Friday, January 30, 2009

Beware of Boys With Unpopular Names

(Above: Juvenile delinquents.)

According to scientists at the University in Pennsylvania, boys with "unpopular" names are more likely to lead a life of crime. (Apparently, no one bothered studying whether unpopular names had the same impact on girls, 'cause everyone knows girls are never bad. Haha.)

Boys with common names, such as Michael and David are supposedly less likely to break the law than their oddly named counterparts. (If this is true, let's hope you never run into an Igor or Ignatius.)

Okay, this is all very amusing right? I thought so, until I came to the last sentence of this article:

"The findings could help officials identify individuals at high risk of committing or recommitting crime, leading to more effective and targeted intervention programs."

What?!?!? So people with weird names are now "individuals at high risk?" Why don't these scientists just leave kids alone and cure cancer or something?

More here if you're interested!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Continuing with the Classics . . .

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't read Jane Eyre, (and I recommend that you do) you might want to skip this post!

It has long been said that Charlotte Bronte's classic novel, Jane Eyre, may have been inspired by a terrible tale she heard while staying at an ancient mansion in the north of England. But until recently, no one realized that Bronte had borrowed more from the mansion than its stories.

If you've read Jane Eyre, then you know that a certain secret staircase (and the horrible room to which it leads) plays a key role in the novel. Now an identical staircase has been discovered in the mansion Bronte visited (shown below). Hidden since the 1880s, it leads directly from the first floor to a room in the attic. According to local legend, a mad woman had once been imprisoned there. (Though in those days, "mad" was often just another word for "inconvenient.")

Read more here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Whenever I read Jane Austen's classic novels, I always come away feeling like they're missing a certain something. Now I know what it is. ZOMBIES. Fortunately, an enterprising author has put his heart and soul (and possibly his brain) into improving Austen's best-loved work. The result: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

From the Amazon description . . .

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone crunching zombie action.

Awesome. Now why didn't I think of that?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama Action Figures!

No matter how you feel about our new president, you gotta admit that these Japanese action figures are pretty darn awesome. (Darth Vader doesn't stand a chance!) Unfortunately, the site that sells them appears to be down. I'll link when I can!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I DO NOT Condone This!

It's not surprising that someone has figured out how to hack electronic roadside signs. But you have to admit, it's pretty ingenious--NOT TO MENTION DANGEROUS AND ILLEGAL!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Forget Cards. This is the Ultimate V-Day Gift!

I believe that fresh breath should always be a priority. That's why I brush, floss, and may well purchase the handy little gadget I came across today.

It's called the Kiss-o-Meter, and if it works, it would be a great thing to have in your handbag whether or not you intend to do any kissing. Just breathe into the Kiss-o-Meter's sensor, and you'll instantly know whether your breath smells like posies or poo.

Ahh, the wonders of technology!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Black Squirrels Take Over Britain?

(Art by Anthony Russo.)

As you may know from earlier posts, there's a squirrel war raging across the Atlantic. Slowly but surely, grey squirrels have been invading every last inch of the British Isles, endangering their cuter, more colorful red squirrel cousins.

But now there's been an unexpected entry into the battle. Black squirrels, the friskiest, most fearsome squirrels of all have been seizing ground from the reds AND the greys. And I'm sad to report, it may be our (America's) fault.

Scientists have already traced the invasion of grey squirrels to a pair of American squirrels which were released into the wild in 1892. (Sorry about that!) But until recently, no one knew where the black squirrels (which were first spotted 90 years ago) had come from.

Now we know that the black squirrels taking over Britain are all the descendants of American black squirrels that escaped from zoos. (Again, so sorry!)

You can read more here. I just have one question . . . There's a small population of black squirrels here in New York. (In fact, there's one that lives in the garden behind my house.) They're badly behaved, sure. But they haven't exactly kicked all the other squirrels out of town. What makes the British so sure that they're taking over the country? Just because they're Americans doesn't mean they're all bad!

(Below: Red, Grey or Black? Where do your loyalties lie?)

BREAKING NEWS: I had no idea when I wrote this post that January 21st (aside from being my mother's birthday--happy b-day, Big K!) is SQUIRREL APPRECIATION DAY!!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Secret Decoder Valentine Cards!

For those of you who made it through Blue Monday alive, happy Tuesday! And I hope everyone had a chance to watch the inauguration.

