Saturday, December 26, 2009

profitable reindeer poop

So, don't ever let someone tell you your ideas are silly. This holiday season, Bloomington's Miller Park Zoo has raised $20,884 by selling necklaces and ornaments made from reindeer droppings.

Last year, the zoo made about $5,000 selling reindeer-dropping ornaments. This year, they moved into necklaces after some people asked if jewelery would become available.

To make them, dime-sized pieces of reindeer poop are dehydrated, sterilized and spray-painted with glitter. They're called "Magical Reindeer Gems." (The image above is courtesy of a November post in this cool blog called L.A. Unleashed.)

The ornaments cost $7.50 at the zoo's gift shop or $10 by mail. The necklaces sold for $15 at the gift shop, or $20 by mail. The Miller Park Zoological Society says this year they made about 300 necklaces and more than 2,000 ornaments.

The zoological society says the ornaments and necklaces were sold nationwide. And I LOVE this news bit: "Requests also came in from other countries, but federal regulations don't allow reindeer droppings to be exported." (!)

Unfortunately, these items are limited-edition... so maybe next year?

This story reminds me of another poop fundraiser. I taught high school back in 1999 in central Illinois. It was a learning experience... from kids bringing in their prize-wining goats for their science project to a kid who invited me to ride in his new air-conditioned combine. But, I thought the kids were pulling my leg when they told me about the "Cow Patty Derby."

For this fundraiser, the football field was divided into numbered 1 ft x 1 ft squares. Then people bought corresponding numbered raffle tickets. The night of the event, townsfolk gathered in the bleachers and they let a cow loose on the field. Now, this sounds more dramatic than it is, since the cow mostly just stood there and occasionally walked around. But, eventually, as all cows do, it needed to.. ahem ... relieve itself. So, it drops a cow patty in some random square, and the owner of that numbered ticket is the big winner!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

turkey pardon

So, I've been meaning to blog this for over a year, ever since I read about George Bush pardoning a turkey. Apparently, Obama will continue the tradition today as he pardons a 45 pound turkey and sends it off to be the Grand Marshall of the Thanksgiving Day parade in Disneyland. According to Snopes, this tradition started with George Bush Sr. in 1989. (President Harry Truman is often cited, incorrectly, as the first president to pardon a Thanksgiving turkey.)

One of my favorite quotes of the event is: "You know there are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this - when I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland."

Watch turkeys Courage and Carolina get their pardons:

Funny... this year, The president of PETA, Ingrid Newkirk has written in a blog for Huffingon Post:

On behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 2 million members and supporters, I am writing to ask three things: 1) that you please send this year's pardoned turkeys to a credible sanctuary; 2) that in your speech at the pardoning ceremony, you acknowledge the millions of compassionate Americans who personally pardon turkeys every year by choosing a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal; and 3) that you invite PETA's chef to present a delicious cruelty-free Thanksgiving meal for you and your family, including Tofurky with all the trimmings, from corn bread to cranberries, and an all-American vegan apple pie with vanilla soy ice cream on top. The vegan meal would provide some balance to all the free publicity given to the turkey industry on this occasion.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

advice on the wall of a bus bathroom

Though the advice itself is up for interpretation...

(found in bus bathroom, driving back from Yosemite)

Friday, September 18, 2009

fish doctor feet

So, for hundreds of years, people could relax in the hotsprings of Turkey while fish gently nibbled on their skin. Apparently, it is so hot in these springs that not much can grow, so the fish are quite hungry. In comes a human with dry, flaky skin, and the fish see a feast before them. In the 1980's, Turkey began using these "doctor fish" to officially treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and ezcema. In 2008, a salon in Virginia became the first U.S. location to offer the fishy service.

Conveniently, these fish prefer affected skin, and will leave healthy skin alone. The fish can be of two different species: Garra rufa and Cyprinion macrostomus. Many scientists think that as the fish remove your dead, scaly skin, light and water can get to the healthy skin underneath, helping your body heal itself.

