The Daily Pick

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Man Who Didn't Destroy the World

Stanislav Petrov was the commander in charge of launching the USSR's nuclear weapons. On September 26th, 1983, the alarms in his bunker went off, and his computer indicated that five American nuclear missiles were headed towards Russia.

The protocol told him to launch the weapons. It was not an easy thing to ignore the protocol. Why not? Because he actually wrote it. This was all just a few weeks after Soviet forces had shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007. Whether that made Petrov more jumpy, indicated a response from western forces, or caused him to be sure about what he was supposed to do, he's not sure. But in any case, he waited.

Am I out of the loop? I hadn't heard of this before. Say what you want about whether the Cold War was overblown or what-have-you. This guy had the green light to destroy the world, and he decided to wait.

Stories from:

MosNews, The Washington Post, The Moscow News, Wikipedia, and finally, which has a timeline of events and a great audio clip from Petrov about how he remembers that day. Scroll down to the bottom of the page.
posted by The Daily Pick at 2:48 AM | link | 0 comments

As America's Waistlines Grow, so does Restaurant Furniture

Furniture makers are selling bigger chairs and tables to U.S. restaurants, an apparent accommodation to growing customers.

Chili's has begun testing more spacious eating spaces and was looking at installing tables up to 12 inches larger at future Chili's outlets. One chair manufacturer said his company is rethinking size -- as in making products bigger -- because customers are bigger. "Let's face it, America has an obesity problem," said Jerry Falk of Foldcraft Co. of Minnesota.

Link to Agenda Inc., who links to UPI.
posted by The Daily Pick at 2:41 AM | link | 0 comments

Monday, May 30, 2005

Eleven Steps to a Better Brain

This article from New explores some of the cutting-edge techniques in improving brain power, as well as some of the old tried and true:

Eat Breakfast

The brain is best fuelled by a steady supply of glucose, and many studies have shown that skipping breakfast reduces people's performance at school and at work.

But it isn't simply a matter of getting some calories down. According to research published in 2003, kids breakfasting on fizzy drinks and sugary snacks performed at the level of an average 70-year-old in tests of memory and attention. Beans on toast is a far better combination, as Barbara Stewart from the University of Ulster, UK, discovered. Toast alone boosted children's scores on a variety of cognitive tests, but when the tests got tougher, the breakfast with the high-protein beans worked best. Beans are also a good source of fibre, and other research has shown a link between a high-fibre diet and improved cognition. If you can't stomach beans before midday, wholemeal toast with Marmite makes a great alternative. The yeast extract is packed with B vitamins, whose brain-boosting powers have been demonstrated in many studies.

posted by The Daily Pick at 9:16 AM | link | 0 comments

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Postcards Updated

It's Sunday. Post Secret is updated.

posted by The Daily Pick at 8:38 PM | link | 0 comments

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Ben Peterson Makes His Pick: Lion Fight

Ben Peterson was the victim/recipient of last week's YOUR TURN TO BLOG! invitation. Ben sent this gem our way:

Of the several people who have sent me the popular Internet article (below) in the last few days, some respected the valiant effort and pride of the 42 little people, some respected the valiant effort of the lion; and still a few others respected the valiant effort and pride of a writer who would go to great lengths to win a bet.

The original webpage is here: Lion Mutilates 42 Midgets in Cambodian Ring-Fight
The apology is here: ***This article has absolutely no affiliation with the actual BBC
And the explanation is here:

Thanks Ben!

posted by The Daily Pick at 9:54 AM | link | 0 comments

Dinosaur Cartoons, Take Two

Earlier this week we posted Dinosaur comic strips brought to our notice by Grace Liu.

Now, Jenny Zhang has found a site that uses the same comic strips. However, in this case the dinosaurs are tools for English language classes in Japan and South Korea. These are every bit as funny as the originals.

Japanese students' work.
Korean students' work.

