April Fool’s Day (UPDATED)

As a general rule, I’m not a fan of pranks, for the simple reason that they are, almost invariably, much more fun for the prankster than the pranked. The pranked person’s enjoyment is, at best, secondary, and at worst, irrelevant. That’s not how I do humor*

That said, I do appreciate history and all that, so here’s a wee bit about April Fool’s Day:

The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s neighbor is recognized everywhere. Some precursors of April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, the Holi festival of India, and the Medieval Feast of Fools.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. 2 May, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “32 March”, i.e. 1 April. In Chaucer’s tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

Pranks are hard to pull off, though, especially in the Internet Age. As Megan Garber says at The Atlantic, “April 2 regrets are, at this point, almost as common as April 1 fools.”

For more fun, “fun,” and “what the hell were they thinking?”, check out “The Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time.”

UPDATE (04/01/2015): Thanks to Edwin for directing me to this John Oliver video:

A few choice quotes:

“April Fool’s Day is to comedy as St. Patrick’s Day is to Irish culture.”

“Pranks are terrible. Anyone claiming to be excited for April Fool’s Day is probably a sociopath, because what they’re really saying is ‘I cannot wait to hurt the people close to me.'”

“If you want to break your family’s heart, don’t play a mean trick on them. Just ask them for money for another improv class. You can do that any time of year, and you will shatter them.”

* Yes, i got pranked a few times as a kid. What’s your point???


Birther Pheromones

John Sununu doesn’t think President Obama should go to Kenya for the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Why? Because to do so would incite the people who still cling to the suspicion that Kenya is the president’s true birthplace, and the most important thing for the president to do, at least in Sununu’s mind, is placate the people who hate him (h/t Jason):

President Obama is “inciting” the passions of so-called birthers, who believe he was born in Kenya not the United States, by planning a trip to the African country, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R) said Monday.

“I think his trip back to Kenya is going to create a lot of chatter and commentary amongst some of the hard right who still don’t see him as having been born in the U.S.,” he said during an appearance on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

“I personally think he’s just inciting some chatter on an issue that should have been a dead issue a long time ago.”

Steven Benen adds:

Oh, I see. There’s a Global Entrepreneurship Summit coming up this summer, and many world leaders will be in attendance, but President Obama should sideline himself, on purpose. Why? Because, in the mind of John Sununu, the president will “incite” ridiculous people to say ridiculous things.

Since when is this how any sensible White House is supposed to function?

Now, remember, Republicans tout themselves as champions of “personal responsibility.” As one state party organization says: Continue reading


Depression vs. “Depression”


“Depression” seems to signify social ills for which we have no solution, from violent, homicidal behavior, to health illiteracy, to our culture’s neglect of the elderly. Constructing societal deficits as a medical problem does everyone a disservice—because treatment specific for depression won’t work for people who don’t really have depression. People who need social support can be expected to benefit most from programs that provide social support—not from psychiatrists.

– Anne Skomorowsky, “Don’t Blame It on Depression: That’s not what made the Germanwings co-pilot murder 149 people.”


Monday Morning Cute: Adoptable Cuteness in Austin

A little over a week ago, I spent my Saturday morning at Austin Animal Center, and got to know a few dogs that are almost too cute to describe. So here are some pictures instead.

This is Apple (A698628), a ridiculously adorable pittie/Shar-Pei mix. Her fur feels like velvet. It was an incredible struggle not to take her home with me right then. We already have two dogs, though, and I don’t know if they want another sister.

peaches-2015-03-21 10.32.18

She has been moved over to the Town Lake Animal Center facility, I hear. She was named Peaches when I met her, but they renamed her Apple because there’s already a Peaches at that facility.