It sounds like a joke, but according to one study published by Oxford University Press, "Ichthyotherapy (therapy with the so-called ‘Doctorfish of Kangal’, Garra rufa) has been shown to be effective in patients with psoriasis in the Kangal hot springs in Turkey."

In Kangal, the water's high temperature makes it difficult for any nutrients to survive; the doctor fish are therefore ravenous. Handily, they also have a penchant for dead, diseased or scabby skin. With their gummy mouths they strike and lick the psoriatic plaques, eating away the scaly skin that has been softened by the warm spa pool. Their nibbles can cause minor bleeding, which the selenium-rich water and high-altitude Turkish sunlight then heals. (source)

Click here to watch a BBC news report on a fish doctor spa.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

science + dancing = one cool video!

Well, it's been a while since my last post. However, a Steve Spangler newsletter I received in my inbox today inspired me with a link to what might be the most amazing video EVER! (OK, so maybe I am a little biased as a science teacher....)

In fact, with this Steve Spangler has certainly passed Bill Nye as my favorite science guy. Not only does Spangler do cool stuff, and have great products, but he also provides Teacher Training. (I will be attending his "Science Boot Camp" in Chicago September 25!)

And, you may not recognize Judson Laipply's name, but you will recognize his famous YouTube video, "The Evolution of Dance." I love it because it is entertaining, witty and the guy has talent.

Imagine my glee when I learned that Spangler & Laipply spent some time together at the Spangler Lab (read the story). This video is the result.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

snuggies for dogs?!

I tried to resist blogging about this, but it is just too funny. I read a Chicago Tribune article informing us that Snuggies are FINALLY available for dogs. (Did I miss something here? Does any dog need a blanket with sleeves?!)

The Snuggie for Dogs is $14.95 plus $7.95 shipping and handling. A second one is free if you pay for shipping.

Then I watched the promotional VIDEO on the website.

I am still laughing....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the germiest tourist attractions

I just read a hilarious article on the 5 germiest tourist attractions - a list compiled by editors at

1. Blarney Stone in Blarney, Ireland

So, let me get this straight. This rock is kissed by up to 400,000 people a year (source). Gross. And it doesn't appear to be an easy task. According to the main site, "Once upon a time, visitors had to be held by the ankles and lowered head first over the battlements. Today, we are rather more cautious of the safety of our visitors. The Stone itself is still set in the wall below the battlements. To kiss it, one has to lean backwards (holding on to an iron railing) from the parapet walk. The prize is a real one as once kissed the stone bestows the gift of eloquence." Eloquence? Fortunately, you are unlikely to catch anything from kissing this rock, unless you follow an exceptionally sloppy, saliva-dripping kisser.

2. Market Theater Gum Wall in Seattle, Washington

This one is the worst of the five, in my opinion. I've been to Pike Place Market - it's a cool place. However, I must have missed the Market Theater. Apparently, starting in the 1990s, people found it amusing or otherwise necessary to stick their gum to the wall while waiting for the tickets. The management tried scraping the wall clean a couple of times, but it didn't work. So now, the happy ending is that this disgusting tribute to inappropriate gum disposal has now become a tourist attraction?! Do I really need a picture of this?

3. St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy

I like birds. But 130,000+ is a lot at one time. No one would let pigeons land all over them in say, Chicago, but for some reason, it seems that everyone that goes to Venice takes a picture covered in birds. In early 2008, Venice began banning the feeding of the birds: "Venice has long been concerned with the potential hazards the birds pose to human health, not to mention the damage caused by their guano and taste for marble." (The birds like to peck at the exposed marble of the buildings in order to consume calcium carbonate for their egg production.) Apparently, there are 40 TIMES the number of birds per square foot that " international studies propose as the optimal concentration per square kilometer." This can't be healthy.

4. Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California

As an elementary school teacher, this one bothers me the least. We touch dirty things all the time. According to the article, "the sidewalk is littered with 246 celebrity hand and footprints that draw in 4.5 million visitors a year, many of whom put their own hands and feet on them. The site began as an accident in 1927 when Norma Talmadge, a famous actress 1920s, stepped into wet cement. Creator and owner of the theater, Sid Grauman, decided to make the hand and footprints a tradition."

