21 January 2019

Fake amber


When you see a gecko embedded in "amber" for sale on eBay for 10 bucks, you have to figure the "amber" is fake (hornets, scorpions, butterfly specimens similarly priced at the link).  The item's description says "Manufacture: China, Chinese Factory Homegrown products for Sales", so that's probably a "disclosure," and the "amber" in the title can be defended as a color rather than a natural product.

This one is crudely done, but there are some remarkably good ones out there, as explained at Amber Pieces:
This industry dates back to the early 1900s, having its major source in New Zealand, where large amounts of Kaori Gum are located - the prime ingredient in the fabrication of fake amber. In the North Island, diggings of Kaori Gum would be performed daily, turning it into a major industry. It may be hard to imagine, but even the workers were so engaged in their activities that they formed their own newspaper called “The Gum Diggers Gazette”. If you wonder how this Kaori Gum was used as a surrogate for real amber, here is how it was done: the material would be melted down gently and carefully. Inclusions would then be placed into it, e.g. suitably colored insects which can easily be detected as fake fossils because true ancient amber fossils are colorless and monotone due to time usage..modern imitations are so close to perfection that simple analytical methods fail to differentiate between real amber and fake amber. Scientists developed the so-called FT-IR Spectroscopy test for the infallible identification of Baltic amber – succinite. Under close examination, real amber reveals its Baltic curve in spectrum coupled with gas chromatography and electron microscopic features... 
Baltic Essentials offers tips on how to spot fake amber:
You can easily rub amber with your hands or with a cloth to produce heat as well to see if it emits a tree resin smell.  There will also be an oily residue that appears on your hands after several seconds of rubbing very fast.
Real amber also has an electrostatic charge, and when rubbed it will attract to things like your clothes, hair, or dust.

In salt water, genuine amber will float while most fakes, which are denser in weight, will sink.

Authentic amber is florescent and shining UV light over it will glow pale
RelatedJurassic amber soap, Be aware of fake tanzanite, Fake gold bars (and coins) made of tungsten, Floating crinoid fossil - fake or real?

Trump clump #6


YouTube link  (hat tip to Stan B.)
"Don't give up. Don't allow it to happen. If there's a concrete wall in front of you, 
go through it, go over it, go around it, but get to the other side of that wall. 
 -Donald J. Trump

Brief introductory remarks:  Readers both on the left and the right have expressed to me a desire to read as little as possible about Donald Trump in TYWKIWDBI since he gets ubiquitous coverage elsewhere.  I agree with that sentiment, but since I use this blog as a storehouse of information, I don't want to ignore the subject matter.  So I have compromised by clustering most of the Trump-related material into "Trump clumps" that can be easily passed over with a quick swipe on a mouse.   This is the first Trump clump since September, so I think I've exhibited admirable restraint in that regard - but it also means that lots of these links are 3-4 months old.  For obvious reasons I'll close comments for this post.  Here we go...


"But to really get the feel for the Trump administration’s end, we must turn to the finest political psychologist of them all, William Shakespeare. The text is in the final act of what superstitious actors only refer to as the “Scottish play.” One of the nobles who has turned on their murderous usurper king describes Macbeth’s predicament:
Those he commands move only in command,
Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title
Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe
Upon a dwarfish thief."

A Scientific American article reports on a "Monumental Disaster at the Department of the Interior," as a new report documents the suppression of science... "It is a damning report and required reading for anyone who values public lands, wildlife, cultural heritage, and health and safety."

A December listing by the BBC of the "revolving door at the White House," detailing all the high officials who have come and gone.   "Here is a run-down of what they did, and why they left, starting with the most recent." [27 people]

"America’s global image plummeted following the election of President Donald Trump, amid widespread opposition to his administration’s policies and a widely shared lack of confidence in his leadership. Now, as the second anniversary of Trump’s election approaches, a new 25-nation Pew Research Center survey finds that Trump’s international image remains poor, while ratings for the United States are much lower than during Barack Obama’s presidency."



