Monthly Archives: February 2013

Internet Detritus – Random Chaos


. . . and you’ve now started your English/History/Philosophy class.

Just like the future of education

This contradiction is known as “sensory-specific satiety.” In lay terms, it is the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more. Sensory-specific satiety also became a guiding principle for the processed-food industry. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating.

The Science of Junk Food – aiming for just enough flavor to keep you eating until you die.

The evils of railroads

Give me the old, solemn, straightforward, regular Dutch canal — three miles an hour for expresses, and two for jog-and-trot journeys — with a yoke of oxen for a heavy load! I go for beasts of burthen: it is more primitive and scriptural, and suits a moral and religious people better. None of your hop-skip-and-jump whimsies for me.

Against railroads from 1830


Anarchist Josiah Warren believed that the only just measure of a product’s value was the amount of labor that went into producing it. Charging more than this was “cannibalism” — interest, rent, and profit were state-sanctioned usury. Accordingly, he proposed a system where goods would be traded explicitly on this basis — “he who employs five or ten hours of his time, in the service of another, receives five or ten hours labour of the other in return.”

The Time Store

There was an English teacher doing something with different cultures interacting that could use something like this. Might also be handy for some discussions on economics.

Interviews With Hamsters

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by sualk61

Alternate Title: Interviews With Neurotic Pets

“I’m in training. If that cage door ever opens, I’m out of here. I don’t really get on well with the others that live here, so if I find the opportunity to get under that sofa, I’m taking it.”

via McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Interviews With Hamsters..

You’ve seen the obsessive compulsive behavior of various pets. Get inside their heads.

Nice and easy writing prompt/assignment. Use a picture to help set context. Great way to focus on the Writer’s voice.

Apologies for the lightweight post, I’m messing around with how I can make the Internet Detritus posts more of a workflow. Essentially, I’d like to use the “Press It” shortcut and something like D’Arcy’s Ephemerator modification to keep the front page clear but I’d like to automatically create an auto summary of the “Ephemera” category each week. The one plugin I’ve found that did that seem like it hasn’t been updated for two years. I may try it anyway.

Internet Detritus #overkill

So many interesting things.


Futility Closet

The conscience fund

During the Civil War, the U.S. Treasury received a check for $1,500 from a private citizen who said he had misappropriated government funds while serving as a quartermaster in the Army. He said he felt guilty.

“Suppose we call this a contribution to the conscience fund and get it announced in the newspapers,” suggested Treasury Secretary Francis Spinner. “Perhaps we will get some more.”


Many contributions are sent by citizens who have resolved to start anew in life by righting past wrongs, but some are more grudging. In 2004, one donor wrote, “Dear Internal Revenue Service, I have not been able to sleep at night because I cheated on last year’s income tax. Enclosed find a cashier’s check for $1,000. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the balance.”

Make for an interesting writing prompt.


Could we hear a 6 inch human? All sorts of interesting things to think about.

Puritan Valentine’s Day cards for The Scarlet Letter.

Nuns Forgive Break-in, Assault Suspect
Home Depot Purchases Wallpaper, Blinds Retailers
Utah Girl Does Well in Dog Shows
Judges Appear More Lenient on Crack Cocaine
William Kelly was Fed Secretary
Autos Killing 110 a Day, Let’s Resolve to Do Better
Dealers Will Hear Car talk at Noon
Arafat Swears in Cabinet
Lansing Residents Can Drop Off Trees

Misleading headlines . . . would be a good writing assignment.

Harris apparently consumed more than two pounds of sugar and 970mg of caffeine a day

Too much Coke . . . some math and nutrition potential. How much Coke did she drink? How much of X would she need to drink to get two pounds of sugar in a day?

Mental Floss

It’s common knowledge among Lincoln historians that Mary Todd had a “courting cake” that she baked for Abe while they were dating after buying the recipe from her favorite bakery in Lexington, Kentucky. He declared it “the best cake I ever ate.” Mrs. Lincoln later served it in the White House as well.

Full text here.

You could make it or have students create recipes that would capture the hearts of other historical/fictional characters.

Random Sources

The affairs of Zeus

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Nat Geo “Facts”

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Craig’s List Beat Poetry

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I find the Craig’s List free stuff ads very entertaining. The combination of really odd items1 and unique writing choices lead to speculation about who wrote the ad and what they were thinking.

I ran across the three beautiful ads pictured above last night and proceeded to force my wife to listen to me read them aloud (It was Valentine’s Day after all). The result was beautiful, poetic even, beat poetic even even. I scrounged around tonight for some jazz loops and produced the beautiful work of art below. No words were changed but I did leave off the phone numbers.

