Listed Newest to Oldest

Headlines Torn from the Pages of History (and Thrown Away  Things That Didn’t Happen in 2015

USA No Way  Fake But Accurate News

Compare & Save Big-Time  Are You Paying Exaggerated Prices for Exaggerated Differences?

Mess Transit  Bus Riding Primer for Dummies

Win Any Argument  Using Paralogic and Surreason

Quick and Easy Housekeeping  Or Sisyphus Unbound and Unkempt

The Disunited States of America  A Preview of Coming Attractions?

E-Z P-Z House Selling  Redirect, Repackage, Relabel

Gag Cartoon Gallery  Jokes Without a Lot of Reading

Chartology Made Stupid  Connecting the Dots

Lights, Camera, Reaction!  The Periodic Table of Hollywood Plot Elements

How ESP Works  Mind Reading Diagramed and Explained

Mysteries of UFOs Revealed  They’re Here, They Are, They Are, They Are

Money Blather  Your Guide to Economic Jargon, Lingo, and Gobbledegook

A Short Long Good-bye  It's the End of the Year as We Know It

Space Warps and Wefts  What Fabric Is The Fabric of Space Made Of?

Uranimals  Beastly Beasts

American History 101 2.0  The Fake But Accurate Story

Cosmology-Wiz  A Shorter History of Everything and Nothing

Winless Wear  2008 Detroit Lions Merchandise

Government Machinery at Work  How the Wheels of the Bureaucracy Grind

Happy New Year  2007 in Review

Star Dreck  Musings of a Semi Hemi Demi Trekker

Those Darn Cats  Our Deal With the Devils

Dangerous Hot Air  The Truth About Inconvenient Global Warming

Don’t Look Down  Everthing You Never Wanted to Know About Air Travel

Not-so-Special Winter Olympics  Olympic Events You’ll Never See


Reader’s Digest

The B-B-Q Pyramid  For the Cooking Unimpaired

Mythic Snowmen  And More Snowmen

Venn Again, Again  More of the Same, But Different

Venn Again, Maybe Not  Another Last Laugh

Quick and Easy Meals  For the Cooking Impaired


Landmark Remodeling

Just Plane Stupid

Bizarre Business Cards We Hope We Never See

Trojan Horse Designs That Didn’t Quite Make it

Baseball Stadia for the ’90s

Personalized Remotes

Roller Coaster Mania

CRACKED's Plan to Balance the Federal Budget in ONE Year

Complete Guide to Piercing

History’s Least Successful Proto Humans

The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be

Tanks, But No Tanks

Police Line-ups Around the World (and Beyond)

Umpire Outfitters Catalog

Ye Olde Transport Catalogue

Suck School of Comic Art - Graduate Course  How to Draw Funnier

Suck School of Comic Art  How to Draw Funny

Crash Course  Cartoon Motorcycle Accidents Versus Cartoonist Motorcycle Accidents


Listed Newest to Oldest

Great War Bloopers and Tactical Jokes  Tommy Foolery, Fritz Flops, Pierre-Balls, Atta-Turkeys and Igor-Blymies

Discovery of the Element of Surprise  Pathétic News Presents

Middle-Aged Mundane Made Over to Modern  A Video Guide

Webio-Bot Illusion  A Little Fun With Optical Illusions

Webio-Bot Rerun  Getting Into the Net With the Web-a-Tron 9000


Listed Newest to Oldest

Webio-Bot Maze  A Lab Rat Game, Only With Your Mouse

Just What Kind of a Person Are You Anyway?  Take the Personality Test and Discover the True You

Happy Suckiversary  Play Art Director

The Copy Copy Isn't Really a Copy  A Double Word Quiz

Bizarro.TerryColon.www  Goodbye, Earthlings

Elusiver, Mysteriouser Creatures  Another Search Game

Mystic 8 Ball  Ultimate Mystic Service Answers Any Yes-or-No Question

Whack-a-Bot  Quick, Get ‘Em!

Webio-Bot Rescue  A Game Where You're the Hero

Webio-Bot Invaders  Save the Planet

Terra Incognita  A Trick Tricky Geography Quiz

Find the Secret Message  A different Kind of Word Search

Hollywhat?  A Movie Trivia Quiz of the Funny, the Obscure, and the Strange

Internetelepathy  I Will Read Your Mind

99 & 44/100 % Pure Amusement  A Pop Quiz About Percentages and Probabilities

Unanimated Gif Monte  A Little Optical Illusion Fun

What Was That Nym Again?  Some Fun With Words


Listed Newest to Oldest

Counter-Steering Made Easy-Peasy  Balancing a Bike by Turning

Notes for Young Illustrators  Learn from My Experience, or Get Your Own

Folk Etymology  From the Greek Meaning “Fake it”

Moving Middle Class Goalposts  It's Harder to Make Ends Meet Because We Keep Moving Them Apart

Billiards Bits for Beginners  The Shape of Cheating the Pocket With Throw

Unsurprising Yet remarkable  One Step at a Time to One Step Beyond

Works for Me  Prosperity Is As Energy Does

The Futility of Fashionable Foods and Fitness Fads  Is It a Paradox or Not?

