Sunday, October 30, 2016

Astronomers: 'Universe more politicized than previously thought'

A team of astronomers announced this week that the universe probably has 10 times more galaxies than previously thought, two trillion, or, in layman's terms, roughly the number of lies in your average nightly political TV ad. 

The Hubble space telescope in the 1990s led astronomers to believe there were 200 billion galaxies. Imagine if, at your job, your numbers were 1,800,000,000,000 off. Even if that were in inches, if you were building a library, the books would be in Azusa but you would have to go to the restroom in Redlands. 

It's not rocket science, but it's probably in the next building over at JPL. Along with JPL, the team which used computers to "infer" the far off, currently-invisible-to-view galaxies was at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. 

My guess at the top five classes at the University of Nottingham:

5. Stealing from the rich 101
4. Making those pointy felt hats
3. Archery
2. Tights mending
1. Giving to the poor 101

Of course, I also like to imagine the top class at UNLV is fan dancing. 

The number of galaxies in the new estimate is bound to go up as better and better telescopes come along. I would have thought 200 billion was enough until I heard two trillion. Now I won't be satisfied with fewer than two trillion. It's like how you think you know what a meal is, and then you go to Claim Jumper. From then on, whenever you see a baked potato that isn't bigger than your head, you think "loser."

It is a little silly to think we are the only habitable planet if there are two trillion galaxies inside which there could be thousands of garden spots just like ours. So many habitable planets. So many election cycles. Maybe right now, on Planet Xio, the backers of Zod are screeching about how Blorg's followers are knuckle-dragging hicks, and Blorg's people are firing back with how Zod is in the pocket of the special interests. 

Of course, if I understand this right, the night sky, even with super-powered telescopes, is just a vision of the past, since light takes so long to reach us. There may be chaos out there by now. Let's hope, for the sake of the universe, there was a massive write-in campaign, and some sterling but little-known third candidate, maybe Kalzam, slipped in under the wire for the win. 

. . .

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - Unintentionally-Disturbing Signage edition

Although, if you are in this kind of trouble, you need to cut us some slack, O.K.?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Bottle-flipping fad is latest tween obsession

As "Lord of the Flies" taught us, if tween boys are left to their own devices, they will come up with some pretty adorable pastimes. Like hunting and killing the less popular members of their group, or flipping a plastic bottle in the air in the hope that it lands standing up. Whatever helps to pass that grim, drafty gap between childhood and the rat race.

What, you haven't heard of the plastic bottle-flipping craze which has swept schools this year? It began with a video of a boy who, as his "talent" at an assembly, flipped a water bottle and landed it on a table standing up. From there, it was on, coast to coast; boys tossing bottles through basketball hoops, off trampolines, over their backs, trying to stick that landing. Why? Because it satisfies that part of the pre-adolescent male brain which glories in meaningless skills, a trait which will pop up again years later when he discovers golf.

It is driving teachers nuts, apparently, the pop-pop-popping sound of one-third-full plastic bottles hitting the ground in the quad, or even in the classroom. Some schools have banned flipping, which seems like the wrong reaction. I say monetize it. Charge a buck a day per flipper, give him a wristband, have tournaments and split the pot between the daily champion and the ASB. Whatever it takes so I can stop having to bake freakin' brownies.

I think part of flipping's appeal involves the four elements of the physics involved; the water, the gravity, the rotation and the showing off. YouTube has entire channels devoted to clips of amateur sports stunts. Any kid can come up with a plastic bottle, a few ounces of water, and the free time to film endless retakes.

Our grandfathers pitched pennies, but the winner got all the pennies tossed. Those guys grew up to be captains of industry. My generation streaked; a joke which today would get you on a permanent sex offender's list. This fad seems more suited to our times, a celebration of random odds, modest in its risks and its pleasures. Irritating to adults. Irresistible.

Nobody I asked has ever seen a girl flip a bottle. It makes sense. Girls' brains at that age are too busy building the psychological padding they will need to ignore the dumb junk males do, a vital neural development which is the only thing that allows the species to continue.

. . .

See the original flip clip which started it all. I think it went viral because of the crowd's outsized reaction even more than the act itself. Overreacting to this modest success seems to be part of the appeal.

Here are more examples (since, like these kids, you have a lot of time to kill) all together in a compilation of epic flipping for you (many of them clearly faked with camera tricks, but some real):

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - A little Star Wars humor

 The Kenobi family's favorite church.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Creepy Clownvasion debunked in candid interview

"Creepy" clowns have been in the news this week, probably because during an election like this, it's what we deserve. The rumor was, creepy clowns were coming to kill us, in our schools, in our homes, perhaps busloads but at least pickup-truckfuls, coming to slay us in really big shoes. As if every TV debate isn't a little death already. You'd be doing us a favor, Bozos. 

Last Monday I found the following ad in the Craigslist personals: "From Los Angeles to West Covina, I am comeing to kill u so be afraid. LOL." So I sat down with the creeper, who agreed to meet with me and chat about this whole clownvasion thing.

GW: Firstly, your name is Gat?

Gat: Yes, Gat. 

GW: Like slang for "gun"? Gat?

Gat: No, short for gato, like "cat." See [spreads his shirt collar] I have a tattoo of a kitty on my clavicle.
GW: Oh. That's...actually a tattoo of a clown eating a cat.

