Thursday, July 31, 2008

interweb shoutout: simon's cat

First, there was Tom and Jerry. Next up was Garfield. Now, I'm thrilled to say, we have Simon's Cat!

For those of you who haven't seen this lovely new cartoon, it's worth a visit to the Simon's Cat page on YouTube, where the shows are hosted. All animations are done by Simon Tofield, an animator with Tandem Films. The cartoons are simple and short (only two or three minutes each), but they're completely hilarious, especially for you cat owners out there.

The series (which only has three episodes thus far) stars Simon and his unnamed cat, who loves to drive Simon crazy in ways both familiar and unique. At the end of the day, kitty just wants attention—as well as his next meal. I can only hope that Mr. Tofield will produce these a little more regularly, 'cause I'm hooked!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

the year so far

Back in December, I posted a list of the top 10 things I was looking forward to in 2008. Now that the year's half over, I thought I'd do a follow-up to update you all on those events!

Smart fortwo: I've seen a handful of these little buggars cruising around the city, and they do look cute. But the Americanized version of the fortwo got some pretty unflattering reviews.

Phoenix Spacecraft: The probe landed perfectly on Martian ground at the end of May. Way to go! Phoenix used its robotic arm to scoop up some soil, plant it into a "wet chemistry lab," and do some tests. So far, we now know that the soil has a relatively basic pH and contains both water and carbon dioxide molecules.

Mets' new season: It's been up and down the entire way, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. The Metsies fired their manager and gave bench coach Jerry Manuel the interim job. Injuries have plagued both the pitching staff and regulars. The good news is, they're still in contention with two months to go.

Hawaiian State Quarter: Hawaii doesn't come out til later this year, but a few of the new ones for 2008 have made their appearance—namely Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona.

New music: First, the winners: M83's newest offering is a classic, and Ladytron's new one was solid (both groups were great live, too). I still haven't heard Goldfrapp's offering, but it got mixed reviews. Peter Gabriel is the king of letting his fans down...looks like there is no new album but only a few songs for the WALL-E soundtrack . And the Postal Service decided they had better things to do, so no new music from them "before the end of the decade." Other nice surprises, though, included The Long Blondes and an old favorite, Robyn.

ISS modules: The Columbus and Kibo modules were both successfully installed on the International Space Station...hooray! Let the science begin.

Large Hadron Collider: I'm not even gonna say nothin. Just watch this:

Ikea: The blue-and-yellow is in effect, finally, in Brooklyn. I paid a visit, and I must say it's pretty nice, as Ikeas go. It's one of the few Ikeas that has windows, and the views of the harbor are actually quite serene. So far so good with traffic; there are definitely more cars along the main drag in Red Hook, but it's really not that bad.

Shea Goodbye: Shea is still standing; I'm not sure when demolition day is, but I'll definitely be there if they make the date known. The new stadium looms large, however, and it looks really nice. There have even been a couple of scary falling incidents at Shea this season, which puts me a little more at peace with relegating it to the trash heap. Plus, the rumors have been confirmed: Shake Shack at Citi Field! Rejoice!

Regime change: The date is set. Barack Obama v. John McCain. I'm excited, and cautiously optimistic that the Dems will take the White House back come November. It's about time for a change—I can only hope the rest of the country feels the same.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

watermelon = manna

With the dog days of summer upon us, the pink fleshy fruit of the Citrullus lanatus plant is the refreshment of choice for anyone needing to cool down. But what do you really know about this yummy snack? Here are some fun facts, care of Wikipedia and the National Watermelon Promotion Board!

  • Only 8 percent of a watermelon is not water.

  • The largest recorded watermelon ever grown was 262 lbs!

  • Over 70 percent of the world's watermelons are grown in China.

  • There are about 1,200 varieties of watermelon, with flesh colors ranging from pink to red to yellow to orange.

  • Despite technically being a fruit, the watermelon is the state vegetable of Oklahoma.

  • The watermelon is believed to have originated in the Kalahari Desert in Africa.

  • Watermelon rinds are edible. In certain countries, they are stir-fried, stewed, or pickled.

  • Cube- and pyramid-shaped watermelons can be produced by growing the plants in shaped glass containers.

  • All watermelon plants need to be pollinated by honeybees to produce a fruit.

  • You can compete in watermelon seed spitting at the Redneck Games, held each summer in East Dublin, Georgia.

  • Speaking of said seeds, a watermelon will not grow in your stomach if you eat them. In fact, watermelon seeds are a popular snack in many countries!

Friday, July 18, 2008

seeing double

Okay, time for a totally silly post. Today I read about a new blog from the makers of I Can Has Cheezeburger, which is a complete waste of neurons but a lovely way to spend a little down time at the office (or wherever). It's called Totally Looks Like, and, well, it's a nice little place to find lots of "separated at birth" pairings of celebs and their often non-human lookalikes. Judging from the popularity of ESPN's Here's Looking At You column, I'm guessing this one will go far. My favorite so far is Wilford Brimley and his Diabeedus friend. Hee! Of course, this project pales in comparison to the recent stunt pulled by the always entertaining prankster group Improv Everywhere, where a dozen or more sets of twins took over a New York City subway car. But it's still pretty fun!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

what's in your mix?

A couple of weeks ago, I had to make a trip out to the vet's for my cat. While there, I spied a brochure that I just had to pick up. Sporting the slogan "Because different breeds have different needs!" it advertised something called Wisdom Panel MX Mixed Breed Analysis. As you might guess, the company in question (the system is owned by one Mars Veterinary) offers a "scientific breakthrough for mixed breed dog owners." For between $135 and $175, Mutt owners take their dogs to the vet to get blood drawn, and the vet sends the sample to the folks at Mars Veterinary, who apparently have proprietary DNA information on 134 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Association. In a few weeks, the results are in, and *presto,* you now know your dog better than ever! In particular, the brochure says the system can help you get to know your mixed-breed's personality and/or help you understand what breed-specific health problems your dog might get.

Or so we're told. A couple of articles I found on the subject seem to indicate that no one's really tested how accurate the system is...which rung a familiar tune in my brain. A day or two after the vet visit, I happened to catch an episode of 60 Minutes in which reporter Lesley Stahl looked into the new business of tracing your ancestry through DNA. The upshot was that the few companies that do so-called "genetic genealogy" are great at marketing but not so amazing at giving people real information. What's more, it seems that this wasn't the first such report; Popular Science ran a piece essentially saying the same thing five years ago.

To be sure, it's a thought-provoking topic—at least enough to warrant a book on the subject! As someone who's interested in genealogy, I'll admit that the idea of tracing your roots beyond the ancestors you already know of is fascinating. But as someone who also has a science background, it gets hard to believe that we've come up with a reliable way to determine where all of your great great great great grandparents (all 64 of them) came from, as well as what ailments they had. And yes, that goes for Fido, too. &infin