November 24, 2015

How’s your food innovation level for American Thanksgiving?

Filed under: Randomness, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Megan McArdle says you can safely avoid novel and baroque food variations for the most stereotypical American meal of all time:

Every year you’re supposed to come up with something amazing and new to do with the most scripted meal in the American culinary canon. Turkey crusted with Marash pepper and stuffed with truffled cornichons. Deconstructed mashed potatoes. Green bean casserole that substitutes kale for the green beans and a smug expression for the cream-of-mushroom soup. Pumpkin-chocolate trifle with a chipotle-molasses drizzle.

I’m sorry, I can’t. I just can’t.

You know what we’re having for Thanksgiving at our house this year? With minor variations, we’re having the same thing we’ve had every year since my birth in 1973. There will be a turkey, roasted whole, because my oven cannot accommodate a spatchcocked 16-pound bird splayed over a sheet pan full of stuffing. It will be brined in a cooler, stuffed full of stuffing despite all the dire culinary injunctions against it, and cooked in the same undoubtedly subpar way we have always done it. My sister will make her homemade cloverleaf rolls, and stuffing with sausage, ginger and apple. There will be cranberry sauce, little creamed onions, mashed potatoes, and butternut squash, with bok choy for those who want greens. For dessert, there will be pie: apple, pumpkin, and perhaps, if we are feeling especially daring, cranberry-raisin.

Novelty is overrated at holidays. If you want to try planked salmon and braised leeks for the first time this year, then bon appetit. But the idea that we must have novelty, that a good cook is constantly seeking out new and better things, is a curse. The best parts of our lives do not require constant innovation; they are the best because they are the familiar things we love just as they are. When I hug my Dad, I don’t think, “Yeah, this is pretty OK, but how much better would it be if he were wearing a fez and speaking Bantu?”

The Mercator Puzzle

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

How badly distorted is your mental map of the world thanks to the use of the Mercator projection? You can test yourself right here in your web browser with The Mercator Puzzle. Click on the image below, then drag each distorted country outline to its correct location on the underlying map:

Click the image to play in your browser

Click to play in your browser

H/T to Laura Hudson for the link.

November 22, 2015

Draw Play Dave re-imagines NFL players as Care Bears

Filed under: Randomness — Nicholas @ 03:00

No, I can’t explain it, either. Here’s his justification:

Jay Cutler as Dont Care Bear

Okay, okay, I admit it, I just wanted to make Jay Cutler as the Don’t Care Bear, and built an entire article around that pun.


November 15, 2015

Do Australians sound drunk to you?

Filed under: History, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Lester Haines on how and when the distinctive “Strine” accent originated:

Australians’ distinctive accent – known affectionately as “Strine” – was formed in the country’s early history by drunken settlers’ “alcoholic slur”.

This shock claim, we hasten to add, comes from Down Under publication The Age, which explains:

    The Australian alphabet cocktail was spiked by alcohol. Our forefathers regularly got drunk together and through their frequent interactions unknowingly added an alcoholic slur to our national speech patterns.

    For the past two centuries, from generation to generation, drunken Aussie-speak continues to be taught by sober parents to their children.

The paper reckons that not only do Aussies speak at “just two thirds capacity – with one third of our articulator muscles always sedentary as if lying on the couch”, but they also ditch entire letters and play slow and loose with vowels.

It elaborates:

    Missing consonants can include missing “t”s (Impordant), “l”s (Austraya) and “s”s (yesh), while many of our vowels are lazily transformed into other vowels, especially “a”s to “e”s (stending) and “i”s (New South Wyles) and “i”s to “oi”s (noight).

The upshot of this total disregard for clear English is that our Antipodean cousins are poor communicators and lack rhetorical skills, something which could cost the Australian economy “billions of dollars”, as The Age audaciously quantifies it.

A countertop home-brewing appliance

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Pulkit Chandna reviews the “Brewie”:

Brewie 1

In the future, at-home beer brewing will be a set-it-and-forget-it cinch, and not the convoluted mess we have always known it to be. That’s the feeling one gets from looking at Brewie, the latest in a series of countertop appliances designed to automate the process of beer crafting.

