Danger 5

I stumbled onto this on Netflix. If The Man from U.N.C.L.E were set in WWII, written by 4th graders on a sugar high (episode 2 centers on Nazi dinosaurs), directed by the makers of Airplane! using special effects straight out of Godzilla vs. Megalon, and starred an international cast of baristas (including one that only speaks Russian, but everybody understands her), you would have the Australian TV series Danger 5.

I mean that in a good way. The best thing to come out of Australia since that other really good thing that came out of Australia that no one ever talks about.

Disclaimer: The preceding message has been an enthusiastic endorsement of the first two episodes.  The rest of the series might suck, although I’d be really surprised.

Update and Correction: I’m really surprised.  The second season does suck.  The inspired lunacy of the first season is gone.  In the three years between seasons 1 and 2, the sugar-buzzed 4th graders grew into vulgar, puerile 7th graders, and all the satire that made season 1 so good has been replaced by the kind of cheap, unfunny sex and drug jokes you get from vulgar 7th graders.  Two episodes into season 2 and I can’t finish it.  If it gets better in episode 3, I won’t know.

This is why I don’t generally endorse things.

Local Input~ cat sits on a windowsill and looking out the window  /   //  **CLEARED FOR ALL POSTMEDIA USE**  
UNDATED --    

It was never meant to be

Here at A Labor of Like, I often receive letters from readers looking for guidance through these dark times.   I was rummaging through the Labor of Like shred pile mailbag, and I thought I would share a few of them with you.  (Kids, letters are like hard-copy emails, but you print them out before sending them.  Ask your parents.)

Dear Labor of Like,
My cat Snooky Bear (pictured above) has been aloof recently, and just stares out the window most of the day. Does he still love me?

Desparate for Affection

Dear Desperate,

Labor of Like

Dear Labor of Like,
My other cat Commodore Schmidlapp gazes up longingly at me whenever I’m holding an open can of tuna, and likes to dress for dinner. Surely this is a sign of love!

cat in tie

Desperate for Affection

Dear Desperate,
     No, it is not.

Labor of Like

Dear Labor of Like,
What about my other cats Blinky, Chubby Bunny, Duster, Killmouski, Miss Sassy, Skamper, Wiggles, Bonk, Fuzilla, Mr. Krinkle, Ms. Bibbler, CheezeWheel, No-Go, Lil Taker, Put-Put, and Turtle?


Desperate for Affection

Dear Desperate,
No.  Especially not Killmouski.

Labor of Like

The question “Does my cat love me?” has vexed many people who anthropomorphize cats, and often causes great emotional turmoil. So rather than just keep answering “No”, I decided to consult with Science, which has recently conducted studies on emotional attachment in cats.

“No, your cat doesn’t love you,” Science responded in an e-mail.

Researchers at the University of Lincoln have concluded that cats, unlike dogs, do not need humans to feel protected. For example, when a cat feels threatened, it responds by clawing your eyes out. Dachshunds, on the other hand, are shaped like bratwurst, and have roughly the same defensive capabilities as bratwurst, and so are more dependent on humans.

Before cat lovers start despairing about their aloof pets, however, animal behaviourologists said they should take the finding as a compliment. If cats stay, it means they really just want to study you as part of their plot to take over the world.

To find out if cats needed their owner to feel secure the researchers observed how 20 cats reacted when they were placed in an unfamiliar environment together with their owner, with a stranger, or on their own.

The cats who were left alone mostly mated with each other, because we forgot to spay or neuter them. If anybody would like a free kitten, please contact Daniel Mills at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences and Cat Nursery.

The cats left with a stranger immediately perceived that the stranger didn’t like cats because he was allergic to them. All 20 cats proceeded to sit on his lap at the same time. He is expected to make a full recovery.

The cats left with their owner spent their time scratching the furniture, throwing up on the carpeting, and knocking fragile stuff off of shelves.

In 1892, noted catologist Rudyard Kipling performed experiments to see whether cats really do walk by themselves. In one such experiment, Kipling held 137 cats, one at a time, to see what would happen. In each case, the cat tore deep gouges into his arms until he dropped it, then walked away without assistance. When the scars healed, Kipling gave up studying cats and went back to writing.