Juno (A696564) and Ford (A698086) are quite the pair. I forget Juno’s breed, but Ford is a black Lab/Great Pyrenees mix. He combines the rambunctiousness of a Lab with the size of a Great Pyrenees. He’s a bit young and excitable, but he’s awesome. Juno is a master of composure and patience in his presence.

juno-ford-2015-03-21 10.57.59

As a bonus, before we move on, here’s a brief bit of my encounter with Ford. He’s very lively: Continue reading


This Week In WTF, March 27, 2015

- Marketing, meet chemistry: If it never occurred to you to put someone with a chemistry background on your marketing team, maybe it should now. The people behind a Jägermeister-sponsored party involving a pool thought it would be a cool effect to have mist coming off the water. When I think “mist,” I think dry ice, which is basically carbon dioxide frozen solid. It requires temperatures of about −78.5 °C (−109.3 °F).

For this party, though, it was definitely go big or go home. They apparently used liquid nitrogen, which requires a brisk −195.79 °C (−320 °F)—this is why it’s the mechanism of choice in Hollywood for freezing people and smashing heads or limbs (or, if it’s a Friday the 13th movie set in outer space, a hot blonde’s face ← do not click that link.)

Now, as you probably know, swimming pool water contains chlorine, usually calcium hypochlorite or a similar compound. The chlorine compound used in swimming pools tends to react with liquid nitrogen to form nitrogen trichloride, which has the properties of tear gas and can cause neurological damage. Continue reading


Hunting the Poachers

A picture appears to be in the process of going viral:


Via UNILAD / Facebook

I saw it on the Facebook page of the British website (magazine?) UNILAD (h/t Jason), with the following caption:

There are poachers in Africa currently hunting Rhino. This woman hunts the poachers.

The “hunts the poachers” line sort of caught my attention. (Yes, yes, other aspects of the photo caught my attention, too. I’ll get to that.)

The awesome blog TYWKIWDBI wrote about this woman, Kinessa Johnson, yesterday, and clarified that the organization where she works, VETPAW, employs ex-military servicemembers to secure locations where poachers are known to operate. The goal is to dissuade poachers from trying anything in that area, not to seek them out and engage them (which is what “hunt” sort of implies). That doesn’t make it any less bad-ass by any measure. Continue reading


Sometimes a joke is just too obvious

Case in point:

Giant Methane Storms on Uranus

Heh heh. You said “meth.”

[A]ll we have previously known about the atmosphere of Uranus has been ’thrown to the wind’ with observations made last year.


The Charleston Conspiracy (Theory)

At the South Carolina National Security Action Summit, an attendee apparently stated that the Obama administration recently tried to detonate a nuclear weapon in Charleston, South Carolina (h/t Jason). The attempted nuking of Charleston is a delusional fantasy, but it’s terrifying to me that the public statement made by this person is something that actually happened.

By Khanrak (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The woman included this in a question to Rick Santorum, who didn’t do much of anything to correct her on the issue*. It turns out that the Charleston thing has been making the round long enough to have its own Snopes page, which declares it to be false. Dave Weigel also wrote about what happened (h/t Steve Benen): Continue reading


This Week in WTF, March 20, 2015

- I fear this technology could be turned to evil uses: Presenting Tomatan, the robot your wear as a backpack that shoves tomatoes in your mouth. Because why not? (h/t Laura)

- Kind of hard to spin this one for the culture wars: It seems like kids are getting pregnant earlier and earlier these days. Here’s a kid who was born pregnant. With twins. (h/t Tim)

- Wait, what? U.S. PIRG released a report a few months ago that named Austin, Texas the best car-free city in the United States (h/t Chris). You read that right. Not to stereotype people who work for PIRGs, but I wonder if the researchers ever left downtown or the Drag.

- Next Republican fashion trend: yoga burqas, or “yoburqas”: A Republican state legislator in Montana proposed a law that would have banned clothing that “gives the appearance or simulates the buttocks, genitals, pelvic area, or female nipple”—i.e. no yoga pants (h/t Jack, G). The bill didn’t make it far, though. A few days after the story broke, he claimed he was kidding. Continue reading


Winged Devourers

I think I have finally figured out why flying foxes, the large bats with adorable faces, freak me out so much.

When they wrap their wings up like this…

Via Facebook / Frans de Waal - Public Page

Via Facebook / Frans de Waal – Public Page

…they remind me of the “winged devourers” from the 1982 classic The Beastmaster: Continue reading