Helium Harry, the 400-Lbs. Gorilla

So, don’t get me wrong. Drug and alcohol abuse are certainly no laughing matter(s?). And kudos to folks who admit they have problems and go into recovery programs. Better to kill your addiction before your addiction kills you. Now, having said that…

I stumbled upon a web page about helium recovery, and the first thing I thought of was someone who got addicted to breathing helium so they could talk with a squeaky voice nonstop. “Paul, this is an intervention. Your helium abuse has gotten out of hand, and, though we love your hilarious Meatwad quotes, it’s ruining all our lives.”

For once, I did a little more research into the subject, and it turns out that the we’re pretty close to running into worldwide helium shortage. Ridiculous though it may sound, I assure you that last sentence is not a joke. We are actually running out of helium. This may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but apparently helium is not used just for birthday balloons. Turns out it’s pretty important for a ton of different scientific processes.

So, ultimately, the “helium recovery” devices this website was shucking are to help people capture the helium they use in…whatever kind of tests they’re doing so it can be reused.

I feel like helium recycling is the kind of environmental cause that could really benefit from a lovable mascot like Smokey Bear. Maybe “Helium Harry,” the 400-pound gorilla with a high-pitched voice and a funny t-shirt. Just as a jumping off point. We’ll workshop it.

Evil Sorcerer, or Advanced Plastic Polymer?

The valiant elven knight Carlos, heir to the realm of Mirkwood, stalked through his forest, tracking his prey while doing his best not to be tracked himself by that very same prey. Both were hunted and hunter.

Then, in the clearing ahead, barely visible in the ghostly moonlight, stood he who Carlos sought: Torlon the Silver Sorcerer. In the flat, thin shadows cast by the sliver of moon cascading over the brim of the villainous wizard’s great round hat, Carlos could not tell if Torlon was facing toward or away from him.

He could wait no longer to find out. Soundlessly sliding an arrow from the quiver on his back, Carlos fit nock to string and drew back on his bow. After a long, slow, silent exhale, he let fly his arrow.

The arrow struck Torlon square in the chest, for he was, in fact, looking directly at Carlos as he fired. The projectile deflected off of Torlon and flew end over end into the trees behind him. The Silver Sorcerer was entirely unharmed, for he was not just named Torlon, his entire magical being was made of Torlon, which is apparently one of the most advanced plastic polymers in the world. From what I can gather, Torlon is lighter and stronger than metal, and it has a wizardy-sounding name.

And Carlos lived out the rest of his days in the enchanted forest of Mirkwood in peace. He later became a cheesemaker, and also king.

Like Underpants, It Seems Potentially Hazardous

Some of the internet’s biggest empires were built on selling used stuff. (Amazon, for example. Remember when those guys just sold used books?) On certain internet sites, one man’s used stuff can truly become another man’s treasure. (i.e. eBay. Did you get that one already? Figured.) And, in some of those same places, you can find literally anything used. (That time I meant Amazon and eBay. You got that, too, huh?)

But, dear reader, just because you can buy something used, doesn’t necessarily mean you should, no matter how less expensive it may be. Underpants, for example. Would you, under any circumstances, or for any price, buy a pair of used underpants over the internet? Or from any source, really? Didn’t think so. Why? Well, among dozens of other reasons, it seems potentially hazardous.

“Okay, get to it already,” you might be saying. “What randomly discovered internet item are you rambling on about this time?” Well, Wisenheimer Jackson, Jr., this time, I’m talking about used welding equipment. It seems potentially hazardous. But then again, all welding equipment seems potentially hazardous to me. If I knew how to weld, it would probably seem totally legit. From the outside looking in, however, it seems like more than a bit of a safety hazard.

The Worst Idea Since “Beast Wars”

Full disclosure: I didn’t take the time to find out what the devices I’m writing about here actually do. Sometimes it’s better to remain blissfully ignorant—it can be much easier to make this stuff up if I don’t bother with, you know, “learning” and stuff.

In my incessant, insomniac internet inspection, I discovered a gizmo called a “switch mode transformer.” I can only assume this is some kind of new action figure, upon which another installment of that gods-awful film franchise will be based. Since it’s “switch mode,” perhaps they operate kind of like a switch blade knife: just push a button and the whole thing transforms itself in a flash. That might actually be pretty impressive, but then dagnabbit, why didn’t they think of that 20-something years ago when I was rockin’ Transformers?

That is a heck of a...thing (?) all right.

It’s hard to say what this would transform into, however. Presumably a vaguely human-shaped mechanoid, of course, but don’t Transformers usually start out looking like something other than, um, a weird, jacked-up battery (?)?

You know what, Hasbro, I take back what I wrote before. If this is the best you can do with your fancy Switch Mode Transformers, then I was wrong—this is not very impressive at all. This is, in fact, the worst idea since “Beast Wars” Transformers. And those were pretty awful.