Anyway, with these two big events behind us, the next thing to look forward to (or dread) is Valentines Day. I'm not a huge V-Day person myself. (Though Kiki #3 starts on the holiday. Those of you who've read the first two books closely may know why!) But when I came across the Valentine cards created by the oddly-named artist Crankbunny, I felt the irresistible urge to send a few.

The Secret Decoder Valentine Card allows you to pen a secret message for your sweetie, which he/she must then decipher. I love it! Unfortunately, demand for the cards seems to be quite high. Only a few are posted each day at noon, and they disappear quickly! (All were gone by 1PM today.)

Take a closer look here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

How Are You Feeling Today?

I thought I should provide a free mental health check, since today is the infamous Blue Monday. That's the day experts have identified as the most depressing day of the year.

(They took six factors into account when searching for the gloomiest day: bad weather, high levels of debt, the number of days since Christmas, the number of days since failing our New Year's resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action.)

This year, the state of the economy may make Blue Monday, 2009 the worst in history! Low spirits will inspire a high percentage of people to play hooky from work/school, and accidents of all sorts will be far more likely to occur. So I recommend that we all stay in bed today!

What? You're already out of bed? How brave of you! Please feel free to share your feelings with the rest of us.

More on Blue Monday here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

So What's For Dinner?

(Art by Andrea Canalito.)

What's wrong with a little cat soup? (Kidding! No nasty emails, cat fanciers!) In the Guangdong province of China, cats have long been the main ingredient in a famous soup. But protesters claim that many of the cats are actually stolen house pets!

According to this fascinating New York Times article, the British are trying to save the endangered red squirrel by encouraging the public to eat its competition--the grey squirrels which have invaded the island. Squirrel pate, anyone?

Ever wondered how manufacturers produce candy and sodas in lovely shades of red, orange, pink and purple? They use bugs, of course! Many food dyes are created from the crushed carcasses of cochineal bugs. So why weren't you told about this? Well until recently, the government didn't make companies list this "special" ingredient. Now, thank goodness, those days may be over. More here.

And last, but not least. What do broccoli and soylent green have in common? Two food bloggers took a good look at a package of Cascadian Farm frozen broccoli and were horrified to make the following discovery . . .


Friday, January 16, 2009

This Explains SOOOO Much

"People who drink too much coffee could start seeing ghosts or hearing strange voices, UK research has suggested."

Oh dear. According to this BBC article, seven or more cups of coffee a day can make a person three times more likely to hallucinate. Scientists at Durham University studied a group of coffee-swilling student guinea pigs and found they were far more prone to paranormal experiences, including "seeing things that were not there, hearing voices, and sensing the presence of dead people."

More research needs to be done, of course. But I'm already considering cutting back on the caffeine.

Reminder: You're Invited!

(Above: Just a piece of art I like.)

On February 8th, Kirsten Miller will be appearing at Symphony Space in New York. She will answer all of your lingering questions (So does Oona REALLY have a twin?), entertain you with her encyclopedic knowledge of sea monsters, and give you a tantalizing preview of KIKI #3!

Find out more here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The (Soon to Be) Walking Dead

How would you like to see an armadillo the size of a Volkswagen (above)? A flightless bird that stands twice as high as an average man? Or a twenty-foot tall giant sloth that weights in at more than four tons? Believe it or not, these are all creatures that once roamed the earth. And now some think that it may be time for them to make a comeback.

What does it take to bring an extinct creature back to life? Well, you need . . .

1. Well-preserved DNA, (often found in the remains of Ice Age creatures that froze to death).

2. A modern species that could act as a surrogate and give birth to its ancient cousin.

3. A lot of money, some fancy machinery, and a mad scientist or two.

It's a complicated procedure, but not necessarily impossible. New Scientist magazine has identified the ten extinct beasts that might walk the Earth again. Take a look. The list might surprise you!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This Week's Edition of WHAT IS IT?

According to Cryptomundo, the photo shown above is the talk of countless French and Spanish-speaking blogs. It was taken in Argentina by a man named Fabian Romano, and it shows what some believe to be a strange bird-like creature. Or, as the curator of the Provincial Museum put it, “a carnivorous mammal with wings, an unknown species.”

Supposedly there are more pictures of the creature. (If so, I can't find them online.) And there may be other eyewitnesses. The experts at Cryptomundo remain skeptical, of course. (How, they ask, can anyone know it's carnivorous by simply examining a blurry photo?)

What do you think? Read more here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Porcupine Plague

(Above: The beast that ate Telluride.)

I've always believed that if you come across two stories about porcupines in one day, the universe is probably trying to tell you something. The question is . . . what?