Changes that Changed Everything  The 10 Greatest Inventions of All Time?

Better Than Sliced Bread  Uncelebrated Inventions Great and Small

“Pass the Honey, Sugar”  The Processed Food Processed Food Haters Love

Bikes Don’t Turn By Leaning  Proving Cones and Gyroscopes Are Futile

Flying Made Simple  Understanding How Planes Can Fly Without all the Messy Details

Bernoulli, Coanda & Lift  What Is What and What Is and Isn’t Doing What

How Planes Can Fly  The Correct Explanation of Lift For Non-Engineers

My First Car  How I Almost Ran Myself Over With a Jerry-rigged Jalopy

Optical Illusions You Often Run Into  Don’t Worry, They Don’t Hurt


Blinded by Science?

Is your furiously flickering computer screen slowly blinding you? Are modern pulsating cold color spectrum lightbulbs giving us the blues? To paraphrase a not-so-great man, it’s not only the known unknowns that can throw a spanner in the monkey works, it’s the unknown unknowns that might sneak up and bite us on the unawares.

Dr. Mercola and Dr. Wunsch on the Dangers of LED Lights

Or could it all be a bit overblown and alarmist? I mean, they way some people talk a single stray molecule of third-hand tobacco smoke will fell the fittest among us. All the same, it is rather curious how some new ideas are bludgeoned with the precautionary principle and others get a free pass. What are you willing to risk to cool the planet 0.01 degrees?

Filed under Links & Sites to See 10/27/16

Peak Sports?

Sports TV viewership is waning across the board. Olympics, NFL, MLB, NBA, NASCAR, all down. Why might that be? The number of potential viewers is growing, as is the number and size of our TVs. Are folks fed up with the attitudes and antics of pampered, prima donna players? Have over-the-top garish uniforms, bizarre hair and tattoo festoonery all become more than sensible eyes can bare? Is the patter of the current generation of play-by-play crews and the color commentariat a punishment for the ears? Or, as less is more so more must be less, is there just too much of it?

We at the Casual Sportsman cannot answer for anyone else, but we have our own reasons for tuning out. As Yogi Berra said, “If people don’t want to go to the games nobody can stop them.”

Pay to Watch Play - A lot of sporting events we might watch (big might) have migrated to cable. Not only are we casual about sports, we’re casual about TV in general. For ‘casual’ insert ‘cautious with money.’ Or ‘cheap’ if you prefer. So, if it ain’t on free TV we ain’t going to watch it.

The Internet - Face it, there’s a lot of non-action action in sports. Most of a baseball game is guys standing around waiting for something to happen. There’s about 15 minutes of actual play in a two hour football game. And most of that isn’t very eventful. Soccer, even less. The absolute worst is Formula One where whoever enters the first turn first wins 95% of the time. So then, you can see all the eventful action of any sporting contest in a five minute highlight recap on YouTube or the like. That’s what we do anyway.

Father Time - We don’t go trick-or-treating, read comic books, pepper our speech with the latest slang, or stand in line for the newest release of Star Trek, Star Wars, i-gadgets and whatnot these days. At some point we grow up and move on. Or get old and boring, characterize it as you like. Like a lot of things from our salad days, we simply can’t get all gaga about such things anymore.

Still, while our fascination with sports has petered out over the years our interest in word and phrase meanings and origins hasn’t faded. Such as, how salad days means youth. Yet another coinage from old Willie Shakespeare, “My salad days when I was green in judgement, cold in blood.”

Filed under The Casual Sportsman 10/25/16

Och, Do-Nah Ask Why


Infrequently Answered Question #102: Why do we have accents?

A: I’ve heard it suggested accents are a sort-of tribal defense mechanism, a way to spot strangers, a strategy to tell friend from foe. While it’s true you can spot a non-local by their accent, this seems more an effect rather than a cause of an accent.

Thing is, songbirds and whales can have accents, so to speak. A species of songbird’s calls can vary slightly by region. Whale vocalizations can vary by pod. So, you can identify them by tribe, as it were. Still, is it cause or effect?

Allow me to speculate. How do people and animals develop vocalizations? By imitation mostly. Have you ever tried imitating a famous person’s speech, done an impression of, say, Cary Grant for instance? Not so easy to get it down perfect, is it? Now then, what if you tried an imitation of an imitation without ever hearing the original? Or how about with six degrees of separation? Is it any wonder local people imitating other local people will be different from place to place?

