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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Lasagna with Mushrooms and Ham

Lasagna with Mushrooms and Ham, adapted from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

2 1/4 pounds fresh, firm, white  and/or Crimini mushrooms

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons butter plus more butter for greasing and dotting a 9- by 12-inch lasagne pan, no less than 2½ inches high

1/2 cup onion chopped very fine

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup of water for at least 30 minutes.

Filtered reserved water from the mushroom soak

1/2 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped parsley


Black pepper

Fresh lasagna noodles

1 pound unsmoked boiled ham

Béchamel Sauce, using 3 cups milk, 6 tablespoons butter, 5 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and some fresh grated nutmeg

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional cheese at the table

1. Cut fresh mushrooms very thin in lengthwise slices, leaving the stems attached to the caps - if large, cut in half before slicing.

2. Choose a sauté pan that can subsequently accommodate all the fresh mushrooms without crowding. Put in the oil, the 3 tablespoons of butter, and the chopped onion, and turn the heat on to medium.

3. Cook, stirring, until the onion becomes translucent. Put in the reconstituted dried porcini, the filtered water from their soak, the chopped tomatoes, and the parsley. Stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients, set the cover on the pan slightly ajar, and turn the heat down to medium low.

4. When the liquid in the pan has completely evaporated, put in the sliced fresh mushrooms, salt, and a few grindings of pepper, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook, uncovered, until all the liquid thrown off by the fresh mushrooms has evaporated. This takes a while - check every few minutes. Taste and correct for salt and pepper, stir, turn off the heat, and set aside.

5. Parboil lasagna noodles, plunge into ice water to stop cooking, and spread them out to dry on cloth towels.

6. Preheat oven to 400°.

7. Cut the ham into very thin, julienne strips ~ 1/2 inch long.

8. Make the béchamel sauce (easy instructions here, but keep the flour/butter/milk quantities listed above, not those at the link), cover to keep it warm. If a film should form on top, just stir it when you are ready to use it.

9. Thickly smear the bottom of the lasagna pan with butter and then a little bit of béchamel. Line the bottom with a single layer of pasta strips, cutting them to fit the pan, edge to edge, allowing no more than ¼ inch for overlapping.

10. Spread a thinly distributed layer of the mushroom mixture over the pasta, followed by a thinly distributed layer of the béchamel. Scatter strips of ham over the béchamel, then sprinkle with a little grated Parmesan. Cover with another pasta layer, cutting it to fit as you did before; use the trimmings of pasta dough to fill in gaps, if necessary. Repeat the sequence of béchamel, mushroom mixture, ham, and grated cheese. Continue building up layers of pasta and filling up to a maximum of 6 layers of pasta. Over the topmost layer spread only the remaining béchamel, sprinkle on the rest of the Parmesan, and dot with about 2 tablespoons of butter.

11. Bake in a preheated oven until a light, golden crust forms on top. It should take between 15 and 20 minutes. If after the first few minutes you don’t see any sign of a crust beginning to form, turn up the thermostat another 50° to 75°. Do not bake longer than 20 minutes altogether.

12. Remove from the oven and allow to settle for about 10 minutes, then serve at table directly from the pan, with grated Parmesan on the side.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Do you want to see a photo of a REALLY pissed off cat? Of course you do.

Via @ComradeArthur, this from the Daily Mail:

This is the moment a stray cat was pulled out of its hideaway by firemen - after wedging itself in the engine of a car.
The startled animal looked far from amused after being removed from the engine block of a car in the city of Van in eastern Turkey.

Friday links

Supercut of the Phrase ‘We’re Not so Different, You and I’ in Movies.

The Origin of the TV Dinner. Vaguely related, Can You Tell The Difference Between School Lunch Prison Food?

Beneath London, There's A Revolting Battle To Keep The Sewers Free Of 'Fatbergs'.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include weird Nativity sets, armpit hair extensions, Star Wars Christmas cards, and why dark winter days bum you out.

