August 31, 2011 § 1 Comment
I hate to say, “I told you so,” but…I told you so. I wasn’t messing around yesterday when I said that (a) Mother Nature is a total jerk sometimes, and (b) foreigners give their disasters way better names than we do. Allow me to submit, as evidence of both of those theories: Popocatepetl.
Popocatepetl is a volcano about 40 miles south of Mexico City, and it has started to burp a nice thick ash cloud into the sky, which (thanks to the prevailing winds) is headed straight north to dump it’s ashy goodness onto the fifth biggest city in the world (which is Mexico City) (in case you thought that the ash cloud was traveling from Mexico to, say, Tokyo). So the 21,000,000 people of Mexico City are battening down their hatches and preparing for a Mount Vesuvius vs. Pompeii sort of grudge match. This is a lot like Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman in 1974, but with less Don King. Everyone within a 12-mile radius of Popocatepetl (which Wikipedia says is pronounced “po-po-ka-TEH-pet-ul,” which is hard to do. Seriously. Try to put the emphasis on the “TEH”) has been evacuated to avoid a Pierce Brosnan slash “Dante’s Peak” situation in central Mexico. (Raise your hand if you got that joke…well done).
So Mother Nature is dumping ash on the Mexicans, dumping water on the Asians, and dumping nothing on the Texans. You may or may not remember that there is a drought going on in Texas. If you live in Texas, you are probably aware of it. Everything is bigger in Texas, especially the long periods without rain. Unfortunately, it is not only human Texans who are suffering. The Texas blind salamander is at risk of drying out.
The Texas blind salamander (Erythea rathbuni) is a type of salamander from Texas which is blind. Ha! But it is an endangered aquatic troglodyte (cave-dwelling) species of eyeless amphibian. Not only is it under the threat of Batrachochytrium dendrobatis, like all amphibians, it is also at risk of having its caves go dry, and therefore: death. So volunteers are rounding up as many Texas blind salamanders as they can find, and moving them to safe, watery temporary safe-havens, so that they don’t dry up and go extinct. Bravo, Texas! You’re finally doing something useful for the world: saving a slimy muck newt from extinction! Our (ten gallon) hats are off to you.
And while there are not that many Texas blind salamanders left in Texas, there are even less people left in the Japanese town of Tomioka. In fact, a gentleman named Naoto Matsumura figures that he is the last. He is the Japanese Omega Man.
Tomioka is a town inside the “exclusion zone” in the Fukushima prefecture which suffered from a very bad earthquake earlier this year. We all heard, of course, about the nuclear plant that went all Three-Mile-Island on the poor residents of that area, and most of them have wisely fled. Not so for Naoto Matsumura. He refuses to leave Tomioka, and by his reckoning, he is the last one there. He spends his days wandering the empty town and feeding the animals which are now human-less and aimlessly navigating the “exclusion zone.” While it may seem on the surface to be a gentle, pastoral, Zen-like existence, let’s not forget that Naoto Matsumura is being constantly bombarded with potentially fatal radiation from the nearby nuclear plant which is hemorrhaging invisible death rays. I don’t know whether I think that Naoto Matsumura is noble, or just stubborn, or perhaps a lunatic, but one question remains: if he’s the only one in Tomioka, who took this picture?
You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.
Yesterday I left you with an unprovoked picture of polydactyl weirdness, so today, I’d like to leave you with a “look how tiny and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things.” Here’s a photo of Earth (on the left) and the Moon (on the right) taken from 6,000,000 miles away by NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
To give you some perspective, it’s taken Juno just about a month to travel 6,000,000 miles, and it has about 449,000,000 miles still to go before it gets to its destination: Jupiter. It is expected to arrive in January 2012.
(Alternate title for this article: “Hemorrhaging invisible death rays.”)
Keep a good heart; the worst is yet to come.
August 30, 2011 § 2 Comments
So the Virginia earthquake and the worst of Hurricane Irene are behind us, and we can go back to talking about foreign natural disasters. Because let’s be honest: foreigners give their natural disasters way better names.