What In the Heck is A Specialty Metal?

There are plenty of items that can be found on the internet that can qualify as “specialty.” One can find specialty coffee, order a specialty pizza, find business that peddle specialty books—you can even order yourself a pair specialty shoes just for rock climbing.

But what in the blue heck is a specialty metal?

I actually came across a company online—we’ll call them Magellan Metals, because that’s what they’re actually called—that sells and distributes nothing but “specialty metals.” This struck me as both bizarre and intriguing, kind of like a drunk clown.

Rather than looking into it further, however, which would have been easy since I had already found a website that would likely explain it, I chose to remain blissfully ignorant and merely speculate instead.

Is adamantium a specialty metal? You know, the stuff that Wolverine from X-Men has covering his skeleton. How about kryptonite? From Superman. I think that might actually be a mineral—I’ve always seen it portrayed as more of a rock-like substance than a metallic one.

Or is specialty metal more like a suit of armor? That’s definitely metal, and definitely a specialty item, so that would make sense. What about the Lombardi Trophy? The trophy that every Super Bowl champion gets—that’s clearly made of metal, and you can’t just go pick ‘em up in bulk at Costco.

Hmm… specialty metals. The possibilities are practically limitless when you choose to NOT find out what it really means.

Super Powered Carbonation?

If you thought brushing your teeth with baking soda was a weird way to clean stuff, get a load of this: So-called “ultrasonic cleaning” uses high frequency vibrations to essentially create carbonation in cleaning solution. One then places whatever item one needs cleaned into said solution and the thousands or millions of bubbles rub up against it and pop, scrubbing away any dirt and what have you from the surface of the item.

It calls to mind the time I tried to clean my toilet with a can of Coke. I had heard that if you just pour in the soda and leave it overnight, the carbonation and such will clear away the nastiness that has built up. What actually happened is that, if anything, my toilet was dirtier than before I poured in the Coke, and I had wasted a tasty beverage. Stupid urban legends. Where were you on that one, TV’s Mythbusters?

Apparently, in “the biz,” the bubbles involved are called “cavities,” and their growth is called “cavitation.” This does not really fit what most people probably think of when they hear the word “cavities,” but as long as there’s no visits to the dentist involved, I’m okay with a people getting a little loose with the language.

See how I brought it back around to tooth care? DENTAL HYGIENE IS IMPORTANT, DAMMIT!

Don’t Spray Your Thermal on Me, Pal!

In my incessant, insomniac internet inspection, I discovered a company called ASB Industries that offers something called “thermal spray coatings.” Looking into it further, I determined that thermal spray coating is kind of like spray painting on steroids, and it could totally kill you dead.

Apparently, thermal spray coating uses super heated plasma jets (yes, plasma jets—how cool is that? Even if you don’t know what it is, it still sounds rad) to melt any number of materials—like aluminum, stainless steel, ceramic, nickel, etc.—and then blast the molten droplets onto another surface.

Surely it’s all very scientific, but it also sounds very, very dangerous (and don’t call me Shirley).

One little slip up on the job and you’ve covered ol’ Pete in a half inch thick layer of rapidly cooling molybdenum (can’t believe that’s an actual word). Then the shop foreman comes over, calls a few people knuckleheads, tells Pete to stop screwing around and get back to work (even though he’s deader than Viserys Targaryen, and died in much the same fashion), and you’re filling out incident paperwork for the rest of the week.

There are probably a number of useful, um, uses for thermal spray coatings, but it seems to me that the potential hazards involved would perhaps outweigh said usefulness.

Gotta Hold Them Legos In Place!

Okay, so this Weirdohead entry isn’t really so much about the actual product in question, but more about the website itself. Clicking around the old interwebs, I found myself at this web page: http://www.kurtworkholding.com/hydraulic-clamping-c-609-l-en.html. Here, the Kurt Workholding company is demonstrating their hydraulic clamping systems, which, by their description, seem like a perfectly good, handy piece of industrial equipment.

What gets them on Weirdohead is this: the diagram accompanying their written spiel makes it look like their hydraulic swing clamps, with “clamping capacity of 475 lbs. to 6,000 lbs. at 5,000 PSI,” are holding a (slightly bizarro) Lego piece in place. Presumably, they’re fairly good sized objects, certainly larger than a “four banger” Lego block—and maybe I’m just not looking at it with the proper engineer’s eye or whatever—but the illustration looks like it should have a Lego man in a hardhat standing beside it, overseeing the action.

I honestly can’t say why it is that the drawing seems so small—obviously it’s not meant to be 1:1 scale. I think it’s probably only because the item being held by the hydraulic clamps so resembles a Lego piece. Of course, that’s not what it’s supposed to be, but then, what the heck is it? Part of an engine block? Voltron’s big toe? The key component in a Doomsday Device?