Thursday, April 30, 2009

When Claude Rains It Pours

Over at Movie Mis-Treatments, Claude Rains is shocked, shocked, to discover a rogue planet menacing Earth in Battle of the Worlds.
1961’s Italian production Battle of the Worlds was filmed in Confuse-O-Vision®. The Confuse-O-Vision™ process involves randomly cutting shots of spaceships, pilots, Mars bases, and, inexplicably, the Moon in such a way as to make completely incomprehensible what is actually happening on screen.

Battle of the Worlds stars Claude Rains, and one gets the sense that he wishes he were the invisible man at various points. The Italian title, Il pianeta degli uomini spenti, I believe translates as “scenery served with diced tomatoes and fresh basil in a pesto sauce” which is apt, since Claude Rains spends most of the movie chewing the scenery rather voraciously.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Connect 4

I am beavering way on a special WhatTheyThink report on e-books and e-publishing, which is diverting me into downloading and playing with various e-book readers. eReader has a pretty good e-book reader for the iPhone, and Fictionwise is a pretty good e-book store. (Both eReader and Fictionwise have recently been acquired by Barnes & Noble.)

One section I was just working on--advantages and disadvantages of e-books (and e-periodicals) compared to printed books (and periodicals)--involves the idea of hyperlinking. From the (first draft) of this report:
It is worth mentioning that the great history of science and technology writer and presenter James Burke (of Connections fame) has written several books that have attempted to add hyperlinks to print. Introduced in his 1996 book The Pinball Effect, the way this worked was that a hyperlinked reference in the text was identified with a superscripted number, and the margin contained references to other superscripted numbers and their pages numbers. It was an intriguing idea, but kloodgy when compared to what a electronic version could accomplish.
I have all (well, almost all, I soon discovered) of Burke's books, and thought it would be interesting to see if any of them are available as e-books--and, if so, do they take advantage of the hyperlinking ability of the technology to further Burke's vision of creating a book comprising an interconnected network of links?

Alas, no.

First of all, what is very frustrating is that it is difficult to search for James Burke without getting all the hits for James Lee Burke.

The only title by the proper Burke is a hitherto unknown to me book from 2007 called American Connections, which attempts to link together signers of the Declaration of Independence. Uh, okay. Anyway, I bought the e-book from Amazon for my Kindle for iPhone app. In the introduction, obviously converted verbatim from the print edition, Burke laments,
In a medium other than print, I might have been able to offer each reader (user?) the means to make his own connections so as to become part of the narrative. Perhaps at some point in the future this book will take that form and you’ll be able to make the connections yourself.
Given that the table of contents is actually hyperlinked to the respective chapters (fairly de rigueur in e-books), it might have been fairly easy to go into the e-book and add these connections and links. At any rate, if there is one author crying out for this kind of elaborate proof-of-concept e-book experimentation, it is Burke. Jim--call me.

Still, the book didn't get very good reader reviews, even from Burke fans. I have not read it in its entirety yet, so I can't say.

My Name is URL

Via mi hemano, an alternative to those URL-shorteners like TinyURL. This one is actually a URL lengthener called Dickens URL, which takes a URL and appends a random Dickens quote.

So I took my home site,, plugged it into Dickens URL, and now my longer, literary URL is;_ take_everything_on_evidence._ There's_no_better_rule.

It is based on the quote "Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule," which Mr. Jaggers said to Pip in Chapter 40 of Great Expectations. I rather like that quote.

It probably wouldn't be suitable for Twitter, but then what would?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Yo Da Man

Sez the BBC:
About 390,000 people listed their religion as Jedi in the 2001 Census for England and Wales. In Scotland the figure was a reported 14,000.
But then:
Eight police officers serving with Scotland's largest force listed their official religion as Jedi in voluntary diversity forms, it has emerged.