China and other China-adjacent countries are having their own Hurricane Irene-like problems, but theirs is called “Typhoon Nanmadol.” I’m not sure what a typhoon is, but it looks rainy. The governments of the typhoon-stricken nations are doing their best “NYC Evacuation 2011” impression: canceling flights, suspending public transit, encouraging people to seek high ground, and generally battening down various hatches. (Discussion Question: How does one “batten” a “hatch”? Discuss.). So some people have died and boats have disappeared and many, many people are getting aggressively moistened by Typhoon Nanmadol, who is as big a jerk as Hurricane Irene was. I hope that everyone in China and in other Nanmadol-affected China-adjacent nations finds a safe place to weather the storm, and can find some hatches to batten. Apparently the biggest problem with typhoons is that they cause landslides, and people are losing their houses. Typhoon Nanmadol is a total asshole.
Historically speaking, Mother Nature has repeatedly been a jerk to us, and I don’t just mean hurricanes and typhoons and earthquakes. Let’s not forget humanity’s old friend: The Plague.
A bunch of Canadian scientists went to London and dug up some bodies that were buried in a mass Plague grave. Their goal? Let’s identify the bacteria that causes the Black Death! Huzzah! So the scientists exhumed a hundred or so 14th century bodies who had died from the Black Death, and took their teeth. They dug into the 700 year old teeth and extracted some ancient tooth gunk. Historians already know that the Plague was passed by fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis) that lived on rats (Rattus norvegicus), but nobody’s been sure what bacterium actually killed all those poor medieval people. But now we know! The culprit is Yersinia pestis! The good news is that Yersinia pestis is extinct, so you don’t have to worry about having to call in to work sick with the Black Death. The Canadian scientists who did the exhuming and tooth-drilling claim that they did it to help us understand virulent diseases so that there will never be another global pandemic. It’s my opinion that they were actually just a bunch of bored Canadians who got drunk in London and started a prank that they didn’t know how to finish.
If they were smart, they would’ve gotten drunk in Italy, where the wine is better and the weather is a little more agreeable. It’s important to note, though, that if you visit the town of Filettino, you’ll have to trade in your Euros. That’s because the Filettines (is that what you call people from Filettino?) have decided to mint their own money.
Italy is in some financial troubles. They have announced “emergency measures” that require towns with less than 1000 residents to merge with their neighbouring towns, as a cost-cutting measure. I don’t understand how that cuts costs, but I don’t speak Italian. So Filettino, a town of 598 residents, has begun minting its own money (called the “fiorito”), and they’re trying to take a page out of the book of South Sudan, and declare independence from Italy. The mayor wants to install a monarch and strike out as its own country. And just so as you know, the fiorito, if it becomes legal tender, will be worth 1/2 of a euro, or about 75 cents.
And here is a Cuban dude with a bunch of extra fingers.
Try not to freak out.
(Alternate title for this article: “Call in to work sick with the Black Death.”)
Keep a good heart; the worst is yet to come.
August 29, 2011 § 5 Comments
Okay, before we get to Katy Perry, I have to admit that I had no idea that South Sudan was a place. The number of countries in the world was nudged from 203 to 204 last month, and I had no idea. On July 9th, the ten southern provinces of Sudan split off to make their own sovereign country, “The Republic of South Sudan,” and now they have been recognized by the United Nations, and just like that: Welcome to South Sudan!
I’m being glib about it, but apparently this is the fruition of (plus-or-minus) six years of civil war, and the people of the newly formed republic are jubilant: they voted 98.83% in favour of separation from Sudan. You couldn’t get 98.83% of Americans to agree on anything. You could have a referendum on whether or not Adolf Hitler was a “bad guy,” and you’d get more than 1.17% of voters who would say, “Maybe, maybe not…he did have a trustworthy haircut.” So if 98.83% of the South Sudanese want to have their own independent country, I say, “Congratulations, South Sudan! If you’re looking for a new religion, too, might I recommend Opossumism?”
