23 September 2018

Post-mastectomy tattoos

In 2013 I blogged about "Medical nipple tattoos," and two years ago featured an elaborate floral breast tattoo ("Because there's no nipple, I can blast it everywhere all over Facebook and Instagram, and they can't censor it, which I think is really funny," Alison says.)

This week The Guardian explored the subject in a little more depth, featuring photos and brief self-stories by seven women who have chosen breast tattoos after surgery.   For each of them the acquisition of the tattoo was an empowering act that enhanced their self-esteem, allowing them to become more comfortable with and more in control of their body transformation.
The biggest revelation was that I had been avoiding looking at myself in the mirror. I had been averting my eyes from my chest and scar, without realising it. A weight was lifted, and suddenly I had this beautiful piece of art. 
More at the link, including some contact information for artists.

Postulating Alzheimer's as an infectious disease

It's not totally fanciful.  Here are some excerpts from an NPR article:
Norins is quick to cite sources and studies supporting his claim, among them a 2010 study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery showing that neurosurgeons die from Alzheimer's at a nearly 2 1/2 times higher rate than the general population.

Another study from that same year, published in The Journal of the American Geriatric Society, found that people whose spouses have dementia are at a 1.6 times greater risk for the condition themselves.

Contagion does come to mind. And Norins isn't alone in his thinking. In 2016, 32 researchers from universities around the world signed an editorial in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease calling for "further research on the role of infectious agents in [Alzheimer's] causation." Based on much of the same evidence Norins encountered, the authors concluded that clinical trials with antimicrobial drugs in Alzheimer's are now justified...

Tanzi believes that in many cases of Alzheimer's, microbes are probably the initial seed that sets off a toxic tumble of molecular dominoes. Early in the disease amyloid protein builds up to fight infection, yet too much of the protein begins to impair function of neurons in the brain. The excess amyloid then causes another protein, called tau, to form tangles, which further harm brain cells.

But as Tanzi explains, the ultimate neurological insult in Alzheimer's is the body's reaction to this neurotoxic mess. All the excess protein revs up the immune system, causing inflammation — and it's this inflammation that does the most damage to the Alzheimer's-afflicted brain...

Remember when we thought ulcers were caused by stress?" Ulcers, we now know, are caused by a germ.

Best political advertisement ever

The first 40 seconds are pretty conventional.  But the last 20 seconds are brutal.  Cold.  Effective.  Awesome.

More re Paul Gosar.  FWIW, the 538 website projects a 99% chance that he will win reelection (with 64% of the vote).  The advertisement is recent - we'll see if the odds change.

"Pocket lint" screwed up my iPhone

Wherein an English major confronts a problem with modern technology and shares the solution with his readers.

I selected the iPhone SE for its smaller and more convenient size and (relative) affordability.   I was totally pleased with it until the phone began developing battery problems, about the same time in 2017 that Apple announced the implementation of a discounted battery replacement program that included the SE.

What I noticed was that my phone occasionally had problems charging.  Sometimes when I plugged in the lightning-to-USB cable I would return to find the battery charge level unchanged (or lower).  I switched from charging it off the iMac USB port to charging it off a wall outlet via an adapter.  Sometimes the phone charged, sometimes it didn't.

So in I went to the Apple store earlier this summer, where the a staff member ran full diagnostics on the battery.  "Nothing wrong with your battery."  All of the diagnostics accessible via the Settings>Battery>Battery Health menu (maximum capacity, peak performance capability) were within normal limits - as were all of the additional parameters that the technician was able to measure with their in-house proprietary program.

I thought perhaps my charging cable was defective, so I bought another one.  Sometimes when I charged the phone in an upright position, with its weight on the connector the charging "took," which made the cable-port connection more suspicious.  Also, sometimes when I plugged it in, the phone would blink "on" with the icon, then go quiet, then blink "on" again in a repeating cycle.  This would stop if I wiggled the cable just right.