Pigs on the Wing

Welcome to the return of the 1970s! I seem to recall getting a swine flu vaccination when I was in grammar school in 1976, the last time health officials thought there was going to be a pandemic (it didn't happen, but I think it pays to be prepared). Anyway, it confers no protection against the current strain, since "swine flu" can refer to any of a large number of viruses that typically infect swine and can occasionally be transmitted to humans. (By the way, swine flu cannot be contracted through eating pork, much to Homer Simpson's delight, methinks.)

LiveScience is running a four-part series this week on the myths and realities of the swine flu. Shorter version: try to avoid live pigs, which I think is just generally good advice anyway. There is no vaccine yet, and the CDC has identified only 20 cases in the U.S., none of which have proved fatal (Mexico has had far more cases, and fatal ones, and fatal ones among young, otherwise healthy people, for reasons no one quite understands). Swine flu is probably not worth freaking out over, but at the same time taking sensible precautions can keep it from becoming a serious, freak-outable issue. The CDC recommends some pretty common-sense preventive measures:
There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
The CDC's Q&A page is here. New Scientist has more. Scientific American has yet more.

Now, let's hope disco doesn't come back, which would be far worse.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Birthday Boy

Happy 445th birthday to William Shakeaspeare!
With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come
And let my liver rather heat with wine,
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.

-- Merchant of Venice, I.i

Friday, April 17, 2009

It Might Have Been Still Continuing

If it's Friday, that must mean it's time for a new chapter of It Might Have Been over at

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Prompt Attention

Every issue, Writer's Digest magazine has a little short short story contest in which they provide a prompt and you are supposed to write a 750-word (no more) story based on it. I usually try to participate, just for fun (haven't won one yet, but hope springs eternal), and you may recall that I do usually post them here, although sometimes I forget.

Right before I left for the long weekend last Friday, the latest issue arrived, and the contest prompt was "A police detective is assigned to a case involving a burglary at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop."

So I mulled that over on the drive to Boston (long road trips are great for plotting out stories and other projects; most of the first half of It Might Have Been was "written" between Saratoga and Boston) and it kind of gelled Saturday night. First thing Sunday morning, I was able to write it down. A bit silly, but fun.

Unfortunately, when I got back home yesterday, I reread the prompt and discovered that it actually said: "A police detective is assigned to a case involving arson at several Krispy Kreme doughnut shops." Oops. Actually, that might work out better; I just need to alter a few things.

The Leavening

Detective Brad Gilroy got out of the car in front of the Krispy Kreme and strode over to where the suspect was being held.

“Lieutenant,” he said with a tone of slight confusion, “did I hear you correctly?”

“Yes, sir,” said Lieutenant Jordan. “Employees say this individual”—he gestured to a handcuffed suspect being held by two uniformed officers—“charged in, brandished a weapon, and demanded every doughnut they had.”

“A weapon?”

“Yes, sir, this.” He handed Gilroy a plastic bag inside which was a metallic blade-like object. “It’s a frosting knife.”

Gilroy expressionlessly looked at the suspect. As if on cue, he began to struggle.

“I must get back! You have to believe me! All of humanity hangs in the balance!”

Gilroy sighed knowingly. “Great, one of these. What did you want with the doughnuts?”

“I must get them back! Quickly”

“Back where?”

“To—” He stopped abruptly.

Gilroy knew the drill. “Let me guess, you’re from the future.”

The suspect cautiously nodded.



Gilroy sighed again. “All right. Let’s have it from the top.”

The suspect looked around warily, then began. “I am from the year 2207.” He glanced across the parking lot to what looked like a large metal mixing bowl, easily four feet across and three feet deep. “You see, we are in the middle of a civil war.”

