A Look at WikiHow’s Bizarre Art 

Friday, January 24th, 2020

WikiHow is home to countless how-to guides, many of them strange or seemingly unnecessary. The strangest thing about the site, however, is surely the frequently bizarre illustrations. The site is packed with literally millions of drawings in a style that is difficult to describe. Give the “Random Article” link a click or two, and you’ll undoubtedly hit something that’ll stop you in your tracks, like this doozy from “How to Teach Your Child Good Interpersonal Communication Skills”:


That child is missing at least part of its face.

Over at OneZero, Peter Slattery has gone deep on the origins of WikiHow’s illustrations, and it’s fascinating.

An Unreasonable Burden 

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

$25,000 is an awfully steep price for a couple of one-way train tickets, but that’s what Amtrak quoted Access Living, a disability service and advocacy center in Chicago.

Music for Iguanas 

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Spotify’s new “Pet Playlists” aren’t an exact science, nor actually any kind of science at all, but they are a goofy kind of fun.

Immortalized in Google Street View 

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

Google Street View is powered by an army of cars driving around the globe. Those vehicles capture images of streets and buildings, but they also catch people out in the world. For a few, it just might be the last photo ever taken.

They Break It, We Buy It 

Monday, January 20th, 2020

Climate change may still be up for debate in Texas, but oil companies there firmly believe their facilities should be protected from sea level rise, on the taxpayers’ dime.

Some Wolves Will Play Fetch 

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Scientists in Sweden have just published a study showing untrained wolf pups can fetch a ball, like a domesticated dog.

This is the first evidence, reported Thursday in iScience, of this kind of responsiveness in untrained wolves, Dr. Hansen Wheat said. “To my knowledge, nobody has tested play behavior in wolves before,” she said.

Fascinating. Of course, it’s also possible that some scientists have attempted to test play behavior in wolves before, and they didn’t make it out alive.

Hopefully They Didn’t Grade on a Curve 

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

If Wolf Cukier had to write a “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay this past fall, he definitely earned an A+.

That’s Amazing 

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

Last night, the fourth and final episode of Jeopardy’s “Greatest of All Time” tournament aired, with Ken Jennings claiming the title after winning his third match victory. However, the answer was obvious much earlier, when the following appeared on second-place finisher James Holzhauer’s Twitter feed following Jennings’s took his second match by a wide margin:

Ken’s response is completely, wildly inappropriate, and yet also simultaneously, totally innocuous.

Fun With Checks

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

At this point in time, checks are a very stupid method of payment. For many years now, upon receiving a check, I’ve deposited it by taking a digital picture of it with my smartphone. At a bare minimum, the person sending me a physical paper check could instead have just emailed me a digital picture of the check. Far less ridiculously, though, we could just cut the entire paper part out of this.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that the internet exists, checks remain a relevant tool in the 21st century. Given that, we may as well at least have some fun with them. Fans of my on-an-extremely-long-hiatus podcast “Just The Tip1 may remember that my co-host Amy has some amazing personal checks. We call them pizza checks:

A personal check featuring a cartoon pizza chef in the upper left
It’s just so good.

Despite what her checks might imply, Amy does not own a pizzeria, nor even a chef’s toque.

After seeing this delightful nonsense, I knew I had to step up my own check game. When I needed new checks awhile back, I spent some time scanning through the images which could place in the upper left corner, where the pizza chef is seen above. There were many dull options like a stylized initial (“P”), but I was looking for something with comedic value.

The first thing I considered was this truly ancient computer:

Ancient PC check
The CRT really dates this.

The collegiate logos section offered me the possibility of having “Ball State” checks. At best, though, that was worth a juvenile chuckle:

Ball State Logo check
The logo ruins what’s already a very, very weak joke.

I also contemplated getting something goofy like a monster truck, which would surely appeal to all those 7-year-olds to whom I write checks:

Monster truck check
This is really pretty sweet.

Ultimately, though, I wanted to see if I could come up with something that wasn’t quite so derivative of Amy’s glorious pizza checks. It was in this pursuit that I stumbled upon the “Expressions” section of the check ordering website. Expressions are simple lines of text (and the occasional small image), offering up banal statements like “I ♥ Baseball”:

I love baseball check
I assume the actual physical checks would have higher quality printing than their terrible mockup does.

While I do enjoy baseball, my checks don’t need to advertise that fact. I’m also not interested in having my checks say “God Bless America”, “I’d Rather Be Gardening”, or “Save the Planet”. There were almost 250 different possibilities for an “Expression”, and they were almost uniformly terrible.

However, after much poking around, I stumbled on the “Miscellaneous” section. There, I found the single most ridiculous option I could imagine. As soon as I saw it, I knew I’d found my perfect check. I quickly finished my order, then set up a tent by the mailbox so I could camp out and wait for them to arrive.

Just a few days later, these beauties showed up:

A check that says ‘I need a hug’.

Yes friends, whether I’m filing my taxes with the IRS or paying a plumber, each and every check I send lets the world know that I need a hug.

I don’t know why this option exists. I don’t know who would order it with any degree of sincerity. What I do know is that these preposterous checks have now given me years of enjoyment. The thought of folks being utterly confused upon receiving one of these is a true source of joy each time I write a check. That joy has helped offset, if not eliminate, the annoyance at the fact that I’m still writing checks.


Footnotes:

  1. The show’s not dead until one of us is. ↩︎

Gotta Support The Team 

Monday, January 13th, 2020

It’s very cold in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and it snows a lot. To handle this snow when a football game is scheduled, the Green Bay Packers often pay fans to come out and help shovel out their stadium.