- Is it “open sees me” or “open says me”?
I am ashamed to say that I’m only sort of ashamed to say that I still remember Kristy McNichol joining the Osmonds in an Ali Baba sketch on the third season of the Donny & Marie Show, and it was definitely “open says me,” which joke was hi-larious to a certain six-year-old.
- Can dogs be mentally retarded?
We all know some stupid dogs if we’re really honest with ourselves. Ruh-roh.
- Why don’t they build into cars a secret button for police to use, and when these people are trying to get away from police down the freeway and city streets at 100 mph, the following police car could push the button, making the engine on the speeding car stop? Surely there must be some smart person who could make this.
Too expensive, too impossible to hide, too hackable, too tempting to annoy your friends with.
- Why does having a foreign accent make a person seem more attractive?
Pure novelty. It’s charming that they’ve bothered to learn our language and it’s equally charming that they’re bad at speaking it.
- How often are presidents born, and how often do they die? Do they die in bunches, or on average every four years?
The average U.S. president is 56.2 years old when taking office. Made it up! Most tend to die in their 60s or 70s. Most die in July, and they never, ever die in May or on an Election Day. Adams I and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 for patriotic reasons, and Monroe did the same five years later. Notwithstanding all of that, it’s a highly stupid question.
- When a fly lands on a ceiling, does it execute a barrel roll or an inside loop?
Everyone knows it does half of a Pugachev’s cobra.
In which I drop more knowledge on you:
- If an unscrupulous bar owner was to mix diethylene to, say, whiskey, what would the effect be on the consumer?
I assume this means diethylene glycol, the antifreeze ingredient that has found its way into dollar-store Chinese toothpaste, etc. The bar customers could expect a slightly sweeter drink, as if infused with simple syrup, and a drink that would be unlikely to freeze, obviously. Add the juice of a lemon and a cherry and the effect on the consumer would be equivalent to that of a refreshing whiskey sour, accompanied of course by total renal failure.
- I am an Afro-American woman. I am in my youthful 50s. My hair is strong and a little past the shoulders. I wear it pressed (hot combed or flat iron). It is also a salt-and-pepper color; I get great compliments on it. The problem I have is static. Could you give me some tips on what to use to stop this?
Great question, Ms. Rice! I would recommend poking the bristles of a hairbrush through a dryer sheet of tolerable fragrance. Style as usual. Hugs, Ryan
- There was the most beautiful sunset here in Indiana last evening. Would the California fires have anything to do with that?
Sunsets depend on particulates in the sky. Dust + smog + secret unexplained extra magic makes awesome sunsets in Arizona, particularly (no pun intended none taken) during the winter, and I can still remember the crazy good sunsets from my childhood in Washington state after Mt. St. Helens blew chunks. I can only imagine that fire helps things sunsetationally along. Indiana’s sort of far from California, but it seems reasonable to assume that if we can fly from there to there in a few hours, smoke can make the trip in a few days.
- I haven’t seen this in the news, but perhaps you could explain it anyway. Why do people feel like destroying things when angry?
Frustration leads to irritable aggression which leads to catharsis. The amygdala, a part of the brain I may or may not have just made up, fills up with zombie rage (aka testosterone) and if the rage is undirected or undirectable, whatever happens to be on hand will do as a target.
- Why do most reptiles go to sleep when you rub their bellies? I have done it myself with everything from domestic water dragons to wild alligators, but I heard recently that it is bad for them—and they only appear to be sleeping, when in fact they are having trouble breathing. Is this true?
It’s probably a submissive posture or playing dead when they feel vulnerable. I call it possumification, just like when Leila bites Doug’s ear and Doug goes totally mellow and limp like he’s enjoying the fun friend attack. Once she moves a little and he has an angle, he starts growling and hissing and the fangs come up. It’s clear that possumification isn’t actually fun to the possumificatee.
- Would it be possible to “shoot” someone with “lightning”? Like, a Taser with no electrodes.