The suspect explained. In the late 21st century, after decades of food scares, and the contamination and recall of many “healthy” foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, and even meat, consumption of junk food skyrocketed. Peoples’ entire diets revolved around M&Ms, cookies, cakes, and other snack items. The Twinkie rose to the top of the food pyramid. By the beginning of the 22nd century, obesity had become epidemic and public health was in crisis. The government was unable to cope effectively (not surprisingly), and society was left with a power vacuum that was exploited by several ambitious and ruthless dieticians and nutritionists. They seized control—which was easy enough given their superior physical condition—and declared martial law (some called it “marshmallow law”), banning all foodstuffs that were not deemed “healthy.” At first, violators were punished via a stern lecture, but, inevitably, power corrupted, and before long the possession of any dessert item was punishable by death. Even possession of a dessert cookbook was grounds for imprisonment.

“My own grandmother,” said the suspect, “was caught with a bootlegged copy of ‘Completely Cookies’ and was sentenced to 10 years in the ‘food pyramid,’” a massive stone structure that served as a maximum security prison.

Any revolution will eventually spawn a backlash, and soon one began in the last surviving Dunkin Donuts franchise. “So many of them were built in the 20th and 21st centuries that it was statistically certain that at least one would survive the Healthy Age.” One did, and a “doughnut underground” was formed. Within a decade, it had built itself into a force powerful enough to overthrow the Nutritionists. “The doughnut was our symbol, our rallying cry, our weapon.” The world indeed ran on Dunkin.

Among some revolutionaries, legends had been passed down the generations about another type of doughnut, the fabled Krispy Kreme, and the countryside was scoured for evidence. This was about the time that time travel was discovered. “We sent scouts back in time and they brought forward examples of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.” Soon, there was a rift, and two factions emerged—the Dunkinians and the Krispyites—each vying for control. The result was violent civil war. “It became impossible to tell the blood from the jelly.” Those with access to the time portals went back in time to acquire more doughnuts to fortify their arsenals. “As Krispyites, we don’t have the luxury of having a manufacturing infrastructure the way the Dunkinians do.”

“So you see,” concluded the suspect, “these doughnuts are desperately needed in the future.”

Gilroy stared at him for several moments. There was no sound but dry leaves blowing softly across the parking lot, and the occasional crackle of a police radio. “Get him outta here!” Gilroy finally exclaimed.

As the suspect was being led away, he broke free and dashed across the parking lot. “Get him!” yelled Gilroy.

The suspect jumped inside the metal bowl before the police could catch him. He flipped a switch and there was a bright flash. The bowl and the suspect vanished. Everyone stopped and stared, mouths agape.

The lieutenant looked at Gilroy. “Sir?”

Gilroy looked at his watch. “I’m going out for a salad.”

Home Furnishings from the Quincy Collection

Via Boing Boing. I was wondering how to redo the bathroom. This bloodstained bathmat and matching shower curtain would be perfect when the CSI folks come over. They could go with the line of chalk outline beach towels I saw a few years ago.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Now, I confess, the first thing I ask myself when I see a Hummer on the road is, "What deep-seated psychological torment must be required to want to drive one of those things?" But then at the other end of the spectrum, after seeing the prototype of a joint venture between Segway and GM, I can't help but wonder, "Who with any sense of shame would want to be seen in something like this":
Project PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility), a compact, battery-operated two-wheeler for two that it's developing with Segway, Inc., maker of the upright electric lawn mower–like vehicle that debuted in 2002.

PUMA, which exists only in prototype, resembles a golf cart cut in half: it's a two-seater that stands upright thanks to dynamic stabilization, which uses an array of angular rate sensors and accelerometers to determine the orientation and motion of the vehicle's platform.
But then, probably the same people who don't mind being seen on a Segway. Granted, I'm all in favor of vehicles that run on alternatives to petroleum, but...come on. By the way, it also looks like a death trap, especially given that it
can travel at speeds up to 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour), with a range up to 35 miles (56 kilometers) between recharges
This is just asking for trouble, knowing how everyone around this thing would be driving. I mean, one ditzoid yakking or texting while driving an SUV and game over.

On another matter, I guess I'm still bitter that the Segway has forever altered the way a lot of people think the actual word segue is spelled.

What Can Brown Do for You?

