2003 Flossathon

A BIG thanks to those local Seattle celebrities who participated in the 2003 defective yeti Flossathon yesterday: Leslie Miller, Dan Wilson, Ron Sims, and, of course, Paul Allen — they were all here in the defective yeti studio, flossing for 24 continuous hours to help raise money for the blog!!

And I’m pleased to announce that we not only met out goal of $35 but SMASHED THROUGH IT, raising over $37 for operational costs and snacks! That’s enough to keep defective yeti online for another three weeks!!!!!

We apologize to those who tried to phone in a pledge after 3:00 yesterday afternoon — unfortunately we had to stop taking calls because the bleeding gums and loose teeth made it excruciatingly painful to talk. But next year we hope to have a non-flossathoner answering the phones.

Thanks again for your support!!!

Basted In Blood: The Video

Thanks to this post, defective yeti is the #1 return when searching Google for “basted in blood”. Sadly, the link is broken, and I no longer know where you can find an mp3 of that hilarious Sarah McLachlin ditty.

But has the yeti ever let you down? No, he has not. Well, maybe that one time, when I predicted that Jeepers Creepers 2 would be “better than Casablanca“. But aside from that, never.

You can see the Basted In Blood video here. It’s the third one down.

Research Day: Texas

All questions inspired by my recent trip to Corpus Christi.

Are those man-o-wars that wash up on the beach goners, or do they just hang tight until the tide carries them out to sea again? I checked about a dozen pages, but none of them mentioned what happens to man-of-wars once they’re beached. Eventually it occurred to me that this probably means they die — after all, if they didn’t die it surely would have been noted on at least one of the sites.

Finally, I came across this page, which states: “Once it beaches itself, all of the organisms that make up the man-of-war quickly die except for the organism that control the stinging cells. A beached man-of-war can still emit its stinging cells if someone comes in contact with its nearly invisible tentacles.” You gotta like a critter with a built-in Doomsday device.

What’s up with that squiggly line on the spider web? Before I start my research, I’d like to publicly state my hypothesis: the squiggly line serves as a “DO NOT FLY THROUGH WEB” sign to birds. Let’s see if I’m close.

My first step was to find out the name. (Searching Google for “squiggly line spider” wasn’t doing the trick.) I did so via the usual scientific method: I had my wife ask her coworker to ask his spider-owning partner what the hell the thing is called. The answer: the stabilimentum.

So right there it looked like my hypothesis was shot — with a name like that it’s obviously for stabilization, right? Maybe not. While the person who named the thing assumed stabilization was its function, contemporary arachnologist aren’t so sure. In fact, they don’t seem to really know what it’s for. But here are some of the the leading ideas (mostly taken from here):

  • It’s camouflage Frankly I’m unsure how that would work. After all, my hypothesis is predicated on the notion that the stabilimentum makes the web stand out, not blend in. But the premise of the camouflage hypothesis is that it disguises the spider instead of the web. Somehow.
  • It serves as a warning to birds Ha! I knew it. But one page also notes “it also makes the web more obvious to those birds who are fond of eating spiders.” Uhh … I guess that’s true, now, innit?
  • It’s the ol’ ‘I’m A Stick’ gambit Bugs think the stabilimentum is a stick and land on it. No one seemed too enthusiastic about this explanation.
  • It’s a beacon The stabilimentum reflects ultraviolet light better than ordinary webbing, and UV attracts insects who mistake it for the sunlight they navigate by. This is given somewhat more credence than the “stick” hypothesis, above.
  • It’s a Hummer! The stabilimentum is just the arachnid version of a Hummer: a big, flashy mate-attractor that screams “I have so many resources I can afford to squander them on this useless thing!”

Almost every page I read about the stabilimentum concluded with some variation on the line “it probably exists for a combination of the above reasons,” which, as we all know, is science-code for “I have no idea what it does.”

As an aside, doesn’t “StabiliMentum” sound like a bogus “rebranding” name some marketing weasel would come up for Enron? “It shows that we’ve got stability, right? That we’re rock solid, that we’re not going anywhere. But also that we’re moooving — get it? That we’ve got momentum. Picture the ads: ‘StabiliMentum: We’re Balancing Our Books. Honestly.'”

What the hell is a “F.M.” road? Driving to the sea, we spent a lot of time on FM roads, e.g. “F.M. 2292.” Here in Washington we have “I” roads (Interstate) and “SR” roads (State Route) and even “FS” roads out in the wilderness (Forest Service),, but an “F.M.” road was new to us. At first we guessed the “F” stood for “Federal,” but couldn’t come up with an “M”. Finally, noting that these roads traveled through the back-country, we decided that “F.M.” was simply an abbreviation for “Farm” — but the presence of a period between the F and M gave us the sneaking suspicion we were wrong.

