Monday, September 26, 2016
The options available to malicious wrongdoers used to be sort of limited. They could sneak into your sacred cave and rearrange all the bear skulls. They could put a stray cat in a burlap sack and sell it as a delicious piglet (a pig in a poke), and you wouldn’t know till you let the cat out of the bag. Today’s sophisticated technology opens up the potential for sophisticated mischief. What scares me is the awful specter of cyber-terrorism. Like, what if someone hacked my Pandora account and gave the thumbs up to music I actually don’t like at all?
Monday, September 19, 2016
Do you like crazy visionary science ideas? I sure do. There’s this company in Florida, Algenol, that’s working on a way to breed cyanobacteria to live in salt water, soak up sunlight, and poop out a mixture of ethyl alcohol and water. They’re getting about 8,000 gallons of liquid fuel from one wet acre annually, about 20 times more than the same acreage in corn ethanol. Promising, right? But there’s danger lurking. If a rogue scientist were to splice in some juniper DNA, and the bacteria escaped, I can visualize the inadvertent conversion of all the world’s oceans to gin.
Monday, September 12, 2016
According to the Nielsen numbers, jazz accounts for about 2.3 percent of U.S. record album sales, making it even less popular than classical musical, which posts an impressive 2.8 percent. Rock gets 34.5, R&B 17.5, country 13.8 percent. Country is more popular than this number indicates, I think, but mostly you listen to it on the radio. In your truck. With your dog. The same research shows a category called “hard music” getting a 10.2 percent share. I don’t know what this means. Hard to listen to? If that’s what they mean, why don’t they just straight up say polka?
Monday, September 5, 2016
If anybody suggested you could save money by fueling your car with human blood, I’m guessing you’d question their ethical compass, as well as their internal combustion cred. But look: by the best numbers I can find, over 60 percent of immigrant detainees in this country are held in private prisons. So the more people we lock up, and the cheaper they can be fed and housed, the more money these corporations make. How is that even sort of okay? And who the hell buys that stock? Seriously, a pimping meth dealer hitman could claim the moral high ground here.
Monday, August 29, 2016
There is this thing called “circuit bending,” where you take some sound-producing electronic object and interfere with its guts to make it produce noises its designers never imagined. When the bender is expert or lucky, really amazing results are to be had. More often, though, instead of getting a modified Speak & Spell to spout fluent Klingon, you get unpleasant skronks and squeaks, sadly similar to every other device you’ve putzed with. It’s not so much bent as broken. Sort of like mind-altering drugs; straight out of the box is as good as the thing is ever going to work.
Monday, August 22, 2016
I don’t want to be accused of sowing the seeds of panic in a time of global anxiety, but I feel the need to point out that we are facing a pretty severe hovercraft gap. The Russians, the Ukrainians, the Chinese and the Greeks have these enormous Zubr-class landing craft, which are, I swear, the coolest-looking boats you have ever seen. Imagine a 200 foot long inflatable raft with a chubby battleship on top and three hella big round fans on the back. There is no better way to take up to 500 fanatically loyal shock troops to the beach.
Monday, August 15, 2016
The World's Largest Wind Chime is in Casey, Illinois. I saw that on a sign, but did not stop. It's going to be dangly metal pipes, right? This is not an interesting world’s largest thing, even though I admit to an interest in world’s largest things. Here are other not particularly interesting world’s largest things: World’s Largest Soda Straw (plastic sewer pipe), World’s Largest Condom (weather balloon), World’s Largest Pocket Hankie (bedsheet) and World’s Largest Bedsheet (tarpaulin). Also, here’s a tip for travelers. Don’t waste your money to see the World’s Largest Grain of Sand. It’s just a big rock.