First in Flight, Twice Over 

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

With any luck, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter will fly from the surface of Mars next month. Its main purpose is to test and demonstrate the technology, but even so, it’s going to be pretty incredible. When Ingenuity flies above Mars, it will be the first known powered flight on a planet besides Earth.

To mark that occasion, NASA included a tiny scrap of muslin underneath Ingenuity’s solar panel. The fabric came from the Wright Flyer, the craft which made humanity’s first powered flight here on Earth.

Eldest Mouse the Lawyer Cat, Esq. 

Monday, March 29th, 2021

It’s rare that I link to long-form videos, but when I do, I believe they’re worth your time. When you have a spare 10 minutes, enjoy the an in-depth look at how and why last month’s hilarious Lawyer Cat came to be.1 The New Yorker did a really great job diving deep on this.


Footnotes:

  1. The full explanatory video is archived here. ↩︎

An Incredible Act of Kindness 

Friday, March 26th, 2021

Earlier this month, restauranteur Steve Chu received a request from a customer via email:

One of his customers had terminal cancer, and her son-in-law wondered if it would be possible to get the recipe of her favorite broccoli tempura entree so he could make it for her at her home in Vermont.

He did much, much more. If you’re anywhere near the Baltimore area, check out Ekiben to keep them going strong. They clearly deserve your business, and I’m hoping for my own chance to visit in the future.

Oily Pennies in the Driveway 

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

When I was in eighth grade, our class “hosted” the school dances attended by all the middle schoolers. We collected the ticket fees, using them to fund a class trip at the end of the year. However, at some point, a petty tyrant grew concerned that each eighth grade student ought to contribute an equal amount toward that trip. They thus decreed that even if an eighth grader did not attend a dance, they still had to pay the $4 entry fee.

When a friend and I skipped a dance (to see the movie “Mars Attacks!”, if I’m not mistaken), we were thus ordered to pay $4 each after the fact. Being made to purchase a ticket for a dance we didn’t go to sat poorly with us. We decided to gather up 400 pennies each and dump them on the teacher in charge of all this. Sure, it was juvenile, but we had a good excuse: we were 14.

If you’re an adult business owner who employs others, this sort of thing is much more difficult to justify. And yet, one Miles Walker of Georgia decided to use 91,500 pennies to settle a debt he owed to a former employee. To top it off, Walker apparently oiled the pennies. That is low.


Update (April 2, 2021): In a staggeringly obvious PR move, Coinstar agreed to help the recipient of those oily pennies. They gave him the cash, and also made a matching donation to two Atlanta-area charities. In so doing, they earned this small bit of free advertising.

Krispy Kowards

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

On Monday, I saw a headline noting that Krispy Kreme was offering free doughnuts to anyone who showed a COVID-19 vaccination card. While I’m incredibly eager to be vaccinated, I’m not yet eligible. Thus, I found this promotion slightly exasperating, as it was taunting me about two different things I can’t yet have.

This was, admittedly, stupid. While I do think it’s reasonable to want to be vaccinated immediately, a free doughnuts is just a free doughnut, and I can shell out to buy one of those if I want. Also, the nearest Krispy Kreme is hundreds of miles away after their big time flop here in the birthplace of Dunkin’ Donuts. So fine, whatever. I moved on.

Then I saw this from Krispy Kreme’s promotion FAQ:

We understand that choosing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is a highly personal decision. We advise all employees and guests to consult with their healthcare provider regarding whether to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination and which vaccine to receive after reviewing the available information. If you have made the personal decision to not receive the COVID vaccine, please visit us on Mondays, 3/29/21 – 5/24/21, to receive a free Original Glazed® doughnut and a medium brewed coffee to get your week off to a good start.

Yes, it seems Krispy Kreme wanted to appease anti-science forces as well, elevating misguided and baseless thinking to the level of “a personal decision”. Predictably, this carve-out didn’t work. Because no depth of stupidity is too low for someone to sink to, anti-vaxxers still lashed out at the doughnut maker.

The science on the COVID-19 vaccines is very clear, and it should not be controversial to encourage people to get vaccinated. That’s beneficial for society. Playing both sides, on the other hand, is cowardly and harmful to society. Next time, just stay on the sidelines, Krispy Kreme.

