27 April 2006


Well, it looks like JAC is being replaced by the neatest and most wonderful show to ever find its way to our TiVo. Yes, of course I mean How It's Made -- the new (to America) but old Canadian show about how things are made.

The S.O. and I have been wiling away the half-hours with episode after episode of this wonderfully produced look at how things are made. Want to know how a combination lock is produced? or a fire truck? artificial eyes? adhesive tape? Stop me! Stop me!

Yes, it's How It's Made.

If you cannot find it, just do a title search on TiVo. :-)

Here are some links:

The show website.

Discovery Channel upcoming episodes.

A little bit about the show.

Disclaimer: I have no relationship at all with How It's Made.

26 April 2006

Nero is Not the Only One

Matt from Phoenix writes: I just wanted to know why the number of 666 is considered so evil to Christians.

Thank you for the question, Matt. The number 666 appears in a section of the Christian bible called Revelation, and has been interpreted to mean any number of things.

Experts and scholars disagree on the meanings behind the number. Some say it referred to the numerical equivalent of the name of the Roman emperor Nero, others say it referred to the Catholic pope (the numerical equivalent of the Latin text on his head piece), others that it refers to a person not yet known.

In any regard, this number is supposed to somehow represent a person who will bring down the world as we know it -- hence, its connotation.

22 April 2006

Just Ask Christopher

Do you have a question you need answered? Maybe I can answer it.

Click on the word "Comments" at the bottom of this entry and leave your question. Questions can be of any kind: factual, advice, opinions, etc. EACH question asked will be addressed -- even if I cannot answer it. I would love to know where you are writing from (city -- and country if not America).

13 April 2006

I (heart) San Francisco

I know you all know that this coming Tuesday is the 100th anniversary of the great earthquake in San Francisco.

Many of you know I used to live in San Francisco; and my significant other and I are planning on returning to northern California in the next couple years (although farther north than San Francisco).

In honor of the coming anniversary, I want to provide you several links for some really great information and stories about the earthquake. I love San Francisco. When I lived there I enjoyed (no, really) the several earthquakes that occured. I love the history. I love the people. I love San Francisco.

Here's a kiss :-*

San Francisco Chronicle's earthquake coverage is here.

National Public Radio's series is here, here, and here.

12 April 2006

A Comma Here, a Hyphen There

Joy asked a question about a certain bathing suit song: The famous lyric, "She wore an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow polka dot bikini" created an image in my mind of a bathing suit adorned with tiny yellow circles, but in [a] tv ad the girl's suit had pink circles on a yellow background. Understandably, I could see how the lyric could be interpreted that way, but do you know how it was meant to be interpreted?

Thank you for the question, Joy. Isn't it interesting the difference a comma can make? Or, in this case, a hyphen. The song in question is "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-dot Bikini" written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss: and recorded by Brian Hyland in 1960.

Personally, I always thought it was a suit with yellow d
ots -- like you. I am quite surprised to find out it has been interpreted as a yellow suit with dots of some other color.

The punctuation for the way you and I see the suit would be "yellow-polka-dot bikini" using hyphens to create a compound modifier; the way the commercial sees it would be "yellow, polka-dot bikini."

Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to find any lyrics with the punctuation as shown above. I have checked official music registry web sites and could not even find the song listed. I have found a couple sets of lyrics that list it as "yellow polka-dot bikini" (missing both a hyphen and a comma). So, I think we will have to stick with that until original sheet music can be found.

09 April 2006

Infinity Plus One

Roy in Texas asked: On the number scale, an arrow head indicates infinity. Is there also infinity between 0 and 1. In other words if there is no largest number can there be a smallest number?

Thank you for the question, Roy. I have probably said on this blog that math has always been the bane of my existence. So, although I am confident a mathematician will have the real answer to your question, it will not be me.

That said, I will add that the answer is probably yes: there is an infinite number of partial numbers between "zero" and "one." I base that conclusion on the research being done by physicists who are continuing to look for matter that is smaller than quarks and leptons, which make up protons and neutrons, which make up atoms -- which, at one time, were thought to be the smallest particles of matter in the universe.

For all we know, there may be particles of matter even smaller than quarks and leptons -- so why not a number smaller than one but bigger than zero?

06 April 2006

Is There a West Park?

This is quite good news -- and a Peabody Award is nothing to sniff at. Scan down to the 5th paragraph. I could not say it better than that.

04 April 2006

As If Dating Weren't Complicated Enough

Roy asked: Did you know that shrimp are born male and become female later in life?

Thank you for the question, Roy. Many animals have a unique characteristic wherein they begin life as one sex and change sexes at some point. If the change is from male to female it is known as protantrism; female to male is known as

Animals that exhibit this trait include the Twinspot wrass and anthia fish; and certain species of shrimp. Scientists think this ability helps animals reproduce when environmental (or other) factors lead to too many of one sex over another.

The illustration is by famed naturalist Charles Harper.

03 April 2006

Why Ask Why?

Roy asked: Why do you not have a picture in your profile? How old are you? Why do you ask?

Thank you for the questions, Roy. Let me answer them in order asked:

1: I do not have a picture of myself because I am hideously ugly -- just imagine the Elephant Man in shorts and a t-shirt. I hate photographs of myself, and prefer to maintain a mental image that I look like Matt Damon -- hence, my hatred of mirrors and reflective surfaces. I kinda look like the handsome young man in the collage illustration of me done about ten years ago by my then-and-still significant other (who loves me anyway).

2: I am 46 years old. In July, I will be 47. In 100 years I will be 147.

3: I assume you mean why do I ask people to ask me questions. If so, the answer is really simple. I am a journalist by profession. I love finding out new things about things I would never have thought to investigate. I started JAC because I hoped people reading my web log would take me up on the offer.

So far, I have learned about all kinds of interesting things researching questions asked of me. For example, that some fish are warm blooded, that people can sell the rights to the air space above their buildings in New York, that it is really hard to make clove apples, and that a lot of my readers don't know a Cactus Wren when they see one.

It has been a very interesting journey for me, and one I hope will continue for some time.

The illustration is by Matt Hinrichs. :-*

Just Ask Christopher

Do you have a question you need answered? Maybe I can answer it.

Click on the word "Comments" at the bottom of this entry and leave your question. Questions can be of any kind: factual, advice, opinions, etc. EACH question asked will be addressed -- even if I cannot answer it. I would love to know where you are writing from (city -- and country if not America).

01 April 2006

A Neglected Anniversary

I just found out that we all missed something really important back in December: the 164th anniversary of the invention of the bathtub (on the 28th).

How could it be that something so important could have been picked up by NO ONE -- not newspaper, television, radio, NPR, the BBC or a single blog (that I could find)?

It makes you kinda wonder, in this day and age of ever-changing electronic gizmos, newfangled gadgets, and just plain goofy technology that you look at and go "Wha?" how we as a civilization could overlook something so fundamental. I have even heard it said that the ability to bathe regularly is the foundation for civilizations. Look at the Greek and Roman baths. Could you be any more civilized than that?

Invented in Cincinnati, of all places, the wonderful bathtub was ridiculed and derided -- called everything from Satan's bowl, to unhygenic; and the medical profession thought they would lead to a whole list of unpleasant diseases.
They were banned in Boston and taxed in Virginia.

Of course, as with all things, the tide changed and people slowly began to adjust their thinking. I understand the floodgates were finally opened when one was installed in the White House by Millard Fillmore -- 13th president of the United States.

Sadly, the name of the inventor has apparently been lost in time.

Well, here's a tip o' the hat to you, whomever you are, for coming up with such a great and useful invention.

[Thanks to Mr. Mencken in New York for this tip.]