The Hungarian startup behind it claims Brewie is better and more automated than the competition — including the PicoBrew Zymatic home brewery we reviewed back in June. That lofty claim has helped the company secure hundreds of pre-orders, worth more than $600,000, across two crowdfunding rounds on Indiegogo. It concluded the first leg in February with a funding tally of $223,878, only to return to the site late last month in search of yet more pre-orders. (Indiegogo, as part of its “InDemand program” allows project creators to accept contributions or orders even after their crowdfunding campaign has ended.)

The Brewie is said to distill the whole brewing process down to a series of simple steps requiring negligible human input, such that even the most hopeless of aspiring brewmasters can get started with it in no time at all. You can control the unit either through its 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen or via the companion app over Wi-Fi.

November 4, 2015

The Manic Pixie Dream Boyfriend

Filed under: Randomness, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 05:00

I guess I’ve been living in a cave for far too long, as I had never imagined the existence of the “The Manic Pixie Dream Boyfriend” in anything other than a fictional setting:

Journalist Anne Breslaw has written a funny piece for New York magazine, “Beware the Manic Pixie Dream Boyfriend.” Briefly summarized, her thesis is that an artsy and eccentric guy might be charming but is ultimately a bad choice for a boyfriend. Breslaw describes this roaming, poetry-reading person as “the self-mythologizing ‘free-spirited’ dude who’s determined to make your life magical, whether you want it or not.” It’s the guy who gets angry that you’re working late because he wants to eat burritos on the roof in the moonlight.

She goes on. The Manic Pixie Dream Boyfriend (MPDB):

    “relishes breaking rules, and relishes even more his complete lack of concern that he’ll get caught. He gushes about tripping on mushrooms at Burning Man and he’s happy to supply you with some, as long as you promise to do them in nature. And he is determined to show women — no matter how much more successful, wealthy, beautiful, happy, and confident they are than him — that they aren’t living life to the fullest.”

An interesting subtext emerges from Breslaw’s piece, however: less pixie, more rage. Her barbs suggest a thinly veiled anger. Clearly contemptuous of the MPDB, Breslaw also comes across as a little jealous of him. The things that annoy her about this 21st-century beatnik – his enthusiasm for natural food, literature, great music, Burning Man, and sitting on a rooftop in New York – all sound like very cool activities. One senses that Breslaw envies the pixie’s freedom. She wants to be a part of his dream. And yet, she also clearly wants the MPDB to be more masculine; in defiance of feminist dogma, she yearns for a little less manic pixie dust and a lot more ambition (and testosterone).

Manic Pixie Dream Boyfriends have always existed, but prior to feminism and the digital revolution they were known simply as bohemians. Pixies had nothing to do with it. A pixie is diminutive and unthreatening, a figure out of fairy tales. While there have always been fey and lightweight male artists, there was once also room for raw masculinity amongst writers, poets, musicians, and filmmakers.

November 3, 2015

Learning to drive stickshift

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas @ 04:00

Sam Smith remembers learning how to drive with a manual transmission:

At first, I thought my dad was just teaching me to drive a stick. At 16 and a few months, I had already earned a license, already had my first accident. (Missed a stoplight in the family Volvo while changing CDs. I cannot remember being dumber.) Two weeks of lessons later, I suspected something was up.

We drove in 20-minute spurts. Before dinner on weeknights, after lunch on Sundays, whenever. Always the same route: leave driveway, around the subdivision, back. Practice, learning how to shift, long past the point where I thought I was good enough.

The truth soon came out: My father, a patient man, wasn’t going to let me drive a manual—which meant borrowing his car—until I met what seemed like an arbitrary standard of smoothness. He wasn’t mean, just firm about it: You will do this right. And I won’t feel it when you drop into second.

The neighborhood was perfect for it. A rolling, quiet patchwork of curves. Enough uphill starts to keep you thinking. Or at least keep 16-year-old me thinking, because the first time you shift a manual gearbox, you’re a bag of elbows. This gear? That one? Then you screw it up again.

November 2, 2015

The Top 10 Moustaches of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Top List

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 28 Oct 2015

Grow your own World War 1 moustache and send a picture to us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #TGWmovember. We will collect the best for an upcoming OUT OF THE TRENCHES.

November is the month of the year to celebrate moustaches and beards in all forms and fashions. To celebrate the start of #movember we made a new top list ranking the beards of World War 1.

