Unimpressed Dog Tells Humans: 'Blah, Blah, Blah'

This dog has just about had it with all those silly humans who keep trying to talk to it. Don't they know he doesn't speak English? Or any other human language? But wait, if that's true why does this dog respond by saying, "blah, blah, blah"?

At least, that's what it sounds like the dog is saying. He's clearly not impressed with the conversation!

'January in Japan': Lovingly Shot Tour of Country and Culture

Videographer Scott Gold shot this clip, called January in Japan. He posted it to Vimeo with the very simple description: "Wife and I went to Japan in January, it's a beautiful place and a beautiful culture." Not much more need be said, as you'll discover watching this beatifully shot video.

We arrive in Japan at sunrise, and we are taken around the country. We visit fish markets, sumo matches and hot springs, ride on a bullet train, and, of course, pay a visit to the famous snow monkeys. We see many other scenes, both city scenes and country scenes. Very well done, and by someone who clearly loves Japan and its culture.

The Awesome Majesty of Great Plains Storms

The following video, posted by Nicolaus Wegner on Vimeo, is titled Stormscapes. It's a timelapse look at the stormclouds of the Great Plains.

If you've never experienced the awesome beauty and majesty of a Great Plains thunderstorm rolling in, you're in for a treat. The video was shot in Wyoming and South Dakota, and the videographer writes: "The Great Plains of the United States produce the most beautiful thunderstorms, supercells, and unique cloud structures in the world. I spent the summer of 2013 on the northern Great Plains photographing some of these storms."

Cat Fails Miserably Trying to Jump Into Aquarium

There's an empty aquarium sitting on top of a dresser. There's a cat sitting on the back of a chair a couple feet away, staring at the aquarium, just itching to jump onto or into that aquarium. This is not going to end well!

Poor kitty. Blame this cat fail on the clear glass of the aquarium, which apparently fooled the cat.

Head-Massager is Heaven for Handsome Husky

Silver the Husky is one handsome fella. But even dogs as cool as Silver have a little stress, need a little tension relief - could really use a massage.

Lucky for Silver, his owner whips out a head massager that looks like it could double as a kitchen whisk. And soon enough, Silver is all like, "Oooo, yeah, that's the spot ... that's the spot ..."

Watch Celebrities in Weird Foreign TV Commercials

Once upon a time it was possible for Hollywood (and other) celebrities to refuse to do TV commercials for the American market due to their "principles," while at the same time taking beaucoup money to do commercians for Japanese TV. Why not? Before this internet thing came along, it was very, very difficult for anyone outside Japan to see those ads.

But now, through the magic of YouTube, those weird celebrity commercials done for overseas markets are pretty easy to find. Why, right here, right below, is a compilation of some of them!

In the following video you'll see the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, a very weird Nicolas Cage (redundant?), Hugh Laurie, Uma Thurman, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Leonardo DiCaprio and more doing some selling and shilling.

Little Girl, Baby Horse Have a Great Time Playing Together

What's cuter than a baby horse? How about little girl and that baby horse playing together?

The following video was posted to YouTube by Gigja Einarsdottir with the simple explanation, "My daughter playing with an orphan foal." Wait - the baby horse was also an orphan? Cuteness code red!

The video was shot in Iceland.

'Card Ninja' Takes Card-Throwing Tricks to Explosive Heights

The following video, which is part of Pepsi Max's "Unbelievable" YouTube series, features Javier Jarquin, a k a "the card ninja." Javier is doing what is more commonly called "card throwing" - taking playing cards and flinging them with great force and accuracy in order to perform tricks. Watch:

Card throwing is nothing new; it's been a staple among magicians for hundreds of years. Card sharks in Las Vegas and elsewhere are often very good at card throwing, too (it seems to be a natural outgrowth of manipulating playing cards with your hands).

Another video features magician Rick Smith Jr. demonstrating his card throwing talent on the G4 network's Attack of the Show:

This Sugar Glider Is Flying Right Into Your Screen

This 10-second clip packs a whole lot of "wow" factor into its short run time. It shows a pet sugar glider named Hazel. When the video starts, she is perched on the wall hanging just above the door. Then, responding to her owner's call, she leaps off, spreads her legs to open her "wings," and gently glides down right onto the camera. 3D without any need for those pesky glasses!

So here's Hazel the sugar glider:

Dogs Stage Epic (Sort Of) Tug-of-War Over Treat

What happens if you have two dogs but only one treat? Well, if you're like the owner of these two long-haired dachsunds, you leave it up to the dogs. Both dogs grab hold of the treat, one at each end, and refuse to let go. They stage a tug-of-war over that treat.

