Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Indulge your sadistic side with the Electroman Surge Protector (above). Not nasty enough? Try the Mind Molester or Sonic Nausea.
Send a message with laser graffiti. Perfect for ransom notes.
Find out if a toupee is in your future with your very own DNA analysis kit. All you need is $399 and a little spit.
Spy-bat is on the way!
Let Japanese scientists read your dreams.
And for those of you who prefer the low-tech side of life, pre-chewed pencils (below).
Monday, December 29, 2008
I've often wondered: Why do some people seem to have all the luck? Why is it always the same bunch who discover bags of cash in gas station bathrooms, spot UFOs on their lunch hours, or find the perfect pair of shoes for 50% off?
I'm still not sure I have the answer, but I did read an article this morning that made me think. Seems a few years back, a professor at the University of Hertfordshire decided to find out what made some people lucky. So he interviewed hundreds of individuals and performed a few telling experiments. In one such experiment:
"I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. I had secretly placed a large message halfway through the newspaper saying: 'Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $50'.
This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than two inches high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it."
His conclusion? Lucky people are lucky because they keep their eyes and minds open to unexpected. (Hmmm. That sounds familiar.)
In this article, he even offers a few tips for those of us who'd like to be lucky:
1) Listen to your gut instincts because they're usually right.
2) Be open to new experiences and breaking your normal routine.
3) Spend a few moments each day remembering things that went well.
4) Visualize yourself being lucky before an important event.
It all seems rather simple doesn't it? But I suspect he's right. If it's luck you're after, you have to get off the couch and go FIND it.
Gee, I think I just found my first New Year's resolution!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I've been a little under the weather, so I haven't been spreading my usual holiday cheer. But this time of year, I usually like to remind my friends and loved ones just how lucky they are. (To be friends with me! Kidding.) So here's a little story about two lovely young ladies whose mother just won't give up a certain embarrassing tradition. Poor things!
(By the way, that adorable, well-behaved child shown above? That's ME! Just look at those boots. Santa's lucky I didn't unleash a butt-kicking right then and there!)
Monday, December 22, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Seriously, folks, this may be my all time #1 (non-egg related) nightmare . . . I'm in a pool, doing a little backstroke, when a shark appears out of nowhere and eats me. I've always told myself it could never, ever happen. There's simply NO WAY a shark could be waiting for me in the deep end. Nobody's ever come face-to-face with a shark in a swimming pool.
AND THEN IT HAPPENED!
A reef shark at a resort in the Bahamas (OMG, I WAS JUST IN THE BAHAMAS!) managed to leap out of the aquarium where it was being kept, onto a waterside, and into a swimming pool. Fortunately, no one was swimming in the pool at the time. But can you imagine a full-grown shark coming down the water slide and landing next to you? I'm pretty sure I'd have a heart attack before it could eat me.
Unfortunately, this story doesn't have a happy ending. (Did you really think that it would?) Despite the best efforts of resort employees, the pool's chlorine poisoned the shark before it could be returned to its aquarium. But though the poor thing died, I can assure you all that it will live forever in my nightmares.
Friday, December 19, 2008
One thing I love about the Japanese is the importance they place on making everything beautiful. Even their lunchboxes.
Bento are home-packed lunches that usually contain rice, a meat, and a vegetable. It could seem a bit bland if not for the artistic miracles performed using these humble ingredients.
One of the masters of the bento craft is the woman behind Anna the Red's Bento Factory. Her amazing blog not only contains pictures of her handiwork (shown above and below), but also detailed instructions for making everything from snowflakes to Super Mario mushrooms.
Since most of you should soon have some time on your hands, I suggest you check it out!
PS: Happy Snow Day
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Here at Ananka's Diary, we often post stories about girls who've accomplished the amazing or the unexpected. We've featured girls who've taken down muggers, foiled burglars, kicked butt at basketball, or exposed the lies of soda companies. Now it's time to honor a fifth-grade boy who's done what few other boys have been brave enough to do. Play double-dutch.