So back I went this week, taking the charging cable with me.  The young lady who helped me solved the problem in five minutes.  First she checked the metrics, which were all normal.  Then when I suggested maybe the port needed to be replaced, she said looked at my cable-phone connection and announced "it's much easier than that."  She pointed out that the plastic "collar" at the end of the cable was not flush with the body of the phone when it was plugged in.

That was the key observation.  I had noticed some "play" in that connection and had wondered if the port was damaged.  The solution was way simpler than that.  She reached in her pocket, pulled out what looked like an otoscope, and peered into the port.  "It's pocket lint.  We'll fix it right here."  She then took out a short handled, soft-bristled brush and began poking away at the port, stopping at intervals to blow dust off the bristles.

The problem of course was that lint from my pants pocket had slowly accumulated in the port.  Each time I plugged the lightning-to-USB cable into the phone, I was gradually packing that lint into the base of the port, eventually disrupting the electrical connection.  Two minutes of vigorous brushing solved the problem: the cable connected with click, totally flush with the phone. 

I decided to write this up for the blog because I suspect some readers may encounter a similar situation (and this probably goes cross-platform to phones other than iPhones.)  To prepare the post I searched for "pocket lint" plus iPhone and immediately found an article that describes the problem and the solution.
On my iPhone 5, I noticed it “chirped” that it was plugged in while already plugged in. After narrowing down the possible maneuver to cause this to happen, I noticed that my Lightning cable had a bit of play in it, but only going to the right. If pushed right, it would stop charging, pushed back it would resume charging...

In the past with my iPods and iPhones, there was a bit of lint build up, but it often fell out. It seems with the Lightning Connector, plugging a cable in smashes the lint even deeper in the phone and I had some nasty buildup. I’ve used compressed air before, but it didn’t seem to really remove much. I used an unbent small paperclip to carefully scrape the inside of the port, avoiding the actual pins (do this at your own risk), and was amazed the amount of things that I was able to pull out.
I had asked the Apple tech about using compressed air at home, as I do with the keyboard, but she suggested a brush tends to work better.  My search also revealed that "dust plugs" are available.

In retrospect, the reason I didn't find the solution the many times I searched for "battery problems" is that this wasn't a battery problem.  So I thought I'd post the problem and solution here today for the benefit of those readers who may also be non-techy English majors.

20 September 2018

"Are You Going With Me?" (Pat Metheny Group)

Filmed at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, but the audio is obviously from a studio recording.  This video has just the music.

"At the time of the song's recording, Latin American and especially Brazilian music had begun to influence jazz in the United States, and when Brazilian musicians such as Nana Vasconcelos came to play with American artists, this influence, in the case of the Pat Metheny Group, became overt. The "Brazilian" quality of "Are You Going With Me?" is frequently noted; and it has been considered by some to be "obviously samba-based"."

Interesting story about Pat Metheny:  "While playing at a club in Kansas City, he was approached by Bill Lee, a dean at the University of Miami, and offered a scholarship. After less than a week at college, Metheny realized that playing guitar all day during his teens had left him unprepared for classes. He admitted this to Lee, who offered him a job to teach instead, as the school had recently introduced electric guitar as a course of study."

He is apparently the only artist ever to win Grammy Awards in ten different categories.

A more recent performance, with the Metropole Orkest (Netherlands jazz/pop orchestra):

19 September 2018

A "rat king", three "squirrel kings" -- and three bucks

"Rat kings are cryptozoological phenomena said to arise when a number of rats become intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with blood, dirt, and excrement. The animals consequently grow together while joined at the tails, which are often broken. The phenomenon is particularly associated with Germany, where the majority of instances have been reported...

Most researchers presume the creatures are legendary and that all supposed physical evidence is hoaxed, such as mummified groups of dead rats with their tails tied together. Reports of living specimens remain unsubstantiated

Specimens of purported rat kings are kept in some museums. The museum Mauritianum in Altenburg (Thuringia) shows the largest well-known mummified "rat king", which was found in 1828 in a miller's fireplace at Buchheim [above]. It consists of 32 rats. Alcohol-preserved rat kings are shown in museums in Hamburg, Hamelin, Göttingen, and Stuttgart. A rat king found in 1930 in New Zealand, displayed in the Otago Museum in Dunedin, was composed of immature Rattus rattus whose tails were entangled by horse hair.

