Monthly Archives: February 2009

Friday Random 10: Skiing Edition

Pax Arcana

telemarkThe shushy and well-balanced Mrs. Pax Arcana are alighting for the hills of Vermont later today to go skiing with my parents and some family friends. I don’t have anything clever or interesting for today’s random 10, but my mind has been on skiing all day so maybe I’ll just share with you a story from my days as a ski bum in the gorgeous mountains of Colorado.

My first job out west was as a waiter at a Mexican restaurant. One of my restaurant friends, Greg, was a lanky stoner from Iowa who looked like a young Cosmo Kramer and talked like Jeffrey Lebowski. One night a table of loud, obnoxious East Coast types rolled in about two minutes before we were prepared to shut down the kitchen. Greg volunteered to stay on to serve them — while all the other waiters went home — because East Coast types typically tip well and he needed the money.

His frustration grew palpable when the table ordered soft drinks instead of margaritas (no liquor = much lower tip) and skipped on the appetizers. He quickly pumped some Diet Cokes and Dr. Peppers from the machine — swearing the whole time — and returned with them to the table.

One of the men of the party (two couples) raised his glass of soda, pointed to a 3/4 inch gap at the top, and sneered at Greg:

“What, I don’t get a full one?”

Without breaking stride, Greg responded thusly:

“Huh. That’s funny. It looked a lot more full in the kitchen — WHEN I HAD MY BALLS IN IT.”

He hadn’t put his balls in it, of course. But at least he made that guy think about it. Fuck that guy.

The songs:

Run My Mouth — Ra Ra Riot
Ada — The National
Surra — Faces on Film
Need You Need You — The Whigs
Golden Pony — Army Navy
Tangled Up in Plaid — Queens of the Stone Age
Cracks in the Causeway — Oxford Collapse
Energy Spent — Liam Finn
Turn on Me — The Shins
Sink the Seine — Of Montreal

Bonus video:

El Scorcho — Weezer

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


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Friday filler: Your semi-regular Wilco update

Father Scott

To celebrate the forthcoming June release of Wilco’s yet-to-be-named seventh record (co-hat tip Spackler and Wilco’s own email), here’s a Bad Plus cover of Radio Cure. And if you’re wondering, yes, it sounds like every other jazz cover of any non-jazz song.


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We is old

Pax Arcana

beowulf_raisedThe English language is a frenetic pastiche of influences from other languages — such as those that gave us words like “frenetic” and “pastiche” — but it turns out some words are older than others.

Words like “I,” “we,” “two,” and “three” may be as much as ten thousand years older than other common words — including “four” which was conjured by witches in the medieval period and is not to be trusted. We know this because researchers at Reading University plugged a bunch of words unrelated to technology, plus a mathematical model that plots their relationship to other words in other languages, into a big IBM computer and hit the “print” button:

What the researchers found was that the frequency with which a word is used relates to how slowly it changes through time, so that the most common words tend to be the oldest ones.

For example, the words “I” and “who” are among the oldest, along with the words “two”, “three”, and “five”. The word “one” is only slightly younger.

More interestingly, the researchers say they can predict which words will soon be obsolete based on the rate at which they have changed throughout history:

For example, “dirty” is a rapidly changing word; currently there are 46 different ways of saying it in the Indo-European languages, all words that are unrelated to each other. As a result, it is likely to die out soon in English, along with “stick” and “guts”.

Verbs also tend to change quite quickly, so “push”, “turn”, “wipe” and “stab” appear to be heading for the lexicographer’s chopping block.

I guess this is all kind of interesting. But in my opinion there are really only two kinds of people — those who merely observe the world and those who shape it. For example, in the time it took me to read this article about old words, I invented three new ones — sklurp, yupetide, and plosh. Whoops, here comes another one: TRUNY. I guess we all have our talents.

Oldest English words identified [BBC]

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Dinochicken is not a good idea

Pax Arcana

When the ashes have returned to ashes and the dust is dust, it will be known that humankind did not succumb to global warming or the aftereffects of nuclear war.

Rather, the people of earth were slowly pecked apart by dinochicken — the brainchild of an early 21st century paleontologist named Jack Horner — and were then pooped out in pellets.

From Wired, who interviewed Horner upon the release of his new book How To Build A Dinosaur: Why I Decided to Fuck All of Humanity in the Ass Extinction Doesn’t Have to Be Forever:

Birds are descendants of dinosaurs. They carry their DNA. So in its early stages, a chicken embryo will develop dinosaur traits like a long tail, teeth, and three-fingered hands. If you can find the genes that cancel the tail and fuse the fingers to build a wing—and turn those genes off—you can grow animals with dinosaur characteristics.

If you tie a rock to your genitals and throw it off a bridge, you’ll look like a Ken doll. Doesn’t make it a good idea, doc.


Dinosaurs are not extinct; they’re still with us in this sense. Birds look different, but it’s all cosmetic. By tweaking some genes, we can bring out the underlying similarities. Yes, it’s a wild plan, but I like to think about things backwards.