And much like the tug-of-wars on the old Battle of the Network Stars show, this tug-of-war ... just ... keeps ... going ....

Humphrey Bogart Bloopers (He Did Not Like Making Mistakes!)

In a conversation with a movie buff friend recently, my friend mentioned that he once owned a 35mm film of nothing but Humphrey Bogart bloopers. Well, you know what they say: If it's on tape, it's on YouTube. And sure enough, I found some examples. Here's a roughly 4-minute reel of Humphrey Bogart bloopers, which shows Bogie's reaction to blowing his lines was sometimes laughter but more often a sharp "goddamn!":

Where do these come from? From 1936 through 1947, blooper reels were compiled by "The Warner Club." That was an organization comprised of Warner Brothers studio cast and crew members. The club met annually for a dinner, and the blooper reels were shown during those dinners. The blooper reels were known as "Warner Bros Breakdowns" or "Warner Bros Blow-ups," and eventually made their way out into the public (these would be the 35mm films that my friend once owned).

You can find the full Warner Club clips on archive.org.

As for the Bogart blow-ups and breakdowns clip above, YouTube user afrenchindublin took all the Bogie* bloopers from the Warner Club clips of 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942 and 1944 and edited them into their own video.

(*Is it "Bogie" or "Bogey"? Varies from publication to publication, person to person. But Bogart himself spelled it "Bogie."

Woman Whacked By Tail While Whale Watching

How do you know the little boat from which you're whale watching has gotten too close to the whales? When one of those whale's tails whacks you upside the head:

The video was shot off the coast of Baja, California. Thankfully, the woman in the video is OK. But the operators of this whale watching tour deserve to be investigated by the appropriate wildlife authorities for getting this close. They are endangering their passengers, whether from threat of a stray tail fin coming down on someone, or the risk of their little skiff being overturned and sending passengers into the water.

'PPlanter' Combines Public Restroom with Bamboo Garden

Nobody likes having to relieve themselves in a public restroom. They are often (particularly if they are men's bathrooms) disgusting and carry awful odors. What if there was a way to combine bladder relief with odor relief while also adding some green space to the public sidewalk?

There is! It's called the PPlanter, and it's a public restroom (for urinating only - no No. 2 here) that doubles as a planter or garden. It works by filtering the, well, pee-pee of patrons into a bamboo planter; the bamboo then does its own filtering job and releases clean water back into the environment. The process eliminates urine odors while adding greenery to the public scene.

On its website, PPlanter.com, the unit is described as "a rapidly deployable, reconfigurable public urinal and sink that uses modular biofilters to treat urine and wastewater." Here is a more in-depth description of how the PPlanter works:

  • An ADA-compliant sink is supplied with a human powered foot or hand pump connected to a freshwater supply tank. The greywater from the sink, along with soap residue, flushes and cleans the urinal, keeping odor to a minimum.

  • The greywater, soap and urine (blackwater) from the ADA-compliant urinal are funneled to a sealed storage tank. The combined water is then pumped into an adjacent planter that houses bamboo plants set in a lightweight mixture of soil and recycled styrofoam coated in pectin. The water from the urinal and sink is evapotranspired by the bamboo and released into the air as distilled, purified water. The bamboo harnesses the incredible amount of nitrogen and phosphorus found in the urine and uses it to produce more bamboo. With high traffic urinals additional planters can be added to the system.

This is what the PPlanter unit looked like during a public trial in 2013:

The concept is great, but there are a couple obvious issues: The PPlanter as pictured doesn't provide full privacy; also, it offers a urinal only, so women would have to use a specially designed, provided funnel to pee standing up. Those issues will have to be addressed before the PPlanter would ever gain widespread use. But it's very early days in the PPlanter's design.

You can read more about the PPlanter on Gizmodo.

Frisbee Trick Shots and NASCAR - What More Do You Need?

This video features Frisbee whiz Brodie Smith doing his thing - amazing trick shots with Frisbees - at Daytona International Speedway, the famous NASCAR track in Florida. Good timing! Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the 2014 Daytona 500 just a couple days ago.

Brodie writes on his YouTube channel, "What happens when Frisbee meets NASCAR? EPIC trick shots, obviously. I visited Daytona International Speedway and got to throw the disc around with drivers like Kyle Larson, Parker Kligerman and Justin Allgaier, with a special appearance by my girl Danica Patrick."

Bet you didn't know these things could be done with a Frisbee:

Tiny, Bottle-Fed Kitten Wiggles Ears in Delight

Awwww, isn't that cute? A tiny little kitten being bottle-fed. If that was all there was to the video below, it would still be worth watching for the cute factor. But there's more! This tiny kitten is so happy to get at that bottle that it starts wiggling its ears in delight as it slurps away.

