Sunday, November 30, 2008

The True Test of an Athlete?

What if there were a test you could take as a kid that would tell you whether you have the right genes to be a star athlete? Would you want to know?

A Colorado company claims to have developed a DNA test that can tell whether a person might have the speed, power, or endurance to excel at certain sports--or whether she's best off watching from the sidelines.

All that's needed is a cheek swab from a child age 0-8. Then the kid's DNA is analyzed to see if it has traits similar to those of successful athletes. No one knows how accurate the test is, but parents are already lining up to have their children tested.

But here's my question . . . Is athletic ability only a result of a person's genes? Or is it also the result of hard work, perseverance, confidence, and guts? I think DNA plays an important role, but I'd rather have a tiny kid with a kick-butt attitude on my team than a person with all the right genes and no moxie.

What do you think?

Read more here.

On a related note, congratulations to Eri Yoshida, the 16-year-old high school student who recently became Japan's first female professional baseball player. (I wonder if the DNA test could have predicted THAT!)

And another round of congratulations to Samantha-Jane Stacey, the fourteen-year-old Australian girl who recently won a silver medal in the World Sumo Championships. (Keep in mind that sumo wrestling, however cool, is a seriously sexist sport. Traditionally, women are not allowed to enter or touch a sumo ring for fear of violating its "purity." So way to go, Samantha-Jane.)

PS: Sorry for misspelling athlete in the title! How embarrassing!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

On a recent afternoon, Kettly Jean-Felix parked her car on Beacon Street in Brookline, fed the parking meter, wheeled around to go to the optician and came face to face with a wild turkey.

The turkey eyed Jean-Felix. Jean-Felix eyed the turkey. It gobbled. She gasped. Then the turkey proceeded to follow the Dorchester woman over the Green Line train tracks, across the street, through traffic, and all the way down the block, pecking at her backside as she went.

According to this year-old article, Brookline, MA, has a little problem with turkeys. Which is odd, I think, 'cause our turkeys are quite pleasant.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Smoke Bombs!

I love this guy.

Fighting for the Right to Rock

They cannot perform in public. They cannot pose for album cover photographs. Even their jam sessions are secret, for fear of offending the religious authorities in this ultraconservative kingdom.

But the members of Saudi Arabia’s first all-girl rock band, the Accolade, are clearly not afraid of taboos.
--The New York Times

It's easy to forget that females in United States (and countries like Australia) have rights that aren't shared by hundreds of millions of girls/women around the world. The ladies of Saudi heavy metal girl-group Accolade have become heroes for doing things that would seem quite ordinary to most of us. But in a country where women aren't allowed to drive and the religious police are always watching, wearing jeans and writing rock songs about relationships can get you into a lot of hot water (to say the least).

So the next time each of us has an opportunity to do something brave, we should make sure to seize it. (By the way, did I mention that Accolade is looking for a drummer?)

Read more here and listen to Accolade's music here. (Not my cup of tea, but that's OK.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Underground Cities That Weren't Built By Humans

I must have been ten or so when I first read the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. (Which I recommend highly.) As you might imagine, the aspect of the story that really captured my attention wasn't the thrilling plot (which involves super-intelligent rats and sinister government agencies) but rather the descriptions of the underground "city" the rats had created.

I was reminded of the rats of NIMH when I first saw the clip below on TV a few months ago. Scientists decided to study the workings of a large ant colony by pouring ten tons of concrete into a large anthill. (Not too nice for the ants, I'm afraid.) They allowed the concrete to harden, and then they dug the dirt out around it. As the ants' city was revealed, even the scientists were amazed.

Have a look at the video, which starts getting quite interesting around the four minute mark.

(Via Mentalfloss)

Sunday, November 23, 2008


(Above: Awesome artwork discovered online. Will the artist please take credit?)

On February 8th, the legendary (haha) Kirsten Miller will be appearing at Symphony Space in New York! Aside from entertaining you with amusing book-related stories and first-hand accounts of Bigfoot stalking, she may--just may--give the audience a preview of KIKI #3!!!

