15 June 2018


Said to be samples from locations in the Sahara Desert.  Readers at the Reddit post suggested it looks like a "bronzer" (which I had to look up).  Someone else offered a picture of their sand collection.

And not just the Scandinavian elkhounds

"Aquamation" is cremation by water

In 2016, cremation became the most common method of body disposal in the U.S., overtaking entombment for the first time. This shift is often attributed to the high cost of traditional burial and the waning importance of religion. But experts also point to society’s changing views about how dead bodies should be disposed of. The spectrum of what’s morally acceptable is broadening, at the same time that the most common disposal methods are coming under scrutiny for their environmental impact. More than four million gallons of toxic embalming fluids and 20 million feet of wood are put in the ground in the U.S. every year, while a single cremation emits as much carbon dioxide as a 1,000-mile car trip. Thus, the rise in America of “green burials,” where bodies are wrapped in biodegradable material and not embalmed...

Sieber is a part of this trend, but she doesn’t want a green burial. When she dies, she told me, she wants her body to be dunked in a high-pressure chamber filled with water and lye. That water will be heated to anywhere from 200 to 300 degrees, and in six to twelve hours her flesh, blood, and muscle will dissolve. When the water is drained, all that will remain in the tank are her bones and dental fillings. If her family desires, they can have her remains crushed into ash, to be displayed or buried or scattered. This process is known colloquially as water cremation and scientifically as alkaline hydrolysis, or aquamation...

Alkaline hydrolysis was originally marketed as a way to rapidly decompose animal bodies and use their nutrients for fertilizer. It was later adopted by scientific labs to dispose of disease-contaminated bodies, like cow carcasses infected by mad cow disease in the 1990s. Its commercial use for animals began in the early 2000s, Seiber said, as grieving pet owners sought a sentimental disposal option that didn’t require an expensive burial or involve burning Fido to ashes.

In addition to its gentleness and cost (aquamation for dogs runs anywhere from $150 to $400, while cremation is around $100), veterinarians and pet funeral homes began to market aquamation’s environmental benefits.
But Sieber may not get her wish of being aquamated when she dies. Only 15 states allow alkaline hydrolysis for human remains, and Indiana, where Sieber lives and where Bio-Response is based, is not one of them. Casket-makers and the Catholic Church are working to make sure it stays that way. 
Much more at the longread at The New Republic.

Icelanders are organ donors BY DEFAULT

As reported in the Reykjavik Grapevine:
A crucial law on organ donations that was first introduced to Iceland’s Parliament in 2012 has finally passed. From this point forward, all Icelanders will be organ donors by default, unless they specify otherwise...

The concept of the law is fairly simple. All Icelanders will be assumed to be organ donors by default, with two exceptions: if the deceased specified beforehand that they do not want their organs to be removed, or if the deceased said nothing on the matter but their closest relative objects.

As reported, the bill is far from revolutionary. Other Scandinavian countries have similar laws on the books already.


I enjoy finding butterflies that are busy puddling, because they are so preoccupied with the task at hand that they allow me to get close for photographs.  On a springtime visit to Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, I saw butterflies literally by the tens of thousands puddling along the road.

Moths and butterflies have a behavior called “puddling”. Males (some females do this as well) will suck up liquids to gain nutrients such as sodium. Butterflies and moths can be observed puddling around puddles, ponds, mud, dung, damp concrete… and apparently, some are also attracted to saliva. Males are the usual suspects because they will offer these extra nutrients to females as a sort of nuptial gift along with their spermatophore during mating.

This moth was fed sugar water while in his enclosure, but apparently the allure of sweat and saliva were too much to resist.
Second photo and text credit to the caterpillar wrangler at Caterpillarblog.

Related:  puddling on a dead frog, on raccoon scat, and lachryphagy

And this incredible fact: " Butterflies that "puddle" at muddy spots or collections of animal dung are seeking sodium, which is rarely found in plants (potassium is the principal cation in vegetation). "In extreme cases a moth may imbibe an amount of fluid 600 times its own weight in a single puddling session, expelling the excess water as it drinks and retaining only the precious [sodium]."

