Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say

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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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The Epidemic Threatening America


Our national nightmare continues: for the second time in three months a girl has become stuck in between two buildings. This time in Portland. The victim actually fell from 2-storeys above to the alley between the buildings instead of forcing herself into the narrow passageway, so maybe she wasn’t blasted out of her mind. Except that it happened at 3:45 am, and this was Portland so…

Your move, Courtney Malloy.

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Terror at 24 inches

Between a wall and hard place (another wall).

Our town of Providence, Rhode Island isn’t known for much. The birthplace of American religious freedom in the colony founded by Roger Williams, the world’s 4th-largest unsupported dome, some crooked politicians, and an ad for a local pest control business in the form of an enormous blue termite overlooking the highway. But now we have something we can truly be proud of: a girl who managed to get herself wedged so firmly in an 8-inch wide gap between two buildings that it took dozens of police and firefighters over an hour to free her.

Last Friday, Courtney Malloy, a 22-year-old woman in a state of considerable refreshment, went out the back door of a restaurant and made the inexplicable decision to try forcing herself through a passage no more than 8 inches across, as an unnecessary shortcut to the street. And, with an indomitable will to prevail over the forces of physics and common sense, she managed to push herself into the narrow space so vigorously that she was totally unable to free herself.

So far, you’re thinking, well, that’s a little stupid and unlikely, but it’s not THAT strange. And you’re right, except that every further detail just raises more questions. How is it even possible for an adult to get herself stuck in something in such a way that she cannot become unstuck? Did she expand? How can someone become stuck in such a way that firefighters couldn’t simply pull her out? (They had to break through one of the walls from the inside-out to get to her). When the firefighters got there, she had no idea how she’d gotten stuck— whether she walked into the alley, or fell from the roof of one the 3-story buildings that form the alley (it was later revealed that she started on ground level). And then, most importantly, there’s the fact that they found her wedged in there horizontally and 24 inches off the ground. Let me repeat that: horizontally and two feet off the ground. Like an extremely low-flying, drunk and bewildered Superman.

Someone pushed themselves into a space far to narrow to accommodate them, thought “this isn’t working” and proceeded to keep trying. In this way, no other news story in the past year more richly deserves  to be written about on Aitch-Bar, a blog that is to bullshit as narrow alleyways are to confused college students.

Indeed, no other story so adequately expresses the essence of the American dream, that looks at life and says “I bet I can jam more stuff into this.” It’s the spirit that built the iPhone, that invented the spork, that made that pizza with cheese inside the crust. Every time a middle-aged woman tries fitting herself into her old pair of leather pants, every time a child tries pushing together two non-interlocking lego pieces, every time a father looks at a thanksgiving turkey and asks himself “how many more birds can I shove in this thing?” this spirit is renewed. Even Rhode Island itself, wedged tightly as it is into the confined space between Massachusetts and Connecticut, is an embodiment of it. And as the personification of this spirit, Courtney Malloy deserves to be honored with a full sized statue, which will then be ceremonially wedged into that now famous alleyway, so that future generations can squint at it through a narrow tunnel and reflect on how THEY can make the world a better place…through shoving.

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Shameless Promotion


For some reason, you read this blog more than you know me. I don’t know why or how that happened, but somehow, you are looking at this. Although that inexplicable situation has come about, there is something you can do to make things better: go to this link and watch this fairly preposterous commercial entry featuring yours truly. Then “like” it. We are in a contest that is based on how many humans like it. I don’t frequently tell people to do things—usually, when it comes to blogging and whatnot, I tend to just write things for years, for free, and then send it into the electronic void and ask nothing in return. Nonetheless, if any of you humans wanted to watch me embarrass myself for the sake of a local ad campaign, please do, and shoot a ‘like’ in our direction since that is the currency of our brave new world, and our brave entry is in a tight race for first.

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Two Seconds Hate: Truck Nuts

There is a large truck directly ahead. Whatever your cruise control is set at, the truck is slightly slower. Tap those brakes. Can you get around? Negative; the truck is two lanes wide. Blue-tinted smoke bellows from its twin exhaust pipes. The sky rains asphyxiated birds in its wake, and you switch to recirculated air when the world begins to smell like cheap vodka. Judging from the bumper, the driver is geared to go fully Republican when the 2004 election rolls around. The back window is adorned with crucifixes and Gothic lettering, and you assume that the letters actually spell something, but your brain will be goddamned if it’s going to devote the energy necessary to decoding that stupid fucking font1. Still, you think, perhaps the driver is a person who you could hypothetically hold a conversation with. Perhaps, if the two of you were trapped on a desert island, there would be some grace period before things turned Lord of the Flies. And then your eye drifts toward the pavement, and the ensuing aneurysm and subsequent hemorrhage almost make you lose your cool. Camouflage truck nuts. There is only one thought left to think: camouflage doesn’t really work in some situations. Indeed. Not nearly as well as you wish it did. Dare I say, it looks more like leprosy. Enjoy this stretch of one-lane highway while you stare at something that looks similar to, but in fairness slightly better than, a pug’s rear2.

