21 November 2017

Etruscan statue


“Evening shadow”. Etruscan statue, 3rd c. BC, Volterra. The name is from Gabriele d’Annunzio

Via Poemas del rio Wang.

Alexa commands

Cnet has a (momentarily) complete list of Alexa commands.
The list of Alexa commands is expansive and grows with every new service or device it supports. Alexa isn't perfect, but it's pretty great at understanding natural language, so you don't always have to speak the commands exactly as you see them below. Many commands work when worded several different ways or even with words omitted.
I also discovered that there is a subreddit dedicated to Amazon Echo, wherein you can find a list of known Easter eggs, including...
  • Alexa, I am your father.
  • Alexa, who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
  • Alexa, what is the loneliest number?
  • Alexa, how many roads must a man walk down?
  • Alexa, all your base are belong to us.
  • Alexa, how much is that doggie in the window?
  • Alexa, romeo, romeo wherefore art thou romeo?
  • Alexa, define rock paper scissors lizard spock
  • Alexa, beam me up.
  • Alexa, how much wood can a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
  • Alexa, define supercalifragilisticexpialodocious.
  • Alexa, who’s your daddy?
  • Alexa, Earl Grey. Hot. (or Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.)
  • Alexa, what is the meaning of life?
  • Alexa, what does the Earth weigh?
  • Alexa, when is the end of the world?
  • Alexa, is there a Santa?
  • Alexa, make me a sandwich.
  • Alexa, what is the best tablet?
  • Alexa, what is your favorite color?
  • Alexa, what is your quest?
  • Alexa, who won best actor Oscar in 1973?
  • Alexa, what is your quest?
  • Alexa, what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  • Alexa, where do babies come from?
  • Alexa, do you have a boyfriend?
  • Alexa, which comes first: the chicken or the egg?
  • Alexa, may the force be with you.
  • Alexa, do aliens exist?
(more at the link)

Posted for Suzanne up at the lake, with thanks for recommending this device to me.

'Tis the season

In the past we have generally gone out to get our Christmas tree in early December, but after realizing that the trees are cut much earlier than that, we decided this year to go out much sooner.

Yesterday was Monday, November 20.  Our local garden center told us that they had just received their shipment of trees on the weekend (we were their third customer), and that the trees had been harvested here in central Wisconsin three days earlier (Nov 17).

This batch of trees will sit outside for weeks now desiccating in the wind.  We won't put ours up inside the house until early December, but in the meantime it sits in a bucket in the garage soaking up water. 

And as a bonus the garage smells like pine.

Japanese game show


Posted as a reminder to those of us living in the Upper Midwest that winter is just around the corner.

Does anyone recognize this "NL" logo ? (solved)

I found this Zippo lighter while cleaning out an old desk drawer; it presumably is a family heirloom but has no sentimental value for me.  But before disposing of it I thought I'd inquire about that logo on the side.

I presume it's the 15th anniversary of something.  The lighter would have been used by my father in the 1950s-60s, and it likely was given to him by a customer or friend, since he didn't spend money on fancy Zippos.

Does the logo look familiar to anyone?

Addendum: a tip of the hat to reader Gelvan Tullibole 3rd, who found the logo (in Wikipedia no less) associated with NL Industries.

About those towers on the Sears warehouses


I remember the massive Sears building in Minneapolis.  In my childhood it was an iconic structure.  The Atlantic has an article about how such buildings around the country are being repurposed.  One particular item caught my eye:
As a hybrid of store and warehouse, the plants were the physical embodiment of the company’s pivot from rural-focused mail-order catalogues to urban and suburban retail stores...

The plants’ locations also speak to this transitional moment. They were built at what was then the edge of town, adjacent to rail lines. Land was cheap and parking plentiful in these areas, but they were still closer to the urban core than many early car-oriented bedroom communities, says Jerry Hancock, an amateur Sears historian.

Plants were among the largest buildings by square footage in their cities, if not the largest outright. They usually clocked in at a million square feet or more. Their art deco flourishes and iconic “Sears towers”—not to be confused with the company’s eventual headquarters in Chicago—made them local landmarks. (The towers, Hancock explains, were built to hold the plant’s cistern, providing maximum water pressure during break times on the warehouse floor, when hundreds of workers would use the bathroom at the same time.)

More kitchen tips than you can ever remember

"Passing as white"

I'd never seen my mother so afraid.

“Promise me,” she pleaded, “you won’t tell anyone until after I die. How will I hold my head up with my friends?”