The kitten is only 2 weeks old and is named Polly. Wiggle away, Polly:

(Via Laughing Squid)

Don't Clean Up Your Dog's Poo? DNA Might Tell On You

Here's an unusual story from today's New York Times: In Italy, the problem of dog owners failing to clean up their pooches' poop has become so bad in some places that authorities launched a DNA database of doggies so they can match the unpicked pooped to scofflaw dog owners.


Here's a small snippet from the Times:

The problem is as universal as cockroaches, and seemingly as unsolvable. Urban dog ownership demands a balance of love and duty, and not everyone is dutiful about cleaning up after the morning walk. Cities have tried everything from the postal service (a Spanish mayor mailed the stuff back to dog owners) to shaming (some cities have publicized the names of offending owners) to bribery (some parks in Mexico City offered free Wi-Fi in exchange for bags of waste).

Naples has opted for science and technology. The idea is that every dog in the city will be given a blood test for DNA profiling in order to create a database of dogs and owners. When an offending pile is discovered, it will be scraped up and subjected to DNA testing. If a match is made in the database, the owner will face a fine of up to 500 euros, or about $685.

Read the rest on nytimes.com.

This Puppy Just Can't Seem to Get Out of Bed

Have you ever had one of those days when you just can't seem to get out of bed? Or maybe you've settled down - way down - into a beanbag chair and then struggled to get out of it. If so, you know exactly how this French bulldog puppy feels.

He's settled down into a plus doggy bed when he wakes up. And he discovers it can be a struggle getting out of bed in the morning ...

Husky Tries to Play with Cat, Cat's Not Having It

All this handsome Siberian husky wants to do is have a little fun. The cat he tries to play with? Not so much! Kitty ain't havin' it ...

2-Ton Elephant Seal Picks Popular Australian Beach for a Little R&R

Beachgoers on Sorrento Beach, north of Perth, Australia, got a surprise recently: a 2-ton elephant seal pushed himself ashore and settle in for a little rest. Naturally, the spectacle drew a crowd, and local wildlife officials cordoned off an area around the seal to keep people back. (Frankly, it looks to me like the people are still too close, for their safety and the seal's comfort, but the wildlife officials know much better than I.)

There was initial concern that the elephant seal came ashore due to illness; later, officials said they believed he was simply tired after many days of hunting in deep water. If he's moulting, officials say, it could be up to 40 days before the big fella decides to leave.

Here's a report from Australian TV station 9Perth:

(Via TheDodo.com)

Drone Captures Captivating Footage of Mother and Baby Humpback Whales

This is footage of a mother and baby humpback whale captured from above through the use of an overhead drone camera. The video, which was shot off Maui, was posted to Vimeo by DroneAbove.com:

Frederick Douglass' 'The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro' Read by Danny Glover

Today, February 20, is the anniversary of the death of Frederick Douglass, one of the giants in American history. Douglass, born a slave in 1818, escaped to freedom in the North, then spent his life working for the abolition of slavery and battling the suffocating effects of racism. Douglass' towering intellect, morality and dignity publicly put the lie to the justifications mouthed by those defenders of slavery and racism, every day until his death in 1895.

We'll honor Douglass today by presenting actor and activist Danny Glover reading Douglass' speech "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro." It's commonly referred to as "the 4th of July speech," but it was actually given on July 5, 1852. That was a time, of course, when slaveholding states made up half of the United States, and when black Americans everywhere, including non-slave states, were denied many basic rights.

Douglass' speech stands as one of the firiest — and greatest — speeches in American history. Part of the punch it packs comes from its relative brevity; Glover's reading clocks in at under six minutes. But most of the punch comes from Douglass' powerful words, written in reaction to being asked to speak in commeration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The speech took place at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, and Douglass wasted no time letting those in attendance know that this speech would be something different. "Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?" Douglass asked.

"Within the now-famous address," says a page on PBS.org about the speech, "is what historian Philip S. Foner has called 'probably the most moving passage in all of Douglass' speeches' " and quotes this section:

"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour."

Here is Glover's reading of the speech:

I wonder what the reaction of those in attendance must have been. But we probably don't have to wonder: They must have been shocked, aghast, that someone would speak such powerful truths to them about the hypocrisy of the country's behavior in relation to the country's foundational document.

For some reason, Glover's reading actually stops short of the full speech; another couple paragraphs conclude with Douglass expressing the hope he somehow managed to maintain for his country. "... Notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery," Douglass said. " 'The arm of the Lord is not shortened' and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope."

Here is the concluding part of the speech missing from Glover's reading:

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from "the Declaration of Independence," the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.