While the Republic of South Sudan was struggling for its independence, scientists underneath Brazil discovered the Amazon River’s scary underground C.H.U.D. evil brother. (Raise your hand if you got that joke…well done). They’ve given it the pleasant-sounding name, “Rio Hamza.” Welcome to Brazil, Rio Hamza!
The Rio Hamza is 4 kilometers (about 2.5 miles) underneath the Amazon River, and is actually as much as four times wider than the widest point of the Amazon. Unlike the Amazon, though, which flows at a normal river pace (somewhere between 1 to 3 miles per hour), the Rio Hamza flows at about 0.00000062657 miles per hour. So the Rio Hamza flows about as quickly as bamboo grows. I fear that we may have to recharacterize the Rio Hamza from “underground river” to “underground stagnant pond.” I’m just saying.
More exciting that the very slow-moving underground Brazilian river is the aboveground water flea that may save frogs and toads and newts and salamanders for future generations. Because in case you hadn’t heard, the world’s amphibians were under an attack more frightening than a panda bear rampage. Allow me to introduce you to their protector: Daphnia magna, the North American freshwater water flea.
This handsome little fellow (actually, this one is a female; note the eggs) may mean the difference between life and death for the world’s amphibian populations. Frogs and their cousins all over the planet have been under attack by a toxic fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatis, which causes a disease called chytridiomycosis, which (according to Wikipedia) is 100% fatal in amphibians. But here comes the North American freshwater water flea to the rescue! Daphnia magna eats Batrachochytrium dendrobatis, and has been domesticated (like dogs or cows) by scientists, who use it for various purposes in their labs. So we have a domesticated freshwater water flea that feeds on death-causing frog fungus. Scientists are going to whip up a few batches of them and turn them loose in some ponds in Colorado and see what happens. The clear message here is: it doesn’t pay to be frog fungus. Mother Nature is a real stickler for her amphibians, and she will send a domesticated freshwater water flea after you, and your frog-killing days will be over.
And Batrachochytrium dendrobatis aren’t the only bad guys whose evil schemes are being thwarted. A couple of rhino horn thieves in England did a lot of work for nothing, proving that crime doesn’t pay. Particularly if you are stupid.
A couple of thieves hid out in a museum on the north side of London, waited until after the place closed, and then stole several rhino horns, worth nearly $400,000. The bandits eluded capture and can now sell the white rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) horns on the black market. Except that they are fake.
Museum staff had been suspicious about their rhino horns after as many as twenty horns had been stolen from various museums across Europe. So museum staff secretly replaced the original horns with replicas (made out of resin), and hid the originals safely away. The thieves made off with several pounds of bulk plastic, which is worth about forty cents. Well done, stupid thieves! Your inability to recognize the difference between a bony rhinoceros proboscis and a lump of hard plastic has cost you almost $399,999.60!
And now getting back to what I was originally going to talk about: Katy Perry. She must have had a very good weekend, because she received three VMAs, which may either refer to “MTV Music Video Awards” or “Vicky Metcalf Award,” which is an award giving to author’s of children’s books in Canada. (@TheRealKatyPerry: “I’m so happy that my contributions to Canadian children’s literature are being recognized. #TakeThatDrSeuss”).
Either way: Congratulations, Katy Perry! You must be as happy as a Daphnia magna in a pond full of Batrachochytrium dendrobatis.
Follow Kids of the Recession on Facebook and you can be the luckiest, happiest Daphnia magna on your block, by winning FREE AMAZING WONDERFUL MARVELOUS HAND-DRAWN AUTHENTIC AND TOTALLY FREE Kids of the Recession cartoons and T. rexes!
(Alternate title for this article: “Domesticated freshwater water fleas.”)
Keep a good heart; the worst is yet to come.
August 27, 2011 § 1 Comment
If you are afraid of wanton panda bear attacks, you may want to avoid Arizona. According to the Arizona Department of Highways, there are renegade pandas on the loose.