The first lady appears to have flown from Joint Base Andrews outside of DC in Maryland to Palm Beach aboard a US Air Force C-32A, a modified Boeing 757, which costs $14,087 per hour to operate, according to figures supplied earlier to Quartz by the Department of Defense. The flight from DC to Palm Beach takes about 2.5 hours, for a total flight cost of $35,217.50."

In a Rolling Stone article, Matt Taibbi discusses Trump's nihilism:
"A policy that not only recognizes but embraces inevitable global catastrophe is the ultimate expression of Trump’s somehow under-reported nihilism. While the press has focused in the past two years either on the president’s daily lunacies or his various scandals, the really dangerous work of Trump’s administration has gone on behind the scenes, in his systematic wreckage of the state. Implicit in this campaign of bureaucratic dismantling has been the message that pandemonium is a price Trump is very willing to pay, in service of breaking the “disaster” of government. Many of his top appointees have been distinguished by their screw-it-all mentality."
"The last surviving member of the Nuremberg trials prosecuting team has said Donald Trump committed “a crime against humanity” with the recent family separation policy."

 This tweet is real:

"Everyone knows President Donald Trump has a complicated relationship with the truth. But he flat out lied Saturday evening to justify moving forward with a campaign rally mere hours after 11 people were shot to death in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Trump said that the New York Stock Exchange reopened the day after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when in reality it took several days for the markets to reopen... Trump’s version of history sounds pretty incredible. But it just isn’t true. Both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were closed until Monday, Sept. 17, which marked the longest closing of the markets since 1933."

 The van of a domestic terrorist:  More info about the man.

"A Florida man is facing a federal sexual assault charge after he was accused of groping a woman on a flight from Texas to New Mexico... Later, in the police vehicle, Alexander told officers that the president of the United States "says it's OK to grab women by their private parts."

Donald Trump has once again branded the mainstream media the "enemy of the people", just days after a pipe bomb was sent to CNN's offices and 11 people were shot dead at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  "There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news," the US president wrote on Twitter. "The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly."

"... there’s a pair of life-size fiberglass statues [above] in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, a village in the green Chiltern Hills of southeast England. The U.S. president leers at Matilda Wormwood, the title character in the beloved Dahl novel. Matilda — hands on her hips, eyes ahead — plants herself defiantly in his way. The temporary installation is a monument to the disdain with which Trump is viewed abroad. Only 28 percent of the British public trusts the U.S. president to do the right thing in world affairs, according to recent Pew data. Elsewhere in Western Europe, the figure is even lower."

Supercut of Trump on the campaign trail in 2015-2016:


From the New York Times:
"Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings... The reporting makes clear that in every era of Mr. Trump’s life, his finances were deeply intertwined with, and dependent on, his father’s wealth


"Three men who were convicted of plotting to bomb an apartment building that housed a mosque and dozens of Muslim Somali refugees in Kansas were encouraged by President Donald Trump's rhetoric and asked a judge for leniency in their sentencing, their attorneys said. In court documents filed this week, attorneys for Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen, and Gavin Wright, say the men were influenced by Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric and Russian propaganda on social media and argue that life sentences against their clients would not deter others from committing similar crimes."

"Donald Trump‘s visit to a First World War cemetery was called off by the White House because of poor weather."   In contrast to this manAnd this one of course.  But Trump does play golf in the rain.

Trump's public schedule of activities is posted here.