Double-dutch has long been considered a girls' sport. (Why? Who knows. These sorts of things rarely make any sense.) In fact, when ZeAndre first told his mother that he wanted to join his school's team, she tried her best to discourage him. But the boy had a passion for jumping, and he refused to let anyone get in the way. Even school bullies. When word got out that ZeAndre had made the team, he was teased, taunted, and even kicked down a flight of stairs--all for playing a "girl's game."
It took a remarkable display of guts and determination, but ZeAndre didn't give up. And it's a good thing he didn't. Earlier this month, his team took home a second place trophy at the annual Holiday Classic Double Dutch Competition at the Apollo Theater!
Though I usually hate stories with morals, this has a good one. Never let anyone tell you what you can or can't accomplish!
Watch a short movie about ZeAndre at the New York Times.
Perhaps I should rephrase. According to the University of Copenhagen, girls have a better sense of taste than boys. (On a somewhat related note, the study also found that most kids like fish, though I sense a Danish conspiracy to sell more herring.)
Of course, as all of you already know, girls also have a much better sense of scent. (Which is closely related to our sense of taste as the old potato-onion-apple experiment proves.) So how are we going to use these new-found superpowers, ladies?
(What's the "old potato-onion-apple" experiment? Check out #7 (THANKS, 42) on this list of 10 Fascinating Food Facts.)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Kidding! I would never nibble on such adorable creatures. And neither would a lot of Germans, it seems.
You see, the wild piggies shown above make their home in the bustling city of Berlin. In recent years, thousands of their friends and loved ones have invaded the German capital, rooting up parks, gardens, soccer fields, and cemeteries. Some experts estimate that there are 7,000 wild pigs living in Berlin today.
The gun-packing urban hunters hired by the government to deal with the invasion have found themselves faced with a formidable opponent. "Some swine know the city better than we do," said one hunter. "They know every gap in a fence, every abandoned building they can hide in." And to make matters worse, the human citizens of Berlin appear to be on the pigs' side. According to the Wall Street Journal, Berlin's urban hunters have been branded "murderers," beaten with sticks, and had their tires slashed. Some citizens love the animals so much that they choose to break the law and leave food for them at night!
I'm not sure I'd go that far. Would you? Check out the article from the WSJ, which is accompanied by an awesome slide show and video.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Is your beloved pet particularly hairy? Does she shed fur all over your clothes and carpet? Well don't let all that soft, luxurious "wool" go to waste! Let Catty Shack Creations transform it into a beautiful accessory!
For the past few years, Catty Shack Creations has been spinning excess dog and cat fur into lovely handbags. Of course, as the company's founder readily admits in the video above, there are some folks (the Ewww People) who find the whole thing disgusting. But the Catty Shack Creations website insists that hair taken from dogs and cats is much cleaner than the wool sheared from sheep.
OK, I buy that, but I don't usually spend a lot of time with sheep. Wouldn't your cat be a little creeped out if you start walking around with a purse made from her hair? And if that thought doesn't bother you, why stop with pets? Why not collect the hair from your sister's hairbrush and have it woven into a scarf?
Perhaps I'm taking this too far. If you're not an Ewww Person, you can order your "Catty Shack Creations" here.
Sunday Bonus Story: Read about Frankie, Britain's hardest working cat burglar.
Friday, December 12, 2008
My mother, Big K, informed me that tonight's full moon should be unusually large and beautiful to behold. I did a little research and discovered that it will be the biggest and brightest moon in FIFTEEN years! So go outside and take a look. Just make sure you have some silver bullets on hand.
Question for all of you . . . do you think werewolves will ever be as popular as vampires?
A blogger in Indonesia recently found the amazing "thing" shown above growing in his garden. He suspects it may be a mushroom of some sort, but he's been unable to identify it. So, in the meantime, he's named it the "Zombie Hand." (Love it!)
According to his post, the organism emits a foul odor, "like dead fish or dead rat." He also says he's met other people who have more colorful versions of the same mushroom growing in their gardens.
So what is it? Whoever can correctly identify this remarkable organism will win our eternal admiration!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I personally believe that Google Maps represents the very height of human civilization. Click on the "street view" option when looking at maps of cities like New York, and you will see 360-degree pictures of the address you've entered. (You probably already knew this, right?)