The term rat king has often led to the misconception of a king of rats... The Nutcracker, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, adapts a tale by E. T. A. Hoffmann that features a seven-headed Mouse King as the villain..."
Image and text from Wikipedia. Credit to Neatorama.

Addendum #1:  Reposted to add this example of a "squirrel king" -
The Animal Clinic of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada, got a surprise this week when a city worker brought in six squirrels fused together by their tails...

This particular group of six were nesting near a pine tree and sap fused their tails together. A city of Regina worker found the young squirrels and brought them to the clinic. The animals were sedated and the veterinarian team worked to untangle the mess of tails. Their tails were then shaved of the matted fur and they were given antibiotics to prevent infection.  (Via Nothing to do with Arbroath)

Addendum #2:  Reposted in order to add this related interesting phenomenon found by my wife at the Buck Manager website:

[T]hese three white-tailed bucks were found locked during the rut. The bucks were located on a ranch in east-central Texas and, from the information that I received, one of the bucks was still alive when the trio was found. Apparently, the antlers were cut from the dead deer and one very tired buck was lucky enough to run back off into the woods.
There are lots of comments at the site, some opining that the event was faked and arguing the method of death, and one who reported seeing a buck attack a pair that was already locked.   My wife found another example at the same website:

 "...there is nothing worse than finding a dead buck that you did not shoot, but how would you feel if you found not one, but three dead bucks on your property? Okay, it gets worse. What if those three bucks totaled 450 inches of antler? That is exactly what a hunter in the mid-West found on his Ohio farm..."
"They had the bank of this creek all tore up."
Addendum #3: And reader Lisa knew of a ancient example of the phenomenon involving Ice Age mammoths.

Addendum #4:  Reposted from 2013 to add this image found by an anonymous reader -

- of a squirrel king in Nebraska, with the victims, as in the example cited above, fused at their tails by pine tree sap.

Addendum #5:  Reposted yet again to add this "squirrel king" found locally here in central Wisconsin:

Their tails had become entwined with "long-stemmed grasses and strips of plastic their mother used as nest material," the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center wrote on Facebook... "It was impossible to tell whose tail was whose, and we were increasingly concerned because all of them had suffered from varying degrees of tissue damage to their tails caused by circulatory impairment," the post read.

"Acne positivity movement"

[Kali] Kushner, 23, from Cincinnati, Ohio, began documenting her struggle with acne on the Instagram account @myfacestory – her experience with the drug Accutane, dermarolling, makeup, scarring, hyperpigmentation, alongside all the ways people have responded to her acne, from her husband, who has been steadfastly supportive, to the traffic police officer who assumed she was a junkie. To her surprise, people began following. Today, with more than 50,000 followers, she makes up part of the growing acne positivity movement.

After years of oppressive aesthetic perfection, acne positivity is a drive for people to be more open about their skin problems, from the occasional spot to full-blown cystic acne. It joins recent moves to celebrate the many and varied appearances of our skin – from vitiligo to freckles and stretch marks – but also seeks to educate those who still believe that acne is a problem for the unwashed and unhealthy...

He tells of a US study in which participants were shown a selection of photographs of high-school students with skin problems, as well as photographs of the same students with their acne airbrushed out, and asked for their impressions. The results, Shergill says, showed that “as soon as you have any disfigurement on your face, you get viewed as an introverted nerd."

While many regard acne as a teenage affliction, it can evolve into adulthood. An estimated 25% of all women over 30 still have the condition.
The story continues at The Guardian.

Every positive integer can be written as a sum of three palindromes

An engine here allows you to test the validity of the statement.  Via Boing Boing.