Vanity Fair and Politico report that the president puts in perhaps 3 hours of work on a good day:
"Last Tuesday’s schedule, for instance, reportedly included a whopping nine hours of “Executive Time,” or triple the time that was allotted for actual work. Trump’s first commitment of the day came at 1 P.M., and while he had a 30-minute call with C.E.O.s here and a quick briefing and dinner with senior military leaders there, the rest of the day consisted of doing whatever the hell he wanted... A bulk of the president’s time last week was spent traveling to and from political rallies and campaigning on behalf of Republican candidates ahead of next Tuesday’s midterm elections. On Wednesday, which began with an 11:30 A.M. meeting with John Kelly, Trump delivered brief remarks on the opioid crisis and sat for a media interview before departing for an evening rally in Wisconsin. The rest of his day, according to his schedule, was open. Last week’s schedules are remarkably light on policy discussions. The president spent a little more than two hours of his week in policy briefings, according to the schedules, and he was scheduled to receive the President’s Daily Brief on just two of the five days reviewed."
Dana Milbank offers the view that Donald Trump "is entering his terrible twos."
The Trump presidency turns two this month, and though we often hear the mantra “this is not normal,” what the president is doing actually is normal. For a 2-year-old... (per Benjamin Spock) The 2-year-old “has a hard time making up his mind, and then he wants to change it,” his “understanding of the world is still so limited,” and “he becomes bolder and more daring in his experiments.” “A battle of wills with a two-year-old is tiring.”“Two is a great age for whining.”  “Negativism reaches new heights and takes new forms after two.” The “two-and-a-half-year-old . . . even contradicts herself.” And the terrible twos are defined by tantrums, which, Dr. Spock wrote, “usually start around age one” — Trump was precocious — “peak around age two to three” and are worse for “children who are less flexible.” “Two-year-olds don’t play cooperatively with each other very much,” Dr. Spock wrote. “There is no point in trying to teach a two-year-old to share; he simply isn’t ready.”
The following contains NSFW language:

For those who skip videos, here are the best two lines from the one above:
Pence: "Last year alone, 17,000 individuals with criminal histories were apprehended at our southern borders."
Randy Rainbow:  "Why not hire them as senior White House officials?"
Watch these world leaders' faces when they realize that Donald Trump is mis-signing the NAFTA agreement.

When Trump welcomed George W. Bush to Blair House, located across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, he and Melania traveled there in the presidential parade limousine, with a motorcade of at least seven other vehicles.  The actual distance:  250 yards.  Other presidents, including President Obama, just walked.

Trump claims to be a Christian, and has garnered immense support from Christian groups around the country.  The program for the funeral of George H.W. Bush called for those present to recite the Apostle's Creed.  "The Apostles' Creed is one of the prayers most core to Christianity. It states in a few lines the basic narrative of Jesus’s life, is the statement of faith in one God and is said daily by Christians across the globe... President Trump stood, with his hands folded in front of him, waist-high, the program in his left hand, his lips not moving. Melania Trump also did not speak, nor did she hold a program."  The Washington Post has a video of his non-participation.

 Signature (or atrial fibrillation?):

Trump blamed the California wildfires on "forest mismanagement," but California firefighters took him to task by pointing out that the wildfires were "urban interface fires" and suburban events, not forest ones.

Why candles in a gilt candelabra, for fox ache?
Not for illumination certainly.  Not to set a romantic mood.   There may have been an argument for burgers and pizza, but this is just regal splendor.

Trump's celebratory fast food dinner for the Clemson football team has been endlessly mocked...

... and parodied, but I think this photo of the condiments is the best...
... because of this comment: "If you asked me to distill Donald Trump's personality into one image, it is this." [Lincoln's silver gravyboats on a silver platter holding dipping sauce condiment packets].

[In November] President Donald Trump asserted that he had “very high levels of intelligence,” and as such, did not believe in the scientific consensus surrounding climate change in a sweeping interview with The Washington Post published Tuesday.  “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers,” said Trump, speaking to the Post’s Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker. “You look at our air and our water and it’s right now at a record clean. ... As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it — not nearly like it is.”  More here.

At the G20 meeting, 19 of 20 world leaders pledged to fight climate change.  Donald Trump was the lone holdout.

