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).

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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.

Brontosaurus as it was thought to have looked in the 19th century - semi-aquatic with a rich, creamy chocolate shell and crunchy dinosaur bones.

Sugar-coating the past

Brontosaurus (above) as it was thought to have looked in the 19th century – semi-aquatic with rich orange chocolate surrounding a crunchy dinosaur-bone center.

In dinomenclature news, paleontologists were dealt a major setback after another failed attempt to convince people there are more than six kinds of dinosaurs.

Every child learns that there are six types of giant prehistoric lizards (Tyrannosaurus Rex, brontosaurus, stegosaurus, triceratops, pterodactyl, and Houseasaurus).  Scientists classify these animals as dinosaurs (from the Latin dinosaur “thing that’s a dinosaur”).  Another category of creatures, called nameosaurs (such as Bambiraptor and Draconex hogwartsia), consist of vanity species discovered by putting two random bones next to each other and giving it a cute name in a bid for grant money.

Brontosaurus was discovered by prolific paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh during the Bone Wars of the 19th century — the rivalry between Marsh and fellow paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope over grant money that was responsible for over 650,000 deaths worldwide.

In 1879 Marsh announced that he had found two almost complete skeletons at Como Bluff in Wyoming — missing, crucially, their skulls.  He modeled the skull on the skull of another dinosaur he had found – also a brontosaurus — and called one of the skeletons Brontosaurus excelsus, or “brontosaurus that is complete now that it has a head”.  The other one was named Mabel, after his mother.

But in 1903, after Marsh’s death, another brontosaurus was discovered that resembled both Mabel and Cope’s cousin Marjorie.  Paleontologist Elmer Riggs concluded that there were not enough differences between Mabel and Marjorie to warrant two different genera, so he folded the brontosaurus into the latter, renaming it Apatosaurus excelsus — “folded brontosaurus”.

The name stuck around, though — until the 1970s, when researchers discovered a triceratops femur laying next to a half-eaten chicken wing and subsequently named it Apatosaurus after filmmaker Judd Apatow, who was still in middle school at the time.  (Apatow later directed a movie about the discovery called The 40,000,000 Year Old Virgin, starring Steve Carell as Elmer Riggs, Seth Rogen as the triceratops, and Paul Rudd as the guy who ordered chicken wings.)

Emanuel Tschopp, a Swiss national, led the study at the New University of Lisbon in Portugal.  (Disclaimer: The Old University of Lisbon in Portugal was wiped out by a meteor impact 65 million years ago.  Their PhD program was closed down a few years later.)

The 300-page study examines 81 different brontosaurus skeletons, 49 of which do not include triceratops femurs or chicken wings, across 477 morphological characters using statistical approaches to establish a boundary between species and genera — making it the most extensive use of technobabble to justify playing with dinosaur bones ever completed.

“This detailed data on Diplodicidae (brontosauruses) led us to three main findings: first, we found conclusive evidence for an additional new genus, which we call Galeamopus (‘Gale stuck a brontosaurus skull on a mop handle’).  Second, Supersaurus, a genus of brontosaurus previously known from Smallville alone, now also includes the Metropolis genus Dinheirosaurus (the so-called ‘last brontosaurus of Krypton’),” Tschopp said.

“And finally, we found that the differences between Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus are primarily due to plot holes and continuity errors in Judd Apatow’s film that totally ruin the mise-en-scène.”  Study co-author Roger Benson noted that he and Tschopp have no idea what a mise-en-scène is, or how it got ruined.

Most dinosaurs are thought to have died out from diabetic comas caused by eating too many chocolate-covered brontosauruses.  Excavations near the La Brea Fudge Pits outside Los Angeles suggest that brontosaurs became extinct because it was too hard to breathe with their heads encased in rich, creamy milk chocolate.

Click here to read the original story.

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Fortune favors the Swift

In pop geopolitical news, a study released by the Fortune Institute for Ranking Great Leadership has named singer Taylor Swift the greatest female leader.

The timing of the announcement is curious, coming two days before Pope Francis called for multilateral talks among leaders of the Fortune 6 Great Powers (Apple, the European Bank, China, the Vatican, India, and Taylor Swift) to discuss rising tensions between Ms. Swift and neighboring India.  Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has expressed alarm at the sudden rise in greatness of Taylor Swift and concern that her combination of power and great leadership could be felt as far away as Beijing and Cupertino by next year. India has been conducting military exercises along its border with Taylor Swift.

