Daddy Dearest

Making sure you're still there...
Making sure you’re still there…

To celebrate Father’s Day, I thought I’d follow my lead from Mother’s Day and look at a rugged daddy. I immediately thought of daddy Emperor penguins. These doting dads show insane patience with their teeny tiny charges.

It all starts in late May or early June, when the mama penguin shoots out an egg. The shell of the egg is extra thick as far as eggs go. That’s because the mama penguin is about to pass the buck.

The mama calls over the daddy and goes through a very careful egg-transfer process. This is the first test for the dad. If the egg is fumbled, the baby will most likely die before it has much of a chance to grow. The egg won’t crack, but the extreme cold of the ground will prove too much for the chick.

Regardless of what happens to the egg, the mamas are out of there like it’s Ladies Night down at the local beer tap. In this case, Ladies Night lasts for two months. Apparently pooping out an egg is more draining than any of us realized.

This means the daddy is left standing more or less in one spot, balancing the egg on his feet, drooping his flappy belly all over it for those same two months. It um, it takes a while for the baby to grow. They will have lost about half their weight during this time, all the while braving temps below freezing and winds as high as 120 mph.

Go. Dad.

Despite being emaciated at this point, the daddy penguin will squeeze something akin to cheese curd out of his esophagus to feed the newborn chick. Yum-O! This sustains the fledgling chick until the mama returns (hopefully) a few days later.

It is at this point that the daddy penguin finally gets relieved of duty. The now well-fed mama takes over baby holding duty. The hangry daddy penguin goes off on the mother of all fishing trips for about three weeks to pack on the pounds once again.

So let’s recap, shall we? The mama penguin poops out the egg, says “Woo, I’m tired,” and goes on a two-month eating binge. Meanwhile daddy penguin stands in one spot for TWO MONTHS with a silent egg and Chris from next door that talks WAY TOO MUCH.

Then, FINALLY, his little baby is finally born! It was all worth it! Hi, champ! Have some regurgitated cheese turds from my throat, although I’m deadly thin! But lo, here comes the mama.

Goodbye, baby I just saw born. I’m going to go eat for a few weeks. Maybe you’ll remember me when I finally get back. Who knows? At least the poor S.O.B. gets to finally eat, eh?

In the end, just like in real life, the kids are slowly coddled less and less. Eventually they are left to fend for themselves while mama and daddy penguin go off for some alone time. Then they can do it all over again next year! Yay?

So yeah, moms are pretty cool. Dads can be pretty cool too, though. Get it? Cool? They’re like, penguins? Sorry… Go daddy penguins!

And Happy Father’s Day to all. 🙂

Space: The Ultimate Hangout

"Leaving me... Ha ha, guys... guys?"
“Leaving me… Ha ha, guys… guys?”

When we first started hurtling people out into the cold vastness of space at 17,500 miles per hour, we didn’t leave them hanging up there for too long. How long astronauts got to live in space became longer as technology progressed and space stations became a thing. Also, some of the things we shot off into space both before and after haven’t necessarily dropped back with any expediency either. Let’s look at some numbers, shall we?

Things got a lot more comfy for astronauts around the time the Russian space station Mir was put into orbit. It was only a little longer than that before we started seeing some serious records set. In fact it was a Russian cosmonaut by the name of Valeri Polyakov who has the honor of staying up in space for the longest amount of time. Mr. Polyakov went up into space on January 8, 1994 and didn’t fall back down until March 22 of the next year, for a total of 437 days. Hope he had some good books to read.

The Mir space station was de-orbited in 2001, but the International Space Station continues to rock it in Earth orbit. First launched in 1998, the ISS continues to house brave men and women, having done so for nearly seventeen continuous years and making it the current record holder. Some estimate that the station could be useful for up to thirty years.

For the longest anything sent into space by man, we turn to the Vanguard 1. The satellite was launched all the way back in 1958 to obtain geo-something something… It measured scientific stuff. Despite losing contact with it in 1964, the little metal ball that could is still swinging around our big blue marble. It’s estimated it will continue to do that for at least two more centuries. Now that’s staying power!

The Mall That Would Be a City: The Mall of America

Does YOUR mall have an amusement park?
Does YOUR mall have an amusement park?

