26 November 2015

I'm still here

My life is undergoing some changes right now, so the blog will appear inactive probably for a couple more weeks.  Nothing really really bad - just a lot of things to do that have to take priority over blogging. I have found time to surf and to bookmark, but not to create posts, so I'll have an abundance of material to share once these other matters get resolved.

In the meantime, Thanksgiving good wishes to all.  This is the day to count your blessings and be grateful for all that you have and for all the troubles you don't have.

Cartoon source.
The chrysalis is a Black Swallowtail.

11 November 2015

TYWKIWDBI is on an extended break

Those of you have been regular readers over the past eight years will have noticed a perceptible falloff in blog posts during the past week.

My elderly mother fell last Monday, sustaining one fracture of a metacarpal and additional injuries to her lower spine.  Her treatment is vastly complicated by advanced dementia, and I have been consumed with related activities since then.  I am therefore shutting down the blog for probably 3-4 weeks.

Those eager for TYWK material are invited to explore the "categories" in the right sidebar.  There are 13,366 old posts and certainly some you have missed or forgotten.

I'll close this post to comments and hope to rejoin you all at about the time of my December blogiversary.

10 November 2015

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Reposted from 2010 because today is the 40th anniversary of the tragedy.  Those interested can read more about the event and the song.

07 November 2015

"He's at home" was the term for a Nantucket dildo

A long and quite interesting article at Literary Hub traces one writer's journey to document the use of dildos by the wives of Nantucket whalers.
On Nantucket, 80-year-old Connie Congdon and I sat in her dim living room looking at the 120-year-old plaster dildo that a mason had found in her chimney...

In the box were the other antiques the mason had found with the dildo: six charred envelopes from the 1890s addressed to Captain James B. Coffin; letters from the same James B. Coffin to Grover Cleveland and Assistant Secretary of State Edwin Dehl; a dirty and frayed shirt collar; a pipe that still smelled of tobacco when I fit my nose in the bowl; and a green glass laudanum bottle. These items must have been hidden in the chimney by James’s wife,­ Martha “Mattie” Coffin, sometime between when the letters were dated and when she died in 1928. The fireplace was later sealed up, and a closet was built in front of it...

She unwrapped the stony phallus from its pink tissue paper and handed it to me. It was heavier than it looked. The head had been painted wild-berry red. The shaft was off-white and touched with light brown stains. Through the center was a hole no thicker than a straw, as if it had been skewered for drying. Saw marks streaked the cross section of the flat base, and it had been circumcised with whittling scrapes. “No mistaking what it is,” Connie said, as I turned it in my hand...

She bent at the waist, snapped on the flashlight, and peered up the chimney. “Up there,” she said, motioning me to kneel down beside her. “It was on the flue shelf.” I craned my neck. Her light swept over the chimney’s charred innards. The damper ledge where the dildo had been hidden was an arm’s length away...

Nantucket wives were dubbed “Cape Horn widows,” because their husbands might be gone for eight years. In Moby-Dick, Captain Ahab tells his first mate, Starbuck, that of the past forty years of “making war on the horrors of the deep” he’d only been ashore three, leaving only “one dent in [his] marriage pillow.” “[W]ife?” Ahab rages, “wife?—rather a widow with her husband alive!” The dildos, called “he’s-at-homes” in some books on the history of the Yankee whale fishery, were meant to be some insurance of fidelity for a husband who was rarely present.
Much more at Literary Hub.  Well worth the read for those interested in the subject matter.

I can't close without including a link to the famous poem(s) "There Once Was a Man From Nantucket."

Photos from the opening of King Tut's tomb

Full gallery of 21 colorized images in The Telegraph.  More details and larger-sized images at Mashable.

Nonsurgical treatment for cataracts

Researchers... have developed a new drug that can be delivered directly into the eye via an eye dropper to shrink down and dissolve cataracts - the leading cause of blindness in humans. 

The new drug is based on a naturally-occurring steroid called lanosterol. The idea to test the effectiveness of lanosterol on cataracts came to the researchers when they became aware of two children in China who had inherited a congenital form of cataract, which had never affected their parents. The researchers discovered that these siblings shared a mutation that stopped the production of lanosterol, which their parents lacked...

They tested their lanosterol-based eye drops in three types of experiments. They worked with human lens in the lab and saw a decrease in cataract size. They then tested the effects on rabbits, and according to Hanae Armitage at Science Mag, after six days, all but two of their 13 [rabbits] had gone from having severe cataracts to mild cataracts or no cataracts at all. Finally, they tested the eye drops on dogs with naturally occurring cataracts. Just like the human lens in the lab and the rabbits, the dogs responded positively to the drug, with severe cataracts shrinking away to nothing, or almost nothing.  
Publication in Nature.  Discussion at Reddit.