Every so often we see signs like this. Some charlatan who knows how to reprogram the highway signs takes a few minutes to change the sign from “ROADWORK AHEAD 2.5 MILES” to “BEWARE OF ZOMBIES” or “I LOVE HARRY POTTER” or “KATY PERRY IS HOT“. I like this particular one, because the thought of a rampaging giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is very amusing. When I was a child, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing came to visit our local zoo, and I had a chance to watch them sit on their little panda bottoms and eat bamboo and do the least amount of activity possible. I think that given their usual amount of physical exertion, a “panda rampage” might be a panda going from a seated position to a prone position. They are not exactly the most savage beasts.
Beware of panda rampages! They will softly nuzzle you with their furry faces and then eat your bamboo! Dread! Fear!
Everyone who has feared or dreaded having to buy jewelry for a loved one (or for someone that they accidentally knocked up), there is a glimmer of hope: NASA has discovered a planet made entirely out of diamonds. We are almost off the hook.
I know that I’ve written a lot about astronomy recently, but I feel like this needs mentioning. About 4000 light years away (a short trip of 23,513,999,300,000,000 miles) is a star called PSR J1719-1438 that has a planet orbiting it that is made entirely out of diamonds. Maybe instead of sending doomed Russian supply ships into space, we should work on getting out to PSR J1719-1438 and getting some of the space goodies there. Who cares if there is life on Mars? The real question is, “How much can we get for a handful of space diamonds at Big Joe’s Jewelry, Gun & Pawn?”
The question of giving jewelry as a way of getting to a woman’s heart (and regions beyond) is as old as human beings themselves. One can only assume that when the first humans were coming home from their woolly mammoth hunts, that their wives were waiting back at the caves, expecting him to remember that it was their anniversary and he’d better have some prehistoric flowers and a nice tennis bracelet for her.
This fanciful story may not be true, though, because it seems that recently scientists have uncovered shocking DNA evidence that early humans may not have been that choosy about their partners. Humans apparently mated with neanderthals.
There was a time in geologic history that both humans (Homo sapiens) and neanderthals (Homo neanderthalis) co-existed, and early DNA evidence suggests that our early ancestors might have occasionally “gone native” and hooked up with local neanderthals. There are innumerable possible jokes that could be made at this moment. For example, I could make a joke about that night in college that I picked up that girl from Dayton, OH, at McCarthy’s, and how in hindsight, I may have been trying to mate with a neanderthal. But what I really want to know is this: how did they find DNA evidence of early human mating habits? Did they find an early human fossilized in a tar pit clinging to his little black book? (@EarlyHumanPlaya: “Pimpin’ ain’t easy. #seeyouintheBritishMuseum”)
And lastly, speaking of neanderthal sex, a Jefferson County (KY) man may have set a new low for the human race. He was pulled over by local police because he was driving erratically. Officers discovered that he was drinking beer while driving. And he blew a .152 on the breathalyzer (nearly twice the legal limit). And I used the word “blew” in that last sentence for a very specific reason: he wasn’t alone.
George Howard, of Louisville, KY, was drunk driving home from a night on the town, and had a female companion with him who was, let’s just say, “going on a panda rampage.” Police arrested him for D.U.I., reckless driving and wanton endangerment. No charges we pressed against the woman. George Howard and his lady friend have set us back 10,000 years of evolution. Thanks, George! Everyone in the Bluegrass State is so proud of you. The sun shines bright on our ol’ Kentucky home.
(Alternate title for this article: “Going on a panda rampage.”)
Keep a good heart; the worst is yet to come.
August 25, 2011 § 4 Comments
If you are an Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) looking for love, you have about as good a chance at finding a mate as a capybara in southern California. That’s because there are only 85 Irrawaddy dolphins left. That’s the same amount as the number of scholarships as a Division I NCAA football team. (Sorry, it’s almost football season, and I am pumped) (go Wildcats!). But that’s not good news for the Irrawaddy dolphin.
