Aitch-Bar

Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say


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Geoguessr

Want some bread?

Midway Island, where the airport is named after Chicago

Does Switzerland have Google Streetview ? Do they ever use KPH on street signs in the United States, or is MPH like, federally dictated? Even in Oregon? Is there any good way to tell the difference between highways in South Africa versus Australia?

These are the kind of questions raised by Geoguessr, an excellent new distraction from the whiz kids who brought us ‘heroin.’ Well, not really, but it’s almost as addictive but with few of the negative side effects. The basic idea is that it randomly drops you somewhere in the world in Google Streetview but with no map. The goal is to figure out where you are. You can move around, but going too far is tedious because you only have the little clicky arrows, and can’t drag your yellow person to somewhere else—so you’re really forced to rely on your wits. Street signs, area codes on ads, anything out of the ordinary.

Midway Posers

Midway Posers, posing in the weirdest place on Earth

It gives you a good sense of how most places in the world look essentially the same, and then just a general idea of what distant places are actually like. The best place I’ve gotten so far though was Midway Atoll, (where Google evidently sent a camera a few years ago in some kind of “look at the weird places you can use Streetview! A submarine? No way!). Midway is completely covered in seabirds (there are hundreds in every direction), has no regular cars (only golf carts), pre-fab housing and satellite dishes everywhere, and about 40 Midwayans posed for the camera in a group—staring through the GoogleMaps page like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

You gradually get a sense of certain things about the parts of the world that currently have streetview images. Canada and the Western US are universally annoying, because it is usually possible to get them…but only after scrolling down the highway for 5 minutes until you see a sign. As are the empty parts of South Africa and Australia….and they look similar and both drive on the wrong side of the road, so if you guess on one that you think is one of those, it is always the other. Japan and Russia are completely unsolvable—only by landing next to a monument to some Soviet general was I able to locate myself in Russia. I popped up near a tourist attraction in Japan once…and still got it wrong. You need real letters, not those squiggly ones they use in those places. Also, there are a lot of places in Brazil, and they are always full of people. Isn’t geography fun? In any case, well done Geoguessr, you have so much to teach us.


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Inaugural Linktopus

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The Linktopus is honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King by tearing a frigate apart.

Here is some stuff that exists.

Words with no English equivalents

5. Zeg (Georgian)
It means “the day after tomorrow.” Seriously, why don’t we have a word for that in English?

7. Lagom (Swedish)
Maybe Goldilocks was Swedish? This slippery little word is hard to define, but means something like, “Not too much, and not too little, but juuuuust right.”

8. Tartle (Scots)
The nearly onomatopoeic word for that panicky hesitation just before you have to introduce someone whose name you can’t quite remember.

Steve Thomas - Mars

Steve Thomas – Mars

This art, by Steve Thomas is really cool. There are a series of solar system retro travel posters being sold as a 2013 calendar that was (unfortunately) already sold out by the time I saw it. Nonetheless, his site is worth checking out, because there are many more things like this excellent poster. And someday, there will be more calendars.

Alt-country rocker Ryan Adams got so sick of people yelling out “Summer of 69!” by 80’s crap rocker Bryan Adams that he finally just performed an aggrivated version of it. He had previously reacted by freaking out and throwing people out of his shows when they said it, which they frequently did. At the end he says “Can it finally stop now, please?” He sounds desperate, and I admire that. I can’t link to the song itself because there seems to have been some DRM weirdness, but you know, there’s google if you really want to hear it: the important part is that you know it happened.

 

Glee ripped off Jonathan Coulton’s arangement of ‘Baby Got Back’ – Really hard. It’s a cover already, but evidently, everything you change about a song you cover, is thereafter copyrighted by you. And in this case, where Coulton’s arrangement is totally new itself, with a melody that doesn’t have anything to do with the original, it’s extremely obvious it was copied. They even left in his change from “Mix-a-lot” to “Jonny C”…like they just ran this thing off in 15 minutes thinking no one would ever find out. JoCo was never even contacted. Hopefully this further shame the shameful series who’s ear-piercing covers are starting to show up before the original versions on sites like iTunes, to the horror of all right-thinking people.


