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...


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Just cause you saw it on the Internet...

One of the things that really concerns me is some of the mail that gets forwarded without critique or examination. Last time I checked, Phunkidz, we were all given a brain and asked to be critically aware and discerning of truth. Check out the following item that was forwarded to S recently:

Don't accept the new dollar!
U.S. Government to Release New Dollar Coins
Please help do this... refuse to accept these when they are handed back to you. I received one from the Post Office as change and I asked for a dollar bill instead..the lady just smiled and said way to go, so she had read this e-mail... please help out.

You guessed it 'IN GOD WE TRUST' IS GONE!!! If ever there was a reason to boycott something, THIS IS IT!!!! This seems a small thing to many, but if we as a people turn our faces away from God by allowing the continued erosion of evidence of our country's commitment to our underlying faith, God will turn away his face from us.

DO NOT ACCEPT THE NEW DOLLAR COINS AS CHANGE. Together we can force them out of circulation. Please send to all on your mail list !!

The nasty evil government is turning us all into Godless heathens. Omigosh, I'm going to write my congressperson right away. I am shocked and appalled and I'll forward this to everyone I know. Blah blah blah. I'm not here to talk about the separation of church and state, although I think that if you do a little research on the topic that you will find it is a critical and healthy part of any government. What I do want to ask you to do is to stop, think, and investigate. Is this message real? Just because it is in writing doesn't mean that it is true.

I always turn to a, which is a kind of Myth Busters for urban legends, to get the scoop on things like this. Ok, a quick search for dollar coin and In God We Trust on that site brings up the following: false. Even though the face of the coin doesn't show the words the edge of the coin does!

Hmmm, why do people do this? Why do they pass on information without checking the source and doing some digging first? I think that it is human nature that when we see something plausible and outrageous that we look to vent the feeling right away. I think it dampens our common sense and makes us reactionary rather than critical.

So I'm asking all the Phunkidz to break this chain of senselessness. The next time you get something in email that riles you up please stop, think, and Ask Snopes. If it does turn out to be false, send a quick note back to the sender with a link to Snopes (and perhaps to this posting!).

Have you seen any other email chains like this? Perhaps like the kid who is dying of cancer and wants us to send him a postcard? Let me know in your comments to this post!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day

One of those interesting irrational numbers that we bump against early in grade school is the number Pi. Pi as a number has a profound effect on our lives from the simple wheel, cylinder, and sphere to basic trigonometry to engineering differential equations that solve stress/strain models. As a kid, I once had a contest with a friend to see how many digits of Pi we could memorize--I can still recite them: 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693393. It's sick, I know, but I beat my pal who didn't get past the 17th digit. These are nerd bragging rights at their best.

Today is Pi day and you should take a gander at the history and phun facts on this spectacular number. Hoist a glass (cylinder) of bubbly (spheres) and toast (fluid dynamics) to our friend Pi.

Today is Pi-Day 2008. A day in honor of Pi, one of the oldest and most mysterious mathematical constants known to man. A day in celebration of the works of dozens of great mathematicians and scholars. A day to revel in the glory and power of Pi. For those of you that live in the USA and use the MM/DD date representation format, the reason should be clear enough: March 14th, 2008 == 3.14...


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mindblowing Moment of Awareness

Phunkidz, you know that there are certain things that are so important, so key to our transient journey here on earth that you have to know about them. It's imperative to stop, observe, assess, and learn. In the vein of personal hygiene, I give you the world's longest ear hair. One word and one word only came to mind after I beheld this: scissors.

Jumping Goat is World's Oldest Animation

Holy Bugs Bunny! A bowl found in Iran which is 5,200 years old (that's older than me, Phunkidz, by at least two orders of magnitude), looks like it is the oldest example of an animation. Animation is the rapid display of a sequence of images of 2-D artwork or model positions in order to create an illusion of movement [Wikipedia]. If you look at the images on the bowl they depict a goat prancing about and eating leaves off of a tree. If Warner Bros has any patents on animation they better start thinking about prior art.

LONDON, (CAIS) -- The Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) announced on Monday that it has recently completed the production of a documentary about the ancient Iranian earthenware bowl bearing the world’s oldest example of animation...


Friday, March 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Cornflakes!

Today is the 101st anniversary of the Corn Flake. A humble breakfast cereal, oft ignored by Phunkidz unless frosted, but a mainstay at the breakfast table across the country. If you haven't had your bowl today, mark your calendar for tomorrow and revel in the crunchy goodness.

Dr. John Kellogg, believing that a strict diet (along with vigorous exercise, fresh air and plenty of rest) benefits the patients at his sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, serves up the world's first corn flakes.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Late Easter This Year and Hidden Eggs

Easter has always been great as a parent, something Phunkidz will have to wait for (reminder to you, M, you need to wait until you have your second PhD before dating). We parents often have eagle eyes and locate the eggs much sooner than the kidz and it gives us an immense feeling of superiority to announce that there's still an egg in the room that hasn't been found. The following Easter facts were forwarded to me by my father.

Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20, 2008). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar. Based on the above information, Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22) - that is rare. This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier!
  • The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you're 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!).
  • The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818.
Link to Snopes entry confirming the facts

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Avalanche! (On Mars)

We've long known that there's water on Mars in the form of ice at the poles. A spacecraft circling the dusty red ball of fury recently detected avalanches! The big question is, of course, whether or not there are Martian Saint Bernards available to locate survivors.

PASADENA, California (AP) -- A robotic spacecraft circling Mars has snapped the first image of a series of active avalanches near the planet's north pole, scientists said Monday.

The image, taken last month, reveals at least four avalanches of fine ice and dust breaking off from a steep cliff and settling on the slope below. The cascade kicked up massive debris clouds, with some measuring more than 590 feet across.