Find out more here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I Am in LOVE

In my (very) humble opinion, Adam Wallacavage is the greatest artist of all time. But I'm not in love with him. I'm in love with his delightful chandeliers, each of which is crafted to resemble an octopus. The green one would look PERFECT in my bedroom. If I only had a spare $10,000!

See more of his work here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Mystery Meat of Framingham

(Sorry for the illustration, but I've been dying to find an excuse to use it!)

Seems like the town of Framingham, Massachusetts could use a good sleuth. For the past month, high-quality cuts of raw meat have been mysteriously appearing beneath a tree in the village green.

According to Ethan Mascoop, the town's public health director, "The meat is large, it's raw, it weighs upward of 5 to 10 pounds. . . . We want to make sure it's nothing nefarious, and we're taking all precautions and all actions, including testing and monitoring. But there's no evidence - absolutely, absolutely nothing - to suggest something untoward is going on."

No evidence of something untoward? Someone keeps leaving RAW MEAT on the village green--and nobody knows WHAT KIND of meat it is!

Here are some of my theories:

1. Werewolf Bait
2. Alien "Experiments"
3. An Attempt to Turn the Town Squirrels into Murderous, Meat-Eating Fiends
4. Leftovers from Midnight Meat-Lover Picnics

Read more (and see a video!) here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

While We're on the Subject of Strange Art

(Aka: "Things People Do in Austria, Part II.")

Check out the "Wellness Skull." Created by Dutch artist Joep van Lieshout and positioned near a busy intersection in Vienna, Austria, the Wellness Skull holds a fully-functional sauna. When in use, steam rises from the skull's eye sockets. I'm kind of loving this. How great would it be to have one in your very own backyard?

Read more here.

Giant Sausage Comes to Brooklyn

You guys know I'm a fan of strange art. But THIS may be taking things a bit too far. The giant sausage "artwork," created by a meat-loving team known as Kuildoosh, will soon be gracing the backyard of a Brooklyn art gallery. Right now, however, it's stuck in customs on its way from the UK. Perhaps we should hope it stays stuck?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This Week's Edition of WHAT IS IT?

A mysterious jelly-like substance has been spotted throughout the British Isles. It looks a little like Jell-o and a lot like snot. But according to the BBC, it's neither substance. (How can they be so sure? Who said it was HUMAN snot?) Anyway, take a look at the pictures here, and see if you can help our friends across the pond solve their mystery!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Experience the Joys of the USSR

(Photos below from azillphotos.)

Many of you may be a little too young to remember the communist Soviet Union. It was a jolly place where munchkins and good witches . . . whoops, sorry. I must have been thinking of Oz. The Soviet Union was a little less magical. In fact, you could say it was downright depressing at times. And I hear the toilet paper was really scratchy.

But now those of you who missed out on the fun have the opportunity to experience the delights of the Soviet Union first hand. A new theme park has opened in Lithuania in an underground bunker once used by the Soviet army. For a mere $220, you can live the life of a Soviet citizen for two and a half hours!

During your stay, you'll don threadbare clothing, watch 1980s television shows, wear a gas mask, be forced to learn the Soviet anthem, eat a typical Soviet meal, and undergo an interrogation and medical check.

Sounds like a good time to me! Read more about it here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Things People Do in Austria

I give you the hexapod dance competition! Just look at those robots boogie down. Thanks, liltomboyblue!

Mystery Solved: Worm Grunting

I can't tell you how many times I've found myself wishing I had a big bucket full of worms. Okay, not many. But if I ever find myself lost in the woods, with only a trout-filled stream to feed me, I now know how to quickly rustle up some fishing bait. (Or an appetizer.)

It's called worm grunting. Here's a description from the New York Times: "Worm grunting, also known as worm fiddling or charming, involves driving a wooden stake into the ground and rubbing the top of it with a . . . flat piece of steel to make a grunting or snoring noise. Done in the right place under the right conditions, the result will be hundreds of earthworms appearing on the surface of the ground. Worm grunting is practiced in parts of the southeast to obtain fish bait."