There can be personal variations within a local accent. I recently watched a video on the history of mid 1960s Glasgow Celtic, the “Lisbon Lions.” All the players interviewed came from the same area of Glasgow and spoke with a thick Glaswegian brogue. Yet to me, some were readily understandable and others we virtually indecipherable.

All the same, are we asking why or rather how folks have accents? The question ‘why?’ can be somewhat confusing. Sometimes it’s about motivation, purpose, as in “Why did you do that?” Other times is can be mechanistic, such as “Why is the sun so hot?” Obviously the sun doesn’t have to think of some reason to be hot, motive and purpose don’t apply in such a case. So, “why is the sun so hot” and “how is the sun so hot” are the same question.

I suggest accents are really a question of how and not why. There is no motivated scheme for them, they’re a result of folks not being perfect mimics. Sometimes, it just doesn’t matter why.

Btw, sorry for the feeble attempt at Scots in the word balloon. Not only can’t I speak with a Scottish accent, I can’t write with one either.

Filed under Infrequently Answered Questions 10/21/16

Full Corps Press


Another ancient spot retrieved from the old archives. Just seemed appropriate somehow. Am I something of a visionary? Hardly. As they say, the more things change the more they stay the same.

Filed under Snippets 10/19/16

It Was Riggsed! (or King Conned)


It happened decades ago and likely nobody under fifty years old will remember or care very much, but some fairly good evidence suggests Bobby Riggs took a dive against Billie Jean King in the so-called battle of the sexes.

How An ESPNer Found Out The “Battle Of The Sexes” Was Probably Fixed

Filed under The Casual Sportsman 10/17/16

Death Takes a Cigarette Break, Boston Population Wiped Out


Another recent vintage “Brickbats” spot of art from Reason magazine.

If you’re caught smoking in a Boston city park, you’ll face a $250 fine. “Secondhand smoke in any concentration is dangerous,” explains Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “There’s no safe level of exposure.”

The image, complete with death personified, looks like it might fit one of my old Fortean Times “Strange Deaths” bits. Well, the English rag does bill itself as the magazine of strange phenomena, and there’s nothing stranger than the workings of the bureaucratic mind.

Filed under Snippets 10/14/16

Your Tax Dollars at Work


How the CIA Spent Secret Millions Turning Modern Art Into a Cold War Arsenal

Of course, the CIA isn’t responsible for how downright crappy and pretentious most modern art is. They just may have helped boost the prices so it became valuable for being valuable, a Ponzi collectables racket. Pretty much Beanie Babies for the wealthy and gullible. Not that the CIA spends the rest of its black budget all that wisely. But that’s another story.

Filed under Links & Sites to See 10/12/16

Mirror rorriM


Infrequently Answered Question #101: Why does a mirror flip the image right to left but not top to bottom?

A: Because if a mirror flipped your image top to bottom it’d be really confusing to shave or put on makeup and mirrors are there to help, not hinder, our daily ablutions.

Try this: Lie down on your side and look in the mirror. Your image is flipped from your left to right, but your left and right is now top and bottom in the mirror. Is the mirror flipping your image left to right or top to bottom?

Standing upright you see your right side on the right and the left on the left of the mirror. Is it flipped or not? Wouldn’t flipping put your right on the left? On the other hand, someone facing you sees your right side on their left. So to them you’re turned front to back. Is this making any sense?

Think of using car rear view mirror. Sure, if you stop and think about it the driver looks to be on the wrong side of the car, but if you see the car going to your left in the mirror you know its going to pass you on the left. So, the image is flipped left to right but still correct left to right. Or something.

How do we make sense of all this? Do we even need to? We know how a mirror works, there’s no confusion to it. It’s only confusing if you try to explain it. Forget about that, just chalk it up to its being the Devil’s work and let it go.

Filed under Infrequently Answered Questions 10/10/16

Correction Part Two

base ring BMW

Click pick to replay animation

This is the second correction of an entry on these pages done some time ago about the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the Spitfire, and the Me109 (Bf109, actually). Two boners in a single piece, pretty shabby. This revision concerns… well, I think the little opening animation pretty much tells the story.

The BMW logo has nothing to do with a spinning airplane propellor as previously given. It’s more along the lines of American companies using a star in their logo, it’s a symbol for the location of the company. In BMW’s case, Bavaria.

Thing is, the mistaken information (if something incorrect is information) repeated in the old post has made the rounds for decades. I first heard it in the early 1980s, well before the advent of the Internet allowed folks to spread myth-information at lightening speed. Still, the Internet does afford the opportunity to more easily double check this sort of thing. Though it seems fact checking doesn’t happen as often as it might. In the particular case mentioned, I stand guilty as charged.

