29 March 2016


A happy camel is a bouncy camel.

Birds are typically depicted inaccurately in Hollywood movies.  There is a legal reason for that: "Casting native species is against the law. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, federal law since 1918, prohibits the possession of migratory birds for commercial purposes, and that includes keeping domestic bird species for use as animal actors." (so tropical or foreign birds are used instead)

How to manage mail for the deceased.  Not explained at the link is that if the deceased was a resident in a care facility (group home etc) that did not have individual mailboxes for each resident, you cannot submit a change of address form to the USPS.  You have to contact each sender individually.

"Tracy Warshal, 39, noticed the man behind her in line at an Aldi supermarket was shuffling around looking for his wallet, she told ABC News. Realizing he'd forgotten it, Warshal offered to pay for his $7 grocery bill." (with an interesting result...)

An alternative explanation for the Biblical virgin birth predicates a mistranslation.

"...former corporate raider Asher Edelman says Bernie Sanders is the strongest presidential candidate. Appearing on CNBC’s “Fast Money” this morning, Edelman responded immediately when asked who he thought the best candidate for the economy would be. “Bernie Sanders,” Edelman said, without missing a beat. “No question.”" (video at the link)

"In a not-at-fault automobile accident, you are entitled to a check for the value that your car lost due to the collision. But you'll ONLY get it if you ask for it."

"LPT: When purchasing a used car, make sure the check engine light turns on when you first start the car. A lot of people rip out the bulb so you don't know that the car needs repairs!"

If you are lost in the woods and need to start a fire, use a lemon...

A woman disappears during a live television broadcast.

"In May of 1940, as French forces crumpled in the face of the Nazi onslaught and the British anxiously scanned the skies for signs of the dreaded invasion, the newly installed prime minister was preoccupied with another pressing problem. Where would he get the money to pay his bill from the shirtmaker? Britain’s predicament was dire, but so was Winston Churchill’s. He owed not just the shirtmaker, but the watchmaker, the wine merchants, and the printers as well. He was overdrawn at the bank, he owed interest payments on his debts, his taxes were conspicuously late, and his publishers were clamoring for an overdue book on which he had taken a large advance. Churchill would lead Britain through the Blitz a few months later, but first he needed money..."

The history of "night soil" management in major cities.

"Since November, 54 people in Wisconsin have one by one fallen ill with an obscure kind of bacteria called Elizabethkingia. Fifteen have died from the infection."  And now it's in Michigan.

A mashup of Pink Floyd and Donald Trump.

The history of tattoo removal.

An op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times posits that doctors and clinics shouldn't sell drugs: "The way Medicare pays for prescription drugs gives doctors an incentive to choose the most expensive alternatives, and gives drug makers an incentive to raise prices relentlessly. In other words, the system works for doctors and pharmaceutical companies at the expense of everyone else. Eliminating such perverse incentives without reducing the quality of care is crucial to slowing the unsustainable growth of health care costs...."

A cartoon about spaceflight.

How to use a hair pick to help you slice an onion.

Plagues that might have contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire.

Here's the best article I've read this year about the recent evolution of the Republican Party.  It was published a couple months ago when there were more contenders, but that's not important.  The author has a good grasp of recent Republican party developments, because he was formerly a speechwriter for George W. Bush.  The article isn't written in favor of (or against) any particular current candidate.

Fabulous Oldies is a website that collects and preserves biographical snippets about older people.

"Eggs on a cloud" are visually attractive eggs.

A group of New York millionaires sign an open letter to the governor and legislature saying "please raise our taxes."

The Netherlands is closing prisons because they don't have enough convicted criminals to use the space.  They may accept some Norwegian malefactors.

Fluoroscopy of cracking knuckles.

There is an actor who appeared in five films.  Only five films.  But each one of them was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.  Then he died.

Impressive video of how to cut down a large tree without damaging structures underneath (the severed limbs swing off to the side).

A man asks his girlfriend to hold their dog while he sets up a camera for a photo.  He sets it to record video while he proposes marriage to her...

The absence of climate change discussion in the Republican presidential candidate debates.

Kroger's logical policy about unisex bathrooms.

A puppy decides he's going to sleep.... right... here...