Friendship: Tortoise Flips Over Friend That’s Stuck Upside Down


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Supercut of the Phrase ‘We’re Not so Different, You and I’ in Movies

It appears to mostly be bad guys who think that everyone else is like them, doesn't it? These compilations frequently remind me of movies I want to see again (or make some family member see), so the full list of films is available below for easy reference.

Source films, in order of appearance:

Austin Powers
Scary Movie 3
The Outrage
Mulholland Falls
The Net
Behind Enemy Lines 2: Axis of Evil
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Fast & Furious 4
Austin Powers in Goldmember
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows pt. 1
The Ballad of Jack and Rose
Falling Down

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Alpha males with higher levels of testosterone like spicier food, French report claims

Manliness story du jour:

Scientists at the highly-respected University of Grenoble have published a report suggesting that regular consumption of chili peppers may raise levels of the hormone, which is believed to make men more adventurous, enterprising and sexually active.

This guy needs to eat a LOT of those peppers.
Laurent Begue, one of the authors of the study, said: "These results are in line with a lot of research showing a link between testosterone and financial, sexual and behavioral risk-taking."

Their testosterone levels were measured from saliva samples and they were presented with a plate of mashed potatoes and invited to add chili sauce to taste. Those who added the most hot sauce had the highest testosterone.
The hormone drives men to seek thrills and new sensations, leading them to frequent "more stimulating social groups and take more risks," according to Professor Begue.
"In this case, it applies to risk-taking in taste," he said. "It is also possible that the regular consumption of spicy food contributes to increasing testosterone levels, although so far this has only been demonstrated on rodents."
Unlike their British counterparts, relatively few have acquired a taste for hot curries. Many see chili as an assault on their taste buds that hinders enjoyment of the subtler, more delicate flavours of classic French cuisine.

They may now start to view spice as a virility test and attempt to prove their manliness by consuming eye-wateringly hot food.

Previous manly posts:

How To Gird Up Your Loins (An Illustrated Guide).

The Tactical Order of Dressing: An Illustrated Guide (as taught to military and emergency personnel).

Because it's important to always be battle-ready: How to Poop Like a Samurai.

The manliness test - how manly are you? I took it, and I'm a mewling kitten. But I'm an old, overweight female, so presumably you'll do better.

The Boy Scouts of America: Then and Now — A Comparison of the 1911 and Modern Handbooks and Merit Badges.

More at The Telegraph.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Check out these rather extraordinary optical illusions

Glasses For Color-Blind People

There's a lot of color-blindness in my immediate family - my (late) father, both of my sons, and one grandson. There's been talk of corrective lenses for years, but this is the closest I've seen to something commercially available.

Special glasses for color-blind people, "effectively provide high color contrast, producing an image in which the primary colors of red, blue, and green 'pop' and are perceived correctly by the wearer."

The company website explains how the technology works - if you're interested in the details, read the whole thing.

Monday links

Lots of ugly Christmas sweaters, instructions for making your own, plus ugly Christmas sweater suits!

The Twelve Beards Of Christmas - decorating ideas.

Before Seinfeld: The Origins of Festivus, plus my favorite Festivus song.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here and include fetching-challenged dogs, a gallery of animals trying to stay warm, some history and science of poinsettias and mistletoe, and a set of funny warming labels.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas gift suggestion: "the gold standard of genital grease burn protection"

Like to cook bacon in your birthday suit? The makers of a new product insist you need protection in that sensitive area.

Behold, the Naked Bacon Cooking Armor.
...he hopes the groin protector will also inspire those who do their sizzling with clothes on to take them off.
"We’re just opening the door," he said. "With any luck you step through it because happiness is waiting on the other side."
Esch and co-founder Dave Lefkow assure that the product is real. It has a real price tag, too: $14.99 plus shipping and handling.
But the two, who also developed Baconlube, thankfully treat the Naked Bacon Cooking Armor like a novelty. (Otherwise, we'd be worried.)
More at HuffPo

T'was the Night Before Kwanzza, and more of Kathy Shaidle's anti-Kwanzaa collection

From one of my favorite bloggers, Kathy Shaidle, who's been onto the Kwanzaa scam from the beginning:
My personal favorite is "Twas the Night Before Kwanzaa":

Ron Karenga enters courtroom where he was found guilty on four
counts. On September 17, 1971, Karenga was sentenced to
one to ten years in prison on counts of
felonious assault and false imprisonment.
'Twas the night before Kwanzaa
And all through the 'hood,
Maulana Karenga was up to no good.

