Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gotta love those Putative Orthologous Groups!!

Orthologs and Paralogs are two types of homologous sequences. The Putative Orthologous Groups, also known as POGs, are the...wait a minute...are we talking about gene sequences this week?!! Those were never trendy!

My apologies, I misread my notes! This week we're actually talking about POGs as in stack the caps, whack the stack, score and restack! Legend has it that this game first became popular in Hawaii during the 1920's. A brand of juice made from passionfruit, orange, and guava (with the initials spelling out POG) came packaged in glass bottles with a round, cardboard lid that was used to play this game when it first started. Or so the story goes!

Truth is, the POG tropical juice drink didn't exist until 1971 and this urban legend was started by a publicity marketer for the POG company.
Either way, during the 1990's, the whole country had a case of "Milkcap Mania" and the game that started out using plain looking, boring cardboard caps soon had playing pieces as diverse and plentiful as the ways to prepare shrimp Bubba was talking about in Forest Gump! Thousands of POGs were developed using pictures of celebrities, movies, TV shows, and comic books. Some were even holographic! And before you knew it, ridiculous commericals like these were made!

The trend started when a Hawaiian school teacher used bottle caps as a fun way to teach her school children math. Ironically, POGs were eventually banned from schools because they were considered gambling, distracted kids during school hours, and caused playground arguments, but they still have use today! During Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Army Air Force Exhange Service, more commonly reffered to as AAFES, starting issuing POGs instead of actual money, because the lightweight cardboard was cheaper to ship to the warzone than change!
Aaron's Thoughts: I was always more into collecting POGs than playing. My favorite ones were these holographic ones that would show a very normal situation like a man cutting up fruit with a knife or a kid's face with acne. Then you would move it slightly, and the image would change to the man with the knife cutting off his finger and the kid popping his zits full of green pus at you. Brilliant!

Daniel's Thoughts: I remember collecting the Apollo 11 Pogs from Hardees! I had 23/24 dad gum it! My favorite pogs were actually the slug ones. They showed slugs getting killed in all manner of creative and inventive ways! The one thing I'll never forget about POGs is the time I competed in a POG tournament!

It was at the Knoxville Center, during the hot, humid summer. We went to the mall to compete against the greatest POG champions East Tennessee had to offer. We were running a little late, so I was the last kid to sign up. I don't remember all the rules, but I do remember that each kid had two turns. We cycled through and sure enough I lost my first turn! It wasn't looking good for me! After about an hour, the kids cycled through again. I remember seeing kids who would beat 20 people in a row. But alas, because I had been the last to sign up, I was up for my second turn last. That meant that suddenly the championship was only one match away!

I flipped my slammer so we could figure out who went first. He called heads and sure enough...heads! It wasn't looking good at all! He went first and, thankfully, flipped less than half the stack over. It was my turn! The entire mall, perhaps the entire universe, went silent. It was my time to show the world what I was made of. Although I had been playing with the same slammer for a long time, on a hunch I swapped at slammers at the last minute. I grabbed a clear, plastic one. It had a nice heavy feel in my hand. I wiped the sweat off my brown and gave that slam my everything! I was afraid to watch as the stack was hit by the slammer. Slowly...slowly...the stack flew up a few inches and began to descend back to the ground. But as it did, the entire stack flipped! I won!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A three foot trophy, $500 in mall gift certificates, and a lifetime of fame and glory were mine!

The Bottom Line: As far as trends, POGs were slamin'! (You know, because of the slammers used to play). You may have banned them from our schools, but you can never ban them from our hearts! Even though it was fun while it lasted, I don't think POGs will make a comeback anytime soon. If this doesn't make sense to you, then I guess you had to be there!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Powdered Wigs

We’ve all seen them at some point in time. They’re part of American history—part of the American heritage! Actually, they’re a bigger deal than just that: They’re a part of history for all Western Society!

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look no further than a one, two, ten, or hundred dollar bill. I’m not talking about Presidents, Pilgrims, or the Founding Fathers! I’m talkin’ about the wigs they wore! That’s right, big, white, curly, and glorious powdered wigs! If you STILL don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the English gentlemen in Pirates of the Caribbean. You don’t seriously think they really had hair THAT amazing, do you?

