The Missing Links – February 18, 2011

The Missing Links is just what it sounds like – a collection of links to interesting things I found on the interwebs this week. I hope you enjoy them. This is the fourth in a never-ending series.
Winner! Strange Maps is a blog from Big Think and it’s really cool. The most recent post is a London Underground themed map of the Mississippi river and its tributaries. The other posts have historical maps, linguistic maps, and other great stuff in map form. Look for other blogs from Big Think appearing in Missing Links, as soon as I get around to checking them out.
A Close Second: The Salty Droid has launched an SEO campaign against boiler room buddy Mark Shurtleff because Mark Shurtleff is a scumbag (and also the Attorney General of Utah). The best part is that everybody can play along! The worst part is that Mark Shurtleff isn’t the only scumbag involved and that children were abused. Bleep bloop indeed, my salty friend.
Best in Show: The Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator is spot on and hilarious. Read my scathing review of Galdwell’s idiocy here.
And this week’s Crazypants Award goes to… Carole Lieberman, the self-described “media psychiatrist” who believes that video games have led to an increase in rapes. But guess what? She’s full of shit.
Arts and Entertainment:
Gabrielle Diani and Etta Devine are planning to replace every n-word in The Adventures of Huck Finn with “robot” to point out how stupid it is to go changing classics. Don’t worry, it’s not going to be one of those Jane Austen Vampire things. Just Huck and Robot Jim.

Slinkachu is a London-based street artist who has been “abandoning little people on the street since 2006.” Don’t worry, it’s not what you think. The “little people” are tiny model train set characters and they are set up performing everyday tasks. It’s really interesting. (first link is to his blog, second to the official Slinkachu site.)
Muppet correspondence! Here’s a few letters to and from the people behind the scenes (and one letter written by the Swedish Chef himself).
Jonathan Koshi has designed Calaveras, also called sugar skulls and made popular by Dia de los Muertos. He based the designs on Alien, Kermit the Frog, a Lego man, and others. They are really cool and available for purchase.
Who said geniuses aren’t fashionable? Check out Einstein in some tres chic sandals.
Lois Lane has died. The story of the creation of Superman – from the first ideas to the sale of the rights to Joe Shuster’s S&M artwork to the court battles – is fascinating.
Famous tombstone typos or 10 reasons you should go have your tombstone made right now. Unless you’re thinking of living forever, but do you really want to live forever? Forever ever?
mental_floss’s Miss Cellania’s File has an awesome collection of plush toys. I want to get these for my kids – their future sanity be damned!
Robbin’ and Stealin’ (and cryin’ and killin’):
Wired article about someone who found a way to game the lottery. Why the lottery doesn’t care is anyone’s guess. There’s also an accompanying podcast which delves into the psychology behind code cracking and the disturbing possibilities of this discovery. (Both links from Wired)
Borders has filed for bankruptcy. Here’s a sortable list of store closings. I love bookstores, but I refuse to pay more than $7 for a book, which is why I’ll be circling my local Borders with a tear in my eye.
15,000 years ago, Britons ate and drank out of human skulls. How fuckedupbuttotallynails is that?
Hockey and linguistics! These are a few of my favorite things.
Introducing the father of our future Computer Overlords, Watson!
Here’s an article from mental_floss about Watson, that Jeopardy-playing, human destroying computer. Even though Watson won, humans made him, so don’t we still win? And for those of you worried about the coming of the T-1000, never fear, all the computers in the world = only one human brain.


The Missing Links – February 11, 2011

The Missing Links is just what it sounds like – a collection of links to interesting things I found on the interwebs this week. I hope you enjoy them. This is the third in a never-ending series and there’s a ton of links this time.