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Midweekly Linktopus

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If Linktopus sees one more article about the iPad Mini he’s going to kill you all

Since it’s rainy all of a sudden and I suffer from the autumnal version of seasonal affective disorder, I haven’t rocked you all with my truth recently. I think typing out the entire Chang opus probably ruined my respect for the written word. Oh well.

\scriptstyle\Box  Terrible Sex Advice. I had a girlfriend who used to read Cosmo. So while she was frantically casting around her room for the car keys she lost again, I’d casually flip through it to avoid wondering whether we’d actually be able to get to the airport in time. Between the onslaught of half-baked and frequently contradictory information about weight control and celebrity interviews that always seem to have been conducted entirely with publicists, there was the really bad sex advice. The attitude of it was usually actually fairly positive, if they stripped out all the tips themselves you’d just end up with something along the lines of: “try new things, be enthusiastic, don’t be afraid to take charge, and have fun!”…and that would be great advice. And there were 50/50 odds the flight would be delayed anyway. But…unfortunately for the women, (and men) of America, they can’t just write that over and over again every month, so it is easy to see how those articles eventually morphed into a freaky netherworld of activities no one in their right mind would actually engage in. Every other one seemed to involve a food. A weird, or at least messy, food, because they did all the ones involving chocolate sauce or strawberries—the only two sexy foodstuffs.

Someone else has noticed how funny those articles are. Those someone elses are Nerve.com, who have a running series of these, with commentary. Such as this one. And this one. You get the idea.

Before I let this link live as itself, I must mention the most memorable of these cosmo tips. It was thus, approximately: Find a smooth stone, possible while wondering in a meadow with your boyfriend. Is it smooth? If not, make sure to run it under a faucet for a while. So you have a smooth stone then, right? Good! Now, while intimacy is occurring with your boyfriend, stick it on his perineum. That was an actual tip that someone put in a magazine. Harrowing.

\scriptstyle\Box  Seagulls do the darndest things! Like stealing little cameras.

\scriptstyle\Box  Stephen Colbert’s new book, reviewed by, of course, Stephen Colbert.

\scriptstyle\Box  List of common phrases derived from obsolete technology. And then this even longer list. Including favorites such as: upper case, lower case, groggy, leeway, skyscraper, and many more!

\scriptstyle\Box  Aggressive takedown of the worst, but most inexplicably published comic strip, “Close To Home.” If you are like me, you have often wondered why this is a thing that is in newspapers.

It wasn’t funny the first time.


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Monday Linktopus

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The Linktopus is tired of trying to reason with you people

Boom! There are more things.

\scriptstyle\Box   “I’m Comic Sans, Asshole

Listen up. I know the shit you’ve been saying behind my back. You think I’m stupid. You think I’m immature. You think I’m a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I’m Comic Sans, and I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.

You don’t like that your coworker used me on that note about stealing her yogurt from the break room fridge? You don’t like that I’m all over your sister-in-law’s blog? You don’t like that I’m on the sign for that new Thai place? You think I’m pedestrian and tacky? Guess the fuck what, Picasso. We don’t all have seventy-three weights of stick-up-my-ass Helvetica sitting on our seventeen-inch MacBook Pros.

\scriptstyle\Box  The Register is some kind of British tabloid specializing in science and technology news. And like other tabloids it presents the news in a crazed, sensationalistic fashion that sounds as though it’s competing for your attention against the inside of a frantic Chuck-E-Cheez. Yet they are actually covering legitimate science stories, and not necessarily getting it as badly wrong as most traditional sources—they just happen to be throwing in strange, aggressive prose, and using the term ‘boffin’ no less than 3 times a story. Example, this story about the recent study proposing a link between autism and the age of the father:

We’re raising generations of MUTANT KIDS, says Icelandic study

The trend for women to have children with older chaps than of yore is causing many more mutations among children, according to a study of the genetics of Icelandic families. […]

The new info comes in a wide-ranging study carried out by boffins at Reykjavik firm deCODE Genetics, which holds DNA info on a high proportion of Icelanders. The results have been deemed important enough to be published in headline-birthing boffinry mag Nature this week.