The Mall of America may not be the largest shopping mall in the world(it actually ranks only 33rd,) but it is unquestionably one of the most well-known. Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, the ever-growing mall sprawls across 4.87 million square feet, or 922 square miles. Within that area is a whole lot of history.

That history goes all the way back to 1956. That’s the year the Metropolitan Stadium (nicknamed “The Met”) opened it’s doors. It was home to the Minnesota Vikings and Twins teams until the Humphrey Metrodome opened in 1982. Four years later that an agreement was signed to build the mall. Groundbreaking on the project took place in 1989. The Mall of America opened in 1992, becoming the second-largest mall in the US at the time.

The mall is home to over 520 stores, three of them “anchor” stores. Amenities include over fifty restaurants to choose from and a Radisson hotel directly connected to the mall. There are also 14 movie theaters showing the latest movies in 3D. Go visit the Nickelodeon-themed theme park in the middle of the mall, or hang out at the smaller Crayola experience. Barring that, you can always buy tickets to visit the flight simulators or the Sea Life aquarium.

Never one to sit still, the Mall of America is on the grow. Construction is underway to increase the size of the mall. At least one extra attached hotel will be added, along with a Bass Pro Shops location. A full-sized ice rink and entire water park are also being planned. Additionally, there will be 200,000 square feet of added retail space. If all their plans come to fruition, the mall will effectively double in size. The mall would potentially become the third-largest in the world.

And since you asked… Yes, the mall has it’s own zip code. Why wouldn’t it?

 

Diversions: Walking in a Nuclear Wonderland

Fun for the whole family!
Fun for the whole family!

Fans of the Fallout series of video games will be familiar with the premise: The land has been devastated by nuclear Armageddon,  leaving an empty wasteland where few human beings may be found. Nature grows up to reclaim what was left behind as the old signs of civilization slowly crumble away. Oh, and radiation… lots of radiation.

Oops...
Oops…

This isn’t a video game, though. This is Chernobyl. You see, Russia started screwing with Ukraine a long time ago. That’s because Ukraine used to be part of the Soviet Union, and that’s where the Chernobyl nuclear disaster took place.

The disaster is the worst nuclear disaster in history, pegging as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale(fun reading.) On April 26, 1986 the #4 reactor at the nuclear power plant went critical. The resulting steam explosions released at least 5% of the reactor’s radioactive core into the surrounding atmosphere.

The result: Complete melt down of the core. Immediate radiation levels at the core registered at 30,000 RPH. 400 RPH is fatal after one hour of exposure. The heat from the radiation was such that it created a kind of radioactive lava underneath the reactor. The incident resulted in 31 deaths directly attributed to radiation exposure. Evacuation of nearby Pripyat did not begin until more than a day after the event.

That's... that's not normal.
That’s… that’s not normal.

It has been long enough since the event for radiation levels in Chernobyl and Pripyat to drop considerably. It will likely be quite a few more years before either area is safely inhabitable. Pripyat is relatively safe to visit now, but precautions have to be taken. Average exposure to radiation is equivalent to receiving a CT scan. That said, you want to keep your visit short and your eyes open. Certain areas and objects have shown radiation levels three times the annual allowed dose for radiation workers every five years.

So what I’m saying is, maybe you should just stick to exploring Fallout’s wasteland. You’ll probably live longer.

Standing Tall: The World’s Immense Statues

Now that is a big toe.
Now that is a big toe.

I’ve learned two things researching this post: Statues are apparently only measured by height(whatever happened to man’s obsession with length?), and that famous statues aren’t as big as we’d like to think. Let’s start with the second one.

I started off thinking that, say, the Mount Rushmore monument would surely be in the running for the largest statue in the world. Well, it’s not. Believe it or not, the faces are only sixty feet tall. The dearth of the girth: I was able to find zero information on the width of the monument, which may be one reason it’s not on “World’s Largest” lists. Height-wise, Mount Rushmore is the pits.

So what about the Sphinx? The sizable kitty certainly is taller at a height of sixty-six feet. I can actually say it’s an impressive 241 feet long, but it still doesn’t register in the top five largest statues. I have to wonder again about the whole tall-bias again.

Let’s give the US a shot again: The Statue of Liberty. The old gal stands much taller at an impressive 151 feet from base to torch. As incredible as that is, it’s less than a third the size of what’s considered the world’s tallest statue.