October 30, 2015

State-by-state Google searches for Halloween costume ideas

Filed under: Humour, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Joey deVilla posted this earlier in October, and I now have to wonder about Illinois, too:


  • It appears that the states of Louisiana and Arkansas are going as the primary hand-held weapons of World Wars 3 and 4: “gun” and “rock”.
  • I had to look up “Doc McStuffins”, which sounded a lot like a male porn star name. It’s the name of a Disney show for kids, and its titular character, a seven year-old girl who’s a “doctor” for broken toys and doll.
  • As a friend of mine commented earlier today: “I learned something new about Texas.”
  • And finally, Illinois: “Slutty pumpkin?” Where’d that come from?

October 24, 2015

“Is it just me? Or are Minnesotans total assholes?”

Filed under: Randomness, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Swap out “the Twin Cities/Minnesotans” for “Toronto/Canadians” and this article could run in any of Toronto’s alternative newspapers:

The Twin Cities has never been the sort of place where hordes of starry-eyed young people move for fame and fortune. But as it climbs the ranks of every “top 10” list for quality of life, it’s becoming a harder pitch to ignore.

What those lists don’t mention is the frequent insecurity these transplants know well, whispered with confessional despair in wood-panel dive bars after months of missed connections: “Is it just me? Or are Minnesotans total assholes?”

The second-guessing is a common trait. Small-town settlers wonder if they’re just misreading urban chic for frigidity. Transplants alighting from megalopolises like Buenos Aires and Berlin chalk it up to small-city small-mindedness. Folks from the South are quick to blame the isolating cold of northern winters, but that doesn’t explain how those hailing from other Midwest cities have a hard time cracking the icy Nordic shells of native Minnesotans too.

Those born and bred here don’t always see it, but to newcomers we’re not very friendly, at least in a deep friendship way.

It took Jade Ross of Colman, South Dakota, no more than one college party to catch on that “Minnesota Nice” is a trademark best used sarcastically. At 18, when she reported for school at St. Cloud State, everybody talked up the Minnesota Nice phenomena ad nauseum, she says. “I’d never heard of that before, and I didn’t understand why you needed to talk about it,” Ross says. “In South Dakota, we were just nice, and we didn’t need to brag about it.”

At parties she’d describe home as a small farming town of 500. She got responses like, “So do you have … Internet? Do you ride a buffalo to go to school?”

QotD: The role of the family

Filed under: Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I don’t follow libertarian family policy (never mind conservative family policy, liberal family policy, or even Shining Path Maoist family policy) too closely, though I know some very smart people who’re involved in it. Anyway, the conversation turned to the claim made by many libertarians, as well as folks like Al Gore (wolfsbane to libertarians), that modern society has changed so much that it is only right and rational that family structure change, too.

Here’s my problem with this sort of thinking, which I don’t think is unreasonable on its face. Some institutions endure because they are, well, enduring.

The whole point of certain institutions is that they are insurance policies against the unknown future (picture G. Gordon Liddy talking about gold, only replace it with “the family”). The phrase “you can always count on family” may not be literally true, but it is more true than “you can always count on your old college roommate.” When times are great, the demands of family (or religion, or good manners, or thriftiness, or a thousand other institutions, customs, and habits of the heart that we can throw under the bulwark of “tradition”) might often seem like too much unnecessary baggage to carry around. But when things hit the fan, family is there in a way that other people aren’t. Not because those other people are bad, but because your family is your family.

But it’s important to keep in mind that the family — or the Bill of Rights, or good manners, whatever — isn’t a catastrophic insurance policy. The value of these institutions is best understood during a time of crisis, but the influence of these institutions is constant, even in times of calm luxury. The fact that these institutions exist forecloses certain options and avenues for reformers who yearn for a blanker social slate.

The family, like marriage, is an institution that predates our Constitution and the very concept of democracy, never mind modernity. That is not to say that it hasn’t evolved and changed or that conservatives should never, ever contemplate further changes and greater evolution. It is simply to say that we should do so carefully, reservedly, humbly, in full knowledge that tomorrow may look as little like today as yesterday did.

Jonah Goldberg, “The Goldberg File” email newsletter, 2011-04-25.

October 21, 2015

The first rule of Donut Club

Filed under: Football, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

I’ve been following the Minnesota Vikings Donut Club for a few years on Twitter, but as far as I know, this is the first coverage of the secretive organization in the mainstream media:

“We just like to see commitment from guys. We need to see proof that you want to be a part of this club and want to be part of something bigger than yourself.”