For you fans of German soccer, you may also note Bayern Munich have sort-of copped the BMW logo for themselves, a circle with stylized Bavarian flag blue and white checks inside. Check it out for yourself. See, the Internet makes research easy. Not that you’ll always find the truth, but you’ll find something. Without having to leave your seat.

Filed under Fun Facts & Trivia 10/7/16

It’s a MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD World


One map explains it all.

Filed under Odds & Ends 10/4/16

What the ‽‽‽

marks man leftbrow rightbrow

interrobang (ĭn tër′-ə băng) noun, A punctuation mark (‽), designed to combine the question mark (?) and the exclamation point (!), indicating a mixture of query and interjection, as after a rhetorical question.

Not a punctuation mark you run across every day. If ever. All the same, as you can see there’s even html code for the thing (‽). Could be useful if you run a nice family friendly site that eschews profanity. Instead of WTF you can use WT‽

Or not. Frankly, as text it looks rather a mess. Could be why it never caught on. Not that these will either:

13 Little-Known Punctuation Marks We Should Be Using

Filed under Word Meanings and Origins 10/1/16

The Real Barbarous Relic


People like to cite John Maynard Keynes “gold is a barbarous relic” quip. Problem is, Keynes never said it. Here’s the story.

During the Great War (WWI, if you prefer) combatant countries ditched the gold standard and printed money, inflated their currencies to pay the bills. After the armistice, England wanted to revive the gold standard. However, the British had doubled the number of pounds floating around from pre-war levels. So, to back the pound with the same amount of gold the gold price needed to double. Pretty simple arithmetic, that.

The British government and Bank of England decided they could ignore the math and instead pegged the Pound Sterling at the pre-war gold price. It was the old gold price that Keynes called “a barbarous relic” and not gold or the gold standard.

That’s a funny thing about some well-worn quotes and sayings, taken out of context or repeated in truncated form changes the meaning. As in, since we’re on the subject, “Money is the root of all evil.” One might reckon by this old saw cash or commerce is the devil’s work. If one cites the original quote in full, “Love of money is the root of all evil,” a different picture emerges. The evil is greed, not money.

So, if you want to use the old adage in the usual incomplete form it could be, “…[M]oney is the root of all evil.” It’s still misleading, but accurate. If there can be such a thing.

To return to the opening, England got away with their barbarous relic until the end of the 1920s when it all fell apart spectacularly. Nowadays, instead of gold, currency is backed mainly by debt, government bonds. Are they really worth as much as folks think they’re worth? Or, considering the financial condition of most countries these days, are they a barbarous relic?

Filed under Quotes & Sayings 9/30/16

Tea Kettle Calls Coffee Pot Black


I’ve been going through the video archives of the BCC’s Top Gear. Not that I’m that much into supercars or care about reviews of new cars. Still, I do enjoy the foreign adventures, races, challenges, and such. My favorite, perhaps, is when they tried to kill a Toyota pickup and couldn’t.

Killing a Toyota - Top Gear - BBC

These featured bits seem fairly contrived and probably more scripted than they’d like viewers to believe. Which I suppose they must be, the show is sort-of what you might call comedy-reality TV. One comedy thread that crops up from time to time is the British view of Americans as fat and stupid and Australians as big and dumb. Granted, Americans are the fattest folk on the planet. How big Aussies are I couldn’t say. Still, how accurate is the intelligence part of the stereotypes?

Enter the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which tracks primary and secondary school achievement. The PISA reading score for the UK was 494, the USA score was 500 and Australians scored 515. Interestingly, European-Americans (which includes British-Americans) scored 525, higher than every European country except for Finland.

There’s more: Canada scored 524 and New Zealand scored 521, joining the U.S. and Australia in outdoing the UK. Which suggests the smarter Brits emigrated leaving laggards behind in the mother country. Oh yes, Ireland scored a 496. Meaning the poorest performing English-speaking country is the UK. So, if Yanks and Aussies are as dumb as the Brits joke about, the joke’s on them as they’d be just a little bit dumber.

Another Top Gear running joke is how American cars are rubbish compared to European cars. On this they have a point. American car suspensions are retrograde technology and interior appointments are cheesy plastic. Still, considering how the vast majority of people use their cars, is all that superior fit, finish and high-speed handling worth it? Maybe Americans prefer to spend their resources and brain power on other things.

After all, while Europe was fiddling with incremental improvements of 19th century technology, the automobile, America busied itself inventing personal computers, communication satellites, and the Internet. So, Top Gear presenters, who’s looking dumb now?

Filed under Odds & Ends 9/28/16

The Real Left-Right Divide Is Not What You Think! The Shocking Truth Will Surprise You!