Sure. Build up a large static charge and make sure your victim is highly ionized.
- Why do men almost never win on ABC’s Wheel of Fortune?
Wheel of Fortune and Facebook Boggle contestants are female 68% of the time (I made this up but it sounds about right, doesn’t it?), so that plus women’s generally higher verbal aptitude means luck be a lady.
- Are any of the scorpions in central Vietnam deadly? I was stung three times one night, and evacuated to a hospital where doctors said the one that stung me was the only lethal one in Vietnam. Truth or lie?
Lie, obviously. You are still alive.
- Why don’t we drop medical waste and nuclear waste into active volcanoes, the “ultimate high-temperature incinerators”?
We know from above sunset explanation that volcano gunk gets in the sky, and volcanoes are hot but not hot enough to kill everything that needs killing in medical and nuclear waste. Also, if you’ve ever read a comic book, you know this reasonable-seeming sort of idea is doomed to create a legion of supervillains.
- Hello. I am an editor and writer and I would like for everyone to change some letters that are now in lowercase to uppercase. An example would be the 18th century to the 18th Century. Where does one go about starting to do this?
For that particular practice, I would recommend going back to the 18th century itself. Or Germany.
A couple of weeks ago, Slate provided a list of questions they were asked to explain and would not or could not answer. Since I have occasionally been accused of being a know-it-all, here are my definitive answers to those questions, helpfully untainted by actual evidence or facts.
- Could you play sports in space, if you had a spacesuit?
I think quidditch would work pretty well.
- Can a baby get drunk off of nonalcoholic beer?
Yes. It contains a small amount of alcohol. I think a baby could probably get drunk off a liquor-filled chocolate. And decaf would make a baby look like a tweaker.
- Very rare to find a hotel room with a light on the ceiling, they’re usually floor lamps or desk lamps. Is there some structural reason for that?
Floor and desk lighting is cheaper to install and maintain. Hotels thus need to stock fewer ladders.
- Mitt Romney is running for president. His father, George Romney, a former governor of Michigan, ran for president in 1968. Is “Mitt” named for the mitten-shape of Michigan?
No. It’s the nickname of a family friend. Good question though.
- How do surface-dwelling fish survive monster sea storms?
They move down or over or die or take a beating and tell their kids stories about The Big One.
- If I drank a bunch of orange juice, which caused me to get heartburn, then ate a bunch of antacids, would it neutralize the vitamin C, thus providing no benefits from the ingested vitamin? If so, if you ate antacids continually, would you get scurvy?
I choose to believe that acidity is not the active feature of ascorbic acid. But you know, teach the controversy.
- I’ve been looking for information on how the word “dick” became an insult, especially since people still go by the name Dick. Why would anyone choose that name, when it has other meanings?!?!
Richard Nixon’s nickname was Tricky Dick. Your basic Richards that came of age after his presidency began do not go by Dick. Let’s say born 1950 or later.
- Why do male ice skaters have routines that are so feminine in execution? After all these years, there should be some kind of movements on ice that would be more masculine-looking. The gymnastics shows have them.
Butch male ice skaters play hockey.
- Why are some cats softer to the touch than others? Is it possible I have the softest cat in the world?
Anything’s possible. The only way to know for sure is to test every cat using Mohs’ hardness scale.
- In Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, he says that Jason Bourne can pack with great economy of space, allowing him to pack much more in a small bag than it would seem. How would one do this, and is it even a real thing?
People vary in their packing skills. I pack a suitcase 2-4 times per week, and I’m terrible compared to my resourceful but relatively untraveled wife. She has better economy of space than I do. It’s highly likely Jason Bourne’s is even better. He is sort of awesome at stuff.
- Do you have any idea why sporting the moustache was so much more common in the military than in any other job in 19th-century Western countries, and to some extent present-day Western countries?
Is that true? If so, it’s because the upper classers did it (I’m looking at you, Otto von Bismarck), so it was fashionable among the top generals and then their subordinates. In the military, fashion is top-down.
