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Maple syrup urine disease: a symptom of a genetic disorder that can be the harbinger of greater neurological and physical diseases. Descriptions of the MSUD describe the scent of maple syrup in bodily fluids, but nothing about taste; I suppose the medical research just hasn't gotten that far. This, I learned, from Dr. McNinja. #

10 Underrated Sci-Fi Films: unlike most lists, I agree with all the ones I've seen, and have been interested in seeing the rest. Gattaca & eXistenZ are two great movies that I rarely hear anyone talk about. #

Art themes evolve. Nighthawks was painted by Edward Hopper in 1942, and its noirish look was ubiquitous in the film of the time, and the painting became one of Hopper's most famous. Fast-forward forty years, to 1987 when Gottfried Helnwein painted his pop-art homage Hopper and mid-century film, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, which replaces the nondescript city dwellers of Hopper's painting with Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, James Dean, and Humphrey Bogart. Another decade later, artist Chris Consani was inspired by the grouping of those four actors and started a series of paintings dropping the foursome into various other settings, such as the print that hangs in my employer's executive bathroom, Java Dreams. #

The god of a Greek temple corresponded to the type of environment and soil it was built upon: Demeter on fertile soil, Athena near cities, Posideon on arid land near the sea. This, according to researcher Prof. Greg Retallack, suggests "economic basis for particular cults," which means, "Farmers didn't worship fishing gods, herders don't build temples to farming gods." #

Bones found in the Lichtenstein Cave has been tested, and date back to the Bronze Age, 3000 years ago. However, part of these corpses have survived: two locals have closely-matching Y-chromosome DNA to that sampled from the bones, meaning that the bones found were related to the great-great-great...(repeated 120 times)...great-grandfather of both men. I do take a grain of salt at the scientific rigor of checking a couple hundred people and finding two positives and assuming direct relation, but their assumptions -- that people whose families resided in one area for hundreds of years are likely to date back thousands of years -- is something we non-native Americans can't really grasp. See also: The Cheddar Man. #

A packrat's collection sometimes becomes worthy of a museum: Dr. John Lattimer passed away, leaving his collection to his children. Unlike most packrats, Lattimer's collection had enormous historical content, from records of the Kennedy assassination (being on the investigation team helped) to Nazi artifacts (being in Neuremberg helped) to Napoleon's penis (he paid $3,000 for it in the seventies). The man had a taste for history, and amassed enormous amounts of ephemeral objects. His kids, however, are stuck with paying estate tax on anything that is kept -- and much of which they don't have any documentation of. Seats from Ford's Theatre may have gone to the curb before Lattimer's daughter realized what they were. #

Mentioned in this Cabinet of Wonders post about tiny worlds is the short story Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon. A scan of the story is available in its entirety here. The story about manipulating a tiny world was the inspiration for a Twilight Zone episode, a The Simpsons 'Treehouse of Horror' segment, an episode of the modern The Outer Limits, and an Emmy-award-winning episode of Futurama. Humans love dominance over tiny things; while Sturgeon's story ended positively, our television would rather we believe that it's a good thing Playmobil and Legos can't fight back. #

Add magpies to the list: Dolphins do it, elephants do it, apes can do it, but now we've got a non-mammal, the European magpie, who is able to recognize that a reflection is actually itself. When it comes to brains similar to our own, we can understand the line drawn that separates higher intelligence from others. When we start finding similar patterns in a brain that hails from millions of years prior to mammalian brains, the lines describing what causes intelligence have to be redrawn. #

The dead-zone of slick -- authentic has more appeal when it's raw, style has more appeal when it's flashier, but switch the two (gloss over authenticity with flashiness, overwraught rawness with cool style) and it sucks. #

I know that to most of the country Fargo counts as "the wild, wild west", but being a couple miles from the river and pretty close to downtown, I wouldn't have expected to nearly run over a wild turkey in my driveway. #

Halligan Bar: a specialized, multi-purpose tool for firefighters, designed to rip open, pry apart, or otherwise destroy barriers. Via. #

