Archive for category Hootworthy

Calling Johnny Knoxville!

In doing some research for an “article” I happened across a treadmill with some impressive specifications. This monster has a deck 18 1/2 feet long and four feet wide, weighs more than a Humvee, can accommodate exercisers weighing over a ton, has a 40-HP motor, can be inclined to a 17 percent grade, and has a top speed of 60 miles an hour, about twice what Usain Bolt is capable of achieving. Of course, it’s intended to train horses, not humans, but what of it? Its price tag of $72,000 or higher should not be a deterrent to the folks at Jackass, a show for which this piece of equipment was seemingly invented. Come on, who wouldn’t want to see someone in a specialized suit dropped on to one of these things cranked up to top speed from a height of ten feet or so? Or buck naked?


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I cringe at wondering what this letter looked like before it reached the Monitor’s editors.

My responses are in moderation at the moment because the coterie of cranks on the site have consistently lodged complaints against my input and the editors unfortunately humor them, but in summary they assert that the writer is operating on a demonstrably false premise (that nonbelievers wouldn’t exist of only everyone read the Bible) and give a specific example of a contradiction in Genesis, followed by the results of the Pew Forum survey revealing that on the basis of a 32-question quiz, atheists know more about religion than Christians do.

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In which I beat the Onion to the punch, if not outdo the publication outright

The source of the best parodic romps in the multiverse was late to the party with its recent article “Contador Cleared Of Doping By International Cycling Federation’s Doping-Clearing Board,” and a surge of immodesty and a general lack of restraint compels me to point out that I satirized this issue myself on this blog months ago. I actually think my own “article” was more Onion-esque than the Onion’s own, but that’s kind of a self-defeating proposition, isn’t it?

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DIY Bass Trap

So I’ve been busy lately.  Built a new recording/practice studio this summer/fall and I’m finally getting a few finishing touches done. One of those “touches” is acoustic treatment.

One of the more important aspects of studio acoustics is making sure you have a reasonable reverberation time. At the bass end of things, most untreated rooms are filled with the acoustic equivalent of mud. Trying to mix in such an environment is difficult at best. So, the front line treatment is something called a “bass trap”. You can find decent bass traps from a variety of companies such as GIK. The job of the bass trap is to absorb low frequency energy thereby reducing the sonic mud for a more clear and detailed response. Many bass traps are little more than a frame filled with a rigid fiberglass or rock wool material (denser than typical house insulation) and covered with a fire-rated acoustical cloth (such as loudspeaker grill cloth).

As part of the construction, I wound up with a box of 12 two-by-four foot sheets of two inch thick Owens-Corning 703 rigid fiberglass left over. So I purchased eight yards of Guilford of Maine fabric from GIK and sew-on Velcro from Industrial Webbing, made a pattern that is essentially a two-by-four foot box with a lid, six inches high. The Velcro covers the three edges. I dropped in three sheets of the 703, closed the lid, and bingo, four nice bass traps. The photo below shows one of the units open, ready to receive the 703. Note that there is an extra 3″ of fabric beyond the Velcro to help keep any stray fibers contained.

Opened bass trap

Bass traps are most effective in the corners of the room. These units are stiff enough that they stand up by themselves so I simply propped them in each corner. Here is one sitting behind my drum kit:

Bass trap in corner

These were relatively inexpensive to make, especially considering that the 703 was surplus from the construction. I can barely sew on a button, so a faithful family member did the sewing duties for which I am extremely grateful.

FYI, a thread about the studio was started on the VDrums forum this past summer. You can find it here.

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Caught in a bad project…

About a gazillion of my fellow scientist-pop culture aficionados have picked up on this fabulofuckingbrilliant parody of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” by now, but what the hey. I’m posting it for posterity. Many who were/are professors’ slaves graduate students in chemistry, biology, etc. laboratories can relate… ’cause it’s painfully true. The details of the costumes are great — the orange biohazard bags especially.

Blot, blot, Western baby!


Some seriously old shit: the lost art of paleo-scatology

(This is from page D5 of the October 12, 1992 edition of the Toronto Globe & Mail. Thanks to fellow runner Doug Pahl for realizing that I would like it and sending it my way.)


It isn’t the Lost Ark, but then Andrew Jones isn’t related to Indiana


Below the Gothic spires of this postcard-perfect town, under its cobbled lanes and its beamed Tudor pubs, there lies a hidden world. “Beneath us right now is about three metres of dirt from earlier settlement,” says Andrew Jones, bouncing on a tourist-packed sidewalk in York. “I’d guess that one-third of it is excrement.”

Historical records support his scatological analysis. King Edward III visited York in the 14th century and declared that “the abominable smell” from “dung and manure and other filth and dirt” was worse “than in any other city of the realm.”

But what may have been a blight on medieval England is buried treasure for Dr. Jones. He is a paleo-scatologist, plumbing the depths of history for clues as to diet, health and sanitation in earlier times. In leading archeological journals, such as Antiquity, he has pondered topics such as “The Worms of Roman Horses,” while at scientific conferences, he gives an earthy lecture titled “Passed and Present: The Archeology of Excrement.”

