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Lyle Zapato

A Quantum Of Polydactylism

Lyle Zapato | 2008-11-14.8608 LMT | Polydactylism | Mysterious Doodads | Site

The manifested Jungian archetype of polydactylism pokes its many fingers further into the doughy belly of popular culture.

Gemma Arterton's hands

Gemma Arterton, the new "Bond Girl" in the latest 007 film, A Quantum of Solace, was born with 12 fingers. Unfortunately, her two extra digits were removed shortly after birth by the Medical Establishment -- dogmatic proponents of physiological uniformity who would rather butcher healthy mutants than have to spend valuable golf-time learning the names of new body parts. But try as they might, Establishment doctors are on the losing side our evolutionary destiny:

"My dad had them [extra fingers], and my granddad," Arterton told Esquire magazine. "I feel like we're one step ahead -- a sign of things to come. ... We could do more stuff if we had extra fingers -- faster texting, faster emailing, better guitar-playing."

Also of note in the entertainment world, the new FOX series Fringe features a six-fingered hand-print both on its marketing posters and on bumpers before the commercials:

Fringe hand

Besides documenting the mysterious Observers and the menace of giant floating place-names, Fringe follows investigators searching for the truth about "the Pattern" -- an emergence of strange scientific phenomena and experiments that may signal a tipping point in Humanity's patience with J.J. Abrams. But could the show actually be on to something? Could there be a "the Pattern" in real life? And if so, is it not logical to surmise that "the Pattern" is the Handlebrot set -- a single, yet infinitely complicated, unifying pattern of our existence that has been for eons guiding our development into the polydactyl super-beings that Gemma Arterton foresees?

dactyl fractal

Undoubtedly, yes.

On a less momentous note, a while back I moved my Dactyl Fractal Zoom toy from the wallpaper subdirectory (where I haphazardly put it after I originally created it) to a proper subdirectory of its own. This broke the link from Stumble Upon, a popular random-link site which was the source for most of the traffic to the toy. Well, now some Stumble Upon user has found the new location and re-stumbled it, which has resulted in the Dactyl Fractal Zoom getting around 40,000 hits just today. Egads! Anyway, I added a few links to the containing page, so hopefully all those people won't just stumble past the rest of my site. My apologies to those who preferred the starker, link-free version.

Lyle Zapato

Lord Kelvin & The Olympic Water Cube

Lyle Zapato | 2008-08-05.0220 LMT | Kelviniana | Technology

In 1887, Lord Kelvin, in a paper titled "On the Division of Space with Minimum Partitional Area", sought a way of partitioning space using a foam of equal-sized cells with a minimum surface area. His solution, known as the Kelvin structure, consisted of repeating tetrakaidecahedra with slightly curved faces.


Stereoscopic photo of a tetrakaidecahedron, constructed out of soldered wire, from Kelvin's 1894 "On Homogeneous Division of Space". (Cross eyes to view in 3D.) Also, I have a paper model approximation of a Kelvin cell available for download [PDF].

It wasn't until 106 years later that Denis Weaire and Robert Phelan discovered (aided by advanced computer software that would have taken millions of years of run time on a standard Victorian era difference engine,) a solution that had 0.3 percent less surface area than the Kelvin structure. However, their solution, the Weaire-Phelan structure, uses two different shaped cells instead of Kelvin's simpler single cell solution.

As the New York Times reports, the wall and roof structure of the new Beijing National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube, is based on the Weaire-Phelan solution to the Kelvin Problem. The building's designer, Tristram Carfrae, tilted the structure 60° to give the surface an almost random look (although it does repeat its pattern). According to this 2004 article, it was for this pseudo-irregular "organic quality" that the Weaire-Phelan structure was chosen over the Kelvin structure, which was originally considered.


The Water Cube during construction.

Lyle Zapato

Book Review: Weird Washington

Lyle Zapato | 2008-05-14.9750 LMT | Cascadia | Cephalopods
Weird Washington cover

Weird Washington: Your Travel Guide to Washington's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets, by Jefferson Davis, Al Eufrasio, Mark Moran, and Mark Sceurman.

