10 December 2018

Chris' bookcase

"Here is a picture of my book case that I lost in the floods that hit southern Alberta this year The most ironic book was the first one that floated up at me: Fooled by Randomness by Taleb - one of my favorite books.

My bookshelf was a mix of finance-oriented books, good novels, knick knack curiosity books picked up at used book stores, and the occasional decoration that my wonderful wife put on the shelf to pretty it up. Lately the bottom two shelves were full of children's board books and early readers. I have finally gotten my oldest interested in reading Tolkien and hopefully Bradbury and Asimov soon. It is going to be fun going to used book stores to discover these books again.

In total the volunteers that helped me lift all the useful and useless memories out of my basement lifted thousands of books - God bless the volunteers that lifted my textbooks out. They were heavy enough lugging to classes, but full of water....

The things I was sad to see go were: my Economist magazines - I saved the ones that were 'historical,' culling them every couple of years; my small print finds like a collection of 22 proactive Canadians in the spirit of Bob Edwards; and compilations of Economist papers that I had personally compiled from all the AER tombs and painstakingly photocopied and bound for seminar course reading lists.

Really though I just realized that this bookcase was memories, and sooner or later it and the books on it were destined for a dumpster. The friends that came to help muck it out in the goo and stink and lift the water-filled books and couches up a lot of stairs ... well those I was glad to have. Heck of a wake for all those books."

Jerry's bookcase

This is my home-office bookcase. I'm a freelance writer, and I write about motorcycles. Most of these books are technical volumes, or about motorcycle history. Some are travel books, others repair and service manuals. A couple of items of note on the top shelf: two apothecary jars containing dirt from famous race tracks, both long since gone. The salt shaker contains salt from the Bonneville Salt Flats, where land-speed records are set. The piston atop on the the jars is out of an old motorcycle I used to race. The stuffed Opus the Penguin is…well, it's just there.

The Weaving One's library

"This is my library - the room I promised myself when I was just learning to read and realized I wanted my own books, not hand-me-downs or loans from the library. The only change I made for the picture was to shift my reading lamp out of the way.

Fiction (the first four shelves) is sorted by author, by publication date, except for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series which are in best-guessed chronological Darkover time, and the Star Trek books where author doesn’t really matter. Reference, non-fiction, and YA are on the fifth shelf, and the sixth shelf holds books I haven’t read yet. I read one, decide whether I keep it or not, and then shelve it or send it away. I don’t buy many paperbacks any more - I find them too difficult to read since my eyesight is poor. It took a long time, but I can now not finish a book. I don’t have time to read bad books any more.

I keep books I want to revisit, and I rarely lend - I don’t think I ever got past the selfish “this is my book and you can’t have it!” stage of my development. Too many not returned, or even worse, returned damaged. I’ll buy another copy and send it to someone if I really think they’ll love it.

The chair belonged to my mom’s mother, the rugs belonged to my father’s. The shelves are filled with treasures acquired on travels, at auctions, or (in the case of the Star Trek ephemera) gifts from friends and family. It is the only room in the house that doesn’t have a computer, stereo, or working timepiece. The clock on the top right was rebuilt by my dad, but I’ve never been able to get the weights re-adjusted so it runs anything but slow, so I wind it once a year just to keep it exercised.

What most people don’t know about me: I’ve been poor enough to go hungry but still found money to buy books. I have books I read at least once a year. I can read a paperback a dozen times without anyone being able to tell it has even been open. I have another book shelf in my living room with several of those green grocer bags stashed next to it - the bags are so if the house catches fire, I can get the books on it out of the house before everything else goes. And yes, I’ve timed it."
---The Weaving One

Ionut's books

"First of all, I know this it's far too affected to name these three books a "library," but that's what they are for me. Poor them, they don't even have a place of their own yet.

