22 August 2014

This sculpture of Jesus has human teeth

The video is in Spanish, but details in English are available at The History Blog -
Restorers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) working on a polychrome statue of the Christ of Patience have found eight human teeth in the figure’s mouth. These types of statues often have teeth, but they’re carved out of wood or bone either as a plate or as individual teeth. This is the first time actual human teeth have been found...

According to Fanny Unikel, head restorer of INAH’s Restoration Workshop of Polychrome Sculpture of the National School of Conservation, Restoration and Museology (ENCRyM), the teeth were probably donations made by devout parishioners, a practice seen frequently with far less painful materials like hair for wigs or clothing...

The dental implant Christ is one of a group of 17th and 18th century statues of the saints belonging to the church of San Bartolo Cuautlalpan, a farming community in the central Mexico municipality of Zumpango...

Blind hunters

Not hunters in blinds, or people hunting for blinds.  The BBC has a report on blind hunters:
In the US, being blind is no bar to owning and carrying firearms. The blind people who do it say they are simply exercising their constitutional right, and present no danger to the public....

The day of the test came, and McWilliams duly went along to the police firing range with a friend who was also trying for a permit. The targets were half-size cut-outs of assailants, positioned seven yards (6.4m) away. McWilliams fired a series of shots with a .357 magnum, all of which landed in the heart region of his target. Clearly, he knew what he was doing...

Concealed carry permits - the licences required to carry a gun in public - are issued at state level, and the criteria and rules vary across the US. While there is nothing in North Dakota's statutes to prevent a blind person - or a person with any physical disability - carrying a gun, in Florida, for example, a "physical inability to handle a firearm safely" is listed as a reason for ineligibility. Yet even there, a blind person with a North Dakota licence would still be able to carry his or her gun, since Florida recognises permits from that state. ..

It's even more straightforward for blind people to own guns if they are content to leave them at home. In most states, you don't need to perform a shooting test or get a licence to buy a gun. Consequently, no-one knows how many blind Americans own guns for home defence, target practice or hunting. Carey McWilliams started hunting in 2008. When ducks fly across the sky, he says, they make a sound like bicycle tyres on a pavement, and he traces them with the barrels of his rifle. For other types of hunting, such as stalking elk, he goes out with a companion, who whispers directions - up a bit, left a bit, right a bit - but who is not permitted to touch his weapon. ..

Since then, McWilliams has killed a black bear and is now set on African game. He owns "eight or nine" guns, including an AR-15 machine gun...

At the same time, McWilliams says again and again that he would only use his weapon on someone at point blank range - "I consider my gun a blade with a bang." That is the only way, he says, that he can be sure he is under real attack and - his acoustic shooting skills notwithstanding - pick out his assailant. To minimise danger to passers-by, he says his gun is loaded with frangible ammunition, which would be of no danger after exiting an assailant's body. "Surgeons absolutely hate those type of shots that I use because they do a lot of a damage internally," he says. "It would make a bullet wound about the size of a dime and an exit wound about the size of a baseball, and wouldn't go very far beyond that."
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"Siri, where should I bury my roommate?"

A young man in Florida is accused of murdering his roommate (details at The Telegraph).  Evidence at his trial will include information retrieved from his PDA (screencap above).
The Siri device, which had been accessed via Facebook, allegedly responded with the question: "What kind of place are you looking for? Swamps. Reservoirs. Metal foundries. Dumps."..

Detectives who accessed Bravo's phone found that he had used the flashlight facility for 48 minutes on the day of Aguilar's disappearance. 

Buried treasure found in France

From a story in The Telegraph:
The men had been working at the property, situated in a village near Les Andelys and Vernon, for several days when they came across the hidden trove, estimated to be worth more than €900,000 (£700,200), hidden in glass jars...

Upon closer inspection, the workers unearthed several large glass jars containing 16 gold bars weighing 2.2lbs each, and 600 gold coins from 1924 and 1927. The stash had probably hidden for safekeeping during the Second World War, according to Paris Normandie.  
They didn't tell the homeowner, opting instead to divide up the treasure.  Then...
...tax officials homed in them after one of the men began depositing high-value cheques, including one for €270,000
Showing once again how utterly, abysmally stupid some thieves are.   But I'll bet there are quite a few family fortunes that were created not by a hardworking ancestor, but by a lucky and discreet one.  And I'm sure there are more stashes like this one scattered throughout the continent.


The StarTribune notes that this "sport" is gaining in popularity on Minnesota lakes.
A jet pack mounts onto his feet in heavy bindings that look like massive snowboard boots. Water pressure from a hose hooked into a water scooter lifts him into the air, allowing him to hover over the water, then dive or do back flips overhead...

It doesn’t come cheap, though. With the jet ski and all the equipment, he said it can quickly add up to $20,000. In two years of owning flyboards, he’s run through 10 water scooter engines due to the extra wear it takes with the flyboards.