Weird Washington was published this month by the people who created the Weird U.S. series, which includes other Weird books on various U.S. states. This, after Weird England, is their second book dealing with Weirdness outside of the U.S., and the first set in the Republic of Cascadia (they promise a Weird Oregon next year; no word on Weird B.C.)

As the subtitle suggests, the book is about legends, secrets, people, places, events, and things of the Cascadian prefecture of Washington that can all be classified as "weird" by conventional orthonoid reckoning. It's a hardcover coffee-table book with color photos and illustrations on nearly every page. Topics are broken up into short, distinct, browsing-friendly articles -- organized into chapters such as "Local Legends", "Bizarre Beasts", "Roadside Oddities", "Unexplained Phenomena", etc. -- written in a light yet informative style. It has an index. What more could you want?

Oh, yes... the actual articles. Given the book's magisterium, there are many well-trodden topics: they of course have sections on Sasquatch (and again it's from the cryptozoological viewpoint, not the Sasquatch viewpoint -- although there is a pro-Sasquatch story of a man saved from choking on candy by a Sasquatch), the first modern sightings of flying saucers above Maury Island and Mt. Rainer, Cascadian Birdmen, the Fremont Troll, Fremont in general, and a certain skyjacker that everyone should stop asking questions about.

Regardless of these unavoidable inclusions, there's still much that will be new to most people. Some highlights:

  • Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard, author of a 1908 food-fad book titled Fasting for the Cure of Disease, opened the Wilderness Heights Sanitarium in Olalla, where she held her wealthy patients hostage as she slowly starved them to death and embezzled their money. (See the book Starvation Heights for more on this.)
  • Washington (well, Cascadia, actually) was named Fu-Sang by Chinese explorers who discovered it circa 450 AD.
  • Dead bodies dropped in the deep, cold, alkaline waters of Crescent Lake undergo a process of saponification whereby all their fat is turned into soap.
  • A seemingly bottomless hole on Mel Waters' property in Ellensburg may contain a singularity linking our world to an alternate reality where the Nazis won WWII and Roosevelt dimes were minted three years before our history records!

Of particular interest to me was their full-page article on the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus (sandwiched between articles on flying jellyfish and a monstrous, dam-clogging sturgeon). It includes a rare photo of previously undocumented Tree Octopus behavior: luring squirrels with nuts. (They "link" to me in the text, so consider this review a link back.)

However, the Tree Octopus article does highlight one serious objection I have to the book (and others in the series that I've read): the writers, so fearful of any lawsuits from disgruntled ghost-hunters or murder-house buyers over incorrect information in their books, have taken to disclaiming everything they write. For instance, all their books carry a disclaimer that they are "intended as entertainment" and that the "authors and publisher make no representation as to [the stories'] factual accuracy".

This post-modernism-under-advice-of-counsel is taken to absurd lengths in their Tree Octopus article by actually floating the possibility that tree octopuses might not be real, thereby washing their hands of the whole thing should any impatient ecotourists be disappointed at not being able to find any of the elusive creatures right away! I say, throw caution to the wind and just tell readers straight up: if you don't see any tree octopuses, perhaps they just don't like you (or you aren't offering them something they want.)

That irritating quirk aside, the book is an enjoyable read, although a little heavy on the ghost stories and cemeteries for my taste.

Lyle Zapato

Nerd Nite's Alrite For Feit-Thompsoning

Lyle Zapato | 2007-03-28.9650 LMT | Art | Nature

In Inkling Magazine's "Nerds Just Wanna Have Fun," Kurt Wong tells us about Nerd Nites, informal scientific symposia held in bars and clubs in Boston and New York where scientists hook up with vibrating tadpoles over lectures on synchrotron-based X-ray scattering, Z/W sex chromosomes, and worm poop.

