Ramblings & ephemera

Google’s number tricks

From “Fuzzy maths” (The Economist: 11 May 2006): MATHEMATICALLY confident drivers stuck in the usual jam on highway 101 through Silicon Valley were recently able to pass time contemplating a billboard that read: “{first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com.” The number in question, 7427466391, is a sequence that starts at the 101st […]

Your job? Waiting in line for others.

From Brian Montopoli’s “The Queue Crew: Waiting in line for a living” (Legal Affairs: January/February 2004): ON CAPITOL HILL, a placeholder is someone paid by the hour to wait in line. When legislative committees hold hearings, they reserve seats for Congressional staffers, for the press, and for the general public. The general-public seats are the […]

Kaspar Hauser

From Damn Interesting’s “Feral Children“: One of the more mysterious cases is that of Kaspar Hauser, who was discovered in Nuremberg, Germany in 1828. He was unsteady on his feet, held a letter for a man he had never met, and only spoke the phrase “I want to be a horseman like my father is.” […]

3000 ravers, dancing in silence

From The Sydney Morning Herald‘s’ “Clubbers to get into the silent groove“: For those seeking tranquillity at Glastonbury Festival, a dance tent packed with clubbers is not an obvious sanctuary. But this will be the silent disco – 3000 festivalgoers are to be issued with headphones this year so they can turn up the volume […]

Zombie ships adrift off the shore of Africa

From “Happiness: The Chinese zombie ships of West Africa“: We’re in the big African Queen inflatable, cruising alongside an anchored trawler. It’s more rust than metal – the ship is rotting away. The foredeck is covered in broken machinery. The fish deck is littered with frayed cables, and the mast lies horizontally, hanging over the […]

A living story, tattooed on flesh

From The New York Times Magazine‘s “Skin Literature“: Most artists spend their careers trying to create something that will live forever. But the writer Shelley Jackson is creating a work of literature that is intentionally and indisputably mortal. Jackson is publishing her latest short story by recruiting 2,095 people, each of whom will have one […]

3500 forgotten cans

From “Mental Health Association of Portland“: Over 3,500 copper canisters like these hold the cremated remains of patients of the Oregon State Hospital that went unclaimed by their families and friends. They sit on shelves in an abandoned building on the grounds of the Oregon State Hospital. They symbolize the loneliness, isolation, shame and despair […]

A cared-for mummy

From “Mummified woman died naturally“: A woman whose mummified body was dressed in a white gown and placed in front of a television for 2½ years died from heart disease. … Officials never suspected abuse or foul play after finding Johannas Pope, 61, in her Madisonville home Jan. 4. Pope told her caretaker, Kathy Painter, […]

What would it be like to feel no pain?

From CNN’s “World without pain is hell, parent says“: Roberto is one of 17 people in the United States with “congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis,” referred to as CIPA by the few people who know about it. … Other abnormalities quickly surfaced. Roberto was severely susceptible to heatstroke on hot summer days. His parents […]

Forced to commit suicide by brain parasites

From New Scientist‘s “Parasites brainwash grasshoppers into death dive“: A parasitic worm that makes the grasshopper it invades jump into water and commit suicide does so by chemically influencing its brain, a study of the insects’ proteins reveal. The parasitic Nematomorph hairworm (Spinochordodes tellinii) develops inside land-dwelling grasshoppers and crickets until the time comes for […]

Night terrors

From Science News’ “Night of the Crusher: The waking nightmare of sleep paralysis propels people into a spirit world“: As a college student in 1964, David J. Hufford met the dreaded Night Crusher. Exhausted from a bout of mononucleosis and studying for finals, Hufford retreated one December day to his rented, off-campus room and fell […]

Hulk, Willie, or Peter?

From The Sun: SHOCKED six-year-old Leah Lowland checked out a mystery bulge on her Incredible Hulk doll — and uncovered a giant green WILLY. Curious Leah noticed a lump after winning the monster, catchphrase “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry,” at a seaside fair. And when she peeled off the green comic-book character’s ripped […]

Best entertainment news headline ever

From Yahoo! News (March 2004): Zombies Push Jesus from Top of North American Box Office

Dead for a while

From BBC News: A man lay dead in his flat for 15 months before his body was found. Recording an open verdict into the death of Derek Perkins, 63, coroner Dr Nigel Chapman said he had never known a body to be undiscovered for so long. The exact date of Mr Perkins’ death is unknown, […]

A repulsive jumbo shrimp

From The Honolulu Advertiser: Health experts are not sure what is causing Mantis Shrimp found in the muck of the Ala Wai Canal to grow larger than their normal size, but one thing is clear, they say: You shouldn’t eat anything out of the canal. State Department of Health signs posted along the canal warn […]

More proof of time travel?

From Ohio.com: It was 11:15 p.m. on a warm June night in 1950, and the area of Times Square was buzzing with people leaving the theaters. Suddenly, in the midst of traffic appeared an odd-looking man, about 30 years old. He wore mutton-chop whiskers and quaint clothing that had gone out of style decades before. […]

Time travelers on the NYC subway

From Making Light: The funny thing is, I’ve seen time travellers in NYC. Or at any rate I’ve seen people I thought were time travellers, and one case where I was sure. This happened one day back in the 1980s. I was riding the subway home from work, and this kid got on at 34th […]

Terrifica, a superhero for our times

From ABC News: For the past seven years Terrifica has been patrolling New York’s party and bar scene, looking out for women who have had a little too much to drink and are in danger of being taken advantage of by men. She says she has saved several women from both themselves and predators who […]

Greatest last line ever

From CNN: Customs officials opened his suitcase and a bird of paradise flew out but that was nothing compared to what they found in his pants — a pair of pygmy monkeys. Californian Robert Cusack has been sentenced to 57 days in jail for trying to smuggle the monkeys, a total of four exotic birds […]

Japan’s shut-ins

From The Washington Post: Akiko Abe has barely seen her 25-year-old son in six years, yet they live in the same small house. He leaves his room only when he’s sure his parents are out or asleep, she said. She can tell when he has used the kitchen, and she knows he goes to the […]