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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Map of power outages caused by squirrels, with bonus squirrel-related links

"I don't think paralysis [of the electrical grid] is more likely by cyberattack than by natural disaster. And frankly the number-one threat experienced to date by the US electrical grid is squirrels." 

~ John C. Inglis, Former Deputy Director, National Security Agency 2015.07.09

The war with the squirrels continues unabated - from Cyber Squirrel 1:
This map lists all unclassified Cyber Squirrel Operations that have been released to the public that we have been able to confirm. There are many more executed ops than displayed on this map however, those ops remain classified.
Screenshot from CyberSquirrel1

The data is gathered from Twitter and then listed on a filter-able Google map. You have the option to narrow the data by year and by month, and can even choose to only view the cases related to squirrels, non-squirrels, or all animals, including birds, raccoons, snakes and beavers. The interactive map is available here.

Related posts/links:

Video: The Narcoleptic Squirrel Song.

I'm pretty sure this flesh-eating-squirrels-because-fracking movie never got made, but if it ever happens, I'm in: Squirrels - Pre-production Sales Trailer.





A fire that heavily damaged an apartment complex was started by a resident using a propane torch to remove a squirrel's fur.

Scottish brewery releases $20,000 beer in taxidermy squirrel.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Best Kitchen Gadget of the 1600s Was a Small, Short-Legged Dog

In the hot, smoky kitchens of 17th-century Europe, you’d find a lot of things you’d never see in kitchens today; a large open fire, an iron roasting spit, and a giant hamster wheel-like contraption holding a small, live, constantly running dog referred to as a turnspit dog (wiki).



For hundreds of years the now-extinct turnspit dog, also called Canis Vertigus (“dizzy dog”), vernepator cur, kitchen dog and turn-tyke, was specially bred just to turn a roasting mechanism for meat. And weirdly, this animal was a high-tech fixture for the professional and home cook from the 16th century until the mid-1800s.

An illustration of a turnspit dog, described in the 19th century
 as “long-bodied, crooked-legged, and ugly dogs”.
Hunks of meat were either boiled or roasted over an open fire; the latter was not only considered most delicious, but in the UK, a hallmark of proper cooking.

Unfortunately, fire was tricky to control - you couldn’t leave, say, a goose on the flame without risking an unevenly cooked dinner. To cook meat thoroughly, kitchen staff stabbed each piece with the heavy iron spike of a roasting spit, which rotated via a looped chain and hand crank. Cooking meat thoroughly on a spit takes anywhere between 40 and 80 minutes per kilo depending on which meat it is you’re cooking. Needless to say, roasting an adult hog on the fire took an incredibly long time.

Whiskey, a stuffed turnspit dog at Abergavenny Museum
Before dogs were employed, the fireplace spit was turned by the lowliest person in the kitchen staff, usually a small boy who stood behind a bale of wet hay for protection from the heat, turning the iron spit for hours and hours. although in larger households the size of the spit necessitated delegating the job to an adult. 

The job was tough, cruel and often resulted in the poor soul tasked with doing it suffering from burns, blisters and exhaustion. What made the job more difficult  was that the spitjacks, as the adults were known, had to work in full uniform. During the 16th century they made the transition from small boys and adults to dogs.  

Turnspits were ultimately replaced by steam-powered machines and by the end of the 19th century the breed officially was declared extinct.

Despite the fact that,  for a few centuries, the turnspit could be found in almost every large home in England, including the homes of royalty, nobody anywhere bothered to note down exactly what breeding process went into creating the dog that had ensured so many people had evenly cooked dinners. All we have to go on are historical descriptions of the breed which described it as “long-bodied”, “crooked-legged” and “ugly”. There's also a stuffed specimen called Whiskey (picture above).

By the way, the horrific treatment turnspits were subjected to is reportedly what inspired Henry Bergh to start the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which in turn has resulted in countless animals being saved from abuse and cruelty.

More on turnspit dogs at Atlas Obscura, Today I Found Out, Modern Farmer and NPR.

A related post on more recent gadgets: Alton Brown's critique of Amazon's dumbest kitchen gadgets, with bonus Amazon reviews.

Friday links

For Buffy the Vampire Slayer's birthday, here's a list of her birthday catastrophes.

Picasso's Self-Portraits From 15 Years Old To 90 Years Old.


This weekend is Stonewall Jackson's birthday - here's the story of his left arm's separate grave (bonus: Lord Uxbridge's leg)


How A Dead Millionaire Convinced Dozens Of Women To Have As Many Babies As Possible.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include self-medicating animals, a photo of Lincoln's first inauguration, Al Capone's investments in miniature golf, and, for Ben Franklin's birthday, his 200 synonyms for drunk and the bodies found in his basement.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

It's Buffy the Vampire Slayer's birthday - here's a list of her birthday catastrophes

One for you fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (wiki) and Angel (wiki) (and all things Joss Whedon (wiki):

Since her birthdays always sucked pretty badly, she probably wouldn't be celebrating even if the show was still around. Here are Buffy's birthday catastrophes, chronologically:

The loss of Angel's soul and the return of Angelus during her 17th (in the “Surprise”/“Innocence” (Season 2) episodes).

Buffy being stripped of her Slayer powers in preparation for the Cruciamentum during her 18th (in “Helpless”  (Season 3)).

Giles being transmogrified into a Fyarl demon by Ethan Rayne during her 19th (in “A New Man” (Season 4)).

Dawn Summers' discovery that she is the Key and subsequent identity crisis during Buffy's 20th (in “Blood Ties” (Season 5)).

All of the participants of Buffy's birthday party, including anyone else who entered the house, being trapped inside the Summers residence by Dawn's unwitting wish to Halfrek during her 21st (“Older and Far Away” (Season 6)).

Related links:




The Buffy Thanksgiving episode: "Ritual sacrifice, with pie".

Definitely time to re-watch!

One for Bradley/Chelsea Manning: How to Deal with Female Traitors (1861)

Not that Manning is amusing (or female), but I liked this anyway:



A cartoon from Harper's Weekly (wiki) from October 26, 1861, during the Civil War. The suggestions on what to do with female traitors are pretty self-explanatory: there's a transcription below.




The captions:

"Let them See but not touch all the latest novelties in Hats, Dry Goods, etc."

"Send them to the Alms House to nurse refractory babies"

"Have the fashionable intelligence read in their hearing to their intense aggravation"

"Make them wear very unfashionable uniform as e.g. the above"

"Let them do Housework under the Superintendence of Biddy"

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday links

Today is Ben Franklin's birthday - bio, quotes, videos, his 200 synonyms for drunk, the bodies found in his basement, and more.


Semaphore: The World’s First Telegraph.


For Al Capone's birthday, here's the story of that time he bought large blocks of stock in miniature golf construction companies.


ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include the anniversary of the beginning of prohibition in the United States, all about sinus “fungus balls”, how to become a lawyer without law school, Boston's 2.3 million gallon molasses flood in 1919, and a 1950s French sobriety poster recommending that you limit yourself to a liter of wine per day.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cartoon - your Legos are plotting against you

I've always suspected the Legos were doing this...


via YouHadOneJob

Monday links

Prohibition in the United States began on January 16, 1920: here's some history, contemporaneous newsreels, the women who tried to telepathically influence the vote, Abraham Lincoln and Milton Friedman.




No More than a Litre of Wine a Day, recommends a 1950s French Sobriety Poster.

Something new thing to worry about: sinus “fungus balls”.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include why Friday the 13th is considered unlucky, the history of pickles, 1960 Russian ideas on life in 2017, how birds survive winter, and the Feast of the Ass.