07 June 2015


How do blind people clean up after a seeing-eye dog defecates?

An op-ed piece in the Washington Post is entitled "The double-standard of making the poor prove they’re worthy of government benefits," written in response to exposés of alleged food-stamp misuse.

A map depicts the most conservative and most liberal cities in each state (I don't see any advantage in having this presented as a map rather than a list).

Humorous one-minute video of a windy day in Iceland.

A New Republic article explores why white people like camping and hiking, while minorities don't. "Carol Cain, a 42-year-old New Jersey resident of Dominican and Puerto Rican roots, was apparently day-hiking in Washington's Olympic National Park when she told the paper, "We’ve been here for two days, walking around, and I can’t think of any brown person that I’ve seen.”"

Trypophobia is the term for a pathological fear of objects with irregular patterns of holes.

Debunking the bogus argument that the Iraq war was based on faulty intelligence.  And the same subject vehemently expressed by Rachel Maddow: "The Bush Administration was not passively lied to. They weren’t duped by the CIA! They made the case that they thought would be most persuasive even when it wasn’t true.”

Impressive gif of a man feeding snakes.  This guy is good at his job.

Sub fusc explained.  The term (new to me) is from the Latin subfuscus, "moderately dark."

Mental Floss offers a map of the most popular breed of dog in each state.

Books and journals published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with full-text and images online.  An incredible resource link for those interested in a wide variety of art.

"Supergrass is a British slang term for an informer, which originated in London. Informers had been referred to as "grasses" since the late-1930s, and the "super" prefix was coined by journalists in the early 1970s... The origin of the term "grass" being used as signifying a traitor, a person who informs on people he or she knows intimately, ostensibly can be traced to the expression "snake in the grass," which has a similar meaning.The phrase derives from the writings of Virgil... and has been known in the English language, meaning "traitor," since the late 17th century."

A riot in Minneapolis occurred when bicyclists used squirtguns to attack PedalPub users.  Six of the PedalPub users were cops; arrests ensued.

A gloomy economic forecast in The Telegraph: "The world economy is disturbingly close to stall speed. The United Nations has cut its global growth forecast for this year to 2.8pc, the latest of the multinational bodies to retreat... Stephen King from HSBC warns that the global authorities have alarmingly few tools to combat the next crunch, given that interest rates are already zero across most of the developed world, debts levels are at or near record highs, and there is little scope for fiscal stimulus. "The world economy is sailing across the ocean without any lifeboats to use in case of emergency," he said."

A Norwegian sex-education video.

"Inside Bain's house, police found thousands of meticulously catalogued individual socks wrapped in sandwich bags with individual donors’ photographs attached. “They were everywhere and anywhere,” a police officer later testified. “They were all over the furniture, hanging from lampshades and even in the microwave, frying pan and cooker. It was like there had been an explosion in a sock factory and socks had blown all over the place.”... The master approached his slave-to-be at a spiritualist church and told him he’d been conversing with angels, who had told him that he had to collect 10,000 socks. So the promise of socks lured the sock gimp into subservience."

"A stretch of coast which is rich in wildlife and archaeology has been bought by the National Trust for more than £1 million as it launches a new vision for looking after the nation's coastlines." 

"A comprehensive guide to YouTube’s dumbest and most dangerous teen trends."  The Cinnamon Challenge, the Saltine Challenge, the No-Cry Challenge, the Condom Challenge...

Cory Booker: “When they told me I couldn’t sit on the Senate floor with an iPad—that the technology wasn’t even permitted—I breathed deep and knew that I was going to have to start pushing.”

The Margate Shell Grotto is an as-yet-unexplained mystery: "the 2000 square feet of mosaics, created from mussel, cockle, whelk and oyster shells have provoked a multitude of explanations none of which have been confirmed with any total surety... had the grotto been built in the 1700s then there would have been some vestigial local memory (or legend) of its construction.  In order to get millions of shells in to this underground passage many local people would have to have been involved in their transport.  Yet the discovery in 1835 was a surprise to all – no one stepped forward with any explanation... suggestion that the grotto was built by the Knights Templar or their associates sometime in the middle 1100s..."

A New Zealand sikh removed his turban to comfort a small boy who had been injured in an accident.  Some members of the local community responded in a heartwarming fashion.

Why Swiss cheese has holes.  "Agroscope scientists noted that Swiss cheeses had fewer holes over the past 10 to 15 years as open buckets were replaced by sealed milking machines which "completely did away with the presence of tiny hay particles in the milk.""

A brief (but incisive) comment on the latest revelations re Dennis Hastert: "If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy. (links at the primary link)

The "twenty most bike-friendly [large] cities on the planet."  One of them is in the United States.

