Monday, August 31, 2009

Some Interesting Websites

texts from last night

Just what you'd think it is from the URL. Texts from the night before, the morning after. The sort of things you find in your inbox/outbox that make you think "What the hell did I do?" I think that if you found texts like these on your phone one morning, you'd also be thinking things like "Where are my pants? Where is my left kidney? Who is this Ukrainian in my kitchen?"*


It started out as a vocab test in the format of "Word X is closest in meaning to Word A, B, C or D?", but now on Free Rice you can choose to have your geography, science, maths and second-language skills tested too. For every question you get right, ten grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Programme - it's paid for by banner ads on each page on FreeRice. Apart from being a good, nice, altruistic thing to do and all that, it can be fun.

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja

An absolutely brilliant webcomic about a doctor who is also a ninja. It has a sufficiently crazy plot, but is alsoo well-drawn. Enjoy. Your life will never be the same.

The interactive playground of Paul Neave

It's not really anything. Interactive playground is a good way to describe it I suppose. It's full of psychedelic colours and joy. Some of the things - like the dandelion that loses seeds when you blow into your microphone - are just silly. Some of the things are quite useful. If you have a laptop and it's night, click on "Planetarium", click your location on the little map in the corner, then go outside with your laptop and match the stars on the screen to the ones in the sky. Some of the things show you what it'd be like to take LSD. My challenge: Click "Strobe" then watch the black and white lines for a minute or so - then look at something stationary. Your hand works quite well, especially if you let your eyes move around a bit.

*Answers to these questions: On top of the tallest landmark of your area. In me - I replaced my appendix with it. The Ukrainian is the leopard wrangler that you married after the ninth shot.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Something Interesting About Wikipedia

"We did not invent the algorithm. The algorithm consistently finds Jesus. The algorithm killed Jeeves. The algorithm is banned in China. The algorithm is from Jersey. The algorithm constantly finds Jesus. This is not the algorithm. This is close."

Not so much something interesting about Wikipedia so much as something interesting on it. I found this by googling "We did not invent the algorithm":

If you can't be bothered clicking the link, it's a list of deleted Wikipedia articles with strange titles. Some of my personal favourites are "Bewildergoose", "Elephant Thursday", "People's republic of Antarctica" and "Why I Want To Be King of Australia". One in particular that I think my English teacher would appreciate is "Michelle Obama's arms" (to paraphrase a well-known song - it's my blog and I'll insert personal jokes if I want to!).

I found these interesting because I can't read the articles. What were they about? A few of the article titles have a short description underneath; exempla gratia:
"Why not to sleep in a bamboo forest?"
Single sentence. "Because the bamboo will grow through you... resulting in Death."

Some of the articles were just redirects:
"Pitbull with Lipstick"
Was a redirect to
Sarah Palin

I thought an interesting thing to do would be to pick an article title at random, and write a fictional Wikipedia article to match the title. Here's my effort:

"Cow cuddling"

Cow cuddling is the act of cuddling a cow. It is performed by placing one's arms around any member of the Bovidae family (excluding antelopes, gazelles, sheep and goats), but usually one from a domestic species such as Bos taurus.

Cow cuddling can be a hazardous activity, as some cows do not appreciate being cuddled. Trying to cuddle a bull increases the risk.

There are no laws against cuddlying cows in most countries, but it is illegal in 26 U.S. states, including Nebraska.

In popular culture
Erm... got nothing for this one. Cow cuddling in popular culture... can't think of any.


Popular culture's got to hurry up and start cuddling cows.

Next week, join me for Elephant Thursday celebrations. It will be a party of pachydermic proportions.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Nothing Interesting This Week - But here's my theory on Rose-Triffids!

Well, "nothing interesting this week" is a lie. I'm sure plenty of interesting things have happened. It's just that I either haven't found out about them, or I have and they haven't piqued my interest or made me think.

But something happened this morning that made me think. What happened was that I was gardening. I had been assigned to deal with the dead agapanthus stalks (Something interesting! The flower stalks of agapanthus plants are called scapes), but when I had gotten most of the dead scapes I decided to tackle the huge, rambling mess of rose vines next to the second of the two gates on my driveway (that picture's not my rose plant - mine's not nearly as pretty as that).

This thing is intense. It should have a name, really (Victor and Hugo are the two names that leapt into my head at that thought. Suggestions?). It may or may not attract one's attention as one drives through the gate, but its majesty can only be appreciated on foot, examining the vines close-up. The vines (Wikipedia calls them "long, flexible canes") that make up the inner mass of the plant are brown and thicker than my fingers, while the outer exploratory vines are thin and green with deceptively small red thorns (According to Wikipedia, the name thorn refers to modified stems, and the "thorns" of a rose are actually modified epidermal tissues, which makes them "prickles"). I call these thin vines "exploratory" because they were interwoven within the agapanthus leaves, and I couldn't see them until it was too late. I even caught one burrowing underneath the grass that borders our driveway - this one I yanked out quite ruthlessly.

As I waged war on this impressive foe armed with naught but a pair of secateurs - Wikipedia says this is the British name for "pruning shears" - I always thought it was just the proper name? My mother's British, so that might explain where I got the word - anyway, as I waged my war and all that, I thought of Triffids.

For those of you who have not read John Wyndham's "The Day of the Triffids" (an excellent example of 1950s science fiction), triffids are large, carnivorous, predatory, mobile plants with a venomous stinger on a whip-like sort of tentacle-vine. Here's a triffid, as illustrated by the author (click to see it better):

The reason I was thinking of triffids was that the thin vines kept getting wrapped around my hands, shoulders, knees and zebra-print gumboots. I kept having to stop and carefully extricate myself from a net of thorns (sorry, prickles).

