Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Wonders of Technology

Indulge your sadistic side with the Electroman Surge Protector (above). Not nasty enough? Try the Mind Molester or Sonic Nausea.

Send a message with laser graffiti. Perfect for ransom notes.

Find out if a toupee is in your future with your very own DNA analysis kit. All you need is $399 and a little spit.

Spy-bat is on the way!

Let Japanese scientists read your dreams.

And for those of you who prefer the low-tech side of life, pre-chewed pencils (below).

Monday, December 29, 2008

This Week's Edition of WHAT IS IT?

The video below has been featured on a number of blogs lately, but I just couldn't let it pass us by. Explanation at Pink Tentacle.

How to Be Lucky

I've often wondered: Why do some people seem to have all the luck? Why is it always the same bunch who discover bags of cash in gas station bathrooms, spot UFOs on their lunch hours, or find the perfect pair of shoes for 50% off?

I'm still not sure I have the answer, but I did read an article this morning that made me think. Seems a few years back, a professor at the University of Hertfordshire decided to find out what made some people lucky. So he interviewed hundreds of individuals and performed a few telling experiments. In one such experiment:

"I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. I had secretly placed a large message halfway through the newspaper saying: 'Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $50'.

This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than two inches high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it."

His conclusion? Lucky people are lucky because they keep their eyes and minds open to unexpected. (Hmmm. That sounds familiar.)

In this article, he even offers a few tips for those of us who'd like to be lucky:

1) Listen to your gut instincts because they're usually right.

2) Be open to new experiences and breaking your normal routine.

3) Spend a few moments each day remembering things that went well.

4) Visualize yourself being lucky before an important event.

It all seems rather simple doesn't it? But I suspect he's right. If it's luck you're after, you have to get off the couch and go FIND it.

Gee, I think I just found my first New Year's resolution!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

I've been a little under the weather, so I haven't been spreading my usual holiday cheer. But this time of year, I usually like to remind my friends and loved ones just how lucky they are. (To be friends with me! Kidding.) So here's a little story about two lovely young ladies whose mother just won't give up a certain embarrassing tradition. Poor things!

(By the way, that adorable, well-behaved child shown above? That's ME! Just look at those boots. Santa's lucky I didn't unleash a butt-kicking right then and there!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Purple Squirrel of Stubbington

Why is he purple? I have a few theories.

Read more here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

There's a Shark in the Swimming Pool!

Seriously, folks, this may be my all time #1 (non-egg related) nightmare . . . I'm in a pool, doing a little backstroke, when a shark appears out of nowhere and eats me. I've always told myself it could never, ever happen. There's simply NO WAY a shark could be waiting for me in the deep end. Nobody's ever come face-to-face with a shark in a swimming pool.


A reef shark at a resort in the Bahamas (OMG, I WAS JUST IN THE BAHAMAS!) managed to leap out of the aquarium where it was being kept, onto a waterside, and into a swimming pool. Fortunately, no one was swimming in the pool at the time. But can you imagine a full-grown shark coming down the water slide and landing next to you? I'm pretty sure I'd have a heart attack before it could eat me.

Unfortunately, this story doesn't have a happy ending. (Did you really think that it would?) Despite the best efforts of resort employees, the pool's chlorine poisoned the shark before it could be returned to its aquarium. But though the poor thing died, I can assure you all that it will live forever in my nightmares.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Play With Your Food!

One thing I love about the Japanese is the importance they place on making everything beautiful. Even their lunchboxes.

Bento are home-packed lunches that usually contain rice, a meat, and a vegetable. It could seem a bit bland if not for the artistic miracles performed using these humble ingredients.

One of the masters of the bento craft is the woman behind Anna the Red's Bento Factory. Her amazing blog not only contains pictures of her handiwork (shown above and below), but also detailed instructions for making everything from snowflakes to Super Mario mushrooms.

Since most of you should soon have some time on your hands, I suggest you check it out!

PS: Happy Snow Day

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Irregulars Salute ZeAndre Orr

Here at Ananka's Diary, we often post stories about girls who've accomplished the amazing or the unexpected. We've featured girls who've taken down muggers, foiled burglars, kicked butt at basketball, or exposed the lies of soda companies. Now it's time to honor a fifth-grade boy who's done what few other boys have been brave enough to do. Play double-dutch.

Double-dutch has long been considered a girls' sport. (Why? Who knows. These sorts of things rarely make any sense.) In fact, when ZeAndre first told his mother that he wanted to join his school's team, she tried her best to discourage him. But the boy had a passion for jumping, and he refused to let anyone get in the way. Even school bullies. When word got out that ZeAndre had made the team, he was teased, taunted, and even kicked down a flight of stairs--all for playing a "girl's game."

It took a remarkable display of guts and determination, but ZeAndre didn't give up. And it's a good thing he didn't. Earlier this month, his team took home a second place trophy at the annual Holiday Classic Double Dutch Competition at the Apollo Theater!

