08 March 2019

Extended blogcation

In recent years I've taken occasional brief breaks from the blog for a few days or a week, but now I've decided to take an extended leave of at least two weeks.

This will be a respite not just from blogging, but also from ebaying and gaming - no Sim City, no Civilization V.  It will be a much-needed rest for my trigger thumb and for my psyche, especially as this record-cold, multi-roofraking, uber-unpleasant winter drags to an end.  I'm also going to close the comments on some recent posts because I won't be curating them.  No keyboard activities for the next two weeks.  Doctors' orders.

And now I'm... outta here.

The antiquity of "Snakes and Ladders"

According to Veda, the game was created by the 13th century poet saint Gyandev.
In the original game square 12 was faith, 51 was Reliability, 57 was Generosity, 76 was Knowledge, and 78 was Asceticism. These were the squares where the ladder was found. Square 41 was for Disobedience, 44 for Arrogance, 49 for Vulgarity, 52 for Theft, 58 for Lying, 62 for Drunkenness, 69 for Debt, 84 for Anger, 92 for Greed, 95 for Pride, 73 for Murder and 99 for Lust. These were the squares where the snake was found. The Square 100 represented Nirvana or Moksha.
More info:
Snakes and Ladders originated in India as part of a family of dice board games that included Gyan chauper and pachisi (present-day Ludo and Parcheesi). The game made its way to England and was sold as "Snakes and Ladders", then the basic concept was introduced in the United States as Chutes and Ladders by game pioneer Milton Bradley in 1943.

The game was popular in ancient India by the name Moksha Patam. It was also associated with traditional Hindu philosophy contrasting karma and kama, or destiny and desire. It emphasized destiny, as opposed to games such as pachisi, which focused on life as a mixture of skill (free will) and luck. The underlying ideals of the game inspired a version introduced in Victorian England in 1892. The game has also been interpreted and used as a tool for teaching the effects of good deeds versus bad. The board was covered with symbolic images, the top featuring gods, angels, and majestic beings, while the rest of the board was covered with pictures of animals, flowers and people.

The ladders represented virtues such as generosity, faith, and humility, while the snakes represented vices such as lust, anger, murder, and theft. The morality lesson of the game was that a person can attain salvation (Moksha) through doing good, whereas by doing evil one will inherit rebirth to lower forms of life. The number of ladders was less than the number of snakes as a reminder that a path of good is much more difficult to tread than a path of sins. Presumably, reaching the last square (number 100) represented the attainment of Moksha (spiritual liberation).

When the game was brought to England, the Indian virtues and vices were replaced by English ones in hopes of better reflecting Victorian doctrines of morality. Squares of Fulfillment, Grace and Success were accessible by ladders of Thrift, Penitence and Industry and snakes of Indulgence, Disobedience and Indolence caused one to end up in Illness, Disgrace and Poverty. While the Indian version of the game had snakes outnumbering ladders, the English counterpart was more forgiving as it contained each in the same amount. This concept of equality signifies the cultural ideal that for every sin one commits, there exists another chance at redemption.
Interesting that success in the game as originally designed depended entirely on luck (roll of dice) with no apparent skills or strategy involved; perhaps that's part of the karma lesson.  AFAIK, the American version didn't incorporate any virtues or sins - it was more like random good and bad luck.  I may be misremembering.  But I certainly didn't know it was an ancient game.

07 March 2019

Elaborate warded lock

Found at the mildlyinteresting subreddit.
These are called warded locks. If the key wasn't the same shape as the ward, the lock wouldn't open. Older versions were pretty easy to pick by modern standards, but wards are still in use. Modern locks have a plate on the front of them that defines the shape of key that the lock will accept. That's why you need to get a key cut from the appropriate blank or it won't work. If you check your keys, odds are very good that stamped on the bow (the part of the key that you hold to turn it in the lock) is a small letter/number code that identifies the blank and therefore the shape of the ward.
Source: Former institutional (i.e. corporate) locksmith.
Warded locks are an old type of lock where the key has to pass over several obstructions (wards) as it rotates, before it can engage with the mechanism and unlock. It doesn't refer to the shape to which the blank must conform (the shape of the keyway), but the shape to which the final key must conform.

