Notice of Change of Service

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As of December 21 terry colon dot com will be available for increasingly more hours of daylight and increasingly fewer hours of darkness. This policy will be in effect for at least the next six months. Some readers may experience a delayed warming sensation. Consult a local meteorologist to determine if this is normal for your area. Policy does not apply to Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Africa and South America. See globe to determine if applicable in your location.

The editors apologize for the lateness of this announcement and hope it has caused no consternation or inconvenience to readers.

Filed 12/26/17

Micro Electric Transport


Forget legs, wings and slithering on your belly to get around, think water screws. At least that’s what some bacteria think. Or do, we don’t imagine they really think about it much. They’ve no brains to speak of. But they do have electric motor-propellors. From the Thunderbolts Project:

According to researchers, there is a charge gradient in the cell wall of E-coli. The molecules that make up the stator, or stationary, portion of the flagellar motor, anchored in the peptidoglycan layer of the bacterium’s cell wall (see illustration) contain two proteins called MotA and MotB. A high concentration of protons exists outside the cell, while a lower concentration exists inside, so the positively charged protons flow into the MotB protein, binding to aspartic acid. This creates a change in the charge balance between the MotA and MotB proteins, causing a vertical repulsion between them, resulting in the first stroke of the motor. The protein is thought to engage a toothed gear-like structure as it moves downward, advancing the rotor step-wise each time the MotB protein receives a positive charge.

In other words, E-coli and its fellows are driven by electric motors.

Read it all: Flagellar Motors

You gotta ask, how else would micro­organisms get around? They’re too small to have muscles, right? Come to think of it, how do sperms swim? What wags the tail, eh?

Filed 12/20/17

It’s Pointless Animation Monday

trainBG train dot dot dot dot O1 O2 O3

Why? Why not. We like trains. We like animation. We like typography. Put it all together and you get… a logomotive. Did we mention we also like wordplay? In this case a portmanteau word.

Called a blend in linguistics, a port­manteau word comes from blending two or more words, or parts of words, into a single new word of combined meaning. Examples: smog (smoke + fog), brunch (breakfast + lunch), dramedy (drama + comedy). The term was coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass in reference to the nonsensical poem Jabberwocky.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Humpty Dumpty explains, “Well, ‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy.’ ‘Lithe’ is the same as ‘active.’ You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word … Well then, ‘mimsy’ is ‘flimsy and miserable’ (there’s another portmanteau for you).”

Rather than a smoke-spewing steam logomotive, perhaps electric motive power is your thing. Just beware of electrocution. Another portmanteau word coined by American newspapers in 1889 to describe the then novel, as yet unused, execution by electric chair. As in electro + execution. Later, the nascent electrical industry glommed onto that word to also apply to accidental death by electric shock. Which is how we use it today. Especially since nobody uses the electric chair any more.

Anyway, it beats any portmanteau word we can imagine for lethal electric shock. Electrotermination? Electrocroak? Electrifry?

Filed 12/18/17

Horse Power v. Horsepower


Per person we use only three times as much energy as our ancestors did 250 years ago. Hard to believe, but true. It’s just that we get a lot more work out of that energy due to increased efficiency. True, our total energy consumption has gone through the roof. But that’s because the population has gone through the roof. Yet while our per capita energy consump­tion tripled, our productivity has gone up fifty fold or so.

Folks used to burn stuff only for heat and light. Then came the idea that heat expanding gas could be harnessed for mechanical work. That’s work that otherwise would, and did, go up in smoke. Combustion engines provide a bigger bang for the buck than you get from working animals. After all, the vast majority of whatever energy, in the form of calories, you put into an animal is used by the animal just to stay alive. And you only get work out of them after they’ve grown up big enough to be of any use.

Whether all this extra work we get done is always worthwhile is another story. Something we’ve scratched the surface of here:

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

The Bigger Better Newer Improveder Rat Race How Middle Class Was Easier Fifty Years Ago

Filed 12/15/17

Frivia Monday

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On average there are 61,000 people airborne over the US. In aircraft, that is. How many are airborne in other ways we have no figures on. Though we wonder if plunging counts as airborne. At any rate that’s your frivolous trivia for the day. And our thin excuse for rerunning an old bit of art. Or if you’d rather you can click on the pic and get an old Fortean Times bit of used art. Your choice. Aren’t you lucky?