Although the Fore Fathers had it going on, wigs started in ancient civilizations. Mostly the Egyptians are to blame; they wore them to protect their bald heads from the sun. Although wigs had a practical start, they gradually became fashionable. By the 17th century, they had ‘evolved’ into what we now know as powdered wigs. Sometimes they were tights curls, like on the dollar bills, and sometimes they were long, flowing locks of curls like the picture to the right.

These wigs were worn by both men, women, and children for formal occasions. As time passed, the need for such formal dress diminished, and so did the popularity of these wigs until they faded out of usage completely.

From Wikipedia: “Later, wigs or the natural hair were worn long, brushed back from the forehead and clubbed or tied back at the nape of the neck with a black ribbon.” It’s quite possible that if you follow this hair fashion to it’s full manifestation you will arrive at the mullet!!

Daniel’s thoughts: I have to admit that I probably would’ve been born poor and had wig envy all my life! If I were lucky enough to be of noble blood, my wig would’ve been a point of pride and I probably would’ve rocked the ones with the super long and curly locks!

Aaron’s thoughts: Am I the only one who's wondering why these ever went out in the first place? If we're lucky they'll come back into style. Heck, why wait? If we work together we can get this thing off the ground! Tell everyone you know, the powdered wigs are making a comeback!

I'll probably go for a wavy one that would go down to my neck.

The bottom line: No matter where you stand on this issue, powdered wigs were worn by men, women, and children and offered something for the whole family. You can deny it all you want, but ultimately, I guess you had to be there!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Fourteen years ago today, something great happened to mankind! Anyone who was alive during the mid 90s will be familiar with the Macarena. After it was released it went on to become the best selling debut single of all time and the band was ranked #1 as the all time greatest one hit wonders by VH1. But it was also the biggest dance craze to come along since The Robot. has it ranked as the #4 Dance Craze ever.

But the Macarena was more than just a hugely successful single or a dance that everyone was doing. It was a cultural phenomenon.

It was played in clubs, ball parks, at fairs, and on the radio. People talked about it on talk shows. 50,000 people once did it at Yankee Stadium. Jackie Chan did it during the credits to one of his movies. Vice president Al Gore even did it at the Democratic National Convention. Well, he did his version of the dance, remaining completely still while the song was played.

The song is by Los Del Rio and is about a woman by the same name or women from the La Macarena neighborhood in Seville, Spain. It was originally recorded in 1992 and released the following year. But it found success after being remixed by the Bayside Boys and having English lyrics added.

Aaron's thoughts: I was one of the many, many detractors of the Macarena during it's heyday. I couldn't stand the song and thought the dance was stupid. But, I was really young during it's heyday, and I could definitely be described as a wallflower back then. Maybe my hatred came from not having the courage and the confidence to get off that wall and do the Macarena with all of my peers. Maybe I hated it because it shined so bright and in my shyness I wanted to avoid the light.

Then again, maybe I just thought it was stupid. I don't know. But what I do know is that 13 years later, I have finally learned the importance of the Macarena.

One night this summer, I went into my church's youth room to see a big group of people doing the Cupid Shuffle. It looked like they were having fun, so I decided to join in. After that song ended, the Macarena came on. I looked at the guy next to me and told him I never learned that as I was leaving the dance floor. But he gave me a quick look of disbelief and told me today was the day I would learn. So I learned it, did the dance, and had a blast! It was a very big moment for me. And it only came about thirteen years too late!

Daniel's thoughts: The Macarena was a phenomenon! I haven't done this dance in a decade but I still know how to do it! I just Youtubed the video and I can't help but smile nostalgically at the catchy beat, silly lyrics, and HORRIBLE singing! However, I'm not too proud to admit that I did the heck out of the Macarena when it was popular!

It was a point of pride if you could do it faster than anyone else! No one was too good to do the Macarena either, in fact it was during those moments of coordinated, hip-gyrating dancing that all men were truly equal. In fact, I found a photo of an American soldier teaching an Iraqi soldier this dance. Brilliant!

The bottom line: Even though the Macarena has been dead for well over a decade, it's still around. People still remember what it was and how the dance goes. It will most likely be one of those dances like the Electric Slide, the Twist, and the Cha Cha Slide that everyone on the dance floor knows how to do.

So the Macarena is like the bones of the dinosaurs or Egyptian Pharaohs, it's dead but it's not going anywhere anytime soon. And if you don't get why, then I guess you had to be there.