Clearly, the sewer-level window he opens onto old English life is a far cry from the romantic idyl of Robin Hood. “The bottom line,” he says, “is that people tolerated what would seem to us incomprehensible squalor. Time and again, you get a very strong picture of filth.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Uh-oh, I’m being thweatened with weagew action! Huh-huh-huh-huh!

So now the Fudd Brigade member I mentioned the other day is claiming to have collected the paperwork to file a lawsuit against me in a N.H. court for defamation of character or libel or slander or copyright infringement or…well, something mean I did. You can follow the burgeoning discussion here, starting with this comment by Dennis Hamel. Read the rest of this entry »


Life again imitates Carl Hiaasen’s art (or, Facebook claims another victim)

When I first happened across Carl Hiaasen’s offbeat and wildy entertaining mysteries, I assumed that in concocting his characters the longtime Miami Herald columnist was drawing on his experiences as a journalist and exaggerating what he had seen. I was half right; having since spent a few years as a resident of South Florida, I now understand that if anything Hiassen tones down his adaptations from the real world in order to make his fiction more believable.

One of Hiaasen’s novels–all of which are set in his home state–mentions, in passing, a center on a high-school basketball team who, unbeknownst to his opponents if not his coach and teammates, is 27 years old. Now out of Tampa comes this story: Read the rest of this entry »

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An endorsement of the Poconos Marathon

I haven’t run it myself and have no plans to, but check out this description of this weekend’s events that a friend sent me:

The race finished in the picturesque and highly weird town of Stroudsburg, PA. In the 24-ish hours I was there, I saw, as my friend described it, the most “soul” wedding ever as well a young woman doing a pole dance on a “portable stripper pole” in the middle of the sidewalk arts and crafts fair at about 4 pm.

Another friend said he walked down main street at about 7 pm in search of a drugstore because his wife forgot her toothbrush. He ran across an individual riding a bicycle in a full chicken suit. The chicken fell off the bike and proceeded to get into a shoving match with a couple of young lads around the age of 14.

The latter is shaded of a serial gag on Family Guy, wherein Peter gets into gratuitous and very bloody fights with a giant chicken, far-flung brawls that typically result in the destruction of large swaths of Quahog and end amicably with a quiet meal in a restaurant or something similar.

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Crucifixion is obviously no longer in vogue

Holy him!

Lord Jesus Christ suffers minor injuries in downtown Northampton crosswalk mishap

NORTHAMPTON – A 20-year-old Pittsfield driver was cited by police Tuesday after she ran down Lord Jesus Christ in a marked crosswalk at Main Street and Strong Avenue, police said.

Brittany E. Cantarella was cited for a crosswalk violation, said Northampton police Capt. Scott Savino.

Christ, 50, of Belchertown, was taken to Cooley Dickinson Hospital for treatment of minor injuries following the 3:30 p.m. accident. He was treated at the hospital and then released.

Cantarella was making a left turn from Strong Avenue onto Main Street when her car, a 2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, struck Christ.

Christ was in a marked crosswalk at the time of the accident, Savino said.

Savino said officers checked Christ’s identification at the scene and confirmed it was his legal name.

There’s a follow-up story with a photo of the dreadlocked Mr. Christ:

Lord Jesus Christ says crosswalk mishap was part of God’s plan

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Hot Water Heat Pump

For most folks, the second most energy intensive activity in the home (after living space heating/cooling) is heating potable water. For a great many people the obvious choice is storage-based or on-demand fired by natural gas. But lots of folks (like me) don’t have natural gas service so we usually rely on storage-based electric water heaters. They’re relatively inexpensive to purchase (maybe $300-$350 or so for a halfway decent 50 gallon unit) but expensive to operate. Standard government estimates run around $500-$550 per year. This figure depends a lot on your usage and local electricity rates.

By themselves, electric resistive water heaters are relatively efficient in simple terms. Generally, between 90 and 95 percent of the electrical input is translated to heating water. This, of course, does not account for generation and transmission of said electricity, and as the average consumer is many miles from a generation plant, the system efficiency is much, much lower. In other words, bringing the fuel to the consumer (e.g. natural gas) and having them burn it on site achieves a much higher system efficiency.

Ultimately, an electric water heater is not much different from a toaster or space heater: You pass current through a resistive element, the element heats up, which in turn heats the water (or the bread, or the air).  So how do you make a system like this more efficient and less costly to operate?

Read the rest of this entry »

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My dad’s latest binge

He decided, for very unclear reasons, to splurge for this, an extremely detailed Lego rendition of the Millennium Falcon, the infamously ramshackle spaceship owned and operated by Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy. At nearly three feet long, it has over five thousand pieces, which for over a week covered most of my parents’ living-room floor. There are even little versions of Han, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, and someone I can’t identify, all of them boasting the familiar grinning yellow heads introduced in the Legoland era (c. 1980).


