosters to the insertion of the payload to the actual travel to the launch pad. Note the scale of the operation: most photos have people in them if you look closely. These are big machines!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Plastic Bag Art Meets the Subway

One of the things that always peaks my interest is when somebody does something clever with something ordinary. It's a McGyverish fascination that I think is shared with do-it-yourselfers that subscribe to magazines like Make. In this case, some unknown artist is fashioning "dogs" out of discarded plastic bags and attaching them to subway grates. When the subway passes by, the upsurge of air causes the dog to stand up. I have to imagine that there have been a number of people that have freaked out when this occurred!

Every time we start to think that street art is starting to get a bit tired and boring, along - out of nowhere - comes something that reconnects us with why we fell in love with street art in the first place.

The story we heard at dinner tonight is that there's an artist who's been making these animals out of discarded plastic bags. He (or she) ties the bags to the ventilation grates above the subway lines so that when the subway rushes through underneath, the animal jumps up and springs to life...


Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Secret Life of Lobsters

S reminded me of a great book that I read a while ago that revealed interesting facts about a phun food: lobsters. Yummy for sure but when you step back and look at it they're basically on par with bugs--big underwater bugs. Don't they're telling me that they're not bugs they're crustaceans. Bah! One might imagine that eating them was basically an accident, like, no Thag don't put that in your mouth... ooohhh! Thag eat bug! Thag probably came to a bad end. Or perhaps it was a case of being really really hungry. The kind of hungry that would overtake your better sense and have you salivating at the thought of eating a monstrous insect.

One might be concerned about killing them by plunging them into boiling water. People tell me they scream. One might be soften one's heart to hear their little scrabbling at the sides of the metal pot as the cover goes on. One might until you know an important piece of information: lobster's urinate on each other in order to communicate. I am not making this up. This is clearly spelled out in that fascinating book: The Secret Life of Lobsters. Given this prolific urination they have not one but two bladders! I won't even tell you where those bladders are located. Ok, I will. Their bladders are not located in appropriate lobster places where little lobster pants can keep them hidden. No. They are located one on either side of their eyes! Can you imagine running around at school peeing on everyone out the sides of your head in order to talk to them? Uh huh. No sympathy now.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Books Delivered Piecemeal

Hi Phunkidz, normally I'd provide you with a witty article or comic, a fun observation or bit of banter. But today is special. Today I'm going to give you a look at something that will enrich your life. The DailyLit website will send you bits of books and articles every day for your consumption. That's right, they will chop up a book into bitty pieces and send it to you a little bit every day. Why is this remotely interesting? For those of us that are to busy to spend a hour or two cracking open a paper book this allows you to read a book by email over the course of several weeks. If you are into RSS readers, like Google Reader, you can read you book as a daily news article as well. If you have an RSS reader on your phone you can read while you're standing in line at the grocery or at a stop light or while you're speeding down the highway at 70mph. Wait, that last one is not indicative of good judgment.

Many books on the DailyLit are free and there are a wide variety of topics. If you liked the article on time travel, for example, Andre Norton has her Time Traders book available gratis.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

International Association of Time Travelers

Cute story about the International Association of Time Travelers and how newbies that join invariably go back and try and kill Hitler in their first outing and how the experts are frustrated because they need to go back and prevent them from doing so. I like the story for two reasons: it's clever and the format of the story is that of a discussion forum. It's a quick read. My hat's off to Desmond Warzel.

At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl's cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice!

At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223...