He'd tortured a woman and spent time in jail.
He needed a new scam that just wouldn't fail.
("So what if I stuck some chick's toe in a vice?
Nobody said revolution was nice!")

The Sixties were over. Now what would he do?
Why, he went back to school -- so that's "Dr." to you!
He once ordered shootouts at UCLA
Now he teaches Black Studies just miles away.

Then to top it all off, the good Doctor's new plan
Was to get rid of Christmas and piss off The Man.

Karenga invented a fake holiday.
He called the thing Kwanza. "Hey, what's that you say?

"You don't get what's 'black' about Maoist baloney?
You say that my festival's totally phony?

"Who cares if corn isn't an African crop?
Who cares if our harvest's a month or two off?
Who cares if Swahili's not our mother tongue?
A lie for The Cause never hurt anyone!

"Umoja! Ujima! Kujichagulia, too!
Collectivist crap never sounded so cool!
Those guilty white liberals -- easy to fool.
Your kids will now celebrate Kwanzaa in school!"
And we heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight:
"Happy Kwanzaa to all, except if you're white!"

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Flash Mob: The U.S. Air Force Band does "Joy To The World" at the Smithsonian

This is from last year at Christmastime, but I missed it. Nice.
The members of the United States Air Force Band planned a surprise to kick off the holiday season. First, a lone cellist sits down in the middle of the Smithsonian museum and start playing, and everyone looks confused. Seconds later, the crowd goes silent and it’s clear what is going on… the Air Force Band has orchestrated an epic flash mob!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday links

This video compilation will help you start your day with a smile: Dogs That Forgot How To Fetch.

10 Real Stories Behind Famous Food Mascots.

Here are 24 Animals That Are Just Trying to Stay Warm This Winter.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include how bourbon and Scotch tape are made, 1964 auditions from The Addams Family (and why their black and white living room was really pink), and the cost of 5,000 years of chewing gum.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Heh - Trailer for 1970's version of ‘The Avengers’, using movie and TV clips from that time

The Avengers Using Clips From 1970s Superhero Movies and Television Series:

In 2012, YouTuber quarv reimagined the Marvel super group Avengers as a “made-for-tv movie” using clips from such 1970s movies and television series as The Incredible Hulk and Captain America. The superheroes fight the good fight against the band KISS, with scenes culled from their television film KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. Paul Lynde appears as Loki.

via Laughing Squid

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Supercut of Every On-Screen Death in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ Film Trilogy (all 212,470 of them)

Here's every on-screen death in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy (extended editions), most of which were caused by either water or ghosts. There are 212,470 of them, of which Sauron is the last. Almost makes you feel bad for the orcs.

Watch full screen!

Also at Digg, Every On-Screen Death In The Original Star Wars Trilogy, In Under 3 Minutes. This is apparently much faster because exploding planets get your numbers up quickly.

Kind of related: Amazon Is Selling the One Ring as a Lord's Prayer Ring - check out the reviews.

via Digg

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Harrison Bergeron

Unless you've read it, you probably don't realize how short this story is. I've pasted the whole thing below for ease of access, since I refer to it fairly often. Per Wikipedia:
The story satirizes the policy of equality of outcome as an agent for achieving societal equality, and dramatizes the dystopian effects of such a policy if implemented to its logical extreme via government social engineering.

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren't quite right, though. April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron's fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn't think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn't think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel's cheeks, but she'd forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George's head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

"That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did," said Hazel.

"Huh" said George.

"That dance-it was nice," said Hazel.

"Yup," said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren't really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn't be handicapped. But he didn't get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

"Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer," said George.

