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Monty Python Turns 40

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. To celebrate, we should all say “Ni!” (which is a lot easier to say than “Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptang Zoo Boing Zow Zing“).

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Man Eats Nothing But Cheese

We’ve had struggles getting our older son to broaden his diet but this guy is an extreme case of picky eaters:

Dave Nunley eats a half-pound of grated cheddar cheese each day. And nothing else. He’s 29 and has been eating this way since he was a toddler.

Except for a very occasional bag of chips and some breakfast cereal he hasn’t really eaten carbohydrates since infancy.

Reminds me of a bad joke: What do you call a cheese that’s not yours? Nacho cheese.

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What mathematicians see at the movies

Samuel Arbesman describes what mathematicians see when they watch movies: fractals (Casino Royale), game theory (The Dark Knight), epidemiology (zombie movies), and balance theory (Reservoir Dogs).

Update: Oliver Krill in the Math Department at Harvard has a large collection of movie clips in which Mathematics appears including The Happening where the audience is asked to predict the probability that Mark Walhberg could play a believable high school science teacher.

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Urine Space

That bright sparkling glow in the night sky on Wednesday? It was astronaut pee. Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery dumped about 150 pounds of waste water and urine into space. Makes you wonder if other mysteries of the cosmos have similar mundane explanations. The beginning of life on Earth? Probably started by an ice ball of pee from some passing alien craft.

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COBOL Lives On, And On, And On…

COBOL was created 50 years ago by Grace Hopper. According to an article in CIO Magazine, the maxim to a first approximation, all programs are written in COBOL appears to still be true:

There are over 220 billion lines of COBOL in existence, a figure which equates to around 80% of the world’s actively used code. There are estimated to be over a million COBOL programmers in the world today. Most impressive perhaps, is that 200 times as many COBOL transactions take place each day than Google searches — a figure which puts the influence of Web 2.0 into stark perspective.

Pretty impressive for a fifty-year-old “obsolete” programming language.

Update: Jeff Atwood has a blog post on the same topic COBOL: Everywhere and Nowhere. I’ve never met anyone who was actively writing COBOL code either.

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How Different Groups Spend Their Day

The American Time Use Survey asked thousands of American residents to recall every minute of a day. Here’s an interactive chart from the New York Times on how people over age 15 spent their time throughout each day in 2008.

Look at the details in the Computer use category: 8 minutes a day? That’s less time than the Couldn’t remember category. Who are these people?

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TV Tropes

TV Tropes is a terrific wiki filled with the tricks of the trade for writing fiction (and not just for TV). Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.

For example, Just Between You And Me, a trope that’s described as “Villains have an urge to gloat. Rather than simply start the needlessly complicated Death Trap, they will pause to outline their plan to the hero, often including information on how to stop it.” This trope has been used in pretty much every James Bond film, often more than once per movie.

One caveat, pick just about any trope on the website, click around and you may have a hard time getting out again.

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High Five Escalator

It’s great to see how many bored, grumpy subway commuters gave “Rob” a High Five and enjoyed it.

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Google Simple Programming Language

Google has invented a new programming language called Simple. It’s a Visual Basic clone for building Android apps. What? Why? The project lead at Google, Herbert Czymontek, used to work at Sun on Project Semplice which was going to be Visual Basic for the Java platform. (It’s probably no coincidence that Semplice is the Italian word for Simple). The main intention of Project Semplice was to get VB developers to come develop applications for the Java Platform. So now, it seems that Google is trying to get these same VB developers to come develop applications for Android. I don’t see that happening.

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Code Rush

Code Rush is a 1998 documentary that follows the lives of a group of Netscape engineers. It was shot during a time of flagging company fortunes, the initial release of the Mozilla code as an open source project, and the friction of an impending AOL-Netscape merger. The film was aired on PBS in March 2000 and has been available on VHS.

It’s just been released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license. You can view it online or download the film in various formats. (Via

Posted in Movies.