If you don't know your fusiform gyrus from your fuel-efficient Prius, you might be out of your league at first, but put on your beer goggles (held together with single malt scotch tape) and you'll quickly become a vocal expert on every topic discussed. And if not, you can at least hope a fight breaks out when some drunk catastrophic limnogeologist pulls a Michael Richards and starts hurling untoward comments at uniformitarians in the audience. Now that's edutainment.

As you'll note, I did the illustration for the Inkling article, which gave me an excuse to draw this happy little camel spider:

camel spider

I think he makes for an apt exemplifying topic illustration since, like potential Nerd Nite attendees, Solifugae are active at night, seek dark recesses, and get their nourishment from drink (Guinness and liquefied beetles, respectively... or, possibly, irrespectively).

Oh, and my finite apologies for the awkward and way, way, way too obscure (yet, oddly solvable) nerd pun in the title. There's just no excuse for that sort of thing.

The Monorailist

Musical: Monorail Inferno

The Monorailist | 2007-03-16.6210 LMT | Monorail Danger

The Footlight Theater in Orlando, Florida is restaging Michael Wanzie's 1986 musical Monorail Inferno, a story of monorail passengers having their trip to Disney World interrupted by a mysterious malfunction that causes the monorail to burst into flames.

Monorail Inferno banner ad

While I support the use of the Monorail as the singular unifying theme for all the arts, I must strongly rebuke the anti-monorail sensationalism and, ultimately, nihilism that this musical represents! Yes, it is true that the story was inspired by an actual monorail combustion event at Disney World in 1985, but why must the musical theater industry choose to focus on such rare, certainly-sabotage-related monorail combustions instead of portraying the Monorail in a positive light? -- the light of hope that radiates from the Monorail to all who have the eyes and soul to perceive it.

Where are the taut, character-driven plays about simple folk embracing Monorailism and transcending the mundanity of their work-a-day world? Where are the operatic sagas of bold City Leaders vanquishing the Foes of Monorailular Progress and ushering in a New Age of the Monorail? Where are the light romantic comedies of love found, love lost, love regained, and lives lived all aboard the Monorail? It's bad enough with all the anti-monorail propaganda coming out of Hollywood, must we find nothing to uplift the minds and bodies of the masses through pro-monorail theatrical arts?

All that being said, I do have to commend the Footlight Theater for having a two-for-one Monorail Pilots night tomorrow:

MONORAIL PILOTS get TWO 4 ONE admission! Saturday March 17th ONLY.: Buy one - ONLY if you arrive at the theater wearing your Monorail Costume, or bring along a photo of you in your monorail costume - or some other sort of documentation which proves you have at some point in your life, piloted a Walt Disney World Monorail.

But is this really enough to honor our brave Monorail Pilots? Have we as a society lost our ability to show proper gratitude to those with the fearless audacity to pilot our destiny?

There was a time when a Monorail Pilot wouldn't be able to walk among the surface-dwelling populace in his uniform without drawing the attention of all who passed by: Women would alternately swoon and giggle. Men would be so overcome with pride in Humanity's accomplishments that they would forget their envy. Children would point and squeal in wide-eyed amazement: "Look Mommy! Could that really be a Monorail Pilot?" Monorail Pilots were constantly being stopped and asked for autographs, or to have their pictures taken with the kids, or to officiate at weddings or store openings or beauty pageants, or to settle disputes both civil and philosophical. Such was the respect, the awe, with which people held those who commanded the vehicles that commanded our dreams. In those times, giving Monorail Pilots free tickets to the theater was more a moral obligation than a one-day promotion.

Like most young boys, it was always my dream to some day become a Monorail Pilot -- to soar along the track with my hand on the throttle and my gaze set stalwartly toward the infinite reaches of Mankind's potential. But, alas, it shames me to confess that I was found ineligible for the Monorail Pilot Corps due to a congenital strabismic condition that causes me, when I look out the cockpit window, to see two rails instead of one.

Although I cannot enjoy the privilege of being a Monorail Pilot, I will do my part, without bitterness or self-pity, for the cause of Humanity's Elevationment; I will continue to press for the adoption of the Monorail throughout the world and to rebuke those who spread lies about this most singular marvel of Mankind's ingenuity. The jaded anti-monorail views of the musical theater community will find no quarter with me!