Sorry for the hyperbolic headline. Just thought I might try my hand at web-speak teaser writing. Did it make you want to read it more? Probably not, I didn’t offer a life hack or the best free gift. Of. All. Time. Anyway, let’s get on with the real business at hand.

What we’re talking about is not the political left-right divide, but brain lobes. The differences between which is not what you may have heard in the 70s or 80s when the left brain-right brain notion was more popularly discussed. You know, the old creative-logic, emotion-reason left-right location in the brain business. That’s all been shown to be wrong.

The new thinking on thinking is... well, rather than rehashing it, or botching it badly, we suggest watching the video. Or, being an interview, you could simply listen to it as there’s not much to see except the usual talking heads sort of thing. That way you can multi-task. Which is what the combined halves of the brain pretty much do. Or maybe duo-task. Confused? Click the link already. Afterwards, the opening pic with the brains and rainbow might actually make sense. One hopes.

Iain McGilchrist ‘The Divided Brain’
–Interview by Iain McNay

Filed under Links & Sites to See 9/23/16

The King of Magic (or Maybe the Mac Daddy of Legerdemain)

Kingbox King Kingeyes Kingarm Kingrope Kingcoil

I’m not a big fan of elaborate stage magic, if that’s what you call it. You know, big boxes and machines and such where the trick seems to be performed by the apparatus more than the magician. I much prefer sleight of hand stuff with very simple items, coins, cards, etc. If you do, too, you might enjoy what I’ll declare the best rope trick I’ve ever seen:

Las Vegas Magician Mac King Shows Us a Trick

If I have it right, this particular bit of virtuosity blows the mind of Teller, as in Penn and Teller. I’m supposing he rates it as highly as I do. Which is a much better endorsement, to be sure.

Filed under Links & Sites to See 9/20/16

I Can See Clearly Now the Pane Has Gone


When Scotty helped the 20th century engineer concoct transparent aluminum in Star Trek IV I chalked it up to sci-fi imaginariness, like transporters. Regular readers know transparent aluminum really exists. Not only that, they can make other transparent metals, too. Seems strange something so solid and opaque like metal could be made transparent and still be solid. Until you consider glass is made of sand, which we don’t give a second thought to being clear.

Some might say, “Ah, but glass is actually a very viscous liquid and not a solid.” Maybe you’ve heard that one. Well, that’s yet another science myth. Some folks reckoned such when examining Elizabethan (and the like) windows which were thicker at the bottom and concluded they flowed very slowly downward over time. Like super slow, stiff Jell-O or something. Anyway, they figured wrongly.

In the olden days they didn’t make rolled plate glass, float glass. They manipulated glass the old fashioned way, same as glass blowers do today. One window pane making method was spinning a blob of molten glass at the end of the pipe into a flat disk with centrifugal effect which they cut rectangles out of for windows. That’s where the old bull-eye glass you sometimes see in old buildings came from.

A second method was to blow a cylinder, like a vase or tumbler. While it was still molten they’d lop off the end connected to the pipe. Then they’d slit the resulting tube open along its length unrolling it into a flat rectangle.

As you can imagine, neither method guaranteed uniform thickness. When they framed this type of glass for windows they put the parts with the same thickness together at the bottom. Probably just made it easier to make the leading or frame that held it all together. Thing is, there are cases in very old buildings where the glass is thicker at the sides or even at the top. The glass didn’t flow sideways or upwards, the panes were that way from the git-go. The bottom line, glass is a solid and not a liquid.

To make stained glass they added different metals to the glass which produced different colors. Of course, you don’t see teeny-tiny bits of these metals embedded in the glass, it’s all transparent. Or translucent, anyway. Which means transparent metals have sort-of been around quite a while.

Filed under Fun Facts & Trivia 9/17/16

You Only Die Twice


And now, a “Strange Deaths” art spot from Fortean Times magazine of some years ago.

A woman died from a heart attack caused by the shock of waking up at her own funeral in Kazan, Russia. As mourning relatives filed past her open coffin, Fagilyu Mukhametzyanova, 49, woke up and started screaming as she realized where she was. Her husband Fagili, 51, had been told his wife had died of a heart attack after she had collapsed at home with chest pains. “Her eyes fluttered and we immedi­ately rushed her back to the hospital, but she only lived for another 12 minutes before she died again, this time for good,” he said. “She wasn’t dead when they said she was and they could have saved her.” He planned to sue the hospital.

Like they say, waking up dead is a very bad way to start the day. Or end the day, for that matter.

Filed under Snippets 9/15/16

It’s Looking More Like Bizarro World Every Day

bg house corner
purplebot boteyes
purplebot boteyes

Click pic to replay animation

In a world where they erect bridges to nowhere and build cities nobody lives in, it seems no construction is too pointless not to be imitated by folks hither and yon.