"I'd think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds," said Hazel a little envious. "All the things they think up."

"Um," said George.

"Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?" said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. "If I was Diana Moon Glampers," said Hazel, "I'd have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion."

"I could think, if it was just chimes," said George.

"Well-maybe make 'em real loud," said Hazel. "I think I'd make a good Handicapper General."

"Good as anybody else," said George.

"Who knows better than I do what normal is?" said Hazel.

"Right," said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.

"Boy!" said Hazel, "that was a doozy, wasn't it?"

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.

"All of a sudden you look so tired," said Hazel. "Why don't you stretch out on the sofa, so's you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch." She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George's neck. "Go on and rest the bag for a little while," she said. "I don't care if you're not equal to me for a while."

George weighed the bag with his hands. "I don't mind it," he said. "I don't notice it any more. It's just a part of me."

"You been so tired lately-kind of wore out," said Hazel. "If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few."

"Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out," said George. "I don't call that a bargain."

"If you could just take a few out when you came home from work," said Hazel. "I mean-you don't compete with anybody around here. You just sit around."

"If I tried to get away with it," said George, "then other people'd get away with it-and pretty soon we'd be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn't like that, would you?"

"I'd hate it," said Hazel.

"There you are," said George. The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?"

If Hazel hadn't been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn't have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.

"Reckon it'd fall all apart," said Hazel.

"What would?" said George blankly.

"Society," said Hazel uncertainly. "Wasn't that what you just said?

"Who knows?" said George.

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn't clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, "Ladies and Gentlemen."

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

"That's all right-" Hazel said of the announcer, "he tried. That's the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard."

"Ladies and Gentlemen," said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men.

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. "Excuse me-" she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

"Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen," she said in a grackle squawk, "has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous."

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen-upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.

The rest of Harrison's appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.

And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.

"If you see this boy," said the ballerina, "do not - I repeat, do not - try to reason with him."

There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake.

George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have - for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune. "My God-" said George, "that must be Harrison!"

The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head.

When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood - in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.

"I am the Emperor!" cried Harrison. "Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!" He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

"Even as I stand here" he bellowed, "crippled, hobbled, sickened - I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!"

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.

Harrison's scrap-iron handicaps crashed to the floor.

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.

He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.

"I shall now select my Empress!" he said, looking down on the cowering people. "Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!"

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all he removed her mask.

She was blindingly beautiful.

"Now-" said Harrison, taking her hand, "shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!" he commanded.

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too. "Play your best," he told them, "and I'll make you barons and dukes and earls."

The music began. It was normal at first-cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.

The music began again and was much improved.

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while-listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.

They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands on the girls tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.

They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.

It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling. They kissed it.

And then, neutraling gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

It was then that the Bergerons' television tube burned out.

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again. "You been crying" he said to Hazel.

"Yup," she said.

"What about?" he said.

"I forget," she said. "Something real sad on television."

"What was it?" he said.

"It's all kind of mixed up in my mind," said Hazel.

"Forget sad things," said George.

"I always do," said Hazel.

"That's my girl," said George. He winced. There was the sound of a rivetting gun in his head.

"Gee - I could tell that one was a doozy," said Hazel.

"You can say that again," said George.

"Gee-" said Hazel, "I could tell that one was a doozy."

"Harrison Bergeron" is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Video compilation: Dogs That Forgot How To Fetch

These are a hoot:


Dogs vs physics: compilation videos of dogs trying to get big sticks through doors and dogs confused by glass tables.

via Tastefully Offensive

Monday links

Yesterday was the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Here's the History Channel on the battle, and here's Monty Python's reenactment.

Thousands of Einstein Documents Are Now a Click Away.

A real estate broker in The Netherlands installed a wooden roller coaster throughout the seller's home to take prospective buyers through.

How Scotch Tape Was Invented.

Video: How Bourbon is Made.

