26 May 2017

Snickers commercial


This commercial aired during this week's Fargo episode.  It's been a long time since I literally laughed out loud at a commercial.

Kudos to Olson Vacuum in Madison


"They don't make 'em like they used to."

That dictum is often applied to products like small appliances, and it was the mindset we had when our 35-year-old Hoover vacuum cleaner gave up the ghost.  We researched replacements, but this one had worked so well for so long that we agreed that if it could be repaired for less than $100 it would be worth it.

We took it in yesterday to a local company on Odana Road here in Madison.  The young fellow at the desk greeted us, asked a few questions, then put it on his counter and proceeded to take it apart.   That surprised me, since I was expecting to get an approximate cost and an estimated time for how long it would take to order replacement parts for a 35-year-old model.

He found the drive belt that had been totally worn out, had a replacement on hand which he inserted, cleaned a couple dirty parts, put it back together, and we were "good to go."

Elapsed time:  probably 15 minutes
Total cost (parts and labor):  less than $4.00

Awesome.  What a totally pleasant experience.  I'm delighted to use the power of this blog to give public "props" to a first-class business.  If you live within driving distance of Madison and need repairs (or a new vacuum), they are worth a visit.  Here is their website.

Scott Sterling videos - updated


Trigger warning: slapstick comedy dialed up to 11. (If you're going to watch, you might as well click the fullscreen button).

If you liked that one, you will enjoy this one of him getting facials in a volleyball match:


Don't watch these at work if laughing out loud will get you in trouble...

Reposted to add this Scott Sterling-type goal from real life.

24 May 2017

Ancient mummy wearing "Adidas boots"


From The Siberian Times:
'Judging by what was found inside the burial we guess that she was from an ordinary social strata,' said Galbadrakh Enkhbat.This is despite the classy appearance of some of the possessions with which she is buried, which might suggest to the uninformed a higher status.

'Various sewing utensils were found with her. This is only our guess, but we think she could have been a seamstress.'..

With her in the grave - found at an altitude of 2,803 metres above sea level - archeologists unearthed 51 items including a 'stunningly beautiful embroidered bag', four costumes, vases, a saddle, her sewing kit and the skull head of a ram.

'The bag was made of felt,' he said. 'Inside was the sewing kit and since the embroidery was on both the bag and the shoes, we can be certain that the embroidery was done by locals.

The women is believed to be of Turkik origin, and the burial is one of the most complete ever found. Experts now believe on the basis of 18 samples taken from the mummy that it does not date from the 6th century AD, as first surmised, but rather from the 10th century, but DNA and radiocarbon testing is still awaited. 
Many more photos at the link.  Here's the bag:

Problems with Olympic medals

From the Washington Post:
Now nearly nine months after the Games ended, it looks like organizers in Rio de Janeiro are still experiencing some hiccups. The latest issue has to do with medals handed out to more than 130 winners —  they’re rusting, chipping or as Agence France-Presse put it, “falling to pieces.”...

Andrada didn’t go into exact details about what exactly he thought was happening, but he called it “completely normal.”.. Olympic gold medals, for example, are actually just 1.34 percent gold. The rest is made of sterling silver, ABC News reports. And about 30 percent of the silver in those thousands of medals awarded in Rio came from recycled silver...

“The most common issue is that they were dropped or mishandled and the varnish has come off and they’ve rusted or gone black in the spot where they were damaged,” Andrada told Reuters, adding that silver medalists have seen the most problems.
And this:
The medals for the 2020 Games will be even more unique, with the promise of being the most environmentally friendly of all time. Per The Post’s Cindy Boren, the medals are slated to be composed of recycled cellphones and small appliances donated by Japanese citizens.

Eloquent

Excerpts from a public speech presented in Sun City, South Carolina last year:
Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart —you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.
I won't name the speaker.  You'll have to guess.

Related:
Diagramming sentences
Diagramming Obama's sentences
Diagramming Sara (Palin's) sentences
Addendum:  A hat tip to reader Stan B for providing in his comment a link to this discussion:
It was the kind of utterance that makes professional transcribers question their career choice:
“ … there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero.”
When President Trump offered that response to a question at a press conference last week, it was the latest example of his tortured syntax, mid-thought changes of subject, and apparent trouble formulating complete sentences, let alone a coherent paragraph, in unscripted speech.


