An excuse to use that spider photo again

Here's yet another Reddit-comment transplant, this time from this thread about scary animals in the USA, in the opinion of...

Huntsman spider


I opined:

1: The house centipede. Perfectly harmless, but practically a prototypical creepy-crawly, and very common.

2: The toe biter. Apart from the egg-carrying creepiness, toe-biters have that name for a reason, and their bite may be the most painful of any insect. Won't kill you. May make you kill yourself.

(Most insect-bite-pain-scales, like the not-entirely-serious but well-researched Schmidt one, don't cover large swathes of the arthropods. The Schmidt scale, for instance, only covers the stinging Hymenoptera - wasps, bees and ants.)

I regret I have been unable to locate a YouTube, or even LiveLeak, video of someone deliberately getting bitten by a toe biter. All those marvellous videos of people eating staggeringly hot peppers (or just straight capsaicin), or volunteering to be tased, or shooting each other with fireworks, or engaging in the various other things that only other drunk 20-year-olds used to get to watch... there are even voluntary Irukandji jellyfish stings! But no toe biters.

If you can't find me video of some idiot being turned into a flowing puddle of agony by a toe biter, I of course welcome your suggestions of even more terrifying American fauna and/or flora.

"Or, if you had a really galloping variable on your hands..."

I'm reading A Random Walk in Science, a compilation of science humour from rather ancient times to shortly before the book was published, in 1973.

It contains some, but not many, things I've seen before - the turboencabulator, The Contributions of Edsel Murphy to the Understanding of the Behavior of Inanimate Objects, A glossary for research reports et cetera.

The art of finding the right graph paper...
(legible version below)

My favourite bit so far, though, is The art of finding the right graph paper to get a straight line, from an almost-fifty-year-old volume of the Journal of Irreproducible Results.

This piece is not on the JIR Web site (though this other excellent graph is), and it doesn't seem to be online anywhere else, except for this site that lets you read a who-knows-how-legal copy of the whole book. (Or of course, you could download the book from a hive of scum and villainy.)

A Random Walk in Science is also still in print, too, though ridiculously expensive. So I've taken the liberty of image-ifying those two pages. Click for more legible versions.

Finding the right graph paper, page 1 Finding the right graph paper, page 2

This is probably still copyright to somebody, no warranty expressed or implied, et cetera.

I also rather like this quote from Sir Arthur Eddington:

When an investigator has developed a formula which gives a complete representation of the phenomena within a certain range, he may be prone to satisfaction. Would it not be wiser if he should say "Foiled again! I can find out no more about Nature along this line."

The Inverse Law of Portrait Unusualness

I can't remember whether one of the old hands at News Interactive told me this during my brief stint of working for the Dark Lord Murdoch, or whether I came up with it myself. So I won't call it My Special Law Of Current-Events Publication Photographs, or whatever. But it does seem to apply most of the time. It is:

When you see a photo of a person in a newspaper or news magazine, the more outré the photo, the less interesting the person.

If the subject is at a sixty-degree dutch angle and leaning out over the balustrade of a purple spiral staircase amid a frozen shower of confetti, he will be the deputy manager of Accounts Receivable for Amalgamated Water-Based Bookbinding Mucilage, Incorporated, posing for a business-section feature about how AWBBM beat earnings estimates by 1.7%.

If the subject is just smiling at the camera from behind a low-maintenance beard, on the other hand, he's Steve Wozniak.

If the subject is only partially visible through the leaves of a potted palm and bathed in rainbow prismatic sunlight passing through a faceted lead-crystal recreation of Michelangelo's David, she was this month's top fundraiser for the church steeple maintenance drive.

If the subject is just standing there with her hand on a computer and a vague smile, though, she's Jeri Ellsworth.

Et cetera.

Application of this rule of thumb can get you through business and trade publications, in particular, a great deal faster, without missing a damn thing.

