31 March 2008
This post is for Kaitlyn (after you've finished your homework). The link goes to a delightful (and often challenging) set of flash games/puzzles. I've done all 70 puzzles; I think two required the use of the keyboard, and one (illustrated above) required sound "on." The others are solvable just by clicking/dragging the mouse. The image above is just a picture - I can't "embed" the games here. To play them, go to THIS LINK for the first 35 puzzles (and there's a link on that page to the next 35.
29 March 2008
...playing music on beer bottles. Presumably the melody is the theme for Victoria Bitter beer. It's about a minute long and worth the view just to appreciate the expertise of the musicians (and the inventiveness of the advertising executive).
The reason for the change is not concern about the environment or concerns about safety; it's purely a financial decision, reflecting the higher costs of fuel and the lower mileage efficiency incurred at higher speeds (I can vouch for the latter, having tracked my mpg for years on trips). If the truckers slow down, they want autos to slow down as well, arguing that it is speed differentials, rather than absolute speeds, that cause most problems in interstate highway environments.
There is, as expected, controversy on this call for lower speed limits, at present principally from smaller trucking firms and independent truckers. The arguments are well delineated in the linked article and the accompanying commentary.
And, in a final irony, "She was scanned again and was allowed to board even though she still was wearing a belly button ring..." Which, presumably, is not dangerous...for cryin' out loud...
26 March 2008
This jeweled marten's head is nearly identical to that attached to the fur held by the countess in Veronese's portrait of Countess da Porto (Walters 37.541) and is displayed here in a similar way. The animal was associated with childbirth, and wearing its fur was believed to increase a woman's fertility and protect her during pregnancy. Since antiquity, the marten had been thought to conceive through its ear or mouth (and therefore chastely). The dove on the creature's nose may be a symbol of the Holy Ghost and further allude to Mary's miraculous conception. This would add to the amulet's protective powers.
Credit to Scribal Terror for posting this today in connection with a fascinating explanation of zibellinos.
The leper's squint was a type of hagioscope, a window set at an oblique angle in a church wall to permit people to see the altar from areas where it was not otherwise visible. When the hagioscope went through to the exterior of the church, it was usually intended for use either by lepers or by anchorites (hermits who lived in a cell built against the wall of the church). (Once again, credit to Scribal Terror)
“I don’t think he wanted to go back to jail,” Miller said. “I think he really wanted to get away and was looking for a car.” When the detective was making the arrest, he asked Singleton why he did this.
“I didn’t feel like walking,” Singleton said.
(credit to Neatorama)
Posted not because it's funny, but to illustrate how times have changed. This 1943 cartoon was voted #7 in the Greatest Cartoons of All Time. Today it probably wouldn't be considered for screening by the mainstream media. (credit to Presurfer)
Yesterday I heard the first croaks of frogs in the vicinity of a local pond which still has ice on it - which prompts me to post this video (from NOVA scienceNOW) of Robert Krulwich explaining how frogs freeze solid in the winter. Nothing new, but nice pictures of the frog.
23 March 2008
The idea of an egg-laying bunny came to the United States in the 18th century. German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area told their children about the "Osterhas," sometimes spelled "Oschter Haws." "Hase" means "hare," not rabbit… According to the legend, only good children received gifts of colored eggs in the nests that they made in their caps and bonnets before Easter. In 1883, Jakob Grimm wrote of long-standing similar myths in Germany itself…
The German and Amish legends were most likely rooted in European folklore about hares' eggs which seems to have been a confusion between hares raising their young at ground level and the finding of plovers' nests nearby, abandoned by the adult birds to distract predators… So in the Spring, eggs would be found in what looked like hare forms, giving rise to the belief that the hare laid eggs in the spring. (Wikipedia)
A snowstorm just dumped another 7 inches of snow on Madison, bringing our season total to 100 inches (twice normal, two feet more than the previous record 30 years ago) and covering up the first crocuses of the year. Our house looks like one of those you see in a snow globe. But it does serve to remind me to finish posting those snow-related pictures; it's time to move on.
