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February 6, 2008

We get email: From Rebecca Harris, webmaster for the Darwin Twine Ball Museum in Darwin, Minnesota


It came in at 8:25 a.m. this morning.

She wrote, "I am the webmaster for the Darwin Twine Ball Museum in Darwin, Minnesota. Can you please add the new website link to your site? It is: www.darwintwineball.com."

Rebecca, you know how to cut to the chase.

I instantly bumped one of today's previously scheduled posts so as to feature your cool new website.

The magnificent Darwin Twine Ball is the result of one man's dream — and 29 years of work to make it come true.


First featured here on July 15, 2005, the new website could create an irresistible urge to make the trip and view the magnificent creation in person.

One thing, though: make sure when you buy your plane ticket to specify Darwin, Minnesota — not Australia.

Otherwise your pilgrimage will be in vain.

Though you'll probably get a better tan.

From the Twine Ball Museum website:

Darwin, Minnesota is the home of a the largest Twine Ball in the World made by one man, Francis A. Johnson

The Twine Ball is 4 meters (13 ft) in diameter, 40 ft in circumfrance, and weighs 17,400 pounds (7,900 kg).


Francis A. Johnson started his obsession in March of 1950 and wrapped for 4 hours every day for 23 weeks.

Francis lifted it with a crane to continue proper wrapping as he went along. For 39 years, this magnificent sphere evolved at Johnson's farm. Eventually the ball was moved to a circular open air shed on his front lawn.

When Francis died in 1989, the city of Darwin moved the ball onto a special city lot across from the park on Main Street.

The gazebo that shelters it today allows viewing from all sides through Plexiglas panels.

The museum is a volunteer-run museum and gift shop that offers key information on the ball's history as well many unique souvenirs.

Save the date: The second Saturday in August of every year (August 9 this year) heralds the onset of Twine Ball Days in Darwin.


I hope bookofjoe readers everywhere take notice and put the Darwin Twine Ball Museum in Darwin, Minnesota at the top of their "100 things to see before I die" lists.


I know I have.

February 6, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

French-Style Bean Slicer


Très bon.

From the website:

    French-Style Bean Slicer

    The best restaurants serve string beans French style, sliced end to end with the string removed.

    Sliced this way, the beans cook quickly, do not become waterlogged and retain maximum flavor.

    The Australians have come up with a cunning device that you simply push the beans through — the integral blades simultaneously slice the bean and remove the string.

    It has a dishwasher-safe handle, stainless-steel blades and is 5-1/2" long overall.

    It even automatically adjusts for different-sized beans.

    A very efficient tool.


Those Aussis — what will they think of next?

No worries.



February 6, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Behind Blue Eyes


Long story short: Professor Hans Eiberg of the University of Copenhagen has discovered that every blue-eyed person on Earth descends from one individual whose genes mutated 6,000 to 10,000 years ago — a blink of an eye in the history of man.

Prior to that individual's emergence, every human on the planet had brown eyes.

I wonder if the individual was instantly made queen (or king).

Here's a January 30, 2008 press release from the University of Copenhagen about the findings.

    Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor

    New research shows that people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. A team at the University of Copenhagen have tracked down a genetic mutation which took place 6-10,000 years ago and is the cause of the eye colour of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today.

    What is the genetic mutation?

    “Originally, we all had brown eyes”, said Professor Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. “But a genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a “switch”, which literally “turned off” the ability to produce brown eyes”. The OCA2 gene codes for the so-called P protein, which is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives colour to our hair, eyes and skin. The “switch”, which is located in the gene adjacent to OCA2 does not, however, turn off the gene entirely, but rather limits its action to reducing the production of melanin in the iris – effectively “diluting” brown eyes to blue. The switch’s effect on OCA2 is very specific therefore. If the OCA2 gene had been completely destroyed or turned off, human beings would be without melanin in their hair, eyes or skin colour – a condition known as albinism.

