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Welcome to Monday

21 Mar

Feeling a knot of tension in your stomach, brought on by the knowledge that you’re still standing on the welcome-mat of a long week ahead?

Worried about that outstanding item on your schedule? Annoyed by the chipper attitudes of your workmates?

Might I suggest the soothing visage of a chimp in a tux?

Chimp in a tux -

From the wikipedia article on the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens:

In 1893 a chimpanzee was purchased from another of Wombwell’s Travelling Menageries in London. The four-year old chimpanzee, Consul, was dressed in a smoking jacket and cap and puffed on a cob pipe; he frequently accompanied [zoo owner] James Jennison to business meetings.

I’m sure Consul must have been a master negotiator in the boardroom, but, as often happens, his heir had a more artistic bent – from the same article:

Consul proved to be exceptionally popular, and after his death on 24 November 1894, the Jennisons immediately obtained a replacement, Consul II, who played a violin while riding a tricycle around the gardens, later graduating to a bicycle.

Consul II

The Long View

17 Mar

Screenshot from
Speaking of the situation in Japan, I wanted to bring up an item I thought might be of interest to Collective Detective fans.

With official estimations of the threat from radiation across Japan changing rapidly and sometimes inconsistent, a number of real-time amateur radiation monitors have popped up online. A live geiger counter at updates a graph with data every 60 seconds, and a uStream channel broadcasting the digital display of another Tokyo geiger counter was drawing more than 14,000 viewers earlier today. – CNET

– and by “and sometimes inconsistent”, they mean “and sometimes possibly a lie”.

At the time this post is going up, I found the altTokyo page unreachable, but the uStream was available and displaying a cpm of 14.14 – from what I’ve read, a rating of 160 is something to panic over.

I find it fascinating, and disturbing, that average citizens have had to take this level of science into their own hands, for their own safety. Whatever the outcome in these next few days and weeks, the Japanese corporate and social structure is in for a long, intense, debate. Are the stoic calm of the people, and the possibly tragic results of trying to save political-face, two sides of the same coin?

Having Kittens

12 Mar

African Black-Footed Cat

I don’t usually hold with Caturday traditions, but I ran across a new article on science rock-star Betsy Dresser, and her gene bank operations, which I thought was worth mentioning.

(The felines in this post’s photos are African Black-Footed cats, but are not of the litter discussed below.)

The latest rare wildcat kittens at a New Orleans conservation center were born from embryos frozen before Hurricane Katrina.

The two male African black-footed cats are among the world’s smallest felines. They’ll grow to about one-third the size of the average housecat.

What caught my eye was the combination of easy transportation/storage, and the fact that these mini-leopards are 1/3rd the size of most housecats.

Fact: people love things that are tiny.

Will the African Black-Footed Cat be the boutique pet of tomorrow? Is this the next step towards genetic engineering for the masses?

Scientists in Omaha, Neb., collected and froze the father’s sperm in 2003. At the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, it was combined in March 2005 with eggs from a black-footed cat in the center’s collection.

The embryos were kept frozen until December. On Dec. 7, the thawed embryo was implanted into a second female black-footed cat. The kittens, which don’t yet have names, were born Feb. 13.

Male African Black-Footed Cat sharpens his claws -

The Wall Of Death

10 Mar

Wall Of Death Rider

In the early 1900s, vehicles were beginning to achieve speeds that would allow them to defy gravitational forces, and, by the ’30s, exhibitions known as “walls of death” were becoming increasingly popular.

Like any entertainment that sees a market over-saturation, the drivers began to feel a need to push the limits of the sport – as such, they moved to the next logical step: introducing lions into the process.

With over a hundred walls of death traveling the US by the 1930s, perhaps the coolest version was the ‘Liondrome’ in which a rider is accompanied by a tamed lion.

Wall Of Death - Lion Sidecar

Over the years, animal abuse laws, and simple repetition, have caused the practice to dwindle. However, you can still find the act, without the giant-cat, being performed in rural county fairs, and other locations where life is cheap.

Indian stuntman rides the Wall Of Death

The Universe is a Cruel Slapstick Comedian

9 Mar

Bobby Leach (1858 in Cornwall, England – April 26, 1926) was the second person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, after Annie Taylor, and the first male to ever do so, accomplishing the feat on July 25, 1911.


Bobby Leach with his capsule

A brave fellow, risking the sort of death-defying business we’ve generally outlawed, or outgrown, in the interim years.

Leach made a living, for a time, from his gamble – but cosmic justice is a cruel mistress.

(The emphasis is mine.)

In 1926 while on a publicity tour in New Zealand, Leach injured his leg when he slipped on an orange peel (according to some reports, it was a banana peel). The leg became infected […] Bobby Leach died two months later.


Google Discusses Glenn Beck

1 Mar

Not to pull the sausage-making curtain back too far, but, while attempting to pad out my cliché-list for yesterday’s episode, my search turned up the suggestion below.

Google Discusses Glenn Beck

Wow, Google: zing!

Robotic Combat Felines

25 Feb

Proposed Cheetah from ArticleMy favourite roboticist firm, Boston Dynamics, has found a new way to bring on our terrifying future.

BigDog’s makers are working on a new quadruped that moves faster than any human and is agile enough to “chase and evade.”

Boston Dynamics, maker of the Army’s robotic mule BigDog announced today that Darpa has awarded it a contract to build a much faster and more fearsome animal-like robot, Cheetah. – Danger Room

As a reminder, here’s BD’s lastest youtube video of Big Dog – from a year ago.

This project is definitely worth keeping an eye on, although the image at top leaves me thinking in terms of the old Transformers character, Ravage.


Music To Cry To

23 Feb

After my earlier post, this happened:

Which, as far as I’m concerned, is fantastic.

I tracked down a larger version of the poster, to get a better line on the featured music, and can tell you that the theme, “Cry, Baby Cry”, was sung by Dick Kallman – a b-string crooner, and sometimes sitcom star, who, in 1980, was murdered for his antiques.

There’s an all-too-short sample at the 15 second mark of the trailer:

Cool Guy Syndrome

22 Feb

Star Wars Fine ArtHave you ever heard of Stendahl’s Syndrome?

Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome, hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly beautiful or a large amount of art is in a single place.


I don’t mean to be insensitive to anyone’s condition, but this strikes me as the kind of thing Hipsters pretend to suffer from, just to prove how intensely into some avant-garde piece they are.

Also, what counts as “fine” art? Do a few hundred hallucinating Grateful Dead fans, under the influence of heavy narcotics, count as cases of pseudo-Stendhal’s?

Sunday Summary

6 Feb

At The Monument To Robot Freedom

Join me on a walk through some of my week’s better tweets, won’t you?

A cliff on a moon made of pudding

My Office Window