Brown fat, that is:
For more than 30 years, scientists have been intrigued by brown fat, a cell that acts like a furnace, consuming calories and generating heat.
papers, appearing Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, indicate that nearly every adult has little blobs of brown fat that can burn huge numbers of calories when activated by the cold, as when sitting in a chilly room that is between 61 and 66 degrees.
The fat really is brown, researchers say, because it is filled with mitochondria, the tiny energy factories of cells. Mitochondria contain iron, giving the tissue a reddish brown color.

The hope is that scientists may find safe ways to turn on peoples’ brown fat, allowing them to lose weight by burning more calories. But researchers caution that while mice lose weight if they activate brown fat, it is not clear that people would shed pounds — they might unwittingly eat more, for example. The data on global patterns of obesity are not good enough to say whether living in a cold climate makes people thinner.
My non-scientific observation, living in the frozen Northeast, is that it does not.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

What's Your Sign--Really

There is no factual basis to astrology, of course, but now a story over at LiveScience shows that there is even less reason to believe our astrological forecast: our "sign" may not be what we think it is.
Zodiac signs were originally determined by which constellation the Sun was "in" on the day you were born.

Early astronomers observed the Sun traveling through the signs of the Zodiac in the course of one year, spending about a month in each. Thus, they calculated that each constellation extends 30 degrees across the ecliptic.
But this was more than 2,200 years ago.
Unbeknownst to the ancient astrologers, the Earth continually wobbles around its axis in a 25,800-year cycle. This wobble—called precession—is caused by the gravitational attraction of the Moon on Earth's equatorial bulge.

Over the past two-and-a-half millennia, this wobble has caused the intersection point between the celestial equator and the ecliptic to move west along the ecliptic by 36 degrees, or almost exactly one-tenth of the way around. This means that the signs have slipped one-tenth—or almost one whole month—of the way around the sky to the west, relative to the stars beyond.

For instance, those born between March 21 and April 19 consider themselves to be Aries. Today, the Sun is no longer within the constellation of Aries during much of that period. From March 11 to April 18, the Sun is actually in the constellation of Pisces!
So if the predetermined characteristics of your sign never seemed to apply to you, now you know why. Or, more likely, it could be because there is no reason to think that the positions of stars millions or billions of light-years away should have any bearing on your psychological make up.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Wise Madonna of the Flies

All right, the last one (or, if you're reading this blog upside-down, first up) is a cool find: Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians on David Letterman in 1989--I remember this, and thought I was in an alternate universe when I heard (somehow, there was no Internet then) that he was going to be on.

I Feel Like a Three-Legged Chinchilla

Guzzling Marshmallows

Let's see if we can spot the over-35s out there. How many of you remember this one?

The Devil's Fishbowl

Robyn Hitchcock live acoustic in 2007 with Sean Nelson of Harvey Danger on backing vocals.

It Might Be Up to Chapter 6

And, of course, last Friday, the latest installment of It Might Have Been was posted over at

One Nation Underground

Over at Movie Mis-Treatments, the 1951 snoozefest Unknown World takes us 2,500 miles below the Earth surface, for some reason.
The word “bore” can mean either “to pierce with a turning or twisting movement of a tool” or “to cause to feel boredom.” In the case of Unknown World, both senses are appropriate, as a team of deluded scientists spends 74 agonizing minutes in a large, motorized drill burrowing into the Earth and getting on each other’s nerves. In fact, it often seems like an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground. “I’m a sick man...a mean man. There’s nothing attractive about me. I think there’s something wrong with my liver.


Lest it seem like blogs are solely a place to complain about things (see below) I should in all fairness use this space to at the same time praise one particular company (well, technically two).

Back in December 2003, I bought a new treadmill to replace one that, purchased in 1998, gave up the ghost. An exercise equipment store in the Clifton Park Mall was having a sale, so I picked up a Keys Fitness Milestone treadmill. And it's great (note present tense); my only beef was that the instruction manual was obviously automatically translated from its native language by Google and then proofread by a vision-impaired raccoon. (In fact, when I sent in the warranty card, they had a space for comments and I literally wrote "proofread your manual!") Still, that's fairly picayune stuff, and it turned out to be a good machine.