Filed 12/11/17

Another Mixed Frivia Friday


The Mars candy bar was not named for the planet or the Roman war god, it was simply the company owners name, Mars. Their top selling candy bar was named after the Mars family’s favorite horse, Snickers. The horse was named after… who knows?

The Baby Ruth candy bar was likely really named after Babe Ruth. The oft-repeated story it was named for Grover Cleveland’s daughter, Ruth, could be a case of plausible deniability on the part of the Curtis company. That is, they didn’t want to pay Babe Ruth royalties, so they came up with this other, we’d say dubious, explanation.

Babe Ruth actually did have his own candy bar, Ruth’s Home Run Candy Bar. Then again, Ruth’s real first name was George, not Babe. But who wants to eat a candy bar called a Georgie Ruth?

To leave the world of confectionary behind and head in a different direction, Babe Ruth had two long-standing records broken in 1961, both by Yankees. The obvious is Roger Marris topping his 60 home runs in a season. The other was his 29 1/3 scoreless innings pitched in a single World Series, surpassed by Whitey Ford. Though Ruth’s pitching feat was done for the 1918 Boston Red Sox and not the Yankees, who he joined in 1919.

The Bosox 1918 World Series victory was four games to two over the Chicago Cubs. A year before the “Black Sox” threw the 1919 fall classic. Did that other Chicago team take a dive a year earlier against the Red Sox? Forget about it, Jake. It’s Chi-town.

Cubs threw 1918 World Series?

Filed 12/1/17

Faux Etymology (or Origins of the Specious)


While we have written an entire feature on folk etymology folks invent from whole cloth here, we decided to go one step further and weave our own. Strictly for entertainment purposes only. We call this endeavor faux etymology. Clyde Crashcup would be pleased, we’re sure.

‘Androgynous’ is an adjective derived from the name of the rare earth element androgyn, a colorless, odorless, and pretty drab and tasteless gas. Its chemical symbol is either Xx or Xy, no-one seems to really know. Androgyn has no known valence as other elements don’t know how to react to it. The amorphous gas is the primary constituant part of the mineral hermaphrodite found largely in Brazil. Canadian scientists believe there are over fifty isotopes of androgyn, each with its own chemical symbol and pronoun.

Filed 11/29/17

Turkey Day on Tap


Happy Thanksgiving, tomorrow. Time to roast the turkey, bake the pumpkin pie and sing the Thanksgiving carols. What? You know, “Jingle Bells.” Which is actually a song about going to grandma’s for Thanksgiving. But we already did that one years ago on this blog before we called it a blog. ‘Blog’ comes from ‘web log,’ which is patterned after ‘logbook,’ or ‘ship’s log,’ or ‘captain’s log.’ Wadda ya know, another term with a nautical origin.

Sailing men used to determine the ship’s speed using what they called a log, chip log, or ship log. Basically a chunk of wood (log-board) attached to a rope (log-line) which they tossed over the side. This stayed roughly in place as the ship sailed away. The ship’s speed was determined by the length of log-line paid out in a specified time. The logbook recorded the particulars of a ship’s voyage, including its rate of progress as per the log readings.

Now then, why on a computer do we ‘log in’ and ‘log on’ instead of ‘sign in’ and ‘get on’? Here’s where it gets dicey. Adding an entry to a log book is where ‘log in’ comes from. Maybe. We’re not sure how, when, and where this came about, but that’s one story we heard, anyway. None of which has anything to do with Thanksgiving. What can we say? Except, have a good one.

Filed 11/22/17

You Can’t Fool Mother Nature and Get Away with It


“It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature.” Readers old enough might remember that line from a margarine commercial. Mother Nature tasted the margarine, declared it butter, was told it was margarine, said the line, and summoned thunder and lightning. It’s not as easy to fool Mother Nature as margarine makers or advertising copywriters might think. More likely, Mother Nature will fool you.

Take the case of Yellowstone National Park. In the 1890s, believing the elk were disappearing, Yellowstone’s caretakers took every effort to increase their numbers. By 1912, there were 30,000, and 35,000 by 1914. Bears, moose and bison were increasing, too. But there was a fly in the ointment, antelope and deer began to decline.