So when two Pittsburgh artists heard that the Google Maps van was coming to town, they and their neighbors decided to organize a little something special. As the picture-taking van drove down Sampsonia Way, it captured some rather unusual street scenes: A parade (complete with marching band), a sword fight, a mad scientist's lab, a heroic rescue, and more.
According to the artists' website, the result is the "first-ever artistic intervention in Google Street View" since it made its debut on the web.
Read more and explore magical Sampsonia Way here. (Why didn't anyone do something like this in New York? Get with the program, people!)
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
On my morning travels through the Internet, I stumbled upon an interesting story from Australia. (The second best source of stories after the great nation of Japan.)
Seems a controversy that began in the States a few years back has finally reached Australian shores. Teachers in some parts of the country have been ordered to stop using red ink when grading students' papers and tests. Red ink, you see, is believed to be too aggressive, and some worry that a paper covered in red markings could have a negative impact on students' self esteem. Instead, teachers have been asked to use a "gentler" color such as purple or green.
I recall that the red ink issue was a hot topic in the US about four years ago. (Read a story here, if you're interested.) So have teachers here stopped using red pens, or are they still terrorizing young psyches with their scarlet ink? How do you feel about the controversy? Amused, horrified, scarred for life?
I agree that there's nothing worse than being handed a paper with a giant red "F" on it. But if a kid can't take a little red ink, what chance will she have in the real world?
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The illustration above didn't come from a science-fiction novel. It's a rather faithful likeness of a woman who went by the name of Madame Dimanche. And the growth in the middle of her forehead? It's a horn. According to medical accounts from the 19th century, the horn first sprouted when Madame Dimanche was seventy-six and grew ten inches before it was finally removed by a Parisian doctor.
Horned humans aren't as rare as one might think, though these days the horns are usually quickly removed. Caused by a host of different conditions, they can pop up almost anywhere on the body. However, most horns are due to a skin disorder known as cornu cutaneum, and are composed of keratin (the same substance responsible for fingernails).
Those interested in the subject should pay a visit to thehumanmarvels.com, where you can read about Wang the Human Unicorn, as well as two recent cases. Warning: The site is not for the faint of heart.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
(Photo from Worth 1000.)
It's a mystery that has botanists spooked. This fall, in certain parts of the country, there's not a single acorn to be found. According to the Washington Post, starving squirrels are going nuts, attacking bird feeders and Halloween pumpkins.
No one knows why the oaks have stopped producing acorns. Some say it's a sign of ecological disaster--others claim its all part of a natural cycle. Whatever the reason, if you've always wanted to impersonate Snow White and have furry little creatures eating peanuts right out of your hands, now's your chance. (On second thought, scrap that idea. I wouldn't be surprised a famished squirrel decided to take a finger or two.)
So what's it like in your part of the country/world? Seen any acorns lately?
Read more about the mystery here.
Friday, December 5, 2008
(Above: I love the cute little mushroom-like creatures from Princess Mononoke.)
Once again, hats off to the nation of Japan. It is truly the land of awesome. Forget fugu and soy sauce candy. As you'll soon learn, even their mushrooms are amazing.
During the rainy season, little green lights appear in the dark, damp forests of Japan. Believe it or not, the mushrooms are glowing. (See below.) I'd like to think that they're marking paths for woodland spirits or fairies, but apparently there's a much more "logical" explanation. Find out here if you choose, or stick with me and keep an eye out for fairies.
As you may recall, I mentioned there would be a special surprise prize for the winner of our last contest. I can now reveal what that surprise was!
The winner's invention, Fake Blood Chewing Gum, will be featured in the next Kiki Strike book! Congratulations again, Hania!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
According to a recent study conducted by the Josephson Institute (yeah, I haven't heard of it, either), today's teens are a bunch of budding criminals.
Of the thirty-thousand high school students surveyed, 30% said they had stolen something from a store in the past year. 42% said they sometimes lie to save money. And a whopping 64% claim to have cheated on a test in the past year.
