August 12, 2019

Fearsome Critters

Jackalope

In early lumberjack folklore, fearsome critters are fantastical beasts that were said to inhabit the frontier wilderness of North America, such as  the jackalope, a rabbit with the antlers of an antelope. Fearsome critters were an integral part of oral tradition in North America lumber camps during the turn of the 20th century, principally as a means to pass time (such as in tall tales) or as a jest for hazing newcomers.

In a typical fearsome critter gag, a person would casually remark about a strange noise or sight they encountered in the wild; subsequently, another accomplice would join in. Meanwhile, an eavesdropper would begin to investigate. Continue reading

August 8, 2019

Autorhythmicity

automaticity

Autorhythmicity [aw-toh-rith-miss-uh-tee], or automaticity, refers to the heart’s ability to spontaneously generate an electric charge without outside help. Cardiac electrical activity originates in the sinoatrial node (SAN) and is propagated via the ‘His-Purkinje’ network, the fastest conduction pathway within the heart. This pathway is known as the electrical conduction system of the heart.

The electrical signal travels from the SAN, which stimulates the atria to contract, to the atrioventricular node (AVN), which slows down conduction of the action potential from the atria to the ventricles. This delay allows the ventricles to fully fill with blood before contraction. The signal then passes down through a bundle of fibers called the ‘bundle of His,’ located between the ventricles, and then to the ‘purkinje’ fibers at the bottom (apex) of the heart, causing ventricular contraction. Continue reading

August 1, 2019

Dog Days

Canis Major

The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. They are now taken to be the hottest, most uncomfortable part of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

In addition to following Orion into the night sky, the Dog Star Sirius can be easily located in the heavens by following the line created by the prominent asterism (a popularly-known group of stars) Orion’s Belt. Continue reading

July 29, 2019

Rapport

Rapport [ra-pawr] is a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned are ‘in sync’ with each other, understand each other’s feelings or ideas, and communicate smoothly. Methods for increasing interpersonal rapport in domains like education, medicine, or sales include coordination (or ‘mirroring’), showing your attentiveness to the other, building commonality, and managing the other’s self-perception (also called ‘face’ management).

The word stems from the old French verb ‘rapporter’ which means literally to carry something back; and, in the sense of how people relate to each other means that what one person sends out the other sends back. For example, they may realize that they share similar values, beliefs, knowledge, or behaviors around politics, music or sports. This may also mean that the participants engage in reciprocal behaviors such as posture mirroring or in increased coordination in their verbal and nonverbal interactions. Continue reading

July 28, 2019

Slapstick

Slapstick is a style of humor involving exaggerated physical activity. The term arises from a device developed during the broad, physical comedy style known as commedia dell’arte in 16th-century Italy.

The ‘batacchio’ or ‘bataccio’ (lit. ‘slap stick’) consists of two thin slats of wood, which make a ‘slap’ when striking another actor, with little force needed to make a loud—and comical—sound. The physical slap stick remains a key component of the plot in the traditional and popular ‘Punch and Judy’ puppet show. Along with the inflatable bladder (of which the whoopee cushion is a modern variant), it was among the earliest special effects. Continue reading

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July 26, 2019

Nike Shox

Nike Shox

Shox is a shoe feature first released by Nike in 2000 that is incorporated in several of their flagship athletic sports shoes. The shoe design includes a support system feature, which is an arrangement of small hollow columns in the midsole supporting the shoe’s heel, which are made primarily with polyurethane.

There are different formations of the shox technology, but most models include four circular columns in a square formation to provide cushioning. Later variations in shox models added one or two additional shox, 25 mm high, though they may vary in height; as well as triangular and rectangular shox that Nike claims provide better stability. Some shoes have midsoles made entirely of Shox, like the TL series. Continue reading

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July 21, 2019

Fearless Girl

Kristen Visbal

Fearless Girl is a bronze sculpture by American sculptor Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), a large asset management company. The statue was installed on March 7, 2017, in anticipation of International Women’s Day the following day.

The statue was originally installed in Bowling Green, a park in lower Manhattan, facing down the ‘Charging Bull’ (also known as ‘Wall Street Bull,’ a large bronze statue illegally placed there in 1989 by Sicilian artist Arturo Di Modica), but following complaints from Di Modica, ‘Fearless Girl’ was removed in November 2018 and relocated to a nearby spot across from the New York Stock Exchange. A plaque with footprints was placed on the original site. Continue reading

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July 11, 2019

Scunthorpe Problem

Dirty Words

The Scunthorpe problem is the unintentional blocking of websites, e-mails, forum posts, or search results by a spam filter or search engine because their text contains a string of letters that appear to have an obscene or otherwise unacceptable meaning. Names, abbreviations, and technical terms are most often cited as being affected by the issue.

The problem arises since computers can easily identify strings of text within a document, but interpreting words of this kind requires considerable ability to interpret a wide range of contexts, possibly across many cultures, which is an extremely difficult task. As a result, broad blocking rules may result in false positives affecting innocent phrases. Continue reading

July 3, 2019

Car Tailfin

Harley Earl

The tailfin era of automobile styling encompassed the 1950s and 1960s, peaking between 1955 and 1961. It was a style that spread worldwide, as car designers picked up styling trends from the US automobile industry, where it was regarded as the ‘golden age’ of American auto design.

General Motors design chief Harley Earl is often credited for the automobile tailfin, introducing small fins on the 1948 Cadillac, but according to many sources the actual inventor/designer of the tailfin for that vehicle was Franklin Quick Hershey, then chief of the GM Special Car Design Studio. It was Hershey, who after seeing an early production model of a WWII P-38 fighter plane at Selfridge air base, thought the twin rudders of the airplane would make a sleek design addition to the rear of future modern automobiles. Continue reading

June 29, 2019

Public Art

Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks

Public art is art in any media that has been planned and executed with the intention of being staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all. Public signifies a working practice of site specificity, community involvement and collaboration.

Public art may include any art which is exhibited in a public space including publicly accessible buildings, but the relationship between the content and audience, what the art is saying and to whom, is just as important if not more important than its physical location. Continue reading

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June 26, 2019

Pussyhat

2017 Women's March

A pussyhat is a pink, crafted hat, created in large numbers by thousands of participants involved with the United States 2017 Women’s March. They are the result of the Pussyhat Project, a nationwide effort initiated by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, a screenwriter and architect located in Los Angeles, to create pink hats to be worn at the march for visual impact.

In response to this call, crafters all over the United States began making these hats using patterns provided on the project Web site for use with either a knitting method, crocheting and even sewing with fabrics. Continue reading

June 11, 2019

Rio PMP300

PMP

The Rio PMP300 is one of the first portable consumer MP3 digital audio players, and the first commercially successful one. Produced by Diamond Multimedia, it was introduced in 1998 as the first in the ‘Rio’ series of digital audio players, and it shipped later that year. The Rio retailed for US $200 with the ability to hold around 30 minutes of music at a bitrate of 128 kbit/s.

It shipped with 32 MB of internal memory and has a SmartMedia slot, allowing users to add additional memory. It is powered by a single AA battery, which provides between 8 and 12 hours of playback time. Connection to a personal computer is through the computer’s parallel port, with a proprietary connector on the Rio’s edge. Continue reading

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