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Pianist Andre Tchaikowsky got his final wish -- to star in Hamlet. And, according to his plans, it was only a small part of him. His skull played the part of Yorick, the long-dead court jester from Hamlet's youth, something Tchaikowsky had always wanted. #

Less than half of the population understands how our government and society work. I'm sure quizzes like these have been failed by the public for decades, because if you asked people during WWII which states were the Confederate states they'd probably be about as accurate as people today answering which side countries were on during WWII. But, when your vice president says that he's not part of the Executive branch, you can pretty much assume that this disinterest in the nuts-and-bolts of democracy has spread a bit too far. #

Going through old bookmarks, finding odd things, like's manual for the NM-156 Reciprocating Emu Press. #

Further signs that CDs are going to become obsolete: Michael Jackson's Thriller -- first released in 1982 -- sold 31,000 copies last week, making it #1 on Billboard's Top Pop Catalog Albums. The source of the sales? iTunes. The Pop Catalog list isn't a hugely difficult list to be on (three AC/DC albums from the past 40 years are in the top 10), but the ability for a burst in iTunes interest to turn the chart upside down is a huge sign that the digital distribution model has a big advantage for both customers and musicians over the old model. Instant gratification versus hunting for the CD at stores or online is a big reason digital downloads, legal or otherwise, are so popular. #

Workplace instrumentals: the Boston Typewriter Orchestra provides a percussive musical style, combined with a satirical representation of the office rat race. #

Scientists and craftsmen have been trying to replicate the sound of the Stradivarius for centuries, but the attempts have been fair to middling. The newest process turns back to nature: 'infecting' the wood with a fungus, which lightly breaks down the wood's structure, resulting in a lighter, less-dense wood that enrichens the sound in a way that is similar to Stradivari's craftsmanship. #

Newest addition to the Toy Hall Of Fame: the lowly stick. Not some mass-produced, marketed, pink-for-girls-and-blue-for boys StyckTM -- just a run-of-the-mill, picked-up-off-the-ground and bugs-wiped-off stick. It's nice to know that the Toy Hall Of Fame actually understands what toys mean to kids, which most people forget supercedes what numbers or marketers tell us. #

Literary presidents were better presidents, giving greater weight to the hope that Obama, who has authored several well-received books, will return to that writerly president that we haven't seen in many, many years. #

For as efficient as the US Postal Service is, sometimes they just can't deliver some pieces of mail. Those pieces end up in either St Paul or Atlanta, where the USPS makes a last-ditch effort to figure out the sender or recipient. What does the Post Office do with the stuff of value, if it can't go anyplace else? They sell it to the public in open auctions (see the schedule here). As a sign of the times, the USPS has even ventured into the 21st century via eBay, although they haven't got any auctions going currently. Me, I'm interested in purchasing fifty bags of Santa Claus mail, like in Miracle on 34th Street, which an army of postmen will carry into my house and dump on my desk triumphantly. #

Ambigram: a neologism derived of the 'ambi-' prefix and '-gram' suffix, meaning text that can be read even after being flipped or rotated, either having the same definition both directions or representing something entirely different. Kitchen-utensil company OXO chose their brand name due to the ambigrammic quality of those letters, so it would always read properly despite the direction their product was displayed. Another favorite of mine: the SUN Microsystems logo, which is rotationally ambigramous. #

Unattended children will be given espresso and a free puppy. (see also). #

In looking at Fargo in Google Maps, I was intrigued to see that several railroad lines that had been removed years ago still leave a faint thumbprint on the landscape -- you can still see where they lead if you look closely. One such line (not all of it removed) passed through the amusingly-named Buttzville, ND. Many town structures are still there, but the population is next to nothing, and the town doesn't officially exist anymore -- I detect a road-trip next summer! I have a list of ND towns to research who still show up in Google Maps that haven't existed in many years, such as Magnolia, ND. #

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