Monday, February 27, 2006

Adrian Mole and Karl Pilkington

I've been re-reading a very entertaining book over the last couple of days: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4. It's a fictional diary kept by an English teenager, and it's hilarious. If you're in the mood for a quick, light, entertaining read, I highly recommend it and its sequels.

I believe the Adrian Mole books are quite well-known in Britain, though I don't know too many people here who've read them. Fans of the Ricky Gervais podcast may be interested to know that Karl Pilkington thought the diaries of Anne Frank were "an Adrian Mole sort of thing." I've also seen the character of Karl compared to Adrian Mole, though I don't think they're really similar. Adrian is much more of a go-getter than Karl.

Listening to the podcast (which includes Stephen Merchant reading excerpts from the diary of Karl Pilkington) has affected my reading of the book. As I read the Adrian Mole book, I hear all the lines as read by Stephen Merchant, which makes them even funnier.

Out There TV

Thanks to superelectric, I have just discovered an awesome TV show: Out There TV. If you enjoy my posts about reptilian shapeshifters and contrails, this is the show for you. In the first 15 minutes of the show I watched, they mentioned tons of standard conspiracy stuff: aliens at Roswell, Bohemian Grove (a place where world leaders gather for strange rituals and planning the New World Order), the possible fakeness of the moon landing, a recent UFO sighting, David Icke (reptilian shapeshifter theorist), and evidence that the September 11th attacks were orchestrated by the U.S. government. They also had some more timely information, such as a theory that controversy in the Muslim world over the Danish political cartoons was orchestrated by the U.S. to promote the "clash of civilizations" that it needs so the New World Order can take over the world. It's must-see TV.

The show also addresses some pretty mainstream stuff--secret NSA wiretaps, surveillance cameras and facial-recognition software in public places, and the administration's suckering of the American people into an unnecessary war with Iran. One thing I find interesting: conspiracy theory types are generally thought of as extremely right wing, due to their distrust of the federal government (and, sometimes, anti-semitism.) But they have a lot of overlap with today's liberals in their views of war, privacy, and civil liberties. And man, do they hate Bush. The two groups should team up somehow.

You can find out where to watch it here. Most of my readers can see it on channel 51 (not cable). Enjoy!

Thursday, February 16, 2006


You know what's the greatest plot device ever? The body switch. Two characters, typically with very different personalities, switch bodies. Hilarity ensues. I defy you to watch a movie or TV episode involving a body switch and not be mesmerized.

At the moment, I'm watching an old episode of Angel. Angel has, against his will, switched bodies with some old guy who doesn't know Angel is a vampire. It's awesome. The old-guy-as-Angel is having totally inappropriate interactions with Angel's friends and acquaintances--hilarious! And there is drama too--what if the old-guy-as-Angel goes out in the sun, and Angel dies? How will Angel get his body back? I love it.

While TV can do a good body switch story, the best examples are in film. Here are my top five:

1. Freaky Friday (Jodie Foster version)
2. Vice Versa (starring Fred Savage and the brilliant Judge Reinhold)
3. Freaky Friday (Lindsey Lohan version)
4. Big (not quite a "switching" movie, but the same idea)
5. Like Father, Like Son (starting Kirk Cameron)

Other suggestions are welcome.

Wasted effort

I went to my apartment's gym yesterday. I biked for miles but went nowhere. My fellow gym-goer repeatedly picked up heavy objects, only to put them down again. At all hours of the day, all across the country, millions of people are doing this. I got to thinking about what a ridiculous waste this useless expense of energy is. We need to do something about it.

Instead of running on a treadmill for an hour, why not run to work? Or run errands for people who don't have cars? If you want to pick up heavy stuff, why not pick up some boxes or rocks or something that someone needs moved?

Even if this would be too difficult to organize, it seems like we should at least hook up the nation's treadmills and elliptical machines to some sort of generator. Am I wrong?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Immortality for $31, shipping included

Today's topic: Alex Chiu, inventor and general crazy person.

Alex Chiu is most well-known as the inventor of "Eternal Life Rings" ($31), devices which grant the wearer immortality and cure a variety of diseases. The devices work using magnets to alter your circulation somehow. He has gained a great deal of notoriety from these inventions. Interestingly, in addition to selling the rings, he provides instructions on how to make them yourself.