STAT reviewed decades of Trump’s on-air interviews and compared them to Q&A sessions since his inauguration. The differences are striking and unmistakable...

In interviews Trump gave in the 1980s and 1990s (with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Charlie Rose, and others), he spoke articulately, used sophisticated vocabulary, inserted dependent clauses into his sentences without losing his train of thought, and strung together sentences into a polished paragraph, which — and this is no mean feat — would have scanned just fine in print. This was so even when reporters asked tough questions about, for instance, his divorce, his brush with bankruptcy, and why he doesn’t build housing for working-class Americans...

Now, Trump’s vocabulary is simpler. He repeats himself over and over, and lurches from one subject to an unrelated one, as in this answer during an interview with the Associated Press last month:
“People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it — you’ve been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage. … The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall.”
For decades, studies have found that deterioration in the fluency, complexity, and vocabulary level of spontaneous speech can indicate slipping brain function due to normal aging or neurodegenerative disease. STAT and the experts therefore considered only unscripted utterances, not planned speeches and statements, since only the former tap the neural networks that offer a window into brain function.
The experts noted clear changes from Trump’s unscripted answers 30 years ago to those in 2017, in some cases stark enough to raise questions about his brain health. They noted, however, that the same sort of linguistic decline can also reflect stress, frustration, anger, or just plain fatigue.
More at the link.

The Selk’nam of Patagonia





As reported in Vintage Everyday:

The Selk’nam had no chiefs, but were instead led by wise men (‘fathers of the world’) who were believed to possess spiritual power over people, weather and events. The tribe’s most sacred ceremony was the coming-of-age, or the ‘hain’. Adult male members of the tribe would be painted with red, black and white paint and don fur, down and bark costumes, impersonating much feared spirits. Over a period of days or weeks they would conduct a complex initiation to transition boys into manhood.
One of the last such ceremonies was performed in 1920 and recorded by the missionary, Martin Gusinde... Gusinde’s haunting photographs of the Selk’nam, Yamana, and Kawésqar peoples present a way of life that was already on the brink of extinction when he visited the region in 1918–1924 and that has since ceased to exist.
About a dozen more photos at the link.  Warning: lots of penises.

And I've just this morning found - but haven't explored - what looks like an interesting blog: Patagonian Monsters.

Via Curiosités de Titam.

"Can I get a refill on these placebos?"

Physicians and nurses have known for decades that placebos can generate an observable beneficial therapeutic response.  A recent report offers confirmation:
Placebos have a reputation problem. It is widely believed they are only effective when those taking them are deceived into thinking they are taking real drugs. As such, prescribing dummy or fake treatments is unethical... A review of five studies, involving 260 patients, published last month found that “open-label” placebos – those that patients know contain no active medication – can improve symptoms in a range of conditions...

Last month, his group published a review of previous research that has compared the effects of giving patients open-label placebos with no treatment.
Note the term "open label," indicating that the placebos are described as such when given to the patient.  More at The Guardian.

19 May 2017

Divertimento #127


Blue whale vs. krill.  Whale wins.

"Free-fall lifeboat training."  Not sure, but I think these are used on open-sea oil rigs.

Traffic at a road intersection in Ethiopia.

Jaguar stalks and catches his (surprising) prey.

Very angry bird (language NSFW).  Discussed here.

Dog pulling a kid on a snow saucer.

"Combustibubbles"- but safety goggles in pocket :-( 

American patriot argues with a judge.

Just one question: is the background black or white?

NFL players' heights and weights, 1920s-1990s.


Public fountains are for looking at, not for playing on.

Jeans are "faded" with lasers.

A dog sits in a chair.

HMB while I ride in this golf cart.

Pineapple-picking teamwork.

People who have cats will understand this one.

Jaguar eating underwater.

Look!  Helicopters!  How exciting...

Mouse lemur "rocket"

Baby meets mother's identical twin for the first time.

Fun at the water park.

Fox finds a dog toy.


Why the backs of trucks have underguards.

How to use a fork to help hang a picture on a wall.

Schnauzer prevents little girl from going too deep in ocean.

Dog trained to protect his human.

"Son, I'll get your ball out of the tree..."

Chinese policeman at work.

"Power handshake" toy.

What you can do when you have claws like needles.

Exhibition table tennis rally.