Ephemera is a funny thing. It's not an object, exactly; it's the likeliness of an object surviving history. Books, paintings, and architecture are designed for long-term appreciation, but things like business cards, concert flyers, love letters, and hand-drawn maps are more fleeting and devoted to a singular, non-collectible purpose that makes them ephemera. Or, rather, more 'ephemera' than other things -- but would a phone book be considered 'ephemera', due to it's regular replacement? Do family photos count? Does writing on the back of a postcard make it ephemera more, or less so? To give ephemera an empirical measure, Marty Weil and John Ptak have developed calculable measure of how 'ephemera' a piece of ephemera is, called, unsurprisingly, the Weil-Ptak Ephemera Scale. Higher numbers are more ephemeral, lower numbers are more permanent. I'd like to see a bit more about how applicable the scale is to real-world problems, but the method for categorizing seems sound and accurate. #

Wifey and I seem to be attracted to the northern climes -- more liberal governments, beautiful outdoors, community support for the arts and intellectuals, and now it appears that Norwegian's similarity to English makes it easy for an American to be bilingual. If only they weren't so close to the Arctic Circle...why couldn't Norway be somewhere in the South Pacific? Oh, for a more tropical bilingual skill, the article recommends Afrikaans, but learning a language spoken mostly in risky African countries doesn't help much to the average traveller. #

A botany instructor brings a visual aid to class, and inadvertently doses himself with its hallucinogenic oils during his lecture. "Crows," I remember thinking, "Are smart birds, and should know all about these sorts of things." #

Those crafty Brits are showing off the funkiest inventions of the past century, such as the fire-suppression grenade, self-pouring teapot, and a 1920s nose-hair trimmers. All I can think of is Homer Simpson's makeup gun, which always makes me chuckle. #

With most animal pests, you can put up a decoy predator and they'll leave; well, until they figure out the decoy is fake, which may take as long as ten minutes in some cases, but they do figure it out. Humans, on the other hand, don't figure out the decoys quite as fast, or, rather, humans react instantly and with great emotion when they think they see a dog in trouble. #

Shahr-e Sukhte, or "Burnt City" in Persian, is a well-preserved ancient metropolitan area in Iran, in which they're discovering all sorts of neat things, like women's prominence and social power, and the world's oldest artificial eye. #

Six years ago, a Packers fan placed an order for a custom Favre jersey, but what they got didn't look quite right. Turns out, the jersey company inadvertently foretold the future by mixing up a Jets jersey with a Packers jersey. The owners of the odd jersey even wore it to Packers games without incident...but with recent Favre's trade, the jersey has been gaining a lot of attention. #

What with metrosexuality being part of the lexicon today, an old word is beginning to see the light of day again: the "dandy" is back. #

National scourge: too many phonebooks. Here in Fargo -- hardly a huge megalopolis -- we got three this year, each from a different company. Opting out? Difficult. Wasted paper? A whole bunch. I'll point at one culprit that the article misses: the businesses that buy ads in multiple Yellow Page phone books. Stick to one, and the winner will come out in the wash; if it weren't profitable to print books nobody wants, it wouldn't be done. #

Remote Predator drone operators experience deep battlefield stress -- even though they're safe in the US. This does spark a little in discussion of violent video games: if physical experience (even knowing you're safe from bodily harm) is minor compared to the emotional experience, what does this say about our immersion in violent videogames and films? Kevin Smith almost gets NC17'ed for a comedy revolving around porn, but PG films include all kinds of death. Yeah, apples to oranges, but the same inadequate comparison is used the other way on a regular basis. #

Early attempts to change the tone without changing rate, which popped up in 2001: A Space Odyssey (via) #

Why do I write "I"? It's not like I need to distinguish from other definitions of "I" -- there's only one -- but few other languages capitalize descriptions of self. There's more to it than meets the I, it seems. #

Need to make yourself more boorish and intellectual? Go to London's "School of Life," a series of classes designed to make you a connoisseur of the finer things in life. #

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