Sara sez, "The British Humanist Association is stocking Christmas cards featuring naturalist Charles Darwin getting into the festive spirit."
I'm a lifetime member of the BHA -- they do good work (and make nice Christmas cards).
While you still won't be able to buy that Slayer Christmas sweater you've been wanting ever since you knew it existed, there is another equally hardcore option if you're still in need of something ugly and holiday-themed: the Home Alone sweater. Complete with prancing reindeer on the wearer's biceps and a healthy portion of snowflakes, no one will dare mess with a person wearing an ugly Christmas sweater that says, "Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal" on it. Especially if that person has been drinking all of the buttered rum. So, if you find yourself wearing this masterpiece of a garment at a gathering and someone tells you, "You know, that quote isn't technically from Home Alone -- it's from Angels With Filthy Souls," feel free to go Black Bart on them and treat them to a holiday mashup.
I'm kidding. Please do not start a fight in this sweater. Wear it in good health, and in the name of peace on Earth, good will towards men. It's available on the appropriately-named site, UglyChristmasSweater.com for $49.99. God bless us, everyone! (via I Heart Chaos)
Patrick sez, "Lord Buckley was a comedian/storyteller who performed in the '50s. His version of A Christmas Carol is an utter delight."
A hundred year ago, Santa Claus didn't bother with keeping track of bad children who deserved coal lumps in their stockings. He had a devilish pal named Krampus who took care of the kids on the naughty list. With his red skin, shaggy black coat of fur, obscene pointed tongue, cloven hooves, pointed tail, and sharp horns emanating from his forehead, Krampus carried a switch to beat young miscreants senseless, after which he'd toss them in his backpack and drag them to his uncomfortably warm subterranean lair.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, “Grüß Vom Krampus” (Greetings from Krampus) cards were popular in Europe. The evening of December 5th was Krampusnacht, when Krampus would descend upon villages to terrorize youngsters who wondered with horror whether their transgressions over the past year warranted a one way trip to hell in a hand basket.
By the mid-1930s the legend of the Krampus was on its way out. What remained of Krampus was sanitized and santa-ized (think of The Grinch, who undergoes a Fonzie-like metamorphosis from a misanthropic menace into a lover of humankind). But Krampus has been making a comeback. Check out this video of a Krampus attack in an Italian village, where drunk young men in costume are given free reign to beat the heck out of townspeople with long sticks.
What better to way to celebrate the return of the Krampus with this set of Krampus greeting cards from Last Gasp? With art selected from Monte Beauchamp's historical postcard book, Krampus: The Devil of Christmas, the set comes with 20 cards (two each of ten designs) in a metal tin. My daughter Jane was fascinated by the cards, and she had a great time sorting them in order of scariness.
Sadly, Slayer's holiday jumper has sold out. This is the perfect evolution of the black heavy-metal t-shirt, something for an aging headbanger cohort. I hope they do pajamas and hot water bottle cozies next.
Slayer Christmas Holidays Jumper (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
While you were eating Thanksgiving turkey, surrounded by loving family and friends, one whale was all alone, swimming through the Pacific Ocean with no one to talk to and no one to care.
Since 1989, researchers have been tracking this specific whale based on its distinct vocalizations. Baleen whales — a category of cetaceans without teeth, separate from their toothy dolphin/beluga/orca relations — are famous for producing eerie, underwater songs and scientists think those sounds are probably an extremely important aspect of participation in whale society. Baleen whales lack keen eyesight and sense of smell underwater, so sounds are probably how they recognize one another, help each other navigate, and even find mates. But these vocalizations happen in very specific frequency range — between 10 and 31 hertz, depending on the species. The Christmas Whale, on the other hand, speaks at 52 hertz. Imagine brining a piccolo to a tuba party. That is analogous to the awkward position that the 52-hertz whale is in.
Scientists usually pick up the call of the 52-hertz whale sometime between August and December, as it makes its way through a Cold War-era network of underwater microphones in the North Pacific. Although this whale has apparently survived for many years and seems to have grown and matured during that time (based on its voice deepening slightly), it also appears to exist outside of whale social systems. It travels alone. Nobody answers its high-pitched pleas for love. Every so often, non-scientist humans remember that it exists and write sad stories about it. But nobody is sure why it sings out of range of its fellow whales.
It strikes me as the kind of horribly sad thing that should get made into a maudlin children's picture book. The central message: Appreciate the love you have and give love in return. This holiday season, remember the plight of the loneliest whale. Give thanks for the presence of the people who love you. Show affection to others.