Lyle Zapato

An Open Letter To The Legislature

Lyle Zapato | 2007-02-15.3100 LMT | Letters | Politics | Crass Commercialism

Dear Washington State Legislature,

I am writing to ask you to approve $100 of Washington State funds to help offset the $250 price of buying me a Nintendo Wii.

Before you decide, consider the positive impact on the local economy of my having a Wii: Not only would the state generate 6.5% sales-tax on every game I purchase (with additional tax revenue of upwards of 2.3% going to county and city tax districts), but a portion of the profits from those games would go to Redmond-based Nintendo of America, which employs over a thousand Washington State citizens. Could you honestly say to the voters that you were acting in the public interest if you turned down a plan that would increase both tax revenue and job opportunities for a mere c-note? I think not.

My request is very reasonable. Most of the purchase cost for the Wii will be covered by me or through other private funding, as will all costs associated with utilities, maintenance, and insuring against flying-controller damage. Please understand that I am not being greedy with this request; I could have pressed for the more lavish option of a Microsoft Xbox 360, which would do even more for the local economy (given the larger portion of profits remaining in the state and the 20% greater tax revenue from games), but would require my asking for more money upfront. Out of fairness to the taxpayers, I am willing to settle for the economically prudent option of a Wii.

While I understand that some short-sighted people will counsel you against diverting public funds to pay for my frivolous amusement, keep in mind that my proposal of $100 is significantly less than the $300 million you are already considering giving to Clay Bennett so he can build a facility in Renton in which to play games -- and not just in absolute terms, as he's asking you to cover three-fifths of his costs (plus another one-fifth from the city of Renton) whereas I'm only asking for two-fifths in total. The numbers do not lie; I am offering a much better deal here.

Furthermore, unlike Bennett I won't be using Washington State taxpayer's money to facilitate the exportation of millions of dollars of personal profits to Oklahoma. In fact, after the state has recouped its $100 -- through a combination of tax revenue from the games I buy and a lowering of public expenses attributable to the unemployment that I will have ameliorated -- I would be contributing to the state's common good at my own personal expense with no profit. Why would you deny the community this philanthropic act?

If you are unable to find $100 in the budget, Seattle has proved the fiscal viability of using eminent domain to forcibly buy land, waiting a few months, then selling it at a profit. I think a few square feet of Ray Allen's front yard should cover my requested funding.

I am reasonable, but my patience has its limits. If you do not act in a timely fashion to grant me the money to buy a Wii, I will be forced by economic conditions to take elsewhere the tax revenue and jobs that my gaming can create. While I can't comment on ongoing negotiations, let me just say that the Emperor of Japan has been very receptive to my proposal for $240 towards a Playstation 3.

Please, do what's best for the people of Washington and gimme $100.

Regards,
Lyle Zapato

Lyle Zapato

Book Review: Micronations

Lyle Zapato | 2007-01-26.4350 LMT | Cascadia | Politics
Micronations cover

Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations by John Ryan, George Dunford, and Simon Sellars.

(My apologies to the authors for not getting to this sooner, like in time for the Year End Consumer Orgy. Also, book-review-reader beware: I am a very minor subject of this book -- three paragraphs and a flag worth -- and was sent a free copy by the publisher.)

Micronations is a colorful look -- both in the full-color photos and illustrations that appear on nearly every of its 156 pages and in the variety of colorful characters introduced -- at various nations that haven't yet been recognized by those bastards at the UN (not that it's any of their business).

It's about time a travel guide publisher has addressed these overlooked and underappreciated nations. While the unfairly diminutive prefix micro- has caused many to dismiss them as unimportant or even fictional, each and every one stands tall as a testament to the human desire for self determination (and they're all certainly more real than Belgium).

