Archive for November, 2013

November 20, 2013

Gundam Rock

Gundam Rock

Gundam Rock‘ is a cover album by Andrew W.K., released in 2009 only in Japan. The album consists of covered music from the ‘Gundam’ series to celebrate its 30th Anniversary (the franchize is is a space opera anime created by Sunrise studios that features giant wearable robots called ‘Mobile Suits’; usually the protagonist’s suit will carry the name ‘Gundam’).

The front cover artwork features an original illustration by respected Gundam and Capcom artist, Akira Yasuda (also known as ‘Akiman’). The image depicts Andrew W.K. floating in space next to the Mobile Suit Gundam in similar fashion to frequent ‘Gundam’ protaganst Amuro Ray in the poster of the ‘Char’s Counterattack’ movie, the first theatrical ‘Gundam’ release in 1988.

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November 19, 2013

Zoopharmacognosy

drunken monkey

Zoopharmacognosy [zoh-uh-fahr-muh-kog-nuh-see] refers non-human animal self-medication (using plants, soils, insects and psychoactive drugs to treat and prevent disease).

Coined by Dr. Eloy Rodriguez, a biochemist and professor at Cornell University, the term came to popular attention in 2003 from Open University lecturer Cindy Engel in ‘Wild Health: How Animals Keep Themselves Well and What We Can Learn from Them.’ A well-known example of zoopharmacognosy is when dogs eat grass to induce vomiting. Some species ingest non-foods such as clay, charcoal, and even toxic plants, apparently to ward off parasitic infestation or poisoning.

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November 18, 2013

Boston Dynamics

Marc Raibert

Boston Dynamics is an engineering and robotics company spun off from MIT in 1992 that is best known for the development of ‘BigDog,’ a quadruped robot designed for the US military with funding from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and ‘DI-Guy,’ software for realistic human simulation.

Early in the company’s history, it worked with the American Systems Corporation under a contract from the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division to replace naval training videos for aircraft launch operations with interactive 3D computer simulations.

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November 15, 2013

Olfactometer

Nasal Ranger

An olfactometer [ol-fak-tom-i-ter] is an instrument used to detect and measure ambient odors that is also called a ‘nose telescope.’

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November 14, 2013

Chess Pie

Vinegar Pie

Chess pie is a dessert characteristic of Southern U.S. cuisine. According to James Beard’s ‘American Cookery’ (1972) the dish was brought from England originally, and was found in New England as well as Virginia. The origin of the name of chess pie may have come from the term ‘pie chest,’ another name for a pie safe (a cupboard designed to store pies). Recipes vary, but most include a filling composed of eggs, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Often, what sets chess pie apart from many other custard pies is the addition of cornmeal. Some recipes also call for corn syrup, which tends to create a more gelatinous consistency. The finished product is often consumed with coffee. Chess pie is closely related to vinegar pie, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. Vinegar pie adds a teaspoonful or tablespoonful of vinegar to reduce the sweetness. Some variations are called Jeff Davis or Jefferson Davis Pie, and Kentucky pie.

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November 13, 2013

Soylent

Powder People

Soylent is a food substitute intended to supply all of a human body’s daily nutritional needs, made from powdered starch, rice protein, olive oil, and raw chemical powders. It was designed by software engineer Rob Rhinehart as a low cost alternative to traditional food that can be prepared and consumed very quickly.

Lacking background in chemistry or nutrition, Rhinehart developed the formula through research and self-experimentation. He named it after a fictional food from the novel ‘Make Room! Make Room!’, on which the 1973 film ‘Soylent Green’ was loosely based.

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November 12, 2013

Horrible Histories

terrible tudors

Horrible Histories‘ is a series of UK educational books first released in in 1993 with ‘The Terrible Tudors’ and ‘The Awful Egyptians.’ They are designed to engage children in history by presenting the unusual, gory, or unpleasant aspects in a tongue-in-cheek manner in contrast to the formality of lessons taught in school. The books are published by Scholastic and written primarily by Terry Deary (with illustrations by Martin Brown and others).