I've been a regular reader of the J-Walk blog for many years. Today the above image of a bottle of teeth was featured there, along with a notation that it was now in two blogs, and wondering if it would reach a third one. So, in appreciation of Mr. Walkenbach's contributions to the blogosphere, I'm reposting the photo here; with only about 500 hits a month, this blog is not likely to result in the image going viral, but every little bit helps. Why are we doing this? - because it's there. Edmund Hillary knew the feeling.
20 March 2008
Posted by Andrew Sullivan in his "Daily Dish" column at The Atlantic online. The print version of the magazine is, IMHO, one of this country's finest, most enjoyable, and most informative magazines; I've been subscribing for perhaps 15-20 years. Highly recommended, especially for the puzzle. You can access the puzzle and virtually all of the print magazine's content online - for free (!) at this link.
Jockeys need to keep a tight rein in order to encourage their horse to run. Anyone who is so far ahead that he can afford to slacken off and still win he can drop his hands and loosen the reins - hence winning 'hands down'. This is recorded from the mid 19th century. For example, 'Pips' Lyrics & Lays, 1867:
"There were good horses in those days, as he can well recall, But Barker upon Elepoo, hands down, shot by them all."
It began to be used in a figurative sense, to denote an easy win in other contexts, from the early 20th century.
Posted in the Consumerist this morning.
So this year the children in Madison will be hunting Easter eggs in 6 inches of new snow (but more about that later...)
He could also have been an irate libertarian - but we'll go along with the homeless category for now. A police spokesman said the emergency exit door of the Homeland Security office -- hadn't been secured properly.
If the perpetrator is reading this blog, may I suggest you head next for the Transportation Security Administration offices. Thank you.
Those who watch financial news on cable television have undoubtedly encountered Jim Cramer, who is one of the most outspoken egotistical know-it-alls in a profession full of such characters. In this video segment from February 22 he answers a viewer's questions re whether Bear Stearns is a safe investment. Note that at that time BSC had fallen from $150/share to $62/share. Note his vehement advice - and note that the stock is now being taken over by Morgan Stanley at $4/share. Credit to A Welsh View for posting this - and for noting that Cramer was right about the stock getting taken over...
This segment is worth remembering anytime you hear anyone offering you financial/investing advice (which I will probably be doing in a day or two)....
This is the letter featured in the opening segment of Ken Burns' The Civil War,which was broadcast almost 20 years ago (!) in 1990, and watched by 40 million people. The reading of this letter seared itself into viewers' consciousness to such an extent that, like the Kennedy assassination or the 9/11 events, many people today can tell you exactly where they were the moment they saw this episode on television.
The video embedded above has audio from the documentary (narration by David McCullough), but the images are stock photography, probably for copyright purposes. Those interested in hearing the music without the text should click on the blog entry below this one.
The letter is a magnificent expression of patriotism and love. Enjoy.
A Newcastle couple have found a unique way of keeping their beloved dead pets close to their hearts - by having the dog hair made into woolly jumpers. Beth and Brian Willis lost their white Samoyed, called Kara, 12 years ago and Swedish Lapphund, Penny, in 2002. After seeing a picture of Princess Diana wearing a dog fur stole at Crufts, they collected thousands of dog hairs from brushes and carpets. The pair said the his and hers dog memorials were "warm and waterproof".
The 73-year-old said: "They are extremely warm and pretty much waterproof. I've always got a sweat on by the time I get from the bus to the shops."
[Thankfully they are made out of scavenged hairs, not pelts from carcasses, but one can't help wondering - when he gets into a sweat, does his tongue hang out?]
Credit to Arbroath.
19 March 2008
Those of you who are coin collectors, or at least old enough to remember the 1950s, will know that in 1943 the United States minted its pennies using steel rather than copper. This was done because of a WWII-related shortage of copper. I remember saving them as a child (they now sell for about 20c each on eBay). In 1944 copper pennies returned, but in 1982 the core had to be changed to zinc because copper was too expensive to use (you may notice that these pennies are about 20% lighter than the old ones).
I had heard rumors that because the price of copper and zinc has quadrupled in the last 5 years (in dollar terms), there is a risk that U.S. pennies might be melted down for their copper and zinc content. This past week Lew Rockwell's blog featured comments by Congressman Ron Paul about a bill presently before Congress that apparently would authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to mint steel pennies again.