That record goes to the Spring Temple Buddha in China. It’s mind-boggling height adds up to 502 feet. That’s over forty stories tall. Even removing the height of the building supporting it, the statue itself still stands 420 feet tall, dwarfing the Statue of Liberty. That’s the statue’s toes pictured up there at the beginning of the post.

One Tough Mother

No, seriously, don't mess with mama.
This is one mama you definitely don’t want to mess with.

I heard today people were celebrating something. It had something to do with women I think. I’m not sure. Anyway, I had this weird idea to specifically focus an article on mothers… Specifically specifically cheetah mothers.

The first thing to understand about the toughness of cheetah mamas is that they are effectively single mothers. Cheetah daddies eff right the hell off after knocking up the mommies and are never seen again. They don’t have to wait long for company, however.

Gestation for cheetahs is a speedy three months. An average of three to five cubs plop out of mama and immediately become dead weight. She’ll literally drag and carry them from place to place for six weeks before the little freeloaders start walking there themselves.

Throw a capital F on freeloaders, too. It will be no sooner than six months before the little ones will start scoring their own small kills. Mama’s more… special cubs can take up to fifteen months to figure this whole killing thing out!

And providing for that many hungry mouths is no mean feat. Mother cheetah accelerates up to between 40 and 60 mph to capture the next family meal. The act is extremely draining, and can leave mommy dearest panting for up to an hour before she recovers enough to enjoy her meal.

Even then, she might not get to enjoy the fruits of her labor. Larger predators such as lions and especially hyenas may attempt to steal the kill, or even injure or kill one or more of her cubs. The mother cheetah will almost invariably allow the kill to be stolen in exchange for the safety of her and her cubs.

This grueling schedule continues for the mama for an average of thirteen to thirty months. The boys of the family, much like human boys, will wander off to form their own groups and find some fine booty to plunder. The girls will sometimes linger with mama, but eventually drift away as well.

Unlike human boys and girls, they stay away, abandoning the mama cheetah forever. All that work and mother cheetah is left to her own devices. She may eventually be rolled into another group only to be impregnated and left alone once again.

Now if you ask me, that’s one tough mother.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Opposite Day: Lower Case Capitals

Actual Size
Actual Size

Capitals are supposed to be the figurehead for a state, country or nation. It represents the best and the brightest the territory has to offer. Sometimes, whether it’s due to changing economic conditions or another burgeoning city siphoning population, some capitals end up not so impressive.

We’ll start off, as we so often do, in the US. Despite only being the eighth smallest state in the union, Vermont is home to the smallest capital: Montpelier. Having grown up a few miles from there, I can attest to this fact. Montpelier is small enough that it doesn’t even have a McDonald’s, making it the only state capital in the country not to.

Officially established in 1787, Montpelier quickly became a focal point for progress in Vermont. The city grew to become a center for manufacturing, leading to the introduction of the Vermont Central Railroad in 1849, thus cementing it’s status. Then it just kinda stopped at some point, I guess? Montpelier now boasts a population of only 7,855. In contrast, Burlington, VT has a population over five times that at 42,417.

The smallest national capital makes Montpelier look like a thriving metropolis in comparison. Ngerulmud (pronounced “en-something-something-mud”? I don’t know) in Palau is the smallest capital city in the world, with a thriving community of only 391 souls. The country as a whole has half the population of the aforementioned city of Burlington, VT. Why so tiny?

Well, it probably doesn’t help that Palau consists of 250 tiny islands. The country as a whole (all the islands together) consists of a mere 176.8 square miles. For comparison, New York City covers 469 square miles. It’s amazing they were able to squeeze anybody into Palau at all.

Fairy-tale Factoids!

Better hope those aren't extensions.
Better hope those aren’t extensions.

Welcome to the very first Fairy-tale Factoids! I thought it’d be fun every once in a while to look into the facts and figures that lay behind famous fairy-tales. I decided to start with Rapunzel. Does she really have the longest hair in the world? Let’s find out!

Rapunzel is a German fairy-tale collected by the brothers Grimm. The story was first published in 1812 in the collection Children’s and Household Tales. The tale could have roots (haha) that go back as far as 10th century Persia.