The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, "Let there be Light," has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. 'Ethiopia, shall, stretch. out her hand unto Ood." In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o'er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th' oppress'd shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom's reign,
To man his plundered rights again

God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end,
And change into a faithful friend
Each foe.

God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant's presence cower;
But to all manhood's stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his Prison-house, to thrall
Go forth.

Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I'll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive --
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate'er the peril or the cost,
Be driven.

The full text of Douglass' "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" can be read here on PBS.org.

This Cat Loves to Fetch

Dogs love to fetch and cats don't know how to fetch, and even if cats could fetch they wouldn't because, well, they're cats. That's common knowledge. But common knowledge isn't always correct. The other day we showed you a dog that is terrible at playing catch. Now, here's a cat that fetches and loves playing fetch:

Jim Gaffigan Is Not Surprised By This Hot Pockets Recall

Nestle USA has announced a voluntary recall of "of HOT POCKETS® brand Philly Steak and Cheese in three different pack sizes and HOT POCKETS® brand Croissant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese, in the two pack box," the company announced on Feb. 18, 2014.

OK, in your best Jim Gaffigan inner monologue vogue, altogether now: "Hoooooooooot Pockets!"

The Hot Pockets recall is not due to any problem within Nestle, but rather with a supplier of meats. Nestle's recall is due to an abundance of caution; the manufacturer doesn't believe any of the supplier's bad meat got into the recalled Hot Pockets, which is why the recall is voluntary. But why take chances? Which is why there is a recall notice at all.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan's Hot Pockets routine, which appeared on his Beyond the Palecomedy record and TV special, has become one of the best-known comedy bits in America. Suffice it to say Gaffigan is not a fan of Hot Pockets. Here's the bit:

Here is an appearance on Letterman that predates the Beyond the Pale recording; it contains many of the same jokes about Hot Pockets but also some differences, and the delivery is a bit different:

How much you want to bet that Gaffigan eats Hot Pockets all the time?

New Krispy Kreme Doughnuts: Mocha Kreme and Caramel Coffee Kreme

What could make a doughnut even better? Aside from adding even more icing, sugar and fat, of course. I'll tell you what: doughnuts that incorporate the flavors of coffee. Because what goes together better than coffee and doughnuts?

Krispy Kreme has a couple new, limited-time doughnuts on the men: Mocha Kreme (left) and Caramel Coffee Kreme. The names alone set my mouth to watering.

Krispy Kreme describes the Mocha Kreme doughnut this way:

"A moist yeast doughnut filled with a tasty blend of chocolate and coffee flavors, topped with mocha icing, a milk chocolate swirl and decorated with milk chocolate icing."

And the Caramel Coffee Kreme (right) gets this description:

"A decadent glazed treat topped with smooth caramel and coffee flavored icing, a mocha drizzle and dollop of coffee Kreme."

What about the nutrition? Do you really want to know? Seriously, do you really want to know? OK, here you go: the Caramel Coffee Kreme has 330 calories and 14 grams of fat; the Mocha Kreme has 350 calories and 16 grams of fat.

Kiwi the Yorkie is Terrible at Playing Catch

Many dogs react instinctively when a ball is tossed in their direction: they catch it, or at least make a good attempt at catching it, in mid-air. But not all dogs! Some dogs appear to have no clue why you are tossing a ball at them. Like, for example, the Yorkshire terrier in this video. Its name is Kiwi, and Kiwi the Yorkie is terrible at catch!

Corgi Puppy Goes On the Attack Against Lemon Candy

When its human dropped a hard lemon candy on carpet, Mini the Corgi puppy took a taste and immediately turned sour. The cute little Corgi went on the attack - barking at the candy, pawing at it, charging it.

YMMV, but I'm with Mini the Corgi: Sour lemon candies are not fit for human - or puppy - consumption!

Attack of the Killer Bunnies! (OK, They're Just Hungry)

This woman showed up at a park with a bag of food, and the rabbits that live in the park all came hopping ... and hopping ... and hopping ... until they had her completely surrounded:

Goats Having Fun On a ... Um ... We Don't Know What It Is. But These Goats Love It.

This farm comes with a) goats and b) some kind of half-tube piece of springy metal that is thin and very flexible and is stuck into the ground at either end. Don't understand that description? We don't either! We have no clue what it is that these goats are playing on; we just know that they really, really like it!

True Story: President Born in 1700s Has Grandchildren Still Living Today

It's Presidents Day in the United States, and let's celebrate by explaining this tweet from presidential historian Michael Beschloss:

Beschloss references President John Tyler's father, who was born in 1747. The president's father was John Tyler Sr., who was a college buddy of Thomas Jefferson, and served in the Virginia House of Delegates with Benjamin Harrison V, whose own son, William Henry Harrison, became the 9th president of the USA.