The guide's presentation is a mix of in-depth, 3-to-6-page articles on specific micronations -- going into their histories, personalities, and political intrigues (where applicable), as well as such travel-guide staples as things-to-do, driving directions, shopping and dining options, and accommodations (again, where applicable) -- with shorter boxed texts highlighting broader movements (Cascadian independence, mad Aussies, off-world colonies), topics of interest to micronationals (issuing stamps), and tidbits on micronations/micronationals that either can't sustain a fuller article (but whose presence is none the less welcome) or would require an entire book to do them true justice (Emperor Norton). The writing is light-hearted and entertaining while still being respectful of the subjects.

The micronations are divided into three loose chapters: "Serious Business", which includes those nations with compelling claims of legitimacy within the rules of the Establishment (or, barring that, their own television series); "My Backyard, My Nation", which mostly includes those who have exercised their Natural Right to seceded from their previous governments and plot their own destinies (here you would find Cascadia); and "Grand Dreams", for those nations fighting righteous causes in the face of Establishment opposition.

It's difficult to review a book like this beyond what I've already done since its topic is rather scatter-shot by nature and it can't really be judged on its practical utility as an actual travel guide (how many tourists can fit in Danny Wallace's Lovely apartment anyway?), so I'll just leave you with a smattering of the micronations included to whet your appetite:

  • Sealand, which has gotten a lot of mainstream press in years past (and continues to do so), is of course covered (it's the very first article).
  • The Republic of Molossia, an island nation adrift in a sea of Nevada whose currency is pegged to the price of Pillsbury cookie dough. They recently annexed some wetlands near Mexico.
  • The Principality of Trumania is sort of Cascadia's version of San Marino, located in the Puget Sound on Vashon Island (home of the bicycle-eating tree and the first modern incident involving a UFO and the Men in Black).
  • Whangamomona seceded from New Zealand in 1989 after a dispute over rugby league redistricting. Its most cherished former leader was a goat named Billy (or "Gumboots" to his inner circle of friends) whom some believe was assassinated.
  • The Republic of Kugelmugel consists of a 7.68m diameter wooden sphere covered in zinc-sheet that originally appeared in a vision to artist Edwin Lipburger. Tragically, control of this surface-area-minimizing nation was wrest away from Edwin when it was invaded and annexed by Austria -- if only he had covered it in aluminum!
Lyle Zapato

Two Bad Ideas

Lyle Zapato | 2007-01-25.2416 LMT | Aluminum | Monorail Danger

Walter emailed me two bad ideas (not his)...

Brandon Flowers of the RIAA-approved music group The Killers is promoting a bad idea in an upcoming music video:

Dual Headed AFDB

While building an AFDB using a hardhat substrate is a valid, if somewhat harder to hide, method of beanie construction, connecting two of them together with an aluminumized tube that will allow psychotronic energies to be transmitted back and forth between two wearers is strongly unadvised. Yes, it will still protect you from most mind control, but do you really want some strange little Japanese kid piping his thoughts directly into your brain, nullifying your individual brain patterns and turning you both into a two-person hive-mind obsessed with Ultraman and sexual ambiguity? Try again, Brandon.

The next bad idea is from Mass Tram America, Inc. and is called The Highway In The Sky:

Highway in the Sky

They propose taking old Boeing 7x7 fuselages stripped of wings and tail fins, attaching them below monorail tracks hung from suspension cables on towers, and powering the whole system with solar cells and wind turbines. Even by monorail standards this is just daft. What happens when it bursts into flames and the cables melt? At least with traditional above-rail monorails the pedestrians below need only fear flying debris. When this system fails, the whole train will plummet to the ground like a streamlined bomb. And with no control surfaces, there's no way for the monorail captain to steer the flaming mass away from the innocents on the roads over which they propose to build these things. Try again, Mass Tram America, Inc. (perhaps by putting the repurposed fuselages safely inside tubes).

Lyle Zapato

Get Fuzzynoid

Lyle Zapato | 2006-06-24.7610 LMT | Belgian Conspiracy

Get Fuzzy, 2006-06-20

Darby Conley is at it again.