Thanks Jenny Z!
posted by The Daily Pick at 6:51 AM | link | 0 comments

Friday, May 27, 2005

Conversation During Lobotomy

Scroll down the page on this link to read an excerpt from Trepanation: History, Discovery, Theory. By Robert Arnott.

The long excerpt is a conversation between two doctors and a lobotomy patient during the actual lobotomy surgery.

Doctor: Glad you're being operated?
Frank: Yes, it makes me feel better.
Doctor: Why all the fuss?
Frank: Oh, I can't help it. I can't breathe. Hey, what are you doing there?

More about this in Adventures with an Ice Pick: A Short History of Lobotomy

posted by The Daily Pick at 11:40 AM | link | 0 comments

Amnesty International Report Slams Bush Administration

Amnesty International branded the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay a human rights failure Wednesday, calling it "the gulag of our time" as it released a report that offers stinging criticism of the United States and its detention centers around the world.

AI Report
posted by The Daily Pick at 10:02 AM | link | 0 comments

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Surviving with Wolves (and other animals):

I ran across this story first on the Weekend Stubble. Misha Defonseca was awarded over 22 million dollars by a Massacusetts court this month for monies due from her book Surviving with Wolves. Her publisher had not honored the contract of her best-selling European book, and the court awarded her triple damages.

Surviving with Wolves is a true-life account of Misha's experience during WWII and the Holocaust. She left her Belgium home at the age of seven and traveled all the way to Russia. Along the way she was adopted by two different packs of wolves.

That's a great story, I thought. And then, like Paul Collins (at Weekend Stubble) I thought "Raised by Wolves? What the hey?" And I also wondered how a child would go from Belgium to Russia, mostly alone, during WWII.

I don't have an answer to the second question, though I haven't read the book. I'm less skeptical about it though, as some research on the first question "Are children really cared for by wolves?" was addressed in a site called No joke. Dozens of examples of abandoned children aided by wolves, monkeys, even ostriches. Are these true? Some of them seem well-documented. Judge for yourself. Definitely a very intriguing read.

More about Misha's story here.
posted by The Daily Pick at 10:04 AM | link | 7 comments

Squirrel Girl Kicks Ass

Oh yeah. It's Squirrel Girl. She was only in one issue of Iron Man, but she has a bit of a cult following, especially on the Net. From The Unofficial Handbook of the Marvel Universe:

First Appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes III#8 (Winter, 1991)

Powers: Squirrel Girl is a mutant with several traits that are similar to or usually associated with squirrels. For one, she is extremely agile. She can also leap several stories. She possesses claws which allow her better grip for climbing. Her teeth and jaws are strong enough to rend wood. From the back of each hand, she can produce a retractable “knuckle spike” that has the same damaging capabilities as her teeth, and they are more combat-ready than her fingernails. Communicating with squirrels is another ability of Squirrel Girl’s. Squirrels she talks with will aid her, even attacking enemies’ en mass. Finally, she has a furry tail, a little over a yard (3 feet) long. Functionally, it was used to blind Iron Man in mid-flight as she held onto him. Further, she wears a belt with several large pockets attached to it, but they only carry a variety of nuts for herself, squirrels, and whoever may want any when offered.

Physical Description: Squirrel girl is a teenage-girl with claws and a three foot tail. On top of that, she has terrible eyeshadow. She grins a lot, apparently she's happy despite her uh, unusual lot in life.

History: (Marvel Super-Heroes III#8) - In the woodlands near Stark Enterprises, Squirrel Girl encountered Dr. Doom while on the way to meet Iron Man. Squirrel Girl jumped on a low flying Iron Man while he was testing an experimental radar system. After they both crash-landed, Squirrel Girl introduced herself and her abilities to Iron Man in order to win him over as a super-heroic partner. Unfortunately, Iron Man was not impressed, but before he could leave Dr. Doom disabled his armor and knocked him unconscious with a pulse-interruption ray. A tractor beam then hoisted all three of them into Doom’s flying craft.