Flash forward 5+ years, and that's 5+ years of fairly rigorous use (about 45-60 minutes every day, once in a while skipping a day, admittedly). A few weeks ago, I was in the middle of a routine and an error message flashed on the control panel just as the unit shut down. Now, let me tell you, when a treadmill abruptly stops while you are running full speed, you develop a healthy respect for the laws of physics.

The instruction manual was of no help (big shock) so I went to the Keys Fitness Web site, where they have a "Contact Support" page, and described my problem--and, hey, they let me use more than 240 characters, so I could actually describe the problem fully. (Take note, Sony.) Less than a day later, I got a note back from a Robin Scott (not the Robin Scott who, under the moniker M, recorded the 1979 hit "Pop Muzik"--or at least I don't think) at a company called Maverick Service and Assembly. Turns out that Keys Fitness has filed for bankruptcy--I hope they proofread their court papers--and Maverick took over their customer support. So I was told that I needed to call them. Which I did.

I called Mr. Scott (no, not Montgomery Scott and, no, he did not talk about, pop muzik, talk about, pop muzik...) and we cracked open the motor cover and went through some things. I learned an awful lot about the inner workings of a treadmill. Although the error code I got could refer to any of a variety of related things, he seemed to think that it had something to do with a defective speed controller. This is a small, plastic tuning-fork-shaped structure that attaches to the motor. Connected to the motor is a fan, and around the base of the fan is a set of teeth that pass through the two prongs of the controller. Sensors in the controller count how many teeth pass per unit of time and that's how it calculates the speed. I never knew that. If the controller stops working, the unit gets confused and shuts down in a panic. Kind of like having any kind of contact with Sony. Anyway, he ordered me a new speed controller. (I also needed to replace the walking belt, which was getting a little frayed by this time.) He also told me to ensure that I use a spray lubricant on the walking belt at least every 30 days. I mentioned that the instruction manuel said not to, under any circumstances, use a lubricant on it, as it will dissolve the belt and the underlying board. Robin said, "I don't know why they print that. You shouldn't use WD-40 but instead a lubricant like NAPA 8300 that is safe for wood." Harrumph. I guess it was more like a destruction manual. No wonder they're bankrupt.

A few days later, everything arrived. Robin had sent detailed instructions (PDFs) of how to replace everything, which were actually not badly written, although there were a couple of steps that seem to have been written by someone in a Nyquil-induced haze or that kid from The Sixth Sense, as they apparently saw parts that weren't there. It did require a fair amount of contortion, and it would have helped to have fingers like those aliens in Close Encounters.

It was not easy to get the new controller on, and it took a few tries to get it seated properly. Once that was done, I started up the treadmill, and then it shut down with a different error message. Doh! So I called Robin back and he was flummoxed, since that error message referenced the same basic problem (who designs these things?). So we tried a few things, and I eventually ended up on a conference call with it seemed everyone else in the support department and I stumped all the experts. He said it may very well have been another defective speed controller, so he sent out a second one.

Overnight, I started mulling that over, and it didn't seem statistically likely. So the next day, I went back into the motor and took out the new controller and examined it in the light. I noticed that a small, sliver of plastic had somehow been shaved off the tip of one of the prongs, and was partially obscuring the thin groove where I suspected the sensor was located. So I pulled off this sliver, made sure the groove was clear, then reinstalled it. I started up the treadmill and success! It worked. Feeling lucky, I started my usual routine and had no problem--and, in the two weeks since, it has worked flawlessly. Knock wood.

So, a shout out to Maverick Service and Assembly and Robin Scott for exemplary customer service and to Keys Fitness for, despite all their woes--both financial and editorial--actually made a damn good treadmill that will hopefully keep--and keep me--running for 5+ more years.