Reposted from 2012 to add this photo:  I presume this butterfly (a Queen, I think) is also puddling -

Probably less dangerous than it appears, since I think crocodiles leave their mouths agape for extended period of time (?for thermoregulation). (Via)

Spain's new Minister of Science

"Pedro Duque earned a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) in 1986. He worked for GMV and for the European Space Agency (ESA) for six years before being selected as an astronaut candidate in 1992. Duque underwent training in both Russia and the United States. His first spaceflight was as a mission specialist aboard space shuttle mission STS-95, during which Duque supervised ESA experimental modules. In October 2003, Duque visited the International Space Station for several days during a crew changeover. The scientific program of this visit was called by ESA/Spain Misión Cervantes.
He has worked at the UPM, in the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Aeronáuticos, and at Deimos Imaging. Currently he is back as an astronaut of ESA, and leads the Flight Operations Office near Munich.

On 6 June 2018, he was named Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities of the Government of Spain.  (via)
The United States doesn't have a Minister of Science.  We do, however, have a congressioinal Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.  It "has jurisdiction over all energy research... astronautical research and development, including resources, personnel, equipment, and facilities; civil aviation research and development; environmental research and development; marine research... National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; National Weather Service; outer space, including exploration and control thereof..."

This committee is chaired by Lamar Smith, who has decades of experience as... an attorney and politician; he was formerly a contributor to Breitbart News, and tweeted an article from that source denying climate change.  The vice-chairman is a politician with experience in politics.  Maybe there's someone on the committee with experience in science.  I just don't have time to spend on a fruitless search.

Congratulations, Spain.

The world's oldest bridge

 (click photo for way way bigger)

As reported by The British Museum:
The bridge at Tello was built in the third millennium BC, making it the oldest bridge still in existence. This remarkable survival will be preserved by a team of British Museum archaeologists and Iraqi heritage professionals who are being trained to protect ancient sites that have suffered damage at the hands of Daesh (or the so-called Islamic State)...

Built for the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu, the bridge was only rediscovered in 1929. Described at the time as an ‘enigmatic construction’, it has been variously interpreted as a temple, dam and water regulator. Recent studies using 1930s photographs as well as recently declassified satellite imagery from the 1960s, alongside new research at the site, have confirmed that it was a bridge over an ancient waterway and that it is (at the time of writing) the earliest-known bridge in the world. Since the excavations nearly 90 years ago, the bridge has remained open and exposed, with no identifiable conservation work to address its long-term stability or issues of erosion, and no plans to manage the site or tell its story to the wider world.
More photos and a video at the link.

Clever marketing

Via the Audiophile subreddit.


"One of the greatest, most alluring posters in the world: those sly cat eyes, those sumptuous cushions, that seductive plume of cigarette smoke, and most breathtaking: the white negative space of the petticoats, on which to dream. Le Frou-Frou was a light-hearted, satirical publication that ran from 1900 to the beginning of World War I; its pages contained pictures of can-can dancers, cartoons, humorous anecdotes of Parisian life, and more risqué elements like some of the first advertisements for condoms. This is the rare, large format version: complete with bottom text banner."
Image cropped for size from the original.

13 June 2018

"Becky" can be a perjorative term. And it's a "hypocorism."

You learn something every day.  This week a fascinating podcast at This American Life taught me some of the ramifications of calling a woman a "Becky."  I had to look up the history.  This from 2016 following the term's use by Beyoncé:
"For years, 'Becky' has been used as a general reference for a particular type of White woman," Damon Young wrote in Very Smart Brothas. "There are several theories on its etymology, but the one that makes the most sense is that it stems from the first line of 'Baby Got Back.'”

One use of "Becky" is simply to describe a woman considered beneath the speaker's level. The other is to refer to "a white woman who is clueless, who is kind of racist, [and] who makes statements without knowing what she's saying," said Whitehead.
Others said "Becky" is used to describe white women just because it's a stereotypically white-sounding name
USA Today suggested some literary counterparts:
What we do know: The name Becky has become a stand-in for a generic woman, generally white, who is familiar with sexual acts.