"...I oppose HR 5512 because it is unconstitutional to delegate the determination of the metal content of our coinage to the Secretary of the Treasury. Under Article I Section 8 of the Constitution, the Congress is given the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof... The Secretary of the Treasury would be given sole discretion to alter the metal content of coins, or even to create non-metal coins... While I sympathize with the aim of Section 4 of this bill to save taxpayer dollars by minting steel pennies, it is disappointing that our currency has been so greatly devalued as to make this step necessary... Based on the price of gold, what one penny would have purchased in 1909 requires 47 cents today... HR 5512 is a sad commentary on how far we have fallen, not just since the days of the Founders, but only in the last 75 to 100 years. We could not maintain the gold standard nor the silver standard. We could not maintain the copper standard, and now we cannot even maintain the zinc standard..."
Researchers in Bismarck, North Dakota, are working on a specimen of a duckbill dinosaur (an Edmontosaurus (!) - had to Wiki that, found it was so named because of an original discovery near Edmonton Alberta) which has remarkably preserved skin. Apparently immediately after death the creature was mummified (by aridity/cold?) and then fossilized in fine-grained sediments that faithfully recorded the texture of its skin.
The lady whose story I reported on last month was found dead in her home today. Her request for euthanasia had been denied by the French courts this past week. The cause of death has not been released, but it is likely that she received assistance from someone outside of France. Belgium and the Netherlands do allow euthanasia, and Swiss doctors may provide the lethal drugs, but patients must take it on their own.
Sweet Sixteen: NC, Washington State, Louisville, Tennessee, Kansas, Villanova, Wisconsin, Davidson, Memphis, Michigan State, Marquette, Texas, UCLA, Western KY, Xavier, W. Virginia.
Elite Eight: NC, Louisville, Kansas, Wisconsin, Memphis, Texas, UCLA, Xavier
Final Four: North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, UCLA.
Championship: Kansas to beat Memphis. Tiebreaker 155 points total in game.
Biggest upset: Davidson (10) over Georgetown (2)
Does anyone reading this blog really care about my predictions? Probably not. But I'm going to use this to illustrate a point about blogs and the internet when the tournament is completed.
...as my Subaru did when it arrived home this past week after running errands, lift the hood and check on top of the engine block. You might find (as I did - photo above) a mouse nest! I retrieved about a fistful of insulation, scraps of cloth scavenged from the garage, and miscellaneous detritus, the very tip of which was charred after being in contact with some hot component of the engine. Just lucky it didn't happen on a long trip and trigger an engine compartment fire.
So I searched the web, and found hundreds of hits on the topic. The best is from WombatNation, entitled "Mice ate my car." A brief report of this type of event, followed by 314 (!!) comments from readers detailing their own horror stories.
Saw this impressive photo today and decided it deserved a blog entry rather than a small image on the right sidebar. It's a 1500-year-old live oak located on St. John's Island, South Carolina. For more information, go to this Wiki article. To get a perspective on its size and see a gallery of photos, go to the tree's home page (!) here.
If this interests you, Wiki has a list of famous trees, (hundreds of them, from all over the world, plus historical and fictional trees) from whence you can spend all day exploring.
18 March 2008
17 March 2008
"You walk into the house and it smells sweet," Mackey said. "I felt like I was in a jar of honey."
Mackey said Jerry Stathatos said the bee problem had been going on for at least 20 years, but living in an apiary never bothered the family. Mackey said Stathatos decided against removing the bees because it might require them to pull down several interior walls, where "thousands, maybe millions" of bees have taken up residence.
Above extracted from a NYT article this past week.
But the most interesting fact? Her first name was Stanley -- how cool is that?
An analysis of the name "Hillary" from the blog at Baby Name Wizard website (about which, see the post below this one). Here's a discussion of the graph above:
"In the late 1980s, Hillary was a fashionable contemporary name for girls. Two spellings (Hillary, Hilary) were equally popular, both ranking around #250 in national popularity. Then Bill Clinton hit the campaign trail, and see what happened. If you contemplate that graph, you'll see three separate phenomena. First, Hillary Clinton's new national visibility gave her name a huge boost. Second, once she actually became first lady her name plummeted. And third, she took such complete ownership of the name that the single-L spelling became irrelevant. All of Hilary Swank's Oscars and Hilary Duff's omnipresence haven't made a dent...and that was before Ms. Clinton started running a presidential campaign on a first-name-only basis. This is now Hillary Clinton's name, like it or lump it."