This happy-looking fellow represents more than 1% of the total population of Irrawaddy dolphins, which are sacred animals in Indonesia and Thailand. I don’t know why humans are prone to picking rare and endangered animals as their deities. If I were starting a religion from scratch, I wouldn’t pick something endangered, I would pick the raccoon (Procyon lotor) or the opossum (Didelphis virginiana) or the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), so then I would always know that I had a ready supply of deities on hand if one of them got hit by a Ford F-150 (which happens to opossums a lot around here). I’m sorry if you live in a place without opossums or raccoons or wild turkeys. You will just have to find a different religion to associate yourself with; the People’s Church of Opossumism isn’t for everyone. You might want to try the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I’ve heard good things about them. (Of course the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a real thing, silly!).
Another thing that Opossumists will worship will be black holes. Because let’s be honest: black holes are (1) awesome, and (2) super awesome. It’s pretty sweet to think that a giant thing that’s made of nothing (which is how I understand black holes) could swallow up everything. And scientists recently saw a black hole do just that, live and in action.
I’m not sure how these things work, but a star called Swift 1644+57 (which is about 4.5 million light years away, which is about 26,453,429,200,000,000,000 miles) got vacuumed up by a black hole, and a couple of nerds at NASA got to watch the whole process. Apparently it takes about two days for a black hole to eat a star, which is good news, because if one shows up in our galaxy, we will have a little flex-time to prepare our souls for the Lord (or the Great Opossum, depending on what you believe), and for all the virgins to get laid before the end of life as we know it.
And Swift 1644+57’s recent consumption is not the only thing in galactic news these days. NASA wants us to know that they found a new type of star, and it’s no hotter than you or me.
A “Y Dwarf” star is apparently a small type of star that, unlike all the other stars, which give off light and heat and radiation, just sits there and does nothing. Apparently scientists had hypothesized about ten years ago that such a thing could exist, and NASA recently found one, about 40 light years away (about 235,139,993,000,000 miles). Apparently some scientists call them “failed stars,” because they’ve tried to become a star, but not succeeded. I would recommend that if the Y Dwarf wants to be a star so bad, it should just make a sex tape and release it on the internet, like Paris Hilton or the guy who played Screech on “Saved by the Bell”.
Now call me crazy, but if something tries to be a star, but doesn’t become a star, shouldn’t we call it something other than a “star”? You wouldn’t call me a “Hungarian” just because I want to go to Hungary. But I digress.
The point is, these Y Dwarf (non)stars are apparently not giving off much heat, and so they are only about as hot as a human body (about 100 F), which is different than a real star (which is about 27,000,000 F). I can only speak for myself, but I would estimate that Katy Perry’s body is 27,000,000 F.
Get it? Because Katy Perry is hot. (“I kissed a Y Dwarf star and I liked it…”)
And lastly, not to disappoint children in Eugene, Oregon (the land of the tainted strawberry, by the way), but you can’t have chocolate milk at lunch anymore.
The government has decided that chocolate milk is bad for kids, because it is a gateway milk to more hardcore dairy products, like aged cheeses and goat’s milk. I am joking, of course, but the government really is taking away the chocolate milk. They think that the chocolatey goodness of the chocolate milk is bad for kids, so the only option will be normal, unflavoured milk. Call me a cynic, but I think that the government would be better off trying making sure that kids can read by the time they graduate and that they stop bringing guns to school, instead of fighting the war against chocolate. But that’s just me. (@TheWhiteHouse: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself! And chocolate. #milkismurder”)
Remember that you can win FREE AMAZING WONDERFUL MARVELOUS HAND-DRAWN AUTHENTIC AND TOTALLY FREE Kids of the Recession cartoons and T. rexes by following Kids of the Recession on Facebook. Bonus benefits to follow! (Maybe).
(Alternate title for this article: “Chocolate milk is a gateway milk.”)
Keep a good heart; the worst is yet to come.