So, I looked it up. And the answer is … FM = Farm to Market road. “The system of Texas Farm-to-Market Roads was created to provide access to the rural areas of the state … The name is derived from the intended use of the roads: farmers bringing their goods to market in the cities.” Damn, so close.

Texas Trip: Hello Beaches!

So, yeah: The Queen and I went to Texas. No one is more surprised about this turn of events than I.

We haven’t taken a trip in a long time, and this month was now-or-never time. By our reckoning, once The Squirrelly makes his debut, the era of the noun “vacation” habitually preceded by the adjective “relaxing” is probably over. More specifically, The Queen is wrapping up her second trimester, and we’d heard that most major airlines prohibit women in their seventh-eighth-ninth month of pregnancy from flying (although a little post-vacation Googling revealed this to be, for the most part, an urban legend).

In deciding our destination, I only had one requirement: I wanted to go somewhere. The Queen, on the other hand, had two: she wanted to be warm, and she wanted to look at plants. (This might be explained by the fact that she’s a professional botanist. On the other hand, I’m a professional programmer and I had no desire to go somewhere and look at machine code, so maybe it doesn’t explain anything.) Anyhow, I let The Queen pick the city, and somehow Corpus Christi came out the winner. I think it was the new “Texas: Now With More Republican Legislative Districts Than Ever!” ad campaign that it won her over.

We stayed in the Corpus Christi ‘burbs, which was notable for containing one retail outlet for every single chain store in America. It was ridiculous. We even turned it into a driving game, where one of us would say “I haven’t seen any Krispy Kremes yet!” and then the other — usually with 20 seconds — would shout “found one!” and point it out. We saw a Circuit City, a Best Buy, and a third enormous electronics store all on a single block. We saw a Wal*Mart half a mile from a Target.

In a way, the dismal, generic landscape worked to our advantage, because it drove us out of our hotel room bright n early every morning and out to the Gulf Coast. [11:00 am constitutes “bright n early” while on vacation — ed.]

The first day we went to the Corpus Christi Botanical Garden, which was quite lovely despite the fact that nothing was in bloom. Fortunately for The Queen, she doesn’t need no stinkin’ flowers to enjoy plants: she can identify them all by their leaf shapes and stem colors and, I dunno, nodes or stamen or whatever. Hand her a piece of bark and she can tell you a tree’s social security number. Fortunately for me, there were plenty of spiders and frogs and lizards and raptors to keep the 7-year old boy in me happy.

The next day we went to the beach. And once The Queen got her tosies in the sand it was beaches from that point on. First we went to Padre Island, which was beautiful but lousy with Portuguese man-o-wars — iridescent jellyfish renowned for their painful stings. They were about every ten feet up and down the tideline, and the question “if this is how many washed up, how many are still in the water?” deterred us from swimming.

When we later went to Mustang Island, though, we discovered there are worst things you can find on a beach than man-o-wars: junk of all types, specifically. Bottles, diapers, syringes — you name it, it was there. We’d seen signs at Padre Island (a nation park) telling us the beach was cleaned every day, but we didn’t understand the need until we visited Mustang — apparently state park aren’t as meticulously groomed. But I did find an enormous washed-up TV — score!

More details to come.

Bromiliads. This is the kind of thing The Queen somehow gets all excited about.

Free TV? Kick ass!

Holy shit! I took a really nice picture!.

Damn those Portuguese.

Okay, see? Now that’s interesting.

Update: The Queen insisted that I clarify a point:

You need to add the third reason I wanted to go to Texas: the Mexican food in Seattle is really, really bad, and, since I’ve been pregnant, I fantasize about burritos all the time.

Duly noted.


Recent changes to NPR in the wake of Mrs. McDonalds’ $200 million bequest:

  • Morning Edition constantly urging listeners not to drop scalding hot coffee into lap while driving.
  • Daniel Schorr’s political commentaries frequently laud policies of Mayor McCheese.
  • World Cafe proud to carry Coca-Cola brand beverages.
  • Latest listener challenge from Puzzlemaster Will Shortz: “Try to explain, in 2000 words or less, why Burger King sucks so hard.”
  • On-air All Thing Considered personalities required to wear nametags.
  • Car Talk guys attribute most automotive problems to lack of sufficient cupholders.
  • Listeners pledging at the $100 level receive Monopoly Sweepstakes game piece; those donating at the $250 level receive collectible Looney Toons: Back In Action 64 oz. plastic cup.
  • Everything on The Splendid Table fried in beef tallow.
  • Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion monologues now just go “robble robble robble.”
  • This American Cheese.

If You Insist

From the spam filter log.

From: rnyst1t@yahoo.com.hk Mon Nov 10 09:57:00 2003
Subject: Matthew,Say Goodbye to Junk Email!
Folder: /dev/null