December 06, 2005
'The single most interesting object... in all of astronomy'
Arguably so, said the anonymous writer of the copy accompanying Monday's release of the most detailed image ever of the Crab Nebula (above), also the largest image ever captured by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2).
The new graphic was assembed from 24 individual exposures.
You can learn much more about the Crab Nebula here, including the fact that Japanese and Chinese astronomers witnessed the explosion of the supernova that created it in the year 1054.
Imagine, if you will, the excitement and pleasure our descendants will have when, centuries hence, their starship takes them into the central region of this spherical structure for a spectacular fly–through.
It is unimaginable, what this exploded supernova must look like from the inside looking out.
Remember, as you gaze upon the two-dimensional picture above, that it represents only a faint hint of the full, spatially–extensive reality of this cloud of gas and starstuff.
Toastabags — 'Turn your toaster into a sandwich maker'
I thought I'd written about this singular invention last year but I'll be darned if either I or my crack research team could find hide nor hair of the post if it indeed exists/existed.
Maybe it appeared in Version 1.0 and disappeared when the "brain wipe" equivalent took place in late August of 2004.
No matter, here we are, ready to toast away.
From the website:
- Set of two reusable woven fiberglass bags for making warm, crunchy sandwiches in your toaster in just 3 minutes.
• Melts cheese with no mess, and warms other ingredients.
• Reusable up to 300 times.
• Heat resistant.
• Nonstick interior.
• 7" x 5.75".
• Easy to clean; top-rack dishwasher safe.
I dare ya.
Originally $11.99 for two but now reduced to a most affordable $5.99 here.
One wonders why they're on sale... perhaps they're simply too weird to sell well, or maybe reports of Toastabag–kindled kitchen infernos have made their way back to company headquarters.
One also wonders if the grilled cheese sandwich produced by a Toastabag could rival the nonpareil version previously featured here.
[via Brian Nelson]
FarmersOnly.com — 'City folks just don't get it!'
2,400 rural lonely hearts have posted their personal ads on farmersonly.com, an online dating service which began in May.
It's "exclusively for rural people and those who would join them," wrote Peter Slevin in the Washington Post.
It was founded by Jerry Miller, an Ohio-based ad agency owner who works with a breeders association.
Miller told Slevin, "I met a farmer who had just gotten divorced. She said, 'How do you meet someone standing on a farm all day?' She tried online dating, but the city guys that contacted her just didn't have a clue. The dating pool out in the country is very small. If you didn't marry your high school sweetheart, you'll have a tough time."
Rose Petal Earrings by Joel Arthur Rosenthal
As a rule the creations of Paris–based jewelry designer Joel Arthur Rosenthal are priced into the stratosphere.
These "tamed" aluminum limited–edition rose petal earrings, at $1,000 a pair, are as inexpensive an entry into the world of JAR as you're ever likely to find.
At the JAR perfume boutique in Bergdorf Goodman (New York City).
'Perfume Notes' — Luca Turin's Blog
I happened on it last evening.
If you read just one blog about fragrance then this is the one I'd recommend.
He started it back in June of this year; I spent last evening wandering around the archives with great pleasure.
That would be Turin.
Bonus: when I emailed Turin after reading the book he hit me right back.
I cannot recommend Burr's book highly enough: should you read it you will become a fan of Turin's and find his blog even more irresistible than it already is.
Easy Grip Lamp Switch
I don't understand why this isn't the default style of switch on lamps.
"The large three–spoked knob (above) replaces smaller lamp knobs, making them easier to turn on and off."
Awfully expensive, though: $9 apiece here.
Come on, crack research team: earn your keep.
[Three hours later]
The one below
does exactly the same thing, fits easily over most lamp switches and therefore won't require you to remove the existing switch.
$9.98 will buy you not one, not two, not three but four of these ergonomically–designed switches right here.
22nd Annual Cockroach Racing World Championships — January 26, 2006 in Brisbane, Australia: Be there!
Every January 26, Australia Day, the world's greatest racing cockroaches descend on Brisbane for what is undoubtedly the longest–running such event on our planet.
It promises to be perfect.
Photos by Ms. Lane taken at the Championships appear above and below.
Here's her piece.
- Roach Racin'
Only in Australia would they celebrate their national holiday by racing cockroaches.
Yes, that's right I'm talking about those pooey brown, hairy legged, skin crawling, under the fridge indulgers and lights out kitchen partiers that infest much of the land Down Under.
On a day when most countries would be flag raising, parading the streets and celebrating their nationhood Australians head to the pub for some serious cockroach action.
A sport that has become a bit of a tradition.
At the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane they've been racing the insects every hot summery January 26 for the past 21 years.
It all started in 1982 when two barflies began arguing that the roaches from his part of town were the fastest in Brisbane.