Though I usually hate stories with morals, this has a good one. Never let anyone tell you what you can or can't accomplish!

Watch a short movie about ZeAndre at the New York Times.

It's Official: Girls Have Superior Taste

Perhaps I should rephrase. According to the University of Copenhagen, girls have a better sense of taste than boys. (On a somewhat related note, the study also found that most kids like fish, though I sense a Danish conspiracy to sell more herring.)

Of course, as all of you already know, girls also have a much better sense of scent. (Which is closely related to our sense of taste as the old potato-onion-apple experiment proves.) So how are we going to use these new-found superpowers, ladies?

(What's the "old potato-onion-apple" experiment? Check out #7 (THANKS, 42) on this list of 10 Fascinating Food Facts.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So Cute. So Delicious.

Kidding! I would never nibble on such adorable creatures. And neither would a lot of Germans, it seems.

You see, the wild piggies shown above make their home in the bustling city of Berlin. In recent years, thousands of their friends and loved ones have invaded the German capital, rooting up parks, gardens, soccer fields, and cemeteries. Some experts estimate that there are 7,000 wild pigs living in Berlin today.

The gun-packing urban hunters hired by the government to deal with the invasion have found themselves faced with a formidable opponent. "Some swine know the city better than we do," said one hunter. "They know every gap in a fence, every abandoned building they can hide in." And to make matters worse, the human citizens of Berlin appear to be on the pigs' side. According to the Wall Street Journal, Berlin's urban hunters have been branded "murderers," beaten with sticks, and had their tires slashed. Some citizens love the animals so much that they choose to break the law and leave food for them at night!

I'm not sure I'd go that far. Would you? Check out the article from the WSJ, which is accompanied by an awesome slide show and video.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The World's Smartest Mouse

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Put Me Down As an Ewwwwww! Person

Is your beloved pet particularly hairy? Does she shed fur all over your clothes and carpet? Well don't let all that soft, luxurious "wool" go to waste! Let Catty Shack Creations transform it into a beautiful accessory!

For the past few years, Catty Shack Creations has been spinning excess dog and cat fur into lovely handbags. Of course, as the company's founder readily admits in the video above, there are some folks (the Ewww People) who find the whole thing disgusting. But the Catty Shack Creations website insists that hair taken from dogs and cats is much cleaner than the wool sheared from sheep.

OK, I buy that, but I don't usually spend a lot of time with sheep. Wouldn't your cat be a little creeped out if you start walking around with a purse made from her hair? And if that thought doesn't bother you, why stop with pets? Why not collect the hair from your sister's hairbrush and have it woven into a scarf?

Perhaps I'm taking this too far. If you're not an Ewww Person, you can order your "Catty Shack Creations" here.

Sunday Bonus Story: Read about Frankie, Britain's hardest working cat burglar.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Watch Out for Werewolves

My mother, Big K, informed me that tonight's full moon should be unusually large and beautiful to behold. I did a little research and discovered that it will be the biggest and brightest moon in FIFTEEN years! So go outside and take a look. Just make sure you have some silver bullets on hand.

Question for all of you . . . do you think werewolves will ever be as popular as vampires?

This Week's Edition of WHAT IS IT?

A blogger in Indonesia recently found the amazing "thing" shown above growing in his garden. He suspects it may be a mushroom of some sort, but he's been unable to identify it. So, in the meantime, he's named it the "Zombie Hand." (Love it!)

According to his post, the organism emits a foul odor, "like dead fish or dead rat." He also says he's met other people who have more colorful versions of the same mushroom growing in their gardens.

So what is it? Whoever can correctly identify this remarkable organism will win our eternal admiration!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is Sampsonia Way the Greatest Street in the Country?

I personally believe that Google Maps represents the very height of human civilization. Click on the "street view" option when looking at maps of cities like New York, and you will see 360-degree pictures of the address you've entered. (You probably already knew this, right?)

So when two Pittsburgh artists heard that the Google Maps van was coming to town, they and their neighbors decided to organize a little something special. As the picture-taking van drove down Sampsonia Way, it captured some rather unusual street scenes: A parade (complete with marching band), a sword fight, a mad scientist's lab, a heroic rescue, and more.

According to the artists' website, the result is the "first-ever artistic intervention in Google Street View" since it made its debut on the web.

Read more and explore magical Sampsonia Way here. (Why didn't anyone do something like this in New York? Get with the program, people!)

Via Neatorama.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Red Ink Controversy

On my morning travels through the Internet, I stumbled upon an interesting story from Australia. (The second best source of stories after the great nation of Japan.)

Seems a controversy that began in the States a few years back has finally reached Australian shores. Teachers in some parts of the country have been ordered to stop using red ink when grading students' papers and tests. Red ink, you see, is believed to be too aggressive, and some worry that a paper covered in red markings could have a negative impact on students' self esteem. Instead, teachers have been asked to use a "gentler" color such as purple or green.