Squirrel girl and Iron Man were both imprisoned within the same deathtrap; Iron Man was secured by energy draining bonds, but Squirrel Girl was unfettered within their prison. Spotting a vent, Squirrel Girl was able to open it and call for her squirrel friends. The squirrels jumped aboard the ship from the treetops, chewed through wiring, disabling Iron Man’s bonds, and attacked Dr. Doom. While he was being gnawed on, Iron Man and Squirrel Girl encountered Doom. Rather than meet defeat by squirrels, Doom opened an escape hatch, disappearing into a nearby river. Iron Man gave chase while Squirrel Girl waited shore-side but Doom escaped.
posted by The Daily Pick at 9:21 AM | link | 0 comments

Daily Pick Rearrange

I'm going to be rearranging some things on the Daily Pick this week. I lost some data, and now I'm moving some newer posts to some older dates. I'll be done with all this by Monday the 30th, and then no more tinkering. Thanks for your patience!
posted by The Daily Pick at 9:02 AM | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

McSweeney's Open Letters

There's always something good at McSweeney's. These little gems escaped my attention till now. They are called "Open Letters to People or Entities Who are Unlikely to Respond."

Some of them include:

"An Open Letter to the Gentleman at the Bar Who Asked if I Would Like a Piece of Him."

"An Open Letter to Whoever Broke Into My Car This Morning."

"An Open Letter to Keith Richard's Immune System."

"An Open Letter to My Low Cut Pants."

"An Open Letter to Officials of the United States Government Concerning What's New in My Reproductive Area."
posted by The Daily Pick at 9:14 AM | link | 1 comments

Quarlo's Photosnaps of New York City

Great color photos of New York City from
posted by The Daily Pick at 1:08 AM | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Dada Dinosaur

Daily Pick reader Grace Liu says:

"A friend of mine linked me to these dinosaur comics which I thought you might find pickworthy. The comics use the same graphic with changing text, sort of goofy and sort of philosophical. I haven't gotten through much of the archives, but I like these meditations on nihilism, self-doubt, stomping on things, and the mutability of language. Noteworthy links include Dadasaurus Rex, which taps six random panels to make one odd strip."
posted by The Daily Pick at 9:31 AM | link | 0 comments

Monday, May 23, 2005

Antarctica: Southern Lights

This is a picture of the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, taken by Jeff Cohen in Halley, Antarctica. Jeff is part of the British Antarctic Survey, who've been there since 2003. The photo galleries are here, the blog is here, you can meet some Emperor penguins here, and you see the other photo albums, including Jeff's training course and his trip to the Faulkland Islands here.

This site gets an A+. A wonderful use of the Internet.
posted by The Daily Pick at 12:55 AM | link | 0 comments

Sunday, May 22, 2005

YOUR TURN TO BLOG! -- Ben Peterson is On the Clock

Lysley Tenorio was last week's victim, and he came through with flying colors, posting a great link to Jollibee, the Phillipines number one fast food restaurant.

YOUR TURN TO BLOG! continues.

This is Ben Peterson's week. Is he up to the challenge? We'll know in seven days. I wonder what where Ben will steer us on the Daily Pick.
posted by The Daily Pick at 11:26 AM | link | 0 comments

Lysley Tenorio Makes His Pick

Last week we called on Mr. Tenorio in the first edition of YOUR TURN TO BLOG!, and, as expected, Lysley came through...

Who's bigger than McDonald's? Jollibee, that's who! Jollibee is the Philippines' #1 fast food chain, beating out Ronald McD himself, and one can see why: what Filipino would want a Filet-o-Fish when he can have a platter of SpaghettiJoy and a side of ChickenJoy? (That's what they're called. For real.) Jollibee, we salute you!

Thanks Lysley!

posted by The Daily Pick at 10:29 AM | link | 0 comments

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Postcards Redux has updated. Visit again. You'll be glad you did.

posted by The Daily Pick at 1:42 PM | link | 0 comments

Friday, May 20, 2005

Organic Farm Star Wars

One person the Daily Pick can always count on is Christine Texiera, who forwards this wonderful webfilm....