"Mom, help me make a cool video!"  WCGW?


An "atomic trampoline" is impressive.

Apparently this toddler is a future ninja.

Hamster really likes his sand bath.

I would not get in this line.

Optical illusions.

Very vigorous baptism.

Windy day.

Timelapse of a bird building a nest.

Big SUVs don't mind flooded roads.

That one goth friend.

In science class, pay attention to the pendulum.

Baby's first pile of leaves.


In recognition of Syttende Mai, today's embedded pix are lantern slides of Norway: "A selection from a collection of early-20th-century lantern slides held at the Fylkesarkivet of Sogn og Fjordane, a county in the west of Norway. The slides are produced by at least two British photographers – professional photographer Samuel J. Beckett and amateur photographer P. Heywood Hadfield..."

16 May 2017

Sleep paralysis in an Ernest Hemingway story



In "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," Ernest Hemingway describes the impending death of a hunter suffering from a gangrenous leg (boldface emphasis mine):
Because, just then, death had come and rested its head on the foot of the cot and he could smell its breath.

"Never believe any of that about a scythe and a skull," he told her. "It can be two bicycle policemen as easily, or be a bird. Or it can have a wide snout like a hyena."

It had moved up on him now, but it had no shape any more. It simply occupied space.

"Tell it to go away."

It did not go away but moved a little closer.

"You've got a hell of a breath," he told it. "You stinking bastard."

It moved up closer to him still and now he could not speak to it, and when it saw he could not speak it came a little closer, and now he tried to send it away without speaking, but it moved in on him so its weight was all upon his chest, and while it crouched there and he could not move or speak, he heard the woman say, "Bwana is asleep now. Take the cot up very gently and carry it into the tent."

He could not speak to tell her to make it go away and it crouched now, heavier, so he could not breathe. And then, while they lifted the cot, suddenly it was all right and the weight went from his chest.
This is a superb description of the phenomenon of sleep paralysis (the paralysis, the muteness, the chest pressure, the dyspnea, and the cessation when the victim is touched or moved), so vivid and precise that I have no doubt that Hemingway must have experienced it himself (his lifestyle would have been compatible with a high risk for the syndrome).

Back when I was active in academia, I developed a special interest and expertise in sleep paralysis, and had visions of someday publishing a book on its portrayal in literature and folklore.  That seems unlikely now, but since I have file boxes full of information, perhaps I can incorporate some of that material into posts for this blog.

Fulltext of Hemingway's story.

Reposted from 2013 (has it really been that long?) to add some new information about Hemingway.  In a recently-published book, a psychiatrist argues that Hemingway may have suffered from chronic traumatic enchephalopathy - the disorder that has been in the news because of its association with professional football and other contact sports.
The psychiatrist from High Point University in North Carolina wrote of nine serious blows to Hemingway's head — from explosions to a plane crash — that were a prelude to his decline into abusive rages, "paranoia with specific and elaborate delusions" and his suicide in 1961.

Hemingway's bizarre behavior in his latter years (he rehearsed his death by gunshot in front of dinner guests, for example) has been blamed on iron deficiency, bipolar disorder, attention-seeking and any number of other problems.

After researching the writer's letters, books and hospital visits, Farah said he is convinced that Hemingway had dementia — made worse by alcoholism and other maladies, but dominated by CTE, the improper treatment of which likely hastened his death. "He truly is a textbook case," Farah said.
Farah dates Hemingway's first known concussion to World War I, several years before he wrote his short story, "The Battler." A bomb exploded about three feet from his teenage frame.

Another likely concussion came in 1928, when Hemingway yanked what he thought was a toilet chain and brought a skylight crashing down on him.

Then came a car accident in London — then more injuries as a reporter during World War II, when an antitank gun blew Hemingway into a ditch.
The rest of the story is at the StarTribune.

Image harvested from the 1936 Esquire publication of the story.

What a week...

Extended excerpts from the "Weekly Review" column in Harper's Magazine:
May 16, 2017
By Joe Kloc

U.S. president Donald Trump, whose attention span NATO officials announced they will accommodate by limiting their speeches to four minutes, fired FBI director James Comey, who had been overseeing one of multiple federal investigations into whether Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government. The president stated that he made the decision based on the recommendation of his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein; Rosenstein threatened to resign because he had never made any such recommendation; and Trump said that "regardless of recommendation" he was going to fire Comey because "Trump and Russia is a made-up story."

