I haven't done this in a while, but today is the all-too-brief break between the end of finals week on Thursday and the beginning of the ultra-condensed summer session on Monday. To say that I am not highly motivated to do real work today would be an understatement on the order of, "You know, these "LMAFO" fellows aren't very good." Thankfully it's Friday and you don't want to work either, so here's a sampler of Grade A time-wasters for a Friday afternoon at the cubicle farm.

1. The UK's National Physical Laboratory has a wonderful YouTube channel full of Olde Timey science videos dating back to the late 1940s. This particularly neat one (in color!) details the creation of one of the first atomic clocks:

2. Apparently it's pretty easy for anyone with a decent amount of money to buy a frickin' island and live like Robinson Crusoe. Here's an 86 year old Briton who bought an island in the Seychelles in 1962 for the hefty but not totally outrageous price of £8000.

I kinda want an island.

3. Let's keep going with Britons here. Here is a photo of young Stephen Hawking. Young Stephen Hawking looks like a smartassed hipster.

I find this worth sharing because I've been seeing and hearing Hawking on PBS specials (and even in filmstrips!) since I was old enough to remember, and he has always been the wrinkled man in the wheelchair who talks like a robot. For many of us it's somewhat surprising to see a reminder that prior to his mid-twenties, Hawking walked, talked, and looked like any other 1950s science-nerd stock character. I wonder what his unmodified voice sounded like.

4. If your faith in humanity requires restoration, watch this video of a guy rigging up his bicycle with a compressed air powered train horn. The video description describes this as a test run and tantalizingly promises a "full power demonstration" soon.

5. Oh, and speaking of things that are loud and/or look like Stephen Hawking, Reddit did an Ask Me Anything with…Steve Albini. You won't find a more entertaining way to kill an hour today, I promise.

Work is for suckers.

18 thoughts on “NPF: RESPITE”

  • I'm not surprised because he's a gotdamned genius and looks kinda studly in that picture but daayyyuuuum Hawking got hisself a fine-ass wife. (She's pretty awesome in her own right; she got a doctorate in Medieval Portuguese Literature and is widely regarded, especially by Hawking himself, as being the inspiration not only to continue working through his illness but for his rising from a so-so grad student to being so famous for his intellectual output that he can get invited on The Simpsons to say stuff like "time for this hawk to fly." Plus she knew before they got married that he had ALS. So: awesome. But also: fine-ass.)

    Tear up them black holes, Smartass Hipster Hawking.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    "Work is for suckers."

    Not if you're unemployed. Then, 'work is for dreamers…'

    And who doesn't love Dr. Hawking?
    Oh yeah, the God made the world 6,000 years ago, and Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs until Jesus came along and created the internal combustion engine, crowd.
    You know – feckin' idjit's!

  • Number Three says:

    I'm in the process of getting ready for work right now. Not feeling it at the moment, but there are things that need some attention. Around 3 this afternoon might be hitting some of those links, though. Thanks.

  • Mr. Prosser says:

    Back in 1966 we rigged an Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite with an airtank in the trunk and a Mack truck horn on the fender. Good times when the old farts in the Roadmasters tried to cut us off.

  • Tivo recorded the Big Bang Theory's pilot episode for me the other night. One of the jokes was that they were going to gather round and watch a rare Stephen Hawking MIT lecture from before he spoke like a robot.

  • I found out the hard way that I tended to fiddle with things unnecessarily and records ended up sounding tweaked and weird. I developed a couple of techniques to avoid this, to keep me from messing with things while still paying attention enough to catch problems. For a long time I would read, but it had to be really dry un-interesting stuff. The magazine the Economist was perfect…

    This Steve Albini fellow might be a genius. He was right about The Economist decades before the rest of us caught on to that.

    Also: I second T's suggestion above. More FJMing, please. But here's my idea: how about you start taking on the dyed-in-the-wool right-winger "centrist" commentariat in this country. The outright fascists are too depressing even to mock. Let's take on the "respectables." And no, I don't mean Bobo. That dumbass chimpanzee demoralizes me any which way I look at him, even when he's being fisked. Do the other over-educated half-wits.

  • The train horn is kinda awesome and kinda scary. I lived in a train town for many years (>120 trains a day right through downtown, major switching yard, minor Amtrak hub, LOTS of grade crossings) and this thing would seriously freak people the fuck out. It would probably cause accidents.

  • I found his comments on jazz to be worthy, actually, because that's what it sounds like to me: vain music. Not that I can't enjoy it or I think it sucks–from time to time, I really like hearing it. But I agree that the endless noodling and syncopated riffs become tiresome.

  • Fezzik: To each their own obviously, and not all jazz is good, but anyone who thinks that Coltrane or Mingus or Charlie Parker were "noodling" hasn't really listened.

  • Major Kong says:

    I should probably like jazz – but I really don't know much about it and I have no idea what I should be listening to.

  • Certainly there must be interesting music one could call "jazz." There must be. I've never heard it, but I grant that it is out there somewhere . . . The results are so far beneath the conception that there is no English word for the disappointment one feels when forced to confront it. Granted Total Freedom, you've chosen to play II V I and blow a goddamn trill on the saxophone? Only by willfully ignoring its failings can one pretend to appreciate it as an idiom and don the cap".

    — Steve Albini

    Only a genuine ass hole could utter an ignorant, gratuitous dismissal like that. His air of intellectual and artistic superiority is the bleeding cherry on this shit sundae.


    Here is some jazz that I had the pleasure of performing recently. You can decide if it's either interesting (if you ignore its failings – I mean we're a bunch of fucking amateurs) or disappointing.


  • Is that compressed air tank being transported in compliance with DoT regulations (or British equivalent thereof)?

    Knock over the bike and accidentally break the valve of the top of the tank… it's somebody's final curtain call.

  • "Young Stephen Hawking looks like a smartassed hipster."

    It's like John Steed marrying Emma Peel.

    "I wonder what his unmodified voice sounded like."

    I'm old enough to remember when he was only known to physicists, before he got the robot voicebox, and tried to actually talk. His voice sounds like a monotonic, barely modulated "eh" sound. He had a translator who followed him around, and was practiced in detecting the barest evidence of consonants.

    Before that, I am told he sounded very much like a grade A, upper class British asshole. He was known in his youth for being arrogant and not a very nice person. But that's hearsay evidence.

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