San Francisco's steep hills


Håkan Dahlström got this delightful shot of one of San Francisco's steeper hills, turning his camera so that the road (and not the houses) were at level to convey the extent of the slope.

Crazy hills of San Francisco (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Walt Disney World employees demand a living wage

Long, drawn out negotiations between Walt Disney World and the Services Trade Council have not resulted in a contract for the 20,000 cast-members the STC represents. In this video, the affected cast-members explain how their wages have failed to keep pace with inflation, meaning a de-facto paycut that has some of them visiting local food-banks to stay fed. Disney's cast-members are some of the most remarkable people I've ever met; as a visitor to Walt Disney World, I want them to receive a living wage.

Disney World Union takes offensive

Astonishing jump-rope team skipping their way into my heart

In this remarkable performance at the US naval academy, the Kings Firecrackers jump-rope team conduct a high-intensity, skip-rope-fuelled close-order drill that seriously agogified me.

Kings Firecrackers (via Reddit)

Philadelphia Type-In for vintage typewriter restorers

A group of Philadelphia-area manual typewriter enthusiasts are staging a "type-in" with free typing paper, carbons and stamped envelopes -- it runs on Dec 18 at the Bridgewater's Pub in the 30th Street Station:
Long before the laptop or the mainframe, writers, reporters, and bureaucrats alike relied on the typewriter to get the word out. Today, only a few companies make typewriters--but thousands of classic Remingtons, Underwoods, and Olivettis are still around, waiting to be dusted off. Just as vinyl records have held their mojo in a digital world, these miniature printing presses are attracting a new group of fans, many half the age of the typewriters they've lovingly restored.

They'll be gathering to clack out letters, poetry, perhaps the beginnings of their next novel at the Type-IN, an off-beat gathering of manual typewriter users coming to Bridgewater's Pub at 30th Street Station. Typewriter aficionados will enter a typing competition, buy and sell at a typewriter swap meet, and consult with an experienced typewriter technician, who'll offer tips to keep that vintage machine cranking out words smoothly.

A pleasant afternoon of manual typewriting?

Help Readergirlz donate 125,000 great books to low-income teens

Awesome kids' book author and literacy activist Lorie Ann Grover sez, "readergirlz and First Book are partnering to give away more than 125,000 brand-new books to low-income teen readers. We need help getting the word out about the A Novel Gift campaign. Let's get organizations serving these teens registered with First Book so they can be matched with inventory during the holidays. If you participate, drop us a note at readergirlz@gmail.com to be included in our blog roll of thanks to run December 31."
They're great books, too, donated by generous publishers. Among the three dozen choices are P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast's HOUSE OF NIGHT series and Alyson Noël's SHADOWLAND.

We need your help getting the word out about the A Novel Gift campaign. Right now! Right now! As in, now!

rgz and First Book Partner for A Novel Gift! Over 125,000 free books to low-income teens (Thanks, Lorie Ann, via Submitterator!)

TSA "opt out" parody from the Red vs Blue creators

Rooster Teeth, creators of the brilliant Red vs Blue machinima series, produced this chortle-inducing short about the essential and creepy incoherence of the security theory that says aviation safety is improved by allowing the TSA to see and touch our junk.

TSA invades House Party (Thanks, AirPillo, via Submitterator!)

Hotel peephole doctored for easy removal and spying

Last week, as Kent Brewster was leaving his hotel room in the morning, he found a small piece of crumpled paper on the floor of his room; he realized that this had been used to plug up the peephole in the door, which had been doctored to allow people in the hallway to spy on the goings-on in the room. Says Kent: " The hotel manager took care of me--and was just as freaked as I was, and instantly sent housekeeping to check every room--so I don't want to call them out by name ... but still ... brrr! Creepy!"

Check your peephole when you check in! (Thanks, Kentbrew, via Submitterator!)

DC-area county official says TSA patdowns are "homosexual agenda"

The crazy, it burns: Loudon County, VA Board of Supervisors representative Eugene Delgaudio says TSA patdowns are part of the "homosexual agenda": "It's the federal employee's version of the Gay Bill of Special Rights... That means the next TSA official that gives you an 'enhanced pat down' could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission." (Thanks, Frank!)

Chain of Command

chainofcommand_970.jpg This remarkable painting hangs on a hotel wall in New Orleans. Anyone know anything else about it?

Update, April 14, 2014: Reader K.F. Carmen writes in:

Hello from Canada! Just thought I'd fill you in on what I've recently ascertained in regards to that cool painting in New Orleans. I was there a couple weeks ago with my wife and we actually stayed at the "Le Richelieu" where it has hung since the 60's or at least the early 70's.

In the bar of this quaint hotel on the edge of "The French Quarter", there is a framed photo of Paul and Linda McCartney standing in front of the eerie painting. I was thrilled by this right off because I'm a huge fan plus I loved the painting. So, I asked the girl at the front desk and she gave me some info which I forgot half of soon after. I thought I recalled her saying "John MacKenzie crossing the Mississippi to sign something very important.

