March 21, 2014

Fact Friday #10 – Esperanto

Filed under: Fact Friday — Screenhog @ 1:06 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about Esperanto.

In the late 1800’s there was a man named Ludwik Zamenhof, who was fascinated by the idea of a world without war, where everyone would understand each other and work out conflict peacefully. For that to happen, he reasoned, the people of the world would all need to speak one language, and so he created a new language: Esperanto.

Zamenhof hoped that the language would be so easy to learn that everyone would start using it. Has that happened? Well, no, although there are some great things that Esperanto has going for it. Unlike English, where one letter can have multiple pronunciations, every one of the 28 letters in Esperanto has only one way to say it. (No spelling bees in Esperanto; if you hear the word, and you know the alphabet, you already know how to spell it!) The language is similar to many of the languages in Europe, meaning that many of its words are already familiar to you: country is “lando”, fast is “rapida”, and big is “granda”.

Despite only have a few thousand native speakers around the world, it is the world’s most successful constructed language. Esperanto has even shown up in popular culture: the British TV show Red Dwarf mentioned it frequently, video game Final Fantasy XI had a theme song with Esperanto lyrics, and there were two feature films made with dialogue entirely in Esperanto. One of them even starred Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner… which is ironic, because having a language like Esperanto all over the galaxy might have made interplanetary relations on Star Trek a lot easier.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

March 14, 2014

Fact Friday #9 – Eye Placement

Filed under: Fact Friday — Screenhog @ 1:01 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about eye placement.

I’m sure it comes as no shock to learn that your eyes are on the front of your head, but it may surprise you to learn that this actually puts you in the minority, because most creatures on earth – if they have eyes at all – do not have them on the front of their head.

Take birds, for instance. Most birds, with the exception of owls, have eyes on the sides of their head, giving them the advantage of being able to see almost everything around them. Some birds, like the woodcock, have their eyes placed so that they actually can see everything around them at the same time; they have complete 360 degree vision. Many reptiles, amphibians, and fish have them on the sides of their head too. Hammerhead sharks take it one step further; their head is shaped like the head of a mallet, with one eye sticking out each side.

It gets weirder than that, though. The Jackson’s Chameleon is a reptile that can move each eye independently, with both eyes looking at anything they want. Slugs and snails have their eyes on the ends of stalks that can retract. And then there’s the starfish. Starfish have simple eyes on the end of each arm. They can’t see much with them, but with enough eyes, they can at least know whether they’re close to home. And since some starfish have 50 arms… well, they have enough eyes to spare.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

March 7, 2014

Fact Friday #8 – Monotremes

Filed under: Fact Friday — Screenhog @ 1:00 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about the world’s most famous monotreme. (What’s a monotreme? We’ll get to that in a second.)

In 1798, a shipment from Australia arrived at the British Museum. It contained a number of stuffed specimens of a strange looking creature that had the bill of a duck, the body of a large mole, the webbed feet of an otter, and the tail of a beaver. The British Museum brushed it off as a fake, and not without reason. They were getting tired of receiving evidence of fake “mermaids”, which were actually monkeys whose bodies were cleverly attached to fish tails by taxidermists. Then, a few years later, they received a much better preserved specimen, and soon after that, a live one. The British Museum was forced to admit that the duck-billed platypus really did exist.

As it turns out, the platypus was even stranger than they thought. The male platypus turned out to have poisonous spurs on the back of its hind feet that it used to defend itself, and the female platypus could do something unheard of at the time. Despite being a mammal, the platypus lays eggs. Egg-laying mammals are called monotremes, and there are only two types of monotremes known to be alive today. One is the platypus of course, and the other is called the echidna, who is most known for his spiky fur and his long-standing rivalry with Sonic the Hedgehog.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

February 28, 2014

Fact Friday #7 – Hiroo Onoda

Filed under: Fact Friday — Screenhog @ 1:00 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about a Japanese man named Hiroo Onoda.