The United Nations has downplayed the power of Taylor Swift (above), once thought to be limited making her eyes glow and talking to sea turtles.  However, the discovery of great leadership from the singer, who celebrated the 25th anniversary of her founding in December, became clear after she successfully crossed swords with Spotify.

Author’s Note: I’m pretty sure Spotify is a gentle shampoo for getting tough stains out of Dalmatians and leopards.  I’m not sure why a great leader like Taylor Swift would spend time fencing with it.

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Swift came in at number six on the overall list.  In past years, Cylon Tricia Helfer and Prisoner Patrick McGoohan have also held the role of Number 6.  In a press statement, Ms. Helfer (above) praised the decision.  “As a tall, hot blonde with glowing eyes, I am gratified to see Fortune recognize the great leadership of tall, hot blondes with glowing eyes, some of whom have been leading men on for years!”

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Holy conditional assistance!

The other day I was leaving my grocery store. As I’ve written before, there’s a bank just inside the door, and they have a whiteboard out front that often has some mention of their latest loan rate or some special promotion. Or a list of things to do before you die on Christmas.

The sign above was sitting out front a few weeks ago, and the sheer inanity of it made me want to capture the sentiment. At first, I just figured it was a dumb play on words: SUNtrust… SHINE… get it??? Very clever.

But wait! What’s THIS!* A disclaimer?!

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Regret and forget

I received the following e-mail today:

Don’t Regret Missing Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy

Natalie and Donnell are going to put on a night to remember!
Award winning Cape Breton musician, Natalie MacMaster, began her fiddling career at 16 releasing her debut album Four on the Floor. Her musical venture now spans over three decades, completing 11 albums, performing thousands of shows and collaborating with a multitude of world renowned artists.
The most recent album by MacMaster, Cape Breton Girl, has been self-described as a “straight-ahead, traditional record.” The album is filled with an invigorating collection of toe-tapping jigs, reels, and strathspeys that embodies her most cherished values, her family and home, tradition, and faith.

 

I hereby promise not to regret missing Natalie and Donnell in the slightest.  Partly because I have never found strathspeys particularly invigorating.  Partly because there has been no independent analysis as to whether Cape Breton Girl is either straight-ahead or traditional.  But mostly because I can’t trust Natalie and Donnell to provide me a night to remember if they can’t even remember to tell me who Donnell Leahy is or what he will contribute to the evening.  He might just be the guy who taps his toe during the jigs.

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What the heck’s in a name?

Not to be too judgmental (WARNING: Extremely judgmental post ahead), but one of the most important tasks of a new parent is naming your child.  That name will be with a child for a long time, and could have a profound impact on a child’s emotional and psychological development, as well as limiting their choice of vocation in the future.

I’m not talking about trendy Hollywood idiots who name their children Apple or North or even Dweezil.  They can live in trendy hipster enclaves and get trendy hipster careers in colour science and technology or goat arousal, although their options in the real world can be limited.  (Good luck winning a seat on the Omaha City Council if your parents named you Moon Unit Lynn Anderson.)

I’m not even talking about clueless simpletons like Lord Marmaduke Scrumptious and the lovely Lady Scrumptious.  Go ahead and name your daughter Truly Scrumptious.  You’ll get your comeuppance on prom night.

No, I’m looking at you, Bob and Margaret De Vil of Columbus, Ohio.  Of all the names in the baby book, you decided on Cruella?  Your last name already looks and sounds like “devil”.  Never mind being elected Municipal County Clerk.  You’ve pretty much guaranteed your daughter a lifetime of “poor attitude”, detention, shady boyfriends, and making coats out of dalmatians.  I hope you’re pleased with yourselves.

Editor’s Note: Many states allow you to apply to the courts for a change of name.  If your last name looks and sounds like “devil”, you might want to look into it.  This also applies if your last name happens to be Von Doom or Sinestro.  You’ll thank me later.

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Gifts from the 9 of hearts

(Disclaimer: Why is there a cat staring at a dove on my 9 of hearts?  Beats me.)

A number of people have come up to me recently and asked, “John, what should I get my loved one for Valentine’s Day?” (Disclaimer: I checked with a mathematician friend of mine, and zero (0) is a number.)   And I always respond “Why are you asking me?  She’s your loved one.  I can barely stand to be in the same room with her!”