1964 Auditions for The Addams Family. Related, The Addams Family’s Black and White Living Room Was Actually Pink.

Chew on This: What Gum Has Cost Society in Its 5,000-Year History.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include British Christmas how-tos, flying cars, and the art and science of dried single-malt Scotch.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Monty Python's Reenactment of the Battle of Pearl Harbor

Specializing in Historical Drama, the women of the Batley Townswomens' Guild aren't afraid to get their hands dirty when it comes to promoting their craft.

The script:

Canning: (Graham Chapman) The stuff of history is indeed woven in the woof. Pearl Harbour. There are pages in history's book which are written on the grand scale. Events so momentous that they dwarf man and time alike. And such is the Battle of Pearl Harbour, re-enacted for us now by the women of Barley Townswomen's Guild.

(Cut to a muddy corner of a field. Miss Rita Fairbanks stands talking straight to camera. Behind her lurk five more pepperpots.)

Canning: (voice over) Miss Rita Fairbanks - you organized this reconstruction of the Battle of Pearl Harbour - why?

Rita: (Eric Idle) Well we've always been extremely interested in modern drama ... we were of course the first Townswomen's Guild to perform 'Camp On Blood Island', and last year we did our extremely popular re-enactment of 'Nazi War Atrocities'. So this year we thought we would like to do something in a lighter vein...

Canning: So you chose the Battle of Pearl Harbour?

Rita: Yes, that's right, we did.

Canning: Well I can see you're all ready to go. So I'll just wish you good luck in your latest venture.

Rita: Thank you very much, young man.

(She retreats, and joins the other ladies who meanwhile separate into two opposing sides facing each other.)

Canning: (reverential voice over) Ladies and gentlemen, the World of History is proud to present the premiere of the Batley Townswomen's Guild's re-enactment of 'The Battle of Pearl Harbour'.

(A whistle blows and the two sides set about each other with handbags etc., speeded up 50% just to give it a bit of edge. Cut to Canning in studio.)

Canning: The Battle of Pearl Harbour. 

Kind of related, in the sense that it's a British leader doing Monty Python and the Brits were also in WWII, here's the story of Monty Python's 'Dead Parrot Sketch', with bonus Maggie Thatcher (wiki) saying the lines:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Video: How Bourbon is Made

I've always found the history of various alcoholic drinks to be kind of fascinating, largely because it's usually all about limitations imposed by various authorities - left to your own devises, you could make various alcoholic drinks out of anything.

Gear Patrol visited 12 whiskey distilleries (including Buffalo Trace, Maker's Mark, and Jim Beam) to find out how bourbon is made. 

Physicists create a new kind of pasta, and it explains why your Christmas lights are tangled

It’s time to say hello to “anelloni” – a new kind of pasta created by two physicists from the University of Warwick in the UK. Consisting of giant loops, it’s the brainchild of Davide Michieletto and Matthew Turner, who invented the pasta in an attempt to demonstrate the complicated shapes that ring-shaped polymer molecules can adopt.
Here's a seasonal example of tangling
With its name derived from anello – the Italian word for “ring” – the new pasta is exclusively unveiled in an article that Michieletto and Turner have written in the December 2014 issue of Physics World magazine, which also contains their secret recipe for making it.
The two researchers created the large loops of pasta using just two eggs and 200 g of plain flour. When cooked and thrown together in a bowl, the pasta rings get hugely tangled up, in much the same way that real ring-shaped polymers become massively intertwined with each other.
Read more here, and/or watch the video:

More here on the physics of string-tangling:

Plus this: Physicists finally explain why your earphones are always tangled.

via David Thompson

Read this at Weekly Standard: The Benghazi Report

The Benghazi Report: Long and a bit inside-baseball, but describes why Mike Roger's go-it-alone "intel panel" report that the mass media is characterizing as definitive is seriously flawed.
The report seeks to bring an end to the committee’s work on Benghazi, but it’s clear that in this, too, it fails. A spokesman for Devin Nunes says the incoming chairman “is looking forward to cooperating with Representative Gowdy’s select committee, which will be the definitive report on the events surrounding the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi.” 
Defenders of the Obama administration have suggested that the intelligence committee’s report makes the work of the select committee unnecessary, but a senior Republican leadership aide, reached on the day the intelligence committee’s report was released, made the opposite argument. 
He said: “Rogers proved today why we needed a special committee.”
Related: The Motives Behind The November Rogers/Ruppersberger “House Intelligence Panel” Report On Benghazi Part 1 and Part 2.

