From The Archives: January 2010

Barrel O’ Links: January 2010

Thirty-some-odd cubic feet of linky goodness:

  • God help us if Happy Gilmore gets his hands on this (RedFerret)
  • My favorite freshman photo blog of 2009 (1001Words)
  • Relampago del Catatumbo: a giant natural ozone factory (AtlasObscura)
  • The Great War of the Californias (SandowBirk)
  • Undoubtedly, by far, the most useful punctuation mark of all (Telegraph)
  • Dead Pixel In Google Earth (McWetBoy)
  • A hidden passageway makes the perfect gift! (HiddenPassageway)
  • Mr. Sun sez: stranger, it’s either me, or the cod liver oil… (SFGate)
  • You must use the Imagination, Luke (NYTimes)
  • Larry Sprinkle, Dallas Raines, and other ridiculous weatherman names (SFGate)
  • Coming soon to an ATM near you (KrebsOnSecurity)
  • The best self-referential nerd comic strip that ever shall be (XKCD)

Kung Fu Typing

Keyboard Finger Movement Diagrams

A nice white keyboard.If you’re one of the fortunate few who’s successfully completed a typing class, dance those ballerina fingers across the keyboard, you lucky devil!

As for Yours Truly, teenage peer pressure kept me from riding the touch typing train.  Per the sexist suppositions of way-back-when, before computers went mainstream, keyboards were for secretaries, and secretaries were female!  Dudes just didn’t do that kind of thing.

Sans guidance, out of the pecks of a ten-year-old computer programmer, my keyboard technique evolved organically.  Today, at maximum caffeination, via a curious set of finger contortions, I can knock out 55 words per minute – not blazingly fast, but adequate for whatever the typing need…

That is, until I got a Blog!

Now, every morning, I spend three hours making a biggest pile of words that I can muster.  Then, my Blog runs in, gulps it down whole, belches, grins, and enthusiastically inquires:

Thank you, sir, may I have another?  Please please please?!

A responsible Blog owner keeps his animal well-fed, but would a semester of Touch Typing 101 do the trick, or did I simply have to work harder?  I fired off a probing tweet in the direction of my technical staff, for certainly, they could help me with the answer.

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Color Me A Dinosaur

The History Of Crayola Crayons, Charted

First, Pluto got a demotion.  Then, surfing the FM dial, I heard a Styx song on the oldies station.  And just yesterday, park-side, a nanny chided me:  “Star fish?  No, kids call those sea stars nowadays.”  Oh, really?

Denial worked for a while, but honesty’s time had come.  “Okay,” I said to myself, “admit it.  Once, you were a cool dude, but he got eaten by your inner dinosaur.  Now, go roar, or something.”

Lumbering homeward with my sons, doubt swirled about my tiny Stegosaurus brain.  I quite liked my Jurassic bubble of backwardness, but was I raising my brood in it, too?

As we strolled down the sidewalk, we happened upon a stray green crayon.  My kids still doodled with the familiar hues of my youth, but did other children?  Or had they ditched that stupid stuff for a new-and-improved, perceptually-optimized, ISO-12647-2-compliant wax-based coloring system?



Us Stegosauri can’t type, unless we have something pointy attached to our feet.  That evening, thankfully, my boys duct-taped a couple of pencils to my toes, and thus equipped, I hunted-and-pecked across the Internet Dot Com and eventually landed on the web site of Crayola, the undisputed King Of Crayons.

Crayola’s crayon chronology tracks their standard box, from its humble eight color beginnings in 1903 to the present day’s 120-count lineup.  According to Crayola, of the precious crayons of my childhood – the seventy-two colors from the official 1975 set – sixty-one survive.  Today, each is loved to nubs by kids worldwide, just like when I was a sprout.  Woohoo!  Maybe I’m slightly less ancient than a dinosaur – a woolly mammoth, perhaps?

The next day, I gave my buddy Velociraptor a ding-a-ling, and true to form, he yakked his hyperactive yakkage – until I mentioned the crayons.  Five quick claw taps rang out from the phone, then silence, a hiss of “check your email,” and click!  The line went dead.  Good ol’ Velo’s sharp as a tack, but he’s also that way, if you know what I mean.

Three minutes passed, and “bing!”  Oh, a message from, let’s see… with an image attached, labeled Crayola Color Chart, 1903-2010:

Velo's Crayola Color Chart, 1903-2010

Velo's Crayola Color Chart, 1903-2010

To create the chart, Velo gently scraped Wikipedia’s list of Crayola colors, corrected a few hues, and added the standard 16-count School Crayon box available in 1935. 

Except for the dayglow-ski-jacket-inspired burst of neon magentas at the end of the ’80s, the official color set has remained remarkably faithful to its roots!

Ever industrious, Velo also calculated the average growth rate: 2.56% annually.  For maximum understandability, he reformulated it as “Crayola’s Law,” which states:

The number of colors doubles every 28 years!

If the Law holds true, Crayola’s gonna need a bigger box, because by the year 2050, there’ll be 330 different crayons!  Shortly thereafter, frazzled packaging designers rejoice, for to the rescue comes a revolution in household appliances: the new-fangled Replicator-Dissociator!  Load it with the Crayola plugin, and you’re seconds away from every shade in the rainbow – no boxes required!

At the dinner table in 2100 AD, great-great-grandson John might ask:

Hal, could you use this leftover broccoli to make five crayons, spaced evenly between Pantone 205 and hex f8b3a2, inclusive, please?

To which Hal will reply:

Most certainly, John, I can do that.
Would you like a dinosaur coloring book, too?

See Dick And Jane Streets

Find The Roads With Your First Name

Could you be described as a first grader?  The parent thereof?  A map geek?  A goofball?  Someone who, when visiting the souvenir shop, compulsively searches for their name in the rack of miniature license plates?  If so, read this article!

Once upon a time, I lived in Oakland, California, near a tidy stripe of pavement called John Street.  After the birth of my son John, who took my middle name, we’d occasionally roll by.  I’d holler “Hey, look, it’s John Street!”, and even though he couldn’t read the signs, giggles and chuckles would invariably ensue.John Street

Shortly after our move to Santa Cruz, we found a John Street there, and a few weeks ago, another in San Francisco.  Gosh, roads named John seemed pretty common!  Upon that realization, the geography dork sitting on my shoulder had something to quantify: how many existed, altogether, and where, exactly?

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