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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Why Do Cats Meow?

An interesting tidbit about cat behavior: in this BBC clip from Cats Uncovered, veterinarian Dr. John Bradshaw of Bristol University says that cats use the vocalizations that work on their mothers when they're kittens (and then stop working when the kitten is weaned) with their humans as a way of getting attention:
The meow starts off as a kitten vocalization. Its something they use in order to call their mothers over…the mother is very attentive to those meows. And then as the kitten grows up, it gradually stops meowing, presumably because it just stops working. The mother wants to wean the kittens and stops responding. A pet cat is constantly meowing at its owner. It’s a way of getting the owner’s attention.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Here's a guy in a dinosaur costume shoveling snow.

A man donned a dinosaur costume to shovel snow in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

His wife, Amy Saxon White, told ABC News that he got the costume for Halloween and he loves to dress up for the kids.

He decided to put the costume back on in the snow to give a friend a laugh, she said.

White posted the photo to Facebook around 9 a.m. today and it already has over 2 million views.

Friday links

Roundup of links about snow: art, science, snowmen, world's largest snowball fight, snow removal, and more.

Advice from c. 1200: How to Survive the Winter.

Something to restore your faith in humanity: Man with stage IV bone cancer saves neighbor from burning home.

Mathematicians Have Found Strange New Ways to Cut Pizza Into Equal Slices.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include Valentine's Day reservations at White Castle, the anniversary of French King Louis XVI's guillotining in 1793. an infographic on the evolution of the Batmobile, and, for Stonewall Jackson's birthday, the story of his left arm's separate grave,

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Alton Brown's critique of Amazon's dumbest kitchen gadgets, with bonus Amazon reviews

This set of Alton Brown reviews is a hoot, and some of these single-use gadgets are pretty dumb.

Here's the strawberry slicer. Review: "After breaking any number of egg slicers trying to slice up my strawberries, I finally found THE tool I needed!"

The Baker's Edge Nonstick Edge Brownie Pan, Review: "You could blow $35 bucks on this, or you could just pour your brownie batter into muffin tins, which you already have, giving you more brownie-edge per unit of batter."

The iPerfect Kitchen Meat Handling & Shredding Claws. Review: "Very sturdy. I'm just not sure what I bought these for. A fork will do the same job."

The Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Slicer. Review: "Sadly, this product broke upon first use. Returned for refund. 1 week later, I found one of its blades in my salad. Poor quality, and safety hazard. Recommend avoiding."

Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker. Review: "My excitement went from 10 to 2 :("

And my personal favorite: Rollie Hands-Free Automatic Electric Vertical Nonstick Easy Quick Egg Cooker. Review (spelling errors in original): "It work only one time then stop for ever never work again i think it is very sensetive .. Im disappointed."

Related posts:

Actual Reviews from Amazon Reenacted by Rhett & Link.

Product of the day at Amazon: temporary dye to restore the youthful pink color back to your labia (read the reviews)

Amazon item of the day: OptiSex Romantic Fantasy Swing Kit (maybe NSFW)

Also, Amazon has a list of its own favorite funny product reviews and a second collection of funny reviews inspired by reader input after the first list was published.) 

Brain Pickings has articles on The Art of the Humorous Amazon Review: Part 1 and Part 2.

Tuscan Whole Milk review excerpt (read the whole thing here):
Once upon a mid-day sunny, while I savored Nuts 'N Honey,
With my Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 gal, 128 fl. oz., I swore
As I went on with my lapping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at the icebox door.
'Bad condensor, that,' I muttered, 'vibrating the icebox door -
Only this, and nothing more.'
Not to sound like a complainer, but, in an inept half-gainer,
I provoked my bowl to tip and spill its contents on the floor.
Stupefied, I came to muddle over that increasing puddle,
Burgeoning deluge of that which I at present do adore -
Snowy Tuscan wholesomeness exclusively produced offshore -
Purg'ed here for evermore.
And the pool so white and silky, filled me with a sense of milky
Ardor of the type fantastic of a loss not known before,
So that now, to still the throbbing of my heart, while gently sobbing,
I retreated, heading straightway for the tempting icebox door -
Heedless of that pitter-patter tapping at the icebox door -
I resolved to have some more.
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
'This,' said I, 'requires an extra dram of milk, my favorite pour.'
To the icebox I aspired, motivated to admire
How its avocado pigment complemented my decor.
Then I grasped its woodgrain handle - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams of many Tuscans I had known before
But the light inside was broken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only words there spoken were my whispered words, 'No more!'
Coke and beer, some ketchup I set eyes on, and an apple core -
Merely this and nothing more.
One of my favorites is this review for Fresh Whole Rabbit:
Every week, I order a fresh whole rabbit and affix it to a remote control car that is operated by one of my children. This way, I get the thrill of the hunt, and when the car's batteries are exhausted, I can leap upon it, bury my teeth into the rabbit's soft flesh and perform my ritual victory dance right there in the Walgreen's parking lot.

Thursday links

It's Stonewall Jackson's birthday - here's the story of his left arm's separate grave (bonus: Lord Uxbridge's leg)

Look Up Before Sunrise for the Next Month to See 5 Planets at Once.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include how people in the 60's thought we'd dance in the future, why cans of Diet Coke float but cans of regular Coke don't, Buffy's 35th birthday and how the Revolutionary War was paid for?

