Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sesame Street Orchids

On a recent visit to Longwood Gardens' orchid room, one group of orchids looked somewhat familiar.

Then I realized where I had seen them before...

Sesame Street Orchids

On a recent visit to Longwood Gardens, one group of orchids looked somewhat familiar.
Then I realized where I had seen them before...

Monday, December 24, 2012

The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

List includes:
Ayn Rand's "A Selfish Christmas" (1951)

In this hour-long radio drama, Santa struggles with the increasing demands of providing gifts for millions of spoiled, ungrateful brats across the world, until a single elf, in the engineering department of his workshop, convinces Santa to go on strike. The special ends with the entropic collapse of the civilization of takers and the spectacle of children trudging across the bitterly cold, dark tundra to offer Santa cash for his services, acknowledging at last that his genius makes the gifts — and therefore Christmas — possible.

Friday, December 21, 2012

internet classic: Is There A Santa Claus? from Spy Magazine

No doubt most of you have seen this perennial holiday chestnut, but if you haven't, then you need to know.
Is There A Santa Claus? by Richard Waller
Originally published in Spy magazine, January 1990.

1. No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

2. There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total — 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census)rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.

3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west(which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc. This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second — a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal anoint, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh — to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison — this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.

5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance — this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

In conclusion — If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now.


(Spy Magazine was one of my favorites. A monthly satirical sneer, aimed at the rich and famous. "Smart. Fun. Funny. Fearless."  If you're a fan of way The Smoking Gun embarrasses celebrities, then you would have loved Spy Magazine. 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

and you thought Drums / Space was bad ?

"a seamless audio supercut of an entire year of the Grateful Dead tuning their instruments, live on stage, chronologically sequenced"

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!"

news item:

Dad uses The InterWebs


Friday, December 14, 2012

Indiana Jones Mystery Package

Yesterday we received a package addressed to "Henry Walton Jones, Jr.". We sort-of shrugged it off and put it in our bin of mail for student workers to sort and deliver to the right faculty member— we get the wrong mail a lot.

Little did we know what we were looking at. When our student mail worker snapped out of his finals-tired haze and realized who Dr. Jones was, we were sort of in luck: this package wasn't meant for a random professor in the Stat department. It is addressed to "Indiana" Jones.

What we know: The package contained an incredibly detailed replica of "University of Chicago Professor" Abner Ravenwood's journal from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. It looks only sort of like this one, but almost exactly like this one, so much so that we thought it might have been the one that was for sale on Ebay had we not seen some telling inconsistencies in cover color and "Ex Libris" page (and distinct lack of sword).

The book itself is a bit dusty, and the cover is teal fabric with a red velvet spine, with weathered inserts and many postcards/pictures of Marion Ravenwood (and some cool old replica money) included. It's clear that it is mostly, but not completely handmade, as although the included paper is weathered all of the "handwriting" and calligraphy lacks the telltale pressure marks of actual handwriting.

full @

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"I do believe in ghosts. I do believe in ghosts. I do I do I do..."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Today is "Sound Check Day"

"Testing, testing. 1, 2... 1, 2... 1, 2."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

You'll never watch this TV show the same way again...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Two Hanukkah stories from the New Yorker

Ringo's Wish

"What's the matter, Ringo?" John said, handing him a handkerchief.

Ringo blew his nose. "It's already the fourth night of Hanukkah," he sniffled, "and I haven't got a single present."

"Well, that won't do," John said, and he set off to tell the rest of the Beatles.

"A present?" Paul said. "Well, I suppose I could give him this banana."

"A present?" George said. "I suppose I could give him this zipper."

Then John took a Mason jar and filled it with dirt. "My present is dirt," John said.

That night, the Beatles threw a tremendous Hanukkah party in Ringo's honor. Ringo was overwhelmed. He had never imagined that Hanukkah could be so fun, or so rewarding—especially since he had learned of its existence only that morning.

Incidentally, it was around this time that the Beatles were doing a lot of drugs.


In the Book of the Redemption (c. 1263), the celebrated medieval Jewish philosopher Nahmanides describes a distant land where everything—the houses, the roads, even the synagogue—is made from potato latkes.

And running through this savory land are two broad rivers, one flowing with applesauce and the other with sour cream.

And on Hanukkah the Jews of Latkeland gather at the confluence of the two rivers, so they can top their latkes with a dollop of each.

Incidentally, it was around this time that Nahmanides was doing a lot of drugs.

More stories at:

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Hey Kids! Let's have some SCIENCE FUN