Pontevedra, Spain, has banned automobiles

Not just on a boulevard or two, but for all of the central city.
Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores has been mayor of the Galician city since 1999. His philosophy is simple: owning a car doesn’t give you the right to occupy the public space.

“How can it be that the elderly or children aren’t able to use the street because of cars?” asks César Mosquera, the city’s head of infrastructures. “How can it be that private property – the car – occupies the public space?”

Lores became mayor after 12 years in opposition, and within a month had pedestrianised all 300,000 sq m of the medieval centre, paving the streets with granite flagstones. “The historical centre was dead,” he says. “There were a lot of drugs, it was full of cars – it was a marginal zone. It was a city in decline, polluted, and there were a lot of traffic accidents. It was stagnant. Most people who had a chance to leave did so. At first we thought of improving traffic conditions but couldn’t come up with a workable plan. Instead we decided to take back the public space for the residents and to do this we decided to get rid of cars.”

They stopped cars crossing the city and got rid of street parking, as people looking for a place to park is what causes the most congestion. They closed all surface car parks in the city centre and opened underground ones and others on the periphery, with 1,686 free places. They got rid of traffic lights in favour of roundabouts, extended the car-free zone from the old city to the 18th-century area, and used traffic calming in the outer zones to bring the speed limit down to 30km/h.
Details at The Guardian.

'Tis the season for Black Swallowtail caterpillars

The rather unimpressive greenery around our mailbox is a confluent group of rue (Ruta graveolens).  Most homeowners opt for mailbox plantings that are a bit more colorful and showy.  We like the rue because this shrubby perennial tolerates poor soil in hot dry conditions (next to an asphalt road and concrete driveway) and because it is a primary food plant for the caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).

Earlier in the season the plants are covered with tiny yellow blossoms...

... which, while unspectacular to the human eye, are complex clusters of five-petaled flowers that are very attractive to bees.  We seldom see Black Swallowtail butterflies on the rue (they tend to nectar on larger flowers elsewhere in the garden), but we know females have visited the rue and oviposited there because in September the caterpillars start appearing on the upper outer branches.

What we see are the late-stage instars, mature caterpillars that are starting to look for a place to form a chrysalis.  They seem to know that the greenery of the rue will die back in the winter, leaving only the woody central stems, and they need a secure place for the chrysalis if they are to live through a Wisconsin winter.

When we find the caterpillars, we bring them to our screen porch, which offers them protection from predatory wasps, ants, spiders, etc., and we give them some clippings of the rue for a final snack, and more importantly a variety of sticks they can use for pupation.  In the above photo the two caterpillars have chosen a stick from a birch tree, and the one on the right has already formed its "J", with a silk harness going from the stick around behind its "shoulders."

Several days later (the larger cat having moved on), the caterpillar is now fully pupated, attached at the bottom with some glued adhesive [higher on the stick is a remnant from a prior year's successful sequence], and supported by that amazing little silk sling.

We have eight of these now on the screen porch.  The terrarium will be placed where the chrysalises can be snowed on (I think they might need some moisture in the winter to avoid desiccation), and they will live through sub-zero temperatures, will freeze and thaw (perhaps several times), and in the spring...

... magic.

I've seen metamorphosis countless times, and it never fails to fascinate me.  And the beauty of these creatures up close in just incredible.  Here's a view of the underside of the wings -

And then follows the to-me-incredible event when a creature that in its entire previous life crawled around in a small plant, now lets go of a stick and "knows" how to fly.  And eyes that have never before focused more than millimeters away can now locate food and mates at dozens of meters.

You don't have to be a child to retain a sense of wonder with regard to the natural world.

When you purchase a stock photo but forget to write your own caption

Credit (??) to the StarTribune.

15 September 2018

Divertimento #155

Yet another gif-fest (plus some short videos that seem better linked here rather than in separate posts)

Demonstration of a drone being used to extinguish a fire in a high-rise building.