So how many of these am I totally off base on? It’s sort of cheating to base your responses on actual research, but I’ll reluctantly accept such a maneuver if you show your work.
What do you get when you take all of the internet’s best chocolate chip cookie recipes and precisely average the ingredient amounts? What looks to be a darn fine cookie. Gentlemen, start your spreadsheets.
It’s 2008. It needs a color. Here it is. Pantone presents blue iris. I think it’s going to be a great year!
You might know Line Rider, the cool little flash timekiller that lets you make a line that a tiny scarfed dude can ride down. Here is a video of what has to be the best one ever. Any favorites of yours that can compete?
Thanks for waiting. Your business is important to us.
Dateline: Middle of August
Here’s where we are. Jessica and I have just returned from an amazing honeymoon/ vacation in Kenya and the Netherlands, inspired by the wedding of Jessica’s brother Martin to his fiancée Jennie. While Martin
and Jennie met in Las Vegas where they live, Jennie is Kenyan, and Kenyans like to have weddings in Kenya. Can you blame them?
So, a relatively small American contingent of twenty or so of Martin’s intrepid relatives have schlepped to Africa — certainly to see Martin married off to the excellent and lovely Jennie, but also: how many excuses do you need to go to a whole freaking new continent?
Jessica and I have been married four months, and had not yet had a honeymoon, so we decided to use this trip to Kenya in such manner, with an added jaunt of a few days in Amsterdam on the way back. Why Amsterdam? You can’t fly to Kenya directly; might as well go somewhere nice on the half-way. I had spent an afternoon in Amsterdam a few years ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s an utterly pretty city, and totally kitschy at the same time. Lots of water, lots of idiotic t-shirts: it’s the Niagara Falls of Europe. So hey, honeymoon!
Anyway, we’re back, and I’d like to tell you all about our buon viaggio. I’m going to lay it out day by day (with fudgy timestamps as if I’m blogging from the limpid past), so although I’m writing after the fact and all, it will be like you’re RIGHT THERE IN THE ACTION. To really give you the full monkey, I probably should write it in the second person. You like the second person. You wish more people wrote that way. You are thrilling to the possibilities: not merely able to experience Africa vicariously, but dare you say it, I-cariously.
Actually, you’re glad that I’m abandoning that approach to travel writing, starting just over here –>. Whew! How about I’m just going to tell you about each day as it happened, and illustrate it with a few pictures from all the good times?
If you feel like cheating somewhat before I get this all writtenated, and have a high tolerance for pictures devoid of sociological context, you can always see the pictures swimming through our Flickr streams:
bk_keywords: Kenya honeymoon Amsterdam.
I finally saw the South Park take on the foundations of Mormonism from a few seasons back. It’s maybe 90% accurate. Not too bad. I think Mormons would take issue with the dozens of holes Joseph Smith digs to find the plates (the angel told him where to dig), and with the assertion that no one else ever saw the golden plates. (Eleven men, most related to Smith, signed one of two documents saying they had seen the plates.) The “dum dum dum dum dum” editorializing does not have a scriptural referent as far as I know.
In a side note, Martin Harris, who is featured in the second half of the clip and who financed the publication of the Book of Mormon, is buried in a cemetery in Clarkston, Utah surrounded by literally dozens and figuratively millions of dead Godfreys, all of whom I am related to.
bk_keywords: Joseph Smith.
There are a couple of sites like this, but this one (apparently called N) is pretty good. The idea is you have to figure out the URL of the next web page in the numerical series, which starts at 1 and goes to 30. The way to get from one page to the next changes each time.
Some of these are pretty tough. Wikipedia is helpful in a couple of instances, and you will also need to look at the source code for a few of them.
Keep in mind that each one gives you a clue as to how its URL would be derived, but you’re really looking for the next one in the series.
Another thing: on the internets, Nineteen.html is a different page than nineteen.html or NINETEEN.html.
How far can you get? I can post hints for ones you get really stuck on.