Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mind games

JigZone has new online jigsaw puzzles every day for any level of skill from expert (247 identically cut triangle pieces) to your average solver (100 piece classic cut) and even kids (6 piece). Heck, there's even an Auto Solve option so you can make the computer do all the work. Shows your current solving time, average and record solving times among other visitors. Very nice, clean and simple interface.

Not limiting itself to jigsaws, explores just about every other realm of puzzledom. Worth a look.

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I gotta be me. So does he.

You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. - Tyler Durden - Fight Club

How Many of Me lets you search the US Census database for your (or any) name (via Neat New Stuff on the Web)

Some freaky stories about doppelgangers.

The Twins Network not only has twin-related trivia and links, it also posts a sort of want ads for upcoming twin studies in the scientific community.

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Pick up two habits for the price of one!

If you are of a certain age, you may be aware that baseball and other collectible cards used to come in packages of bubble gum. Nowadays, the gum is usually absent, which is just as well as it was generally about as fresh and delicious as the card itself. However, did you know that from around 1875 until World War II (when the practice was discontinued to conserve paper for the war effort), cigarette manufacturers in the US and Europe usually included collectible cards in their packaging as well?

Subject matter included sports (baseball, golf, cycling, cricket, billiards), famous actors and actresses, bathing beauties, riddles, recipes, trivia, nature scenes and the list goes on and on. A very extensive collection can be found at the New York Public Library Online Digital Gallery.

I think there should be even more to this list (it seems to only go from about A-E. Can someone else figure out how to view the rest?

A deeper history on tobacco baseball cards, plus history of "the Mona Lisa" of card collecting, the 1909 Honus Wagner card and why it is so rare and expensive (one sold several years ago at over $1 million).

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Evolution of video games

Hey! Atari Combat! Pole Position! This took me back. The Evolution of Video Games (via Neatorama)

Speaking of the illustrious Atari 2600, AtariAge devotes itself to basking in the glory days of the granddaddy of all gaming consoles via some nostalgia-inducing screenshots of those old 8-bit games.

(*shaking spindly fist in the air*) You young folk with your X-Stations and Playboxes and whatnot. Why, back in my day we didn't have systems with multi-way programmable parallel floating point shader pipelines with Bluetooth. We had, um... single-way non-programmable, perpendicular, sinking point pipelines with no shade at all! And we liked it that way! The only Bluetooth we ever saw was in the mouth of that one fat kid with the pungent breath due to a somewhat lassaiz-faire attitude towards dental hygiene.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ay, Bee, Ee Tee Cee...

Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song? - Stephen Wright

During dinner last night, my five-year old and my four-year old were embroiled in a spirited discussion (okay, they were fighting) over the A-B-C song. The older one, who is in kindergarten this year, has been taught that it ends with "Now I know my A-B-Cs, Next time won't you sing with me" while the younger one fervently maintained (okay, he was screaming in protest) that it was "Now I know my A-B-Cs, Won't you come and play with me".

Fortunately, before it evolved into fisticuffs, cooler heads prevailed and order was restored (okay, Mom and Dad told them both to can it pronto before they got sent to their room).

While I hadn't originally planned on blogging that particular moment of fraternal dischord, I include it here in the interest of context. It occurred to me that while just about any English-speaking child is taught the sing-songy alphabet song at an early age, I had no idea whether other languages had their own alphabet songs. Turns out a few do.

Yiddish Alphabet Songs

Greek Alphabet Song

More background and general history behind the A-B-C ditty so many of us have ingrained in our collective subconscious.

The reason the A-B-C song is still around in almost every English-speaking kindergarten room is because it is an easy and effective way to make the little guys remember the order of the letters. They just happen to fit into a kind of rhyme when set to that particular meter, making remembering the order the letters are supposed to go in easier to remember.

In general, we humans have found various little techniques, called mnemonics, to memorize seemingly random data in list form, whether it's the order of biologic taxonomy ("Kings Play Cards On Fat Green Stools" = Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species), the colors in the spectrum (Roy G. Biv = Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Indigo, Violet), etc.

Some mnemonics aren't even verbal. The picture below shows that most of us carry around a visual mnemonic of which months are long (knuckles) and which ones are short (space between the knuckles). Wikipedia has a nice list of some of the major mnemonics here.

Lastly, Tom Lehrer, satirist, pianist and mathematician (now there's a combo you don't find too often) wrote a little ditty in 1959 to help everyone remember all the known elements in the periodic table (102 at the time, more have been discovered since). Mike Stanfill turned it into a brilliant Flash animation a few years ago. Very clever!

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Making friends with killers

It's late November, and here in the US it's a special time of year that can only mean one thing: time to gather with friends and family and... watch the Zapruder film for more clues.

November 22 will mark the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, and despite two investigative commissions, numerous movies and countless books on the subject, the American public still is curious about one thing: Did Lee Harvey Oswald really do it?

Austin folk band Asylum Street Spankers maintain Lee's innocence in "Lee Harvey" off their Spanks for the Memories release.

Some of you may be shocked and appalled. You probably thought I was gonna go another way there, what with the buildup mentioning late November and "special time of year" and all, right? Well, fret not, I didn't forget you...


And as we sit around the couch on the day after, in a turkey-induced torpor, we can also digest the strange facts of D.B. Cooper. For November 24 is the 35th anniversary of the only world's only unsolved plane hijacking.

The mysterious details and the possible suspects may raise more questions than they answer, but singer/songwriter Todd Snider might shed some light on the subject with his version of D.B. Cooper.