In January 2008, for reasons passing understanding, I thought it would be a good idea to buy a new TV. I didn't really need one, the old one that I bought in 1997 worked fine, but, I figured, what the heck. A friend of mine had recently bought a widescreen LCD TV and it was faintly cool. So after poring through Consumer Reports, I took the plunge and picked up a Sony Bravia 46-inch LCD TV and it was not bad. Watching the NCAA finals last year in HDTV was pretty cool, although, since I refuse to pay more for cable than I absolutely have to (since I find 99% of all programming these days to be unwatchable), that was one of two channels I get in HD. Mostly I just used it to watch DVDs.

All a moot point, since a couple weeks ago the TV started acting up; everything on the left-hand side of the screen ghosted (including menus, so it was not some user setting that had to be adjusted), and would eventually collapse into a thin horizontal line, like the beginning of The Outer Limits. I did discover that it cleared up if I whacked the side of the TV, like Fred Flintstone or Ralph Kramden used to do. That probably wasn't a viable long-term solution, so I went to Sony's Moebius strip of a support site and, naturally, the FAQs were of no help beyond determining if the TV was plugged in or not or whather I had working retinas.

I used their e-mail support service to describe the problem (and they limit you to 240 characters--is Twitter really the best model for describing what can be complex technical support problems?) and five days later I got a response, which was only a link back to their general support site that I had already checked out and which, as it happens, is where you get the link to send them e-mail. A Moebius strip, indeed. (Funny; they had e-mailed me a customer support satisfaction survey even before they had responded to my actual issue. Needless to say, they got all 0s). However, their response also suggested calling a local service center, and they provdied some options. I looked them up and 2 out of 3 got very low user ratings, but one got good marks, so I called them--Electronics Specialist (just the one?) in Albany.

They came fairly promptly, gave a few preliminary suggestions (something about the "z-control board" or the "Heisenberg compensator" or the "warp drive" or whatever), and hauled it away to crack it open. After two weeks of tests, and swapping out boards, and consulting the I Ching, it was determined that the entire display panel is "bad" and needs to be replaced. The cost? No man can say! But, they did say, likely about as much as I paid for the TV. Bullshit. Entire books could be written about why that is not going to happen.

I guess I could put a poster on it and use it as static decoration. But in all likelhood I will probably try to sell it to someone who can fix it themselves. Maybe I'll call another ssrvice center, but actually Electronics Specialist seemed pretty on the ball. I don't have the time or the inclination to pursue this any further. Also, my new rule is: never buy anything ever unless it is absolutely necessary. And never buy anything from Sony again.

It's funny--Sony used to make decent products. The Trinitron I bought in 1997--and which has more mileage on it than my car--is still working like new (knock on wood). And it will continue to do so until the day it which case, well, books always work.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Must-See Non-TV

Around the World in 80 Telescopes
Live 24-hour webcast from astronomical observatories

Organised by ESO, the European Southern Observatory, from its HQ in Garching, Germany
Date: 3 April 2009, 09:00 UT (Universal Time/GMT) to 4 April 2009, 09:00 UT (Universal Time/GMT).

Duration: 24 hours

"Around the World in 80 Telescopes" is a unique live 24-hour webcast, following night and day around the globe to some of the most advanced observatories both on and off the planet. You can watch it right here on the 100HA website, and on the 100HA channel on

Rocket from the Crib

Hmm...and they say that sugar makes kids hyperactive*. From the Times Union:
Traces of a chemical used in rocket fuel were found in samples of powdered baby formula, and could exceed what's considered a safe dose for adults if mixed with water also contaminated with the ingredient, a government study has found.

*Actually, the sugar-causing-hyperactivity thing is a myth, not borne out by experimentation, and debunked here.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Here's another accidentally discovered iPhone feature that I never knew existed. For some reason, I was looking through my camera roll on the iPhone (I almost never use my camera phone) and I discovered a bunch of screen captures, and I had no idea how they got there.