Flip This Home! 10 Unbelievable Upside Down Houses

People do live in some of these inverted structures, so the inside is right side up. Others are furnished and outfitted totally upside down inside. In which case we recommend you not try the plumbing.

Still, if you’re going to do this inverted house folly fully, bury the house so only the basement is above ground. All the same, couldn’t you simply put in a reflecting pool for a similar effect?

Filed under Links & Sites to See 9/12/16

Keeping Descriptions in Order


Infrequently Answered Question #100: What’s big and red and eats rocks?

A: A big red rockeater.

Yes, an old gag you might recall from childhood. Yet notice, it’s a big red rockeater and not a red big rock­eater. It’s also a grumpy little old man and not an old little grumpy man. To follow the train of thought, which of the following sounds right?

One of those ugly little day-glo English police cars.

One of those English day-glo ugly police little cars.

Though the adjectives are the same in both cases, the second sentence just sounds wrong, even illiterate. That’s because there’s a rule of syntax English speakers use without ever formally learning that such a rule exists. Which is, adjectives generally appear in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-color-origin-material-purpose noun. At least, according to one source. A second has it: quantity-opinion-size-temperature-age-shape-color-origin-material noun.

Whatever the case, you can sometimes get away with changing the order a bit. It could be a little old gray-haired man or a gray-haired little old man. You can also have an ugly big green metal box or a big green ugly metal box. Still, you can’t switch adjectives up too much, there’s no such thing as a metal big green ugly box.

Then again, if you’re keeping inventory you’d pretty much put everything in reverse order, including putting the noun first. The noun is the real gist of the item so you organize and alphabetize by that. In which case you’d have: box, metal, green, big. Opinions of its ugliness, being subjective, are usually not included.

Filed under Infrequently Answered Questions 9/8/16

The Past Ain’t What It Used to Be


“History is bunk.” –Henry Ford

History is not always written by the people involved and so often relies on stories told by witnesses. Though, as in the Kurosawa classic Rashomon, eyewitness account can vary quite a bit. Then again, history can be told by people based on, well, hearsay. We’re into the whole friend of a friend system of urban mythology as history. How accurate is that?

Even so, eyewitnesses don’t always see everything, or remember correctly. Plus, they can be biased and only see what they want to believe. Oh yeah, people are also capable of lying. And believing lies. Especially if the lie is the only story you’ve heard and is repeated over and over and made its way it into the history books.

One wonders how much history, like the previously mention slanders against Ty Cobb, really is bunk. To that point, here’s an article which might be subtitled: “Everything You Thought You Knew about Rasputin Is a Whopping Lie”

The Real Gregory Rasputin

Filed under Quotes & Sayings 9/6/16

He’s a Prepper, She’s a Prepper, Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Prepper, Too?

prepper1 prepper3 prepper1 snow

I’ve decided to become a prepper and put up a six month or so supply of non-perishables. Am I expecting the breakdown of commerce, or the collapse of civil society? Nope. Do I anticipate hyperinflation? Nah. Do I reckon the end of the world as we know it is just around the corner? Not really. I’m not that kind of prepper, more of a traditional prepper, if I can call it that.

What I’m expecting is not a catastrophe, but winter. Why trudge through the ice, snow and cold of a Michigan winter lugging bags of consumables when I can stock up now in my shirt sleeves? I mean, I’m going to need such things sooner or later, so why not get them sooner? Canned goods, frozen foods, dried pasta, beans, and the like. As well as things like toilet paper and kitty litter. Hey, it goes in one end and comes out the other, right?

This is not a new idea, it’s a very old idea. For people 250 years ago it wasn’t very convenient to hop down to the supermarket once a week. Heck, there were no supermarkets. In the past to get through winter people put up stores, packed the root celler, cured meat, pickled and fermented things, etc. This was before they invented canning, but folks knew how to store enough stuff to last until spring.

Now, I don’t have a root celler, but I have a fridge with a freezer. Even better. Unfortunately, since I don’t raise chickens or have a cow in the garage I’ll need to occasionally ankle to the local bodega for milk and eggs. Plus, I’ll have to forgo salads for the duration. Still, fewer trips and lighter loads to schlep through the slush suits me right down to the ground.

The other option for surviving winter is an even older idea, head to warmer climes. Would that I could. While we moderns are highly mobile, perhaps in a way the nomadic ancients got around more than we do now. After all, they say eighty percent (or whatever it is) of Americans never live more than 25 miles (or whatever it is) from where they grew up.