5. Oscar Wilde's Tomb in Paris, France

What is the obsession with kissing rock?

Monday, July 13, 2009

swerple - the photo-uploading bike!

Sunday, I went on this amazing SF Bike Coalition ride, a tour of 5 local ice cream shops - by bike! That was entertaining enough. 100+ bicycles riding down the street behind a lead bike with strapped-on sound system... landing like a flock of pigeons at various ice cream shops around the city.

One of the many bicycles I "met" that afternoon was the Swerple. Swerple is one of the bikes from the Purple Pedals Project.
Yahoo created a small fleet of purple bicycles equipped with a camera, GPS receiver, cell phone and (solar) power for this gear and deployed the bikes around the world to chronicle their journeys. The cameras take a photo every 60 seconds and post them automatically with geo tags to Flickr. (Commute by Bike blog)
Check out Swerple's Photostream on Flicker. You can even check out its current location using the "maplication" on the Purple Pedal's blog. (You can also track the other 5 bikes -Purple Reigns, Yodelicious, Purple Shutter, Shoot n' Roll, and Billyburg.)

This bike really amazed me. Yahoo made 20 of these bikes back in September 2008. You can read the first blog post or watch the video below to learn more about it. Fascinating!

Friday, June 5, 2009

fragrant whale vomit?

So, I was cruising HowStuffWorks, and a headline caught my eye:

How can whale vomit help me retire?

Whoa. Encyclopedia Britannica backs it up: Ambergris is "a solid waxy substance originating in the intestine of the sperm whale. Fresh ambergris is black and soft and has a disagreeable odour. When exposed to sun, air, and seawater, however, it hardens and fades to a light gray or yellow, developing a subtle and pleasant fragrance in the process." An Italian site tells of the powers of ambergris, from its use for pheromones, tea flavorings, and use as an infertility cure.

Experts say you can get about $10 to $20 per gram of ambergris, depending on its quality.

HowStuffWorks offers a few at-home identification tests if you think you may have found aged whale puke:

But there are a couple of tests that you can perform at home to find out if you should even bring that waxy substance to an expert in the first place.
  • Needle test
    Heat a needle over a flame for 15 seconds, and then insert it about an eighth of an inch (.3 cm) into the substance. Does it melt around the needle into a pool of thick, black, bubbling liquid? When you touch that liquid, do you end up with a stringy, tar-like residue on your finger? When you reheat the needle, covered in the melted substance, does it let off a white smoke?
  • Methyl-alcohol test
    Does a sample of the substance dissolve in hot methyl alcohol and crystallize when the alcohol cools?
If the substance passes those tests, the next ones take place in a lab. Chemists will test for benzoic acid and cholesterol in the sample. If the amounts are indicative of ambergris, it will usually be tentatively confirmed as ambergris at this time, although perfume companies will typically order more chemical tests before purchasing the would-be whale vomit.
Why am I just learning about this? Check out more images of this crazy whale barf.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

extreme post-it notes

I had the pleasure of watching the Eepybird guys today at Maker's Faire, doing their Diet Coke & Mentos thing. I headed to their site and was thrilled to see their newest adventure...

...using Post-It Notes!!

Pure genius.

Friday, May 15, 2009

barack equals cool

Baby names are always interesting. Parents "gravitate toward the popular, wanting their child to fit in. But many also want their child's name to be unique, so they don't have to share it with four other kids in class at school." (SF Gate) Normally, the same names appear on the list each year, with a few moving up, a few dropping down, and some dropping off. However, last year, "Barack" (meaning "blessed" in Arabic) moved up a record 10,126 places IN ONE YEAR to become the 2,409th most popular baby name.

Obama's popularity doesn't stop with his name, as most of us realize. According to a 4.24.09 Politico article,

It’s so hip that school kids in Albany, N.Y., coined a term for it: “Baracking.” And it doesn’t stop there. Those in the know at Albany High greet each other by saying: “What’s up, my Obama?” and they respond to a sneeze with “Barack you.” Misbehavior is peer-corrected with the admonition, “Barack’s in the White House,” which translates, “Show some respect.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

how peeps are made!