I relocated from Romania to the UK three months ago and unfortunately books aren't among the things you can bring with you in such an exodus. However, in accord with the radical change of scenery, language included, I have decided to start a new library from scratch. I too am devoted to that catchphrase that the library is the window to a person, and it is a wonderful and exhilarating feeling to start a new library in a new place.

For the moment, it contains just a Romanian-English dictionary, the only book I had brought with me from Romania, and which I sometimes beg to no avail to show me some light in this bizarre language of yours; then Richard Wilhelm's I Ching, which I constantly study; and The Waste Books of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. The other two, Genghis Khan by John Man and Tropic of Capricorn by Simon Reeve are some "easy non-fiction" from the local library, and which is my version of escapist literature in the afternoon or evening, after strenuous mental activity in the morning.

It will be a pleasure to watch this new library grow, with impulsive additions as well as some necessary, well calculated "adornments" (meaning those books I will not read with urgency, but which have to be there) and everything fitting in like pieces of a puzzle, creating in time some kind of mirror in which I can look and always see my true self. Next on the list is a beautifully illustrated edition of H. C. Andersen, who will always be one of my favorite writers; van Gogh's letters; and some Borges."

Stan's bookcase

Today I'm introducing a new feature ("Show Us Your Bookcase") at TYWKIWDBI, inspired by a Guardian essay last year:
Only a bookshelf can truly hold a reader's history and future at the same time... A lifelong reader myself, I've always had an obsession with seeing a person's bookshelf, to get a sense of what they've brought inside their home and their head. Bookshelves are universal in that almost everyone has one, and unique in that no two collections are the same... Sharing your shelf is sharing yourself – showcasing the building blocks that have crafted your knowledge, personality, and identity.
As I read that essay, I was reminded that as a young man I was always eager to examine the bookcases of friends and colleagues to learn more about them.  I confess to still doing that when I visit homes for holiday parties.

So I'll start, with a photo and a brief description (in case the image doesn't supersize) of one of five bookcases in my basement office.
On the top shelf are the complete novels of Agatha Christie, painstakingly scavenged from used-paperback-book stores over perhaps a decade.  Below that, D&D figurines and guidebooks (gathering dust) and a mix of sci-fi and miscellaneous books.

The third shelf down has the residua of what was once a complete collection of the Time-Life Reading Program, first acquired by subscription in the 1960s, then supplemented from old bookstores and the internet, then finally weeded down to just the ones I had rated 4+ after reading.  Behind that and to the right are the complete works of John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson in used paperback and hardbacks, from bookstores and eBay.  Also a stack of favorite sci-fi stories ruthlessly ripped out of annual paperback collections because I didn't want to save the whole book.

Below that the Random House Dictionary that I grab when I need something quickly (the OED doesn't fit on the shelves) and some reference books and small books.  Under that a shelf of mostly nonfiction and archaeology, and finally a tall shelf with notebooks, photo albums, and office supplies.
Scattered on the shelves are some non-book items, including pix of my late father, some geodes and knick-knacks, a spritz-bottle for chasing away cats, and a treasured piece of mortar from the Berlin Wall ("ein Mauerspecht"), pried loose in the dark of night from the East side (!) of the wall in 1989.
The rest of my life is delineated by other bookcases and shelves, but this will do as an introduction.

If you'd like to participate and share your stuff with other TYWKIWDBI readers, here are the guidelines:

1)  Participation is strictly limited to faithful readers of TYWKIWDBI who consistently identify themselves by names in comments.  For this feature "Anonymous" readers are left out (because we wouldn't know which anon was which).  But it's o.k. if you access the comments via the Anonymous choice on the pulldown, and then sign your name, as Swift and others do.

2)  The photo(s) can be of a single shelf (if that defines you), or of a bookcase, or even a wall or room.  Email it to me at the address in my bio in the right sidebar.  Please exclude info (or blur an item) that identifies you too precisely, and show only content that's "safe for work."  You can tidy up a shelf, but don't create an artificial one - this is the equivalent of a come-as-you-are party.