So this year, I went to my good friends at Hammacher-Schlemmer for some holiday gift ideas.  (Disclaimer: I am good friends with neither Mr. Hammacher nor Mr. Schlemmer.  Based on the fact that I constantly mock their products and refuse to endorse them, I’m probably banned from their store.  If they even have a store.)  So here are my top 9 Valentine’s Day gift ideas.  (Disclaimer: It appears that 9 is no longer a number, but has been demoted to ‘dwarf number’ status.  Please plan accordingly.)

(Disclaimer: These gift ideas are primarily for Him.  For Her, I don’t know.  There’s a reason I’m single.  Get her flowers, I guess.  Girls like flowers.  And maybe tell her she looks 23.  Just don’t get her any of this crap, particularly if you want her to stay around.) *

shearling moccasins

Mongolian Shearling Moccasins – $79.95

These hand-sewn indoor/outdoor moccasins are made from the coats of sheep that roam the indoor/outdoor steppes of Mongolia.  The leather uppers’ abrasion resistance provides years of wear, in case you have to walk on the tops of your feet for years.  An EVA midsole cushions the foot during extravehicular activities such as repairing heat tiles and orbital thrusters, and the sheepskin insole can be removed when a more uncomfortable moccasin is desired.  The moccasins have a waterproof thermoplastic rubber sole, keeping feet soft as a Mongolian sheep’s hoof.

himalayan singing bowl

Authentic Himalayan Singing Bowl   $199.95

Used since 560 B.C. to invoke a deep state of relaxation, meditation, and chicken soup, this is the authentic Tibetan singing bowl.  (Disclaimer: Bowl does not sing, and may not actually be from Tibet.)  The bowl is hand-hammered by a guy with a hammer in his hand from gold, silver, spare change, recycled beer cans, and stuff we found on a beach outside Kathmandu with our metal detector, ensuring every bowl is at least partially Himalayan.  Etched on the side of the bowl is “Om mani padme hum,” a Buddhist mantra which probably means, “Almost done polishing your nails, Queen Amidala.  I’ll just sing quietly to myself while I finish.”  Running the wooden striker along the rim creates complex, harmonic tones with subtle variations that differ from singing in almost every way.  Tapping the bowl with the striker generates a bell sound that signifies that your host is about to invite the Dalai Lama to say a few words.

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faceless

Can anybody really know what time it is?

(Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement.  As I said last winter, I wouldn’t buy this stuff with money I found in the street.  Your money may vary.)

After my recent misadventure with the time-space continuum, I started wondering whether there was any sort of device I could use to help me navigate these trying times.  Fortunately, there’s help.  My good friends at Hammacher-Schlemmer have been sending me e-mail offers since 2013, so I know there’s a world of gift ideas for the time-challenged among us.  With that in mind, I offer the following gift ideas from the H-S Temporal Obfuscation catalog, home of the original Faceless Watch (above).

WATCHES

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The Classic Calculator Keypad Watch  $59.99

Simply press any key, and white LEDs behind the corresponding numbers will illuminate, in order to show the hour and minute.  0-6-4-5, for example, means 6:45, or 6:54, or 4:56, or maybe 5:46.  Pressing the pound sign reveals the month and day using the same method.  1-2-3, for example, means January 23rd, or possibly December 3rd.  Its chunky plastic keycaps recall the ugly design of the world’s first handheld calculator, while the order of the numbers mirrors the layout of IBM’s seminal Model M keypad, which didn’t have a pound sign, because it wasn’t a telephone.  The links in the silicone strap resemble a chain of space bars (Quark’s, Ten-Forward, the Cantina from Star Wars, etc.), unless you look at them, or are familiar with bars in space.

tick mark watch

The Tick Mark Wristwatch  $99.95

This wristwatch has 28 LEDs that illuminate in sequence to indicate the time, date, and day of the week in some weird form of digital cuneiform that linguists have been unable to translate.  Two vertical rows of blue LEDs match with numbers etched into the watch face, which would make the LEDs superfluous if the etched numbers could be seen without a microscope (not included).  As the time elapses, the corresponding LEDs illuminate to create an ever-changing display of meaningless tick marks.  (10:15 is shown above, according to UFO crackpots who believe ancient aliens built the Pyramids using base-28 math.)

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The hits from coast to coast?

 

This afternoon, as I was coming home from work, I happened to catch an ad for the weekly Top 40 countdown on SiriusXM’s 90’s on 9 channel.  The spot featured host Downtown Julie Brown(above), my second favorite Julie Brown in the history of MTV.  She previewed the show this way:

“We’ll be counting down the top 40 hits from this week in 1993, featuring artists from the U.S. to the U.K. and literally everywhere in between!”

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