Park rangers started killing predators to stem the loss of ruminants. They wiped out the wolf and cougar and were targeting coyote. Then studies showed it was overgrazing from excess elk causing the declines, not predators. The growing elk herds devoured the aspen and willows which did not regenerate. The policy of killing predators had only made it worse.

The biota changed. Once plentiful aspen trees where practically all destroyed. Without the aspen, beavers couldn’t build dams, which were essential to natural hydrology. Without beaver dams meadows dried up in the summer, so more wildlife vanished. By the 1930s all the predators and beavers were gone. And so it went, measures to save the park devastated it instead. A sightseer today is visiting something of a pale imitation of the Yellowstone they tried to preserve.

Nowadays there are no end of folks who think they’re smart enough to “fix” the climate. What could possibly go wrong?

Filed 11/15/17

English as It Coulda Been


Let’s play counterfactuals, you know, historical what-ifs. What if the Greeks had lost the Battle of Marathon? What if Julius Caesar had been killed in the Gallic Wars? What if William the Conqueror had lost the Battle of Hastings? Would we much remember the Greeks? Would Gaius Julius be just an historical footnote? Would anyone talk about William the Loser?

Those are some pretty big what-ifs. Let’s narrow the focus, what if the English language never got Greeked up, Latinized, and Frenchified? What would a purely Anglo-Saxon-Briton language be like? That’s a question nobody but Englishman William Barnes seemed to want answered. Which he did in the 1800s. Here are some of his Englisher English replacements for the Greco-Latin-Franco bastard words we all use instead.

Want to know more? Read Mr. Barnes’ book at the Gutenberg Project:

An Outline of English Speech-Craft

Filed 10/27/17

Coywolf –a New Species, Subspecies, Dog Breed, or What?


Ten percent dog, quarter wolf and the rest coyote and coming to a town near you soon? The combo-canine coywolf, alive and well in the northeastern U.S. and Ontario, Canada. Millions of them. An animal big enough to take down deer and eat a cat whole. Country, town, suburb, city; it’s all good for the crafty coywolf. Brings a new meaning to, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”


Filed 10/23/17

Argh, Wilderness!


Top eight comments and suggestions received by the U.S. Forest Service from park visitors

  1. Need more signs to keep area pristine.
  2. A small deer came into my camp and ate my bag of pickles. Is there a way I can get reimbursed?
  3. Found a smoldering cigarette left by a horse.
  4. The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals.
  5. Too many rocks in the mountains.
  6. Trails need to be wider so people can walk while holding hands.
  7. Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.
  8. A McDonald’s would be nice at the trailhead.

We might suggest all trails only go downhill. An outdoors with less dirt all over the place would be nice. And could they arrange it so there’s no rain while we’re there?

Filed 10/21/17

Say What?

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Signs and instructions seen around the world. We understand what they mean. Or do we?

Filed 10/19/17

Solar System Road Trip


Which is closest to Earth? Select your answer from menu:

What’s the best car take on a driving tour of the solar system? Select your answer from menu:

The correct answer to question one, Venus is closest to Earth. That’s because they’re both towns in Texas. Some joke, huh? There is no correct answer to the second question. That’s because it’s all a matter of personal choice. Or maybe it’s just not possible to take a road trip to them all since Uranus is on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and you can’t drive there directly.

Mouseover to enlarge


OK, this is all pretty silly, but if you want to take a tour of the solar system on a budget, above is where you’ll find everything. You’ll have to figure out your own route. Which shouldn’t be too hard. It ain’t rocket science.

Filed 10/11/17

Wild Card Wednesday


Milton Corrêa stadium in Macapá, Brazil is situated so the midfield line runs along the equator. Meaning each team defends in one hemisphere and attacks in the other.

Daddy Longlegs: not poisonous, not a web spinner, not a spider, not an insect. It’s an arachnid, a distant relative of scorpions.

Lincoln Logs (remember them?) were invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Like they say, the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. And then grows in its shadow. Is cut down and made into teeny-weeny houses. Or something.

There are more museums in the United States than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. Still, don’t get carried away with the idea the country is overflowing with culture and history. While every McDonald’s is pretty much like every other one, not so much with museums which can run from highfalutin to pretty crass. For every Tate and Smithsonian there’s any number of Lawn Art and History of Bumpkinville museums.