Want to know everything there is to know about Benghazi? Here’s The Full Benghazi Brief from Conservative Treehouse.

Upcoming Simpsons opening sequence: The Couch Gag Before Christmas

The opening sequence for this Sunday's Simpsons episode, including the “obligatory Frozen reference”. 

Heh - Bart's blackboard writing: Reindeer meat does not taste like chicken. You may have to watch it a couple of times to catch everything.


Couch gags from two crossovers this season: one with Futurama, the other with Family Guy.

Compilation Of Every Video Game From The Simpsons

Funny signs from The Simpsons (and links to lots more).

Friday links

9 unusual and unique flying cars.

Tomorrow (December 6) is the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra, aka Santa Claus.

Is it art or is it science? Vanishing Spirits – The Dried Remains of Single Malt Scotch

More science: Different Traits of Early Birds Versus Those of Night Owls.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include modifying baseball bats into a zombie-killing weapon, a working Lego particle accelerator, and the science behind (pun intended) why dogs sniff other dogs' butts. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

DNA Evidence Casts Doubt on Richard III's Claim to the Throne

Per CNN: Richard III was blue-eyed, blond, but should he have been king? DNA puzzle:

DNA reveals a break in the royal lineage. According to the BBC, this could cast doubt on the Tudor line or Richard III’s claim to the throne.

The BBC and Nature Communications delve deep into all the nitty-gritty biological reasons for this, but to summarize quickly: Scientists were able to match the maternal side of Richard III’s DNA (the X chromosome) to two living relatives of Richard’s eldest sister, Anne of York. Both Michael Ibsen and Wendy Dulig, 14th cousins and descendants of the House of York, have the same extremely rare genetic lineage as the skeleton found in the parking lot. 

The male side (the Y chromosome) is where things get tricky. 

The skeleton’s DNA does not match the Y chromosomes of living heirs of the fifth Duke of Beaufort, a descendent of John of Gaunt (all the aforementioned men are descendants of Edward III—you can find a helpful family tree here). The Tudors also descend from John of Gaunt. The lack of Y chromosome consistency between the DNA in the skeleton and of the Duke of Beaufort’s heirs means that, somewhere down the line between Edward III and Richard III, there was a “false paternity event”—aka, an act infidelity. If this event happened along either the Richard III or Henry Tudor (later known as Henry VII) branches of Edward III’s family tree, their lineage’s claims to the throne could be false.

Lots more at CNN, BBC, via Mental Floss.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

6 way to modify your baseball bat into a zombie-killing weapon: real versions and an infographic

From the Art of Manliness blog (they also have a book by the same name) comes this excellent infographic on ways to modify baseball bats into zombie-killing weapons. It's based on a post (see below the onfo graphic) by a guy who actually made them:
Survival expert Creek Stewart of Willow Haven Outdoor decided to take a break from teaching his usual, realistic survival skills to have some fun. He let his imagination run wild and conjured up 6 ways to mod an ordinary baseball bat into the ultimate zombie slaying weapons. Creek admits that the results are absolutely ridiculous. They are also absolutely awesome. And we decided it would be equally awesome to have Ted turn them into an illustrated comic book tutorial for us. Hope you enjoy. And when the zombies attack, you’ll be ready to turn your Louisville Slugger into a walking dead decimator. Batter up!
Click here to embiggen
The infographic is based on the real bat mods from the web site Willow Haven Outdoor - the are a few here but you'll find more (and additional pictures) there.