John Tyler was William Henry Harrison's vice president, and became the 10th president of the USA upon Harrison's death in office.

So: John Tyler Sr. was born in 1747, and two of his great-grandchildren are alive today. But that muddies the waters a bit; here's a simpler statement: President John Tyler, 10th president of the United States, was born in 1790, and today, the year 2014, two of his grandchildren are still alive.

That's a span of 224 years, yet President Tyler still has grandkids who are with us. Amazing. How can that be? Well, as you can probably guess, it involves Tyler himself plus one of Tyler's children siring kids in their old age.

President Tyler had 15 kids (most of any US president), eight with his first wife and seven with his second wife. Tyler served as president from 1841-45. The last of Tyler's children with his first wife was born in 1830. That first wife, Letitia Christian Tyler, died during Tyler's presidency. Letitia was 51 years old at the time of her death, which makes her the youngest First Lady to die.

Tyler's second wife was Julia Gardiner Tyler, who married the president in 1844. John was 54 years old at the time, and Julia was 24 years old. The first of their seven children was born in 1846, after Tyler's departure from the White House; the last of their children was born in 1860, when Tyler was 70 years old.

One of John and Julia's children, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, was born in 1853. John Tyler was 63 years old at the time. Lyon Tyler was also married twice, and had children with both his wives. Lyon married his second wife in 1921, when he was 68 years old. Lyon fathered three children with his second wife: Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr., Harrison Ruffin Tyler and Henry Tyler. Henry Tyler died in infancy, but Lyon Jr. and Harrison Tyler are still alive today, as of 2014.

So, here's how you get from President Tyler to 2014 in the the span of grandchildren:

1. John Tyler is born in 1790.
2. In 1853, at the age of 63, John Tyler fathers Lyon Tyler.
3. In 1924, at the age of 71, Lyon Tyler fathers Lyon Jr.
4. In 1928, at the age of 75, Lyon Tyler fathers Harrison Tyler.
5. And as of 2014 Lyon Jr. (age 80) and Harrison (76) are still alive.

Watch 767 Landing In a 40 MPH Crosswind (Unless You're a Nervous Flier)

The video below shows he final minute of approach and landing of a Boeing 767 airplane touching down through a 40 mph crosswind. This is not for the faint of heart - if you are a nervous flier, you probably don't want to watch.

Don't worry, the plane safely reaches the ground. But the strong winds blowing across the runway buffet the plane as if it was some kind of toy. It rocks back and forth, up and down, one wing dipping then the other, and when it hits the ground it does so crooked and bouncing.

The footage was shot at Birmingham Airport in England.

The Bubble Wrap-Popping Raccoon

This raccoon sure loves popping bubble wrap:

Here's a truthy fact about raccoons: 98-percent of pet raccoons are named Bandit.

In the Round at 'Bowling Ball Beach'

(Photo by ah zut/Flickr)

What forces can deposit spherical boulders on a beach without anyone noticing how they got there? No, not mysterious forces - geological forces.

The round (and round-ish) rocks of Bowling Ball Beach can be viewed within the confines of Schooner Gulch State Beach, on the Pacific Ocean, near Mendocino, Calif. If you want to get a great view of the "bowling balls," you'll need to plan a visit to coincide with low tide.

(Note that the three photos on this page are found on Flickr and used here under a Creative Commons license.)

The California Parks Department website describes Schooner Gulch State Beach - a k a, Bowling Ball Beach - this way: "The beach and headlands preserve a scenic spot along the Mendocino Coast and offers a stunning perch for watching sunsets, or merely sitting in the grass as the afternoon sun glistens on the waters below. Fishing, picnicking, and surfing are popular activities here."

And while the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean are spectacular, it is the odd rock formations at water's edge that bring this beach its fame. What causes these spherical rock formations? The processes of concretion and erosion.

(Photo by John 'K'/Flickr)

Wikipedia explains geologic concretion:

"A concretion is a hard, compact mass of sedimentary rock formed by the precipitation of mineral cement within the spaces between the sediment grains. Concretions are often ovoid or spherical in shape, although irregular shapes also occur. The word 'concretion' is derived from the Latin con meaning 'together' and crescere meaning 'to grow'. Concretions form within layers of sedimentary strata that have already been deposited. They usually form early in the burial history of the sediment, before the rest of the sediment is hardened into rock. This concretionary cement often makes the concretion harder and more resistant to weathering than the host stratum."