I recall that the red ink issue was a hot topic in the US about four years ago. (Read a story here, if you're interested.) So have teachers here stopped using red pens, or are they still terrorizing young psyches with their scarlet ink? How do you feel about the controversy? Amused, horrified, scarred for life?

I agree that there's nothing worse than being handed a paper with a giant red "F" on it. But if a kid can't take a little red ink, what chance will she have in the real world?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Now For Something a Little Less Cute

The illustration above didn't come from a science-fiction novel. It's a rather faithful likeness of a woman who went by the name of Madame Dimanche. And the growth in the middle of her forehead? It's a horn. According to medical accounts from the 19th century, the horn first sprouted when Madame Dimanche was seventy-six and grew ten inches before it was finally removed by a Parisian doctor.

Horned humans aren't as rare as one might think, though these days the horns are usually quickly removed. Caused by a host of different conditions, they can pop up almost anywhere on the body. However, most horns are due to a skin disorder known as cornu cutaneum, and are composed of keratin (the same substance responsible for fingernails).

Those interested in the subject should pay a visit to, where you can read about Wang the Human Unicorn, as well as two recent cases. Warning: The site is not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Mutant Parakeet

So cute!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Where Have All the Acorns Gone?

(Photo from Worth 1000.)

It's a mystery that has botanists spooked. This fall, in certain parts of the country, there's not a single acorn to be found. According to the Washington Post, starving squirrels are going nuts, attacking bird feeders and Halloween pumpkins.

No one knows why the oaks have stopped producing acorns. Some say it's a sign of ecological disaster--others claim its all part of a natural cycle. Whatever the reason, if you've always wanted to impersonate Snow White and have furry little creatures eating peanuts right out of your hands, now's your chance. (On second thought, scrap that idea. I wouldn't be surprised a famished squirrel decided to take a finger or two.)

So what's it like in your part of the country/world? Seen any acorns lately?

Read more about the mystery here.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Glow in the Dark Fungi

(Above: I love the cute little mushroom-like creatures from Princess Mononoke.)

Once again, hats off to the nation of Japan. It is truly the land of awesome. Forget fugu and soy sauce candy. As you'll soon learn, even their mushrooms are amazing.

During the rainy season, little green lights appear in the dark, damp forests of Japan. Believe it or not, the mushrooms are glowing. (See below.) I'd like to think that they're marking paths for woodland spirits or fairies, but apparently there's a much more "logical" explanation. Find out here if you choose, or stick with me and keep an eye out for fairies.

Gadget Contest Update!

As you may recall, I mentioned there would be a special surprise prize for the winner of our last contest. I can now reveal what that surprise was!

The winner's invention, Fake Blood Chewing Gum, will be featured in the next Kiki Strike book! Congratulations again, Hania!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Night Climbers of Cambridge

Last week, three fire engines were dispatched to Cambridge University in Britain. The firemen had been called by university officials and asked to perform a rather unusual task. A student hoaxster had placed red Santa's hats on the spires of two tall buildings, and the humorless university officials wanted the hats removed. (Read a news report here.)

That's not the interesting part. The question is: How did the hats get up there in the first place? As you can see from the photos above, the hoaxster didn't choose the most accessible rooftops.

That's why some are suggesting that the hoaxster must have made use of a book known as The Night Climbers of Cambridge. Written by the mysterious "Whipplesnaith" and published in 1937, the tome offers a guide to exploring the roofs of the city's ancient buildings. It even offers handy tips on how to get around chimneys, pillars, and gargoyles.

I love the idea of students slinking through the night, hopping from rooftop to rooftop with their trusty guide tucked into their back pockets. On the awesome meter, The Night Climbers ranks right up there with Glimpses of Gotham and the Perforating Mexicans. (Below: One of the many amazing photographs from the book.)

Want even more awesome? (I can barely take it!) You can read the entire book here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

You've Been Very, Very Bad

According to a recent study conducted by the Josephson Institute (yeah, I haven't heard of it, either), today's teens are a bunch of budding criminals.

Of the thirty-thousand high school students surveyed, 30% said they had stolen something from a store in the past year. 42% said they sometimes lie to save money. And a whopping 64% claim to have cheated on a test in the past year.

Even more frightening? 26% of the students said they had even lied while taking the survey!

(See more of the results here.)

The Josephson Institute seems to believe that these numbers are evidence that society is crumbling around us. What do you think? Do these results seem accurate to you? The only thing that really shocks me about all of this is that people would be so honest while taking a survey.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Catching Up With the Animal Kingdom

From time to time, it's nice to check in with our animal friends and see what they've been up to.

1600 pandas took over Paris. (See above.)

Apparently backyard chickens are now all the rage. (This one's for you, Irregular Kiki.)

Pigeon towers of the world. Ah, the things people will do for a little pigeon poo.

Myostatin mutants are not monsters! (See below.)

Squid now have elbows. Next up: Opposable thumbs.

Fourteen snakes invade a woman's bedroom. (From the "Only in Australia" files.)