So I did some digging, and learned that if you hold down the Home button, then press the Power/Sleep button, the iPhone takes a screen capture and adds it to the camera roll, where it can then be transferred to a proper computer.

Note that this only works in the iPhone 2.0 software.
Pretty cool. I don't know that I will ever need this, but it's good to know that it exists.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Baby Got Bacteria

I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again: you never hear of tainted M&M's or Oreo cookies being recalled:
It could take weeks before health officials know exactly which pistachio products may be tainted with salmonella, but they've already issued a sweeping warning to avoid eating the nuts or foods containing them.
The FDA learned about the problem March 24, when Kraft notified the agency that routine product testing had detected salmonella in roasted pistachios.
I love this:
Kraft and the Georgia Nut Co. recalled their Back to Nature Nantucket Blend trail mix the next day and expanded the recall to include any Planters and Back to Nature products that contain pistachios Tuesday. [emphasis added]
"Back to Nature." I guess we should remember that just because something is "natural" doesn't mean it's healthy. After all, salmonella bacteria are 100% natural. Think about it won't you? Thank you.

LiveScience today has the lowdown on salmonella (not an April Fool's joke):
Salmonella are a group of different strains of bacteria that can contaminate almost any food, causing diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. Scientists are still learning why the microbes are so problematic. One reason is that they have evolved tricks to get around the human immune system.

Infamous for clinging to cutting boards even after they've been washed, salmonella is now known also to lurk inside you, multiplying quietly, then striking only when it has built up a formidable and sickening force.

Scientists also just learned that salmonella find protection inside amoebas — which are ubiquitous on land and in water — perhaps one reason they spread so effectively.
And dig this:
Last week we learned that salmonella sent into space became more virulent in the zero-g environment.
Dang; and I thought I could save money by keeping the gravity in the house turned down. Oh, and it just gets worse:
Reptiles, including turtles, are prone to pack salmonella on their skin.
Guess I'll have to do something about all the turtles in the kitchen. And as for hanging out with Gamera, guess not anymore. So much for being the friend to children.

All kidding aside, though, and even though one doesn't want to go freaking out unnecessarily, the Centers for Disease Control has everything you need to know to prevent salmonellosis, which is actually pretty easy, and pretty common sense. Still, I guess it means no more chicken sushi.

Fool's Errands

Ever wonder how the tradition of April Fool's Day began? LiveScience did:
Though pranksters and joke-lovers in many countries now gleefully prepare to dupe friends and loved ones on April Fool's Day, no one knows exactly when or why, or even where, this tradition began.

A giddy spurt of practical joking seems to have coincided with the coming of spring since the time of the Ancient Romans and Celts, who celebrated a festival of mischief-making. The first mentions of an All Fool's Day (as it was formerly called) came in Europe in the Middle Ages.
The most widespread theory of the origin of April Fool's Day is the switch from the old Julian to the Gregorian calendar (now in use) in the late 16th century. Under the Julian calendar, the New Year was celebrated during the week between March 25 and April 1, but under the Gregorian calendar, it was moved to Jan. 1. Those who were not notified of the change, or stubbornly kept to the old tradition, were often mocked and had jokes played on them on or around the old New Year.
Some of us have our own April Fool's traditions. Over at WhatTheyThink, Dr. Joe and I whipped up a bunch of Onion-like stories related to the graphic communications industry. My contributions involved Facebook declaring itself a sovereign nation and Twitter being replaced by a nanoblogging site that limits posts to a single character. Dr. Joe announces a new dating service for printers as well as the fact that press manufacturers were acquired by Russian and Middle East soverign funds. Over at PrintCEO blog, I talk about how the Graphic Arts Society of Printers (GASP) adopts a new logo imbued with magic powers.

We're not the only ones. Each year, Google send out a faux announcement. This year, they "announce" some smart new tools in Gmail. I personally like the "manage relationships" feature. (A comprehensive archive of Google's past April Fool's announcements can be found--where else?--at Wikipedia.)