You are correct regarding warded locks using internal wards to stop a key from rotating unless it was the correct shape (unless it was a skeleton key, which bypassed these internal wards). But using that definition for a ward is too narrow. Wards are physical obstructions that stop the key from entering or turning the lock.

If the ward stops the key from entering the lock, it's a keyway ward. In the lock, they're the protrusions from the keyway that necessitate the grooves that are cut down the length of the key. They partly define the shape of the blanks (in addition to other things like the number of pins in the cylinder). The cuts on the blade of modern keys are generally there to align the shear line on internal pins to open the lock and are therefore not associated with wards. Exceptions to this would be for things like control keys on interchangeable format cores, which allow the lock to be removed from the door with the simple turn of a key (great for swapping out office locks). I've also seen some modern padlocks, cubicle cabinet locks, and the like that use internal wards, but they're generally low quality.

Why is stuff like this allowed to exist ?

Good day to you.

My name is [redacted], a renowned Togo based lawyer. I am writing in connection to your late relative who died along with his wife and only Son in an auto accident.

I have contacted you for the repartration of his money valued at sixteen million five hundred thousand dollars and the also the claiming of his estate. Get back to me for more clarification; Looking forward to hearing from you

Yours faithfully, [redacted]. 
I redacted the name in order to not give the scammer any publicity. We have all received emails like this, and any sensible person recognizes it as fake.  In fact my understanding is that scams like this are intentionally written in this floridly bogus style so as not to accidentally entrap any sophisticated computer users, their targets being only the totally naive internet users and those with mental impairments.

As the son of an elderly mother who had advanced dementia, it annoys me that this type of material continues to exist.  I understand that much of it arises overseas in places beyond the jurisdiction of the American court system, but I can't believe that no mechanism exists to shut it down or punish the malefactors. 

"Kulning" explained

Kulning is an ancient herding call that Swedish women have practiced for hundreds of years. But in recent decades, Jinton says, it’s been largely forgotten.

According to Susanne Rosenberg, professor and head of the folk music department at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and kulning expert, the vocal technique likely dates back to at least the medieval era. In the spring, farmers sent their livestock to a small fäbod, or remote, temporary settlement in the mountains, so cows and goats could graze freely. Women, young and old, accompanied the herds, living in relative isolation from late May until early October...

The herds grazed during the daytime, wandering far from the cottages, and thus needed to be called in each night. Women developed kulning to amplify the power of their voices across the mountainous landscape, resulting in an eerie cry loud enough to lure livestock from their grazing grounds...

Rosenberg, who’s researched the volume of kulning, says it can reach up to 125 decibels—which, she warns, is dangerously loud for someone standing next to the source. Comparable to the pitch and volume of a dramatic soprano singing forte, kulning can be heard by an errant cow over five kilometers away... Some women have even learned the far-carrying cries as a form of self-defense...
Via Neatorama.

Adults living in the state where they were born

Via Digg

How a "wealth tax" would work

Too many people still don't understand the difference between a wealth tax and an income tax, and don't understand marginal rates.  Show this video to your friends who are in that group.

Recycling is breaking down

It appears there are diminishing choices of where to recycle TO...
China, once the single-largest buyer for U.S. recyclables, banned the import of two dozen types of “foreign waste” and imposed strict quality standards on the recyclables it’ll accept. Nationwide, municipalities are facing higher costs and being forced to find stopgap solutions, from incinerators to landfills, for recyclables that have nowhere else to go...

Mixed paper and plastic exports to China plunged more than 90 percent between January 2017 and January 2018, according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. International Trade Commission. As the industry scrambled to find new buyers, prices went through the floor. Anne Germain, Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs at the National Waste and Recycling Association, an industry trade group, told me that mixed paper went from selling for about $100 a ton to a high of about $3 a ton...