But the immortality rings are not all there is to Alex Chiu. There's really no way to organize a description of this guy, so I merely provide you with a sampling:

On religion: He believes completely in the Jewish religion but is not a Jew. He thinks the Bible was a big astrology chart, and he's a big fan of finding Bible codes. He has proven, using stock charts, that God is a mathematical formula.

On biology: Animals are living magnets. Once you get this, biology and evolution are easy to understand--he explains them through animated GIF's--"A must study for all scientists." Also, if you want to make your own cells, he provides instructions (it involves boiling a few vegetables and leaving them on the stove for three days.)

On the future: In the future, food will be free (like air) because it will be farmed by robots in skyscrapers. We won't have an illegal drug problem because everyone will use debit cards instead of cash and no one will dare buy drugs with a debit card.

Miscellany: He hates Confucius. He loves Alicia Silverstone. He loves his cat and would choose him over Hilary Duff. He thinks anyone from Taiwan who doesn't consider himself Chinese doesn't deserve to be immortal.

I encourage all of you to browse Alex Chiu's extensive website. Also, here's an interview with him from slashdot.


Hoosiers of the St. Louis sort

To most Americans, the word hoosier means "person from Indiana." Indianans proudly call themselves hoosiers. In my native St. Louis, however, the meaning of the term is rather different: it's a very insulting term meaning, basically, "hick" or "redneck." Oddly, the hoosier-as-hick usage seems to be totally specific to the St. Louis area.

The Wikipedia article on "hoosier" specifically mentions the strange St. Louis usage: "In the St. Louis area of Missouri and Illinois, a hoosier may be someone who is lower-class and white (like white trash and redneck)." The Urban Dictionary lists 20 definitions of hoosier, 10 of which focus on and explicitly mention St. Louis. [One reader gives an example of how to use it: "I got cut off on Highway 40 this morning by some fucking Hoosier driving a Hemi covered in American flags and "W" 2004 stickers."] In a long essay exploring the origins of the term hoosier, Jeffrey Graf of the University of Indiana devotes two paragraphs to the St. Louis usage.

So what is a "hoosier"? And why do St. Louisans use it in a way that no one else does? Well, no one really knows. Some think that it originally meant country bumpkin and that the negative usage faded almost everywhere but St. Louis. Others think it was originally a greeting--"who's there?"--that got slurred over time. The links above list other theories.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Cat challenge

Here's a little challenge of your understanding of the piebald spotting gene, elementary genetics, and (most important) ability to search for cute animal pictures on the internet.

Suppose the two cats below mate. Think about what the resulting kitten would look like. Find the cutest kitten you can that could result from this mating, post it (or a link to it) in the comments section, and explain its genetics. I want to see some cuteness, people.


Lessons in Cat Genetics, Part II: White paws and bellies

Many cats have color on their backs and heads but have white paws and a white belly. However, you almost never have a cat that is white everywhere but colored in the paws and belly. What's going on?

The answer can be found in the piebald spotting gene, abbreviated "S." During early kitten development, all of the pigment producing cells (melanocytes) are located close to the animal's spine. During development, those cells migrate from the spine area down toward the cat's sides, belly, legs, and paws. That process is controlled by the "S" gene.

Some lucky cats have two "good" copies of the S gene--SS. In those lucky cats, the pigment cell migration process works perfectly. The cells get all the way to the cat's feet. Lucy is an example:

Other cats have two "bad" copies of the S gene--ss. These cats still have pigment cells, but those cells don't migrate very far. So you get a cat that is more than 50% white, like this one:

Other cats have one "good" copy and one "bad" copy--Ss. In these cats, the pigment cells can get pretty far, but not all the way. That's how you end up with the very cute tuxedo cat:

The piebald gene illustrates something interesting about genetics: the phenomenon of incomplete dominance. Usually, if you have two alleles, one of them will be dominant. Suppose we're talking about human eye color. "B" is associated with brown eyes, and "b" is associated with blue eyes. Since B is dominant to b, an individual with one copy of each (Bb) will have brown eyes.

In piebald, however, there is really no dominant allele: SS, Ss, and ss all look totally different. We call that "incomplete dominance."