I like to think about things backward also. Right now I’m thinking about whether I rented the car I used to blow up your lab or just used my own.

Look, it’s not like dinochicken will overrun the world. If he mates with a chicken, you still get a chicken. Eventually we might make animals that look more like dinosaurs, but we won’t have velociraptors on the loose.

You’re goddamn right we won’t have velociraptors on the loose. BECAUSE THEY’LL ALL BE EATEN BY DINOCHICKEN, YOU DOUCHE!

If you think we’re playing God, maybe. But we’re already modifying plants and mice. I don’t see a lot of people jumping up and down complaining about better tomatoes.

They would if you combined their tomatoes with rampaging dinosaurs. Just a hunch.

Scientists who play by someone else’s rules don’t have much chance of making discoveries.

Scientists who create dinochicken don’t have much chance of getting to the parking lot before their heads are pecked off.

Ultimately, we hope it can lead to a cure for genetic defects. Once we understand just how to control genes, we have the potential for spinal cord regeneration, bone regeneration, and so on. It might also give us plumper chickens.

Plumper chickens with razor-sharp teeth, that is.

The creature would be its own sound bite. It’ll go a long way toward convincing people that we can learn a lot from this sort of experimentation—about biology, development, evolution. Otherwise we’re just a bunch of wild scientists building monsters in our laboratories.

We can also learn a lot about the eating and — God forbid — mating habits of the dinochicken. If we could manipulate dinochicken’s genes to give it the ability to talk, we could even ask it what humans tasted like. Wouldn’t it be funny if it said “Tastes like chicken”??!!!?!! Oh man, we’d laugh and laugh. And then get eaten.

Q and A: Jack Horner Wants to Re-Create T. Rex From Chickens — What Could Possibly Go Wrong? [Wired]


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Thursday Filler: They Are Not Human

Pax Arcana

If you’ve ever watched a professional or high-level college football game and laughed at the giant fat guys that clog up the offensive and defensive line, let this video be a good reminder that those guys are not really human — but in fact a subspecies that can outrun normal humans half their weight.

In the video, NFL Network commentator Rich Eisen takes a crack at the 40 yard dash at the NFL combine. Make sure you watch until they overlay his 40 with those of the athletes.

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Old fish wuz bangin’

Pax Arcana

fishNew studies into old fossils have revealed that the physical act of sex — known in academic cirlces as “delivering the dissertation” — is at least 30 million years older than once believed (hat tip to Jaelynne).

Researchers came to the conclusion* after carbon-dating Larry King’s boyhood underpants. Whooooo check it out a Larry King is old joke those never get tired!!!

Anyway, scientists studying the 380 million-year-old armored placoderm fish, or Incisoscutum richiei, discovered two female fossils that were pregnant — in that they were carrying already-fertilized eggs inside their bodies. Scientists had previously believed that all eggs were fertilized outside the body at the time:

“Once we found embryos in this group, we knew they had internal fertilization. But how the hell are they doing it?**” said John Long, the head of sciences at the Museum Victoria in Melbourne who wrote a paper on the discovery that appeared in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

The answer came when the scientists re-examined the pelvis of the male placoderm, armed with the new information about fertilization. After looking at specimens at the Natural History Museum in London and the Museum Victoria, they realized the pelvis had a fin not seen on the female fish, and surmised it was likely used to grip its mate during fertilization, much as sharks do.

I’ve often thought that only thing missing from the human sex life was an extra hand***. Anyway, continue, doctor:

“These fish have an extra large bone that attaches to the pelvic bone,” he said. “It had been overlooked and hadn’t been identified. So in a nutshell****, we have reinterpreted the structure of the pelvic bone in these placoderms to show they had a method for copulation.”

Zerina Johanson, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum who also took part in the study along with the University of Western Australia’s Kate Trinajstic, said findings of internal fertilization showed that “sex started a lot sooner than we thought.”


Study of fossils shows prehistoric fish had sex [Yahoo!]

* That’s what she said
** That’s what she said
*** That’s what she said
**** That’s what she said

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Me, myself and I argue about the Amazon Kindle

Pax Arcana

kindleMe: This new Amazon Kindle looks pretty awesome. One Citigroup analyst called it “the iPod of the book world,” and Lord knows I love my iPod.

Myself: That’s interesting. What does it do?

Me: You can read books on it.

Myself: But you can already listen to books on your iPod.

Me: Yeah, but people who love reading want to read books, not listen to them.

Myself: So why don’t they just buy books then?

Me: Because the Kindle is more portable — well, kind of — and you can download books directly to it without having to go to the bookstore.

Myself: But don’t people who really like books really, really like going to bookstores? Especially ones with coffee and stuff?

Me: Fair point. Maybe they’ll make them so you can download books while you’re at the bookstore.

Myself: Doubtful, considering the bookstore wouldn’t make any money.

I: Would you two homos knock it off? I’m trying to graft Sophia Loren’s head onto a zombie for a secret project I’m working on.

Me: Sweet Jesus you’re a handsome man.

Myself: A prideful buck, rearing mightily on its powerful haunches.

I: Dudes, check it out…


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