After a run of 60 books, Deary announced that the series would officially come to an end in 2013 for lack of stories, and said they would focus on the larger media franchise such as magazines, TV, and stage shows. Terry Deary studied at drama college and worked as an actor-teacher at the TIE company in Wales. He then became a theatre director and began to write plays for children. Many of his TIE plays were eventually rewritten and adapted for the ‘Horrible Histories’ books.

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November 11, 2013

The Sunday Assembly

wonder more

The Sunday Assembly is a syncretistic, non-religious gathering co-founded by stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans in early 2013 in London. The bimonthly gathering is designed to bring together non-religious people who want a similar communal experience to a religious church. Satellite assemblies have been established in over 30 cities including New York, San Diego, and Dublin. During Sunday Assembly gatherings attendees listen to talks by speakers such as Danish/British comedian Sandi Toksvig, socialize, and sing songs by artists such as Stevie Wonder and Queen.

Jones originally stated that he did not, ‘expect much objection from religious communities. They are happy for us to use their church model.’ However, he suspected that there may be ‘more aggressive atheists who will have an issue with it.’ Religious organizations also criticized criticized the group calling it ‘highly inappropriate.’ Jones replied to criticism by stating: ‘I don’t [think] there’s anything that’s inherently elite about people getting together to sing songs and think about themselves and improve their community. But we can’t wait to see people doing it in all manner of different places in all manner of different ways, that appeal to all manner of different people.’

November 10, 2013

Jiro

jiro

Jiro [jee-roh] Ono is an 85-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 3 Michelin star sushi restaurant in Tokyo. He was the subject of a 2011 documentary, ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi.’ The film also profiles Jiro’s two sons, both of whom are also sushi chefs.

The younger son, Takashi, left Sukiyabashi Jiro to open a mirror image of his father’s restaurant in Roppongi Hills. The 50-year-old elder son, Yoshikazu, obligated to succeed his father, still works for Jiro and is faced with the prospect of one day taking over the flagship restaurant.

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November 9, 2013

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

feynman

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character’ is an edited collection of reminiscences by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Richard Feynman. The anecdotes were edited from taped conversations that Feynman had with his close friend and drumming partner Ralph Leighton. The title derives from a woman’s response at Princeton University when, after she asked the newly arrived Feynman if he wanted cream or lemon in his tea, he naively requested both. The book, released in 1985, covers a variety of instances in Feynman’s life.

Some are lighthearted in tone, such as his fascination with safe-cracking, studying various languages, participating with groups of people who share different interests (such as biology or philosophy), and ventures into art and samba music. Others cover more serious material, including his work on the Manhattan Project (during which his first wife Arline Greenbaum died of tuberculosis) and his critique of the science education system in Brazil. The section ‘Monster Minds’ describes his slightly nervous presentation of his graduate work on the Wheeler-Feynman absorber theory in front of Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, and other major figures of the time.

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November 8, 2013

Cherchez la Femme

Cherchez la femme [sher-shey la-fam] is a French phrase which literally means ‘look for the woman.’ The implication is that a man behaves out of character or in an otherwise inexplicable manner because he is trying to cover up an affair with a woman, or trying to impress or gain favor with a woman. The expression comes from the 1854 novel ‘The Mohicans of Paris’ by Alexandre Dumas. In his 1864 theatrical adaptation the expression translates as: ‘There is a woman in every case; as soon as they bring me a report, I say, ‘Look for the woman!”

The phrase embodies a cliché of detective pulp fiction: no matter what the problem, a woman is often the root cause. It has come to refer to explanations that automatically find the same root cause, no matter the specifics of the problem.

November 8, 2013

Bar Bet

A bar bet is a wager between patrons at a drinking establishment. It is widely believed that the creation of Scientology was the result of a bar bet between science fiction authors L. Ron Hubbard and Robert A. Heinlein. One night over bridge (which they played regularly, with generous libations) Hubbard bet Heinlein $1 that he could create a better sci-fi religion.

Heinlein eventually conceded the bet, admitting the ‘Church of All Worlds’ from his 1961 novel ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ was inferior to Hubbard’s ‘Scientology’, which by then had a strong following. There is no supporting evidence for the story, but several of Heinlein’s autobiographical pieces, as well as biographical pieces written by his wife, claim repeatedly that the bet did indeed occur.

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