3)  I'd prefer that you NOT include yourself in the photo (this is not a "bookshelfie"), but a pet would be fine.

4)  Include a few words or several paragraphs re things interesting or unusual, but I reserve the right to edit down rambling dissertations and confessionals.

5)  Depending on how many readers participate, I'll plan to post perhaps one item every couple weeks.

Reposted from September 2013.   The "Readers' Bookcases" posts have always been among my favorites.   I started by showing one of my bookcases and invited readers to send me pix and stories about their own.  Over the next five months the bookcases became a weekly feature, with a total of 42 entries over that period.  I am setting this up so that the original series will repost at a rate of a couple per day for the next several weeks while I take a "blogcation" for my trigger thumb.

I'm willing to add some more bookcases to the series if new readers want to send in material as per above, but I won't get started posting such stuff until after the holidays.

09 December 2018

Occupational hazard

Not me.  Unfortunately, just the opposite.  I seem to have acquired a "trigger thumb" - a form of repetitive stress injury which I can't attribute to anything other than excessive use of the mouse (though I'm puzzled why the thumb is the affected digit).

I've already given up Civilization V after finally achieving a King-level domination victory in a standard-size world.  But even without the Civ V my thumb tendon is snapping and I need to give it some nonsteroidals and more importantly some rest.  So, it's time for a blogcation...

While I'm away I'll set up the blog to repost some of my favorite material from 4-5 years ago.

Divertimento #158

An article at The Hill notes that "North Korea's nuclear threat is nothing compared to its cyber warfare capabiities."  "Cyber warfare levels the global playing field in a way nuclear weapons can’t for North Korea. The risk-return calculation for hacking versus nukes is exponentially different."

"A new study, published in the British Medical Journal, says there's "strong evidence" that the longer we spend in education the more likely we are to need glasses."

Photo dramatically illustrates the importance of a firedoor.

"Why All Baking Instructions Want Us To Heat Ovens To 350°F"

"The Chief Executive of children’s charity Barnardo's has claimed that as many as 15,000 children could have been illegally adopted in Ireland."

Video of a perpetual motion machine.  

The Apollo 13 astronauts never said “Houston we have a problem.” 

Just for fun, explore the subReddit "What is this thing?"

"...in many cases, the medicines your doctor prescribes are cheaper than the co-pay your health insurance charges, which means that if you just buy the meds instead of charging them to insurance, you save money. "  

"An Indonesian woman has been found in the belly of a giant [23-foot] python after the swollen snake was captured near where she vanished while tending her vegetable garden, police said on Saturday." 

If a service dog without a person approaches you, it means the person is down and in need of help.

Medieval monasteries branded their books (pix at the link).

In the game of petanque, "to fanny" is to shut out the opponent.  "When a player loses 13 to 0, he is said to fanny ("il est fanny", he's fanny, or "il a fait fanny", he made fanny) and must kiss the bottom of a girl named Fanny. Virtually everywhere in Provence where pétanque is played, you will find a picture, woodcarving, or pottery figure of a bare-bottomed lass named Fanny."

"Gaslighting" in the modern era: "People who help domestic abuse survivors say that they are facing an epidemic of women whose abusers are torturing them by breaking into their home smart devices, gaslighting them by changing their thermostat settings, locking them out of their homes, spying on them through their cameras." 

"Fierce yet adorable, Humboldt martens have been described as the west coast’s own Tasmanian devils.... But there are some dangers that the marten cannot withstand – such as marijuana cultivation."

"Using data collected by NASA’s late-great Cassini space probe, scientists have detected traces of complex organic molecules seeping out from Enceladus’ ice-covered ocean. It’s yet another sign that this intriguing Saturnian moon has what it takes to sustain life."

"When you stay in a hotel room and there is a Bible, open the Bible and flip through the pages, sometimes Christians leave cash for each other as a 'pay-it-forward', but you get free money whatever your beliefs."