Reaffirmation that airport security is for show: "An internal investigation of the Transportation Security Administration revealed security failures at dozens of the nation’s busiest airports... The series of tests were conducted by Homeland Security Red Teams who pose as passengers, setting out to beat the system. According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints

"As Savchuk and other former employees describe it, the Internet Research Agency had industrialized the art of trolling. Management was obsessed with statistics — page views, number of posts, a blog’s place on LiveJournal’s traffic charts — and team leaders compelled hard work through a system of bonuses and fines. “It was a very strong corporate feeling,” Savchuk says. Her schedule gave her two 12-hour days in a row, followed by two days off. Over those two shifts she had to meet a quota of five political posts, 10 nonpolitical posts and 150 to 200 comments on other workers’ posts. "

"1865. "Cold Harbor, Virginia. Unburied dead on the battlefield of Gaines' Mill." Photographs from the main Eastern theater of war, the Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862."

"...the culture of growing giant vegetables to show off is decidedly British."

"A new $2.50 battery sleeve called the Batteriser, coming to Amazon this fall, promises to extend the life of your batteries up to eight times longer by drawing out their remaining power -- which you were about to throw in the garbage. The tiny, 0.1 millimeter-thick stainless steel Batteriser sleeve features an incredibly small circuit board, built to tap into the battery's remaining energy." - Probably nonsense.  Hat tip to reader Mark, who provides a debunking link in his comment. 

A little girl smiles at a baseball game (brief video at the link).


  1. I accidentally took a pocket knife with two 4-inch blades through three US airports in 2008. Didn't realize until I got home that I'd forgotten it in the bottom of my crochet bag with a coin hip scarf. I guess they broke up the blades' outlines or something.

  2. Heads up, the link to the hiking story leads to the political map.

    1. No problem. It's an interesting article, and related to a job interview discussion I had earlier this year. The earth sciences are predominantly white and it seems that's largely due to our habit of advertising the field as "get paid to play outside". But some minority cultures don't want to play outside. Their parents did manual labor outdoors and don't want that for their kids. Being indoors, like making more money, is more prestigious and farther from the poor roots they want to distance themselves from. And since parental approval also ranked more highly among college-age minorities as a determinant for what field they go into, the solution (at least partially) is to make sure to also advertise earth science jobs that take place indoors (e.g., geochemistry and model creation for fields like geophysics and hydrology).

  3. The batteries story is snake oil. I smelled bs (I'm an electrical engineer) but this guy 30 minutes debunking it... http://hackaday.com/2015/06/06/crowdfunding-follies-debunking-the-batteriser/

    1. Sorry, I meant batteriser ... Still not used to these Apple UIs.

    2. Thank you, Mark. The story didn't "feel right" to me (but I'm just an English major). I've amended to text to add a reference to your link.

  4. "The world economy is disturbingly close to stall speed."... Who is it bad for: The bankers, the borrowers, people actually trying to live within their means, a world trying to come to grips with a sustainable and ecological economy? The world is finite, without infinite energy and resources eventually there is nowhere and no means to grow anymore.

  5. I've got to disagree with a lot of premise of the "only whites go camping" link...

    Part of it is cultural, yes. If you've never been camping before it's a different experience. However, at least in this area of the US there is pretty strong "minority" participation in camping & hiking.

    Background: I work with a local Scout troop. We have participants including ethnic backgrounds including Persian, Indian (Hindu), Egyptian, Greek, Irish, Vietnamese, Mexican, Phillipines, Peruvian, Columbian, Chinese, etc.. These are children of 1st generation immigrants whose parents never went camping -- but once they've been camping its something the kids enjoy. Costs are minimal -- which is another plus for many of these families. You can go camping many times with an expenditure of about $100 per person in equipment, and a recurring cost of about $10 to zero per person for the weekend, not including food.

    The issue is that the families have never done this before -- its just not done in their culture. "Camping" is pretty much an European custom, and has been transferred to North America, and few other places in the world.

    BTW -- the recapca you're using just is horrid. It asks you to pick out pictures of "pasta", then displays tiny badly lighted and out of focus pictures of plates taken at a distance, and won't let you scroll to see the pictures on the bottom of the set of multiple pictures? Really?

  6. Wish I had seen the sex-ed series when I was going thru puberty. I only learned a bunch of crap that took ages to unlearn. SMH

  7. The conservative/liberal map - It would be quite interesting to add up the two lists' populations. There aren't a lot of big "most conservative" cities, are there?

    1. Okay, being retired and kind of in-between things at the moment, I took a look at that most- conservative-vs-most-liberal "cities" map, and calling most of the conservative ones "cities" is a joke.

      (All numbers from the 2010 US Census.)

      The mean MOSTCONS "city" population = 1,239.

      The mean MOSTLIB city population = 393,589.

      The median MOSTCONS "city" had a whopping 553 people.

      The median MOSTLIB city had a hefty 107,228 people.

      The TOTAL population of the MOSTCONS "cities" = 61,972.

      The TOTAL population of the MOSTLIB "cities" = 19,679,452.

      Ratio of MOSTLIB:MOSTCON "city" population overall = 317.6:1.

      Ratio of MEDIAN population MOSTLIB:MOSTCON per "city" = 193.9.