Filed 10/4/17

Don’t Order the Chef’s Surprise or the Catch of the Day


Actual Offerings from Real Restaurant Menus from around the World

Typos, spellcheck gone awry, bad translations or what? We don’t know. Still, we’ll go for the convolutions veal, it sounds like the least unappetizing item on the menu. We have no idea how to convolute food, but it might be tasty. Who can tell?

Filed 9/25/17



Fall is many folks favorite time of year. Not ours, other folks. This is one of those things people agree to disagree on. Without heated arguments. Fall people aren’t upset by spring people. Summer folk don’t find winter folk offensive. Peculiar, maybe, but not irksome. Unless they’re married to each other, maybe. But there might be something more to it in that case.

Fall people like it when the leaves turn, get their color. Well, their color other than green. Their true color, so they say. The underlying color minus the chlorophyl. Yellow, orange, red, maroon. We rather like that, too. Though we’d like it more if we lived in the woods and didn’t have to rake them up and stuff them in paper sacks.

Not like the old days when we’d rake them into a huge pile and set them ablaze. Hard to believe? In which case you’re obviously too young to remember that everyone disposed of fallen leaves that way. And the police and fire department were good with it. Back then when you said fall was in the air you meant that literally, as in the smell of burning leaves. And flying embers. Still, we never burnt down the house or the garage. Whether everyone could say as much we don’t know.

Do we miss those good old days? Not really. It was time consuming tending those fires. Worse if it was a rainy fall. Ever try to burn a pile of wet leaves? Don’t. That was then and now is now. Heck, these days folks don’t rake, they use leaf blowers or vacuum their yard. Or simply hire a lawn service and let them deal with it. And then go to the gym to burn off the excess calories they saved from those labor saving devices. Such is modern life.

Filed 9/22/17

Degeneration Gap


“Youth is wasted on the young.”
–George Bernard Shaw

“Age is a high price to pay for maturity.” –Tom Stoppard

If the young didn’t have the blush of youth, what would they have? Certainly not knowledge, experience, wisdom and good judgement. Young and dumb isn’t a repeatable cliché for nothing. Strong bodies is what one needs to survive the stupid things young people do.

At the opposite end, experience, knowledge and wisdom undoubtedly helps one to endure the vicissitudes of aging. Anyway, having gone through the peak earning years of their fifties, older folks also have more money than the young. Possibly the only saving grace for those who grew old but never grew up. While it’s said experience is a great teacher, some folks never learn.

Another thing you have more of as you get older, if you’re an artist, is a stockpile of used art. Which explains the old spot repurposed for this bit. Don’t know that means we’re wise or just old and lazy.

Filed 9/20/17

How Many Hungarians Does It Take to Build a Bomb?


In The Right Stuff there’s a line about how the U.S. would win the race to the moon because, “Our Germans were better than their Germans.” How about building an atomic bomb? Forget Germans, you want better Hungarians.

The Manhattan Project was led by a packet of Hungarian geniuses born between 1890 and 1920. The group included project founder Leo Szilard, H-bomb creator Edward Teller, quantum physicist Eugene Wigner, and polymath John von Neumann. The Manhattan Project was so top heavy with Hungarians that some high level meetings were conducted in Hungarian rather than English.

What’s more, Wigner, Von Neumann, and possibly Teller all attended the same Budapest high school at about the same time, leading a friend to joke that the atomic bomb was basically a Hungarian high school science fair project. Which would put to shame our baking soda generated volcano and Alka-Seltzer powered geyser in a bottle.

Filed 9/11/17

Maybe Our Eating over the Sink Ain’t Such a Good Idea after All


Do you go by the three second rule? That is, if it falls on the floor and you pick it up within three seconds it’s OK to eat. So, what’s the time rule for something that falls in the sink? After all, there averages 830 bacteria per square inch on the floor and 18,000 per square inch in the sink. We have no information about the amount of bacteria on a cutting board. Oh yeah, flies are twice as germy (if that’s a word) as cockroaches.

All the same, you’re more likely to get grit and hair and such on your food from the floor. Which, while not dangerous bacteria, is just plain unpleasant to chew on. As are flies and cockroaches for that matter. Anyway, we suggest rather than worrying about any of that you consider the following from French author Nicholas Chamfort…

Swallow a toad in the morning and you will encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day.

Filed 9/8/17

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