Surprisingly, nobody was killed in this accident

Clever book cover

Creating art with an ink-soaked string 

A girl riding a horse

Lightness and darkness are relative terms

A "draw hitch knot" is a quick-release knot

How to serve a Korean dinner with a lot of side dishes

Dinner served with shovels

California fire tornado 

Woman dries underpants during an airplane flight 

A Congreve clock uses a ball rolling on a zig-zag track rather than a pendulum

Playing around with a skid-steer loader 

Nutation illustrated

"Trashy" people filmed in reverse at an Ohio wildlife preserve.

Taxi driver has had it up to here with a drunk who litters

Hi-rising dough

Building a Leonardo daVinci bridge (example)


Butterflies puddling on a turtle 

Newfoundland dogs are natural water rescuers

Deer freed from a fence 

Two fish in an aquarium have a territorial dispute 

Elephants in Kenya eating birds' nests with chicks and eggs

Wading bird hitches a ride

Turtles on a log

Two-headed turtle 

Aerial view of a dog herding sheep 

Four-legged hay spreader 

Happy cow 

Owl intimidates woodpecker

Snow leopard mom teaching her cub


Cat escapes from a well by climbing a vertical wall

How to fillet an avocado

Power-washing a rug

Launching a remote-controlled glider

Break dancing (perhaps it has another name?)

Leigh Holland-Keen lifts Scotland’s legendary Dinnie Stones (733 pounds)

Surfer riding a massive wave

Splitting rock (smart to have the pegs tied together)

Carving a watermelon

Saving a sea turtle 

Animatronic triceratops

Lake Superior "yooperlites"

Lavender kunzite


Nope.  Nope.  Nope.

When the ground is lava

Just to clarify, this athlete is not wearing a bra (it's a tracker)

When your older sister is a better athlete

Incredible ping-pong shot 

Punt returned for a touchdown in one second


Driving a car on a carpeted stage

Jumping off a dock in the rain 

Ballerina top goes bye-bye 

Volvo collision prevention system doesn't 

Man tries to rob a store

Watch me dive into the pool

Dad surprises his daughter 

Little girl tries a claw machine 

Wait for me !

He finally made it !  Whew !

Toddler putting on his leg 

Elderly man still enjoys jazz


Fun (?) in a tire swing

When your older sister is a better athlete

All of the embedded images come from a remarkable gallery of 24 award-winning photos in the 2017 Nikon Small World competition.  Please visit the link to learn what the depicted subjects are, and to enjoy the rest of the gallery.

14 September 2018


Fjaðrárgljúfur (pronounced [ˈfjaːðraurˌkljuːvʏr̥]) is a canyon in south east Iceland which is up to 100 m deep and about 2 kilometers long, with the Fjaðrá river flowing through it. The canyon has steep walls and winding water. Its origins dates back to the cold periods of the Ice Age, about two million years ago. It is located near the Ring Road, not far from the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. The canyon was created by progressive erosion by flowing water from glaciers through the rocks and palagonite over millennia.
Via the EarthPorn subreddit.  I quite enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek clarification: "For those confused, it's pronounced 'flglhlhaldhslflr.'"

Found under the floorboards of an old house

A vintage eggshell cutter for serving soft-boiled eggs.  Not to be confused with one of these.

Image cropped and improved from the original posted at the WhatIsThisThing subreddit.

Alma Deutscher - musical prodigy (updated)

As reported in The Telegraph:
Deutscher's father said she could name the notes on a piano by the age of two. She was given her first violin for her third birthday, and was playing Handel sonatas within a year.

Earlier this year, Deutscher composed a short opera called The Sweeper of Dreams, which narrowly missed out on making the final of a contest run by the English National Opera to unearth young, talented classical musicians.
Reposted from 2012 (the embed above shows her performing at age 6) to add this incredible video:

Scott Pelley selects four notes, and the now-12-year-old young lady takes less than a minute to compose and play a piano sonata based on those notes.

Via Neatorama.  Her Wikipedia page.
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