Then, if the "host stratum" - in this case, the beach cliffs - is eroded away over time, the ovoid concretions are revealed. And someone comes along and says, "Hey, those rocks look like bowling balls!" And then you have Bowling Ball Beach.

(Photo by John 'K'/Flickr)

Meet Boomeroo the Baby Kangaroo

This young kangaroo is named Boomeroo, and he (or is it a she?) is apparently pretty spoiled. It dances around with its humans, plays with (and appears to scare) an anteater mate, chases bubbles, goes up and down stairs, wears bibs and bonnets, and generally spends all day looking very, very cute.

Careful: Watching this will make you want to hang out with baby kangaroos!

(Via DialyPicsandFlicks.com)

Socialized Fox Loves a Good Belly Rub

The red fox in this video is named Dawn, and she lives at the Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary in England. Why does she live there, instead of in the wild where red foxes belong? As a young fox, Dawn was scooped up by a well-meaning person who mistook her for a stray dog, and taken to a dog rescue center. The folks there, recognizing her as a fox, transferred Dawn to the wildlife rescue center.

The wildlife center, as it explains on its YouTube page, has a goal of returning its animals to the wild. However, Dawn was already socialized by the point the sanctuary received her, and so will continue living at the sanctuary.

And the sanctuary cautions anyone who watches this video and thinks, "wow, I'd like to have a red fox as a pet!" - "Dawn is not a pet, and we do not recommend any fox or wild animal as a pet."

She may not be a pet, but she's awfully cute, especially when getting a belly rub:

I bet Redd Foxx loved getting belly rubs, too.

Cat Refuses to Give Up TV Remote

The cat in the video below is not giving up that television remote control without a fight! Every time the cat's (and TV's) owner reaches for the remote, the cat (whose name is Patches) swats her hand away.

Was the Kitten Bowl on TV? What do you think the cat was planning on watching?

Owls Can Turn Their Heads Nearly All the Way Around - But How?

Did you know that owls can turn their heads around, almost completely around? They can't quite do the full Linda-Blair-in-The-Exorcist head spin, but owls can rotate their heads 270 degrees around.

It's pretty freaky when you see it happen. Like these hunters did (warning: NSFW language - the hunters let loose some "excited utterances" watching this owl do its thing) early in this clip:

Owls need to be able to do this, because - here's something else you might not know about owls - their eyes are fixed in place. Owls cannot move their eyes around in their eye sockets; they have to turn their whole head to see to the side. (Owls can also tilt their heads 180 degrees on the vertical, which makes for a very maneuverable noggin.)

owl spinning head
But how do owls do this? They must have a skeletal design that allows it, obviously, but even if human skeletons allowed us to do the same thing we'd probably die if it we tried it. Because the arteries carrying blood to our brains would be restricted, and blood flow cut off, if we turned our heads 270 degrees.

Owls' skeletons allow them to spin their heads in this manner, and their arterial system also accommodates head-spinning.

The specific biological design that allows owls to rotate their heads was, until recently, unknown. But scientists finally figured it out. This video from SciFri explains the owls' tricks, and it also includes a few more examples of the owl's head-spinning in action:

Is Buying Facebook Ads to Acquire 'Likes' a Waste of Time - Even Harmful?

The science vlog Veritasium is one of the must-follows on YouTube, if you're into following YouTube accounts. However, one of its recent videos that caught my eye is not, strictly speaking, science. It's an examination of the practice of buying ads on Facebook in order to acquire Facebook Likes. This is something that Nifty Niblets has done a bit of since our recent launch.

So what does Veritasium find? That Facebook ads pay off, or ... not so much? Well, the provocative title of the blog - "Facebook Fraud" - gives away the conclusion. Watch:

To be clear, Veritasium does not accuse Facebook itself of engaging in fraud, but that's about the kindest interpretation one can come away with after watching the clip. In short, Veritasium began buying Facebook ads - promo spots designed to increase the "likes" for its Facebook page. And those likes did, in fact, skyrocket after the ads ran. The problem: While Veritasium found it had tens of thousands of new "likes," engagement with its Facebook page actually dropped.

What gives? A large percentage of those new likes were from "like farms" - they were fraudulent, phony. But why? Veritasium hadn't paid a "like farm" for new likes, it had paid Facebook for legetimate promotion.

Short version: Like farms are also liking pages they were not paid to like in order to disguise their spamming. You can watch the video to discover the full answer that Veritasium uncovered.

I will add that Nifty Niblets has seen the same pattern in response to our own Facebook ads. We started with zero "likes" after creating our own Facebook page about two months ago. To jump-start the page, we bought several Facebook ads. "Likes" went up by several hundred, but post engagement did not follow, and has even dropped as the "likes" climbed. We've seen no benefit whatsoever to all those new likes.