Technology Illiterate

Ordinarily in this space that would be a lament, but in this case it’s a short and catchy vocoder-driven tune by the Australian duo calling themselves The Scientists of Modern Music, here playing at the Falls Festival in 2006.

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Bode Miller’s redemption complete: Gold in super combined

Easton, New Hampshire native Bode Miller has had an alpine skiing career as unlikely as his upbringing. Through third grade, he lived in a log cabin in Franconia, N.H. with no indoor plumbing or electricity. When his parents divorced, he entered the public-school system (it’s safe to say that this is one kid who never would have made the Olympics had it not been for a fractured family) and was soon a scholarship student at a ski academy in Maine.

Miller’s professional career has been not sinusoidal but bipolar. To sum up, he’s the best male American alpine skier ever; you can look into his staggering World Cup record on your own if you want. I’ll look only at his Olympics efforts. Read the rest of this entry »

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Not your typical pre-flight jibber-jabber

Check out the delivery of this Southwest Airlines flight attendant. Genius.

(Thanks, Gráinne)


I like hores



Reporters now in the business of diagnosing people

A story in the Toronto Star today about an intruder at the Olympics opens with this:

VANCOUVER–A mentally ill man managed to breach security and get within metres of U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games Friday, the RCMP has revealed.

If you go on to read the rest of the story you’ll probably conclude that the man involved–whose intentions were evidently harmless–probably isn’t playing with a full sack of marbles. Nevertheless, there is no indication that the Mounties or anyone else had accurate information on the man’s medical or psychiatric history. This being the case, it is the height of journalistic irresponsibility to classify the guy as “mentally ill.” It’s no more a reporter’s job to make this call than it is to convict someone on trial. Hey, I may not have the hots for Joe Biden, but technically I’m mentally ill. Maybe Petti Fong is taking new patients?

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Best headline of the Olympic Games so far

Short track: China’s dominant Wang retains 500m title

Must have had to endure some serious shrinkage out on that ice in the process.

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Banned from Sarah Palin’s Facebook page

(2/28 9:09 a.m. UPDATE: Someone pointed out that I had a “not” in this post which muddied the whole meaning of the sentence in question and detracted from one of my main points, which is that were I in charge of Family Guy I would not have dropped in the nugget alluding to Trig Palin. Sorry for the confusion.)

This is very amusing. Some time ago I “became a fan of Sarah Palin” on Facebook, just for the eerie, irony-charged thrill of seeing “Kevin Beck became a fan of Sarah Palin” on my profile. This page includes close to 1.4 million fans, who surely contribute no fewer than 10 million IQ points to society at large.

Recently, the FOX animated show Family Guy, well known for crossing every line in sight, featured an episode in which teenage lunkhead Chris Griffin developed a crush on a classmate with Down syndrome. While on a date with her, Chris asked her what her parents did. The girl replied that her mother was a former governor of Alaska, an obvious reference to the fact that Palin’s youngest son, Trig (who apparently should have simply been named Arithmetic), has Down syndrome. Palin quickly responded, as expected, as did her oldest daughter Bristol, and posted her response on her Facebook page.

I never thought I would write this, but I have to say as a great fan of Family Guy that if I were Seth MacFarlane or another of the show’s writers, I would have left that tidbit out. I can’t stand even the sight of Sarah Palin, much less her voice and the garbage she uses it to expel, but I don’t see taking a shot at her as a mother like that as necessary. There are hundreds of other ways to deliver her some solid shots without mentioning the fact that she delivered a kid with two extra chromosomes, mental retardation, and the guarantee of a diminished lifespan.

Anyway, when I noticed the Facebook post and the over 10,000 overwhelmingly supportive (if barely readable) responses, I had to chime in. What I wrote was not especially pernicious. I wish I’d saved it, but it was very close to “Karmic justice. The show went over the top for sure, but Sarah Palin eagerly and continually puts herself in a position to be mocked, most recently by ripping Obama for using a teleprompter while herself reading notes jotted down on her own palm.” There were a few more aggressive and unkind comments, but most were like this one:

What ever happen to good moral’s, love of God and country. Thank you Sara and your family for standing up for what is right.

Some waterhead sent me a private message later in the day. We had this exchange: Read the rest of this entry »


AFA finds a new reason to whinny and snort

I’m signed up, through no fault of my own, to receive e-mail updates from several of the most malignantly stupid religious sites in the world. Among them is the AFA, which allegedly stands for American Family Association, although I have other ideas. These tight-lipped, puckered-assed, miserable muck-a-mucks are constantly bitching about the amount of filth in American culture today, particularly on the airwaves. They routinely issue “action alerts” in which they implore devoted readers to send them money to combat the shit they routinely see on shows like Family Guy as well as companies with the temerity to adopt gay-friendly practices. Those on board with such boycotts and screeching are some of the dumbest most valueless people on the planet, and the AFA knows it. They’re all about fleecing the flock.

Anyway, their latest gripe concerns an episode of American Dad (a cartoon show created by Seth MacFarlane, then man behind Family Guy). This is what they claim: Read the rest of this entry »