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Lalalalala I'm not listening

Normally I am delighted to see comments from visitors on this blog, but today I deleted a comment in a previous post "Quiz for The Mi-mi-mi-mi-miiii Generation" from someone calling themselves "Enlightenment". Now before you guys start pulling out your "Captnkurt = Censorship Nazi!" protest signs, please read on...

The comment was an extremely long rant about how the 9/11 Twin Towers and Pentagon tragedies were not really caused by terrorists but by our own government. I think. It was pretty all over the place, and apparently our commenter hadn't heard of this new invention called "paragraphs", which can come in handy when you are posting a 1,500 word screed on your favorite bugaboo. Numerous links were given to support the theory that the Twin Towers couldn't have possibly fallen without someone (our own government, claims Enlightenment) helping things along and blowing up the towers, causing them to fall. For a fuller (and, trust me on this one, far more lucid) explanation of 9/11 conspiracy theories, please check out Wikipedia's detailed entry. It's still paranoid lunacy, but at least it's well-written, grammatically correct paranoid lunacy.

The main reason I deleted the comment was not necessarily because I disagreed with the commenter's central arguments. Okay, I mean I do disagree with them and think they are the usual Conspiracy Theory flavor of kookery. As Jack Nicholson's character said in As Good As It Gets, "Sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here."

I deleted the comment because it was completely off-topic, having absolutely nothing to do with the content of the original post. The commenter started off with a ham-handed attempt to tie his comment in to his agenda ("Seeing all these pics of people plugging their ears in your post on tonedeafness makes me think of how Americans don't want to listen to my crazy-ass theories on why terrorists didn't really fly a plane into the Pentagon, etc.")

I would do the same thing if and when this blog starts getting spam comments trying to sell you v1@gR@ or Australian midget porn or photos of undersized Australian porn stars addicted to v1@gr@ or what have you.

This has never been a very political blog, and that is intentional. This blog is about pointing out things I find amusing, funny or strange. Nutty comments from people trying to convince me that the same government that pays $400 for a hammer and the government that didn't have a plan what to do the day after they got to Baghdad is the same government that carefully orchestrated the biggest coverup in the history of coverups, well that's just... amusing. And funny. And strange.

Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have deleted that comment after all...

As for my original nutball commenter, if you are reading this and aren't too busy GoogleMapping directions to my house for a little revenge, why not take this opportunity to broaden your paranoia horizons a little bit? I see that the whole "9/11 was orchestrated by the US gub'mint" theory is just one of a really great list of the Top Ten Wackiest Conspiracy Theories.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Let's Get Small

The Inner Life of the Cell is an eight-minute masterpiece created by Harvard biology students using cutting-edge computer animation techniques. I have absolutely NO idea what the narrator is talking about, but the animation is absolutely, jaw-droppingly, stunningly beautiful.

(Click on image below, wait for video to start after warning message) (via Mr. Sun!)

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Monday, November 13, 2006

How to be a playah

Atari Play lets you play some of the classic board (Scrabble, Monopoly, Battleship and more) and arcade games (Missile Command, Lunar Lander, Asteroids and the previously shown Tempest) for free. There's nothing to download but you will need Javascript enabled.

Speaking of Scrabble, here's a neat story of how a couple of Scrabble enthusiasts stumbled their way into breaking three records for sanctioned Scrabble in North America: the most points in a game by one player (830), the most total points in a game (1,320), and the most points on a single turn (365, for Cresta's play of QUIXOTRY). (via growabrain)

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Every Good Boy Does Fine

How to play drums and piano without really knowing how to play either drums or piano. Very nicely done! (via Digg)

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Quiz for The Mi-mi-mi-mi-miiii Generation

Test for your tonedeafness quotient. You will hear two musical phrases, then you decide if they are the same or different. How'd you do?

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I Palindrome I

At 17,256 words, this could be The World's Longest Palindrome, though it doesn't really make much sense.esnes hcum ekam yllaer t'nseod ti hguoht .emordnaliP tsegnoL s'dlroW ehT eb dluoc siht ,sdrow 652,17 tA

Weird Al Yankovic has a video parodying (imagine that!) Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues". Palindromes are involved. Fittingly, it's simply titled "Bob". (via Sarcasmo)(omsacraS aiv)"boB" deltit ylpmis s'ti ,ylgnittiF .devlovni era semordnaliP ."seulB kcisemoH naenarretbuS" s'nalyD (!taht enigami) gniydorap oediv a sah civoknaY lA drieW

And for comparison's sake, check out the original, which still rocks.skcor llits hcihw ,lanigiro eht tuo kcehc ,ekas s'nosirapmoc rof dnA

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Whether it's things or stuff, all my thing-and-stuff needs are met when I shop at Things and Stuff!

From Roadside Art Online comes a collection called Grog N Groc. Hall of Fame - The Best Store Names Ever, my current favorite being "The Lord Jesus Christ if I be Lifted Up Chair Caning and Variety Store". Guess I'd better order some bigger checks (or practice writing much smaller) before I shop there, though...

Shop Horror is a book published in 2005 lists The Best of The Worst in British Shop Names. Some entries in the gallery include Junk & Disorderly, Sofa So Good and Pizza The Action. They are also accepting reader submissions, presumably collecting material for a sequel. And yes, they already have enough people who have suggested "Curl Up & Dye".

Apparently in Ghana, Africa, businesses often have religious-themed names, even when the business has nothing to do with religion. Some of the more amusing from this collection include God First Carwash, In God We Trust Fast Food and my favorite, Blood of Jesus Electricals. Now IANAE (I am not an electrician), but I'm pretty sure I don't want blood, or really any fluids whatsoever, anywhere near my electricals.

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