Listen to NOAA recordings of the 52-hertz whale (these have been sped up 10x)
The Loneliest Mix is a fan-site where you can download 52-hertz whale audio and video clips.
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute's page on the 52-hertz whale
Research paper explaining how scientists capture whale sounds in the north Pacific.
Picture taken the day after Thanksgiving at the Milwaukee Public Museum. I don't think they meant to tie into the legend of The Christmas Whale. But hey, it works.
I am grateful for friends like Grady, who alert me to stories like this.
Avi Solomon writes,
With the Jewish Diwali aka Hanukkah well nigh upon us, I was looking to provide my 7 year old son Uriel with a maker angle on the central artifact of the holiday, the Menorah. The Maccabees had hastily hacked together their Menorah by using hollow iron spearheads and I also wanted to capture this improvisational aspect of making the Menorah.
Inspired by Joe Grand's Pipe Menorah we set off to the nearest hardware store to make one of our own.The guys at the store were kind enough to let us putter around gathering the parts we needed and try them out together.
Read Avi's HOWTO: "Making your own Menorah is no longer a Pipe Dream!" (avisolo.blogspot.com)
On TechDirt, Canadian Leigh Beadon helps Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with a roundup of all the weird patents the USPTO has granted for preparing turkey. Be thankful that deboning poultry is patentable (and has been repeatedly patented), otherwise, what would incentivize butchers and chefs to innovate?
Luckily, there are plenty of open alternatives for the patent-savvy chef. Who needs those fancy new turkey cutlets when you can use this classic "method of preparing turkey ... in the form of a flat elongated slice or slices of raw fowl free from bones, tendons, membranes and skin." Mmmmmm. This patent was granted back in the 60s, so it's long since expired.
Or you could try this "method of preparing barbecued poultry such as turkey which closely simulates barbecued pork", patented in the early 70s and now free for all to follow in handy flow-chart form...
Wired UK is running a Christmas Pop-Up shop in London's Regent Street from Nov 29-Dec 5, in the Quadrant Arcade by Picadilly. I'm delighted to note that MakieLab, the 3D printed toy company my wife co-founded, will have a store within the Wired shop, where you'll be able to buy Makie Dolls and accessories, or create custom dolls.
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, the chief creative officer at the Serious Eats Blog, is a mad kitchen-science genius. Here at BoingBoing, we've posted about his past experiments demonstrating that there's no reason to waste money on expensive cleavers; that foie gras isn't necessarily evil; and that McDonald's hamburgers will, in fact, rot (under the right conditions).
Now, just in time for your Thanksgiving planning, Lopez-Alt puts turkey brining to the test, running a series of trials comparing the meat-moistening results of various brining solutions, dry salt rub, tap water, and a plain control turkey breast. His conclusion: Don't bother with the brine. Not because it doesn't work — brined turkey does produce nice, moist meat. But because it also produces meat that's kind of soggy. You'll get nearly as good results, without the texture problems, out of dry salt.
I particularly enjoyed this part, where Lopez-Alt explains why the results of brining with water aren't any different from the results of brining with broth.
There are two principles at work here. The first is that to the naked eye, broth is a pure liquid, in reality, broth consists of water with a vast array of dissolved solids in it that contribute to its flavor. Most of these flavorful molecules are organic compounds that are relatively large in size—on a molecular scale, that is—while salt molecules are quite small. So while salt can easily pass across the semi-permeable membranes that make up the cells in animal tissue, larger molecules cannot.
Additionally, there's an effect called salting out, which occurs in water-based solutions containing both proteins and salt. Think of a cup of broth as a college dance party populated with cheerleaders (the water, let's call them the Pi Delta Pis), nerds (the proteins, we'll refer to them as the Lamba Lambda Lambdas), and jocks (the salt, obviously the Alpha Betas). Now, at a completely jock-free party, the nerds actually have a shot at the cheerleaders, and end up co-mingling, forming a homogenous mix. Open up the gymnasium doors, and a few of those cheerleaders will leave the party, taking a few nerds along for the ride. Unfortunately, those gymnasium doors are locked shut, and the only folks strong enough to open them are the jocks. So what happens when you let some jocks into that party?
Is it too early to talk about how much I like these? I hope not.
Please note these are not actual bacteria, but watercolor paintings sealed in resin inside real petri dishes.
Henry Kaiser is kind of our man on the inside in Antarctica. He works there every year as a film maker, turning science into movies. He sent this awesome Halloween greeting from underneath the sea ice.
Bonus: He also sent us a video taken at the same spot — only this has 100% fewer wacky masks and 100% more sea anemones.
Read the rest