16 February 2020

Using explosives to plant fruit trees !!


(I posted this earlier today under the title "I'm puzzled by this road sign.")

A photo I encountered while digitizing the family memorabilia.  Two unknown-to-me-but-probably-distantly-related young women posing by a roadside sign.  Approximate date based on other photos would be early 1900s.

Don't fail to Plant Your Fruit Trees With
Du Pont Exp__sives
Best (b)y Test

Assuming two letters are obscured by the young lady's hat, the only words I know that would fit are explosives, expensives, and expansives.

As much as I would love to learn that my ancestors planted fruit trees using explosives, I would have to think they were advertising "expansives," but a quick Google search doesn't reveal any such use of the term.

This is totally unimportant, but sometimes readers here have ideas or resources or interpretations that escape me.

Updated:   The puzzle was solved by readers Kara and Bob and Rob from Amersfoort and David and The First and some unknowns:

"Subsoil broken up by blast making easy path for roots."  Progressive farmers are "using dynamite for removing stumps and boulders, planting and cultivating fruit trees, regenerating barren soil, ditching, draining, excavating and road-making.  Write now for Free Booklet - "Tree Planting With Dynamite, No. 290.""
It makes sense (and I wouldn't have minded having a little when I first hand-tilled our tomato patch out back).  In retrospect the reason I ignored this possibility was that I thought there was no evidence on the sign for the top of a letter "L" behind her hat.  Now I realize her hat had a white peak.

Dynamite for gardening.  You learn something every day.

Addendum:  And here's that Du Pont booklet, located by reader Paul and others.

Cross-section of a hedge


If you've ever run into one, you know they are not as soft as they look from the outside.  Via.

Americans who haven't read a book in the past year

Data from the Pew Research Center:
Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7 [2019]...

The share of Americans who report not reading any books in the past 12 months is higher today than it was nearly a decade ago – though there has been some fluctuation over this time period. Today, 27% of adults say they have not read any books in the past year, up from 19% in 2011, but identical to the share who said this in 2015...

The same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library. In a 2016 survey, we found that Hispanics, older adults, those living in households earning less than $30,000 and those who have a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school are the most likely to report they have never been to a public library.

Display of decorated bicycles (France, 1898)


Saving rare salamanders


"Thermokarst" explained


Excerpts from a recent article in Wired:
It’s perhaps the best known and more worrisome of climate feedback loops: As the planet warms, permafrost—landscapes of frozen soil and rock—begins to thaw. And when it does, microbes consume organic matter, releasing CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, leading to more warming, more thawing, and even more carbon emissions.

But here’s something you’ve probably never heard of, and it’s something not even the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has really considered: thermokarst. That’s the land that gets ravaged whenever permafrost thaws rapidly. As the ice that holds the soil together disappears, hillsides collapse and massive sinkholes open up. Climate scientists have been working gradual permafrost thaw into their models—changes that run centimeters deep over decades or centuries. But abrupt permafrost thaw happens on the scale of meters over months or years. That shocks the surrounding landscape into releasing potentially even more carbon than would have if it thawed at a more leisurely pace...

When these lands thaw, they play host to a number of processes. As ice turns to liquid water, trees flood and die off. Thus more light reaches the soil, further accelerating thawing. This is in contrast to gradual thaw, when the plant community largely stays the same as the ice thaws...

The bad news is, the emissions could be the equivalent of an entire industrialized nation’s greenhouse output. The better news is, it won’t be as much as humanity’s global toll. “Even though these are hot spots of carbon release, it's going to take decades for those hot spots to become large enough to seriously impact the climate system,” says Turetsky. “But this is still something we need to take seriously.”
A related article in the Washington Post reports on the reanimation of life-forms released from melting permafrost:
Researchers in a warming Arctic are discovering organisms, frozen and presumed dead for millennia, that can bear life anew. These ice age zombies range from simple bacteria to multicellular animals, and their endurance is prompting scientists to revise their understanding of what it means to survive...

[Mosses] desiccate when temperatures plummet, sidestepping the potential hazard of ice forming in their tissues. And if parts of the plant do sustain damage, certain cells can divide and differentiate into all the various tissue types that comprise a complete moss, similar to stem cells in human embryos...

She has coaxed million-year-old bacteria back to life on a petri dish. They look “very similar to bacteria you can find in cold environments [today],” she said...

Hulking among the puny bacteria and amoebae were long, segmented worms complete with a head at one end and anus at the other — nematodes. “Of course we were surprised and very excited,” Vishnivetskaya said. Clocking in at a half-millimeter long, the nematodes that wriggled back to life were the most complex creatures Vishnivetskaya — or anyone else — had ever revived after a lengthy deep freeze.
I've lost the link, but I believe there are also concerns about the revival and dispersal of ice-age viruses.