Filed under Odds & Ends 9/1/16

Writing a Hit Pop Song Is Simple, But Not Easy


The standard western musical scale is an octave, that’s eight notes. Though the scale begins and ends on the same note, as in do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. That second do is double the harmonic vibration of the first do, so it is and isn’t the same note. Or something. It’s a vibrations per second thing we won’t go into. Though one wonders if we divided time a little differently so a second was a bit longer, would all music be out of tune?

Anyway, toss in flats and sharps, which are the same notes depending on the particular scale, and you get thirteen notes, or twelve since you’re repeating yourself once you close the scale at the upper end. Either way, you still call it an octave and not a trideskitave. All the same, you get more than thirteen (or twelve) scales out of all that because there’s major, minor, diminished, flattened fifth scales and such.

As you can imagine the number of chords and progressions is quite large. Yet, if you want to write a hit pop song you can throw out all that because you don’t need most of it. That’s because every hit pop song uses the same four chords and progression. Don’t believe it? Listen and maybe laugh:

Axis of Awesome - Four Chord Song (with song titles)

As you can see, writing a pop song is simple. In construction. Writing one that’s a hit, not so easy.

On the other hand if you want to write Middle-Eastern pop music you have many more possibilities to use, and, one supposes, also ignore. That’s because, while the European scale goes in half steps, those darn Asians shove in some quarter steps. Which would mean you can’t play a lot of Middle-Eastern music on traditional European instruments because they won’t play the tweener notes.

On the third hand (assuming you’re a freak), the traditional Chinese scale is only five notes. Or is it six? This repeating the note at the beginning and end is confusing. Anyway, if you want to play anything and make it sound Chinese-ish, simply use only the black keys on any keyboard instrument and there you go.

Filed under Links & Sites to See 8/30/16

Crime Most Fowl


Another good old “Brickbats” spot of art from Reason magazine of July, 2007.

A Florida court has found Tracy A. Thomas guilty of harboring ducks. Thomas says she leaves her garage door open so her cats can get in and out. But the judge found she was allowing ducks to come into the garage; he also told her she could be prosecuted for breaking a city law against allowing cats to roam freely. Thomas faces a fine of up to $500, but the judge says he will waive the fee if she keeps her garage door closed.

Hey, I used to do that. Not harbor ducks, leave the garage door ajar so the cats could go in and out. Wound up harboring squirrels. Not really so much harboring, I didn’t want them in there. They’re pretty destructive, ripping up stuff for nesting material. A squirrel’s nest is pretty much like a big rat’s nest in a tree. Or in a garage, as the case may be.

Anyway, I put an end to that by putting in a cat door for the garage. Pesky squirrels haven’t figured that out yet. Haven’t noticed any possums or raccoons using it either. Though I wouldn’t put it past a raccoon to figure it out someday, clever little masked bandits that they are.

Filed under Snippets 8/25/16

The Best Selling Motor Vehicle of All Time

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Depending how you define “best selling” you could make the argument the Ford Model T would top the list. In its heyday this single car had a fifty percent market share, half the cars on the American road were Model Ts. Try outselling that. It wasn’t the top selling in total numbers, but there were a lot fewer people around back then.

By volume the Volkswagen Beetle wins the title of best selling car at over thirty million units sold. Of course, unlike the Model T, it sold all over the world in a much more populous world. It helped that they built the thing for about forty years, more than twice as long as the tin Lizzy.

Still, the VW doesn’t get the crown as the best selling motor vehicle of all time. Notice we said motor vehicle and not automobile. At over 80 million units sold, the winner is… the Honda Cub. That’s right, the ultimate people’s car is a motorcycle. Or is it a scooter? Or, with its large, narrow wheels a sort-of cross between the two? Whatever it is, it’s the king of the road.

Filed under Fun Facts & Trivia 8/23/16

Accent, Argot, Dialect, Jargon, or Patois?


America doesn’t have an official dialect, or even language, which isn’t the case elsewhere. Many countries have a standard version of their particular language for official communication. In Germany, which has a dozen different dialects, they have Dachsprache, based on the Hannover dialect. In England, the unofficial official accent is Received Pronunciation, or RP. Some call it the mid-Atlantic accent, a sort-of mix of English and American someone living on an imaginary island halfway between the two might sound like.

Some professions also have their own way of speaking. For instance there’s what you might call media-speak. Newscasters, documentary narrators, and advertising voiceover artists speak in ways that don’t really match up to any regional, natural, conversational way of speaking. As Jack Lemmon said about Tony Curtis’ Cary Grant imitation in Some Like it Hot, “Where did you come up with that phony accent? Nobody talks like that.”

Another example is a speech pattern many airline pilots have informally adopted when speaking on the inter­com to passengers during flight. It has a relaxed, folksy, confident feel to it based on the West Virginia accent. Why West Virginia? Because that’s where Chuck Yeager hails from. You want to sound like a top pilot, talk like Chuck Yeager.