Even more frightening? 26% of the students said they had even lied while taking the survey!
(See more of the results here.)
The Josephson Institute seems to believe that these numbers are evidence that society is crumbling around us. What do you think? Do these results seem accurate to you? The only thing that really shocks me about all of this is that people would be so honest while taking a survey.
Monday, December 1, 2008
From time to time, it's nice to check in with our animal friends and see what they've been up to.
1600 pandas took over Paris. (See above.)
Apparently backyard chickens are now all the rage. (This one's for you, Irregular Kiki.)
Pigeon towers of the world. Ah, the things people will do for a little pigeon poo.
Myostatin mutants are not monsters! (See below.)
Squid now have elbows. Next up: Opposable thumbs.
Fourteen snakes invade a woman's bedroom. (From the "Only in Australia" files.)
Sunday, November 30, 2008
What if there were a test you could take as a kid that would tell you whether you have the right genes to be a star athlete? Would you want to know?
A Colorado company claims to have developed a DNA test that can tell whether a person might have the speed, power, or endurance to excel at certain sports--or whether she's best off watching from the sidelines.
All that's needed is a cheek swab from a child age 0-8. Then the kid's DNA is analyzed to see if it has traits similar to those of successful athletes. No one knows how accurate the test is, but parents are already lining up to have their children tested.
But here's my question . . . Is athletic ability only a result of a person's genes? Or is it also the result of hard work, perseverance, confidence, and guts? I think DNA plays an important role, but I'd rather have a tiny kid with a kick-butt attitude on my team than a person with all the right genes and no moxie.
What do you think?
Read more here.
On a related note, congratulations to Eri Yoshida, the 16-year-old high school student who recently became Japan's first female professional baseball player. (I wonder if the DNA test could have predicted THAT!)
And another round of congratulations to Samantha-Jane Stacey, the fourteen-year-old Australian girl who recently won a silver medal in the World Sumo Championships. (Keep in mind that sumo wrestling, however cool, is a seriously sexist sport. Traditionally, women are not allowed to enter or touch a sumo ring for fear of violating its "purity." So way to go, Samantha-Jane.)
PS: Sorry for misspelling athlete in the title! How embarrassing!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
On a recent afternoon, Kettly Jean-Felix parked her car on Beacon Street in Brookline, fed the parking meter, wheeled around to go to the optician and came face to face with a wild turkey.
The turkey eyed Jean-Felix. Jean-Felix eyed the turkey. It gobbled. She gasped. Then the turkey proceeded to follow the Dorchester woman over the Green Line train tracks, across the street, through traffic, and all the way down the block, pecking at her backside as she went.
According to this year-old article, Brookline, MA, has a little problem with turkeys. Which is odd, I think, 'cause our turkeys are quite pleasant.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
They cannot perform in public. They cannot pose for album cover photographs. Even their jam sessions are secret, for fear of offending the religious authorities in this ultraconservative kingdom.
But the members of Saudi Arabia’s first all-girl rock band, the Accolade, are clearly not afraid of taboos. --The New York Times
It's easy to forget that females in United States (and countries like Australia) have rights that aren't shared by hundreds of millions of girls/women around the world. The ladies of Saudi heavy metal girl-group Accolade have become heroes for doing things that would seem quite ordinary to most of us. But in a country where women aren't allowed to drive and the religious police are always watching, wearing jeans and writing rock songs about relationships can get you into a lot of hot water (to say the least).
So the next time each of us has an opportunity to do something brave, we should make sure to seize it. (By the way, did I mention that Accolade is looking for a drummer?)
Read more here and listen to Accolade's music here. (Not my cup of tea, but that's OK.)
Monday, November 24, 2008
I must have been ten or so when I first read the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. (Which I recommend highly.) As you might imagine, the aspect of the story that really captured my attention wasn't the thrilling plot (which involves super-intelligent rats and sinister government agencies) but rather the descriptions of the underground "city" the rats had created.