They tested their alcohol-fuelled convictions in a parking garage, the bar crowd enjoyed it and thus the races were born.
Now described as "the greatest gathering of thoroughbred cockroaches in the known universe" the event has not come of age that much.
There's a bit of sponsorship, TV cameras, microphones and live bands but much of the tradition has remained the same.
The beer comes out, the water guns, the Australian hats with the dangling corks, the tattoos and all the best of Australiana.
It's Australian Bogan culture at its understated best.
"It's great, we've taken one of our national animals and made it into a mascot, after all they're as much a part of Australia as the koala or kangaroo and far more common," says one spectator in an Elvis wig and braces.
"Why not have some fun with them, after all they've been living it up in our kitchens for years."
"They're an integral part of Australian society," says another character with nipple rings, "every household's got 'em."
No one can argue with that, and as long as the RSPCA doesn't attend everyone's happy.
And they all get in on the act.
There are Australian flags and songs during the day (after all it is Australia Day) but much of the fashion is on the cockroach theme.
There are pleasant motherly types wearing cockroach necklaces, kids with shirts saying "I am very appROACHable" or family groups with matching t-shirts saying Dwarf Roach and Papa Roach.
People walk the crowds with roaches in plastic cups, although the numbers of back flipped squashed roaches by the end of the day littering the ground shows they are not that revered even though the rather humorous program states that "Kissing the winning roach is also not out of the question".
The races have names like the "Fat Cat Classic", "The Cocky's Plate" and "Miss Cocky" as do the cockroaches with such colourful names as Fat Chicks Swimming in a Wheelie Bin (rubbish bin), Osama Big Cockroach, Legless, Krusty the Cockroach (aka The Simpsons), Fellowship of the ***** Ring and even the more crass He's a Cock******.
And there are rules clearly displayed in the race program.
Some of these include penalties for performance enhancing substances like coffee, sugar and red cordial; fines of $100 000 000 for pitch invaders on the race course; and people disagreeing with any race rules or arrangements will be considered "wowsers" and "not very Australian at all".
Midday arrives and the first set of races is due to start, although these are considered mere crowd pleasers and warm-ups for the 13 more to come.
The crowd gathers around a boxing style ring. Anticipation builds as the bagpipe band marches in
with much aplomb to announce the arrival of the cockroaches.
These are displayed by the headrace steward in a clear plastic lunch container, which he displays to various members of the public, holds proudly above his head or occasionally shakes to rattle them up.
The stage is set for a good race.
For a lot of the roaches it's their first time out from under the fridge so nerves are expected and anticipated.
Some of them never overcome their stage fright and remain frozen in the middle of the ring. The shaking of the box is one way to alleviate this.
The stewards position themselves around the ring.
The head steward removes the lid of the box and turns it upside down on the ground. The cockroaches mill over each other, still trapped inside.
Each cockroach is introduced as is any competitor in major sporting events.
The roach backers cheer and spray their rivals with water, beer and any other substance they can locate.
Others rise in Mexican waves, chant, or scream.
It's a hubbub of noise and excitement.
When the head steward finally releases the cockroaches it's the climax.
The cockroaches scramble and scuttle in every direction.
The stewards dive all over the mats to locate the first three.
Inevitably a few manage to get past them and escape into the screaming and recoiling crowd in the front rows.
It's seconds of confusion, then the winners are announced and their human representatives come out to cheers or booing from the crowd.
Some bring water pistols and gun down other spectators, others carry their XXXX (Queensland beer) or VB's (another Australian beer) with them to stand on the podium in singlets and flip flops / thongs (Australians never dress up, not even for cockroach races), and others run laps of honour around the 4m wide ring.
It's pure fun and revelry and as the afternoon wears on it only gets more vocal as the beer flows more freely and the top grade racers are brought out.
Beer is poured into the mouths of some podium winners from spectators in the stands above, the stewards throw left over cockroaches into the crowd and the pub does a roaring trade.
However all proceeds of the races go to charity, including the $5 entry fee or the $5 buying fee if you didn't have your own roach.
The famed Australian poet Henry Lawson, probably summed up the whole experience when he wrote Australia was "the nurse and tutor of eccentric minds, the home of the weird" although even he probably never predicted an Australia Day spent racing cockroaches.
Joanne Lane is a freelance travel journalist from Australia.
Her website is www.visitedplanet.com.
Hèrmes Elmer Fudd Hat
What is it with this chic look this year?
At 9:01 a.m. Sunday morning the Elmer Fudd hat made its appearance here and an hour or so later I opened my New York Times Style magazine supplement to find that now Hèrmes is offering its own somewhat more pricey take (above).
Their version is made of mink and suede and will set you back $1,550 at Hèrmes stores planet–wide.
That's precisely 62 times the $25 price of the somewhat more utilitarian–looking version.