That quote isn’t just another cliché being spewed by an NFL player about next week’s game. It’s a passionate explanation from veteran linebacker Chad Greenway about a different kind of club that meets early on Saturday mornings and follows a rule book that’s nearly as detailed as the league’s: The Minnesota Vikings’ Donut Club.

By even acknowledging its existence, Greenway has already broken the first rule of Donut Club. “I’m now getting yelled at for talking about it,” he says. “It’s like Fight Club. You’re going to get me in trouble.”

Donut Club has its roots in the 2008 season, when starting quarterback Gus Frerotte brought a few dozen donuts into the training room one Saturday morning. They were devoured in a matter of minutes, and it became a regular thing. “I just kept bringing donuts in because it’s a great thing to see when a guy sees fresh, big-ass donuts and they want to eat them,” says Frerotte, who retired after that ’08 season, his 15th in the NFL. If he returned to the Vikings’ training room now, he wouldn’t recognize the cult-like institution that grew from his humble act of generosity.


“The athletic trainer never pays for the donuts,” Sugarman says. When Frerotte first brought in donuts, it was a nod of appreciation for the trainers and equipment staff, so players rotate paying for three dozen donuts on a weekly basis in the regular season. YoYo owner Chris Moquist, a lifelong Vikings fan, remembers when the Vikings first started ordering from his shop: “A guy came in to pick up an order and we went, ‘Wow, that guy’s neck is way too big to be a normal person. That’s Chad Greenway. That’s awesome!’ ”

QotD: Tamara’s Handy Tips For Not Winding Up On The Wrong Side Of The Yellow Tape

Filed under: Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

1) If you’re in a bad neighborhood, the kind where you get to hear gunfire and sirens on a nightly basis, move. If you can’t move, have yourself inside at a decent hour, before the time when “suspects” start outnumbering “witnesses” on street corners.

2) As a matter of fact, having yourself in at a decent hour is good advice for just about anybody. Ask your local po-po, but I’d bet that in most places, not much good happens after ten p.m.; certainly after midnight, the majority of the folks not already at home are already legally intoxicated, or are engaged in business transactions buying or selling intoxicants. Saying that these people are overrepresented in criminal and traffic code violations is like saying that rednecks are overrepresented in the stands at a NASCAR race.

3) Regardless of your opinion of the War on (Some) Drugs, the fact remains that, for now, drugs are illegal. This means that to get any for your own use, you have to come in contact with some one who is, by definition… class? Anyone? That’s right, a criminal. Now, other than engaging in a little unlicensed pharmaceutical distribution, your particular connection may be a saint and a member of the Kiwanis. On the other hand, how well do you really know them? They’ve demonstrated the willingness to break one law; what others do they break? What other criminals do they associate with? What are the chances of this all ending in tears? If you want to play the safe side of the odds, wear your seatbelt, don’t ride motorcycles, and stay away from the dope and the people who use it.

4) Likewise, hitting people is against the law. You should stay the hell away from people who think fisticuffs is an appropriate method of conflict resolution for adults. Particularly if they also have a fondness for judgement-impairing substances like Budweiser. I don’t care if you lovelovelove them; if they have proven their willingness to talk with their fists, they will do it again, and maybe worse. If you are living with them or hanging around them, get out. You can then settle your differences from the other end of a phone line a whole lot safer than you could have from inside the tiger cage.

Tam Slick, “How to not get killed”, View From The Porch, 2009-07-20.

October 19, 2015

Dildos versus guns – Sarah Hoyt on a modern version of magical thinking

Filed under: Politics, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In case the title isn’t clear enough, there’s a protest started recently at the University of Texas in Austin where students upset at a recent court ruling allowing concealed weapons to be carried on campus came up with what they thought was a perfect counterpoint: they’d open carry dildos instead. Sarah Hoyt comments:

… I have no idea what Ms. Jin majored in, but I can sort of follow the tracks of her thought. Logically, carrying sex toys to campus to protest guns makes absolutely NO sense. I could see carrying signs, or … I don’t know, police whistles, if you’re convinced you’re completely safe if you can just call the police. I can even see, in a more sane way, wearing a protective vest and claiming this is better than guns for defense. I mean, at least they are in the same general kind of thing and sort of kind of address the problem in different ways.

