Thursday, January 26, 2006

Timewasters - Fetchfido's Free Online Games

Main game page here: Fetchfido's Free Online Games

Real Pool here.

Baseball Uniform Database

A very cool feature from the Baseball Hall of Fame - a searchable database of baseball uniforms through the years:

Dressed to the Nines - Uniform Database

Uniforms go back to 1900 and up to the present time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Was Columbus a Catalan Pirate?

Columbus Posted by Picasa

From South Africa's Sunday Independent:

Spanish scientists are to test the DNA of hundreds of Catalans with the surname Colom to determine whether Christopher Columbus, far from the Italian gentleman he has long been believed to be, was in fact a pirate born in Catalonia. (snip)

The first historian to suggest that Columbus was Catalan was a Peruvian, Luis Ulloa Cisneros, who published his theory in Paris in 1927. Linguists favour the idea, saying that Columbus used Catalan "or something like it" rather than Italian or Castilian Spanish in his writings, and gave many of his discoveries in the New World Catalan names.

One historian points out that most of the places in the Caribbean and Central America named by Columbus can be linked directly to the Balearic island of Ibiza.

Historians have speculated that Columbus may have been a Catalan nobleman who joined a failed uprising against King Joan II of Aragon, the father of King Ferdinand, and took orders from the French in various acts of piracy, including the sinking of Portuguese galleons.

Columbus then expunged his former identity to avoid reprisals and maintain the support of the new monarch for his planned voyage to America. Ferdinand and his wife, Queen Isabella, united Spain and sponsored Columbus's voyages, and on the strength of his discoveries, founded the richest maritime empire the world had ever seen.

Some versions suggest Columbus was the illegitimate son of Prince Carlos of Viana, a mallorquin nobleman related to Ferdinand and Isabella. They suggest that Columbus was aware of his royal connections, which were never acknowledged, addressing his patrons with the unusually familiar "my natural lords".
The Discovery Channel also did a show on this, Columbus - Secrets from the Grave, with a historian, Charles Merril, who believes that Columbus was Catalan.. Some of his evidence is here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Optical Illusions

Some very cool ones:

Rotating Snakes

Revolving Pink Dot

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Color Photos from Both World Wars

M-4 Tank Crew, Fort Knox, Kentucky - June '42 Posted by Picasa

Via Instapundit - links to some very cool color photos from both WWII (at The Officers Club)and WWI (at World War I Color Photos, fittingly enough).

Check out this one from WWII:

Children Stage a Patriotic Demonstration - May '42 Posted by Picasa

Wouldn't that be derided as "triumphalism" nowadays? Oh yeah, we were still losing at that point.

Here's one from WWI:

Young Girl with a Doll Posted by Picasa

Very haunting. If you want to see what Hemmingway was writing about in his WWWI stories, these pictures give you an idea.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Andaman Islands

Andaman Association, Lonely Islands - The Andamanese

Very cool website devoted to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands - two small groups of islands off the East Coast of India in the Bay of Bengal that are the home to some unique aboriginal people.

A steatopygous Onge woman, 1960s.
Posted by Picasa

Only two living populations are to day known to still (occasionally and increasingly rarely) have steatopygous women. Both are (or until very recently have been) among the few remaining hunting-gathering societies: the Khoisan of South Africa and the Andamanese. That those two populations also thave in common the rare "peppercorn hair" type (see below) adds to the suspicions that they are somehow related. If so, it is a relationship that would go back right to the development of the earliest modern Homo sapiens. That he and she developed in Africa there is little doubt today.

That such remarkable similarities of otherwise rare genetic traits in two widely separated groups has received so little scientific attention is remarkable.

Sharing at least steatopygia and peppercorn hair, the two groups could indeed be genetically related. Another possibility is that both groups have lived hunting-gathering lives in harsh environments until only a century or so ago and so have preserved traits that were once universal or widespread among Homo sapiens. But then, why is steatopygia absent among, for example, hunting-gathering Australian aborigines? We do not know. Steatopygia has many unexplained and unexplored aspects hinting at as yet unexplored ancient Human migrations and relationships.

Three "Venus figurines" from the European ice age of ca. 25,000 years ago. All show what has convincingly been interpreted as steatopygia
Posted by Picasa

The website also hosts a report on the Toba volcano and its possible historic significance to human evolution as the cause of a "bottleneck" event about 73,000 years ago.

Fig. 5-1. Schematic progress of the post-Toba bottleneck.
 Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 02, 2006

Fear, Complexity, Environmental Management in the 21st Century

Fear, Complexity, Environmental Management in the 21st Century

Text of a speech by Michael Crichton on the problems in treating complex systems (like the environment) as simple systems and the tendency to exagerate problems we really don't understand. Some examples:

On Chernobyl:

But the shock that I had experienced reverberated within me for a while. Because what I had been led to believe about Chernobyl was not merely wrong—it was astonishingly wrong. Let’s review the data.

The initial reports in 1986 claimed 2,000 dead, and an unknown number of future deaths and deformities occurring in a wide swath extending from Sweden to the Black Sea. As the years passed, the size of the disaster increased; by 2000, the BBC and New York Times estimated 15,000-30,000 dead, and so on…

Now, to report that 15,000-30,000 people have died, when the actual number is 56, represents a big error. Let’s try to get some idea of how big. Suppose we line up all the victims in a row. If 56 people are each represented by one foot of space, then 56 feet is roughly the distance from me to the fourth row of the auditorium. Fifteen thousand people is three miles away. It seems difficult to make a mistake of that scale.
The UN on Y2K:

"History offers no example of a parallel threat on a global, national or even local scale. To "wait and see" invites disaster. Only the long-term threats of global warming, oxygen loss, exhaustion of other basic resources in the oceans and continents as well as the eventual possibility of an earth-asteroid collision demand world-=wide action on a similar scale...A worldwide strategic mobilization...similar to the effort required by World War II must be developed in the weeks ahead."

On-Line Tests

A bunch of on-line tests at, including the Zombie Survival Test.

OKCupid! Tests