How to save a wet book.

Romansh is one of Switzerland’s four national languages.

The outcome of the "marshmellow test" is probably strongly influenced by the household income of the child being tested.

"Most of our mainstream political discourse on “fighting inequality” has revolved – for years now – around the more narrow goal of eliminating extreme poverty. Few of our elected leaders ever dare suggest that maybe we ought to think about eliminating extreme wealth as well."

Irony of a pair of signs next to a self-checkout machine.

Water-rich minerals exist between 410 and 660 kilometers below the surface of the earth, in a region called the transition zone, sandwiched between the upper and lower mantles.  " If we consider all of the planet’s surface water as one ocean, and there turn out to be even a few oceans underground, it would change how scientists think of Earth’s interior. But it also raises another question: Where could it have all come from?"

"An Oregon woman who disappeared a week ago has been rescued after surviving at the bottom of a Californian coastal cliff by drinking water using the hose from the radiator of her car which had veered off the road."

"More Movies Should Show Teen Acne."

Video of every Minnesota Vikings touchdown in the 2017-2018 season (15-minute video).

"...the oldest direct evidence of bread found to date, predating the advent of agriculture by at least 4,000 years."

"When a young Birmingham college student's car broke down the night before he was supposed to start a new job, he didn't panic. At least not for long.  Instead, Walter Carr walked. From Homewood to Pelham. All night. In the dark. 20 miles or more."  His employer rewarded him by giving him a car.

3-minute video of a company in China that makes talking sex dolls.   A lot of Westworld vibes here.

"Within the space of a week, two women were impaled by giant umbrellas while enjoying a trip to the beach."

"The largest surviving chained library in the world is at Hereford Cathedral in the UK, where all the books are still kept under lock and key in their original chains. It has been rebuilt in its original arrangement, exactly as it had been from 1611 to 1841." (video at the link)

Take a look at this:  the global seismic network shows worldwide earthquake tremors in real time (toggle for day/week/month). The area around Anchorage Alaska is lit up like a Christmas tree.

A 6-minute study of the "visual footprint" of Darth Vader in the three original Star Wars movies.  Some interesting info.

"Suicides may be greatly underreported in skydivers."  A report in a forensic science journal.

A man and his mother both became infected with rat lungworms after eating raw centipedes.

Embedded images from this book:

This is why you don't shine a laser in someone's eye

"A 9-year-old boy was brought by his parents to our ophthalmology clinic for evaluation of decreased vision in his left eye. Visual acuity in the left eye was 20/100, as compared with 20/20 in the right eye. Funduscopic examination of the left eye revealed a large macular hole with a hypopigmented atrophic area inferiorly (Panel A). Optical coherence tomography confirmed the full-thickness macular hole.

The child reported playing with a green laser pointer and repeatedly gazing into the laser beam... The patient’s vision has remained unchanged during 18 months of follow-up."
It would be hard to find a more devastating place for the injury than the center of the macula (maybe the optic nerve might be worse).   The article doesn't say how long the exposure lasted, or what the power of the laser was.

A bike lock that's "better than nothing"

Buddy Benches and Men's Sheds

Explained at the BBC:
The idea is simple - if a child feels lonely, they can go to the bench as a signal that they need someone to play with. Another child will see them, go and talk to them and include them in their games...

Also known as friendship benches, these pieces of playground furniture have been around for a while, in various countries...

Apart from reducing social isolation and improving mental wellbeing, the hope is that the benches can tackle another problem found, to some degree, in most schools: bullying...

"They don't see it as stigmatised," says Sinead McGilloway, director of the Centre for Mental Health and Community Research at Maynooth University, who led a study of 117 pupils at three schools which have benches. Forty per cent of the children she questioned said they had used the bench, and 90% said if they saw someone else sitting on it they would talk to them...

In a symbolic gesture, the Buddy Bench Ireland team has its benches made by members of the Men's Shed movement.

