Monday, April 29, 2013

Heaven's Gate cult initiation tape

Heaven's Gate was a UFO cult famous for their 1997 mass suicide, in which 39 members quietly laid down in bunk beds with plastic bags taped over their heads and died. They believed that they would launch themselves onto a flying saucer trailing the then-visible Hale-Bopp comet. At the time, I was working at the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada, on the night shift. We had an excellent view of the comet from the top floor of the plant, where we'd pause on break and stare at the blurry speck in the sky, wondering what madness possessed these people.

Well, I've recently discovered the entire tape series of cult leader Marshall Applewhite's video speeches to the sect members on YouTube. So spend some time listening to this guy ramble and see if maybe he couldn't hypnotise you into cutting your junk off and killing yourself (with $5.75 in your pocket, gotta remember the fare!):

That's just part one. There's the whole series here.

Oh, and let us not forget that the original website, maintained by the cult members who financed themselves through web development, is still up for anyone to view. The creepiest touch is the expanding 'red alert' GIF at the top. Did the cult members check the page every day for this signal? And when it appeared, that was their "boarding call"?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What it's like to crash on a monocycle.

This is a monocycle, which looks cool as blazes and fun to drive. But not so fun to wipe out in at the 2:56 mark. It bounces a few times, maybe not as bad as the equivalent crash on a motorcycle.

Monowheel vehicles have been an area of enthusiastic exploration by inventors. They go back to the 1800s even.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Three random bursts of brilliant insanity from Jan Svankmajer

That's Jan Svankmajer - stop-motion animator who was one of the inspirations to Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame - in case you couldn't tell.

Friday, April 26, 2013

How did hippos get to Columbia?

Well, as the video explains, the hippos - the original pair, anyway - were part of the menagerie of Pablo Escobar, famous Columbian drug lord. They adapted to the environment and roam free today, starting from a breeding pair.

The life and times of Pablo Escobar read like something straight out of Scarface. Legends of his tremendous cocaine-fueled wealth even include an anecdote of how they had to store cash in a warehouse for so long that rats broke in and gnawed 10% of the stored $100-bills, destroying them. Escobar's henchmen just shrugged and wrote it off as a loss.

Anyway, when you're so goddamned rich that you have a problem with rats eating your money because you can't spend it fast enough, you tend to splurge on a few indulgences. So Escobar built himself a wonderland, complete with his own zoo. What a show-off!

And that's why today, hippos are now a native species in Columbia.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Iowa mystery - Who shot Ashley Okland?

Two years ago, real estate agent Ashley Okland was working in this model house in Des Moines Iowa:

...when someone came into the house behind her, shot her in the head and chest, and disappeared. There's been a reward posted for information on the case, totalling up to $150,000. And not a single lead.

The story has acquired some fame in my local vicinity. Because the crime happened when the area was still under development, there were no witnesses, and little hope of even catching a clue from surveillance video anywhere in the area. More baffling, Okland was a person completely free of scandal - she didn't appear to have any enemies, she was just an up-and-coming realtor who also volunteered at Big Brothers / Big Sisters. She's missed by many, all of whom express disbelief that anybody could have had a problem with her.

But this case, by itself, isn't nearly as mind--blowing as you might think, when you consider the fact that 1/3rd of homicides in the United States go unsolved. That's actually the mind--blowing part. Forget all the forensic technoporn on CSI, in the real world we just have 33% of murderers getting away with it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Stumbled on Star Wars in animated GIF form. The entire movie.

It appears to have been done entirely in MSPaint, to boot. What an artifact! Wonder how old this is? The domain shown at the end,, is dead.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Riotous Robot Roundup

Every now and then I like to touch base with the robotics field just to see if their inventions are getting either any more useful or any less creepy.

Einstein robot:

A female walking robot, because otaku boys need some dates:
That's a vast improvement over the Honda ASIMO from a few years back, which had a gait that suggested that it had just crapped its pants.

Finally, this other-worldly specimen in development:
Yeah, if you could stay out of my nightmares, that'd be great.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Trivia Gibs #3

The world's heaviest statue is the American Statue of Liberty. It's solid copper and weighs more than 200 metric tonnes.

One thing that the Biblical books "Esther" and "Song of Solomon" have in common: neither of them contain the word "God".

Ronald McDonald was not the first mascot for the McDonald's restaurant chain. That title belongs to "Speedee", a chef character conceived to play up the "fast food" aspect of the hamburger chain, then still a novelty.