It's Stonewall Jackson's birthday - here's the story of his left arm's separate grave (bonus: Lord Uxbridge's leg)

From the always interesting Atlas Obscura:

Most of Civil War superstar Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall*" Jackson (wiki) was buried in a Lexington, Virginia, cemetery that now bears his name, but he was so famous at the time of his death that his amputated left arm was spirited away to its own separate grave.

It was just after dark on May 2, 1863. Jackson had just launched a devastating attack against Union forces at Chancellorsville. Returning to his own lines with several staff officers, Jackson, ever the aggressive soldier, decided to conduct reconnaissance in the area. As he and his staff rode through the woods near Confederate lines, a North Carolina regiment, unable to see who was riding up on them, opened fire. Jackson was struck by three bullets, two of them shattering his left arm.** The general was evacuated from the area and given medical treatment, but the arm couldn't be saved and was amputated. Pneumonia set in, and on May 10, 1863, the South lost its most effective tactician. While Jackson's body would travel to Lexington, where he had taught before the war, his severed arm would receive its own burial.

Two-armed Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson
during the Mexican-American War, 1847
Thinking that the limb of so great a solider was too precious to simply throw on the regular body part trash pile, Jackson's unofficial company chaplain, Reverend Tucker Lacy wrapped the arm in a blanket and took it his family cemetery. The reverend gave the limb a standard Christian burial and placed a marker above the site.

Supposedly Stonewall Jackson's arm was dug up and reburied numerous times in the ensuing years and there is no concrete evidence that it still resides in its original burial space, but the simple gravestone remains to remember one of the oddest instances of hero worship in the history of battle.

* Jackson rose to prominence and earned his most famous nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run (aka First Manassas) on July 21, 1861. As the Confederate lines began to crumble under heavy Union assault, Jackson's brigade provided crucial reinforcements on Henry House Hill, demonstrating the discipline he instilled in his men. Brig. Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr., exhorted his own troops to re-form by shouting, "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer!"

The Death of “Stonewall” Jackson
Currier & Ives (1872)
When Jackson died on May 10, 1863, his attending physicians attributed the death to a pneumonia Jackson had developed four days after amputation of his arm. The infection was believed to be secondary to a pulmonary contusion, or bruised lung, that Jackson may have suffered after falling from a stretcher during his removal from the field. For nearly 150 years, that diagnosis was largely unchallenged. 

More recently, however, modern physicians have begun offering alternate possibilities for his cause of death.The most commonly suggested alternative is pyemia, or blood poisoning. Known today as sepsis, pyemia was a well-recognized and deadly condition during the pre-antibiotic days of the Civil War.

** The story of Stonewall Jackson's injury always reminds me of this, from later in the War of Northern Aggression (wiki):

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance."

~ Union general John Sedgwick (died 1864) (just before being killed by Confederate fire at the battle of Spotsylvania)

Uxbridge's false leg
Related, via Andrew Stuttaford - read the whole Wikipedia entry: Lord Uxbridge's leg was shattered by a cannon shot at the Battle of Waterloo and removed by a surgeon. The amputated limb went on to lead a somewhat macabre after-life as a tourist attraction in the village of Waterloo in Belgium, where it had been removed and interred.

Per Wikipedia:
Just after the Surgeon had taken off the Marquis of Anglesey's leg, Sir Hussey Vivian came into the cottage where the operation was performed. "Ah, Vivian!" said the wounded noble, "I want you to do me a favour. Some of my friends here seem to think I might have kept that leg on. Just go and cast your eye upon it, and tell me what you think." "I went, accordingly", said Sir Hussey, "and, taking up the lacerated limb, carefully examined it, and so far as I could tell, it was completely spoiled for work. A rusty grape-shot had gone through and shattered the bones all to pieces. I therefore returned to the Marquis and told him he could set his mind quite at rest, as his leg, in my opinion, was better off than on."
I love this bit: 
According to anecdote, he was close to the Duke of Wellington (at Waterloo) when his leg was hit, and exclaimed, "By God, sir, I've lost my leg!", to which Wellington replied "By God, sir, so you have!"
Further reading: Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday links

Canadian shopper finds vodka bottles had been filled with water.

Why Do Cans of Diet Coke Float But Cans of Regular Coke Don't?

Buffy turns 35 today. Here's a list of her birthday catastrophes.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include Ben Franklin's birthday links (bio, his 200 synonyms for drunk, and the bodies found in his basement), that time in 1932 when the U.S. Army kicked U.S. veterans out of Washington, evidence that dinosaurs performed dances to woo mates, and the anniversary of the beginning of Prohibition.

Monday, January 18, 2016

How People In The 60's Thought We'd Dance In The Future

Hard to imagine why this show (the first ever German ScFi series) lasted less than three months. In English, the title was Space Patrol Orion. Here's Wikipedia:
Raumpatrouille – Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion (literal translation: Space Patrol – The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion), also known as Raumpatrouille Orion, and Space Patrol Orion in English, was the first German science fiction television series. 
First episode date: September 17, 1966

Final episode date: December 10, 1966

Here's more:

h/t Joanne Casey.