Go to this link (you need to have Java on). The screen will fill with a multilayered (blue boys, pink girls) image of all the names assigned to babies in the United States for the last 100 years. At the upper left is a blinking black cursor. Click on the cursor and start typing a name (or just a random letter); the image will show all names starting with that letter (I used "B" in the example above). As you continue to type a name, the image continues to evolve until finally if you type the complete name, you see the demographics of how its popularity has changed. The scale on the right tells you how many babies got that name each year, and if you move your cursor over the image itself, it tells you the rank of the name for a given year.
After you try your own name and that of your family members and friends, try exploring. I discovered that "Bill" has almost disappeared (and William also!?), as have Mary and George. Jesus and Mohammed have risen; Monica spiked and then fell out of favor. Look at the biphasic pattern for "I" and "O" and the lonely peak of "P." Q, X, and Z are hot.
Endlessly interesting. Send it to your friends.
This past winter in Wisconsin has been unusually severe, with record-setting snowfall and cold temps. Madison has recorded 92 inches of snow (normal is 35 inches for the season). The top photo shows our driveway with snow piled waist-high at the sides before the final two storms. Technically the "season" isn't over yet (last year a 5" snowfall one day in April), but temps in the 40s this week have melted enough snow to expose emerging crocuses, and prompted the creation of the snowman in the bottom picture.
Ratio of the number of plastic flamingos to number of real ones in the US : 700:1
Number of Americans injured by jewelry per year: 43,000
Amount of writing Florida state colleges require students to complete before their junior year, in words: 24,000
Ratio of homebuyers in Orange Co., CA named Smith to those named Nguyen: 1:2
Tons of trash generated by the Rio Earth Summit in June, per day: 7
Estimated percent of all hats sold in the US each year that are baseball caps: 70
Chance a defendant tried in a criminal case in Japan will be found guilty: 99 in 100
Rank of the US, among the 12 largest democracies, in voter turnout: 11
Number of wisdom teeth extracted from Americans last year: 9,337,000
Ratio of Americans employed by government to those employed by manufacturers: 1:1
Ratio of the amount the Ford Motor Company spent in 1993 on health care to the amount it spent on steel: 1:1
Percentage of Mexican-Americans who say there are too many immigrants in the US: 75
Rank of basketball among sports contributing to fatalities among players: 1
Number of times a WV man accidentally shot himself in the foot while cleaning his three guns: 3
Weight in pounds of a hairball removed from an Alexandria, IN, manhole: 200
Number of new clerical workers hired each day by US physicians to do paperwork: 68
Chance that a dollar spent on health care goes for administrative costs: 1 in 4
Percent of TV viewers who wouldn't give up watching TV in exchange for any amount of money: 25
Percent of Super Bowl viewers who do not live in the United States: 89
Average length of a professional football player's career, in years: 3.2
Chances that a Russian lives in an area in which air pollution exceeds safety standards by five times: 3 in 4
Trees used to produce the mail-order catalogues sent to US households each year: 14,000,000
Percentage of all US domestic mail that consists of personal letters: 4.5
Number of years since there has been no dog in the White House: 79
Number of beds at Mass. General Hospital, per billing-department employee: 3.5
Number of classified manuals used by the Department of Energy to specify what is to be classified: 850
Hourly wage the Resolution Trust Corporation paid contract workers to photocopy documents: $35
Number of body parts suitable for piercing, according to a NYC jewelry store: 30
Number of women scalped by hay balers in New York State since 1976: 4
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year: 25
Chances that a visit to a psychiatrist will end with a drug prescription: 1 in 2
Number of the world's 187 countries that do not have Most Favored Nation trading status with the United States: 12
Percent of American vegetarians who eat red meat once a week: 10
Chance an American does not know which president appears on the $1 bill: 1 in 5
Average number of steps an American adult takes each day: 9,000
Ratio of rats to people in Washington, D.C.: 2:1
Number of nuclear reactors it would take to supply the energy consumed by United States refrigerators: 25
14 March 2008
13 March 2008
I'll refrain from editorializing and just describe it. A sports bra that can be filled with 750 cc of wine (or another comestible) and worn under one's blouse/sweater etc. When you get thirsty, you access the beverage by sucking on a concealed drinking tube. Handy for sporting events, concerts, movies, and other venues where one's beverage is not available. A secondary benefit is the enhancement of the bustline (which would, during the course of an evening, gradually decrease). For men, the manufacturers offer the equivalent in the form of a Beerbelly, shown here without concealing garments...