As I scour the Chicago Tribune in eager anticipation of its annual Peeps on Parade Diorama Contest, I found photo slideshow about how these marshmallow treats are produced! The Pennsylvania factory is called Just Born, and offers a virtal tour online.

Apparently, Peeps have an official site with "fan club information, fun facts, history, recipes and crafts" and more.... Seriously... You can find facts like:

  • In the early 1950s, it took 27 HOURS to make one finished Peep. Today it takes 6 minutes.
  • Each Peep has only 32 calories and 0 grams of fat.
Wow, until I started procrastinating by putting "Peeps" in Google, I had no idea how much randomness these candies have inspired. Some of the craziest?

A site dedicated to the Peeps research ...
A Washington D.C. Peep Artist ...
Obama in Peeps? (gross) ...
A marshmallow recipe from HowStuffWorks
A video of three Peeps in a microwave ... (want to learn why they do this?)

... Argh! I gotta go do something productive....

Saturday, March 21, 2009

presidential vegetable garden

The Obamas are planting a garden!

Promoting healthy eating for American families has become a part of the Michelle Obama's agenda. She said she was inspired by her own experience as a working mom feeding her girls convenient, but less healthy, meals. She has vowed to raise awareness of the difference a healthy diet can make.

The entire Obama family will be involved - even President Barack Obama will help with weeding!

To start the project, twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington helped break ground on the 1100 sq. ft. garden. (see diagram below). These students will be invited back to help plant, harvest and cook with the vegetables and herbs.

There are 55 varieties of vegetables, as requested by the White House kitchen staff. Some of the vegetables include: spinach, chard, collards, black kale, arugula, cilantro, tomatilloes, broccoli, various lettuces, assorted herbs and blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. But no beets. The President doesn't like them. There will also be a beehive and Michelle Obama hopes to be able to make their own honey.

Some White House garden history: In 1800 John Adams, the first president to live in the White House, planted a garden. Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden during the World War II (read FDR's statment). The Clintons had a small rooftop garden where they grew vegetables and herbs in pots.

Alice Waters (you may recognize her as the head chef at Chez Panisse!) has been lobbying the White House to plant such a garden for more than a decade. (She also designed the Edible Schoolyard program at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley.)

The White House chefs will use the the produce to feed the Obama family and for official events. And in the spirit of service, some crops also will be donated to Miriam's Kitchen, a soup kitchen near the White House where Michelle Obama has recently volunteered.

Read more about the garden:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

rapping flight attendant

Dave Holmes, a flight attendant on Southwest Airlines, has a unique way to get people to pay attention to the safety rules. I applaud his creativity!

Some people argue that he is making light of a very important topic (safety), but it seems that people are listening more carefully than usual.

Want to see more? User cnh210 posted Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 of his rap on YouTube.

UPDATE: This site appears to have the rap in its entirety.

Monday, March 2, 2009

online Mii creator

Need to procrastinate? This online Mii creator is hours of pointless fun....

Here's mine....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

44 presidents - happy president's day!

In the 1885, this country decided to create the first federal holiday to celebrate George Washington. This holiday fell on his birthday (Feburary 22). Many years later, in 1968, members of Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, putting all federal holidays on a Monday, as to not break up the the work week. In 1971, President's Day was officially shifted to the third Monday in February.

At this time, some people wanted to include Lincoln in the celebration (birthday = February 12), since many states were already celebrating his birthday on a separate day, although it was never a federal holiday. Some people think Nixon changed the day to "President's Day," but even today, the holiday technically only celebrates Washington's birthday.