Although the researchers say cats can still develop bonds with, and affection for their owners, the new study shows that the researchers are lying to avoid the wrath of crazy cat owners.

However, cat psychic Celia Haddon, author of How to Read Your Cat’s Mind and Cat Owners Will Believe Anything, said, “This study shows cats do not need humans to feel safe.  Cats won’t live in an unhappy home, they’ll just walk out.  My sister’s ex-husband was the same way.”

One more letter:

Dear Labor of Like,
Enclosed is a picture of me with my henchmen Felix and Leo. I dress them like cats, and they bring me broken xylophone parts. Do they love me?


Selina in Gotham

Dear Selina,
No, they do not love you, because you dress them like cats and call them Leo and Felix, when their real names are Jacques and Ralph. I on the other hand love you with a fiery passion for the ages, and would not mind having you curl up in my lap. Or the other way around.

Labor of Like (or whatever you want to call me)


A more perfect boson

In particle extremist news, a group of boffin hardliners are now claiming the Higgs boson is the Higgsiest bosons you can get without a prescription.

Bosons are one of the three basic “-sons” that make up the universe, along with unisons (“particles that happen at the same time”) and johanssons (“hot and/or bright particles”). Bosons decay into fermions, which are a group of particles that include leptons and quarks, as far as you know.

Preliminary studies hinted with a fair amount of certainty that the particle spotted by ATLAS (A Tunnel Like A Subway, pictured above) and CMS (CERN Metro Station) experiments had properties consistent with a Higgs boson.

The results were confirmed by boffins at the Mysterious Item Talkathon (MIT).  “This is an enormous breakthrough,” said Markus Klute, a leader of the International Group of Boffins.

(Author’s Note: A boffin is a genetically altered bobolink / puffin hybrid).

But the work doesn’t stop there. Boffins always like more evidence for a start, because it makes them feel like actual scientists, but they also need to know what kind of Higgs they’re looking at. For example, there could be a group of many different kinds of Higgs particles, depending on different extensions of the Standard Model, like leather leptons or V8 quarks.

(Editor’s Note: No, a boffin is a genetically modified bobcat / muffin hybrid.)

“What we’re trying to do is establish whether this particle is really consistent with the Higgs boson, and not an impostor that looks like it but is really one of those cheap knockoff bosons you see for sale on the streets of New York City,” Klute explained.

To do this, the CMS Collaboration, an all-star team of boffins from London, Paris, and Wisconsin fired protons at each other in a six metre solenoid, forming a liquid known as bosonic vinegar. (One metre = 2.32 times the height of a bishop’s mitre). (Disclaimer: No boffins were injured by flying protons in the course of this experiment.)

(Reader’s Note: You’re both wrong. A boffin is a boat shaped like a coffin.)

Just to make extra sure though, the team plans to spend more time fiddling around with the LHC (Looking for Higgs Contraption) again next year. “With the current level of precision, there is still room for other models, so we need to accumulate more grant money to figure out if there is a deviation,” Klute said with his hand out. “Hey, us boffins gotta eat, you know.”

“Although if we do find a deviation from the Standard Model, it is likely to be a very closely related one,” he added. ® (Disclaimer: Yes, this statement is trademarked in the original article.)

(Bystander’s Note: I was just passing by and I heard your argument. A boffin is actually when you use a bonobo as the MacGuffin in a story, as in the classic 1942 film The Maltese Bonobo).


Hot and/or Bright Star Scarlett Johansson (shown here with her clones searching for bosons in unison), told paparazzi that the main characteristics of this new particle are consistent with the Standard Model, but that she was waiting for the Deluxe LX Model to come out sometime next year.

(Ransom Note: A boffin is the genetically modified offspring of singer Bonnie Raitt and talk show host Merv Griffin. Put $100,000 in unmarked bills under a bench in Griffith Park or you’ll never see her again.)