For two years, I’d waited for the right moment to confront my mother with the shocking discovery I made in 1995 while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records. In the records, my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, and his entire family were designated black.
The rest of the story is at The Washington Post.

F/X


The best special effects are the ones you don't notice.

19 November 2017

Toothache

If you heroically browse through the medical manuscripts and loose illustrations of the small shops in the Istanbul book bazaar, you will wander through more circles of hell than Dante...

Islamic dentistry leads back its origins to Mohammad, who instructs the believers in a special hadith to wash their teeth at least twice or thrice a day. He is also referred by the great 10th-century Arabic physician, Ibn Sina or Avicenna, whose famous Al kanun fi al-tibb (The canon of medicine) gives instructions for treating teeth, drilling, pain relief, and fixing dentures with gold wire to the jaw...

The first Ottoman medical manuscripts, Bereket’s Tuhfe-i Mubrizi, Ahmadi’s Tarvih al-ervah and Hacı Paşa’s Müntehab al-şifa, all come from the 14th century, and they also deal with the treatment and anatomy of teeth.
There are numerous illustrations at Poemas del Rio Wang.

iPhone in a 1937 painting - and in an 1860 painting. And 1918.


Image cropped for size from the original at Vice's Motherboard, where the painting is discussed.

Reposted to add this image (cropped for emphasis) from “The Expected One,” an 1860 work by Austrian painter Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller:


Discussed (and explained) at Vice's Motherboard.

Source image for the 1860 painting.

Addendum:
I found this man, texting his friends -

Ivan Vladimirov: On the streets of Petrograd, 1918

- in a post about the October Revolution in Poemas del Rio Wang.

Nuts



I think the technology shown here is similar to how some golf ball pickers work at driving ranges.  What's really cool is how the collecting chambers are emptied at the end.

Plastics contaminating benthic sea creatures


The photo above shows a translucent arrow worm with a blue plastic fiber in its digestive tract.
The study, led by academics at Newcastle University, found animals from trenches across the Pacific Ocean were contaminated with fibres that probably originated from plastic bottles, packaging and synthetic clothes...

The study tested samples of crustaceans found in the ultra-deep trenches that span the entire Pacific Ocean – the Mariana, Japan, Izu-Bonin, Peru-Chile, New Hebrides and Kermadec trenches. These range from seven to more than 10 kilometres deep, including the deepest point in the ocean, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.

The team examined 90 individual animals and found ingestion of plastic ranged from 50% in the New Hebrides Trench to 100% at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
More at The Guardian.  Photo credit: Richard Kirby

Moonlight tower

A moonlight tower or moontower is a lighting structure designed to illuminate areas of a town or city at night. The towers were popular in the late 19th century in cities across the United States and Europe; they were most common in the 1880s and 1890s. In some places they were used when standard street-lighting, using smaller, shorter, and more numerous lamps, was impractically expensive. In other places they were used in addition to gas street lighting. The towers were designed to illuminate areas often of several blocks at once, on the "high light" principle. Arc lamps, known for their exceptionally bright and harsh light, were the most common method of illumination. As incandescent electric street lighting became common, the prevalence of towers began to wane.
Photo of Los Angeles in 1882, via TheWayWeWere subreddit.

17 November 2017

Concierto de Aranjuez (Joaquin Rodrigo)


"Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre, 1st Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez... commonly known as Joaquín Rodrigo, was a Spanish composer and a virtuoso pianist.

Rodrigo was born in Sagunto, Valencia, and completely lost his sight at the age of three after contracting diphtheria. He began to study solfège, piano and violin at the age of eight; harmony and composition from the age of 16. Although distinguished by having raised the Spanish guitar to dignity as a universal concert instrument and best known for his guitar music, he never mastered the instrument himself.  He wrote his compositions in Braille, which was transcribed for publication.

His most famous work, Concierto de Aranjuez, was composed in 1939 in Paris for the guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza. In later life he and his wife declared that it was written as a response to the miscarriage of their first child. It is a concerto for guitar and orchestra. The central adagio movement is one of the most recognizable in 20th-century classical music, featuring the interplay of guitar with cor anglais. This movement was later adapted by the jazz arranger Gil Evans for Miles Davis' 1960 album "Sketches of Spain".
I first encountered this music in the 1960s on the Miles Davis album.  I'm pleased now to blog the entire concierto.

Posted for my cousin Karl in Barcelona.
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