Craig’s List Beat Poetry

The best thing about this is it could morph into a real English lesson. Decide this author was intentional. Analyze it like you would any other work of poetry. A short sample follows.

owner in left and gone, two beautifully dogs, golden retrieve, and Lab mix

This poem is about escape from the oppression of everyday society. In a scant 13 words, the author manages to take a snapshot of everyday Americana and depict the chaos just beneath the surface. By juxtaposing an almost total lack of capitalization against the apparent order enforced by the repeated use of commas the reader is forced to consider the role of structure and order in our society. Even the subjects of the poem reference typical American archetypes while subtly twisting our understandings of them. What could be more American than a golden retriever and a lab? A closer look reveals not a “golden retriever” but a “golden retrieve.” Taken by itself this might appear to be a simple mistake but in the context of the poem as a whole a theme arises. The owner is described as “in left and gone” as opposed to “is left” or “has left” which seems to cast the owner as a person opposing the Right. That shifts this portion of the poem from a redundant paraphrasing- “owner has left and gone” to a statement about a person giving up on the American dream. She both has left and “is left.” Her dog has shifted from a golden retriever to a “golden retrieve.” In her departure she has left behind the reward based grind of everyday life. She will retrieve no more.

Other things I’d talk about –
The capital L in “Lab” representing big pharma vs drug use for pacifying society
“Two beautifully dogs” vs “Too beautifully dogs”
dog as pejorative
“golden retrieve” vs golden parachute vs repetition and oppression in work

I could easily write a paper on this. 10 pages plus.

There is no doubt this is fairly absurd but if what is important is the mental process of analysis then, while the content does matter, it matters far less than English classes would typically have you believe. I’d be mixing stuff like this in with This Is Just To Say without hesitation.

I hated poetry on first exposure in school. Scheduling errors led to my enrollment in a poetry class in college. I was the only one who named Shel Silverstein and Dr. Suess as my favorite poets when we introduced ourselves on the first day. Interestingly, this was not done with ironic intent but through sheer naivety. People began singing “One of these things is not like the other” yet I stayed on because the teacher was a good match for me. Looking at poetry like a game and arguing with people about it became amusing to me.

I still use those skills when writing just about everything and when analyzing anything from parent emails to state teacher qualifications. I’m not arguing the assignment or even poetry analysis will work for everyone but I think there’s a greater chance of interesting more kids if you can change their perception of what it is they’re doing. This is a game and the power is much more in the hands of the student and their ability to justify. Putting that analysis on something that doesn’t (and can’t) have right answers opens up a degree of freedom that analyzing the tired poems included in literature textbooks often does not.

1 Someone keeps trying to give away the wooden crates Clementines come in and I saw a half empty 2 liter of grape soda in there the other day. Granted, you had to take two additional full two liters (citrus and cola) or no deal.

Internet Detritus #5


The sounds of made by a West Indian furrow lobster – via Boing Boing

Radio Berkman – Facts Are Boring – via itself

This week we tear apart the difference between Truth, Fact, and Evidence, and the quiet, but irreplaceable, role of the humble factchecker in our media:

Author/factchecker Jim Fingal on the Lifespan of a Fact
Former GQ intern and factchecker Gillian Brassil
Veteran Atlantic Monthly factchecking department head Yvonne Rolzhausen
David Weinberger, author of the recent book Too Big To Know

From the New Blogs

Why was melamine so toxic? “Because it’s not, really. It’s not supposed to be absorbable by the human body,” Jia says. Its LD-50 (“lethal dose-50?), or the dose at which 50 percent of those exposed would die, is 3161 mg/kg in rats, an incredibly low toxicity. So why had so many children gotten sick?

National Geographic’s Phenomena

There are so many things memorized in school but never understood at all.

“If you were standing at arm’s length from someone and each of you had one percent more electrons than protons, the repelling force would be incredible. How great? Enough to lift the Empire State Building? No! To lift Mount Everest? No! The repulsion would be enough to lift a “weight” equal to that of the entire earth!”

Richard Feynman; The Feynman Lectures on Physics

via It’s Okay to be Smart which is pure goodness and led me to this great map post and the West Wing clip below.

In order to detect prey it senses slight changes in air currents with bumps on its skin and chemical sensors on its antennae to let them essentially taste something to determine if its food. When a prey item is eventually encountered, the slime is forcefully squirted through oral papillae near the head and launched up to 30cm in a sort of spray-and-pray manner. Once the slime contacts the victim, it quickly dries ensnaring it, where now the worm then seeks to eat the organism by injecting its saliva and digestive enzymes turning the innards into a slurpee. Mmm delicious.

The velvet worm are primarily nocturnal ambush predators and their senses and locomotion allow them to hunt. They move silently and fluidly with pneumatically inflated sets of valves to inflate/deflate their legs, meaning they don’t really rely on muscles for movement and is why it looks so cool as they glide along the ground. Another awesome thing about them is they have a tubular heart that extends almost the entire length of the body creating an open circulatory system.

Essentially, you have the perfect horror movie monster- nocturnal, crazy attack method, liquifying victims, silent and creepy method of transport, non-standard circulatory system (not sure if this would make them easier or harder to kill – heart shot would be anywhere but would it matter?). Use as writing prompt or as encouragement for research on anything that could be worse if only it was large enough to eat humans.

via Fresh Photons


“An online forum for elderly people has been shut down because of “racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic comments”.”

. But Mr Green said that despite “vicious” debates on subjects such as the Middle East, the network was “closed more in sadness than anything else”.

via The New Aesthetic

via Boing Boing