margin-top: 28px; The Unlikely Times: March 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Barbie turns 50

Here's something I never thought I'd write about - Barbie. But she fits right in here. What were the odds that a toy based on "a sexually-themed gag toy for men", based on "a cartoon character 'who was essentially a prostitute,'" would end up selling million of units to children around the world? While I have tried to stay away from silly human behavior on this blog, I'll use a bit of poetic license and say that Barbie is a phenomenon.

Anyway, Barbie turned 50 today. It's all over the news. But this raises some deep (I mean not-so-deep) questions ...

Do plastic people have birthdays? At what age will she start needing plastic surgery? Then again, she ages in "plastic years", and considering the rate at which plastic decays, 50 years is only about 20 minutes old!

My quotes came from this article from

Thanks for the tweet from EchelonPress to put these gags in my head. Now they're in your head. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lightning loops

Living in southern California, I miss thunderstorms. We get maybe a few rumbles each year -- nothing like the storms we'd get when I was growing up back east. I've always been fascinated by lightning, and having watched many storms in the distance, I've seen odd things, like lightning that skims along the bottoms of clouds. And lightning that loops back into the clouds without hitting the ground. I've always wondered how rare these really are.

Looping lightning is not rare, but photos of it are. See this article for a nice example:

Source: USA Today "Looping lightning is rare, but not unknown" (31 Aug 01)

Lightning follows the path of least resistance (okay, impedence), and the air under a storm is naturally churned up. Still, it was a bit of a surprise to hear that cloud-to-cloud lightning happens "10 times as often as lightning that hits the ground."

Sometimes we tune out the common stuff. Most lightning stories we hear are of buildings and trees being struck and people killed. There's no human interest in stories about lightning that doesn't hit the ground. So, having never spoken much about it, it ends up seeming unlikely. seems like our perceptions of reality have looped without touching the ground.