I was reminded of the rats of NIMH when I first saw the clip below on TV a few months ago. Scientists decided to study the workings of a large ant colony by pouring ten tons of concrete into a large anthill. (Not too nice for the ants, I'm afraid.) They allowed the concrete to harden, and then they dug the dirt out around it. As the ants' city was revealed, even the scientists were amazed.
Have a look at the video, which starts getting quite interesting around the four minute mark.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
(Above: Awesome artwork discovered online. Will the artist please take credit?)
On February 8th, the legendary (haha) Kirsten Miller will be appearing at Symphony Space in New York! Aside from entertaining you with amusing book-related stories and first-hand accounts of Bigfoot stalking, she may--just may--give the audience a preview of KIKI #3!!!
Find out more here.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
In my (very) humble opinion, Adam Wallacavage is the greatest artist of all time. But I'm not in love with him. I'm in love with his delightful chandeliers, each of which is crafted to resemble an octopus. The green one would look PERFECT in my bedroom. If I only had a spare $10,000!
See more of his work here.
Friday, November 21, 2008
(Sorry for the illustration, but I've been dying to find an excuse to use it!)
Seems like the town of Framingham, Massachusetts could use a good sleuth. For the past month, high-quality cuts of raw meat have been mysteriously appearing beneath a tree in the village green.
According to Ethan Mascoop, the town's public health director, "The meat is large, it's raw, it weighs upward of 5 to 10 pounds. . . . We want to make sure it's nothing nefarious, and we're taking all precautions and all actions, including testing and monitoring. But there's no evidence - absolutely, absolutely nothing - to suggest something untoward is going on."
No evidence of something untoward? Someone keeps leaving RAW MEAT on the village green--and nobody knows WHAT KIND of meat it is!
Here are some of my theories:
1. Werewolf Bait
2. Alien "Experiments"
3. An Attempt to Turn the Town Squirrels into Murderous, Meat-Eating Fiends
4. Leftovers from Midnight Meat-Lover Picnics
Read more (and see a video!) here.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
(Aka: "Things People Do in Austria, Part II.")
Check out the "Wellness Skull." Created by Dutch artist Joep van Lieshout and positioned near a busy intersection in Vienna, Austria, the Wellness Skull holds a fully-functional sauna. When in use, steam rises from the skull's eye sockets. I'm kind of loving this. How great would it be to have one in your very own backyard?
Read more here.
You guys know I'm a fan of strange art. But THIS may be taking things a bit too far. The giant sausage "artwork," created by a meat-loving team known as Kuildoosh, will soon be gracing the backyard of a Brooklyn art gallery. Right now, however, it's stuck in customs on its way from the UK. Perhaps we should hope it stays stuck?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
A mysterious jelly-like substance has been spotted throughout the British Isles. It looks a little like Jell-o and a lot like snot. But according to the BBC, it's neither substance. (How can they be so sure? Who said it was HUMAN snot?) Anyway, take a look at the pictures here, and see if you can help our friends across the pond solve their mystery!
Monday, November 17, 2008
(Photos below from azillphotos.)
Many of you may be a little too young to remember the communist Soviet Union. It was a jolly place where munchkins and good witches . . . whoops, sorry. I must have been thinking of Oz. The Soviet Union was a little less magical. In fact, you could say it was downright depressing at times. And I hear the toilet paper was really scratchy.
But now those of you who missed out on the fun have the opportunity to experience the delights of the Soviet Union first hand. A new theme park has opened in Lithuania in an underground bunker once used by the Soviet army. For a mere $220, you can live the life of a Soviet citizen for two and a half hours!
During your stay, you'll don threadbare clothing, watch 1980s television shows, wear a gas mask, be forced to learn the Soviet anthem, eat a typical Soviet meal, and undergo an interrogation and medical check.
Sounds like a good time to me! Read more about it here.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I can't tell you how many times I've found myself wishing I had a big bucket full of worms. Okay, not many. But if I ever find myself lost in the woods, with only a trout-filled stream to feed me, I now know how to quickly rustle up some fishing bait. (Or an appetizer.)