The original versions of the story are somewhat dark. Essentially, an enchantress takes possession of a man’s baby as payment for sparing his life and names it Rapunzel. Once Rapunzel reaches twelve years of age, the witch puts her in a tower with no stairs or door, and only one room at the top. Rapunzel is the most beautiful girl in the world, and the witch seeks to keep her for herself.

The witch gets into and out of the tower via Rapunzel’s long beautiful hair. One day a prince sees her do it and tries it himself. The two fall in love, yadda yadda. Instead of taking her away one day, the witch finds out and casts out Rapunzel after cutting off her hair. She tricks the prince into coming up and then promptly drops his ass back down, blinding him in the process. He eventually finds her in the woods and her tears fix his eyes because Visine hadn’t been invented yet.

You get the idea. The focus of our studies today is that famous long hair of hers. Just how long was it? Well, the original story doesn’t tell you. The end! Just kidding… For the sake of simplicity we’ll go with how long Rapunzel’s hair was in the 2010 movie Tangled: 70 feet long! So how does real life stack up against the fiction?

Well, that depends on the classification. The Guinness approved world record for longest hair goes to Xie Qiuping of China with 18 1/2 feet of hair. The record for longest dreadlocks goes to Asha Mandela. Her hair is over 19 feet long, with one dreadlock more than 55 feet long. Why dreadlocks don’t count as hair, I don’t know, but there you go. Both real life record holders come up well short of finding their princes.

I’m sure that’s small comfort to someone who’s been locked up in a tower all their life and been psychologically tortured for like, EVER. But, you know…

Hello Dolly Collection!

Divorce Barbie always gets the car.

Dolls have been around since ancient times, with written descriptions of dolls used as toys dating back to 100 AD. We’ve been collecting and displaying them almost as long. Some people get a little more crazy with their collections than others…

Take Bettina Dorfmann of Germany, for example. Guinness awarded her with the record for the largest Barbie doll collection in 2013. Bettina has 15,000 unique Barbie doll “items”. Yes, they’ve made at least that many. It took 19 years of dedicated collecting to get to this point, and she’s always looking to expand. The most expensive Barbie in her collection cost her $10,000: a “Barbie ponytail #1” with accessories and in mint condition.

The boys can participate as well, and still maintain their manhood. Mattel’s Masters of the Universe collection consisted of well over sixty action figures alone in the original run of toys. This does not include larger creatures or battle vehicles. The series was brought back after a lengthy hiatus with an even larger run.

These figures continue to be made and released as the “Classics” series that are aimed squarely at collectors. Prices can be sky high for these action figures that used to sell for as low as a few dollars at your local department store. Rarer specimens in mint condition can go for hundreds of dollars a piece, while a Wonder-bread promotional He-Man figure complete can start at $1,000.

Now might be a good time to plan a trip to the old attic.

Diversions: The Mütter Museum

The line to get in can get pretty long...
The line to get in can get pretty long…

Writing blurbs about the largest/biggest/tallest/oldest/etc-est is all fun and whatnot, but I think it’s time to branch out a wee bit. So I came up with the idea of Diversions. Essentially Diversions will consist of a random topic of interest. Come read about it here, then go off and explore on your own(just make sure to come back after!) Nothing’s more refreshing than some good-old exploration. 🙂

Face-off!
Face-off!

What better place to start than the Mütter Museum? Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Mütter was originally a collection donated by one Dr. Thomas Mütter in 1858. He freely donated the collection with the stipulation that The College of Physicians add to it and maintain it as a museum.

Besides being popularly known for just being all around “gross” and “icky”, the museum boasts an impressive collection of human skulls. There are also a number of human skeletons (including the tallest currently on display in the US) and “fetal anomalies”.

I win!
I win!

The museum is perhaps best known to the general public for a handful of side-showesque displays that are prominently featured. In fact, the subjects of one display used to be side-show all-stars. The conjoined liver and death cast of the famous conjoined “Siamese” twins Chang and Eng Bunker are on display.

Other oddities include slides of Albert Einstein’s brain, Grover Cleveland’s mouth tumor and tissue removed from assassin John Wilkes Booth. There are plenty of other less famous anomalies to be found, such as the “soap lady” and a rather gigantic colon that’s even spawned its own cute plush doppelganger.

So what I’m saying is, you know, fun for the whole family. Make sure you check it out!