October 4th, 2007
The Longest Train takes more than two minutes to pass by.
Imagine the length of the platform you need to adequately service the damned thing.
This Flash-based World Map game is fascinating. I scored 52 on my first attempt and 59 on my second and final go: I need to brush up on West Africa and Central America before I try again.
This video of a landslide in Japan is very bizarre. At first you think nothing much is happening beyond the odd rustle of trees moving, perhaps in a strong breeze. Then, suddenly, everything starts moving.
I'm going to have nightmares tonight after reading this:
A woman who ripped off her ex-boyfriend's testicle with her bare hands has been sent to prison.
Amanda Monti, 24, flew into a rage when Geoffrey Jones, 37, rejected her advances at the end of a house party, Liverpool Crown Court heard.
She pulled off his left testicle and tried to swallow it, before spitting it out. A friend handed it back to Mr Jones saying: "That's yours."
Monti admitted wounding and was jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Yes, I am sitting here with my legs firmly crossed. Why do you ask?
(I think I can safely say I'm not the only one…)
It wasn't that Dortmunder didn't like computers. You could fence them at the same discount as fur coats or DVD recorders, and a considerably better rate than large pieces of jewelry with names. What he found troubling was the unreality of computer money. Once upon a time, you robbed a store, or if you were large-minded, a bank, and you had a bag with paper in it. Everybody liked the paper, and took it happily. (One of Dortmunder's girlfriends called it "fungibility." The relationship didn't last long after that.) But the important thing was, you knew when you had the paper, you could put it in a box and open up the box to make sure it was still there. Somebody might steal the box — it happened all the time — but there were things to do about that, not all of them involving blunt instruments. The computer was a box, but you not only couldn't look inside it to see if the money was there, if the money wasn't there, nobody could tell Dortmunder exactly where it might have gone, or if it even still existed. The U.S. Government had a pretty good set of rules for replacing money that had unfortunately gotten a little burned or had to have unpleasant substances scrubbed off it. They were pretty nice about doing that, for the government. That didn't seem to be true with computer money. It was kind of like knocking over a jewelry store to steal the pretty reflections.
This series of pictures of Tiger Woods practicing his swing gets progressively more impressive as you scroll down the page.
[Via Bifurcated Rivets]
Stefan Collini reviews the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for the London Review of Books:
Leslie Stephen, founding editor in the 1880s of the original DNB, hoped that it would turn out to be one of the 'most amusing' of books. This remark may have to be interpreted in the light of the fact that Stephen's own preferred form of 'amusement' involved hanging by his fingertips from a ledge on the Matterhorn in the middle of a blizzard, but it is true that an abundance of pleasure, of a certain kind, is to be had from the 60 volumes assembled by his successors. As ways of simultaneously wasting one's time while increasing one's knowledge, they leave skinny tomes such as Wisden or Whitaker's Almanack standing.
After discussing the differences in content and scope between the original Dictionary of National Biography and the current edition, Collini has a little fun with the online edition's search engine:
Since this is still predominantly a compendium of men written by men, the right searches ought to yield some illumination about favoured male self-descriptions. Perhaps surprisingly, only 17 of our national heroes were 'all-round sportsmen', and only two had 'dashing good looks', but 'attractive to women' throws up a fascinating medley of attitudes among its 27 results. Some concentrate on the physical, such as the entry for Edwin Booth (1833-93, 'actor') – 'with dark eyes, long dark hair, romantic good looks, and a warm musical voice, Booth was attractive to women' – and some not, such as that on Marcus Cunliffe (1922-90, 'Americanist'), who is described as 'generous, relaxed, charming, urbane, vivacious, witty, playful and attractive to women'. Others excite more sympathy, such as Thomas Jones (1870-1955, 'civil servant and benefactor') whose agreeable qualities 'made him particularly attractive to women, especially after his wife's death'; one immediately senses a whole squadron of those female 'forceful personalities' steaming over the horizon. A bracing female perspective peeps through in the entry on Fanny Kemble (1809-93, 'actress and author') which refers to her unhappy marriage to Pierce Butler: 'He was clever and handsome – or at least very attractive to women,' which suggests burnt fingers veering towards cynicism on someone's part.
Naturally, with all these alpha males around, things soon get competitive, so within the space of a couple of letters we find not only that Edwin Landseer was 'especially' attractive to women, but that Lloyd George was 'immensely', Krishna Menon 'devastatingly', and a character in a G.A. Lawrence novel 'irresistibly' so. At first I had hoped that a scientific analysis of these posthumous personal ads would enable me to crack one of the mysteries of the universe, but all I learn is that it may help to be either quite short or quite tall or somewhere in between, to have either blue eyes or dark eyes, to be a good talker though also a good listener, to be witty but sensitive, courteous yet forceful, and, possibly, to be 'luxuriantly whiskered'.