Previously: Maybe it should be called "tempafrost" maps the locations of permafrost in Alaska.

14 February 2020

Humor for English majors

Queen Elizabeth was visiting sick children in a Scottish hospital, and after performing her planned duties, she wandered off to other parts of the hospital. Walking into an unidentified ward, she went up to a patient in bed and asked him how he was doing. He replied:
"O, my luve is like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my luve is like the melodie,
That's sweetly played in tune....."
Finding the response somewhat inappropriate she wished him good day and moved down the ward to a room where another man was sitting quietly. In response to her inquiry, he began singing:
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to min' ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne ?"
Somewhat baffled by this sequence of events she found a third room, where her greeting was met with:
"Wee, sleekit, cowrin', tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie ...."
She gave up, and left the ward. On her way out, she encountered the head nurse. "Is this the psychiatric ward?" she asked.

"No, your majesty," the nurse replied. "It's......the Burns unit."
Reposted from 10 years ago so I could end the blogging day on a lighter note.

The old Cincinnati library


The building was demolished in the 1950s.  One comment in the discussion thread noted that the reason for this open vertically-stacked shelving array was that the old library had been repurposed from an even older opera house.

Social media medicine: Potato necklace. Egg in a sock. Potato in a sock.


Three examples I encountered in recent weeks of insane medical advice offered (and taken) over social media.  

In the top example 27,000 people "liked" the observation that pieces of potato in a string around a child's neck were turning black not because of oxidation, but because they were "drawing the fever out of the child." 

In the second example a raw egg in a sock nailed above the door of a child's room provided relief to teething problems.

And finally, potatoes in a child's socks failed to prevent death from influenza.

One has to wonder how many of these bits of advice are not innocent passing of folklore, but malicious disinformation purposely promulgated by sociopaths.

Want a cough drop in the hospital? That will be $10


I could spend all day blogging endless examples of the dystopia of the modern American medical care delivery system  (not the people... just the processes involved).

The cough drop example comes from a Reddit post where the discussion thread includes a lot of ranting but also some informed perspectives on why such things happen.

An interesting essay on the history of the family

Excerpts from a longread at The Atlantic:
If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families. We’ve made life better for adults but worse for children. We’ve moved from big, interconnected, and extended families, which helped protect the most vulnerable people in society from the shocks of life, to smaller, detached nuclear families (a married couple and their children), which give the most privileged people in society room to maximize their talents and expand their options. The shift from bigger and interconnected extended families to smaller and detached nuclear families ultimately led to a familial system that liberates the rich and ravages the working-class and the poor.

This article is about that process, and the devastation it has wrought—and about how Americans are now groping to build new kinds of family and find better ways to live...

Through the early parts of American history, most people lived in what, by today’s standards, were big, sprawling households. In 1800, three-quarters of American workers were farmers. Most of the other quarter worked in small family businesses, like dry-goods stores. People needed a lot of labor to run these enterprises. It was not uncommon for married couples to have seven or eight children...

Extended families have two great strengths. The first is resilience. An extended family is one or more families in a supporting web. Your spouse and children come first, but there are also cousins, in-laws, grandparents—a complex web of relationships among, say, seven, 10, or 20 people...

The second great strength of extended families is their socializing force. Multiple adults teach children right from wrong, how to behave toward others, how to be kind...

But while extended families have strengths, they can also be exhausting and stifling. They allow little privacy; you are forced to be in daily intimate contact with people you didn’t choose. There’s more stability but less mobility. Family bonds are thicker, but individual choice is diminished...

As factories opened in the big U.S. cities, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, young men and women left their extended families to chase the American dream... The families they started were nuclear families. The decline of multigenerational cohabiting families exactly mirrors the decline in farm employment. Children were no longer raised to assume economic roles—they were raised so that at adolescence they could fly from the nest, become independent, and seek partners of their own. They were raised not for embeddedness but for autonomy...

For a time, it all seemed to work. From 1950 to 1965, divorce rates dropped, fertility rates rose, and the American nuclear family seemed to be in wonderful shape. And most people seemed prosperous and happy. In these years, a kind of cult formed around this type of family—what McCall’s, the leading women’s magazine of the day, called “togetherness.” Healthy people lived in two-parent families...

When we have debates about how to strengthen the family, we are thinking of the two-parent nuclear family, with one or two kids, probably living in some detached family home on some suburban street. We take it as the norm, even though this wasn’t the way most humans lived during the tens of thousands of years before 1950, and it isn’t the way most humans have lived during the 55 years since 1965.