So it's not surprising to read this mid-January tweet:

The title of a Vanity Fair article speaks for itself: “It Was Camelot on Steroids”: Trump, Marla, the Beach Romp, Anti-Semitism, and the Epic Battle for Mar-a-Lago"

"A former Canadian prime minister has sparked a debate about diplomatic language after she described President Donald Trump as a “motherf***er” in a tweet... Kim Campbell, who was Canada’s head of government in 1993, reacted strongly on social media to Trump being asked by a reporter what safety net there was for the workers who would not be paid due to a partial shutdown by government. When Trump said the safety net would be the physical southern border wall with Mexico, Campbell tweeted Saturday, “He really IS a motherf**ker,” CBC reported."

The single most eloquent and devastating takedown of Donald Trump's presidency I have read recently was published in Deadspin.  Some excerpts:
Trump is nearly as ubiquitous in the culture as he has always believed he should be; the one deeply held belief that has been evident throughout his whole faithless disgrace of a life is people should be talking about Donald Trump more, on television, and he has just about seen that part through. All Trump wants, all he has ever wanted, is to be able to keep doing and taking and saying whatever he wants whenever he wants. He ran for president for this reason and this reason only... His actions since becoming president have been those of a dim, cruel child playacting at being a powerful man—giving orders without quite knowing what they mean or how they might be carried out, taunting enemies, beating up the people he can afford to beat up without having to be called to account for it, lying as needed or just for yuks...

For someone who does it so frequently, Trump is not especially talented at lying. His dissimilations are all easy to see through; the things he heatedly accuses his enemies of doing are always things that he has done himself, is currently doing, or obviously aspires to do in the future. He is always desperate, in the way that selfish and needy people are always desperate... What’s most striking about Trump’s lies, beyond their overwhelming volume and bombast, is how they reflect his own monomania. So Many Are Saying various things that somehow all wind up being about him; they’re Saying It More And More because there is nothing else and no one else that he could imagine anyone wanting to talk about. The metastasizing They that opposes him grows by the day, and cares about him every bit as much as he cares about himself... Those opiate deaths and wildfires and our fortnightly mass shootings are Quite Frankly So Tragic, but it is palpable that the only real response Trump has to them is that they distract from what everyone had been talking about before, which was and by rights should continue to be him.

Trump won’t stop. He won’t stop because he’s never told the truth in his life and because this is all he has and all he has ever had. He wakes up every day to the mess he’s made and says and does whatever he must, at whatever cost, to get through the day. Like many in his generation, Trump has mistaken the end of his life for the end of the world. He can’t imagine, let alone care about, what will be left after he is gone, if only because no one who matters to him will be around for it. His politics, such as they exist, boil down to this: he is trying to hold on, and will spend the rest of his life trying not to be found out.
Oofda.  Glad to get that over with.  Anyway, now I've cleaned out an entire folder of bookmarks and can return to "normal programming."

17 January 2019

Harpy eagle


Photo via.

Belly button bacterial biodiversity

From 60 belly buttons, the team found 2,368 bacterial species...

Some belly buttons harbored as few as 29 species and some as many as 107, although most had around 67. Ninety-two percent of the bacteria types showed up on fewer than 10 percent of subjects—in fact, most of the time, they appeared in only a single subject.

One science writer, for instance, apparently harbored a bacterium that had previously been found only in soil from Japan—where he has never been.

Another, more fragrant individual, who hadn't washed in several years, hosted two species of so-called extremophile bacteria that typically thrive in ice caps and thermal vents...

Despite the diversity, themes emerged. Even though not a single strain showed up in each subject, eight species were present on more than 70 percent of the subjects. And whenever these species appeared, they did so in huge numbers.
"That makes the belly button a lot like rain forests," Dunn said. In any given forest, he explained, the spectrum of flora might vary, but an ecologist can count on a certain few dominant tree types.
More at National Geographic and Wikipedia. [The most prevalent organisms were Staphylococci, Corynebacteria, Actinobacteria, Clostridia, and Bacilli - pretty much like the skin in general].

See also omphaloskepsis, navel fetishism, and alvinolagnia.