Kind of cool, if you're into slimy, soil-dwelling invertebrates. But until recently, no one had no idea how how it worked. Now scientists have discovered that the sound produced is similar to the sounds made by moles. The worms think they're being chased and flee to the surface!

Enjoy the great worm grunter video below, which offers numerous fascinating worm facts!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Blimp that Swims Through the Air

Air Art from flip on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beyond Spoon Bending

I must have been around ten years old when I first became fascinated by the phenomenon known as telekinesis. For centuries, some people have claimed to possess the ability to move or alter objects using only their minds. (Oddly enough, bending spoons seems to be the most popular way to use one's telekinetic powers.) Unfortunately, most displays of telekinesis have been exposed as hoaxes. And I'm sad to report that, despite my best efforts, I've never been able to use my mind to levitate the rats that scamper about the subway tracks.

But just the other day, I came across the video below. It shows an elderly Chinese man moving objects without touching them. Though the audio is not in English, I think the video is impressive enough without it. See if you agree.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monster Quest Finally Found Something!

I love Monster Quest, the show on the Discovery Channel that searches for cryptid creatures around the globe. The only problem? The searchers rarely find anything. Until now.

Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, Canada has long been said to harbor a Nessie-like lake monster. Known as the Ogopogo, it was first spotted in 1872 and has been photographed and filmed many times since. Unfortunately, the evidence of its existence has never proven conclusive.

But that may have changed. A Monster Quest crew recently discovered an unusual creature at the bottom of Okanagan Lake, in an underwater cave on the west side of Rattlesnake Island. Some say the beast may be a baby Ogopogo. According to one eyewitness, "It was all curled up. The features were really hard to see. You could see a little head tucked in and a straight tail with no fins. It's a huge mystery. We have no idea what it is."

The creature has been shipped to the University of Guelph for DNA tests. Unless one of us can sneak in and steal the results, we'll have to wait until the Monster Quest episode airs in February to find out if an Ogopogo has been discovered!

Until then, you can read more here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Black Hole

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Beware the Tumbling Tumbleweeds

Every autumn, tumbleweeds roll through the town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. But his November, they attacked. Residents woke to find their windows and doors barred by thousands of prickly dried weeds. It all seems a bit sinister, if you ask me. What were the weeds after? Why did they want to trap the people of Wyoming? What were they intending to do with them?

Anyone out there in Cheyenne who might provide an eyewitness account?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cute . . . or CLONE?

The sweet little mouse shown above is no ordinary rodent. He's a clone. A clone created from cells of another mouse that had been frozen for SIXTEEN YEARS. (See the original below.)

Though there are many people who have issues with the project, the Japanese researchers responsible hope that one day they can use the technique to clone a woolly mammoth or saber tooth tiger.

(Or perhaps Walt Disney? Urban Legend has it that the great man had his body cyrogenically frozen in case doctors one day discovered the cure for the cancer that killed him. Some accounts claim only Disney's head was preserved. Find out more here.)

Who knows where this new scientific advance could lead us. Will people start freezing parts of their bodies in the hope that they'll one day be cloned? Will real-life Jurassic Parks, featuring the prehistoric beasts of the Ice Age, open to the public? Will Walt Disney's return in clone form to take charge of them? I think my head is going to explode!

Read about the latest advances in cloning here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Baby Pygmy Hippo Born!

And it's painfully cute. More here

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Now Back to Serious Octopus-Related News

I don't know about you guys, but I'm sooo relieved the election is over. (Who was my choice for president? There are ways to find out, if you're a particularly good detective. But my lips are sealed!) As for the big issues of the day, I'm honored that many of you have chosen Ananka's diary to debate them. I encourage all sides of every issue to speak out (nicely, of course). It's my belief that the only hope we have of making the world a better place is to sit down and really listen to those who disagree with us.

However . . . let's get back to the bizarre, shall we? I've come across lots of stories about genius octopi in the past. (They're crafty little creatures.) But I have to say, the story of Otto the octopus takes the cake. Seems Otto didn't like the light that workers at the Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany would let shine into his habitat during the night. So he found a way to deal with it. Find out how here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's Election Night!

I hope you all voted! (If you're able.)