For the rest of us? Stay home. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated.

Stopsign: Please Stop Never Stopping 

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

Thanks to an email from friend-of-the-site Ben T., I spent a few minutes today watching a live stream of a stop sign in Salem, MA. Thousands of other people did too.

If you want a perfect demonstration of just how bad Massachusetts drivers really are, tune in to this ridiculous live stream right here. What else do you have going on?

“Vasectomy Mayhem” Does Not Sound Super Professional 

Monday, March 22nd, 2021

Here is a brief list of facts:

  • The annual NCAA men’s college basketball tournament is often referred to as “March Madness”, a trademark the NCAA owns.

  • The NCAA also owns a trademark on “March Mayhem”, though it does not appear they use in any way.

  • Because of the popularity of the tournament and the number of games broadcast on TV throughout the day, March is a peak time for doctors performing vasectomies.

Now we come to our story, wherein the NCAA is fighting the Virginia Urology Center, after the latter ran a “Vasectomy Mayhem” promotion. Trademark law often rest on whether two different names might be confused with one another, or imply some association between them. That seems more than a little ridiculous. As one wag put it, the NCAA must have a pretty cocky lawyer.

Let’s give the final word on this to aptly-named trademark lawyer Eric Ball:

Ball told Law360 that the TTAB case over “Vasectomy Mayhem” was an “overreach” but probably effective. “This level of aggressiveness acts as an inoculation to make others think twice before using any advertising that allude to the big event. If they succeed in scaring away the fair use, then they save the cost of having to bring another weak claim.”

Banana Ball 

Friday, March 19th, 2021

Recently, friend-of-the-site Oliver Y. alerted me to a hot new sport sweeping the nation a modified version of an existing sport that’s locally popular in southeastern Georgia. That’s where a team called the Savannah Bananas play Banana Ball, a variant of baseball where fans can catch foul balls for outs, walks are now sprints, and there’s a strict two-hour time limit.

Check out this video, where Bananas owner Jesse Cole runs down the rule changes. I never need to see another mound visit for the rest of my life, so bringing at least a couple of these revisions to Major League Baseball would be just fine by me.

Banana Ball is unlikely to replace baseball any time soon, but I’d love to take in at least one game. While I won’t be able to catch their 2021 one city world tour, tickets are still available if you’re going to be in Mobile, Alabama on March 27.

Salmon Chaos

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

I have a lot of questions about this story of dozens of Taiwanese people changing their last name to “salmon” in order to get free food.

Questions about this strange Taiwanese all-you-can-eat sushi promotion

  • Just how little work is it to change your name in Taiwan?

  • How did the government decide that the number of allowable name changes would be three?

  • After a name change, how quickly can you obtain a new ID, with your new fish-based name?

  • Would former Major Leaguer Tim Salmon qualify for this promotion?

  • The promotion provides “an all-you-can-eat sushi meal along with five friends”. Does that mean the name-changer gets free food, provided they bring five paying friends (rather steep)? Or that up to six people, including the name-changer, get free food (rather bad business)?

  • When you’re done with this foolishness, do you change back immediately, thereby leaving yourself with just one more name change available? Or do you rock the salmon name for awhile, so you have two more changes remaining?

  • At a glance, this promotion seems to be poorly thought out on many fronts. Then again, it’s now leading to a ton of free press. On the third hand, the aforelinked article doesn’t even mention the chain (“Sushiro”) that offered this promotion by name.

    Regardless, I’m glad they did it, because it adds to the weirdness of the world in a wonderful way.

“Einstein Cafe” Is a Curious Name, for Many Reasons 

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

I don’t think it’s really the place of governments to squash idiotic fads. Still, the apparent craze of adults drinking iced coffee out of baby bottles in the Middle East is very, very dumb.

I should note that while this activity is purportedly very popular, I’ve yet to find a single picture of actual adults drinking from one of these bottles. Every mention of this is accompanied by the same picture of this masked server:


Perhaps the people engaging in this are savvy enough to know they’re best off not being photographed in flagrante delicto? Also, come on! That bottle literally says “It’s for baby”.