Are these dialects or accents? Or something else?

argot (är′ gō; är′ gət) noun, A specialized vocabulary or set of idioms used by a particular group or class; especially the jargon of the underworld.

jargon (jär′ gən) noun, 1. Nonsensical, incoherent, or meaningless utterance; gibberish. 2. A hybrid language or dialect. 3. The specialized or technical language of a trade, profession, class or fellowship.

patois (păt′ wä; pă twä′) noun, 1. Any subliterate regional French dialect. 2. Any regional dialect. 3. The special jargon of a group; cant.

So, we seem to have a number of synonyms, some with multiple meanings. None of which hit the bullseye. English, what a language.

Filed under Word Meanings and Origins 8/17/16

When Cardboard Just Won’t Do

My next-door neighbor is having his driveway redone today. True to the stereotype, by an Italian concrete contractor. Which one supposes is appropriate since the Romans invented concrete, a sort-of artificial stone. Maybe not artificial really, since it’s made of natural stone material. Perhaps more like reconstituted stone. Or perhaps artificially hardened stone. Whatever the apt description, it’s stone you can pour and mold into whatever shape you need rather than chiseling it like marble or something.

Like the previously mentioned corrugated cardboard, concrete is also a ubiquitous, relatively cheap wonder material. Only not so modern. And it makes lousy packaging.

What I’m wondering is how they pour concrete in places like San Francisco. What I mean is, some of the streets there are pretty steep grades, how do they keep it from simply running down the hill when it’s wet?

Filed under Odds & Ends 8/15/16

A Different Kind of Wallpaper


Infrequently Answered Question #99: Paper or plastic?

A: Something of a vague question, but for my money it’s paper. Not so much for shopping bags, but for another container, the cardboard box.

Corrugated cardboard is one of the greatest, if least celebrated, inventions of all time. Strong, light, versatile, cheap, ubiquitous. How much damage has been spared goods by shipping and storing in corrugated cardboard? How much time, energy and space has been saved by replacing wooden crates with cardboard boxes? Forget plastic, corrugated cardboard is the modern wonder material.

I came across the following and figured there wasn’t much I could say about the wonderfulness of cardboard to beat it, they’re making houses out of the stuff. I’m not talking about the homeless sleeping in cardboard boxes, real homes.

This Tiny Cardboard Home Takes Only 1 Day To Build & Lasts 100 Years

Folks like to make claims about things that haven’t proved out yet, so you’ll understand if I don’t take the “lasts 100 years” as fact. Remember Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion house? How about Thomas Edison’s concrete house?

For a little backstory on the origins of corrugated cardboard, there’s this from Gizmodo:

How the Cardboard Box Was Invented

Filed under Infrequently Answered Questions 8/10/16

Return Flight

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Now that I know a thing or two about web animation, I’ve updated an old lift explanation companion article, “The Trouble With Airflow Diagrams.” Since this bit was all about how wings and air and whatnot move, what better than to have diagrams that, you know, move. Seems a natural. These should make it much easier to understand what I was getting at.

It’s brand spanking new old content, if you will. Even if you don’t really know, as I don’t, why something new is brand spanking.

The Trouble With Airflow Diagrams

Filed under Odds & Ends 8/9/16

On the Other Hand, Some German Automotive Engineers Are Geniuses

Forget Hoffman, not that anyone remembers him, Porsche is the German car guy to remember. Ferdinand Porsche is famous as the founder of the car company bearing his name, the first offering of which was a relatively affordable sports car. Not something the outfit is known for these days. He’s also renowned as the creator of the Volkswagen Beetle. Perhaps less well-known are his highly successful Auto Union (now Audi) mid-engine race cars of the 1930s.

Herr Porsche was an auto innovator of the first stripe from the beginning. His first effort was a revolutionary electric car where the wheels were electric motors. A highly efficient design since there was no loss of power through mechanical connecting shafts and whatnot. His second car was a gasoline engine/electric hybrid. Pretty much the same system in hybrid cars today, only about a hundred years ago.

Elon Musk is but a pale imitation of the real genius that was Ferdinand Porsche.

Fifty Years of Porsche

History of the Lovable Beetle

Filed under Links & Sites to See 8/5/16

Snippet with a Slight Twist

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I reprise an old spot that just seemed appropriate considering the time in the political cycle. Only this time around, I’ve animated the spot for your enjoyment. Too bad I didn’t know how to do that back in the day. Would it have made it funnier? Would it have made Suck better? Would it have saved my job? We’ll never know.

All we know for sure, for this election we have some different liars telling different lies. Have no fear, many of the old lies and liars are still going strong. The classics never die. Enjoy that, too.

Filed under Snippets 8/2/16


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