There are more than 400 Men's Sheds in Ireland. They are a kind of hobby club where men, usually middle-aged or older, come together to make things. It's proved a lifeline for many coping with issues such as divorce and bereavement, by helping them to open up and talk about what they are going through.

Elevator door (Chrysler Building, New York City)

Via Age of Diesel (tons of cool photos there).

Two commentaries on the American health care system

First, from Common Dreams, the argument that a single-payer system is possible and affordable:
Contrary to the doom and gloom of the latest healthcare spending numbers for the US—$3.5 Trillion overall annually, $10,739 per person, now exceeding 18% of GDP while providing worse outcomes, lower quality and shorter life expectancy than any other industrialized country—the Pollin study shows we can guarantee healthcare to all US residents by improving Medicare, and expanding it to everybody...

The study answers the proverbial question—“But how do we pay for it?”—by utilizing the existing public sources that account for 60% of current financing, eliminating commercial insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles, and replacing those with a combination of payroll taxes substantially less than employers are paying now, an upper income tax that makes the wealthy pay their fair share, and a sales tax on non-necessities...

It’s important to note that these savings are not available under a multi-payer system, under a system of Medicare buy-in, or via proposals that keep tens of millions of workers in commercial insurance plans.  In such schemes, the administration costs for providers do not substantially decrease; 20% of the tax subsidies to buy insurance are wasted on overhead, marketing and profits; the leverage to set rates is not as strong; and individual purchase (“buy-in”) undermines the social insurance model that spreads costs...
More at the link.  But way more entertaining is a rant at McSweeney's:
"Welcome to America General Hospital! Seems you have an oozing head injury there. Let’s check your insurance. Okay, quick “heads up” — ha! — that your plan may not cover everything today. What’s that? You want a reasonable price quote, upfront, for our services? Sorry, let me explain a hospital to you: we give you medical care, then we charge whatever the hell we want for it.
If you don’t like that, go fuck yourself and die..."
I"ll put the rest below the fold because the language gets a bit "salty" -

The insignificance of signatures - except...

Very interesting.  The accuracy and reproducibility of signatures is unimportant - except when it comes to absentee ballots.

07 December 2018

Awesome bronchial cast

Excerpts from the report in the New England Journal of Medicine:
A 36-year-old man was admitted to the intensive care unit with an acute exacerbation of chronic heart failure... An Impella ventricular assist device was placed for management of acute heart failure, and a continuous heparin infusion was initiated for systemic anticoagulation. During the next week, the patient had episodes of small-volume hemoptysis, increasing respiratory distress, and increasing use of supplemental oxygen... During an extreme bout of coughing, the patient spontaneously expectorated an intact cast of the right bronchial tree.
This report is incorrectly cited elsewhere as a patient "coughing up part of his lung."   This is, as described, a "cast," just as one might make a cast by pouring liquid aluminum into an anthill or a termite mound.  What's amazing is the completeness of the cast, which begins proximally at the carina and extends outward to include (and occlude) the entire right upper lobe (blue arrows), middle lobe (white) and the RLL (black) out to the subsegmental level and beyond.

To me what is interesting is that the cast must have been expectorated shortly after it formed, because with prolonged complete occlusion he would have developed atelectasis of the distal lung and then would not have been able to generate the compressive force to cough it out.

The Atlantic has an informed discussion of the case.

Wolfpack territories

Data from the Voyageurs Wolf Project:
Here is some evidence for how territorial wolves are. This map is the result of 68,000 GPS-locations from 7 wolves in different packs from this past summer. Each wolf's collar took locations every 20 min (with the exception of the northernmost pack which took locations every 4 hr starting in October) for the duration of the summer...

This detailed GPS-data is incredibly valuable for understanding pack boundaries and also for our predation research. We visited every spot these wolves spent more than 20 minutes to determine if the wolves made a kill.
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