"Instant karma" illustrated


In Kentucky some people built a 9-foot-tall snowman.
“We were playing in the snow, she’s from Mississippi so this is the most snow she’s ever seen in her entire life. I’m from Buffalo so this is no big deal,” Lutz said. “I love the snow!”
At night a local driver decided to ram the snowman with his truck.

The snowman had been built around the trunk of a dead tree.

Here's an interesting aspect of a border wall with Mexico


I was flipping past TV channels the other day and heard a new observation about "the wall."  I don't know whether it was part of a pro-wall or anti-wall comment, and I don't know who was speaking, but the gist was something I had not heard before.

If a wall is built along the length of the U.S./Mexico border, the easternmost part will have to contend with the presence of the Rio Grande river.  For practical reasons, the wall cannot be built in the river - it has to be on the shore, and on the American side.

This means that if anyone crosses the river (easy to do - you can wade across at certain places in certain seasons) they would be standing on United States soil and could ask for asylum.  They wouldn't need to cross the wall.

An interesting observation.  I'll leave the Comments section open for a while, as long as discussion remains civil.

BTW and unrelated: "In the 1640's the Dutch inhabitants of New Amsterdam built a 12' wall to keep the bad hombres out. In 1664 the British ignored the wall and took New Amsterdam by sea. It's now called New York."

Image annotated from the original here.

A company will now transfuse you with a young person's blood


It may be batshit crazy, but it's real.  And it's legal.
Roughly three years ago, Karmazin launched Ambrosia, a startup that fills the veins of older people with blood from younger donors, hoping the procedure would help conquer aging by rejuvenating the body's organs...

The company is now up and running... Ambrosia... is now accepting payments for the procedure via PayPal. Two options are listed: 1 liter of young blood for $8,000, or 2 liters for $12,000...

Because blood transfusions are already approved by federal regulators, Ambrosia does not need to demonstrate that its treatment carries significant benefits before offering it to customers.

Karmazin said that "many" of the roughly 150 people who had received the treatment described benefits including renewed focus, better memory and sleep, and improved appearance and muscle tone.

However, it's tough to quantify these benefits before the study's findings are made public. There's also the possibility that simply traveling to a lab in Monterey and paying to enroll in the study could have made the people feel better.
The embedded image is of Elizabeth Bathory.  Only tangentially related, but I couldn't think of anything better.

"Self-lacing" sneakers are a thing now.



And they don't even have laces - just a contractile mesh, controlled by an app on your phone
The highlight of Adapt, which Nike is calling its "most advanced fit solution to date," is that you can control its power laces manually via physical buttons on the shoe or a companion app on your phone. When you put on the Adapt BB, the built-in custom motor with trained gears senses the tension needed by your feet and adjusts itself accordingly to keep each foot snug in the shoes. Nike says its new lacing system can create 32 pounds of force, about the same energy needed to pull a standard parachute cord, allowing it to stay locked in through any range of movement from a player.

Naturally, all this tech requires power, so you're going to have to charge the Adapt BBs eventually. According to Nike, the shoes can last up to 14 days on a full charge.
You'll be glad to hear that Nike "was able to bring the price down to $350."  And with your phone you can change the color of the little LED lights on the side.

I am so far behind the times...

16 January 2019

Grass grasshopper


An impressive origami creation "found on a tram in Japan."  Image cropped for size from the original in the mildlyinteresting subreddit.

Can you spot the grasshopper in this Van Gogh painting ?


You have to look closely.  Very closely...


... and remember that Van Gogh painted outdoors.
“But just go and sit outdoors, painting on the spot itself! Then all sorts of things like the following happen — I must have picked up a good hundred flies and more off the 4 canvases that you’ll be getting, not to mention dust and sand ... when one carries a team of them across the heath and through hedgerows for a few hours, the odd branch or two scrapes across them,” Van Gogh wrote.
More information at The Telegraph.