Two four-year old children in the Bronx were handcuffed by a school security officer for refusing to take a nap. They were taken from their classroom to another room taken and told "they would never see their parents again." "He was police," Jaden said. "He said, 'You know what happens when you don't go to sleep in there? . . . 'When you go to jail, you're not going to have no fun, no TV, no toys.' "
... in their Zurich offices, you could take a nap in a bathtub while watching an aquarium. Or go from the third floor to the first floor by sliding down a chute... or a fireman's pole. Wait - there's more.....
update March 14. The link above is a series of photos, but I just found a brief video tour of the facility, which you watch by clicking on this --
12 March 2008
11 March 2008
It's not clear whether the "old sins" - sloth, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, wrath and pride - are now acceptable, or whether the church has decided to ignore them because everyone is guilty of them. For those interested in getting started on the new list, here are the other six "deadly sins" - genetic modification, carrying out experiments on humans, polluting the environment, causing social injustice, causing poverty, becoming obscenely wealthy and taking drugs.
Note the Vatican isn't joking here, and these are not minor, "venial" sins. These are now mortal sins which can result in "eternal death."
Rather than a sheepherding dog (you'll see the difference if you watch it). Nothing exciting or cosmically important about the 3-minute video, but I thought it was enjoyable. The dog appears to be trying to play - and I think the sheep is, too. One thing I learned is that despite their skinny legs, sheep can run really fast!
(credit to Arbroath, via Scribal Terror)
In a related matter, also from Scribal Terror -
German police are trying to trace the owner of a sheep which outran police patrol cars and beat up a police dog. Police in the northern German village of Guester say the sheep ran through the streets of the town at more than 30mph. It reportedly leapt over the bonnets of police cars used as a road block to cut off its escape and even chased off pursuing police dogs with a few well aimed head butts.
10 March 2008
Kudos to Neatorama for linking this fascinating article in Streetanatomy which suggests that some Renaissance painters used disguised images of the human brain in the composition of their paintings. The image embedded above is familiar to everyone - Michaelangelo's "The Creation of Adam." Underneath it is the same image with a sagittal section of the brain superimposed. The image below is Gerard David's "Transfiguration of Christ" paired with a coronal section of the brain. Is this real, or just a curious coincidence?
This British Medical Journal article and these responses to the first article describe instances of polydactyly in the paintings of Raphael. Raphael was noted for his meticulous attention to detail and the "perfection" of his paintings, so the presence of sixth toes cannot be viewed as a simple oversight or error on his part. Nor is the subject in the embedded photo an insignificant figure such as a random cherub - it's the infant John the Baptist. Polydactyly (extra fingers and/or toes) is an uncommon anomaly, but it is autosomal dominant (strongly inherited) and therefore the reason it appears in several different works by Raphael may be that the disorder affected a family used by Raphael as models for his paintings.
This is hard to describe; you really need to view the video to comprehend how this works (the video is a movie of someone playing with the toy). It's "virtually" a 2-D physics laboratory that looks to be the cybersuccessor to Lincoln Logs, the Erector Set, and Lego bricks.
It apparently can be downloaded for free (!!) but I haven't been able to do so because there's no Macintosh version. Perhaps some reader of this blog can download it, play with it, and post comments here.
"At least 50 people in Kottayam district have reportedly lost their vision after gazing at the sun looking for an image of Virgin Mary. Though alarmed health authorities have installed a signboard to counter the rumour that a solar image of Virgin Mary appeared to the believers, curious onlookers, including foreign travellers, have been thronging the venue of the ‘miracle’. St Joseph’s ENT and Eye Hospital in Kanjirappally alone has recorded 48 cases of vision loss due to photochemical burns on the retina..."
more details here.
(A safer alternative would be to hold the sun in your hands)