Watching this video, and matching it up to our own experience, has convinced me that paying for any further Facebook ads is a waste of time, and probably counterproductive.

You can help by giving us a legitimate "like": Please like our Facebook page and/or follow Nifty Niblets on Twitter. Thanks in advance for your support.

Amorous Penguin Chases Zookeeper

For the cape penguins at Matsue Vogel Park in Shimane Prefecture, Japan, it's "the season of love." But what happens when a cape penguin casts an amorous eye toward one of the zookeepers? Hey, Mr. Zookeeper, you can run but you can't hide!

Adorable Puppy Falls Asleep after Listening to Lullaby

The puppy in this clip is 8 weeks old, his name is Taco, and he's a Boston terrier. Taco's owner wants him to go to sleep, so he sings the puppy a lullaby. Does it work? On YouTube Taco's owner writes, "I sing a lullaby to my 8 week old Boston Terrier puppy named Taco as she falls asleep. She begins tilting her head when I hum the song instead of singing it. She gives in right at the end."

Are These Dogs Guilty or Innocent? Just Look at those Guilty Faces and Slow Walks to Know

Dogs often give away that they've done something bad before their owners have even figured out what the bad thing was. The guilty look. You know it, if you've ever owned a dog. Most dogs can't help but look guilty when they have, say, chewed up one of your shoes, or gnawed on your favorite pillow. Those guilty faces - they'd be adorable if they weren't signs of bad behavior. Oh, what they heck, they are adorable!

Another way a dog gives itself away is the slooooow walk of shame. This video includes dogs with guilty looks, and other dogs slow-walking their way past the "crime scene":

This Cat Is Having a Great Dream

Or is he having a nightmare about being chased by a dog? We'll go with the happier interpreation: the cat in this video is having a dream of some kind, and we'll say he's dreaming of catching a mouse. Whatever, it must be quite a dream because kitty's legs are jerking, his tail twitches, his claws come out a some points, he makes yowling noises ... it's quite a performance.

The Other Guests When the Beatles First Appeared on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' (Including Davy Jones!)

For those who saw the Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, their performance, and the experience of watching it, is indelible. But even Beatles fans born decades later know the impact and import of that show.

February 9, 2014, is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' Ed Sullivan Show debut. The band performed five songs that night - "All My Loving," "Till There Was You" and "She Loves You" at the beginning of the show, and "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" at the end. In-between, Sullivan brought out his usual quirky assortment of guests.

Do you know who any of the other guests were that night, Feb. 9, 1964? We do, and we'll show you who they were.

Coincidentally, one of the most famous non-Beatles on the Sullivan show that night was a future member of the Monkees, the Beatles-inspired group (who became much, much better than their made-for-TV origins, by the way - a very underrated group). That would be Davy Jones. But Jones wasn't the headliner in the act in which he appeared.

Georgia Brown (with Davy Jones, et.al.)

Broadway star Georgia Brown performed the song "As Long as He Needs Me" from the musical Oliver! And in the role of The Artful Dodger, dueting with Brown, was young Davy Jones:

For Jones, the night was an eye-opening, life-changing experience. "The kids went banzai, you know, they loved it," Jones later said of the Beatles' appearance, "and I saw the reaction and I thought, 'I want a piece of this action.'

"That particular night changed my whole way of thinking around. If I hadn't of been on The Ed Sullivan Show that night and wanted that reaction as much as I did, then I wouldn't have taken part in the Monkees. ... If there hadn't of been a Beatles, there would never have been a Monkees."

Tessie O'Shea

Welsh singer (and banjo player) Tessie O'Shea was also a Broadway performer, and later an Emmy winner. A portly woman, in this clip she does a song called "Two-Ton Tessie":

"They played tennis on her double chin." Who knows, maybe this song inspired Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls." (OK, we do know, and it didn't.)

Fred Kaps

Fred Kaps was a magician from the Netherlands, and he was a very good magician, one of the best of his era and still very highly regarded today. According to Wikipedia, Kaps is "the only magician to become FISM Grand Prix world champion three times" (FISM being the acronym for the International Federation of Magic Societies).

This is part of Kaps' performance on the Sullivan show of Feb. 9, 1964 (Sullivan has to settle the crowd down before bringing Kaps out). His card trick is hurt by the poor quality of the video, alas. He also did a second trick, not included in this video, called "the Long Pour Salt trick."

If you're a fan of traditional magic, check out YouTube for better clips of Kaps in action.