I assume that the endowment of trucks with reproductive organs is the reason why there are so many trucks on the road in the first place, in the face of soaring gas prices and concerns over manmade carbon emissions. There are a lot of issues to discuss on that front. I’m available for debate. Until then I’ll be in the Cabela’s parking lot, neutering pickups and affixing giant collars around their front grilles so that they can’t chew on their stitches3.

Aside from the fact4 that they look stupid, and that testicles are useless without a corresponding man cannon (which no one has the initiative to put on their car for some odd reason), what amazes me is the number of women who attach these to their trucks. There are more than zero who do this. In fact I’m told that hot pink are the scrota of choice for ladies’ vehicles. This is to delineate that these male genitalia are a woman’s. At this point, whatever message one may have thought one was conveying is now pretzeled beyond recognition. We can distill only the basics: you have a Hemi and you want it to feel embarrassed when it goes out in public.

It’s worth noting that South Carolina has imposed a blatantly unconstitutional ban on bumper balls. Which is great news; I love it when two wrongs interfere with one another. And nothing better illustrates the point that South Carolina legislators are well-focused on critical issues. Last year the law was contested by a 65-year-old woman who refused to pay a $445 ticket for going anatomic with her truck, which I guess makes her the Rosa Parks of gluing balls to your car. Her jury trial does not yet have a date set. I await, rapt, her made-for-TV movie.

1. Fuck that font. Write in normal human letters.
2. Pugs look absurd.
3. I have a “Gone But Not Forgotten” tattoo with Bob Barker’s face. With Gothic lettering. … Oh. He’s not dead? Am I the only one who wasn’t aware of that?
4. Fact.

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Two Cats for the Price of One


This is Venus, the internet’s favorite cat this week.

These are the Charons from the Star Trek TOS episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”:

Anyone else suddenly hungry for Oreos?

This cat-copycatting should come as no surprise: cats have always loved Original Series Star Trek. Dogs on the other hand (which, regardless of their other virtues, are well known to have terrible taste) tend to prefer Voyager. They can relate to Neelix.

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Veeping in the Name of

It’s since been surpassed in the news by some kind of medieval shaman revealing to women at long last that they possess hitherto unknown reproductive powers in the category of “ways to shut that whole thing down,” but last week something amusing happened to someone who shares Todd Akin’s pre-Enlightenment views on female autonomy: VP candidate and ex-professional hand model, Paul Ryan.

P-Ryddy got an unpleasant surprise last Thursday, when Tom Morello, guitarist of his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine, and aging Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino look-alike, penned a Rolling Stone editorial that called him “the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against.” He wonders which Rage song is Ryan’s favorite, “Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of ‘Fuck the Police’? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production?” Rage has got to be one of the most aggressively left-wing bands of the last 20 years, and not just primarily outside their music, like Bruce Springsteen or Avril Levigne—the songs themselves are about the evils of war profiteering and how cool Trotsky’s beard looked. (Fun Fact: “Political Views and Activism of Rage Against the Machine” has its own page on Wikipedia). So it’s kind of funny that a Mr. Burns-level arch-Randian conservative liked their music so much. My theory: he’s missing the irony. Like in ‘Bulls on Parade’ when they sing about “Weapons not food, not homes, not shoes…I walk the corner to the rubble that used to be a library” maybe he just thinks all that sounds like a good idea.

As the campaign puts more scrutiny on Mr. Ryan, we’re going to find out about more of the things he didn’t fully understand. Here are my predictions of the harsh revelations he’s about to receive in the near future:

  • Jefferson Starship was not a real starship.
  • Even though they were both played by the same actor, Han Solo and Indiana Jones are, in fact, different characters.
  • Maize is corn.
  • None of the people in The Crucible were actually witches.
  • ‘Ferris Bueller’ is not Matthew Broderick’s name in real life.
  • “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is only a saying—you can’t just replace Medicare with apples.
  • ‘Rosebud’ was Kane’s sled, a symbol of his lost youth and innocence, not the name of a snowglobe company he tried but failed to acquire during his rise to power.
  • Even though it has ‘America’ in the name, we don’t actually own South America
  • The Eric Clapton song “Cocaine” was about drug use.
  • Cats are not always girls and dogs are not always boys.
  • Nabokov’s Lolita was not primarily a tribute to the motor lodges of the early 1950’s.
  • Crocodiles and alligators are different species. The resulting mix-up during the summer he worked at that zoo was his fault.
  • The music of Public Enemy is not about the supremacy of supply-side economics.