05 November 2015

"Jill's Theme" in "Once Upon a Time in the West"

In an unusual but inspired move Leone had Morricone write the score before filming began, and then had the music played on the set, which not only allowed Leone to synchronize camera movements and modulate editing rhythms with the tempo of the music, but also inspired the actors to shape their performances around the rhythms of the score. The result is an unrivalled marriage of music and image.

Consider the 90-second track and crane shot that accompanies Jill’s arrival in Flagstone. As the first few notes of Jill’s Theme begin, the camera tracks with Jill as she walks to the Flagstone train station, and then, as the music continues to build, the camera slowly cranes skyward, higher and higher until it passes over the station’s rooftop, finally revealing Jill on the other side walking in the bustling, half-built Western town just as Morricone’s soaring music reaches its rhapsodic crescendo.
I never knew that; you learn something every day. More re the musical score of this movie at Notes of a Film Fanatic, a blog that should interest film buffs.

Via Old Hollywood, an excellent photo-based film blog.

Addendum:  For those who are interested in the content of the video as well as the music and are wondering why her new family didn't meet her at the train station, this video picks up where the previous one left off:

Addendum #2:
Here is the same piece performed by Patricia Janečková:

Quite a voice.  I believe she was 12 years old at the time of this performance.
Patricia Janečková (born 18 June 1998) is a German born Slovak opera singer. She was the winner of the Czecho–Slovak television show Talentmania (cs) in December 2010.
Her webpage is here.

Xylitol in sugarless gum is toxic to dogs

Sam Caress and Jordan Pellett recently adopted Gunner. He's helped fill the hole in their hearts created when Luna, their two-year-old dog, died in April after getting into some chewing gum made with the sugar-substitute Xylitol.

Xylitol is safe for humans but can cause severe low blood sugar, seizures -- even liver failure -- in dogs.

Sugar-free gum is the biggest culprit. But Xylitol is also used in some sugar-free candies, chewable vitamins, even some baked goods and peanut butter.

The number of products is on the rise and so are the calls to the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center, from 82 in 2004 to more than 3,700 last year.
More at CBS News; video at the link.

"You can lead a duck to water, but..."

"For the first time in their lives two dozen recently rescued ducks get their first taste of life in a pond. They had been living for years with a hoarder who had them in pens without adequate access to water or proper nutrition."
Backstory at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.


This photo of a mangrove swamp was part of a photoessay in the Washington Post, which focused on the lives of the children who harvest the cockles in the mangroves.
Ecuador is home to the tallest mangroves in the world: The Cayapas Mataje Reserve. Its soil is filled with small black cockles — a culinary delicacy prized in Ecuador — and the arduous task of searching for and picking those shelled creatures from the mangroves falls on the shoulders of children, who use their long limbs and agile bodies to scale the spindly branches of the trees and mine the thick mud that surrounds them.
My thoughts drifted to vague memories of reports of warfare conducted in such ecosystems and the pure hell that soldiers in combat must have endured.  I had thought I remembered battles in mangrove swamps in the U.S. Civil War, but for the moment the only reference I can find is to the Battle of Ramree Island in the South Pacific:
"That night [of the 19 February 1945] was the most horrible that any member of the M.L. [motor launch] crews ever experienced. The scattered rifle shots in the pitch black swamp punctured by the screams of wounded men crushed in the jaws of huge reptiles, and the blurred worrying sound of spinning crocodiles made a cacophony of hell that has rarely been duplicated on earth. At dawn the vultures arrived to clean up what the crocodiles had left. . . . Of about one thousand Japanese soldiers that entered the swamps of Ramree, only about twenty were found alive.
Some years ago I tried to hike through a tamarack swamp in northern Minnesota; the footing was treacherous and unpleasant, but presumably a log power easier than this mangrove tangle.  The other images in the photoessay give some insight into a life different from the ones you and I live.

Speed camera fail

"Got hit while at a red light, and had my car towed. 4 weeks later I get a speeding ticket in the mail."

Via imgur.

04 November 2015

02 November 2015

Gimme shelter

"As it turns out, some octopuses, like this one, possess the foresight to actually pack along coconut shells to use as protective shelters when exploring areas without adequate places to hide."

A truly extraordinary football play

Eight laterals on the final play of the game to score the winning touchdown.

Copyeditor needed

My eye was first drawn to the unusual word "renoun" highlighted in the center of the page.  It's a word that would have been familiar to readers of Middle English right after the Norman conquest, but it was replaced by "renown/renowned" about five centuries ago.  (I had to check several references to make sure "Renoun" wasn't an extraordinarily subtle pun based on the name of the engraver or a person involved in the provenance of the stamp.  It wasn't.)

A comedy of errors is produced by the use - twice - of quotation marks for emphasis.  Boldface, underlining, font size, or some other alteration would have been better, but please not quotation marks, which are not only inappropriate, but which tend to suggest the opposite of what is written.

The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks will never run out of material.

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