The thought I had about triffids in relation to rose vines was: Imagine if wild roses became mobile and predatory and sort of intelligent, like triffids! It wouldn't just seem like the rose vines were deliberately ensnaring you - they would actually be doing it on purpose! The burrowing/hidden/exploratory vines would winkle their way into our homes and workplaces, wreaking havoc with the plastering and blooming unexpectedly! They could "lay down spikes" and devastate wheeled traffic!

John Wyndham's triffids were farmed for their oil - if rose-triffids replaced the ordinary, well-behaved type of roses, rose farming would become a hazardous occupation! The added danger pay would increase the price of roses (which already shoot to exorbitant sums on Mother's and Valentine's days).

Zoos and botanical gardens would be unsure of how to classify this species, and the curators of both may just toss a coin to decide who gets to display them to the public. A new occupation would arise - rose pruners - as dismayed garden owners watch their plants tower malevolently above them. I imagine that being a rose pruner to a rose-triffid would be like being an arborist to the Whomping Willow - but with a greater risk of puncture wounds than broken bones.

In conclusion - if you find any vines from your local rose plant in unusual places, hack them off. We can't run the risk.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Something Interesting About Scars

Is it brainwashing by the beauty industry, or is just that everyone I talk to has a morbid fear of scars? Among my impressive collection of scars, the most recent is the most impressive – a two-inch slash along my right collarbone. But it seems that every other person I talk to is telling me how to get rid of it! This happened with the last set of scars I received, in 2007. What happened in 2007 was that my appendix burst, but instead of the old-style long scar, I got four little scars (one of the miracles of laparoscopy!). And then I was inundated with grave warnings to slather them in Bio-Oil. I’ve grown very fond of those four scars. One is in my bellybutton, and it serves as a great conversation starter whenever I’m in a bikini with people who have never seen my scars before.

I can think of two major reasons for wanting to get rid of a scar – and by “get rid of”, I mean “lessen the appearance of” – this isn’t to do with scar tissue or the actual presence of the scar.

1: If there were bad emotions or memories involved with the circumstances of obtaining the scar. But many people have good memories associated with scars – what if you fell over and cut your knees running in a marathon, then went on to win the marathon? If it were me, I’d associate the scars on my knees with the feeling of accomplishment and achievement from the marathon. I have a friend with scars like this – they weren’t from a marathon. We were orienteering in an estuary in 2006 and she cut her knees falling onto shells.

2: If it were quite a disfiguring scar, or not disfiguring but affected your appearance in a way that made you feel bad about yourself or affected your career. For example, a model would want to limit the appearance of their scars if they were in very visible places. And I can completely understand trying to lessen the appearance of a large facial scar, whether one is a model or not.

As for my scars, they’re nowhere near disfiguring, and the only parts of my body I would consider modelling with are my back and eyes – all unscarred. And there are no horrific memories associated with any of them. The story with my newest scar goes that I was playing soccer, and I tripped (I can’t remember what I tripped over), then tried to do a break fall roll over my right shoulder. Something went wrong in the process, and my hands never touched the ground, so I hit the ground shoulder-first and snapped my clavicle clean in two, resulting in my collarbone requiring an operation to screw a titanium plate into it*. It might be an embarrassing memory, but it is a good reminder to be more careful.

In conclusion, I like my scars. I might use some Bio-Oil or tamanu oil on them, but I haven’t got any hang-ups about the way they look, and there’s an interesting story behind every scar.

*What really happened was that the bone was broken but not displaced, and the people at Ascot Hospital A&E sent me on my way with a sling and a prescription, but then I, still wearing soccer boots, slipped over on the tiles outside Ascot Pharmacy (dangerous tiles!), landed on my bum and twitched my right arm trying to catch myself, which jolted my shoulder and displaced the two parts of my clavicle – this is what resulted in the surgery being needed.

What's interesting?

"Interesting" means different things to different people. Things I'm interested in might bore you to tears. So I'm not commanding you to find any of this interesting. You might not, and that's ok. However, if you find nothing I post interesting, that would be sad, because I intend to post all manner of things, some that I find interesting and some that I don't. Hopefully, everyone will find something interesting in the posts yet to come. I won't be the only one writing things to post here - I'm going to ask my friends to write interesting articles for the blog, and readers are welcome to submit articles also.

And despite the title, not everything here will be interesting things to read! Some people aren't interested in reading (except for blogs, apparently). So there'll be interesting pictures too. Links to interesting websites. Interesting games. Interesting words. If you like interesting things, you'll like this blog. If you don't, and prefer to be bored, go sit in the corner, close your eyes and think of nothing. Then get back to me and tell me how that's going for you.

Just to start the interesting things off, here's a few interesting things:
An interesting website: - Some of you may have heard of MLIA is the version for when your life doesn't suck - it's just normal. Here's my favourite today, just from a quick scan of the front page:
"Today, while typing the word when, the letter E got stuck, so the word became "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee". I was pleased my computer was enjoying itself. MLIA "

Some interesting music:
Tango music! If you speak Spanish, it's fun to try to decipher the Argentine accents and figure out what on earth the songs are about. If you don't, listen to the funky violins and bandoneons.

An interesting thing about Argentine accents:
When I was in Argentina last year, I spent a solid ten minutes trying to tell the teller at the money exchange that I was staying at the Hotel Goya. When I finally thought to show her the word "Goya" written down, she corrected my pronunciation to "Hotel Goizha". MLIS (my life is strange).