August 24, 2011 § 2 Comments
So there was an earthquake in Virginia. I didn’t know that they had earthquakes in Virginia, to be honest with you. I knew that they had Civil War re-creationists and the Dave Matthews Band and a historical monument to Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s arm, but I did not know that they had earthquakes. (And I’m not joking about the monument to Stonewall Jackson’s arm; it’s a real thing).
So, as if it wasn’t enough that Hurricane Irene is bearing down on us and is going to take all our peanuts, now we also need to be worried about our peanut storehouses being knocked down by earthquakes. People all over the east coast felt the quake, which measured 5.8 on the Richter magnitude scale, which (according to Wikipedia) means it can “cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions.” I have spent a goodly amount of time in rural Virginia, and I have to be honest: I have seen some poorly constructed buildings that would be at risk. Anybody who’s ever been to Goochland, VA, knows what I’m talking about. (Again, I’m not joking: Goochland, VA, is a real place). This morning I heard on the radio that the Washington Monument (not to be confused with the “Stonewall Jackson’s Arm Monument”) in DC was damaged, and will be closed indefinitely. All over the country, middle schoolers preparing for their eighth grade trip to Washington are crestfallen. (Raise your hand if you got that joke…well done).
And as long as our crests are falling, I regret to be the one to inform you that cases of West Nile Virus have been reported in Florida. If you live in Florida, I recommend you hide under a blanket in your house with the lights off until winter. The death-bringer mosquitoes are out there!
I don’t mean to be cruel, but the news that Florida is infested with potentially deadly mosquitoes gives me reason to suggest this radical solution: let’s make a line from Panama City to St. Augustine and just cut off the rest of Florida. Divide the panhandle into two parts (one part for Alabama, one for Georgia), and just let the rest of the Sunshine State float off towards Cuba. We’d lose the Miami Dolphins, but would anyone really be that bummed out?
Plus, Florida is full of rattlesnakes, so that’s another good reason to get rid of it. And as if it wasn’t enough that they’re there, soon the government is going to be protecting them.
So while the government is taking some snakes off of the endangered species list (and making monuments to a dude’s arm), they are adding the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) to the protected list. The Eastern diamondback is, by the way, the biggest venomous snake in North America. It’s a big gnarly snake. And where do they live? Florida.
I’m telling you, people: a line from Panama City to St. Augustine and a giant pair of scissors. It would solve all of our snake- and mosquito-related problems.
And while we may have mosquito problems and snakes problems, we do not have any outer space problems, since NASA canceled the space shuttle program. The Russians, on the other hand, have outer space problems. Their space ships are exploding.
The unmanned Russian space shuttle “Progress” was making its way up to the International Space Station to take the astronauts some goodies, when it exploded and dropped debris all over Siberia. (@RussianSpaceProgram: “Oops. Sorry Siberia. #epicfail #mybad”). Fortunately, no one was killed (“Progress” was an automaton). On the other hand, “Progress” was filled with food (necessary for life) and oxygen (necessary for life) for the astronauts on board the I.S.S. There is no word yet on how the cosmonauts on the International Space Station will survive without food and oxygen, or how Russia plans to get those things up to them ASAP. But if the Russians promise to be home by midnight, they might be able to borrow the space shuttle Atlantis. It’s in the garage next to the minivan. The keys are on the kitchen counter.
(Alternate title for this article: “Goochland, VA”)
Keep a good heart; the worst is yet to come.
August 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
SPECIAL KIDS OF THE RECESSION GIVEAWAY FESTIVAL BONANZA OF FREE JOYFULNESS! Now with chest bumps!
Want some actual original hand-drawn Kids of the Recession cartoons and T. rexes? I am going to give away some artwork (if it can be called “artwork”) randomly over the next couple of weeks to people who follow Kids of the Recession on Facebook. Bonus points for following Handsome Frank, too.
It’s like Etsy, but it’s free!
Keep a good heart; the worst is yet to come.