Bianca Lamb And Her Unstoppable Pastel Death Machine

I've been not writing blog posts while worrying about finishing my next Atomic columns, and not writing my next Atomic columns while worrying about finishing blog posts.

So here are some Fabuland mecha.

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user lego_nabii)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user Uspez Morbo)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user Chiefrocker9000)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user lego_nabii)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user Sir Nadroj)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user sirxela)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user mahjqa)

Fabuland mecha
(Image source: Flickr user ToT-LUG)

Lordy lordy, what a shame

I have always had a great enthusiasm for musical jokes.

(Which reminds me, I must brush up my Great Gig in the Sky/Imagine/Bohemian Rhapsody medley again. I leave identification of the points where I graft them together as an exercise for the reader, until I get around to making an MP3.)

If a musical joke involves a pipe organ, so much the better.

Herewith, therefore, I present you with the soundtrack of a swingin' cocktail party for all fifty million inhabitants of a Culture GSV!

Anyone with some experience of organ music will now, of course, know what the inevitable soundtrack will be, when unfortunate events later force the GSV to offload its population and convert most of its mass into engines and weapons...

Show me your spaceships, dragons and shiny women!

I just published a column all about those... distinctive... computer-magazine ads.

You know the ones I mean.

Magnificent Amaze ad

Antec horny-monster case and PSU ad

NZXT menacing PC-case ad

Seasonic racing-car PSU ad

Utgard case ad

If you've seen a magnificent example of the breed, I invite you to scan it (if it's not already online), upload it somewhere, and bring it to the world's attention in the comments!

(For spam-prevention reasons, you can't embed an image in your comment. Just list the URL in plaintext and I'll image-ify it for you, as per the "Geek Ink" post. An image URL by itself will turn into a clickable link:

"...but some elves came and helped them, WHO WEREN'T EVEN IN THE BOOK..."

Martin Pearson's The Unfinished Spelling Errors of Bolkien is very funny, very clever, and very hard to find.

[UPDATE: Martin says it's OK to download it for free!]


It's a two-hour, two-CD, filk-infested one-man comedy show about of The Lord of the Rings - both the book and the film versions.


Even if you don't usually like those The Fiftieth Time Some Dude Put Stuff About Elves And Cthulhu To The Tune Of "Jailhouse Rock" sorts of songs, I assure you that you are going to have a very hard time not finding Bolkien funny. C'mon, the guy actually sings the Black Speech inscription on the One Ring to the tune of "King of the Road".


The total length of the double CD, not counting six minutes of out-takes at the end, is about 115 minutes. And there are a lot of songs in it, but there's a lot of talking too.


The Bolkien CDs were recorded with a live audience, which is of course essential for this sort of thing. There are also not many of those annoying comedy-record moments when everybody laughs, but you don't know why, because it's a visual joke and you don't have video.

(There are a few videos of Pearson on YouTube, by the way.)

There are also only a couple of jokes that you won't get if you're not Australian.


Honestly, half of the world's English-speaking nerds should have a copy of this.

But they don't, on account of how it's not very easy to buy it.

Bolkien is listed here and there on podunk online CD stores (Pearson also has his own Web site, which is currently somewhat unfinished). The only online store I could find that even claims to have Bolkien available for sale, though, is Ducks Crossing, where the double CD costs a handsome $AU40 plus $AU6 delivery in Australia, or $AU12 to the USA. They do at least accept credit cards and currency-convert the total price, though, so US customers will pay a total of a mere $US48.36, delivered, for the double CD.

Which is, of course, a bit on the bleeding steep side.

Apparently you're also meant to be able to buy the CD through 7th Dimension Music. But for months now there's been nothing in that site's shop, and the product page for Bolkien has, for lo these many months, been a database error. Some of his previous stuff used to be on this site, too, but now it's broken as well. It's all very depressing.

So I e-mailed Mr Pearson (, without the XXs) and informed him of the large number of people who would like to give him money, if only the CDs were available at a reasonable price. I also asked whether he'd considered opening the money-tap rather wider by letting people pay for downloadable MP3s.