As Scott McGrath, Environmental Planning Director at the City of Philadelphia Streets Department explained, the city was recently making good money selling its recyclables to processors, with the price peaking at $67 a ton in 2012. By January 2018, Philly was paying its contractor, Republic Services, $20 a ton to continue taking recycling. By the summer, that figure had jumped to $40 a ton. When the city started trying to renegotiate its contract, which expired in September, Republic Services asked for $170 a ton to keep recycling.
Meanwhile, Canadian forests are still being harvested for American toilet paper

The anatomy of parrot vocalization

06 March 2019


"Director François Ozon’s elegiac tale of love and remembrance is set in a small German town in the aftermath of World War I, where a young woman mourning the death of her fiancé forms a bond with a mysterious Frenchman who has arrived to lay flowers on her beloved’s grave."
I watched this movie tonight and can unreservedly recommend it.  The pacing is slow at first as the characters are introduced, but the movie is beautifully filmed and well worth watching.

04 March 2019

Divertimento #161

I haven't done a gif-based linkfest since January.   Hundreds of gifs bookmarked.  Let's go...

Here's what socialist Denmark does for new mothers

Scooping honey from a honeycomb

Deceptive size of beer glass at Applebees

A reminder that a triangle can be made of three right angles

Street scene in Grindewald, Switzerland

European drivers understand to leave road open for emergency vehicles

The speed of light between earth and moon in real time

Cracking open an opal vein in a rock.  Another "boulder opal"

Boston Dynamics' "Big Dog" has been improved

U.S. numbered highway system.  In numerical order.

Child's "activity trunk" ripoff

"Cardominos" are a variant of traditional dominos

Reportedly a meth addict on the street; video mixed with BeeGees

A knight's sabaton (footwear) was very flexible

Backflip in front of a mirror... not.

Zaouli African dance

Drone flight through fireworks

A wrestler seems to appear out of nowhere


Penguin gets separated from his/her group

Giraffe being attacked by lions

People work together to save a dog

Play with a cat.  What can go wrong?

Bald eagle swims to shore with its lunch (bullhead, I think)

Awesome rack on a buck

Journalist goes to animal shelter to write a story

Dog "confined" to a cage

Rhombic egg-eater has a defensive display

Devil rays flying

Clever mouse escapes

What's coming down the hall?

What's under that tiny air bubble at the beach?

Service dog has to learn about glass floor

Dog digs a hole.  Sort of.  "Dog.exe has failed"

After public pool closes, dogs are allowed in (fundraiser, fun for dogs)


College basketball player injures his face on the backboard

Referee dodges a pass in the Alabama/Clemson game

Michael Jordan pre-game ritual

Jessie Graff, ninja warrior.  The lady clapping is her mom 

Pool table trick, hard to appreciate until you see the slow motion

Impressive or clever

How to hide alcohol at a sports event

Cutting a fallen tree

Pancake production line at a fair or carnival

A Novascope is a kind of kaleidoscope

Falling tree unleashes a missile

Cutting clay to reveal art

Cutting a watermelon for sharing

Why you shouldn't touch decorative cattails indoors

Machine wraps hay bales. And another one.

Arborist deploying a portawrap

"Seabreacher" is a new aquatic toy

Disarming a man wielding a knife

Skydiver enters an airplane

Ferrari pit team perfection

Superb moonwalk

What water does to a grease fire

Use your drone to remove a hornet's nest

Glider takeoff

Drone-propelled flying chair

TIL that there are silicone sheets that match the size and weight of pizza dough

Fails (I shouldn't have to leave a trigger warning for this category...)

How not to open champagne

Don't throw lighted cigarettes into underground chambers.

And don't put a firecracker down there either 

Man puts a firecracker into a smoker grill.

Trying to kill a spider

A "snow gun" for people who can't make or throw snowballs

Try to impress people by drinking flaming alcohol

Don't play with an electric fence in a field that has cow patties (skip to start at 1:45)

Deer versus bicyclist.  Both lose.

"Don't mix fire with stupid"

Serious injury from a ridiculous bicycle stunt

Fossil unlocked by a master preparator

Freezing rain + steep driveway.  Note impressive loss of both shoes.


Girl gives her scarf to a homeless dog

Toddler dances to music of buskers

A compilation of four-generation families

Be careful of that step

People work together to save a dog

Man admires old car in parking lot (story at the link)

Child playing hide and seek 

Helping a deer on a frozen lake

Leaving the house with wet hair in the winter

Man rescues dogs from garbage dump

Oofda.  Enough for now.  That empties seven folders with 12 bookmarks each.  Lots more for later.  There are undoubtedly some incorrectly-pasted links; let me know.