Top links of the week:

Winner: The Salty Droid on Julian Assange. (p.s. This is a site you should definitely check out and subscribe to ‘cause it’s awesome.)
A Close Second: Dan Savage of Savage Love fame is awesome. There’s no two ways around it. Here’s his most recent column, which showcases once again how awesome he is. (via the A.V. Club)
Best in Show: AT&T vs. Verizon! Guess what? They both lose. And so do you.
And this week’s Crazypants Award goes to… Christine O’Donnell! Delaware represent!
Interesting Links:
In honor of raising awareness of how much paper is wasted by needless printing, Save as WWF – a file format that you can’t print – is now available for Windows and Macs. (via WWF)
What do Donald Rumsfeld and Julian Assange have in common? They both annoy the shit out of me! No, I kid. Here’s what they really have in common – Rumsfeld’s hopes to vindicate himself with lots and lots of documents. (via Wired)
Southeast Pennsylvania holla! The dish on the Wedge. (Thank you, mental_floss) 
Wanna read about Scientology? Here’s this article is from the not-so-crazies at the New Yorker. And coming soon to a theatre near you (maybe) is Paul Thomas Anderson’s thinly veiled Scientology movie. More dirt on the “church” in the second link. (via the New Yorker and the A.V. Club)
Separating fact from fiction about the Gipper. Sorry to burst your bubble, conservatives. At least now you can find someone who really exemplifies your values.
I just downloaded GIMP this week and I’m loving it. Soon I’ll be ready to enter the world of photo manipulation. Politicians beware! Check out this WebUrbanist article on some of the more famous fake photos. (Also, to all the dictators out there, I’m not against doing freelance work for you. Hit me up when you need someone wiped out of a picture.) (Thanks again to mental_floss).
6 things that influence our bad behavior. See, you’re not just an evil little shit. It’s nature that’s against you. (via Cracked)
Here’s a very interesting article from mental_floss on the development of a malaria vaccine.
The Patriot Act has not been extended! Rejoice! Everyone go tweet about the Machiavelli and Marx books you just bought online while talking to your friend Mohammed who lives in Pakistan! Wait, that’s not entirely true. Oops. Ok, comrade, Big Brother would like to have a word with you. (both links from Wired)
Apparently, WikiLeaks has a few problems airing its own dirty laundry. A high-ranking defector brings the hammer down on Assange and Co. (again, from Wired)
Links about Finland:
Finland is attempting to rebrew a beer found in a ship wreck.
What do we know about vaccines causing narcolepsy in Finland? That we need more research. There may be a connection, just don’t believe everything that you read.
Links on Language:
The OLAC Language Resource Catalog makes it easy to search language archives from around the world – over 40 languages are included in more than 100,000 resources. Here’s Steven Bird’s short explanation about it on Language Log.
Mountweazel is the new term to describe what happens when one company plants false information in their product to catch another company from copying them, as Google apparently did to Microsoft with “Hiybbprqag.” Adjust your spell checkers accordingly. Check the link for a short history on this intriguing academic bait and trap game.
Whew, that was quite a lot of links. Now, let’s go take a nap.

The Revenant by Michael Punke


[rev-uh-nuhnt] ˈrɛvənənt/
1. a person who returns.
2. a person who returns as a spirit after death; ghost.

In Revenant, Hugh Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear, then robbed and left to die by his fellow frontiersmen. He’s beaten, broken, and emaciated. He can’t walk and he can barely eat. Even so, he vows revenge on the men who deserted him. How great does this book sound?

Early on, Glass is mauled by the bear. Want to know how bad? Here’s a description of his scalp post-bear attack:

The skin was so loose that it was almost like replacing a fallen hat on a bald man. Harris pulled the scalp across Glass’s skull, pressing the loose skin against his forehead and tucking it behind his ear. (p. 27)

After that, in true Western spirit, things go from bad to worse for Glass. If being left for dead and robbed of anything that would help him survive wasn’t enough, he also has a hallucination about being bit by a rattlesnake, gets sprayed by a skunk, and has to fight wolves. All this and he still hasn’t regained the ability to walk (OK, so fighting the wolves was a voluntary decision, but that’s just goes to show it’s no coincidence that Hugh Glass rhymes with bad ass).

But regain the ability to walk he will and it is then that the proverbial shit gets real.

Picture credit: Hunting in Yosemite, 1890 by Thomas Hill; frontiersman by Jonathan Blair.

Punke does the reader a great service in this book – he paces it perfectly and he focuses on the character that needs focus at each particular point in the story. For example, Glass is attacked and abandoned very early in the story, but instead of following the two men that abandoned him, or even updating the reader on them, the story stays with Glass. This is just what it should do. The attack, abandonment, and recovery are so intense, that I couldn’t care less about what was going on with the other characters. Fortunately, the focus of the story didn’t let me down.