    Limited genetic variation

    Variation in the colour of the eyes from brown to green can all be explained by the amount of melanin in the iris, but blue-eyed individuals only have a small degree of variation in the amount of melanin in their eyes. “From this we can conclude that all blue-eyed individuals are linked to the same ancestor,” says Professor Eiberg. “They have all inherited the same switch at exactly the same spot in their DNA.” Brown-eyed individuals, by contrast, have considerable individual variation in the area of their DNA that controls melanin production.

    Professor Eiberg and his team examined mitochondrial DNA and compared the eye colour of blue-eyed individuals in countries as diverse as Jordan, Denmark and Turkey. His findings are the latest in a decade of genetic research, which began in 1996, when Professor Eiberg first implicated the OCA2 gene as being responsible for eye colour.

    Nature shuffles our genes

    The mutation of brown eyes to blue represents neither a positive nor a negative mutation. It is one of several mutations such as hair colour, baldness, freckles and beauty spots, which neither increases nor reduces a human’s chance of survival. As Professor Eiberg says, “it simply shows that nature is constantly shuffling the human genome, creating a genetic cocktail of human chromosomes and trying out different changes as it does so.”


All warmed up?


Here's a link to the full paper as published online on January 3, 2008 in the journal Human Genetics.

For those who prefer not to go that deep, the abstract follows.

    Blue eye color in humans may be caused by a perfectly associated founder mutation in a regulatory element located within the HERC2 gene inhibiting OCA2 expression

    The human eye color is a quantitative trait displaying multifactorial inheritance. Several studies have shown that the OCA2 locus is the major contributor to the human eye color variation. By linkage analysis of a large Danish family, we finemapped the blue eye color locus to a 166 Kbp region within the HERC2 gene. By association analyses, we identified two SNPs within this region that were perfectly associated with the blue and brown eye colors: rs12913832 and rs1129038. Of these, rs12913832 is located 21.152 bp upstream from the OCA2 promoter in a highly conserved sequence in intron 86 of HERC2. The brown eye color allele of rs12913832 is highly conserved throughout a number of species. As shown by a Luciferase assays in cell cultures, the element significantly reduces the activity of the OCA2 promoter and electrophoretic mobility shift assays demonstrate that the two alleles bind different subsets of nuclear extracts. One single haplotype, represented by six polymorphic SNPs covering half of the 3' end of the HERC2 gene, was found in 155 blue-eyed individuals from Denmark, and in 5 and 2 blue-eyed individuals from Turkey and Jordan, respectively. Hence, our data suggest a common founder mutation in an OCA2 inhibiting regulatory element as the cause of blue eye color in humans. In addition, an LOD score of Z = 4.21 between hair color and D14S72 was obtained in the large family, indicating that RABGGTA is a candidate gene for hair color.

February 6, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Holographic Scare Tape


From the website:

    Holographic Scare Tape

    When this tape is placed outdoors it moves in the slightest breeze and reflects a rainbow of colors from its holographic imprint.

    It can be cut into strips and hung near fruit plants or vegetable transplants or strung out in long lines. The movement and changing shades and colors will help ward off birds.

    Offered as a 100-foot roll of tough metalized plastic film.

    Can be cut to size with scissors.




February 6, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Animated map of the Middle East — '5,000 years in 90 seconds'



[via Stephen Bové]

February 6, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Air Fork One


[via Sybillle.ch and Pan-Dan]

February 6, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

bookofjoe tries to twitter: Episode 2 — I'm already there


Who knew?

Turns out that back in late November of 2006, when I noted twitter's emergence, I signed up.

I even posted twice (from my computer).

You could look up [sic].

So I surmounted that hurdle.

Now to see if I can post from my cellphone.

I'm not optimistic — but ya never know.

After all, even a blind, anosmic pig finds an acorn every now and then.

February 6, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Would you buy a parka made by a company called... Finger In The Nose?


You could.

In fact, that's one pictured up top.

Winner of the 2008 bookofjoe Best Company Name Award.

The balloting is now closed.

February 6, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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