      32 individual MOSTLIB cities had more population than the TOTAL of ALL MOSTCONS "cities".

      Only THREE MOSTCONS "cities" had populations of over 5,000 people. (In my home stte of Illinois a community is REQUIRED to have 5,000 people before being even officially considered to be called a "city".

      On the other hand, only 14 of the MOSTLIB "cities" had populations UNDER 5,000.

      What the purpose of this map is supposed to be, one can only wonder.

      Out of the 100 "cities", 12 of them - 11 MOSTCONS and 1 MOSTLIB - were so small that they did not have census data readily available. Almost every one of those 12 was labeled an unincorporated area" on at least one site. A few others also were labeled unincorporated, but still had census data readily available.

      Even taking out the largest 25 MOSTLIB cities, the ratio of the MOSTLIB cities to MOSTCONS is still 10.5:1.

      One thing that these numbers told me was how conservatism appeals to people who are isolated from most of the people in the USA. It seems VERY suggestive that people in large population centers tend to have less conservative views. Duh. Conservative people appear to be one of two isolated populatins - one is isolated because of their wealth (the 1%), and the rest of the "most" conservative people are isolated because they simply live in isolated areas.

      A look at the map displays this quite clearly. Look at the locations WITHIN states and where the MOSTCONS "cities" are located. They are almost ALL in VERY isolated areas.

      So, the cure for a conservative person, if there is one, is to move the person to a city where they are not isolated anymore. If they can bear being around so many people (which many won't be able to do). But dammit, they NEED to understand that the world is not populated by isolated people like them.

      Thus, there appears to be a divide among our population - a VERY few isolated people, and a WHOLE LOT of non-isolated people. Over 300-to-1, based on these "most extreme" locations.

      In a country that did not have a Senate (with a guaranteed two Senators per state), the isolated conservatives would get their asses handed to them every election cycle.

    2. Interesting data (and not that surprising to me). Tx, Steve.

    3. Yes, I got a chuckle out of comparing NYC to tiny Houghton - wiki says just under 1700 people and I am am trying to figure out how they are getting that many - including the college population? I'm in the same county and Allegany is always red on the maps.

    4. Janet - Houghton was one of the BIG Most Republican "cities". It was the 40th BIGGEST one. 34 were under 1,000. 23 ewre under 500. 9 were under 200. And 4 wee under 100. The smallest was Reva, SD, which had either 12 or 6. 12 was within a 20 mile radius, and 6 were within a 6 mile radius. I didn't count, but I am not sure some of these should have even counted, because they were unincorporated areas. Maybe 15.

      I've lived in towns as small as 88, 83, and 220, and as big as 850,000. "Small towns, small minds", comes to mind... In one of those, the phone numbers had only ONE digit. (1971)

      Not that big cities are perfect. But a Thai restaurant is a sure sign of civilization...

    5. Thai is my favorite! I drive 60 miles one way to get it.
      Houghton has a gas station and a Subway. There used to be a sweet/coffee shop where the Subway is now.

  8. I found the wonkblog article on the double standard in government subsidies disturbing on two fronts. Conflating the mortgage interest deduction (in which any person can pay less tax on their income by borrowing money to buy a house) with food stamps (in which any person without a reasonable income can get some of the tax still paid by the mortgage holder to buy food) is a logical fallacy. In the first case the government is taking less of your money and in the second they're giving your money away.

    I would be interested in how Minnesotan feels about implied rent. Implied rent is the theory in which a homeowner would be required to pay tax on the "implied rent" they receive by living in a home they own (the benefit of not paying rent is no different than the benefit of receiving interest on a bond they own - return on an investment). I actually don't have a problem with taxing implied rent which seems perfectly fair and unregressive to me (Donald Trump would owe millions, poor people living in shoddy apartments would owe nothing).

    But worse in the wonkblog piece, I think, is the misunderstanding of what it's like to be poor in the United States. If you're poor, it's a constant struggle to get by and if you're drug addicted and poor, it's that much harder. They cope by manipulating the system. My barber, who's working poor, buys food stamps from homeless people ($0.50 on the dollar) because homeless people can dumpster dive and go to the food bank but their dealers want cash. So yes, if you're on food stamps you should be drug tested - you've proven you need help to get by and drug testing will help you. How would it help you to be drug tested to qualify to pay less income tax? The idea that I should be drug tested so that I can keep more of the money I earned by working is anathema to everything this country is based on.

    Full disclosure, my mortgage is less than $70,000 and my interest rate is 1.99% (Pentagon Federal Credit Union, 5 year loan). So the mortgage deduction is immaterial to me. My implied rent, on the other had, would be around $4500 a month and that would hurt. Of course, there is little danger that Congress will tax implied rent as even proposing studying the idea would end any Congress critter's political career the next day.

  9. It's funny to see that Minneapolis is one of the 20 friendliest bike cities minutes after reading the story about Minneapolis police, pedal pubs and bikers.


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