First he slipped the truth about Belgium (IT DOESN'T EXIST) into his Get Fuzzy comic, using the subversive technique of having his dim-witted character Satchel spurt it out, thereby providing plausible deniability should the NWO-aligned United Feature Syndicate bring him before their Star Chamber for questioning.

Next he raised awareness of AFDBs through his cat character Bucky, again deflecting the Syndicate's ire by showing an obviously flawed beanie design and having Bucky claim the hat was not for mind-control protection, but auguring.

This week's strips are devoted to Bucky's claim that England doesn't exist. This is, of course, not true. However, since Bucky usually has things partly right, but with the facts mixed up, it must be true that there exists a country that doesn't really exist -- Bucky has simply gotten the country wrong.

Conley has established that Satchel speaks the truth, even if unwittingly, while Bucky is an unreliable source of details who often expounds on topics where he has confused the subjects within the topic or with those of some other unrelated topic. They play the classical archetypal roles of the Wise-Fool and the Loud-Mouthed-Jerk, respectively.

I believe that Conley, having first planted the idea that Belgium is not altogether real in the heads of his orthonoidic readers, is now validating that idea through Bucky's confused version of reality (after waiting a year so the Syndicate won't notice).

Not since The Family Circus exposed the existence of transdimensional Shadow People (represented by Bil Keane as the "Not Me") has a comic strip done so much to further the cause of paranoia.

Radical Sasquatch

HOWL: THE TRUTH ABOUT GOLF!!!

Radical Sasquatch | 2006-03-07.1750 LMT | Sasquatch Issues

Human media reports that Human golfer TIGER WOODS uses a "SasQuatch" driver! Well, that's very nice and patronizing, MR. HUMAN, but how come NO HOMINOIDS ARE ALLOWED TO PLAY IN PROFESSIONAL TOURNAMENTS OR EVEN USE PUBLIC GOLF COURSES!?! Peer out of the forests onto any green and all you will see is HAIRLESS HUMANS!!! FUZZY ZOELLER wasn't very fuzzy, WAS HE!?!

What makes this situation even more of an INTOLERABLE ACT OF ANTI-HOMINOID DISCRIMINATION is the fact -- well known to everyone but IGNORANT HUMANS -- that GOLF WAS INVENTED BY HOMINOIDS!!!

Greymen -- known in Scots-howl as AM FEAR LIATH MÒR!!! -- have been hitting boulders into haggis holes with pinewood logs in the CAIRNGORM MOUNTAINS of Scotland since before you Humans were PAINTING YOURSELVES BLUE AND SQUEAKING ABOUT FREEDOM!!!

Humans took our sport -- no, our CULTURAL HERITAGE!!! -- and turned it into a joke! Hominoids would never wear POOFY PANTS and FLOPPY HATS WITH POM-POMS while playing golf! Traditional Hominoid golf should be PANTSLESS with optional DIGNIFIED TOP HAT!!! And what is the deal with the TINY, DIMPLED BALLS!?! Can you not hit a boulder 1000 yards?! What am I howling... OF COURSE YOU CAN'T!!!

But it is not enough to pervert our heritage, Humans want to DENY THAT IT IS OURS!!! The PGA, the INTERNATIONAL GOLF FEDERATION, and other Human secret societies bent on turning golf into a "Humans only" sport, have been involved for many years in a GLOBAL CONSPIRACY to deny the HISTORICAL FACT of golf's Hominoid origins, going as far as to ridiculously claim traditional Greymen fairways as "glacial formations"! THOSE ARE IMPACT DIVOTS, YOU CREDULOUS HUMANS!!!

Human golfers wanting to keep the game to themselves are also promulgating the LIE that Greymen golfers DON'T EXIST AT ALL -- that they are merely something called a "BROCKEN SPECTRE"! GREYMEN GOLFERS ARE NOT SHADOWS!!! They are flesh and blood athletes who simply want a chance at LUCRATIVE ENDORSEMENT DEALS!!!

HUMAN GOLF OFFICIATING BODIES, HEAR MY HOWL: Stop claiming that HOMINOIDS ARE OPTICAL ILLUSIONS and LET US PLAY!!!