President's Day also brings yearly rankings of our past leaders. Here's C-SPAN's take on the whole thing:
Want to learn more about the presidents? The Official White House website has a nice slideshow of the Presidents, or you can learn this rap:

I like how they sampled "Hail to the Chief." I like this verse the best!
No presidents are from Wisconsin
Not Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, or Johnson
We’re getting near the end, but it’s not getting harder
It’s Nixon, Ford, then Jimmy Carter

And of course, no celebration would be complete without a video of morphing presidents. Kinda creepy, kinda cool....

Monday, February 16, 2009

more space junk

On Tuesday, February 10th, two satellites - one Russian and one American - crashed into each other nearly 500 miles over Siberia. This was the first "high-speed impact between two intact spacecraft", NASA officials said. The collision released an undetermined amount of debris into space. This adds to the already impressive collection of junk left in space over the last 45 years....
The collision involved an Iridium commercial satellite, which was launched in 1997, and a Russian satellite launched in 1993 and believed to be nonfunctioning. The Russian satellite was out of control, Matney said.

The article goes on to explain that at the beginning of 2009 there were roughly 17,000 pieces of man-made debris orbiting Earth. The items, at least 4 inches in size, are being tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, which is operated by the military. (Read more about space junk here.)

Want to learn more about space junk? You can play Space Junk - the game!

There's lots of junk floating in orbit about the Earth! 11 examples can be found in this game. See if you can capture them all by clicking on them as they pass by, but be careful not to capture too many things that aren't junk--if you get three strikes, you'll have to start over!

The game uses actual reported junk. For example, in 1984, a screwdriver was dropped during an American spacewalk and it became space junk for a while, until it was burned up in earth's atmosphere!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

a trucker and his duck

A truck driver from Minnesota brings his duck out on the job. The best quote?

"As stupid as it sounds, maybe if more people had a duck in their life... maybe we wouldn't be so mad at each other all the time."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congratulations, world.
The arrival of a new U.S. president triggered jubilation Tuesday in a world made weary by warfare, recession and fear. Bulls and goats were slaughtered for feasts in Kenya, toasts were offered at black-tie balls in Europe, and shamans in Latin America chanted Barack Obama's name with reverence." (read article or view slideshow)
Everywhere I look, I see smiling faces. For the first time I can remember, the press is choosing flattering pictures of our President. My school even has a life size cardboard cut-out of Obama in the music room. (OK, so that's a little over the top.) I look forward to seeing what a strong leadership and, more importantly, a positive attitude can do for this country.

(a window a few blocks from my apartment in San Francisco.)

Friday, January 2, 2009

the elephant diet = no more jelly beans

According to A San Diego newspaper, Elephants at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park have lost a combined total of 11,314 pounds ever since zookeepers began a nutrition and exercise program for them in 2000. The article points out "that's nearly 5.7 tons among seven animals. "

Apparently, zoo keepers started to feed the elephants a number of smaller meals throughout the day, instead of three big meals. They also hid the food so that the animals would "work for it" and trained the animals to walk laps. And they cut out the elephants snacks, including jellybeans.

Mary, one of the Wild Animal Park's Asian elephants, lost weight but couldn't keep it off. Zookeepers didn't understand – until they discovered Mary was stealing food from her pachyderm pals.

Nature is cruel, it seems, even to elephants. The other pachyderms at the Wild Animal Park probably hate the aptly named Cha Cha. Like a supermodel, her trouble is keeping the weight on.

Zookeepers also changed the main ingredient of their elephant pellets to soy.

At the Wild Animal Park, the elephants do the equivalent of line drills in basketball. They've been trained to walk from Point A to Point B across the 3-acre enclosure, then back again.

For an added element of difficulty, zoo workers rake the packed soil so it requires more effort to walk. It's like running in the soft sand at the beach instead of at the waterline.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

ellen degeneres & a pool of cornstarch!

So, I get this newsletter from Steve Spangler Science and it listed the Best Videos from 2008. Apparently, he is always doing crazy things on the Ellen DeGeneres show. In February, he brought 2500 POUNDS of cornstarch and filled up a little pool of it.

My only issue with the experiment is that both he & Ellen claim that "no one has done this before." As many of you in my classes may have seen already, these guys were first to post their cornstarch antics!