I really wanted to make a version of the rusty spiked bat that everyone thinks of when they allow themselves to wonder about such things. However, I wanted it to be different than anything I’d ever seen before. What better way to make it different than to mount a machete to the end? So that’s what I did. A 12″ machete blade is bolted right into the end of the bat. But that’s not it. Just in case the machete blade doesn’t do the trick, eight massive steel spikes shroud the base for some extra collateral damage. I topped it off with a cobra weave wrist lanyard because I don’t want an aggressive zombie running off with my bat just in case it gets stuck. Batter up!

I call this one ‘Tina for short. Concertina wire, or popularly called razor wire, is some nasty stuff. It’s like barbed wire except instead of barbs it’s lined with razors. Typically reserved for warfare and to line the perimeter of maximum security prisons, I figured a nice nest of this stuff fence stapled around a baseball bat would be a pretty formidable zombie face smasher. Geez, I cut my hands up wearing leather welding gloves just wrapping this ‘death wire’ around the bat. I understand first hand why this stuff has such a bad reputation. I remember watching prison break movies thinking, “I bet I could crawl over that razor wire.” Well let me tell you, there ain’t no freakin’ way you’re crawling over this stuff. Concertina wire was birthed in warfare and it gives off that eerie feeling when you look at and handle it. If plants grow in hell I imagine they look like this stuff. “Hey, zombie, I want you to meet someone. Her name’s ‘Tina.”

Oooouch! With it’s roots in the Middle Ages, the Flail is absolutely barbaric. I cut the last 6″ off a normal bat, connected it to a steel chain and then studded it with archery field target points. 

This thing hurts just holding it in your hand. These target points actually screw into studs that I mounted into the wood. You could theoretically replace all of these field points with razor broad-heads if you wanted a spiked razor bat but the idea is to be able to replace damaged spikes ‘on-the-fly’ with a pocket full of extra points. The spiral wrap paracord handle gives plenty of grip when the G’s from spinning try to rip it out of your hand. The amount of momentum generated with just a couple rotations of the 5 pound spiked head is terrifying. I think this weapon could actually elicit FEAR in ZOMBIES. That’s how scary this thing is once it gets-a-spinnin’. Home Run every time – guaranteed!

Previous manly posts:

How To Gird Up Your Loins (An Illustrated Guide).

The Tactical Order of Dressing: An Illustrated Guide (as taught to military and emergency personnel).

Because it's important to always be battle-ready: How to Poop Like a Samurai.

The manliness test - how manly are you? I took it, and I'm a mewling kitten. But I'm an old, overweight female, so presumably you'll do better.

The Boy Scouts of America: Then and Now — A Comparison of the 1911 and Modern Handbooks and Merit Badges.

Science video: Why Do Dogs Smell Each Other's Butts?

C'mon you know you've always wondered, and I'll bet your kids have asked (or will ask) at some point, so now you'll be prepared:

Bonus: Dog Butt Looks Like Jesus Christ In A Robe:

Princess Rap Battles: Galadriel vs. Leia, Snow White vs. Elsa

Warning - PG-13 language.

Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

The same people previously produced a Snow White vs. Elsa rap battle, although this one contains an F-bomb. I wish they wouldn't do that because it means lots of little girls (including my granddaughters) won't get to see it:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Branco cartoon - Obama finds someone he can negotiate with

From cartoonist A.F. Branco at

What Goes on in Our Stomachs After Eating Too Much

The science of eating, and overeating:

Best quote ever?

Embedded image permalink

via @_youhadonejob

Monday links

On November 24, 1793—or what then became known as Frimaire 4, II, the revolutionary French government officially replaced the Gregorian calendar, introducing one of thirty days each, comprised of three ten-day weeks (each day lasted ten hours, or one thousand minutes, or ten thousand seconds). It was abolished by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806.

For those of us born between the 22nd and 28th of November and have always wondered, here's how it works: Thanksgiving Birthday Pattern.

Things you can get away with if you don't have to worry about an HOA.

Unicorns Don't Really Dig Virgin Women, and Other Lessons From Medieval Bestiaries Debunked.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include the Star Lord and Ronan dance-off, what to take when you time travel, the reason for thumbs, and a gallery of things you don't see every day.