BUT no. Because this is not reasoning. This is magical thinking. WORSE. This is magical thinking based on a world that doesn’t exist, a world that was sold to Ms. Jin (literally. College is expensive) by academics so divorced from reality that they can’t find it with two hands, a cane and a seeing eye dog.

In this world, you see, conservatives love guns and hate sex. This is all “explained” with pseudo Freudian patter about how guns are a substitute for the penis. This is total nonsense and old nonsense at that, stuff we LAUGHED at for being pseudo profound way back in the seventies.

But they absolutely believe that we defend the second amendment not because we want to be responsible for our own self-defense, not because we believe power derives from the individual and that therefore an individual must be capable of reining in the government when it gets out of control. No. They think we want guns because that’s the way we express our sexual repression. (Actually now I think about it, my gun obsessed friends are also the most sex-positive, so their idea not only is wrong, it’s bizarrely wrong.)

Since Ms. Jin has never considered that these stories she was sold are in fact stories with no relation to reality, her reasoning went something like “They’re carrying guns and that upsets me. I must carry something that upsets them. Ahah! Dildos.”

In an even mildly sane world, the press would have made her a laughing stock, because that reasoning makes no sense whatsoever.

But the press buys into the same imaginary world in which somehow the belief in guns for defense is a Freudian thing and so the “gun” value can be countered with the “dildo” value.

This is not grown up thinking. It’s magical thinking, in which complex issues get reduced to amulets and symbols, countered by other amulets and symbols.

Again, this is sort of the human default. And believing absurd things about those you believe to be the enemy is also completely normal. The left calls it “othering” and is completely oblivious to the fact that they do it. A lot.

But it’s still human-normal.

September 20, 2015

The chastity belt – medieval “security” or renaissance in-joke?

Filed under: Europe, History, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The chastity belt was a device invented to preserve the chastity of Crusader knights as they rode off to defend the Holy Land. The chastity belt was an in-joke in theatre performances from the early fifteenth century onwards. One of these two statements is closer to the truth than the other, as Sarah Laskow explains that most of what you’ve heard about the chastity belt is false:

A 16th-century German satirical colored woodcut whose general theme is the uselessness of chastity belts in ensuring the faithfulness of beautiful young wives married to old ugly husbands. The young wife is dipping into the bag of money which her old husband is offering to give her (to encourage her to remain placidly in the chastity belt he has locked on her), but she intends to use it to buy her freedom to enjoy her young handsome lover (who is bringing her a key). (via Wikipedia)

A 16th-century German satirical colored woodcut whose general theme is the uselessness of chastity belts in ensuring the faithfulness of beautiful young wives married to old ugly husbands. The young wife is dipping into the bag of money which her old husband is offering to give her (to encourage her to remain placidly in the chastity belt he has locked on her), but she intends to use it to buy her freedom to enjoy her young handsome lover (who is bringing her a key). (via Wikipedia)

What was the chastity belt? You can picture it; you’ve seen it in many movies and heard references to it across countless cultural forms. There’s even a Seattle band called Chastity Belt. In his 1969 book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), David R. Reuben described it as an “armored bikini” with a “screen in front to allow urination and an inch of iron between the vagina and temptation.” “The whole business was fastened with a large padlock,” he wrote. With this device, medieval men going off to medieval wars could be assured that their wives would not have sex with anyone else where they were far, far away, for years at a time.

Yes, it sounds simultaneously ridiculous, barbarous and extremely unhygienic, but … medieval men, you know? It was a different time.

This, at least, has been the story that’s been told for hundreds of years. It’s simple, shocking, and, on some level, fun, in that it portrays past people as exceeding backwards and us, by extension, as enlightened and just better. It’s also, mostly likely, very wrong.

“As a medievalist, one day I thought: I cannot stand this anymore,” says Albrecht Classen, a professor in the University of Arizona’s German Studies department. He set out to reveal the true history of chastity belts. “It’s a concise enough research topic that I could cover everything that was ever written about it,” he says, “and in one swoop destroy this myth.”

Here is the truth: Chastity belts, made of metal and used to ensure female fidelity, never really existed.

However, there is a small but thriving trade providing modern day chastity belts to eager BDSM fans, and they’re available in both male and female designs. I nearly described that as “equal opportunity”, but I guess “equal frustration-of-opportunity” is more like it. Feel free to Google image search those if you like, but be prepared for a fair bit of NSFW images if you do.

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