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Jim Henson was always on the forefront of puppeteering technology, adopting computer-motion-control in the early 80s. His robotics mentor, and later collaborator, holds one of the funnest IMDB stage-names I've seen in a while: Debbie the Roboteer, proprietor of the now-defunct Robotorium, Inc.; Sadly, she passed away this spring. #

Just because I'm proud of how it turned out, here's my Christmas article for Collector's Quest: a letter to Santa, written to the tune of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen, asking for Star Wars figures. Someday, I'm going to hire a soprano, alto, tenor, and bass and sell a service by which anyone who writes a silly blog-post set to the tune of a classic Christmas carol can have it sung by professionals and recorded to MP3. #

What the hell's a canola, indeed! Canola oil is a genetically-modified, selectively-bred rapeseed oil, but due to the obvious connotations of the unrelated word "rape", the low-acidic variety developed in Canada became Canadian oil, low acidity. I suspect eating "Canadian Oil" didn't sound promising, either; 'canola' rolls off the tongue and actually sounds somewhat food-like — but depending on who you ask, any form of rapeseed, including canola, is considered a health hazard. Here in North Dakota, we produce nearly all of the U.S.' canola. #

While city life might have its own dangers, living in the country is more likely to get you, hemorraging and broken, on an emergency-room gurney. It's not just farm-related accidents: driving long distances for supplies, more self-reliance for basic housing care, and (ahem) a tendency to drink, do drugs, and other risky fun-loving pasttimes, all compound to put rural residents at higher risk of injury. #

"Innovative ideas, even though bordering on the bizarre, are frequently encouraged and may be protected by the law and the courts, but to use the court or law to impose or force a number in lieu of a name upon society is another matter." A man's attempt to change his name to 1069 is denied, with expansive legal exposition as to why. Via. #

After my last post about Santa fear I've kept looking, so now Thingsville is exhibiting the various other sources of terrified Christmas photos. #

I'm not a fan of hotlinkers, people who steal my bandwidth to post pictures from my websites in their blogs or message boards. So far, I've always replaced the image with something else, often something obscene. Lately, however, there's been so much hotlinking, that I decided to make it work for me: there's an overview of how I'm advertising my own websites in hotlinked images, using PHP and mod_rewrite. #

Communes aren't just for hippies anymore: one in Australia doesn't like the comparison to the whole 'free love' and 'easy pot' reputation that the hippies caused in the sixties. Theirs was started in the 1940s, and has been self-sustaining for far longer than any of those half-formed utopias of the sixties. Like most communes, they've come together under an ideology, and that may be the reason they've survived: they're a Christian commune. #

Sometimes I'm forced to admire the creativity of the Nigerian spammers. Usually, the emails run the same gambit: I'm a rich guy, who under political strife has fallen on hard times and need to get my money out of the country. Please help! The way the story goes, you will have to pay the cash to get the money transferred, because the deposed prince doesn't have any cash (it's on hold, remember?) but you'll get paid back once the deal is done. Today's 419 spammer took a very different route: impersonating the FBI, saying my $5,000,000 transfer is illegal, unless I provide documentation. Documentation, of course, doesn't come for free. Now, it's clearly not real, as the spelling errors, poor grammar, and an understanding that I would know that several million dollars would be transferred to me, but it's a numbers game: send a zillion emails, and if a couple hundred fall for it, that's food on the table. #

Who knew we'd be put in the same class as Mafia-controlled Las Vegas and Blagojevich's Illinois? North Dakota has the most per-capita corruption convictions of any state, but it's more a fault of making percentages with very small numbers and comparing apples to oranges. If one car gets broken into, and then the next week two do, the crime rate has doubled, but it's a far cry from 100 murders to 200 murders. I don't know what the 50 corruption convictions were, but I imagine charging a few thousand dollars of gas to the city when it goes into your pickup is a far cry from asking millions for senate seats. For example: Tenney, MN, experienced the largest per-capita embezzlement case in Minnesota history in 1999...the mayor and his wife stole $1,763. Population of Tenney: 6, and the theft was almost half of the city budget, making it a $293 per-capita crime -- stealing $100,000 in Minneapolis would still be fractions of a penny per-capita, so the comparison really breaks down at that level, comparing apples to oranges when there's such a difference in population and funds. #

As the years pass, as time slips away, as the snow begins to fall, we are brought back to evidence of this holy time of year: 250 pictures of children terrified of Santa. #

Zookeepers in Japan set up a breeding pair of polar bears, but found no amorous behavior. Reason: both were girls. How could trained professionals miss this rather large identifier required for breeding? Well, sexing a polar bear is much, much more difficult than you might believe. #

At the end of Reservoir Dogs, Mr. Pink takes advantage of a mexican-standoff gone bad (do they ever go good?) and leaves with the jewels in hand. There's a lot of noise outside — the police have arrived — but what happened isn't clear. Was he killed? Did he get away? Was he arrested? The answer can be found here, thanks to modern digital technology and amplification. #

Destiny Floor, now the better part of a decade old, is still named after my daughter, thanks to a 2002 eBay purchase. I do periodically check and make sure the name hasn't changed, because I'm an obsessive daddy, but recently Random Hall's webmaster posted here to let me know that it's still Destiny. It's nice to know that somebody on that end is still keeping tabs on things, since everyone who had originally been part of the naming has probably graduated and moved on. #

Film leaders once had a couple surprise frames at the beginning, of no use to the average person. They consisted of a woman surrounded by various color swatches and grayscale densities. Traditionally called a "china girl" for unknown reasons, they're now seen as an ephemeral feature of pre-digital film history. via. #

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