Author Archives: Jon Lowder

1NT: Roland the Farter

Good to know that at least one man in history has made a living via his flatulence:

Roland, court minstrel to 12th century English king Henry II, probably had many talents.

But history has recorded only one.

Referred to variously Rowland le Sarcere, Roland le Fartere, Roland le Petour, and Roland the Farter, Roland really had a single job in the court: Every Christmas, during the court’s riotous pageant, he performed a dance that ended with “one jump, one whistle, and one fart”, executed simultaneously.

For this, Roland was gifted a manor house in Hemingstone, Suffolk, and more than 100 acres of land. 

1NT: Hot Bees

Ever wonder how bees stay warm in the winter? It’s kinda cool:

In the winter, honeybees cluster together in a ball roughly the size of a basketball. By flexing their wing muscles (the same muscles they use to fly), they are able to generate warmth and hold the cluster at about 85-90 degrees. The bees take turns shifting from the inside to the outside of the cluster so that everyone can stay warm. The queen is always kept at the center of the cluster.

1NT: Flu Down

One fairly predictable side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic: cases of the flu are down drastically this year. From the Wall Street Journal:

Clinical laboratories tested 22,474 patient samples, mostly nasal swabs, for influenza during the week ended Dec. 5, and only 40, or 0.2%, came back positive, according to data from the CDC. During the same period last year, more than 11% of over 41,000 samples were positive.

The number of positive flu samples at U.S. public health labs is also lower than in years past, according to the CDC data. These labs are currently processing more patient samples than in previous years because of the explosion of testing for Covid-19...

In the Southern Hemisphere, Covid-19 precautions practically wiped out the flu this year, offering hope for a lighter flu season in the U.S. and Europe. It wasn’t certain whether the season in the U.S. would follow suit, but influenza’s spread in the country appears to be following a similar pattern.

Obviously, it isn’t sustainable to shut down our public gathering places every flu season, but hopefully this is the evidence we need to change our adjust our behavior in public, especially during flu season. In other words, maybe wearing masks, diligently washing our hands, and coming up with ways to greet each other besides shaking hands should become our cultural norm.

1NT: No More Musty Washer

An ingenious and easy way to battle the mustiness of your front loading washer:

While I initially envisioned just setting a container of DampRid at the bottom of the washer, I discovered they also make a bag version with a hanger at the top designed to hang from a clothing rod. Hmmmmmmm. Hmmmmmmm? For about 15 minutes I thought I might be able to come up with a way to hang the bag from the gasket somehow, and then it hit me. MAGNETS.

Link

1NT: Dillon’s Rule

In most US states local municipalities can only pass ordinances or laws with state permission. From Wikipedia:

In the United Stateshome rule refers to the authority of a constituent part of a U.S. state to exercise powers of governance delegated to it by its state government. In some states, known as home rule states, the state’s constitution grants municipalities and/or counties the ability to pass laws to govern themselves as they see fit (so long as they obey the state and federal constitutions). In other states, only limited authority has been granted to local governments by passage of statutes in the state legislature. In these states, a city or county must obtain permission from the state legislature if it wishes to pass a law or ordinance which is not specifically permitted under existing state legislation.

Forty of the fifty states apply the principle known as Dillon’s Rule in some form to determine the bounds of a municipal government’s legal authority.[1] The National League of Cities identifies 31 Dillon’s Rule states, 10 home rule states, 8 states that apply Dillon’s Rule only to certain municipalities, and one state (Florida) that applies home rule to everything except taxation.[2] Each state defines for itself what powers it will grant to local governments.

1NT: NC Pandemic Unemployment Benefits

During the COVID-19 crisis millions of people became unemployed and Congress responded by passing the CARES Act which, among other things, provided extended federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for folks in addition to the UI benefits provided by their states. The two types of federal assistance are pandemic emergency unemployment compensation (PEUC) and pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA). PUA benefits are primarily for the self-employed and independent contractors. Here are some North Carolina numbers from an article in the Winston-Salem Journal:

  • $8.16 billion in state and federal UI benefits were paid from late March through Sept. 30
  • $670 million were paid from Oct. 1 through December 5, indicating that many people have exhausted their benefits
  • 31% of the 4.35 million North Carolinians considered part of the state’s workforce as of mid-October have filed a state or federal unemployment claim, according to DES.
  • North Carolinians, at most, could have collected 34½ weeks of state and federal UI benefits, broken down as: 12 weeks of regular state-funded benefits; 13 weeks of federal pandemic emergency unemployment compensation; and between six to 9½ weeks of federal extended benefits.
  • Unemployment insurance recipients who qualified for up to 22½ weeks of federal extended UI benefits likely began exhausting them in early November. Most of the rest will be done Dec. 26 unless an extension is passed by Congress during its current lame-duck session.

1NT: 11 Minutes Offsets All-Day Butt Sitting

According to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine as little as 11 minutes of exercise can offset the negative effects of sitting on your posterior all day.

The study, a meta-analysis of nine other studies tracking nearly 45,000 people, found that those who were most sedentary risked dying prematurely. But even when people sat as much as 8.5 hours a day, getting just 11 minutes of moderate exercise significantly cut that risk. Thirty to 40 minutes of exercise was even more helpful.

“It doesn’t matter if you accrue it in 30 minutes or one-minute bouts over 30 occasions,” says Keith Diaz, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University and one of the coauthors of the study. “The guidelines historically used to recommend that it had to be 10 minutes or more time, and we found that that’s just not the case. Any movement, no matter what duration, is beneficial, as long as you accrue enough of it.” 

1NT: Cap’n iPhone

Who knew that you can draw a direct line from Cap’n Crunch to the development of the iPhone? From Today I Found Out:

One such prize was offered by Cap’n Crunch in the 1960s: a seemingly innocuous whistle. Styled after naval bo’sun whistles used to transmit orders on a sea vessel, the plastic instrument happened to be able to produce a tone at exactly 2600 hertz. This is important because AT&T phone systems functioned on a series of tones that indicated which line was to perform a given action. Producing the right tone at the right time gave one control over part of the system, such as the ability to make free long-distance calls.

The culture that grew around learning to manipulate this infrastructure became known as “phreaking.” One of the most important phreakers was John Draper, who was not coincidentally aliased “Captain Crunch”, thanks to the aforementioned whistle. Moving beyond whistles and instruments, Draper, along with several others, ultimately constructed what came to be known as “blue boxes”- devices capable of emitting the various tones necessary to take advantage of AT&T phone lines in various ways.

Phreaking was arguably the beginning of what would later develop into the computer hacking subculture. Among the members of this burgeoning group were two young men who were inspired by John “Cap’n Crunch” Draper, sought him out, and learned his whistling ways. Of course, these two took it a step further when one of them realized that they could monetize the concept.

Their names were, of course, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs (founders of Apple), who created their first business together making these blue boxes, which were incredibly valuable not just for prank and free calls, but also to criminals the world over thanks to the fact that the free calls could be made in such a way as to be incredibly difficult to trace.