Today's images come from "The Stunning Beaury of Braided Rivers" - a gallery at Amusing Planet


  1. I was just looking at this site http://spiritcats.com and then you put up those images!

  2. For the record, "alma", in Hebrew can mean virgin. The entire article is predicated on the idea that it doesn't mean this in Hebrew, and it can.

    Even in the context of Isaiah that Matthew quotes, it is clear that Isaiah means to say that a virgin is conceiving. In the context the Lord tells King Ahaz to ask for a sign, and he refuses. The Lord then tells Ahaz through Isaiah that God Himself will give a sign, He says that the sign is that "the virgin is pregnant". (Pregnant is technically an adjective in that sentence in Hebrew). What kind of miraculous sign is a young woman simply getting pregnant? The startling sign is that a virgin is pregnant. Matthew was correct.

    Anyway, the writer is simply asserting that "alma" never means virgin, and that simply is not true.

    1. I know no Hebrew, so I'll take your word for that. I just now did a websearch, and found this explication by a rabbi -

      Similarly, King Solomon declares that once a man has been sexually intimate with an almah, i.e. a young woman, no trace of sexual intercourse is visible, unlike a virgin who will leave behind a discharge of blood after her hymen is broken...

      In the same way that in the English language the words “young woman” does not indicate sexual purity, in the Hebrew languagethere is no relationship between the words almah and virgin. On the contrary, it is usually a young woman who bears children. The word alma only conveys age/gender. Had Isaiah wished to speak about a virgin, he would have used the word betulah1 (בְּתוּלָה) not almah. The word betulah appears frequently in the Jewish Scriptures, and is the only word – in both biblical and modern Hebrew – that conveys sexual purity.

      (at this link: http://outreachjudaism.org/alma-virgin/ )

      Perhaps a more precise take would be that alma(h) CAN mean "virgin" but doesn't necessarily mean virgin. ??

      (here's the Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almah )

    2. Minnesotastan,

      Yes, I think it is sort of like the word "maiden". It refers to a young, unmarried woman, and it would be implicit that she was a virgin. I hate to drop "credentials" because the mileage varies so much, but I have my Master of Divinity with a concentration in Biblical Languages. That doesn't make me an expert, but it does give me a certain kind of familiarity. I know enough to know what the controversies are. :)

      My personal take on it as a Christian is that the word "almah" has "virgin" within its semantic range. Most importantly for us, the New Testament writers understood it this way, and the evidence indicates that their reading is within the parameters of the usage of the Hebrew word.

  3. The fact that the Old Testament refers to a young woman and not a virgin is very well known, and I would be a little surprised to meet an adult who was raised in a Christian community and yet isn't aware of the fact.

    As for what the text means in its original context and why something as mundane as a young woman giving birth is worth prophesising about, whoever said that prophecies have to be about miraculous signs anyway? One should always be cautious about proclaiming what someone in a distant time, place and culture "clearly" meant.

    One explanation I've heard (via William Barclay) is that "the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel" is essentially an Ancient Hebrew equivalent of "there'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover".

    Putting aside the irrelevant absence of bluebirds in England, the song doesn't purport to prophecy a specific pair of bluebirds, nor does it insinuate that bluebirds are miraculous as such. It's just a poetic way of saying "the good times will come back". Likewise, according to one interpretation, "the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel" is not a reference to a specific woman and child at all, but really amounts to saying that the good times will come back and that giving their children joyous names like 'God is with us' will again be the sort of thing mothers do.

    1. just to topic drift - my neighbor has succeeded in attracting bluebirds. unfortunately, they have driven off the eastern phoebe that has nested by my front door for the past 20 years.


  4. Thanks, Brad. I have no "credentials" on this subject matter other than as an English major in college I'm endlessly fascinated by the subtleties and permutations of language.

    1. I was also English major in college, and I have the same fascination with language. I like to think it helps me with interpretation of texts. I like to know the range of possibilities first, then the most likely intent of a text last.

  5. This linkdump is AWESOME. Re-sent Atlantic article, and climate change, watched the puppy about ten times, etc. Thanks for all you do - love this blog.

  6. Having been unable to vist for a while, I always look forward to returning to see what has been saved up rather than missed. This linkdump was excellent on both light-heartedness and more serious discourse, thank you!


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