® “Although if we do find a deviation from the Standard Model, it is likely to be a very closely related one.” is a Registered Trademark of closely related Standard Models Kendall and Kylie Jenner (pictured below).



Black donut holes

In spacetry news, a group of astronomers has rocked the cosmic confections community with a stunning claim that supermassive black holes are not donuts.

Conventional thinking suggests that the most massive black holes possess a ring of powdered sugar and sprinkles trapped in orbit around them.

With masses in the realm of millions to billions of solar masses, these objects are truly the heavyweights of our Universe, though it’s rude to point that out. With all this mass comes great responsibility for pulling in any matter — stars, planets, cosmic butterflies, possibly unlucky space dragons — to the black hole’s event horizon.

Now, astronomers have analyzed data from NASA’s Widget Investigating Stuff to Eat (WISE) catalog of thousands of breakfast pastries to find that the “torte model” may be woefully inadequate when explaining what is actually going on.

In the 1970s, astronomers developed a unified theory that could explain active supermassive black hole observations using breakfast foods. The theory arose during a Friday morning staff meeting where somebody brought bagels.

Since this unified theory was suggested, it has generally been ignored, since the existence of giant donuts billions of miles away isn’t really a conversation starter at parties.

After surveying 170,000 galaxies containing supermassive black holes at their cores, the WISE observations showed some black holes that could be seen, and some that could not, in accordance with the Law of Convenient Research (“Sometimes stuff is there, and sometimes it isn’t, depending on who’s giving us grant money.”) When looking at black holes inside massive galaxies that are clumped together in galactic clusters, more black holes seem to be obscured, indicating some kind of bias against black holes, or galactic clusters, or the supermassive, depending on who you ask.

“The main purpose of unification was to put a zoo of different kinds of active nuclei under a single umbrella,” said lead researcher Emilio Donoso of the Instituto Ciencias Astronomicas de la Tierra y del Espacio in Argentina. “Now, that has become increasingly complex to do as we discovered the words ‘zoo’ and ‘umbrella’ mean completely different things than I thought in English. Stupid translation app…”

Donoso and his team came back a few minutes later and suggested that dark matter may have a part to play.

The Nutritional Archive of Sweets Alternatives (NASA) confirmed that the black hole announcement brings the official count of things that are not donuts to 3,024,225,801,850. The list includes other non-donut things such as upstate New York, altimeters, and that episode of Star Trek where some woman steals Spock’s brain.

(The image above shows galaxies clumped together in the Fornax cruller. The picture has been artistically enhanced by Miranda Johnson of Mrs. Marino’s fourth grade art class to illustrate the idea that black holes would be prettier if they were magenta.)

Click here to read the original story.

Some insects are more aggressive than others in response to an intruder.  Older bees will often use their honeycomb as a hideout, while younger bees are more apt to proactively attack -- a response legal in several states after the enactment of stand-your-hive laws.

Bee aggressive

In apiological anger news, scientists think they have finally found a cure for the epidemic of calmness currently threatening the worldwide bee community.

Scientists report that they can crank up insect aggression simply by interfering with a basic metabolic pathway in the insect brain, a process far more efficient and effective than traditional bee angering methods like whacking on the hive with a stick, bombarding them with gamma radiation, or making disparaging comments about the Honey Nut Cheerios bee.

The new research follows up on work by Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene “Omic” Robinson. When he and his colleagues looked at brain gene activity in honeybees after they had faced down an intruder, the team found that they got stung repeatedly.

Some insects are more aggressive than others in response to an intruder. Older bees will often use their honeycomb as a hideout, while younger bees are more apt to proactively attack — a response legal in several states after the enactment of stand-your-hive laws.

“People looking at my brain gene activity really oxidates my phosphorylation!”, said one bumblebee in a letter to the editor. The bee requested anonymity by dancing in kind of a figure 8 shape with a wiggle.

After spending time as a Companion of the Doctor, postdoctoral researcher Clare Rittschoff used drugs to get bees addicted to drugs. She saw that aggression increased in the drugged bees if she subsequently tried to get them into rehab.

