Archive for December, 2013

"Betcha can't eat just one!"

“The Carolina Reaper: betcha can’t eat just one!”

I like hot chiles, but 1.5 million scoville?? That’s not a chile, that’s an instrument of torture:

Ed Currie holds one of his world-record Carolina Reaper peppers by the stem, which looks like the tail of a scorpion.

On the other end is the bumpy, oily, fire-engine red fruit with a punch of heat nearly as potent as most pepper sprays used by police. It’s hot enough to leave even the most seasoned spicy food aficionado crimson-faced, flushed with sweat, trying not to lose his lunch.

Last month, The Guinness Book of World Records decided Currie’s peppers were the hottest on Earth, ending a more than four-year drive to prove no one grows a more scorching chili. The heat of Currie’s peppers was certified by students at Winthrop University who test food as part of their undergraduate classes.

But whether Currie’s peppers are truly the world’s hottest is a question that one scientist said can never be known. The heat of a pepper depends not just on the plant’s genetics, but also where it is grown, said Paul Bosland, director of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. And the heat of a pepper is more about being macho than seasoning.

“You have to think of chili heat like salt. A little bit improves the flavor, but a lot ruins it,” Bosland said.

This is me eating a Carolina Reaper:


What started as a hobby has become a business for Ed and his dozen employees, and their site is the wonderfully named Puckerbutt Pepper Company. And I am tempted by the “Extra Mean Green.”

I mean, like it hot, but I’m not suicidal.

ALSO: A handy link to the Scoville scale of chili hotness and how to cool the burn.

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Merry Christmas!

I hope Santa brought all that you could desire. 🙂

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This could induce it:

A French tourism company has suspended a glass cube with a see-through bottom from a peak in the Alps, offering a breathtaking view a kilometer down.

Billed as the tallest attraction in Europe, the structure was three years in the making. It includes five transparent sides made of three layers of tempered glass fixed with metal to a big support structure.

Here’s a shot of the view:

Glass observation booth

Yeah. Sure. I’m going out there. Not. The only question is whether agoraphobia or acrophobia would get you first.

And what do you want to bet they have a hidden camera to record visitors’ “amusing reactions?”

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My writing partner and I often joke about our characters reacting to a stressful situation by weeping hysterically while eating a tub of raw cookie dough**, but I never thought there would be a whole web site devoted to crying while eating. For example:

Aggi crying while eating

Is this some category of food porn? Performance art so ironic and hip that I can’t possibly understand it?

Regardless, it’s finding things like this that convince me we’re toast as a species.

But, if it doesn’t convince you, maybe the Butter Dance will.

**No joke. That’s what one character did on an old “Inspector Morse” episode.

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Okay, this combines three of my strong interests in one: Lord of the Rings, fantasy roleplaying games, and miniatures. And it’s effin’ gorgeous. A LEGO model of the Elven enclave of Rivendell, built with 200,000 LEGO bricks. Here’s a photo of one portion:

LEGO Rivendell

You can read about it at the last link above and see the rest of the photos at Flickr. This is Geek Heaven, truly amazing work.

h/t my friend Richard Iorio II, who’s also a purveyor of fine games.

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The danged thing is even bigger than we thought:

The supervolcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park in the US is far larger than was previously thought, scientists report.

A study shows that the magma chamber is about 2.5 times bigger than earlier estimates suggested.

A team found the cavern stretches for more than 90km (55 miles) and contains 200-600 cubic km of molten rock.

The findings are being presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

Prof Bob Smith, from the University of Utah, said: “We’ve been working there for a long time, and we’ve always thought it would be bigger… but this finding is astounding.”

If the Yellowstone supervolcano were to blow today, the consequences would be catastrophic.

The last major eruption, which occurred 640,000 years ago, sent ash across the whole of North America, affecting the planet’s climate.

I remember once visiting my late father, about ten years ago, and watching a couple of science programs on the Discovery channel after he had gone to bed. One was on asteroids smacking the Earth, the other was on supervolcanoes — including that monster under Yellowstone. Not surprisingly, I had a little trouble sleeping that night.

With this news, I may have trouble tonight, too.

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satire sports football

Well, first thing I’d do is move the kickoff line back to the 30 and then rescind the Emmitt Smith “No taking off your helmet when celebrating rule.” Things like that turn the NFL into the No Fun League.

But, my major project would be divisional realignment, trying to keep divisions as compact as possible, which is hard out West, and to take advantage of what seem to be natural rivalries. One thing I’d do is eliminate the Conferences, which are just holdovers of the NFL-AFL merger. Instead we’d have eight divisions of four teams each. The eight division winners plus the four teams with the best records that did not make the playoffs would enter the “tournament.” I’m sure some sort seeding plan could be worked out, but I’m too lazy. 🙂

Anyway, here are my suggested divisions, with their startlingly original names.

Pacific Division
San Francisco
San Diego

Southwest Division

South Central Division
New Orleans
St. Louis
Kansas City

North Central Division
Green Bay

North Division

Southeast Division

East Division

Northeast Division
New England
NY Giants
NY Jets

I would rather have had Pittsburgh in the “North Division,” because the rivalries there feel natural, but then placing Indianapolis becomes a problem. Regardless, this is my gift to you, Commissioner Goodell.

Just make sure I get credit. 😉

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"Signal, blast it!"

“Signal, blast it!”

So, this morning I was nearly hit from behind by a cyclist who came up the sidewalk behind me without bothering to let me know she was there. Had I moved a half-step to the right at the wrong moment, she would have taken my knee out.

Were this the only time something like this happened, it would be annoying, but nothing to write home about. Just one of the annoyances of pedestrian life.

But this happens far too often not to be infuriating. Do people riding bicycles not understand that people in front of them might not know they are there? That even a low-speed collision can cause serious injury? Is it too hard to use a horn, or a bell, or even to call out “coming through?”

From the Los Angeles municipal code:

  • Sidewalk Riding (LAMC 56.15) Prohibits the riding of bicycles (or other human power devices) on sidewalks (bikeways or boardwalks) with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Disallows the riding of bicycles on Ocean Front Walk in Venice.

I maintain these people are breaking that very ordinance, though small satisfaction it will be to me for them to get a ticket while I’m on the ground, writhing in pain.

Wait! What am I saying? Bike riders are healthy, Green, saving Gaea — they’re virtuous!  The sidewalks and roads are theirs by divine right, and therefore they need not worry themselves about lesser mortals such as you and me. It’s your responsibility to watch out for them, you drudge, lest your body damage their bike.

Meanwhile, I have to keep looking warily over my shoulder when walking to the grocery store.


PS: My apologies to any civilized riders reading this. I just needed to vent.

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I love stuff like this. I don’t think many people realize the US has a wealth of accents, thanks to the standardizing effect of TV and radio, beyond the stereotypical “Southern” and “Bronx,” for example. This article from the Washington Post provides a couple of category schemes. Here’s the map from one:

US dialect map

Naturally, having lived all over California my whole life, my accent and dialect is some blend of Southwestern and Pacific Southwest. But, I can perhaps hear traces in my own speech and my memories of my parents of “North Midland,” probably reflecting my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’s roots in Missouri and Ohio, with a trace of Pennsylvania German (Delaney’s “Region 12”); one of my mother’s German ancestors was a brewer there.

I recall from grade school seeing a movie about accents that showed a specialist deducing what small region of Manhattan a speaker came from by his accent and word choice. And I’ve heard that Southerners can tell which state in the old Confederacy someone comes from by his accent. (French Louisiana would be obvious, I guess.) I should look to see if there’s a detailed study of that, somewhen.

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