If you like Western movies, you’ll really enjoy The Revenant. If the story gets too wrapped up in the physical nature of Glass’s quest, his confrontation with the weaker of his abandoners offers a satisfying psychological aspect of Glass’s desire for revenge (a brief foreshadowing of this psychological aspect is what piqued my desire for it). As a bonus, the book leaves sixty pages to catch the more evil of the two men that robbed Glass and left him for dead.

As a second bonus, The Revenant is based on a true story. Nails.

Up Next: Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States vs. Allen and Schweikhart’s A Patriot’s History of the United States. I’m going to look at these books one chapter at a time and compare the differences in their subject matter, presentation, writing, and the overall strength of their arguments (since both make a claim to telling it the right way, so to speak). You can expect an introduction next week and I’ll probably add a page at the top to organize each post.

The Missing Links – February 4, 2011

The Missing Links is just what it sounds like – a collection of links to interesting things I found on the interwebs this week. I hope you enjoy them. This is the second in a never-ending series.

Top links of the week:
Winner! The 7 Greatest (True) Bill Murray Stories Ever Told. There’s no two ways around it, people, Bill Murray is my hero.
A close second: Kanye West on Twitter validates the existence of Twitter. And now his tweets have been put into song.
Best in Show: More truth from the Onion. If only this were also true (see my review of Gladwell’s The Outliers here).

Links on Language:
Here’s an interesting language for you – whistling.
A bit of history on the word groundhog and other words we get from Algonquian (via’s Hot Word column, which I highly recommend subscribing to).
The Sordid History of the Oxford English Dictionary in 10 facts. Trust me, there are many more worth looking into. Lexicography rules!
Anyways, in case you didn’t know, it’s perfectly OK to use anyways.
The Thomas Beale Cipher – pretty interesting stuff. Feel like cracking an unbreakable code to find a large (and possibly non-existent) treasure this weekend. Go right ahead.
Language! Backronyms!
The Foosball:
Wanna know how that fancy digital yellow line on football broadcasts works? It’s explained here. Tell your friends in between the commercials this Sunday.
Have fun watching the game this weekend, but don’t forget it’s being brought to you by Greed, Inc. and they will probably be trying to sue you soon.
Links on other cool stuff:
James Randi takes a bunch of sleeping pills and talks about psychics (TED Talk via mental_floss).
NPR on Vimeo. The animation about why people can’t walk straight when blindfolded was great. I will mos def be spending a lot of time here watching the other videos.
Talk about a guy who didn’t know the meaning of foreplay, here’s something to think about over your bowl of Kellog’s
Wanna know more about eugenics in America? Cause who does eugenics better than the good ol’ U, S, and A?
The amazing powers of the internet (and our internet overlords): Egypt tweets without internet access.
What’s the matter, Apple? iPad sales not enough for you? If only you could figure out a way to charge websites for appearing in Safari. Wouldn’t that be great? Anyways, it’s nice to know you’re looking out for number one instead of letting those app developers get all customer friendly.
On a serious note, here’s a photographed life of drugs and poverty. Scroll to the right to see the pictures.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

At the risk of sounding trite, City of Thieves is a tale of two young Russian men with opposing personalities that are thrown together during World War II. Their city lay in ruins and they must count on each other for survival, which is a pipe dream at best. On top of all this, City is written as a memory of one of the men, who now lives in New York.

You may think you have heard this story before, but so what? City has at least two things going for it that make the reading worthwhile, great even.

First, for some reason, the horrible, horrible things – World War II in St. Petersburg type things – that happen in this story don’t seem bad at all. They’re awful, depressing, humanity-doubting things, but they serve only their purpose – to ground the story in wartime Russia. Sometimes these types of scenes are meant to evoke disgust or some such emotion, but if they’re meant to do that here, they don’t and the book is better off for it. Take them out, and the story will be just as good.

For example, “The rails veered away from the road, past stands of birch saplings too slender for firewood. Five white bodies lay facedown in the white snow. A family of winter dead, the dead father still clutching his wife’s hand, their dead children sprawled a short distance away. Two battered leather suitcases lay open beside the corpses, emptied of everything but a few cracked picture frames.”

Cover Design: Greg Mollica / Cover Art: Shout

OK, out of context, that’s kind of fucked up. But trust me, the deeper story in City is so good that you’ll breeze right through passages like those.