The year is 1942, it’s the middle of World War II, and a 20-year-old man named Hiroo Onoda joins the Japanese army. He is trained to be an officer, skilled in guerilla warfare, and after two years of training is sent to the remote Philippine island of Lubang. His mission? Stay on the island, holding it for the nation of Japan. Stay there at all costs, until a commander comes and tells you otherwise. So, that’s what Lieutenant Onoda did. Arriving in 1944, he commanded a small troop of Japanese soldiers and held the island of Lubang. But not for long… Onoda and his men were soon outnumbered by Allied forces, and fled to the hills, refusing to surrender.

The next year, 1945, was the year that World War II ended. Leaflets were dropped from the sky all over the Philippines, proclaiming the end of the war! But Onoda didn’t believe them. He thought they were propaganda, sent by the enemy, and so he stayed hidden in the hills with his troops. More leaflets were dropped, claiming to be orders from commanders to surrender, but Onoda and his men didn’t believe them either. Over the next dozen years, countless people tried to send messages to them, convincing them that the war was over, but each time, Onoda did not believe them and continued hiding. Onoda was eventually declared dead.

In 1974, a college student who had heard the story went on a mission to try and find Lieutenant Onoda, and he succeeded. Lt. Onoda was still alive, and was still following his orders, refusing to leave Lubang unless his commander ordered him to. So, the college student found Onoda’s original commanding officer from 1944, who flew to Lubang and gave Onoda his orders in person. On March 9, 1974, almost 30 years after World War II ended, the last Japanese soldier stopped fighting.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

February 21, 2014

Fact Friday #6 – Popeye’s Video Game

Filed under: Fact Friday — Screenhog @ 1:00 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about Popeye… the video game.

In 1981, the video game company Nintendo, was just starting to make arcade games, and wanted to make a game that would be just as successful as Pac-Man. How? Up-and-coming game designer Shigeru Miyamoto had a plan. He wanted to use Popeye (you know, the animated sailor who would acquire super-strength every time he ate spinach). He wanted to license Popeye, Olive Oyl (his girlfriend), and Bluto (his main rival) for an arcade game.

Nintendo started to make the game, with the story that Bluto had captured Olive Oyl, and it was up to Popeye to save her. Bluto wasn’t going to make it easy, though… Bluto hurled barrels and other obstacles down at Popeye, trying to get him. It was a great game idea, but the deal fell through… the rights holders for Popeye refused to let Nintendo use the characters.

Rather than stop there, Nintendo decided to switch out the Popeye characters for their own. Bluto turned into Donkey Kong, a big ape who had captured a girl named Pauline. Popeye turned into a jumping mustached man named Jumpman. Donkey Kong was released, and the game was a huge hit.

Jumpman, of course, didn’t keep his name for long. When Donkey Kong was released, Nintendo had just acquired an office in North America to handle translation and distribution of the game. The name of the landlord of that office was… Mario.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

February 14, 2014

Fact Friday #5 – Large Cells

Filed under: Fact Friday — Screenhog @ 1:00 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about large cells.

Every living thing is made out of cells. You have trillions of cells in your body with different shapes and sizes. Almost all of them are too small to be seen without a microscope, which might lead you to ask the question: what creature in the world has the largest cell? As it turns out, it depends how you measure it.

If you’re going for longest cell, it’s most definitely a nerve cell. Every nerve in your body is actually a single, very long, extremely thin cell. So, which animal has the largest nerve cell? Scientists aren’t sure, although the most common guesses are the giraffe, travelling from its head to its back, or the giant squid, along each tentacle.

If you’re looking for the heaviest cell, though, the answer is an egg. Any unfertilized egg, like the chicken eggs you get at the store, is actually a single cell. What animal has the largest eggs? Ostriches. Their eggs weigh over 2 pounds, and people do eat them, but if you want to eat one yourself, you’ll need two things: a big appetite, and a hammer. The big appetite is because one ostrich egg is about the size of two dozen chicken eggs. Why the hammer? Ostrich eggs are built to withstand the force of an adult ostrich sitting on it, so the recommended way to break it open is with a hammer and a chisel.

This has been Fact Friday. Bon appetit!