It seems that the greater number of mutations produced as dads become older is down to the fact that a chap’s wedding tackle continually manufactures new sperm by dividing old ones, which naturally means that as the years go by the ready-use sperm in his firing chamber will be the result of more and more divisions in the past. Each division is another chance for a mutation to occur, so that sperm from an older man will always contain more mutations than sperm from a whippersnapper, and these mutations will naturally be passed on to any children he may have. Ladies, by contrast, are issued their entire load of eggs at a relatively young age, and so have many fewer chances to produce mutant ones.

See what I mean? It isn’t wrong, it’s just really weird, and really British. Having accepted these facts, it’s pretty much the greatest news source on Earth. Here are a selection of insane headlines:

China could penetrate US with new huge missile Uh oh…
LOHAN sets clock ticking for explosive climax
Boffins: We are VAPORISING the Earth… for science Supervillainesque move helps them learn about super-earths
Hubble spots ancient spiral galaxy that SHOULD NOT EXIST Milky-Way-like shape ‘should be space train wreck’
Undead galaxy cluster spews 700 zombie baby stars A YEAR IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!

\scriptstyle\Box   Retronaut unearths the creepiest magazine ever published: Girl Watcher. Literally a fun, fresh, non-judgemental look…at stalking. 1959 was a different time.


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Weekend Linktopus

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The Linktopus isn’t fucking around

BEHOLD! The multi-tenticled splendor of this blog’s ability to notice other things on the series of tubes— by reaching through them with its many tenticular arms. Or like an octopus learning how to open a jar to get at a crab. The funny link is the crab, trapped within in a sadistic experiment to test cephalopodular intelligence. Or maybe you, the reader are the crab. Hmm. I haven’t really thought this analogy through, but either way, Aitch-bar is the octopus.

\scriptstyle\Box   You know the Olympic Torch? How they always talk about “The Olympic Flame” in a way that implies it is a permanent thing, and how there are multiple stories regarding the many and varied methods they use to keep it lit while relaying it…the backups…the fuel canisters, etc. All of this has caused me to assume that there was some kind of fortified room in Athens where a permanent flame is kept alight. I always assumed that a continuous flame has been kept burning there, as it is at JFK’s tomb or whatever. And based on my non-scientific survey of nearly 3 other people, I wasn’t alone in this. How wrong I was.

At least it's parabolic

Celebrating the tradition of burying women alive if they violate virginity oaths.

The Olympic flame is relit every 2 years in a ceremony imitating Greek antiquity in the much the same way that Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas imitates ancient Rome. A group of eleven women representing the Vestal Virgins¹ have a little ceremony and then light it using a parabolic mirror, and hand it off to somebody, who runs away. (Fun fact: Vestal Virgins are Roman, not Greek. And they were dedicated to keeping a fire that was never to be extinguished, not one that is restarted and put out every 2 years.) It’s not a secret, they televise it and everything…just not in America I guess. The first awareness I usually have that the Olympics are about to happen are little blips on the news about so-and-so doing a portion of the relay, so the lighting with its weird fake toga ladies must not get much coverage.

Oh yeah, and the relay was invented for the 1936 games. By noted sports fan Joseph Goebbels.

\scriptstyle\Box   “Henri 2, Paw de Deux” won the first Internet Cat Video Festival. He and his human companion deserve it, the 2 min film is a masterpiece of feline ennui.

\scriptstyle\Box   Strange Maps points to a “Map of Physics” from 1939. A more current map would take up a tiny fraction, with the rest an inky darkness to represent the dark matter and dark energy that occupy so much of our thoughts and universe. Also, it would just be easier to draw.

What an unlikely landmass

No one is making a “Map of Chemistry.” Just Saying.

\scriptstyle\Box   If movie trailers were more honest with us, they’d look like this:

¹ When you are selected to pretend be a fake vestal virgin for this, but you’re in a relationship, does your role as a fake virgin enter your mind while you’re having sex? Do you think about whether you are less convincingly virginal? Do you try putting it on hold for a couple weeks while the ceremony is coming up and then go crazy once it’s over?