That leads me to the second great part about this novel – the novel part. City very much passes the page-turner test, which is really what novels have to do. Novels are meant to keep the reader enthralled and City does just that. The pace is perfect, with each chapter offering small story arcs that are both interesting on their own and that serve to advance the larger plot.

That’s the long and short of it. I highly recommend Benioff’s City of Thieves. It was so nice to read that I would certainly read more from Benioff.

Up Next: The Revenant by Michael Punke

The Missing Links – 1/28

The Missing Links is just what it sounds like – a collection of links to interesting things I found on the interwebs this week. I hope you enjoy them. This is the first in a never-ending series.

You may hate your wireless carrier, but at least they haven’t kill you. This idiot would-be-suicide bomber in Russian, however, got all blowed up by a surprise SMS from their carrier.

Want to follow what’s happening in Tunisia and Egypt online? Check here for the the different ways you can.

There may soon be plants that can smell bombs. For real, for real.

In lighter news, I’m sick and tired of these motherfucking snakes in this motherfucking… house? Yep, there are snakes coming out of the woodwork in this house. No, it’s not in Amityville, but does that make it any less creepy?

Have you heard about those new fangled Do Not Track add ons for your browser? Yeah, well, they don’t work.


And the best link of the week goes to… dum dum dum… geomagical squares! What’s that? You don’t know what geomagical squares are? Let me see if I can state this mathematically. Ahem… Geomagical squares = Awesomeness.

For even more math, see here (full disclosure: it’s about fractals).

A Tiger Father’s Quest for Success

Last week I read Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and although I thought Chua left out some very important information, I was inspired to become a Tiger Parent. My son is two, which means it may already be too late to turn him into an achievement. That’s Amy Chua’s fault for not writing her book earlier, but I decided to forge ahead to see what I can accomplish. I was determined to devote every minute of every hour to making my son be exactly what I wanted him to be, no matter what the consequences. Failure was no longer an option.

I started to wonder which path would be best for my son’s road to success. He’s Catholic, so politics was out of the question. But sports, now there’s the perfect opportunity. I thought about how much financial and sexual success Tiger Woods has had. Tiger Woods. Tiger Parent. Coincidence? I think not.

So with the road decided, I needed to pick a sport for him. It needed to be something that we could play all year round – morning, noon, and night. It needed to be a sport that I could force him to play so often that he would come to despise me and that sport, and then use that hate to fuel his success. That’s what Tiger Parent’s need to do to their Tiglets.

I first thought about having him play soccer, but that’s a lazy sport. I mean, Spain is the best country in the world at soccer right now. What do they do, play soccer in between their siestas?

So the first week I tried to teach him real football. But he couldn’t even catch the ball. I’d throw him perfect pass after perfect pass, but they just kept bouncing off his face. After three hours a day for a week, I decided he wasn’t cut out to be a football player. You do not catch footballs with your face. You just don’t do that.

The next week was baseball. Unfortunately, this went the same way football did, except this time I wasn’t throwing balls at him, I was hitting them. I understand using your body to block a ground ball, but I don’t think using your face every time is a good idea. And he wouldn’t even throw it to first. So baseball obviously wasn’t his sport.

The week after that, we played basketball. More balls bouncing off his two-year-old face.

The ball themed sports clearly weren’t working. It was time to go a different route. I got him a pair of boxing gloves and shoes to see if fighting was his sport. Guess what? He was terrible at that too. As a Tiger Father, you know I wasn’t going to half-ass it, but I at least expected my son to know how to block. He wouldn’t even keep his hands up! Did he think I was only going to work the body? We went over the strategy time and time again, but what’s this? Oh, another uppercut to his baby face.

My son may not have been the best with punching or blocking, but if the boxing training taught me one thing, it’s that he can take a hit. So I didn’t want to leave fighting behind just yet. I thought maybe if I let him use his legs, he might show some promise. After all, he just learned to walk less than a year ago, so the motor function of his legs should be fresh in his memory. But – surprise, surprise – I landed kick after kick with not even so much as a counter jab from him. It was pathetic.

I have knife fighting planned for next week. If that goes well, we’ll move on to swords, but I’m really not too optimistic.

Related: Dear Amy Chua, Where’s the Part about Raising Freakishly Fertile Children?