Things You Never Knew Existed
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Friday, January 20, 2017
Ice fishing sounds, well, pretty awful. Lonely. Cold. And potentially dangerous if you happen to misjudge your spot and fall into the frigid waters beneath the ice. Most ice fishers would tell you that sort of Thing doesn't happen. I'm here to tell you it would probably definitely happen to me.

For the last few years, these icy anglers have been trying to get the Olympic committee to recognize their sport. They've even asked the World Anti-Doping Agency to start random testing their athletes for "performance enhancing drugs".

Ice fishers joke that the agency should test for the "steroids" of the sport: beer and beef jerky. But the US Freshwater Fishing Association says they don't test for beer because, "everyone would fail".

So it seems unlikely that we'll see ice fishing in the next Olympic games. Especially if the competitors have to give up their suds. Because fishing without beer? On the ice or off, that's just unnatural!

See you next week,
Posted by: Bobby | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, January 13, 2017
When it comes to breaking world records, we tend to think of Things like eating the most hot dogs or holding the longest kiss or being the tallest, shortest, or oldest person on the planet. But a team of chemists in Manchester, UK had their sights set on someThing seemingly inconsequential: the tightest knot ever made.

You can't moor a boat, tie up your shoe, or even keep a fish on the line with this particular knot - it's too small. Microscopic, in fact. The world's newest knot is made of a strand of 192 atoms. It's about 200,000 times thinner than a human hair at two millionths of a millimeter wide.

The tightness of a knot is judged by the distance between its crossing points, where the ropes - or in this case, the atoms- cross. In this teeny knot, that distance is only 24 atoms. Check out this video, which shows how the atomic knot makes a triple loop and crosses itself eight times.

David Leigh, professor of chemistry at the University of Manchester is partly responsible for the new record. “We know how revolutionary knotting and weaving were for people in the stone age. It had an impact on clothing, tools, fishing nets, and so on. Maybe we’ll see just as great advantages from being able to do this with molecular strand," he says.

What does that mean, exactly? It's fancy way of saying that a knotted string of atoms "could make a whole new world" of Things possible. Big and small.

See you next week,

Posted by: Bobby | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, January 6, 2017
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about strange Christmas traditions. Among them, the Catalonian tradition of placing a Caganer among their nativity and other Christmas scenes. What's a Caganer? Literally "the defecator" or "the crapper".

The figurines (or giant statues as seen in this mall display) depict Catalonians and famous people from around the world squatting to do their doo. In the past, top crappers have included Queen Elizabeth and Pope Francis. This year, Catalonian Caganer makers updated their offering to include Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but neither presidential pooper out-sold the all-time best-seller: Barack Obama.

What's the history of this tradition? Stories vary, but the most reasonable explanation is the figures recall a time when human waste was used as fertilizer to grow more food. Placing "the crapper" in your Christmas display is thought to give a boost the coming year's crops.

So next time you're in the Catalonia region of Spain around the holiday season, look for your favorite celebrities taking a squat among the decorations. You never know who you'll see next!

See you next week,

Posted by: Bobby | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, December 30, 2016
In 21 days, you could…

Fly to the moon and back– three times.
Walk from San Francisco to Seattle.
Build five tiny houses. 
Write a novel.

Or you could make or break a habit - for a lifetime. At least, that's what 'they' say. (Whoever 'they' are.) The point is, with focused attention for the first 21 days of the new year, you could start someThing awesome - without having to make a New Year's resolution.

Here are some more practical Things you could do in these first three weeks of the year:
  • Learn to play an instrument. That's right, with just 21 days of daily practice you can go from awful to amateur. It might take a bit longer to get to maestro, but take it 21 days at a time.
  • Start an exercise routine. Ugh, right? But it doesn't have to be a killer routine that sucks the life and resolve out of you on the first day at the gym. Start small by walking 15-30 minutes every day for 21 days. After that, exercise will be a new habit and you can build from there.
  • Learn astronomy (or someThing else). If you study someThing every day for 21 days straight, you'll have a good knowledge base to start with. If you like it, keep going. If not, pick someThing else and give that 21 days.  
No matter what you want to do in the new year, all you have to do is stick with it for 21 days and you're on your way to a being all you can be in 2017.

See you next year,

Posted by: Bobby | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, December 23, 2016
I love the holiday season. Not only do I get some time off work, I get to spend time with my huge family. This year is really going to be special - my sister and I cooked up a scheme to get some 'long lost' family members to town this year. It's going to be the best gift of the whole day!

Of course, I also get to play with my new toys. And, as my nieces and nephews get older, they get more complicated Things for Christmas. They always let their Uncle Bobby help put their new toys together, which almost always works out. Either way, with surprise family members coming and some pretty cool Things under the tree, we're looking forward to a special  Christmas day.

But before I leave for the weekend, I want to wish you and yours a warm, safe, and Merry Christmas. And here's hoping you get everyThing - and every person - you wanted for Christmas. And more

See you next week,

Posted by: Bobby | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, December 16, 2016
My sister wandered by my office the other day, which could only mean one Thing: she has zero idea what I want for Christmas. It's not her fault. Every family has that one person who's impossible to buy for. In my family, it's me.

It's not because I'm picky. I like almost everyThing. My problem is that I never have been able to wait for Christmas. And now that I'm a grown up, I don't have to! I can buy whatever I want (within reason) whenever I want to. It's the best part of this whole 'adult' Thing. That and eating ice cream for breakfast.

Here's my best advice for getting a great gift for geeks: think small. If your cousin is a Dr. Who fan, chances are she already has a scale model (or full size) Tardis. But does she have a full set of DW ornaments? Maybe not.

After watching my sister try to circle around the subject for more than a little while, I let her off the hook. These cool tiny laser guns came in last week, but I haven't even had a chance to play with one yet, let alone buy them. So, I'm letting her get them for me. Sort of my gift to her. (But don't tell her I said that!)

See you next week,

Posted by: Bobby | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, December 9, 2016
Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. And not just because of all the cool Things under the tree. Sappy as it sounds, I love our family traditions. We do the usual stuff like stringing popcorn garland for the tree, watching It's A Wonderful Life, hanging stockings and eating an enormous feast with the extended family.

We also have a few non-traditional traditions. On Christmas Eve night we take all the kids out go-carting and then stop for fast food, but not for us, for Santa. My oldest nephew dreamed up the idea. He said Santa probably gets tired of cookies and milk. Wouldn't he like a juicy hamburger and frosty cold Coke instead?

It might seem odd to you, but as non-traditional traditions go, ours aren't so weird. Check out these strange traditions from other parts of the world:
  • Catalonians include the Caganer, a small figure of a pooping man, in their nativity scenes. 
  • In Ukraine, they don' t decorate trees with fancy lights and tinsel. Instead, they decorate with an artificial spider and webbing. (I like this one - put your old Halloween decorations to work!)
  • In the U.S., kids get coal in their stockings when they don't behave. In Austria, a Christmas devil called Krampus is said to beat naughty kids with branches.
Of course, all Things poop being sort of my Thing, I like the Caganer from Catalonia.  I also like the idea of the spider tree - what a great way to recycle and re-use your Halloween decorations. I think I'll pass on meeting up with the Krampus. I've been good this year, but why take chances?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. See you next week,

Posted by: Bobby | 8:00 AM | permalink

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