Celebrate Christmas with stolen hams and crazed yetis

The holidays are here and everyone is shopping for their hams and turkeys. Enjoy this cautionary tale from The B-52s frontman Fred Schneider's side project, The Superions.

After you've learned the Disco Garbage Can (if you've watched the video above, you'll know what I'm talking about), give a listen to my hands-down, all-time favorite holiday song: Teddy and Betty Yeti, from The Superions' album Destination Christmas.

That's Teddy Yeti on the album cover. Everything about it is pure Christmas genius.

Making egg nog for the British

eggnog-holiday-drink-with-ground-nutmed-and-cinnamon-stick

Did you know you can enjoy raw eggs relatively fearlessly in the UK? As an American often found hiding out in England, I was surprised to learn that they don't have egg nog here.

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Santastic No 9: more Xmas mashups for the holiday season


dj BC writes, "It's the 9th annual Santastic Holiday mashup collection. Contains much Beatles, Mariah Carey, AC/DC, Flula, Ella Fitzgerald, The Staple Singers, various holiday bad guys, DMX..."

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Great profile of a black, female World War II vet

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Millie Dunn Veasey traveled to England through U-Boat-infested waters, saw war casualties in bombed-out French towns, went to college on the GI Bill, and sat next to Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington.

Her life story, some of it centered around her time in England and France working with the first all-female, all-black military unit sent to a war zone, is absolutely fascinating. Kudos to Josh Shaffer of the Raleigh News & Observer for profiling Veasey.

Back in Raleigh, Veasey saw an advertisement looking for female black recruits. Women with work experience were especially prized. At the time, she didn’t think of her role as freeing a man for the front lines. She thought, if a white woman could join up, why shouldn’t I?

Her family didn’t share her optimism. She was small, weighed less than 100 pounds, and she’d been sickly as a child. Her mother doubted she could handle the rigorous training. Her brother, already in the Army, doubted she could pass the test.

But Veasey took a bus to Fort Bragg, where she aced the exam, physical and written; she was one of three selected. Before long, the girl from Bloodworth Street who’d never been out of Raleigh found herself standing at reveille in the rain at Fort Des Moines in Iowa, wearing Army-issued galoshes that didn’t fit her narrow AAA-sized feet.

“I didn’t know how to tie my tie,” she confessed.

Here's a video of Veasey's unit, the 6888th postal battalion, taking part in a parade and drills.

The science of eggnog

Actually, it's technically the science of creme brulee, but, more broadly, the science of custard totally applies. Also, in one of those "oh-geez-that-should-have-occurred-to-me-a-long-time-ago" moments, it turns out that the only thing that separates eggnog and ice cream is bourbon and some time in a freezer.

A splendid little secular Christmas carol

I just discovered Tim Minchin's "White Wine in the Sun". I'm sure a lot of you have heard this before, but it's a lovely Christmas song and, frankly, the first Christmas song to actually make me cry. Especially that last verse. For a new parent, it's an emotional doozy. Really, overall, just a great song for people who aren't religious, but enjoy a religious holiday for the cultural traditions and the time it allows you to spend with people you love. (Even though, personally, I'd rather have dinner with Desmond Tutu than Richard Dawkins.)

Who put the "X" in "Xmas"

Turns out, it was the Greeks. Χριστος is how you write "Christ" in Greek and writers (including people who transcribed the Bible) have been using "X" as a convenient abbreviation of that since at least the 3rd and 4th centuries.

What did Santa really look like?

The bones of St. Nicholas (or, at least, his purported relics) rest in the crypt of in Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy. They've been disinterred, measured, and documented, and over the years various anatomists and forensic anthropologists have taken a stab at reconstructing what the real Santa might have looked like. The results vary widely. Why?

In 2010, Caroline Wilkinson of the Centre for Anatomy & Human Identification at the UK's University of Dundee wrote an easy-to-read (and publicly accessible) research paper about the flaws of facial reconstruction techniques — flaws that are exacerbated when all you have to go on are dry bones.

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Science Geek Advent calendar

Yes, it's five days into Advent, but you should still check out the Science Geek Advent calendar from Science Creative Quarterly — featuring reindeer parasites, festive lobsters, Christmas trees in space and more cool stuff.

What happens to turkey feathers after the turkey becomes Thanksgiving dinner?

For clarification, it's Big Bird that is made out of turkey feathers. Not Pat Nixon.

How turkeys fly

Turkeys do fly. But they're built more for running, with powerful legs. Those legs, though, come in handy when the birds do take to the air. Unlike other large birds that need a relatively long runway to launch themselves skyward, turkeys can basically just jump up and take off — sort of the helicopter to other birds' 747.

Happy Dinosaur Dissection Day!

When you cut apart your Thanksgiving turkey this year, let's all take a moment to remember the other animals that once fed on dinosaurs — including ancient giant squirrels, sharks, and (of course) other dinosaurs.

A holiday reminder

Eating turkey doesn't make you sleepy — it's all the booze and over-eating that does that.

DIY Halloween: Baby Jackhammer Jill

This year, my husband, Chris, and I made a baby and a costume to put her in. Here, Althea Koerth Baker, 4 days old, shows off her Halloween costume and her ability to tolerate parental shenanigans.

Celebrate Ada Lovelace Day by adding more female scientists to Wikipedia

October 15 is Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of women in science and engineering, centered around the lady who is credited with publishing the first computer programs ever written. What does one do for Ada Lovelace Day? How about spending some time editing Wikipedia? There's an official edit-a-thon in honor of the holiday, aimed at improving and increasing Wikipedia's coverage of women in the sciences.