Wells & the Four Fays

Wells & the Four Fays was part vaudeville, part acrobatics, all strange. One of the troupe members was the mother of choreographer and "Mickey" one-hit wonder Toni Basil (Hey Mickey, you're so fine, you're fine you blow my mind! Hey Mickey!). Here they are on Sullivan:

Frank Gorshin

Among the non-Beatles on the Feb. 9, 1964 Ed Sullivan Show, the best-known at the time was impressionist and comedian Frank Gorshin. Gorshin was a nightclub regular, a Las Vegas regular, a favorite (and sometime opening act) of the Rat Pack. We know him best today, however, as The Riddler on TV's Batman.

This performance by Gorshin is from an episode of The Dean Martin Show, with Gorshin imagining other actors in the roles of Batman and Robin:

There's a better Gorshin performance, from the 1975 Sammy Davis Jr. series Sammy and Company, on YouTube here (non-embeddable, alas.)

McCall & Brill

And finally, there was McCall & Brill, the husband-and-wife comedy team of Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall. They went on to appear on a lot of game shows in the 1970s, such as The Gong Show and Tattletales, as well as plenty of TV guest acting roles. This is part of their performance from that night:

We once saw a from one of those 20/20 or Dateline type shows (although what, exactly, it was from I'm not sure) about McCall & Brill. It included scenes from the McCall & Brill performance during the Sullivan show, which both members of the comedy team describe as a disaster. Brill said that when they got back to their dressing room after bombing, they wondered, "How are we ever going to face the world again? This was the worst thing that ever happened to us."

Yes, it was tough being one of the other acts on The Ed Sullivan Show that aired Feb. 9, 1964.

Freddy the 7-Foot, 4-Inch Great Dane is Britain's Biggest Dog

Freddy the Great Dane wasn't even the biggest puppy in his litter. But as an adult? Now that Freddy is 18 months old, he's been measured at 7-feet, 4-inches tall standing on his hind legs, and that makes him the biggest dog in Great Britain, according to Barcroft TV.

Freddy belongs to Claire Stoneman and lives in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, in England. Claire also owns Freddy's sister, Fleur. According to Claire, she spents £80 to £90 per week on Freddy's food alone. She also spends quite a bit of money on furniture; as the video says, Freddy and his sister have torn up 14 sofas so far.

Freddy hasn't officially been declared Britain's biggest dog yet, but at 7-4 he is significantly taller than the current, "official" recordholder, a 6-foot-6 dog named Samson. Seven-4 is also the size of the official world recordholder, another Great Dane named Zeus. If Freddy grows any more (and if the Guinness World Record folks are called in for an offical measurement) he might be crowned the world's biggest dog.

(Update: Sad to report that Freddy died in 2021.)

Here's video of Freddy in action:

Squirrel Finds Unusual Hiding Place for Nut: In Dog's Hair

The squirrel in this video is family pet named Wally. That explains why Wally brings his nuts inside the house, and searches for a place to hide them. The dog in the video is named Jax, and he's a Burmese mountain dog. He likes Wally. Jax must like Wally, because he doesn't seem to mind when Wally tries to hide one of his nuts in Jax's hair:

The Time Muhammad Ali Talked a Jumper Off a Ledge

Journalist David Grann is a must-follow on Twitter; you'll discover all kinds of cool stories through him. Like, for example, this:

This was news to me. I didn't remember the incident. But thanks to YouTube (and CBS News, which uploaded it), we have a video clip. Here's how CBS News reported the story back in 1981:

Watch The Beatles' 1964 JFK Press Conference

Today - Feb. 7, 2014 - is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in America, when they touched down at JFK airport in New York in 1964. After departing the plane, the four lads - Paul, Ringo, George and John - stood before a gaggle of press members, nearly all of whom were completely stumped as to why these guys were causing such a stir.

The video here begins and ends with screaming fans as the Beatles are whisked to and from the press conference. In-between, we first watch the Beatles stand nervously at the front of the room as reporters examine them as if looking at weird zoo animals. Finally, someone begins yelling, "Will you please shut up!" to the reporters, which the lads find amusing.

Soon questions are being shouted at them, and the Beatles begin parrying with great wit and charm.

This clip shows a few minutes of what was about 11 or 12 minutes total of questioning. The adults in the room were completely pre-occupied with the Beatles' haircuts. Ah, those Beatles haircuts - within just a few years, parents would be wishing their kids had hair that short.

It really is remarkable to watch the earliest footage of the Beatles in America, such as this, because it's clear that none of the adults - none of the squares - had any clue that they were witnessing something special. They simply couldn't comprehend why these funny-sounding guys from Liverpool were popular.

That condescending attitude can be seen in a few places in the JFK press conference clip above, but you really get a sense of it if you check out one of our previous posts: The Beatles on American television before 'The Ed Sullivan Show'.