Yes, it's what you think, but not quite. The Organic Farmers Collective has created a Star Wars film entitled Store Wars, which explains the organic vs. pesticide produce wars of the early 21st century.

And it's really good. And funny. And it's got a great message. If you're a fan of organic food, of Star Wars, or if you're looking for just some solid entertainment, do check this efilm out. I definitely laughed out loud throughout it. The Ben Kenobi character in particular is priceless. Running time is around 15 minutes, and you can see it here.

Two screencaps:

Thanks again Christine! And Uncle David too!
posted by The Daily Pick at 11:44 AM | link | 0 comments

Thursday, May 19, 2005

More Post Secrets

Emails to the DP about Post Secrets are currently only trailing "More Cowbell." Thanks for the thanks. They do a nice job of updating at, so check them out whenever you need to share your secrets or someone else's.

posted by The Daily Pick at 8:16 AM | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Milgram Experiment

Okay, so this is from your Psychology 101 class:

In 1961, Dr. Stanley Milgram sets up a mock "experiment in memory." Two subjects are brought in, though one is actually an actor. The actor is hooked up to an electric shocking machine, and the real subject is told to shock him until the correct answer to a memory question is given. In many cases, the subject actually shocked the actor "to death." Most people have heard of this in one form or another.

So, Steve Elliott and I went to see Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room the other night. (Great movie) There were references to the Milgram Experiment, plus some rare footage, and it was really frightening. The statistics were that 60% of the subjects actually shocked the "learners" to death.

I wanted to know more about this. Not just the general, but the specifics. And who had the best explanation? Good ol' Wikipedia, that's who.

My observations on their explanation:

Teacher = Person administering the shocks (the subject, i.e. the real person);
Learner = actor receiving the fake shocks

-- The teacher was given an initial 45volt shock, so they would know what it felt like.
-- Not clear if teachers were informed that the 450volt equaled death, but that's when the experiment stops.
-- In the initial study, and the many, many studies that followed a consistent 61-66% of people administered the 450volt shock.

-- The Learner did not actually scream. Instead he would push a button that emitted a pre-recorded scream, relevant to each level of voltage. At some point he would bang on the wall and complain about his heart ailment, which he'd mentioned earlier to the teacher.
-- The volts increased by 15 volts. Presumably, this means that there were 27 shocks administered from start to finish.
-- No teacher stopped before 300 volts were administered. So, even if some people refused to kill, all the teachers still shocked the heck out of people

-- Milgram saw the conformity aspect different from the authority aspect. Or, at least he measured it differently. In the conformity experiment, he added two additional "teachers" (both actors) who could agree or disagree that the experiment would continue. In the 40 cases when both teacher-actors agreed that the experiments should continue, only 3 of the real people refused to shock anymore. Surprisingly, out of the 40 cases when both teacher-actors agreed that the experiments should stop, 4 of the real people actually continued on to the 450volt. Or, maybe this is not surprising.

-- Finally, this all began in 1961. I wonder if the rate would be different now. The experiment was pre-Watergate, pre-Vietnam War. On the other hand, it is post-911. If the rate is not changed, keep in mind that 3 of 5 people would kill another person for a minor violation of a memory experiment, simply because an authority figure told them "The experiment must continue" and "I'll take responsibility for this."

posted by The Daily Pick at 12:03 PM | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Romance Novels Retitled

This was an original post for my sister Kerri's birthday, on March 2nd. I knew Kerri would get a good laugh out of these. But, check it out, there's been an update since then:

Some guy named Longmire took to rewriting Romance Novel Titles. Then he asked for other people to do the same. These are hilarious. I wish I could post all my favorites here, but I'll limit myself to four. There are many more on Longmire's site. Longmire's titles are here. His reader's titles are here.