A snip at just Â£7,500.00 for 60 print volumes, or a mere Â£4,550.00 at Amazon UK. (I wonder if that's the biggest cash discount Amazon UK offers on any print publication?)
No doubt within twelve months Endemol will be putting on a UK version of their latest bright idea.
Celebrity Sperm Race anyone?
[Via Mark Wants a Porsche]
Size of Wales provides a handy online calculator to help us cope with those all-important Television Units of Science. For when you absolutely, positively, need to know how many football fields that iceberg covers.
[Via not you, the other one]
I wonder if Sir Geoff Hurst realised when he scored a certain famous hat-trick that nearly forty years later he would be selling his services as a supper guest.
Which wouldn't be so bad, except that one of the other "stars" on the books of Supper With The Stars is Schnorbitz. (Ten Brownie Points to any reader under the age of 30 who can say – without recourse to Google – who Schnorbitz used to work with.)
[Via feeling listless]
It turns out that the U2 iPod wasn't half as groundbreaking as I'd thought. Way back in 1981, Casio brought out the Kraftwerk Pocket Calculator, complete with a songsheet so you could program it to play your favourite Kraftwerk tracks.
Yes, you read that right. A film called Darwin Awards is in production.
Next up, the big-screen adaptation of the Bulwer-Lytton Award.
[Via feeling listless]
Bad Book Covers does precisely what you'd expect, holding up some truly dreadful book covers to ridicule. However, once of the featured volumes truly stands out: the cover design is pretty awful, but the title is even worse.
[Via Blog of a Bookslut]
[...] The American Dialect Society, which meets in association with the Linguistic Society of America, is the main scholarly group devoted to the study of language in America, and most of the time, it devotes itself to serious concerns. This year's sessions included papers on the current status of Texas German, the vowel characteristics of Atlanta speech, and an analysis of prosodic rhythm in African-American English. But once in a while we like to blow off steam, and we do this by voting for the Words of the Year, in various categories—Most Useful, Creative, Unnecessary, Outrageous, and Euphemistic; Most and Least Likely To Succeed; and an overall Word of the Year. Newspapers love this [...]
The Most Outrageous category is tricky; we never agree whether it's the word itself that's outrageous (typically for having some vulgar element, as in 2003's winner, cliterati, for "prominent feminists") or the concept (as with 2002's neuticles, "false testicles for neutered pets"). This year the strongest contender was santorum, defined (and heavily promoted) by sex writer Dan Savage – in a campaign to besmirch the name of right-wing Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum – as "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex." We dismissed one potential problem – that newspapers wouldn't print the term if it won – on the grounds that we shouldn't censor ourselves. And indeed, in the afternoon's voting, santorum did win, but many newspapers simply skipped this category in their coverage. So much for academic freedom. [...]
The Guide posts an early leader in the race for the Most Misleading Headline of the Year contest.
Last month Kyle Van Horn handed in a package marked as follows at his local post office:
"ATTENTION POSTAL WORKERS! Please help us with our project. As this camera travels across the country we want photos of all whom it encounters. Please take a photo before you pass it along. Thank you!"
The roll of film came out pretty well, barring the odd image where the flash apparently failed to go off. It'd be fun to see someone try this across different countries: I'd think that sending a camera round the various EU nations would produce some interesting results.
Talking of architecture, Jonathan Glancey wrote a fascinating article in today's Guardian about the challenge of designing a successor to the British Antarctic Survey's Halley V Research Station:
The difficulties faced by those designing, living and building Halley VI are different. The key problem is the fact that the Brunt Ice Shelf is continuously on the move. Even though the ice here is between 100 and 150m deep, the ground is uncertain, so conventional foundations are useless. Nor can a building here be a permanent monument to the architectural ego, as it too will be replaced by Halley VII within 20 years or so. And who, penguins aside, will ever get to stand outside Halley VI for long enough to admire its subtle design and award-winning looks?
This Wired article about high-tech bridges inspired me to go looking for more pictures of some of the bridges it described. The article is accompanied by some pictures of the bridges, but some were shot from fairly close up and didn't give a very good impression of the overall shape of the bridges.
The most striking design was the Ponte Juscelino Kubitschek bridge over the Paranoá Lake in Brasília: this page has a nice image of the bridge as seen from the air, whereas this page describing the writer's trip to Brazil has a spectacular image of the bridge at sunset (scroll just over three-quarters of the way down the page.)