The embedded images are selections from a larger gallery at Bored Panda.

It's not a urinal. It's a "speibecken"

Essentially an enormous German emesis basin.   Note the large-diameter discharge pipe and the convenient handholds on the wall.  Not sure if the metal plate is a headrest (?), but it seems to contain a motion detector for the flushing.

Discussion thread at the whatisthisthing subreddit:
"These make sense in bars but they actually have these in the jockey quarters at Churchill Downs for the jockeys to vomit before racing in the Kentucky Derby to further minimize their weight. Seriously."

"Mostly in every brewery in Germany. And some bars do have it. In breweries you normally do a guided tour and afterwards you are allowed to drink as much as you want for a certain time. So that’s when the vomit „urinal“ comes in handy."
Wikipedia page on Speibecken (auf Deutsch).  (auf English)

Useful map of Kashmir

A region that will probably be recurrently in the news this year.  This map shows the disputed boundaries (which is basically the entire region).  Credit Washington Post.

Extreme free-range chicken farming

From the always-interesting Atlas Obscura:
Massimo Rapella, a 48-year-old chicken farmer from northern Italy, is helping chickens rediscover their wild side. Since 2009, Rapella and his wife Elisabetta have been keeping an estimated 2,100 hens in a patch of pristine Alpine forest near Sondrio, in the heart of the Valtellina valley...

Shortly after relocating, Rapella and his wife started keeping a few chickens to provide eggs for their own consumption. But soon enough they noticed some unexpected behavior from their flock. “Our chickens liked roaming around the nearby woods,” Rapella explains. “So I encouraged them to venture out and lay eggs in the wild.”

A few months later, Rapella saw that the birds looked healthier—with shiny feathers and bright-colored wattles—and that their eggs had a fuller taste. “I started wondering if I could take on more chickens and create an ‘Alpine egg’ to sell in local markets,” he says. Today, he sells his uovo di selva, or egg of the woods, to about 400 direct consumers and 40 restaurants...

Most domestic chickens today would not find themselves at home in a forest: at least, not immediately. “The first large batch of chickens I took in looked very lost,” Rapella says. “They had never seen a tree nor a bug in their life, and they were scared of snow.”..

“White birds really stand out to predators,” Clauer says. Rapella keeps two different breeds of chicken: Hy-Line brown hens and the easy-to-spot white Leghorns. While he once lost the occasional chicken, now he relies on a double fence and two trained Maremma sheepdogs to keep badgers, martens (a weasel-like carnivore), foxes, and buzzards at bay.

Rapella’s chickens lay eggs almost every day, like any domesticated chicken, but they do so in the woods. “They like natural nests offered by tree roots or branches,” he says. “Usually when you spot a cranny with some leaves, you know there could be eggs.” Once a hen finds her favorite nesting spot, she goes back to it for each subsequent laying, making Rapella’s egg-hunting easier. Together with two employees, he gathers an estimated 1,000 eggs every morning.

His uovo di selva tastes like egg, but concentrated. There’s more flavor to it, and also more protein, due to the bug-filled diet of the chickens. As a result, when chefs whip the whites from Rapella’s protein-rich eggs, they get three times the volume. The egg yolk can even change with the seasons...
More at the link.

Cool graphic of Lake Baikal and the Great Lakes

I don't remember if I've ever featured the Great Lakes profile (right portion of the graphic) in TYWKIWDBI before.  Redditor u/buak added in Lake Baikal for comparison.  There are various inaccurate aspects, but the overall depiction of relative depth and elevation are interesting.

From the discussion thread at the MapPorn subreddit, I learned that Baikal is home to some of the world's only freshwater seals:
The Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) is a subspecies of ringed seal (Pusa hispida). They are among the most endangered seals in the world, having a total population of only about 390 individuals. The only existing population of these seals is found in Lake Saimaa, Finland (hence the name). They have lived in complete isolation from other ringed seal species for around 9,500 years and have diverged into a morphologically and ecologically different subspecies of ringed seal.
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