Ice disks - updated


I've previously posted photos of interesting ice formations, including round ice floes in Russia and a "creek circle" in Canada.  This photo above was posted at the cosmos of enlightened vision; the disk was reportedly seen on the Salmon River in Idaho.

Related:  Frazil ice at Yellowstone (video).

Reposted from 2011 to add this massive one:


This disc formed on the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine.  It's about a hundred meters in diameter.   Details, plus a rather unexciting video at Gizmodo, via Neatorama.

14 January 2019

"Pick of the Litter"



I watched this movie tonight and can recommend it unreservedly.  Rotten Tomatoes rating 100%.  Available on Netflix and probably your local library on DVD.  Just watch it.

Let's just call it a dinosaur and leave it at that...


Via ReplacesandcancelsthepreviousJohnnythehorse

Meet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - updated


Even if you're not normally interested in elections, this 2-minute video is worth viewing, because it may be representative of a major shift in U.S. politics.

In the New York Democratic primary election yesterday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat the incumbent Joe Crowley - by 15 percentage points.  The contrast between the candidates couldn't have been greater.  He has been a major figure in the current Democratic party for almost 20 years - fourth in seniority in the House of Representatives, and considered the likely replacement to Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker.

She is 28 years old, female, of Puerto Rican descent, with a working-class background, and is an advocate of socialist principles, such as Medicare for all.  She refused any corporate funding, relying only on small donations, and accumulated only $600,000 exclusively from small-dollar donors, versus Joe Crowley's $3,000,000.

She is considered by many to be representative of the future of the Democratic Party.
Ocasio-Cortez ran decidedly to the left of Crowley, but she also shook up how Democrats go about getting elected. Until now, Democrats have seen big money in politics as simply a deal with the devil that had to be made. Democrats are so often outspent by Republican mega-donors that they viewed courting big-dollar donors and corporations as part of creating a level playing field.

But if one of Democrats’ top fundraisers and likely successor to Nancy Pelosi can be toppled, perhaps Democrats need to rethink that deal.
She will easily sweep to victory in November over any Republican challenger; that result will have no effect on the national balance, because this district voted heavily for Hilary Clinton in the last election.  (Donald Trump's claim that Crowley lost of Ocasio-Cortez because Crowley was a "Trump-hater" is of course pure bullshit).

A seasoned CNN political analyst opined today that "The Democratic base is sick of the establishment."

One last observation regarding the often-talked-about "Blue Wave."  It's not certain that the Democrats will make major gains in the November mid-terms, but it is clear that a "blue wave" is already sweeping inside the Democratic Party.  Look at this graph from the Washington Post:


For eighteen years, the Republican Party has remained ideologically stable - about 2/3 conservative and about 10% liberal.  The Democratic Party has become steadily more liberal - from 29% to 50%  It's hard to believe that as recently as 2000, there were as many conservative Democrats as liberal ones.
Most of the Democrats who win primaries and then win election in November will not be as progressive as Ocasio-Cortez. Should the Democrats surge to victory, the new Congress will not be one in which Democratic Socialists are swarming the halls of power. But it will certainly be a more progressive Democratic caucus than the one that’s there or, probably, any in the last century.
If you read this without viewing the video, I encourage you to scroll up and spend 2 minutes watching it at full-screen.  I think it will become a template for a surge of similar campaign videos this fall.  And it cost only $10,000 to produce (she wrote the script for it, BTW).

Reposted from June 2018 to add the following from Axios:


"A freshman congresswoman who has held office for less than two weeks is dominating the Democratic conversation on Twitter, generating more interactions — retweets plus likes — than the five most prolific news organizations combined over the last 30 days... And she has far more power on Twitter than the most prominent Democrats, including the congressional leaders and the likely 2020 presidential candidates..."
  • "In short, she is the first — but certainly not the last — of an entirely new archetype: a politician that is not only fueled by the Internet, but born of it."

If (like me) you are not on Twitter, you can still monitor their tweets: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  Donald Trump (and others via the "You may also like" links in their left sidebars).

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