Martin said that if people want to buy the CD, they can e-mail him. And maybe mail him a cheque, so he can put it on a wooden table and take a picture of it, et cetera.

It struck me that buying CDs by e-mailing the artist personally is not necessarily a completely optimal e-business paradigm. I suggested he try out a sell-your-files service like (to pick a random, presumably-honest example) PayLoadz, or of course CD Baby, who sell physical CDs, and can also put artists' MP3s up on iTunes and Amazon and so on. (This is CD Baby's "Artist Sign Up" section.) But he didn't go for it.

So allow me to postulate a hypothetical situation.

Suppose, hypothetically, that someone were to illegally download The Unfinished Spelling Errors of Bolkien, from one of those intarweb bit-waterfall things that the kids are so enthusiastic about. Beats me how you'd find it, but perhaps some cunning search string featuring Martin's name, or just the word "Bolkien", might do it.

If that someone decided they liked it, they could go on to send a few bucks to Mr Pearson via PayPal. (Once again, that's, without the XXs.)

Martin doesn't have a PayPal account either, but I think he may be persuaded to get one if a thousand bucks pile up waiting for him.

UPDATE: Martin Pearson his own bad self showed up in the comments below, and officially gave free BitTorrent distribution of Bolkien his blessing.

So here's the torrent, people! Remember to PayPal Martin,, a buck or three if you like it!

(Alternative torrent link. This is the magnet URI.)

With a site like this, it MUST be good!

When I'm looking at the Web site of a tradesman or small business, I actually take it as a good sign if the site looks like crap.

As long as it's got all the information you're looking for - often little more than basic "brochure" data - then the presence of dodgy table-based formatting, GIF animations, Comic Sans and so on just means that this particular house-painter, lawn-mower or solar-panel-installer probably hasn't spent much time or money on site design, with any luck because they were too busy doing their job.

There are, however, limits.

Allow me to present: Biomile Australia!

Ghastly Web site

Or maybe "MOTORTRONICS H20 COMPANY PTY LTD", which is one of the bits of text peeking out from behind the two large images in the middle of the screen. If you've loaded the page, you've loaded the full-size images, which are just sized down with height="320" width="240" to fit on the home page. So I urge you to click on the second one and see it in all of its Web 0.2 magnificence.

Whoever the Biomile (not to be confused with BioPerformance!) people are, they're in the miracle-fuel-additive business, with - once your eyes stop bleeding and you manage to read the page - the usual claims about economy, emissions, power and so on. And, also according to the standard fuel-pill script, they say that Biomile pills "have been tested and approved by the epa in the Usa"! (I choose to pronounce that as "by the eep-ah in the ooh-sa".)

Well, the EPA does seem to know that Biomile exist, and the EPA actually has tested quite a lot of fuel-saving power-boosting gadgets and potions. But they have never found one that works. The EPA does not, in fact, endorse fuel-saving products at all.

(I was disappointed to see that Biomile pills also do not seem to have been tested by California Environmental Engineering.)

Never mind these quibbles, though. Let's get back to that awesome Web site!

I like to browse with the text size set a bit larger than the default, which somewhat breaks the formatting of some sites. I've also only got Firefox and Chrome here, plus Internet Explorer 6 hanging around for testing purposes. So I wasn't completely confident that the stunning broken-ness of the Biomile site wasn't, at least partly, my fault.

Compare and contrast the Australian Biomile site with the US one, for instance. The US site is a giant blob of Flash, but it looks quite good. And has, you know, page titles and stuff.

So I bounced off a selection of different browsers on the immensely useful

The results are here, and they are not good.

(I did rather like Dillo's minimalist interpretation and Flock's even more minimalist one, though.)

Perhaps the Biomile Australia site is a devilishly cunning scheme to actively repel intelligent people, because they're nothing but trouble for the modern questionable-product entrepreneur.

Hmm. Probably not.