Despite his lifelong achievements, 62 albums, and enduring popularity, Frank Zappa's only Top-40 charting hit was 1982's "Valley Girl". To add insult to injury, the following year a film was released by the same title to capitalize on the popularity of the song but without containing Zappa's song in the soundtrack; Zappa sued for infringement and lost.

The Swingline stapler company did not originally make a red model. Consumer demand, following the 1999 film "Office Space", caused them to start manufacturing one. The prop in the film was simply a standard black stapler painted red.

Albert Einstein was born on "Pi Day" (March 14th).

The United States' first Saab dealership, in Cape Cod, was managed by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - yes, the famous author, before he made it big!

Ray Chapman (1891-1920), shortstop for the Cleaveland Indians, was the only Major League Baseball player to have died from being hit by a pitch.

Less time passed between the death of Cleopatra (30 BC) and the first moon landing (1969 AD) than passed between the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza (2560 BC) and the birth of Cleopatra (69 BC) - by almost half a millennium!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

How long can life forms stay active in a sealed glass sphere?

The answer turns out to not only be fascinating, but a nice little cottage industry. Ecosphere is a company that sells just such an item: a glass globe with simple plant and animal life forms, which you just set in the window and let sunlight do the rest. It's basically a sealed, maintenance-free aquarium.

Here's a video of one in action:

From the site:
"Because the living organisms within the EcoSphere utilize their resources without overpopulating or contaminating their environment, the EcoSphere requires virtually no maintenance.
EcoSpheres have an average life expectancy of two years. However, it is not uncommon for shrimp populations to be thriving in systems as old as 7 years."
One wonders what the long-term implications of this would be. What if generations reproduced within the ecosphere - would they mutate? Could they evolve? Certainly, sealed systems in nature do tend to produce life forms with exaggerated characteristics. Could the system survive a global apocalypse? It needs sunlight energy, so we know it couldn't survive in space, but what if we included an artificial life source and launched it at habitable planets? Would the seed be planted for Earth-like, but adapted, life forms when we eventually go there?

Friday, April 12, 2013

For a morbid (but educational) time, read OSHA's published workplace fatalities report

OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) publishes weekly industrial accident reports on their site. A handful of some mind--blowing fatalities:
  • "Employee crushed and killed by conveyor belt rollers undergoing maintenance."
  • "Worker was killed when nail from a nail gun struck him in the eye."
  • "Employee died after an explosion occurred while he was checking levels on a 400 barrel brine water holding tank."
  • "Worker died after being caught in a stamping machine."
  • "Worker was crushed to death when the trash compactor he was repairing was energized."
  • "Worker died after being hit by several cars while handing out flyers."
  • "Worker died after collapsing on the ground with seizures while working in a tobacco field with a heat index of 108 degrees."
  • "Worker died after falling eight feet when the core drilling machine he was using hit rebar."
  • "Worker died from exposure to hydrogen sulfide after stepping into 5-foot-deep hole containing oil slush."
  • "Employee died from head injuries after a concrete block fell from a ceiling being repaired."
And those are just from this year!

And since you're here, here's some gruesome (but effective) workplace safety PSAs around YouTube:

There, now you'll NEVER go to work again! Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Klingon alphabet, in case you were wondering

From, the official Klingon language resource. I've known a couple Trek fans who were at least somewhat fluent. Apparently there's a whole Unicode block reserved in some fonts. Given the letter-to-letter translation from English, one could even fathom a Bash script that translates phrases using imagemagick to shoot out an image with the equivalent Klingon text.

What, don't look at me? I don't even speak it!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Poly couple's story turns into lurid nightmare of horrifying torture.

I don't usually post stuff of this nature here, but this is an exception just for the bizarre psychology of all three participants.

It begins with a husband and wife, whose marriage deteriorates and she takes on a lover. However, the story takes a bizarre twist when the lover moves in with the couple and they just go on like that. Then the wife and her lover lock the husband in a closet and keep him there for months, inflicting gruesome and horrifying abuse on him, including beatings, burnings, and slashing him with razor blades. The husband meekly accepts all this without trying to escape and even defends his tormenters when the police rescue him.

You heard it from me. Now here's the original story at the Toronto Star, but it's much more graphic and gruesome - reader discretion advised.

Three pretty messed-up people, in their own twisted little world.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A hermit crab in a glass shell

"Hermit crabs are not really classed as crabs due to the fact that they do not own their own shell."

"The shape of the shell that a baby hermit crab chooses determines the shape of its abdomen."

 "Hermit crabs will often consume their old skin for its nutrients."

And more hermit crab facts...