It's called worm grunting. Here's a description from the New York Times: "Worm grunting, also known as worm fiddling or charming, involves driving a wooden stake into the ground and rubbing the top of it with a . . . flat piece of steel to make a grunting or snoring noise. Done in the right place under the right conditions, the result will be hundreds of earthworms appearing on the surface of the ground. Worm grunting is practiced in parts of the southeast to obtain fish bait."
Kind of cool, if you're into slimy, soil-dwelling invertebrates. But until recently, no one had no idea how how it worked. Now scientists have discovered that the sound produced is similar to the sounds made by moles. The worms think they're being chased and flee to the surface!
Enjoy the great worm grunter video below, which offers numerous fascinating worm facts!
Friday, November 14, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I must have been around ten years old when I first became fascinated by the phenomenon known as telekinesis. For centuries, some people have claimed to possess the ability to move or alter objects using only their minds. (Oddly enough, bending spoons seems to be the most popular way to use one's telekinetic powers.) Unfortunately, most displays of telekinesis have been exposed as hoaxes. And I'm sad to report that, despite my best efforts, I've never been able to use my mind to levitate the rats that scamper about the subway tracks.
But just the other day, I came across the video below. It shows an elderly Chinese man moving objects without touching them. Though the audio is not in English, I think the video is impressive enough without it. See if you agree.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I love Monster Quest, the show on the Discovery Channel that searches for cryptid creatures around the globe. The only problem? The searchers rarely find anything. Until now.
Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, Canada has long been said to harbor a Nessie-like lake monster. Known as the Ogopogo, it was first spotted in 1872 and has been photographed and filmed many times since. Unfortunately, the evidence of its existence has never proven conclusive.
But that may have changed. A Monster Quest crew recently discovered an unusual creature at the bottom of Okanagan Lake, in an underwater cave on the west side of Rattlesnake Island. Some say the beast may be a baby Ogopogo. According to one eyewitness, "It was all curled up. The features were really hard to see. You could see a little head tucked in and a straight tail with no fins. It's a huge mystery. We have no idea what it is."
The creature has been shipped to the University of Guelph for DNA tests. Unless one of us can sneak in and steal the results, we'll have to wait until the Monster Quest episode airs in February to find out if an Ogopogo has been discovered!
Until then, you can read more here.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Every autumn, tumbleweeds roll through the town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. But his November, they attacked. Residents woke to find their windows and doors barred by thousands of prickly dried weeds. It all seems a bit sinister, if you ask me. What were the weeds after? Why did they want to trap the people of Wyoming? What were they intending to do with them?
Anyone out there in Cheyenne who might provide an eyewitness account?
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The sweet little mouse shown above is no ordinary rodent. He's a clone. A clone created from cells of another mouse that had been frozen for SIXTEEN YEARS. (See the original below.)
Though there are many people who have issues with the project, the Japanese researchers responsible hope that one day they can use the technique to clone a woolly mammoth or saber tooth tiger.
(Or perhaps Walt Disney? Urban Legend has it that the great man had his body cyrogenically frozen in case doctors one day discovered the cure for the cancer that killed him. Some accounts claim only Disney's head was preserved. Find out more here.)
Who knows where this new scientific advance could lead us. Will people start freezing parts of their bodies in the hope that they'll one day be cloned? Will real-life Jurassic Parks, featuring the prehistoric beasts of the Ice Age, open to the public? Will Walt Disney's return in clone form to take charge of them? I think my head is going to explode!
Read about the latest advances in cloning here.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I don't know about you guys, but I'm sooo relieved the election is over. (Who was my choice for president? There are ways to find out, if you're a particularly good detective. But my lips are sealed!) As for the big issues of the day, I'm honored that many of you have chosen Ananka's diary to debate them. I encourage all sides of every issue to speak out (nicely, of course). It's my belief that the only hope we have of making the world a better place is to sit down and really listen to those who disagree with us.
However . . . let's get back to the bizarre, shall we? I've come across lots of stories about genius octopi in the past. (They're crafty little creatures.) But I have to say, the story of Otto the octopus takes the cake. Seems Otto didn't like the light that workers at the Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany would let shine into his habitat during the night. So he found a way to deal with it. Find out how here.