posted by The Daily Pick at 2:05 AM | link | 1 comments

Monday, May 16, 2005

Hyundai Customers Give Thumbs Down to Howard Stern

The Hyundai Corporation was recently deciding whether to partner with Sirius or XM to install satellite radios in their 2006 cars. So, they asked 400 current customers what they thought. As turns out, Hyundai executives were stunned by the number of "unprompted write-ins" stating objections to listening to Howard Stern. Stern is the highest-profile radio man on the Sirius network. Hyundai went with XM. From

posted by The Daily Pick at 8:14 AM | link | 0 comments

Sunday, May 15, 2005

One Man Safari Redux

No one works harder on the web than One Man Safari.

posted by The Daily Pick at 7:43 AM | link | 0 comments

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Bigfoot Video Sucks

I'm really pretty mad about this. "Oh, this is the find of the century!" "This proves it once and for all!" "I'm completely convinced now!" The Bigfoot video was finally released, and it's this blurry, and grainy, and sucky footage of what might be a Sasquatch and what might be a fisherman in waders. It could be your mama for all you could see in this sorry video. Anyways, it's here, though it's not worth your time.

My name is Disillusioned. The only confirmed sasquatch sighting this week is on this Canadian stamp.

posted by The Daily Pick at 10:08 PM | link | 0 comments

Friday, May 13, 2005

StoryCorps: A Look Inside

We ran a post about StoryCorps a few weeks back. Basically, it's an NPR project collecting narratives from around the country. Very similar to The Writer's Project of the 1930's WPA.

A photoblog is now up about the traveling project. It kind of looks like a Winnebago on the outside, but a diner on the inside. Thanks to 2020 Hindsight for its post about the project.
posted by The Daily Pick at 10:49 AM | link | 0 comments

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Nose + Word = Different Take on Smell

Research published in the May 19 edition of Neuron states that descriptive word choice has a huge effect on human's sense of smell. From

In their experiments, researchers led by Edmund T. Rolls of the University of Oxford presented subjects with a cheddar cheese odorant and showed them labels that read either "cheddar cheese" or "body odor." They found that the subjects rated the odor significantly more pleasant when it was labeled "cheddar cheese" than "body odor."
posted by The Daily Pick at 11:02 AM | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Star Wars Fans Make Best Movies writer Clive Thompson argues that Star Wars fans make much better movies than George Lucas. Check out Clive's links to some short fan flicks on Collision Detection.

posted by The Daily Pick at 8:13 PM | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

New Tom DeLay Billboard

This billboard is on display in Tom DeLay's home state of Texas. You can see more of these type things at Democracy for America and Blog for America.

posted by The Daily Pick at 10:08 PM | link | 0 comments

Monday, May 09, 2005

Secrets Revisited, including Poets Changing Professions

I really can't fully articulate how much I love this site. People make postcards from their secrets and confessions, then send them to Take a few minutes and visit. Great feeling and depth in all of these. A very noble and important use of the Internet. I think.

Hey Poets. Don't Despair. You could do both:

posted by The Daily Pick at 10:15 PM | link | 0 comments

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Bigfoot Update

The Fox news show, A Current Affair, has licensed the Bigfoot video I mentioned last week. The video will be shown on this week's show. For updates, navigate to BFRO, the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.

posted by The Daily Pick at 8:11 PM | link | 0 comments

Saturday, May 07, 2005

American Oral Histories, Past and Present, Preserved.

If you listen to NPR, you might be familiar with the National Oral History Project, also known as Storycorps. Basically, NPR set up two recording booths in Grand Central Station, New York and asked regular people to tell stories. The local and national branches of NPR then play some of the best ones on-air. Anyways, the recording booths are now in Washington, DC, and they'll soon be touring the country. So, if you want to check out the schedule, click here, and scroll down to the bottom of the page. The National Oral History Project will arrive in San Francisco on November 10th for two weeks.

StoryCorps is a project of Sound Portraits, which has a terrific library of oral histories from a variety of Americans. A quick search found stories from a civil war general, two children growing up in a ghetto, and the oldest male stripper.

All of these things are descendents from the WPA's Federal Writer's Program in the 1930's.

posted by The Daily Pick at 10:22 PM | link | 1 comments