February 8, 2014

Sketch – Calvin and Hobbes

Filed under: Sketch — Screenhog @ 12:35 pm

For Christmas last year, I received the complete series of Calvin and Hobbes, a comic strip by Bill Watterson that ran from 1985-1995. It was amazing. The way that Mr. Watterson was able to breathe life, creativity, and character onto a simple comic page was amazing. There were a few times when I found myself wanting to press the Pause button, before catching myself and realizing “No, these are static images on a page; there is no pause button”. It took me back to my childhood – not that I was like Calvin, but I remember reading his comic strips (usually when I was supposed to be reading a novel of some kind).

I have rarely attempted to draw his characters, so I decided to do so last night.

On one hand, I’m sad that Calvin and Hobbes only ran for 10 years. Many great comic strips have lasted for longer. However, on the flipside, many great comic strips became stale the longer they went. Perhaps it’s best that Calvin and Hobbes ended at its peak, and that I can remember the comic strip as being perpetually cool.

February 7, 2014

Fact Friday #4 – Waterbenders

Filed under: Fact Friday — Tags: , — Screenhog @ 1:01 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today I’m gonna tell you how to be a waterbender.

If you’re not familiar with the term, waterbenders are from the show “Avatar the Last Airbender”. On the show, there are people who can bend certain elements, which basically means that they move certain things without touching them. Waterbenders can move water, firebenders can move fire, and so on. Wanna learn how to move water without touching it?

Step 1: Find a hairbrush.
Step 2: Find someone with hair. This will probably be you, but if not, I’m sure a friend will help you out for this.
Step 3: Brush hair with the hairbrush for at least 15 seconds. The longer, the better.
Step 4: Find a faucet. The bathroom sink works well.
Step 5: Turn the water on so that a very thin stream of water is coming out.
Step 6: Put the hairbrush near the stream of water, with the bristles almost touching the water.

If you do it right, the stream of water will bend toward the hairbrush. And, as an added bonus, you created a small amount of lightning in the form of static electricity when you brushed your hair, so technically that makes you a firebender too.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

January 31, 2014

Fact Friday #3 – Zorro and Bob

Filed under: Fact Friday — Tags: , , — Screenhog @ 11:28 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about Zorro… and Bob.

You’ve probably heard of Zorro. Created in the year 1919, Zorro was a sword-fighting, cape-wearing masked man dressed in black, a vigilante who fought for justice. The character started out in a series of stories, but just one year later in 1920, his first movie came out, entitled “The Mark of Zorro”. It was a huge hit, inspiring more stories, more movies, radio shows, and a Disney TV series.

The character also inspired generations of children, including a young boy named Bob Kane, who loved “The Mark of Zorro”. When Bob was in his twenties, he decided to create his own hero, a cape-wearing masked man dressed in black who fought for justice. DC Comics liked the character, and Batman was born.

The Batman comic went to surpass Zorro in popularity, but it never forgot its roots. In the origin story of how Bruce Wayne became Batman, young Bruce loses his parents as they leave a movie theater. What movie was the family watching? The Mark of Zorro.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

January 24, 2014

Fact Friday #2 – Sea Snails of the Roman Empire

Filed under: Fact Friday — Tags: , , — Screenhog @ 1:42 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about Sea Snails of the Roman Empire! Yes, really.

Let’s say you’re watching some show about the Roman Empire, and Caesar, the emperor, comes on screen. He will almost always be wearing purple. Why? Because in the days of the Roman Empire, the color of deep purple, also called Tyrian purple, was the hardest color to find. There was only way in the entire Roman Empire to get it: sea snails. The spiny sea snail that lived near the ocean secreted a tiny bit of purple dye, and if you got hundreds or even thousands of these snails together, you could eventually get enough dye to color an entire piece of silk purple.

It was hard to do and it was time-consuming. In fact, there were people in the Roman Empire whose entire job was just making purple cloth. (One of these people, named Lydia, is actually mentioned in the Bible.) The purple cloth was so rare, that only the richest people could afford it, and so when Caesar wanted to look majestic and regal, and wanted everyone to know how important he was, he’d wear his special purple robes.

So let this be a lesson to you. You want everyone to look up to you? Cover yourself in clothes that have been dipped in snail juice.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

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