But the drugs had no effect on chronically stressed bees, according to studies performed on air traffic control bees. “Something about chronic stress changed their response to the drug, which is a fascinating finding in and of itself,” Robinson said, misusing the word “fascinating”.

In separate experiments, Hongmei Li-Byarlay and his youthful ward Jonathan Massey found that reduced oxidative phosphorylation in fruit flies also increased aggression. This result, too, was of little interest, as aggressive fruit flies are still pretty ineffectual.

(Warning: Climate drones claim that angry fruit flies cause global warming, or are possibly the result of global warming, one or the other.)

According to Robinson, the fact that researchers observed these effects in two species that diverged 300 million years ago makes the findings even more compelling to the sort of people who are compelled by divergences that happened when no one was around to see them.

The team reports its findings in the journal Needless Provocations of the National Academy of Sciences.

Click here to read the original story.


A Price among men

I’ve been catching up on blog-related activities after a period of blog-related inactivity, and I have once again found myself at the (metaphorical) door of the inestimable Humor of Joseph Nebus (currently estimated to be about 83.4 quatloos, but you didn’t hear it from me.)

Recently, after a careful reading of what might have been a recent obituary of Vincent Price (who died in 1993, and possibly again recently), Joseph concluded his post with this tantalizing tidbit:

Also apparently Vincent Price was a roller coaster fan? And has something to do with Saint Louis? Who knew that?

As something of a Catholic history buff (approximately 0.37 quatloos of Catholic historical buffery), I too was curious as to the connection between the two great men.  With my customary due diligence and attention to detail, I set out to research the link between the master of horror and the man (pictured above) Wikipedia readers voted “Most Likely to be the Jack of Clubs”. Here is what I learned:

The history of the relationship between Vincent Price and King Louis IX dates back to medieval France.  In those days, France was ruled by a string of kings named Louis with monotonically increasing Roman numerals from the House of Capet. (Grammatical disclaimer: Louis was from the House of Capet, not the Roman numerals.  Those were from the Romans.)

At the time, Price was the head of the rival House of Seven Gables in the French Landsraad. After the interruption of a royal cotillion* by a horde of breakdancing zombies was traced back to Price, Louis retaliated by issuing an edict declaring that Houses could have no more than five gables.  This infuriated Price, who insisted that he had no idea what a gable was, so how could he get rid of two of them.

Homeless, Price retreated to his family’s ancestral lands in the County of Paraffin, where he parlayed his candlemaking skills into a new Landsraad seat as leader of House of Wax.  Sadly, before he could take his place in Paris, House Wax was melted by the “Grand Méchant Loup” (Big Bad Wolf) **  Price escaped by the hair of his chinny-chin-chin, costing him his luxurious beard.

Sadder but wiser (Disclaimer: There is no evidence that he was wiser.), Price returned to the court of Louis IX and apologized for the whole zombie thing. Louis, who by this time was up for sainthood, chose to be magnanimous to his former foe, and decreed that Price and his descendants would be reinstated to the Landsraad on condition that they show the other nobility to their seats first. Price’s House of Ushers would still be serving today, if it weren’t for the Jacobins and their stupid Reign of Terror.  To this day, Frenchmen are forced to find their own seats.

Price’s footprints from the center aisle of the Bastille are preserved today on the Saint Louis Walk of Fame in Kansas City.

* Possibly a soiree or fete — modern scholars disagree.
** Not to be confused with the “Grand Merchant Loup” (a shopping plaza outside Calais) or the “Grand Méchant Loop”, a giant handle installed over Paris during the Reign of Terror, and currently being used as an arch in some city in Eastern Missouri.

Get a load of this

A snippet of conversation overheard at work the other day:

Man 1: Do you know where the loading dock is in this building?  I need to pick up a delivery.

Man 2: I think it’s on the first floor…

Disclaimer For the Future: If you are reading this in 2030, deliveries used to be made in wheeled vehicles called “trucks”, which required a ground-level access point to unload cargo.  There was still stuff that didn’t arrive by drone.

charlie phone

Dialing Theron Number

Earlier today, I was at Best Buy looking for a new home phone.  (Disclaimer: A telephone is a device for transmitting audio messages from one person to another using an advanced form of communications called “complete sentences”.  Kids, text your parents about it.)