Trump's principal deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who once tweeted [re Hillary Clinton] that "you're losing" when "you are attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation," said that "the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence" in Comey, and the acting director of the FBI told Congress that Huckabee's statement was "not accurate" and that Comey "enjoyed broad support within the FBI."...

Trump held a meeting in the Oval Office with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, inviting one Russian photographer, but no U.S. journalists, to attend; a White house official said the Russians had "tricked" them into allowing the photographer in; and the photographer published a photo revealing that Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak was also at the meeting, despite not being on the White House schedule, not being shown in any official White House photographs, and not being mentioned in any subsequent White House accounts of the meeting. It was later reported that during the meeting Trump revealed "highly classified" information concerning the Islamic State to Kislyak, whom current and former U.S. intelligence officials have described as a top spy, and whom several Trump campaign surrogates and administration officials have falsely claimed not to have communicated with...

One senior Trump aide said, "We all know how this looks," while others hid from reporters in their offices, and a former KGB spy said he was "shaking" his head at "the incompetence" of the White House staff. A German lawmaker said that if Trump shared classified information with "other governments at will" he would become "a security risk for the entire Western world"; a European intelligence official said that his country may stop sharing intelligence with the United States; Trump's deputy national-security adviser, Dina Powell, said that reports about the president sharing classified information were "false"; a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry described the reports as "yet another fake"; and Trump, who once called for the execution of Edward Snowden because the former NSA contractor had "given serious information" to Russia, tweeted that he did in fact "share with Russia." A former U.S. intelligence official referred to the situation as a "nightmare," and Public Policy Polling found that more Americans now support than oppose impeaching Trump, who once told a reporter that, when he isn't having a nightmare, the content of his dreams is "always fucking."
Jon Stewart, please come back and put a humorous spin on this, because it's not really funny anymore.

World's oldest stone bracelet


As reported by Archaeology:
A stone bracelet unearthed in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia in 2008 is being called the oldest-known jewelry of its kind. Anatoly Derevyanko, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, and the research team believe that the cave’s Denisovan layers were uncontaminated by human activity from a later period. The soil around the two fragments of the jewelry piece was dated with oxygen isotopic analysis to 40,000 years ago.
Further details in The Siberian Times:
The ancient master was skilled in techniques previously considered not characteristic for the Palaeolithic era, such as drilling with an implement, boring tool type rasp, grinding and polishing with a leather and skins of varying degrees of tanning.'.. Initially we thought that it was made by Neanderthals or modern humans, but it turned out that the master was Denisovan, at least in our opinion."
I can't resist adding a photo of Denisova Cave:


What a magnificent place to live in prehistoric times.  It's not surprising that it would have been occupied for tens of thousands of years.

Normal person vs. scientist

xkcd is here.

The "National Popular Vote" vs. the Electoral College



This was new to me:
And, yet, a way out of the electoral chaos is not that far off, thanks to the quiet, wonky National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Though the initiative gets sporadic media coverage, it is hardly general public knowledge. It should be.

The simple compact proposes that states pledge their electoral votes “to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.” This rather brilliantly obviates the need for an amendment dumping the Electoral College from the Constitution.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would only take effect when a sufficient number of states sign on such that their combined electoral votes constitute the magic 270 we’ve always needed to elect a president.

So far 165 electoral votes from 11 states have been secured. Of the remaining 105 required, 82 are seriously in play, having passed at least one legislative chamber in 10 states. Optimistically, we’re 23 new electoral votes away from ridding ourselves of the Electoral College...
More at Salon.  And of course the relevant Wikipedia page on the Electoral College.

I've embedded a map that shows the enormous divide that occurs between "swing states" and "safe states" during presidential elections. "These maps show the amount of attention given to each state by the Bush and Kerry campaigns during the final five weeks of the 2004 election. At the top, each waving hand represents a visit from a presidential or vice presidential candidate during the final five weeks. At the bottom, each dollar sign represents one million dollars spent on TV advertising by the campaigns during the same time period."

Addendum:  For an extensive informed commentary on this subject, see the comments for this post written by reader "toto."

History repeats itself


(The original quote is from George Santayana).

Via Jobsanger
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