Gat: Yeah, I get a lot of compliments.

GW: You've, uh, never really...

Gat: Chowed down? [laughs] No, it's just to mess with people.

GW: So you consider yourself a creepy clown.

Gat: Not clown. I prefer "murder specialist."

GW: Fair enough. How did this rumor about killer clowns get started?

Gat: Some kids lied about seeing creepy clowns luring kids into the forest, and it took off. 

GW: How do you know it was a lie?

Gat: What kid over the age of one is gonna follow a clown into the forest, bro?

GW: But the idea was creepy enough, so other people spread it?

Gat: Yeah, suddenly it's nationwide clowns. It's dumb. Your bloodthirsty clowns, really, it's just me, and CrazyHair Bojangles, and Smiley Fofiley, and Ruffles. Just four of us.

GW: And your ad says you will terrorize everyone between...

Gat: L.A. and West Covina. It's limited, because we take the bus. 

GW: How many people have you murdered? 

Gat: Well, it's more of an intention thing, really. Like a to-do list.

GW: So you put on the frowny makeup and the angry eyebrows and pointy plastic teeth...

Gat: Yeah, and maybe stand on a street corner.

GW: And place ads online. 

Gat: Terror isn't gonna spread itself. 

GW: You're not really a murder specialist.

Gat: Well, when I'm not in makeup I'm actually a political consultant.

GW: Now that's scary.

Gat: Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - Put a ring on it, and then maybe some super glue

 That feeling when you want to know the story behind something, and then again ya kinda don't.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Think this election is nutty? History provides precedent

Whenever I start to think this political season has brought America to its lowest ebb, I like to remember the beat-down of 1856. In short, a relative of a pro-slavery Senator took a cane to the brain of another Senator who had given offense. On the Senate floor. When others tried to stop the assault, they were held at bay by another congressman with a gun. On the Senate floor. This was before metal detectors, and before credentials, and doors on the Senate chamber, apparently.

It makes the war-of-words of 2016, with its rhetoric about heating up gas chambers, "deplorables" and Mexican rapists charmingly nonviolent.

In the election of 1800, voting lasted from April to October. Not campaigning. Voting. President Adams was so unpopular, Thomas Jefferson and his VP pick, Aaron Burr, each individually got more electoral votes than Adams. It was a tie, in fact, the win going to Jefferson only by some back room wrangling. To avoid this in the future Congress passed the 12th amendment, which stipulated that the country would be divided in half once Facebook was invented.

In 1872, sitting president Ulysses S. Grant (were there really so many Grants named Ulysses he had to pop an "S" just to separate himself from the crowd?) coasted to reelection because his opponent died before election day. Horace Greeley is the only candidate to ever kack before an election was completed. Greeley is famous for founding the New York Tribune, and for saying "Go west, young man," even though he later swore he never said it. For his health, he might have been better off taking his own advice, which he never gave.

In 1920, Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs got 3% of the vote even though he was in prison. Without the V, he might have been confused with many other Eugene Debses who were not incarcerated, and only gotten 2%. America loves a bad boy.

In 1992, H. Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire businessman (who spared no expense to put the initial in front of his name) jumped into the race as an Independent. Some think he siphoned away enough votes from VP George H.W. Bush to cost him the election. Historians know, however, that Bush was undone by attempting the risky two-initials-in-the-middle gambit, which any pundit will tell you can only be pulled off if you are a fantasy/science fiction writer.

. . .

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday Wa Pic - Um, eww

When they get product naming exactly right. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The 'battle of the understudies' comes Tuesday evening

I am sure we are all excited about Tuesday night's upcoming vice presidential debate, hold on, let me go look it up. Ah, yes, between Pence and Kaine, who look for all the world like a traveling preacher and a riverboat gambler on one of those '60's TV westerns.

I do not know what items were high on the prospective-VP candidate checklist, but clearly "willing" was up near the top, right after "breathing."

It is not a job anyone has ever wanted. Like being the elephant poop scooper in a parade, or a contestant on "The Bachelor," it seems a job for people without self esteem. Your job is to break tie votes in Congress when they happen, which is about once a century. Your job is to go to the funerals of dead foreign leaders so that the guy with the real job doesn't have to.

VP Thomas Marshall famously said, “Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the other was elected vice president of the United States. And nothing was heard of either of them again.” The dude spent eight years a heartbeat away from the biggest job in the world, and that joke is what he is remembered for.

Will Rogers said, "The man with the best job in the country is the vice president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, 'How is the president?'”

Senator Daniel Webster, in rejecting an offer to be somebody's VP, once quipped, “I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead.”

But John Nance Garner, the 32nd vice president, had the best quote of all about the job, saying it wasn't "worth a bucket of warm p***." You know he was telling the truth, too, because he said it during the Depression, back when people really knew the value of both warm AND cold words with asterisks.

Here are some questions I wish they would ask the potential VPs Tuesday night:

• What's your golf handicap?

• Are you aware they have online Solitaire now?

• How do you think your wife is going to take to being referred to as the "Second Lady"?

• Are you aware that, in the event of a water landing, you are considered flotation?

A lot of people say they would rather the VPs were the ones running for president, but these people are definitely not cartoonists or humor columnists.