The phones that were out of the boxes all had a sticker over the display, showing the large, friendly character font for the caller ID, indicating how easily you can tell that your old friend UNAVAILABLE is calling from UNKNOWN NUMBER.

In this case, all of the phones had the same sticker, indicating that a call was coming in from Charlie Johnson at 800-222-3111.  However, in my haste, I misread the name.  In one of my Duck of the Day moments, I swore that the name on the incoming call was Charlize Theron.

Note to the good people in marketing at AT&T: People (or maybe just me and a few others) would be much more likely to buy AT&T land line phones if they included receiving calls from Charlize Theron (shown below trying to make a phone call, possibly to an AT&T land line subscriber).



Author’s Note: In the course of doing research for this post (Disclaimer: looking for a picture of Charlize Theron holding a phone), I discovered the picture below.



Apparently, in her younger days, Charlize Theron was Scarlett Johansson.  (Disclaimer: A land line that receives calls from Scarlett Johansson would also have marketing potential.)

big aliens

Unsettling science

In big news, Science was caught on an open microphone suggesting that space aliens are enormous, causing a firestorm of controversy that threatens the relationship between Science and the space alien community.

In a paper, cosmologist Fergus Simpson quoted Science as saying that aliens, if they exist, are likely huge, with an average weight of 650 pounds, or about 6 Kate Beckinsales (shown below).  The argument relies on a mathematical model that assumes organisms on other planets don’t care what you say about them, as long as you have a mathematical model.


One representative of the alien community (top, right) denied that his race were interstellar behemoths, or that they exist, insisting that they were standing next to some deceptively small trees when the picture was taken.  The alien was granted anonymity because he was self-conscious about his size.  “Don’t look at me, I’m huge!  And I don’t exist!” he said.

In a hastily arranged press conference, Simpson said that Science had been taken out of context.  “All Science was saying is that, throughout the universe, there are likely more small animals than large ones.  There are many small ants, for example, but far fewer whales or elephants.  Therefore, aliens are huge,  QED!”

“I think the average size calculation is reasonable,” says Duncan Forgan, a scientist at the University of St. Andrews who wasn’t involved in the paper.  “But then again, I wasn’t involved in the paper.  I’m not even sure what paper you’re talking about.  I’m just trying to find the Petheram Bridge car park.  Stop interviewing me!”  As reporters chased him to his car, Forgan shouted that the paper “doesn’t address the correlation between body mass and the planet’s surface gravity,” before he tried to run them down and flee the scene.


The gaffe drew swift criticism from Hot and Bright Star Danica McKellar (shown above improving the self-esteem of teenage girls at the Barbizon School of Mathematical Modeling).  McKellar, who is one of the world’s foremost experts on giant cosmic butterflies, told reporters that her mathematical models say intelligent aliens could be as small as 3 Kiera Knightleys (below).  “And this mathematical model is so powerful and self-assured that if you change this 3 to an 8, you can prove that global warming is creating ants the size of elephants, without having to use any Science at all!”

keira-knightley clones

Researcher Seth Shostak says the paper reminded him of previous work he had done suggesting that any extraterrestrials we might eventually find would be on the larger side.  “It’s interesting, but there’s really no concrete data to work with.  Science also didn’t take into account any kind of evolutionary theories.  Add in that whole bit about body mass and surface gravity, and it becomes clear that Science is just being kind of a jerk.”  He explained that Science likes to cultivate this bad-boy persona because it drives mathematical models wild.

Shostak, a researcher for the Science, Engineering and Technology Insults (SETI) Institute, took a gratuitous swipe at the Ursine-American community.  “Polar bears are large but do not write great literature and build radio towers,” he slandered.  When asked what that had to do with intelligent aliens, he admitted that he was simply trying to get the attention of Danica McKellar and her hot mathematical model friends.  Ms. McKellar later said that she found his comments offensive and intriguing.

Click here to read about the whole brouhaha.