He rents them out for $299 an hour. But more and more people are curious about the unusual sport, with Jansen doing 3,000 rentals last year.
I'm not thrilled by this development because I've never been a fan of the noise created by jet skis.  And I notice that every video I've found replaces ambient sound with hard rock to mask that noise.

Worldwide obesity

An amazing pair of numbers from the most recent Harper's Index:
Year in which the World Health Organization began keeping records on global obesity:  1980

Number of years since then in which at least one country has reduced its obesity rate:  0
There are a few details and some commentary at the New York Times; presumably there is more in-depth analysis elsewhere.

For homeowners: an open thread on "mudjacking"

If you own a house long enough, most of the components will need to be repaired or replaced (a fact often overlooked by young couples eager to purchase as much home as they can afford). Take my driveway.  Please.

Our house is only about 20-25 years old, situated near the crest of a hill overlooking woods.  It's clear that some regrading of the lot was necessary to position it where it is.  The driveway has a series of concrete slabs separated by tiny expansion grooves.  Over the past decade or so, some of the slabs have begun to shift.  These depressions first make themselves manifest in the winter when you are shoveling snow vigorously and the shovel comes to a sudden stop, sending a shudder through your body.

What's happening underneath may represent a "settling" of fill originally used to level the ground or perhaps some erosion as rainwater and winter meltwater work their way between the slabs, perhaps exacerbated by the burrowing of critters like chipmunks or the action of the roots of some nearby very large trees.

The traditional repair method is to hire a construction firm to jackhammer out the concrete, adjust the base as necessary and then pour new slabs.  The alternative is "mudjacking" (sandjacking, slabjacking).  This involves drilling a small hole in the concrete slabs and injecting under hydraulic pressure a material (originally mud or sand, but more recently a polyurethane foam) which fills the space and then lifts the slab until it is flush with its neighbors. (details at the link)

"Jacking" the slabs back up is generally faster, less labor intensive, less disruptive, and less expensive (probably by a factor of 3-5X - I'm still studying that) than removal and replacement of the driveway.  But when slabs are cracked (as some of ours are), there is a risk that the segments will separate, and even a smooth lift of an intact slab may not align perfectly with all the neighboring ones.

I'm writing this post to encourage readers who have dealt with similar driveway/sidewalk problems to respond with comments (for me and for other readers who have - or will someday have- the same problem to deal with), because this isn't the kind of information one learns in school.  Success stories and horror stories are equally welcome.

21 August 2014

A young boy with giant hands

Addendum:  the embedded video is no longer available.  A hat tip to reader Piper for finding a similar one at this UPI link.

The video tells the story in four minutes; here's the TL;DR for those in a hurry -
Eight-year-old Kaleem's hands weigh eight kilograms each and measure 13 inches from the base of his palm to the end of his middle finger.

The cricket fan, who lives in India, is unable to do many basic tasks – including tying his shoes laces – and has been bullied and shunned most of his life.

He said: "I do not go to school because the teacher says other kids are scared of my hands.
"Many of them used to bully me for my deformity. They would say 'let's beat up the kid with the large hands'."
The physician in the video is hopelessly out of his depth.  This is in no way a case of acromegaly (which is also not a disease of the thyroid).  Note the boy also has engorgement of the tissues of his upper chest.  I would favor a disorder of his lymphatic system - genetic rather than parasitic because of the early onset.

I'm also saddened by the responses of his childhood playmates, whose mockery and aggression remind me of the treatment accorded the "banjo goiter" man whom I previously blogged.

Tuberculosis as the cause of the American holocaust?

Recent research suggests that tuberculosis spread by seals may have been responsible for the deaths of millions of Native Americans in pre-contact America.
Disease-riddled Europeans, carrying tuberculosis across the Atlantic, have long been blamed for wiping out huge populations of Native Americans.

But new research has found that the deadly bugs which killed millions were probably spread by seals and sea lions, long before Christopher Columbus first arrived in the New World in 1492.
A study which looked at tuberculosis strains in bones discovered in Peru found they were closely linked to those found in sea mammals.
The research shows that tuberculosis is likely to have spread from humans in Africa to seals and sea lions, who then carried the disease to South America and transmitted it to Native populations long before Europeans landed on the continent...

"Our results show unequivocal evidence of human infection caused by sea lions and seals in pre-Columbian South America.

“Within the past 2,500 years, the marine animals likely contracted the disease from an African host species and carried it across the ocean to coastal people in South America.”
I can't comment on the history of South America; in North America it's true that there was evidence of depopulation (in the desert Southwest and at Cahokia) before the arrival of Europeans), but there is also well-documented eyewitness evidence of the ravages of diseases brought by the first Europeans.

I don't doubt that seals may have spread mycobacterial disease to humans (perhaps nontuberculous mycobacteria, labeled "tuberculosis" in the article), but I can't envision any mycobacteria (even M.Tb) causing the biblical-level depopulations experienced in North America.

