How coffee relates to computers, turtle races, holidays of the American Revolution, disemvolweling, and sweet pee

Today, we look at a medical condition involving maple syrup, minor holidays associated with the American Revolutionary War, removing vowels from words, Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol and the Trojan Room coffee pot, and turtle racing.

One tradition that has tended to decline in America in the last few decades is the prevalence of local holidays, especially those relating to the Revolution. Back in the days of the Thirteen Colonies through the Civil War, any given city or state would minor holidays, usually related to local history (such as a battle there, or something dear to the majority population), and there would be several of them throughout the year that would be given major treatment. Schoolchildren would have the day off, workers would be excused from toil, and the government would hold festivities, such as parades, feasts, and ceremonies. For example, Pissing Day was instituted in New Jersey in January 1877 to celebrate the centennial of the Battle of Princeton. The anniversary celebration was briefly discontinued during World War I in the spirit of the American-British alliance. In 1771, Massacre Day marked the anniversary of the Boston Massacre the previous year, and was celebrated by public orations, and ended in 1783 after it was replaced by Independence Day.

I have a fondness for reptiles in my life, owning a bearded dragon for a pet, and previously having owned two red-eared sliders (my ex-wife got rid of them while I was deployed to Iraq a few years ago, which I'm still angry about). So I have mixed feeling about the concept of turtle racing: on one hand, it's cute, and usually a family activity that is generally safe for participants, but it also lends itself to the abuse of the animals and unnecessary capture of wild turtles who need not suffer captivity. Usually on land (but sometimes aquatic), the turtles are placed in the center of the ring. The first one to cross out of the ring is the winner, sometimes using bait or shade as a way to entice the turtles to move in the proper direction. While turtle racing is sometimes known to be a pastime in the Bahamas, the first recorded race was in Chicago in 1902. In a 1974 match, the Canadian champion beat out its American rival when he fell asleep mid-race. The 2007 Conservation International race instead tagged wild leatherbacks with tracking devices, then watched as they migrated form Costa Rica to the Galapagos Celebrity sponsors (including Stephen Colbert) paid money to charities to put their name on a 4mph turtle, who swum the 500-mile course in 2 weeks.
2006 turtle race in Nisswa, Minnesota

It's no secret that caffeine is the fuel that makes computers run, by allowing superhuman feats by the technologists and networkers who keep the Intarwebs up and running. While today's geek seems to favor energy drinks, the old-school nerds staked their cred on coffee. The Internet Engineering Task Force is a body that publishes standards for communication technology, and they acknowledged the superiority of the brew over the can on April Fool's Day 1998 by publishing RFC 2324, which set the standards for Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol. This mirthful HTTP extension to brew coffee, query metadata about the pot, uses the command "when" to command the server to stop adding milk, and introduced error response "418 I'm a teapot". Similarly giving tribute to the might of java was the Trojan Room coffee pot, the subject of the world's first webcam. With only one pot brewing in the computer laboratory building at Cambridge University, an enterprising pair programmed the software and server to broadcast a live 128×128 grayscale picture of the coffee pot over the local network in 1991, so workers could see if there was any brew without having to walk to the Trojan Room to see. It was put on the web in 1993, and quickly became a landmark of early internet culture. After the camera was switched off in 2001, the decanter was auctioned on eBay for £3,350 to Spiegel Online.
Yes, Virginia, technology advanced because some nerds didn't want to get up to check the pot.

Disemvoweling, a portmanteau of "disembowel" and "vowel", is (unsurprisingly) removing the vowel letters from a word or sentence, sometimes replacing them with substitute characters. A lot of internet shorthand (such as text message language) uses this as a way to shorten the number of characters in a message, and internet discussion boards sometimes do this to censor out offensive language (like turning "fuck" into "f*ck"). It's fairly transparent, in that with minimal cognitive effort, the original message can still be easily read, as the intent is usually not to render the message unrecognizable, but simply allow a mention without use. It is a popular moderation tool because it can neutralize the emotional sting of the offensive word, while still laying responsibility for its use at the hands of the speaker, however, there is sometimes criticism about how the handling of the letter "Y" is handled (because it can serve as both a vowel and a consonant). An example:

Th qck brwn fx jmps vr th lzy dg.
Fncclpd s n f th bst blgs n th ntrnt vr.

Maple syrup urine disease sounds much cooler than it really is. Rather than actually pissing syrup, urine smells sweet due to a metabolic disorder affecting branch-chain amino acids in the body. A type of organic acidemia, a deficiency of branched-chain alpha-keto acid dehydrogenase complex allows the body to build up leucine, isoleucine, valine, and thier by-products. Normally identified in infants, the condition allows a person to be generally healthy, but untreated babies eventually suffer brain damage and death from the imbalance in blood chemistry and digestion. Strict diet and periodic tests usually mitigate the disease to little more than restroom curiosity, and tend to effect one 180,000 individuals (disproportionately affecting Amish, Menonites, and conservative Jews due to the autosomal recessive pattern of inheritance and the founder effect).

Today's bonus is Wikipedia:Deleted articles with freaky titles, which is exactly what the title purports. Amongst my favorite entries:
  • 22.86 Centimetre Nails (redirected to Nine Inch Nails)
  • Ben Harrison: There was a problem with your search. This is probably temporary; try again in a few moments, or you can search Wikipedia through an external search service
  • Birth defects considered snazzy by the FDA
  • Cornography ("filming, or watching, two stalks of corn mating. Though this isnt possible, it is still asum. [sic]")
  • Category: Fictional Toilets  (consensus was "speedy flush" at categories for discussion and deleted)
  • Category: Potentially Good Names For Heavy Metal Bands
  • Dead prostitutes in popular culture  (this might actually be worthy of an article on the plot device on mystery/cop shows)
  • Fossil fuel for reciprocating piston engines equipped with spark plugs (sarcastically made during the edit war of gasoline vs. petrol)
  • Graduates who cannot read their diplomas
  • Http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Sandbox&action=edit&section=new (the actual title of the article, which would make the url read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Sandbox&action=edit&section=new)
  • List of caves on Dagobah that are strong with the dark side of the force
  • List of things the cat dragged in
  • Michelle Obama's arms
  • Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo (redirected to Darth Vader)
  • Proper punctuation of words describing Pokemon transsexual acts
  • Sdrawkcab (redirected to Palindrome)
  • The wikipedian who tagged this article for speedy deletion will be cursed to die in 11 days with no exceptions (as far as we know, this never happened)
  • Ugly japanese girls  (redirected to Hoax)
  • Why do men buy terrible presents?
Happy reading!

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