Today, only a minority of American households are traditional two-parent nuclear families and only one-third of American individuals live in this kind of family. That 1950–65 window was not normal. It was a freakish historical moment when all of society conspired, wittingly and not, to obscure the essential fragility of the nuclear family...

Americans today have less family than ever before. From 1970 to 2012, the share of households consisting of married couples with kids has been cut in half... Over the past two generations, people have spent less and less time in marriage—they are marrying later, if at all, and divorcing more... Over the past two generations, families have also gotten a lot smaller. The general American birth rate is half of what it was in 1960...

Finally, over the past two generations, families have grown more unequal. America now has two entirely different family regimes. Among the highly educated, family patterns are almost as stable as they were in the 1950s; among the less fortunate, family life is often utter chaos. There’s a reason for that divide: Affluent people have the resources to effectively buy extended family, in order to shore themselves up...

And yet in at least one respect, the new families Americans are forming would look familiar to our hunter-gatherer ancestors from eons ago. That’s because they are chosen families—they transcend traditional kinship lines...
Way more at The Atlantic.  Worth the read, IMHO.

13 February 2020

"Choreomaniacs" of the 1500s


Excerpts from an interesting article in the Public Domain Review:
On a hastily built stage before the busy horse market of Strasbourg, scores of people dance to pipes, drums, and horns. The July sun beats down upon them as they hop from leg to leg, spin in circles and whoop loudly. From a distance they might be carnival revellers. But closer inspection reveals a more disquieting scene. Their arms are flailing and their bodies are convulsing spasmodically. Ragged clothes and pinched faces are saturated in sweat. Their eyes are glassy, distant. Blood seeps from swollen feet into leather boots and wooden clogs. These are not revellers but “choreomaniacs”, entirely possessed by the mania of the dance.

 ... this is the apogee of the choreomania that tormented Strasbourg for a midsummer month in 1518. Also known as the “dancing plague”, it was the most fatal and best documented of the more than ten such contagions which had broken out along the Rhine and Moselle rivers since 1374...

The physician and alchemist Paracelsus visited Strasbourg eight years after the plague and became fascinated by its causes. According to his Opus Paramirum, and various chronicles agree, it all started with one woman. Frau Troffea had started dancing on July 14th on the narrow cobbled street outside her half-timbered home. As far as we can tell she had no musical accompaniment but simply “began to dance”. Ignoring her husband’s pleas to cease, she continued for hours, until the sky turned black and she collapsed in a twitching heap of exhaustion. The next morning she was up again on her swollen feet and dancing before thirst and hunger could register. By the third day, people of a great and growing variety — hawkers, porters, beggars, pilgrims, priests, nuns — were drinking in the ungodly spectacle. The mania possessed Frau Troffea for between four and six days, at which point the frightened authorities intervened by sending her in a wagon thirty miles away to Saverne. There she might be cured at the shrine of Vitus, the saint who it was believed had cursed her. But some of those who had witnessed her strange performance had begun to mimic her, and within days more than thirty choreomaniacs were in motion, some so monomaniacally that only death would have the power to intervene...

[Physicians] recommended the treatment given to past victims of this bizarre disease. They must dance themselves free of it. A sixteenth-century chronicle composed by the architect Daniel Specklin records what the council did next. Carpenters and tanners were ordered to transform their guild halls into temporary dance floors, and “set up platforms in the horse market and in the grain market“ in full view of the public. To keep the accursed in motion and so expedite their recovery, dozens of musicians were paid to play drums, fiddles, pipes, and horns, with healthy dancers brought in for further encouragement. The authorities hoped to create the optimal conditions for the dance to exhaust itself.

It backfired horribly...

Feet on the dashboard during a car crash


Via the Whatcouldgowrong subreddit, where the discussion thread includes a link to a related story.

12 February 2020

"I'd like to get to know you better..."

Family "selfies," 1910


I don't know their names; they presumably are from the Finseth branch of the family that moved from Minnesota to the Washington/Oregon area about the turn of the last century.

They seem to be enthusiastic adopters of photographic technology and to be delighted with their pear tree.

Reposted from 2017 to add two more photos I found this week while digitizing our family photo albums:



The couple having a snuggle at a picnic in the second photo are probably the same as the ones showing off the pear tree, and perhaps also are seated and lying in front of the "pioneer" family in the bottom image.  A few indications in the minimally-annotated album suggest that the log home belonged to relatives living in the Washington-Oregon area - almost certainly Norwegians, either first- or second-generation immigrants.
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