"The times, they are a-changing"

According to The Moscow Times, Russia is demanding that Bulgaria take steps to prevent vandalism of soviet statuary.

This is what the Monument to the Soviet Army used to look like:

On June 17, 2011 the monument was painted overnight by unknown artists, who "dressed" the Soviet Army soldiers as American comics heroes and characters: Superman, Joker, Robin, Captain America, Ronald McDonald, Santa Claus, Wolverine, The Mask, and Wonder Woman, with a caption underneath which translates as "Abreast with the Times" (in Bulgarian "V krak s vremeto", literally "In pace with time"). The monument was cleaned in the late hours of June 20, 2011. The event was widely covered by the international media and provoked serious pro and anti-Russian discussion in the Bulgarian society. The story was filmed in the short documentary In Step With The Time directed by Anton Partalev and includes anonymous interviews with the artists. The film won the second prize in 2013 IN OUT FESTIVAL in Poland.
Top photo: Ignat Ignev / Wikicommons

Millions more personal records stolen

Community Health Systems, which operates 206 hospitals across the United States, announced on Monday that hackers recently broke into its computers and stole data on 4.5 million patients.

Hackers have gained access to their names, Social Security numbers, physical addresses, birthdays and telephone numbers.

Anyone who received treatment from a network-owned hospital in the last five years -- or was merely referred there by an outside doctor -- is affected.

The large data breach puts these people at heightened risk of identity fraud. That allows criminals open bank accounts and credit cards on their behalf, take out loans and ruin personal credit history.
It never ends...

It's true that there's no prize when you die...

... but I do keep track of all the books I've read.   I rate them on a scale of 0-4+, so that when I get old(er) and (more) demented, I'll know which ones to re-read.

For the past 25 years, here are the 92 books I've rated 4+ (to be honest, it also includes a fair number of 3.5s), out of a total of 700+.

1990 ( of 26)
The Bourne Identity

The Parsifal Mosaic
1991 (52)
Colin Watson
Hopjoy was Here

The Man Who Folded Himself

One Hundred Years of Solitude
1992 (63)
Salem Possessed

Witchcraft, Magic and Religion in 17th century Massachusetts.

The Damnation of Theron Ware

The Secret Pilgrim

Brother to Dragons

Childhood's End
1993 (39)
1994 (44)
1995 (38)
And So To Murder


The Jesus Conspiracy

Columbus Was Last

Norse Discoveries & Explorations in America 982-1362
1996 (28)
The Stars My Destination

A Maggot

The Big Sky
1997 (8)
1998 (13)
Into Thin Air

The Vikings and America
1999 (16)
The country of the Pointed Firs

Absalom Absalom (turgid and gloomy)

Hardy and Shaffer
The Wicker Man
2000 (4)
Teale, Edwin Way
A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm
2001 (8)
Ryan & Pittman
Noah's Flood


The Alban Quest
2002 (19)
2003 (36)
Angels and Demons

The Kite Runner

All the Kings Men
2004 (49)
1421 The Year China Discovered America

Bertie Wooster Sees It Through

Da Vinci Code

The True Believer
2005 (45)
The Mapmaker’s Wife

The Reason Why [Crimea, Light Brigade]

Naked to Mine Enemies, Volumes 1 and 2

Gag Rule.  On the suppression of dissent

Bring Out Your Dead
2006 (35)
Marley and Me

Confident Hope of a Miracle

A Pretext for War

Science and Civilisation in China, Vol IV: 3

The Looming Tower; Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
2007 (29)
Letter to a Christian Nation

The Thirteenth Tale

Overthrow. America’s Century of Regime Change (skimmed)

Planet Earth

The Island at the Center of the World [Manhattan]

The Road

When the Cheering Stopped

No Country for Old Men
2008 (30)
God is Not Great

The Deep

Ballesta & Deschamp
Planet Ocean

Let Me Stand Alone


Blood Meridian

Legacy of Ashes

Krakatoa; the Day the World Exploded

Last Shot
2009 (31)
How Jesus Became Christian

Misquoting Jesus


Society without God

The Smaller Majority (nature photos)
2010 (49)
An Instance of the Fingerpost

Paradise Found: Nature in America at the time of discovery

Van Allsburg
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

The Bourne Identity

The Fourth Part of the World

Heavenly Intrigue [Kepler and Brahe]

The Lost City of Z

The Age of Wonder

Over the Edge of the World [Magellan]
2011 (21)
Hard Road West


Winchester, Simon
The Alice Behind Wonderland

The Brendan Voyage

The Bippolo Seed and Other Stories

The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way

The Tree Army; a pictorial history of the CCC, 1933-1942
2012 (18)

Destiny of the Republic [bio James Garfield]

1434; The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy…

Blue Highways

When the Mississippi Ran Backwards
2013 (21)
Lost in the Taiga

Cloud Atlas

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet
2014 (so far)
(none yet)

Sometimes I post reviews in the recommended books category of this blog.

Please feel free to chime in with a comment about your favorite books.
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