The first story comes complete with an absolutely irresistible title: "Telluride Deals With Porcupine Plague." Apparently, the prickly creatures have invaded the ritzy Colorado ski resort. And this time, they mean business. They've been consuming tool handles, footwear, tires, and pretty much anything else with a salty taste. They've also upset residents by nibbling on decorative spruce trees and eating a front door or two. No one knows what's caused one of the world's largest rodents to embark on such a rampage. And we may never have the chance to find out now that Telluride residents are facing a new and terrifying threat: marmots. My prayers are with them.

The second story concerns the porcupines at New York's Bronx Zoo. From what I gathered from the video posted here, they're being laid off now that the zoo's budget has been cut. Very sad indeed. (But how cute is that rodent?)

If I come across a third porcupine story in the next few hours, I'll know something is definitely up!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Where Have I Been?

Let's just say that I had some urgent business to attend to. Back tomorrow with new posts!

(Art by Erik Johansson.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Here's Something New and Different

Okay, I'll admit it. This makes my Halloween egg experiment look downright pathetic. The blogger from Flee Alaska recently decided to sample an unusual food product that he discovered at his supermarket. (Why is the price tag in Japanese?) Tuna eyeball. I commend him for his bravery. I wouldn't touch that if my life depended on it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Looking for a Good Way to Start a Book?

"Archaeologists are stumped after finding a 100-year-old Swiss watch in an ancient [Chinese] tomb that was sealed more than 400 years ago."

Got your attention? Here are a few more facts . . .

The tomb in question dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), and experts believe it has not been visited since it was sealed shortly after its occupant died. Yet when archaeologists filming a documentary began to remove some of the soil that surrounded the tomb's sarcophagus, they discovered an unusual artifact caked in dirt.

It was an early 20th century lady's watch ring made in Switzerland (shown below). Inside a four hundred-year-old Chinese tomb. ("Experts" were quick to note that neither watches nor Switzerland existed four hundred years ago.)

In case you were wondering, the watch had stopped at 10:06.

I have to admit, this one has me baffled! Read the Daily Mail's report here.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art

(Above: A great work of art. Take my word for it.)

Today's post is in honor of a little something we all take for granted, but none of us could live without. (Well, we could but . . . ewww.) Toilets.

Not many people can truly appreciate these humble thrones, but now there's a place for the lucky few who see the beauty in a urinal and the artistry in a toilet seat. The Art Museum Toilet Museum of Art. (Try saying that a few times.)

There, you can check out glorious examples of porcelain art from around the world--from the squat toilets of the Tokyo Museum of Photography to the lovely urinals of New York's New Museum. (Warning! Not all of the bathrooms are clean!) You can even donate your own photos to the collection (if you're the sort of person who collects that sort of thing).

Click here to enter!

Not ready to get out of the bathroom? Check out the Homestar Spa, which turns your bathroom into a planetarium.

I was going to write a little something about outhouses, too, but I've decided they deserve their own post. Question #1: How many of you have actually seen or visited an outhouse? Question #2: Anyone seen Slumdog Millionaire?

PS: Who knew pink was so controversial?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Let's Think About Pink

I hope you guys have recovered from your New Year celebrations, 'cause it's time to get serious. (Sort of.)

What do you think about pink? Personal preferences (and skin tone) aside, how do you feel about stepping into a bookstore to find all the "girl" books wrapped in carnation pink covers? Does it bother you that most companies think that the easiest way to sell a product to girls is to cover it in a coat of Pepto-Bismol-colored paint?

According to this thought-provoking article, British parents (and at least one English author) are fed up with what's being called the "Pink Plague," and many are worried that an entire generation of girls are being turned into "princesses."

Are they? Who says you can't kick a little butt while rocking a pink tutu? And what's wrong with being a princess, anyway? (As long as you're a princess who knows kung-fu and can whip up a homemade bugging device.)

I'm not a huge fan of the color pink, but I think it's falling victim to a lot of old-fashioned ideas about what it means to be girly. It used to mean being sweet and well-behaved and kind to animals. But today, no one would find it the slightest bit odd if you loved pink and . . . kickboxing, explosives, bear wrestling, or macroeconomics.

The definition of "girly" has changed.

But this still leaves a few interesting questions. Do girls naturally go for pretty pink products? Or have corporations and advertisements "taught" us to think pink?

(And why can't book publishers come up with another color that appeals to girls? I'm not offended by all the pink books out there--just BORED.)