I'm no historian by any means, so I got it mixed up with John A. McDonald and then I was totally confused. Weird picture nonetheless! I actually took a nice snap of it ( which I'll include ), you see, I've been obsessed with freaky paintings before. After reading Rose Madder, by Stephen King, I was driving along and came upon a black velvet painting of a mean-looking bandito. It was sitting out back of someone's house with some other junk. For some reason, I decided I had to have it. I knocked on the door to see if they were tossing it out or whatever. No-one home. I was gonna grab it but there were neighbors around. I left and came back a few times but never ended up getting it. I do remember being overly obsessed with it though. Anyway, sorry to drag you through all that. The point is that, when I got home, I made a desk-top background out of the painting ( looks great ) and it got me to thinking: Who is this guy? Why the cat? So I went on google, queried: who is the man crossing the Mississippi in a canoe with a black cat in a painting in New Orleans?

That brought up a few pages but I immediately saw the image on one site. I clicked, sure enough it was there. This is where I saw your name. I thought: Why does this guy want to know so much about such a weird picture? I noticed there were some responses so I read them. Most of the early posts didn't seem to know anything but finally some guy nailed it. It was John McDonagh going to sign something important. Here's the weird part: There was another image a few over of another painting identical except a different guy sitting in the middle of the canoe. Same boat, background,cat,black man, everything. I clicked on that image and some other info came up. Missouri, 1845, fur-traders and all that. Did someone copy it? Was someone selling portraits to all the river-crossers that day? Like, what gives here? That's all I know or care to know at this stage

Seattle Streets Are Gangsta

electrocution_signage.jpg The streets of Seattle are no longer safe--for cute little dogs and fiber-optic cables. First, The Seattle Times reported today on the strange case of a dog being electrocuted as it walked down the street. A privately and legally installed street light lacked proper grounding, and the dog was zapped walking over a metal plate on the sidewalk. My condolences to Lisa Kibben, who lost her 68-pound German shorthair pointer, Sammy, in this bizarre event. The utility dispatched a crew immediately, fixed the problem, and apologized, trying to reassure the public that we (and perhaps our sub-70-pound children) are not in danger. This reminded me of the peculiar death of Jodie S. Lane in Manhattan (East Village) in 2004, walking down the street with her two dogs when one apparently received a severe shock, and Lane, unaware of what was happening, attempted to help the dogs. The dogs survived. Jodie's father, Roger M. Lane, received a massive amount of information about electrified Con Ed objects and shocks caused to people as part of a settlement. He created a Web site which showed the 31,900 objects found to cause electrical shocks between 2004 and 2009. Seattle has no such history, but you can imagine that Emerald City denizens will be skipping metal panels for a while. Second, local Seattle business site TechFlash reported that a bullet was fired into a fiber-optic cable owned by Comcast, severing access to 2,500 customers. The motivation is unknown, and the company isn't asking for a police investigation. Oddly enough, this is not the first time. A Comcast spokesperson told TechFlash, "About 13 years ago, someone shot a bullet into a main fiber line in Tacoma on New Year's Eve, knocking out service to about half the city." Man, I guess people are really angry about Comcast's attempting legal contractual modification of a peering agreement with Level 3. First they came for the fiber-optic cables, and I tweeted nothing. Photo by Photocopy, used via Creative Commons.

Love is a Stranger

[Video Link]

Hairpiece or Herpes?

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From the people who brought you Bacon or Beer Can, now this:

Hairpiece or Herpes? (via reposter, thanks teapot)

Gates on Wikileaks: "Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.''

"Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.''—Defense Secty. Robert Gates, on the Wikileaks "Cablegate" fallout.

Beautiful illustration of fantasy-science

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From the cover of the May 28, 1954 issue of Colliers. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is an illustration. Just lovely.

Paleo-Future blogger Matt Novak (whose presence in the Twin Cities is sorely missed) says this cover story is just the tip of a very big iceberg. Controlling the weather was right up there with flying cars in mid-century dreams of the Future.

Home made spectrometer tells you what rainbows mean

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Don't tell the Double-Rainbow guy, but all those beautiful colors really can have a deeper meaning. That's because different chemicals reflect and absorb different wavelengths of light, leaving tell-tale patterns in the rainbow. If you know what colors specific chemicals absorb, you can look at the light reflected off a sample and use the rainbow to figure out what you've got. That's basically what a spectrometer does. And blogger Charles Soeder made his own.

The light source is an LED flashlight. The light shines through the sample (in this case a vial of chlorophyll) and gets broken up by a diffraction grating. This produces a spectrum which gets projected onto the photosensor. I pulled the sensor out of an automatic night light. It is mounted on a stand, which is taped to a TI89 which is taped to the table- so I can slide the sensor back and forth along the spectrum to get readings at different frequencies. I measured the frequency of light hitting the detector by noting where its shadow falls on the ruler in the background. The resistance of the sensor changes depending on how much light falls on it (which is an indication of how much light gets absorbed by the sample); I measure this with a multimeter.

There's more photos of all the different parts in his set-up. My favorite features the helpful caption, "This is where the rainbow goes."

(Thanks to Kevin Zelnio!)