The cultural references date to William Makepeace Thackeray's satirical novel Vanity Fair published around 1847. The protagonist, Becky Sharp, is a social climber who utilizes one of the resources at her disposal -- her charm and ability to seduce wealthy men -- to move up the social ladder...

Fast-forward to 1876, and along comes Becky Thatcher seducing Tom Sawyer [top photo]...

In 1938, Daphne du Maurier sets up the ex that will haunt us all in her novel Rebecca...

Skip ahead to Sir Mix A Lot, who adds the phrase “oh my god Becky, look at her butt,” to the cultural lexicon. The lyrics to Baby Got Back indicate Becky and her friend are white, somewhat basic, and mildly racist...

Things get very NSFW in 2010 when rapper Plies takes the concept further. His song Becky is cited as the start of the name’s use as slang for a specific sexual act, not just a stand-in for a sexual woman...

Another incarnation has evolved simultaneously in gay communities, occasionally meaning gay or as a reference to the random girls who hang around gay bars that have no value-add...
I will wager dollars to doughnuts that nobody ever called Rebecca de Winter "Becky," and I think Becky Sharp and Becky Thatcher had nothing to do with the current usage.

The podcast that started my exploration is My Effing First Amendment ("The Brawl on the Mall"), about an incident at the University of Nebraska in which a liberal faculty member called a student supporting Turning Point USA a "neo-fascist Becky."  I highly recommend listening to all three segments of the podcast.  For those who prefer to read, there is a comprehensive report in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

And now to end with an interesting, useful finding.  "Becky" is an example of hypocorism - a diminutive form of a name (the word comes from the Greek for "child-talk" (cool).  The Wikipedia link has a list of too-many-to-count examples from over 30 languages.  Your name is probably there; mine is (I've been a hypocorism my whole life without knowing it...)

Top photo: Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer

Concealed wheelchair access

"The company has installed hundreds of these lifts into all sorts of buildings and structures, from the Kensington Palace to Cambridge University. Many of the buildings in which the lifts have been placed are centuries old, with historic facades and entries preservationists hoped to keep intact. The Sesame retractible staircase blends so well, you can hardly tell the spaces have been altered..."
I like the fact that there's a temporary anti-rollback ridge after it goes up.

For your front yard next Halloween

PVC pipe, chicken wire, cloth, spray paint, lantern.  Some assembly required, but looks easy.

12 June 2018


Photo via.

Bog pulling - a new summer sport in Minnesota

It's not rare for riparian vegetation to become detached and float free in lakes.  But last fall an immense bog near Brainerd Minnesota broke loose after high water lifted the mass of cattails and tamarack trees and high winds began pushing it;  the bog crossed a lake, destroying docks and boat lifts on its journey and eventually effectively obliterated a beach when it finally came to rest at a school safety patrol training center used by 700 children in the summer.  This spring efforts began at solving the problem using local resources and volunteers.

At 4 acres in size and 4,000 tons in weight, the bog has presented a major challenge to removal efforts.  The whitish lines in the top photo are temporary boardwalks set up to facilitate efforts with chainsaws to segment the bog into manageable pieces. 

The bottom image is a screencap from drone footage in the video at the Brainerd Dispatch.  That effort was unsuccessful, but recent work has resulted in some segmentation and an expectation for eventual success.

Top photo credit.

So far in June...

A two-year-old boy died after being shot by his 13-year-old brother in Ohio;

a four-year-old boy was shot in South Carolina after playing with a gun he found under a mattress; 

a 10-year-old boy was shot while playing in his yard in Mississippi;

a two-year-old boy was shot in the head

and a nine-year-old boy was shot in the stomach while shooting targets in Tennessee;

a four-year-old boy was shot at a gas station in Missouri;

a five-year-old boy was shot while sitting on a porch in Louisiana;

a five-year-old boy was shot in Pennsylvania;

a six-year-old boy in Kentucky died when a gun he was playing with went off;

a 12-year-old girl died after being shot by two teenagers in Georgia;

five-year-old boy was shot by his eight-year-old brother and seven people were shot at a child’s birthday party in Illinois;

and a ten-year-old boy was shot in the head at a birthday party in Virginia.

That's for approximately the first two weeks in June, for fox ache.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...